THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.71-2001
(ED. NOTE – Before the Internet came along to make the distribution of information so much more easier and efficient, wrestling "sheets" were numerous and varied in scope, most of them of a mark nature. One from the late 1970s, that was devoted mostly to results, but with a monthly preamble, was The Grapevine, produced in Toronto. )
NEWS FROM AROUND THE MAT WORLD
(The Grapevine, October, 1979)
The big news this month is Harley Race’s loss to the Giant Baba in Nagoya, Japan, on October 31. This marked the second time that Baba has won the NWA world title. He pinned Race at 18:31 of their one-fall match. A rematch was set for November 5. The complete results of that match will be in the next Grapevine. If Race wins the title back, Baba will break Dusty Rhodes’ record of the shortest title reign. An honour that I am sure he will not cherish.
From the Central States area comes news of The Turk winning the Central States HC from Ron Starr in Kansas City, Kansas, on October 4. Starr now has the dubious distinction of having one of the shortest title reigns in the history of that belt. Starr had won the title from Bruiser Bob Sweetan on September 17, in Wichita, Kansas. Also in the Central States area the tag team belts were taken away from Bulldog Bob Brown and Gama Singh for failing to defend their titles in thirty days. During this time period Singh was wrestling in Japan. A tournament has been scheduled to be held on February 13, 1980, in Kansas City, Kansas.
Lou Thesz came out of retirement for a short while. He went on a tour of Japan, acting as a special referee and also as a wrestler. Of course, he won all the matches he wrestled.
Nelson Royal wrestled in Japan during the same time Thesz was there and the Japanese promotion recognized him as the NWA Jr. HC. In reality this title is still vacant and a tournament has been organized by Leroy McGuirk, with elimination matches taking place throughout the U.S.
Mr. Wrestling "Tim Woods" has unmasked himself and has vowed to wrestle without his mask until he gets revenge on Jimmy Snuka and Buddy Rogers, who injured and put him out of wrestling for a short while. Personally I can’t see him getting Snuka back because Snuka is one of the best villains in the business today. Rogers has given Snuka that killer instinct which he lacked. Other wrestlers in Rogers’ stable include Ken Patera and John Studd.
Dick the Bruiser and Spike Huber became the proud owners of the WWA tag team title, when they defeated Paul Christy and Roger Kirby in Indianapolis on October 7.
Superstar Billy Graham has recovered from his mysterious illness and has captured the Continental Wrestling Association HC. He defeated Pat McGinnis for the title on October 8 in Memphis. Graham is still as good as he ever was, according to reports.
Ole Anderson and Ernie Ladd defeated Tommy Rich and The Crusher for the Georgia tag team title in Atlanta on October 5. There is some question now as to what will become of the belts, as Ole Anderson has turned fan favorite and has turned on his former friend Ladd. Ladd had the following to say about Anderson’s change of heart: "If you go lie with dogs you will come back with fleas."
Jerry Lawler once again has captured the Southern HC, as recognized in the Tennessee/Kentucky area. He defeated Superstar Bill Dundee for the title in Louisville, Kentucky, on October 23.
Terry Funk’s violent Florida HC reign has come to a surprising end. Manny Fernandez, a relatively new wrestler, pinned him for the belt in Orlando on October 21.
Jay Youngblood and Ricky Steamboat have won the NWA tag team belts from Paul Jones and Baron Von Raschke. They defeated the former champs on television October 23. They received their title match after Steamboat and Youngblood painted yellow streaks down the backs of the former champs.
Wahoo McDaniel defeated Dory Funk Jr. for the Southwest HC in San Antonio, Texas.
Ernie Ladd defeated Jim Garvin for the Southern HC, as recognized in Florida and Louisiana, in Lafayette, La. But he quickly lost his title to Sweet Brown Sugar in St. Petersburg, Florida, on October 26.
Tommy Rich has ended Killer Karl Kox’s Georgia HC title reign. Rich pinned Kox for the title in Atlanta on October 25.
The Florida tag team titles took a turn for the worst. They have fallen into the hands of Stan Lane and Bryan St. John, who bill themselves as the Blonde Bombers. They defeated Ray Stevens and Eddie Graham for the titles in Tampa on October 30. Eddie Graham replaced his injured son Mike for this match. The OK was given by the NWA for him to sub for his son.
Last but not least, Kevin Von Erich pinned Dick Murdoch for the Missouri State HC in St. Louis on November 3. Let’s wish Kevin a long title reign, he will most certainly make it an honourable one! Take care!
WRESTLING WITH HALL OF FAME IDEA
(Albany Times-Union, Friday, August 3, 2001)
By Marv Cermak
SCHENECTADY, N.Y. -- A proposal presented a year ago to establish a professional wrestling hall of fame and museum in the city finally appears to be out of the starting gate.
The Metroplex Development Authority has hired a consultant for $2,500 to assess the viability of the concept along with detailing steps needed to launch the project.
"Proponents have made a request for funding the acquisition of a building, but the venture lacks a real market analysis,'' said John Manning, Metroplex chairman. "Is there a market for such an undertaking? We must determine this because we don't want to fund something that will fail.''
Tony Vellano, a Rotterdam resident, has been the prime mover for the nonprofit undertaking that would recognize the all-time world wrestling greats with annual hall of fame induction ceremonies and enshrinement similar to those accorded to athletes in other sports.
"That's wonderful news,'' Vellano said Thursday when he was told of the Metroplex move. "A lot of people have been waiting for this to happen because personally I believe the venue would be an instant success.''
Vellano said a home for the shrine, which would house bronze plaques of the inductees and artifacts associated with wrestling, is a must. If a building can be secured soon, he envisions staging the first induction ceremony in the spring of 2002.
"The project would become valid once we have a home,'' Vellano said. "Build a building and they will come is an old expression. The attraction will bring visitors from all over the nation and even the world.''
He said because pro wrestling is a booming sport, the project would be a draw that will yield "trickle-down'' economic benefits for area motels, restaurants and other businesses.
He said near-capacity crowds for wrestling cards at the Pepsi Arena in Albany attest to the local appeal of the sport.
Manning said that because there are several other sports' halls of fame in New York, adding Schenectady to the list of attractions is a natural. Other hall of fame installations within easy driving distance of Schenectady include Saratoga Springs, horse racing; Cooperstown, baseball; Canastota, boxing; Oneonta, soccer; and Goshen, harness racing.
"There are athletic shrines within 100 miles of here, but none are located in the Capital Region,'' Vellano said.
SONG LEADER McMICHAEL THROWN OUT OF WRIGLEY
(The Associated Press, August 9, 2001)
CHICAGO — More than 300 "guest conductors" have led the crowd at Wrigley Field in singing Take Me Out To The Ball Game during the seventh-inning stretch.
When former Chicago Bears tackle Steve McMichael got his chance, he did what the likes of Bill Murray, George Foreman or a purple dinosaur named Barney had never done. An umpire had him removed from the building.
On Tuesday night, McMichael, who is now involved in professional wrestling and whose nicknames include "Mongo" and "Ming the Merciless," made an editorial comment about a call by home plate umpire Angel Hernandez that ended the previous inning.
"And don't worry, I'll have some speaks with that home plate umpire after the game," McMichael said just before breaking into the song that became a longtime Wrigley Field tradition under the late Harry Caray.
The statement was met with a roar of approval from the crowd, but Hernandez appeared angry and signaled for McMichael's ejection. According to Cubs officials, Hernandez asked crew chief Randy Marsh to call the pressbox and ask that McMichael be removed.
McMichael left without incident, according to John McDonough, the team's vice president of marketing and broadcasting. He said McMichael was planning to leave after he sang anyway.
In fact, McMichael said he didn't know about any ejection until later Tuesday night when he was watching the end of the game in a restaurant owned by his former coach, Mike Ditka.
"Then I heard on TV they say the ump asked the people to get him out of here or the Cubs were going to forfeit the game," he said Wednesday afternoon before appearing on a radio talk show.
McDonough said the team wasn't pleased with McMichael's comment and issued an apology. But he said he didn't think McMichael "was trying to incite anything whatsoever" with his comment.
"There was so much emotion and I think Steve got caught up in the moment," McDonough said.
McMichael, a fan favorite when he played with the Bears from 1981-93, said he was simply joking around.
And while he apologized to the Cubs for any embarrassment he might have caused, he wasn't apologizing to Hernandez. He even suggested the umpire should thank him.
"They stopped booing him and started cheering me," he said on the radio program.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.72-2001
(ED. NOTE – In a time long, long ago, the most popular means of interaction with professional wrestling was to launch a fan club for your favorite wrestler. The mark magazines would faithfully list the club presidents, their addresses, the amount of annual dues and what each member would receive in return. And then, in the mid-‘50s, the fan club presidents began holding conventions. Here is an account of one of them, as reported in William Wilson’s seminal Wrestling Results, the premier result sheet of the era.)
WRESTLING FAN CLUBS CONVENTION, JUNE 20-21, 1958
(Wrestling Results, Volume 4, Number 4, July, 1958)
By Bette Krieger
Once again, from near and far, wrestling fan clubs, their officers, members, and honoraries met. This time, Buffalo, New York, played host to a loyal group of wrestling fans.
The fourth annual convention took place in the beautiful city of Bu8ffalo, where the wrestling promoter, Mr. Pedro Martinez, was a most gracious host. From the moment the delegates and members signed in at the beautiful Hotel Statler Hilton, Mr. Martinez’s warm welcome had been felt by the fans from near and far.
The city had opened its doors, and hearts, to a group of wrestling fans that had traveled from all over the United States. They came by plane, bus, train and autos. After the registration at the Statler, the throng of guests left for the wrestling matches at the Memorial Auditorium and were greeted by promoter Martinez as his guest. The club fans were centrally seated at ringside and witnessed the greatest wrestling card ever seen in one show. Mr. Martinez said and I quote: "A tribute to wrestling fan clubs and the great work they do."
Appearing on the card were Bobby Orton, Herb Gerwig, Pat Carpentier, Red O’Malley, Dan Miller, Dick (The Bruiser) Afflis, Jackie Nichols, Ivan and Karol Kalmikoff, Verne Gagne, Wilbur Snyder, Vic Christy, plus colorful villain Hans Schmidt, on a show equal to those in Madison Square Garden. Steve Stanlee, the Blonde Bombshell of wrestling (and brother of Mr. America, Gene Stanlee) lent his hand to this benefit show. You could say it was "Stars in Review" as they entered the banquet room of the Statler to join their clubs and voice their opinions of the fan clubs and what they stand for.
To the surprise of the fan clubs, Whipper Billy Watson, former world heavyweight champion and still the uncrowned champion in the eyes of all the kiddies and crippled children and adults that he untiringly aids, played host to the fan clubs. Mr. Watson, with the aid of his fan club president, Miss Evelyn Davies, and her officers, made arrangements for the fan club members to attend a night club after the wrestling matches.
At a leading Buffalo night spot (Front And Center), huge tables were set ringside for the floor show. Verne Gagne, Jackie Nichols and Mr. Martinez showed everyone a wonderful time. After the night club, everyone went back to the Statler Hilton and were guests of Billy Watson, who had prepared a beautiful buffet lunch, with glassware that looked as though it may have been drafted from some Hollywood movie star’s home. Billy spoke of his work with the crippled and the Safety Boys Club, things he is so much a part of, and, as we left his suite, we wondered why so many intelligent people knock the fine sport, and could fine time as they do to criticize when wonderful people like Billy, Verne and others help so much to aid others in distress.
After signing in, the wrestling matches, the night club, the buffet, etc., and a night’s sleep, we were invited to breakfast at Mr. Watson’s suite (individual plates prepared for each one’s taste). In my book, Mr. Watson, please accept a great big orchid.
The banquet that took place Saturday at 12:30 p.m. had a guest in the form of Buffalo’s most beloved Rev. Msgr. Franklin Kelliher, who said grace. Rev. Kelliher could well be compared with the great Father Flanagan of Boys Town (Rev. Kelliher does the same great work in Buffalo).
Sixty-nine fans and members attended the banquet. Most of the fan clubs from around the country were represented. Hazel Curiel (Iowa, Roy McClarty club); Violet Smith (Judy Grable and Wilbur Snyder clubs), Florence Smith (Herb Gerwig club), Alice Post (Dick Torio club), May Peck (Johnny Barend club), Mary Hasley (Johnny Rougeau and Billy Varga clubs), the Buffalo chapter of the Bill Miller club, Kathy Weiss (Tangaro-Brunetti club), Bette Krieger (Great Scott, Moolah, Buddy Lee and Stanlee brothers clubs), and many more were present.
The first two conventions took place in Columbus, Ohio, with Mr. Al Haft as host. Then last year it was in Chicago, Illinois, with Mr. Fred Kohler and Dick Axman as hosts. Each year the convention gets more attention and more delegates and good coverage from magazines, newspapers, and other mediums of news such as television. To the wonderful promoters who help us with our great work and who make this all possible, we, the fan clubs, salute you.
Next year, St. Louis, Missouri, will be host to the fifth annual convention of Fan Clubs of America. Bette Kreiger resigned her position on the committee and Hazel Curiel of Iowa will be chairman.
We might note that the Buffalo wrestling card was a benefit show for the "Leader Dog for the Blind" and was backed by the fan clubs.
At this time, I would like to thank all the wonderful fans who sent in money for the "Leader Dog Fund for the Blind" benefit. Mr. Willie Gilzenberg and Mr. Babe Cullen gave a benefit show at Laurel Gardens, Newark, N.J., and gave Mrs. Krieger the privilege of hosting this benefit wrestling show. Money showered from all angles into the ring.
At this time, we wish to thank Mr. Ed Don George, Pedro Martinez, Billy Watson, Jackie Nichols, Verne Gagne, Steve Stanlee and all the others who helped make this the greatest convention to date.
ACUTE ENTERITIS BLAMED FOR VON ERICH’S DEATH
(Dallas Morning News, Sunday, February 12, 1984)
By Debra Martine
David von Erich, the 25-year-old wrestling star from a locally prominent wrestling family, died Friday of acute enteritis, an inflamation of the intestine, medical officials in Tokyo said Saturday.
The disease, which generally attacks the large intestine and usually is not fatal, can be contracted in several ways – from having a virus to eating contaminated food, officials with the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office said Saturday.
The disease can become fatal if it causes the intestine to inflame and lose its protective lining that allows water to enter the body, officials said.
Without the intestinal lining, the body cannot store water and begins to dehydrate. Complications such as irregular heart beat and heart failure may result, medical officials said.
Von Erich, whose real name was David Adkisson, died in his hotel room in Tokyo. He was found by a wrestling referee after he failed to show up in the hotel lobby to leave for another match.
Officials said Saturday that Von Erich’s body would remain in a Tokyo hospital until Monday because the American consulate is closed until then and because Saturday is Founder’s Day, a Japanese national holiday.
Billed as "The Iron Nail," von Erich comes from a well-known family of wrestlers. His father, Jack Adkisson, who adopted the stage name Fritz von Erich, has coached all of his sons in the sport – Kevin, 26, Kerry, 23, Michael, 19, and Chris, 13.
Fritz von Erich said Saturday that his son had been sick with flu-like symptoms for several weeks.
"Nobody knew what it was," he said. "He had a flu-type condition for about six weeks. But in our business, if you can walk, you go out there. You’re expected to go out there. People have paid to see you. At least in our family it’s that way.
"David was in no condition (to wrestle). I feel very guilty about it. But that’s the way it is. I’m concerned about it. I’m very upset about it."
Von Erich said the family has planned a ceremony 10:35 a.m. Monday at the First Baptist Church in Denton.
"We had at first planned a private ceremony, but I don’t have a right to close these fans out," von Erich said. "They made us. They have a right to know and to be there."
Burial will take place at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Grove Hill Memorial Park in East Dallas.
Von Erich said David will be buried next to his oldest brother, Jack Jr., who died in an accident when he was six.
ADDITIONAL DETAILS ON DAVID VON ERICH’S DEATH
--Japanese authorities performed an autopsy on the dead wrestler. The results were relayed to the Von Erichs by Florida promoter (and former wrestler) Duke Keomuka. "He is the connection we have in Japan," said Kerry von Erich.
--"We’ve been talking about it, and for about the past two months, before he’s gone into the ring, he’s been getting sick in the locker room," Kerry said. " . . . The pressure of having to win, I think that’s what got him there. It made all this inside of him, the enteritis. I think it made it act up and go crazy inside him."
--Survivors include David’s wife, Tricia, of Lake Dallas; his parents, Fritz and Doris of Corinth; his grandparents, Eron Smith and Corinne and B.R. Adkisson of Dallas; and four brothers.
--David Manning, who worked as a referee for the touring group, discovered the body. He called Fritz von Erich at 6 a.m. Friday (Feb. 10) to inform him of his son’s death.
--David Von Erich, at the time of his death, was the reigning Texas heavyweight wrestling champion, having won the belt from Jimmy Garvin during the summer of 1983.
--Mrs. B.R. Adkisson, his grandmother, said: "He had wrestled over there once or twice, and he just came in and lay across his bed. When they found him, he was dead. They said it was a heart attack." He was dressed in a knit shirt and jeans. He was staying at the Takanawa Tobu Hotel.
--David Adkisson was a prominent high school athlete at Lake Dallas and went to North Texas State University on a basketball scholarship. He attended college only one year.
--Jack Adkisson is a former Southern Methodist and Dallas Texans football player who wrestled as Fritz Von Erich before retiring in 1980. (ED. NOTE – Jack Adkisson never appeared in a regular-season National Football League game, joining a huge list of professional wrestlers, past and present, whose publicity has made extravagant claims about supposed gridiron accomplishments.)
THOUSANDS EXPECTED TO ATTEND FUNERAL
(Dallas Morning News, February 15, 1984)
By Stephen G. Bloom
The City of Denton was preparing Tuesday for 3,000 to 7,000 mourners expected to attend the Wednesday funeral of David Von Erich, the 25-year-old professional wrestler found dead in a Tokyo hotel room Friday.
Services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday at the First Baptist Church, 1100 Malone Ave., in Denton.
"We plan to increase our manpower around the church for crowd control," said Denton Police Sgt. Clovis George. "We plan to have 18 officers there at 7:30 a.m. in case mourners arrive early."
The First Baptist Church of Denton seats about 1,500, said George, and "once the church fills up, we’ll be closing it off."
To accommodate any overflower crowd, audio speakers will be set up to broadcast the funeral service. Channel 39, KXTX television, plans to tape the funeral in its entirety for later broadcast, tentatively scheduled for Feb. 26.
Graveside services will follow at Grove Hill Memorial Park, 4118 Samuell Blvd., in East Dallas.
Von Erich’s father, Jack Adkisson, a retired professional wrestler known as Fritz Von Erich, said Tuesday he expects about 100 professional wrestlers, including Harley Race, Ric Flair and Gene Kiniski, to attend the funeral.
"We may have been archenemies in the ring, but outside we all shared a common respect for each other," said the elder Von Erich.
The body of Von Erich, who died of severe inflammation of the intestine, arrived Tuesday night from Tokyo at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.
Since Von Erich’s death was announced Friday in Dallas, a steady procession of cars has driven past the Von Erich estate in the Denton County community of Lake Dallas.
"The phone has rung constantly ‘til about 2:30 each morning and then starts up again at 7 a.m.," said Bill DeBerry, director of the Schmitz-Floyd-Hamlett Funeral Home, which is handling the arrangements. "We’ve gotten more than 150 calls a day."
3,500 ATTEND VON ERICH FUNERAL
(Associated Press, Wednesday, February 15, 1984)
DENTON, Tex. – Many of the luminaries of the professional wrestling world paid their final respects to David Von Erich, 25, a ring comrade who died of a stomach ailment last week while on a wrestling tour of Japan.
An estimated 3,500 mourners came to the First Baptist Church of Denton. Many were young women – whose screams for the wrestler at his matches had been likened to the devotion other girls once bestowed upon the Beatles during the 1960s.
Ric Flair, an archrival of the wrestling Von Erich family, was subdued at the services, despite the fact that he had frequently shouted insults at David and other of the Von Erichs before, during and after wrestling battles in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
"the fact that we were enemies in the ring didn’t have anything to do with the tremendous amount of respect I had for him. He had unlimited guts," said Flair, whose forehead is crisscrossed with scars.
Von Erich’s real name was David Adkisson. He was a high school football and basketball star at nearby Lake Dallas before joining brothers Kevin, Kerry and Michael in prolonging the family wrestling name begun three decades earlier by their father, who wrestled under the name of Fritz Von Erich.
On either side of the closed casket were portraits of Von Erich – one of him in wrestling gear with his Texas heavyweight championship belt draped over his shoulder, the other of him in a tan leather jacket and white cowboy hat.
One floral arrangement was in the shape of Texas. Another was in the shape of cowboy boots with a cross on top.
Among other professional wrestlers who attended the funeral were Gene Kiniski, Dory and Terry Funk, Verne Gagne, Duke Keomuka, Brian Adias, Iceman King Parsons, Chris (The Gentleman) Adams, the Super Ds and Jose Lothario.
Absent were television camera crews. Plans to film the services for later telecast were dropped when Von Erich’s father banned cameras from the church. He had considered having a closed funeral, but changed his mind.
About 1,500 fans descended upon Grove Hill Memorial Park in East Dallas for a graveside service that followed the funeral. Many of them arrived as early as 8 a.m. Despite exhortations from police, the crowd refused to disperse after the service. They milled around the casket as it was lowered into the ground.
"Fritz said the crowd is what made them, and he wanted the crowd to be a part of this. It’s a lot harder on the family this way, but the crowd loved the boys," said Sondra Adkisson, David Von Erich’s cousin.
The Rev. Gene McCombs, a family friend from Memphis, Tenn., officiated at the funeral.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.73-2001
THIS MAY BE THE NADIR, BUT . . .
(Village Voice, May 17, 1976)
By R. Meltzer
Just another usual Wednesday night on LA’s KMEX Channel 34, an interminable half hour to an hour or so of Spanish-lingo wrestling coverage from the Olympic – punctuated by an occasional Anglo-decipherable expression like "Wow!" or "Bakersfield Stadium" – before finally we get to the meat of the broadcast, King’s English interview time with Judo Gene LeBell, brother of Olympic lucha libre (Sp. For "free fight") promoter Mike LeBell and son of Aileen Eaton, the most successful female entrepeneur in the history of boxing. Tonight smiling carrot-topped Gene has something IMPORTANT to announce: Ernie Ladd has over the weekend won the AMERICAS’ TITLE, Southern Cal’s version of the champeenship shebang. Ernie, the only major matman of Afro genes who’s ever been allowed to perform as a bonafide non-chickenshit villain (as well as the only decent footballer since Bronko Nagurski to become an equally decent wrestler), walks in from stage right with his gaudily bejeweled crown and Americas’ belt a-glistening. Perfunctory congrats from Gene followed by a GREAT calculated who’s-your-first-defense-gonna-be-against? Sequence involving a good 10-15 names: "How about Andre the Giant?" "No, Andre is NOT a worthy contender." "Okay, how about John Tolos?" "No, HE is not worthy, either." "Pork Chop (a "real" name: wife’s moniker is Lamb Chop!)?" "You gotta be KIDDING." Etc., etc., on down the list until ultimately the non-awesome Chavo Guerrero is suggested almost rhetorically. "Yes, I will fight Chavo Guerrero, he is worthy, I will in fact fight him right now for all in TV-land to see." O-right!
What happens is little Chavo the turkey proceeds to beat big Ernie the champ’s ASS. Pins him for a 3-count and leaps triumphantly toward the rafters as ring announcer Jimmy Lennon – uncle of the Lennon Sisters! – makes the victory official in his wrinkled gray bargain-basement suit. Guerrero goes beamingly for Ernie’s belt – belts’re GREAT, y’know! – but shit Ern ain’t parting with it, he’s protesting and COMPLAINING about something … Quickly thru the ropes strides Geno with his mike to see what’s wrong, turns out Ladd’s claiming THE TITLE was not ON THE LINE to which LeBell plaintively 2-centses "But you PROMISED." "SO I LIED!" chortles the ex-defensive lineman, his championship intact SIMPLY BY HIS OWN DECLARATION (gosh!), yet another incredible addition to the Wrassling Book in the Sky on sacred LA parchment.
Like there’s ALWAYS been a good deal more variety to the LA proceedings than in N.Y. anyway, to wit: 1. Bad guys actually winning major matches (in this case merely to set up an untelevised return grudge affair two nights later but Madison Square Garden won’t even HEAR of things like that, like first and foremost they’re afraid of the consequences – e.g. riots by the largely Puerto Rican audience – should a wimpy Victor Rivera type goody-goody EVER lose and – getting a bit more sinister – it’s kind of obvious the N.Y. promotion thinks of itself as playing a Horatio Algeresque role in the education of what it takes to be simple Caribbean folk in need of an unswerving lesson in good-good-over-evil, y’know a whole social control routine the likes of which the Eaton-LeBell clan’d never inflict on the sophisticated Mexes who’re in their seats to experience as much goddam satisfying return-match drama as the traffic will bear anyway); 2. Masks (some ancient NY State law or something actually forbids covering up the old phiz – guy might be an escaped con on the lam!); 3. Villains vs. other villains (NY fear is the fans won’t be able to RELATE to unleashed badasshood per se); 4. Bad guys who go good at the drop of a hat and vice versa (former Am Champs J. Tolos and Freddie Blassie have been working this viable scam for years: ambiquity/ambivalence incarnate); 5. Handicap matches (big mothers like 7’4" 470-pound Andre hafta fight one puny opponent at a time at the Garden – State ATHLETIC Commission guidelines! – whereas in sunny Calif it’s cool to more evenly match jumbos against a pair of normals so in effect NY’s actually INFLICTING the "handicap" on the ordinary sized jerkoff); 6. Cage fandangos (the guys are in the ring by themselves – no ref – surrounded by this 4-sided fence, winner is the one who climbs out first, object is to so maim the other bozo he can’t do no climbing: no-holds-barred in its most unrestricted form); AND OF COURSE 7. THE ANNUAL 22-MAN BATTLE ROYAL – the crème de la crème of catch-as-catch-can action.
Like take for instance this year’s edition of #7 which this here sportswrite hack had the good fortune to witness in the flesh. Friday before Super Sunday back in January. Olympic Auditorium is almost full, 10,000 or so while nowadays mama Aileen can’t even GIVe it away for the hifalutin "legit" sport of pugilism. Great motherheppin sleazy slice of Americana, this joint. Popcorn get cleaned up maybe once a month. Your feet stick to the floor. Cerveza’s GOTTA be the most watered down anywhere which explains why many patrons don’t mind throwing their full cups of the swill up toward the ring – there’s even this one Chicano regular who’s got a knuckleball type deliver down near perfect, very little rotation so nothin gets spilled till it’s already past the seats. Half price for kids under 12 (NY State don’t even ALLOW em in under 14: must figger they’re TOO YOUNG to eyeball figure-four legvines and flying knee drops to the scrod!). Old yellowed photos of Ace Hudkins and Kid Chocolate dot the walls. When the men’s john is full they’ll pass their water in the nearest garbage can. WORST seegars ever sold by a major sports dive. Old St. Nicholas Arena was never this funky and certainly not Sunnyside Gardens. DAMN nifty palais de sport and its crowning glory is the battle ROYALE (as local esoterics insist on calling it): TWUNNY-TWO still-sweaty-from-their-prelims bruisers (no time for a shower!) comin back out for the biggest 22-man showdown in all the world – certainly as hell including the gridiron – all of em in the ring together for upward of an hour goin at it like krazy till finally they’re down to one single only slightly sweatier cauliflower-bender, winner-take-all booty of 20 grand going to said survivor …
Big issue this year was whether or not gigantic Andre was gonna repeat as top-o-the-totem (nobody’d ever won two years running). Very conceivable he could get toppled at a moment of imbalance and then 8-10 standard-siz muh-fuhs could pounce on him for the required duration, happened in ’72 with 601-lb. Haystacks Calhoun so why not pituitary Andre? A swell inevitable high school physics solution to the monster question but it ain’t happened however by the time we’re almost down to less total opposing poundage than’d be needed to do the trick – when remarkably the big ape turns DUMB, falling prey to the taunts of JC Dykes, rogue manager of masked combatant Inferno #1 tho not a contestant himself. Andre pursues JC out of the ring, grounds for automatic elimination and y’shoulda seen the bafflement on the big moron’s face as ref Red Shoes Dugan (famed for his red shoes) tells him it’s all over boss.
(And what’s really genuinely great about Battle Royals is precisely this intermediate hokum, the shenanigans that transpire between the participants before you’re down to where it really counts. Cause like let’s ADMIT for argument sake that the final finish is maybe – uh – predetermined, okay well even so there’s LOTS of room for spontaneity and improvisation and all that shit at the midway stages of battle, y’know like even ACTUAL professional grudges being worked out between guys who (seemingly) authentically can’t stand each other. The result is infinitely more free-form and unchoreographed than NY ever ever gets with the possible exception of Killer Kowalski.)
Anyway sooner or later it’s down to just three left, Ernie, Mr. P. Chop, and a professed Ay-rab named Java Ruuk (camel on his garish-anyway bestriped trunks). A darkhorse if there ever was one, Java takes it with a stroke of inspired laziness and here’s how: rests at a turnbuckle while Ern and the Porker have at it with abandon on the ring apron, a little TOO abandony tho cause they lose their balance and plummet to the arena floor, it’s all over, and Java’s got the big V just for biding his time. (Most ostentatious triumph of Oil Consciousness to date.) Fuh. Shee. Chinga tu madre. Crowd leaves in mild disappointment …Ready for next week when Andre takes on both Inferno #1 and Dykes in a "loser leaves town" struggle. Customary deal is defeated party is exiled for 30 days but this time the contract calls for forever. And not just for grunt-n-groan purposes, this time it’s outa the entire state PERIOD. Which means Andre’s fucking GOTTA win, scheduled to do an episode of "Six Million Dollar Man" so how’s he gonna shoot it if he’s stuck in Chicago? Funny tho cause after he does take the pair’s measure he disappears to the greener wrestling pastures of somewhere-or-other anyway ($250,000-per-annum rumored earnings). Good riddance and that’s another point in LA’s favor: worthless gobblers are as likely to depart in victory as in defeat – so you’re not stuck with horrible tedious freaks nearly as long as in NY (I mean when the heck’s Bruno Sammartino EVER gonna depart the Garden? – took a goddam "broken leg" inflicted by Ivan Koloff to do it back at the turn of the ‘70s), the overall quality often getting stabilized as much on an AESTHETIC basis as on a political one.
Time marches on and destiny finally did hand Chavo the Americas’ Tit outright, prestige of course but for awhile he also had this other whatsis to supply a slightly more novel hunk of interest for the aficionados. Got this match in LA for something called the Jules Strongbow Scientific Trophy, way it works is the first s.o.b. to do ANYTHING ILLEGAL (needn’t be flagrant!) gets disqualified, TIMEKEEPER RING THAT BELL. Lots of wearisome legality of course, the kinda crap you get every few cards at the Garden and which leads to instant yawns and those inevitable comments from tired old-timers to the effect that "When wrestling was wrestling back in the good old days this is the way things ALWAYS happened." Leave it to LA to package even the likes of this into something NEARLY viable and the bad seed of total viability’s built into the concept too: the awesome possibility of DIRTY SCIENTIFIC WRESTLING!
I.e. the act of pissing off your Mr. Clean adversary sufficiently to make HIM perform the first unlawful act (the corruption of certified purity!). Needed for the role is a namby-pamby relatively unemotional mediocrity capable of physically restraining himself while verbally deriding the cheese he’s facing. And since mediocrity is always in plenitude anywhere you don’t gotta look very far, in this case a bekilted fake Scotsman name of Roddy Piper (originally Rodney but they finally settled on Roddy cause his persona is closer to Roddy McDowall’s than Rodney Harrington’s or some such crap). Anyway by the time of his J. Strongbow appearance against Mr. Guerrero Roddy’s been in town maybe a month or so and he ain’t done diddleyshit one way or the other, perfect bland nonentity and his ring posture really IRKS the self-consciously proud and personable pseudo-macho Chavo: offers up his chin for a (disqualifying) knuckle sandwich, c’mon HIT me! Conspicuously bothered as much by the seeming impotence/masochism/sissyhood of the gesture as bytheimminenceofdisqualification, Chavo seems in constant danger of losing his cool, somehow each time at the last second asserting control over the arc of his haymaker, transferring the brunt of impact to the forearm (forearm smashes’re legal, always have been) time after time until …
Well Chavo didn’t emerge full-fledged from outa nowhere, initial gimmick was he’s the son of former campeon del mundo Gory (!) Guerrero and so finally this particular eve I’ll be dipped in shit if they don’t actually bring Gory back as sonnyboy’s soon-to-be tag partner, a bald pathetic chubbo in his late 50s at least and here is in street clothes sitting at ringside urging Guerrero hijo on against this Anglo faggot. Okay so you musta guessed already how the passive Ang-fag’s ultimately gonna get the hot-blooded Latino to uncork a title-relinquishing one-two to his waspy mug: takes a swipe at daddy! Fists, kicking, knees, everything, etc. follow, mucho rage and then mucho disgust at seeing the trophy (not a belt) handed over to this hideously grinning creepo. (Subsequent interview has Guerrero senior castigating junior for breaking "the first rule of athletics – keep control of your temper at all times or you are already half-beaten"; "I know dad but you’re my father, my BLOOD.")
Okay so for the next couple weeks it’s geezer Gory serving as the catalyst for Chavo’s wrath, foremost geezer-stomper being this masked nerd of a newcomer of presumed Mexican extraction known simply as Senor X (recite that "Quis") who’s also reputed to’ve sent Tolos to the hospital in San Berdoo as the prelude to demolishing Gory in a televised encounter. Mask he’s wearing’s regrettably a little too unrevealing so to hype the gate Mike LeBell himself hasta come screaming into the middle of a Gene interview and reveal like the honest man he is that reliable sources have hepped him to the true identity of the Senor: none other than banished-for-life JC Dykes!!! …this leads to a cage match, giving CG a chance to avenge both papa and the reputation of the Olympic (remove facial concealment in a cage and there ain’t no way the gent can grab a towel and cover up just in the nick of time, the usual ploy). And sure enough: JC is banned FOR LIFE this time.
Bravo and so it’s on to an import from Texas and points southeast, the utterly non-wimpily malevolent Terry Funk who fuckin HATES Meskins in no uncertain terms: "I’m gonna beat you Chavo and I’m gonna beat you easy. What’s gonna make it so easy is your BREEDING and I think you know what I mean. You’re just a NO-GOOD SNAKY-HAIRED EGG-SUCKING LATIN AMERICAN DOG. I hate tacos, I hate burritos, and I hate YOU Chavo Guerrero . . . " (Another outasight distinction between LA and NY is the former really lets bad-mutha personas take on bitingly racist overtones, I mean why shouldn’t a baddy be all a baddy is capable of being?) Chavo’s lame but agitated response: "The things he CALLS me! He calls me Latin American! He won’t get away with that!" (Hey Chango, where’s your regional-origin PRIDE f’chrissakes!)
Result of this ‘un: Terry gets disqualified, in this case a DEFEAT WITH HONOR if there ever was one (the one recourse bad-arses always have regardless of the locale thankgod!).
Okay so with Terry outa the picture almost as soon as he got there once more they gotta RESORT TO RODDY. So happens Glasgow’s finest managed himself a win over Gory on the Chavo-Funk undercard so another ballyhooed showdown is a natch and – hoot mon! – this time Piper pulls off the big one. Takes the Americas'’to go with his Strongbow and what'’ worse for Chavo is he must leave town for the big 30. Contract tho doesn'’ call for him to get on the boat IMMEDIATELY so he shows up in civvies to watch his pop AGAIN get pummeled by the Piper Cub. Also a repeat of him bein the first stoopid to commit the foul, charges in from his seat (disq. For Gory: "outside interference" clause of the so-called Bicentennial Rules) prompting Rod’s new partner Crusher Verdu (from SPAIN so’s he can act hoity-toitier than the New World Latinos and still speak their language!) to storm in himself and fuggin bloody up the senior cit’s wornout furrowed dogface (lotsa gore for Gory, about time!). So in other words it’s even the offspring’s FAULT that his pops got popped: it’s the dirties who’re committing the righteous acts of vengeance these days! THEIR prerogative! Analogous to much of what the commies’ve been doin for the last decade or so! (Ya’d NEVER see it in NY!)
Anyway there’s a whole slew of long-time local observers who think this shit is the NADIR OF EL-LAY WRESTLING. Okay, sure, agreed, maybe so – but on’t try t’ tell me NY at its HEIGHT was even half as good (and it sure ain’t at its height right now!). Like I’ll take Pipeline as tame and domesticated as he is (a people’s villain like Dean Martin is a people’s singer) over Tony Garea and Dean Ho ANY DAY. YET ANOTHER REASON TO LEAVE NEW YAWK!!!
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.74-2001
IN BED WITH THE WWF
(ThePosition.com, August 7, 2000)
By Irving Muchnick
On a Monday night in the mid-1980s following a World Wrestling
Federation show at Madison Square Garden in New York City, a teenage member of
the ring crew -- the guys who set up and tear down the three-roped, four-posted,
12-turnbuckled squared circle -- was given a piece of fatherly advice by a
veteran WWF performer.
The ring crew kid, whose name was Tom Cole, had been reviewing assignments for the next stop on the WWF circuit with his supervisor, Mel Phillips. When Phillips walked away, the wrestler standing next to Cole nudged him and said, "Watch yourself around Phillips. He's bad news." Prophetic words.
A few years later, Phillips was a central figure in a pedophilia scandal that came within a federal grand jury of sinking the WWF, and Tom Cole was the chief whistleblower. More on that later. In the institutional memory of the pro wrestling public, where the results of last month's pay-per-view event have already vaporized, the events of the early ‘90s may as well have taken place in Greco-Roman antiquity.
The wrestler who made the remark to Cole had recently retired
from the ring due to blood clots in his lung (a condition that can be caused by
abuse of muscle-enhancing anabolic steroids though he claimed it was from Agent
Orange). His forced retirement turned out to be a big break, however, for he
soon found fame as a heel commentator on WWF television. Now he was about to
head to Hollywood for an even bigger break: a role alongside Arnold
Schwarzenegger in the movie Predator. The ex-wrestler signed his checks
"James Janos." Aided by a state law allowing political candidates to
use their noms de guerre on the ballot, he later would be elected mayor of
Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, then governor of Minnesota.
He was, is, Jesse "The Body" Ventura.
* * *
You don't have to be a Reform Party renegade, a French semiotician or a board member of the Parents Television Council to know that sex and wrestling go together like a horse and carriage. In an earlier era they used to call this pseudo-sport "grunting and groaning." The pejorative was despised by my uncle, the late Sam Muchnick. "They do grunt and they do groan," he once conceded to me, "but putting it that way sounds so . . . undignified." Sam was perhaps the industry's most important promoter before WWF hypemeister Vince McMahon crossed new technology with postmodern perversity to create the strangest marketing juggernaut in pop-culture history.
Part of McMahon's particular genius was to cut out the middleman, end any pretense of dignity and give the people exactly what they want: homophobia locked in mortal combat with homoeroticism. But this is not a disquisition on the sexual content of the wrestling product. It is a report on the companion phenomenon of sex inside wrestling. The question is whether the backstage manipulations of promoters, bookers, performers and hangers-on mirror the displaced fetishes, dominance games and double (and sometimes single) entendres so boldly evident on the sunny side of the proscenium.
And the answer is: Uh, yeah.
Understand, for starters, that wrestling sex is to real sex what wrestling violence is to real violence. Just as the most effective punch is the pulled variety, the best fuck is the mind kind. Consenting adults trespass this blue line at their own risk. For proof, we offer Kevin Sullivan, a booker, or storyline weaver, for Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling, the WWF's chief rival.
Four years ago Sullivan was casting about for a way to put "heat" on Chris Benoit, a technically virtuosic but relatively colorless Canadian wrestler, when Sullivan hit upon a brilliant idea. It involved Sullivan's wife Nancy Daus, a buxom brunette who appeared on WCW television as a valet known, economically, as "Woman." Sullivan cooked up a subplot (an "angle" in carny patois) whereby Woman left Sullivan for Benoit. Wrestlers tend to take method acting to extremes. In this instance, in order to give the gimmick credibility, Sullivan ordered his wife and Benoit to hang out together 24/7. When Chris went to the gym, Nancy went with him. When he went to his hotel room, she . . . well, you get the point. Before long, life was imitating art. On February 23, 2000, Nancy celebrated the birth of her baby boy, Daniel Christopher Benoit. It is not known if Sullivan sent a shower gift. Chris Benoit was by now in the WWF.
"Kevin Sullivan," says Wrestling Observer Newsletter Publisher Dave Meltzer, "booked his own divorce."
Legendary wrestler Bret "The Hit Man" Hart saw his
14-year marriage to his wife Julie (not a TV character) collapse, in part under
the strain of sexual innuendo, on a 1997 WWF tour ably captured in the
award-winning documentary Wrestling With Shadows. In one memorable scene, Hart
and his then-nemesis Shawn Michaels are recording a promotional
"shoot" for a series of upcoming matches. The two men were said to
truly despise each other and their insults, though elliptical to the
uninitiated, added up to more than a contrived "work."
At one point Michaels says to Hart, "You've been having a lot of 'sunny' days lately" -- a reference to Hart's rumored affair with wrestling personality Sunny (Tammy Sytch). Hart, who now wrestles for WCW, denies the rumor. It also must be noted that Hart has had more important things on his mind since the 1999 death of his brother, Owen, during a stunt at a WWF pay-per-view show.
Husband-and-wife combos are no less common among wrestlers than in other professions. Unions of recent vintage include Randy "Macho Man" Savage and Elizabeth (they're now divorced). Also Eddie "Hot Stuff" Gilbert, who would die of a drug overdose, married and divorced both Missy Hyatt and Medusa Micelli. The aforementioned Ms. Sytch is now married to wrestler Chris Candido. And there are many, many others.
The thinking person's wrestling fan, therefore, ponders the future of those volatile lovebirds Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Paul Levesque) and Stephanie McMahon. That Stephanie is billed with a hyphenated surname on Smackdown is about as meaningful as the championship belt her bogus hubby once held and may one day regain.
Still, how many opportunities does a man get to French-kiss the boss's daughter on national TV? Insiders describe the relationship as legitimately on-again, off-again, or at least serious enough to make Triple H forget his former squeeze, Chyna (Joanie Laurer), whose biceps measure somewhere between Stephanie's and his own. And you thought Vince was kidding when he said he wanted his children to follow him in the family business.
Hollywood has the casting couch and wrestling, too, has its ways of separating the wheat from the shaft.
As long ago as the early ‘80s, dressing-room scuttlebutt ascribed a quickie National Wrestling Alliance title change to a blowjob that a certain promoter was allowed to administer to his short-lived young champion. In the last decade, Barry Orton, a second-generation wrestler who is now out of the business, claimed that his resistance to sexual harassment was the reason he never rose above prelim status. Another disillusioned ex-WWFer, Billy Jack Haynes, used to joke that he had to be careful about bending down for a bar of soap on the shower floor.
Vince McMahon's right-hand man on the talent side is Pat Patterson, a former main eventer. Patterson's boyfriend, a "jobber" (perennial loser) called the Brooklyn Brawler (Steve Lombardi), has precious little else to recommend him, though that's just the start of allegations that Patterson has abused his power. Until recently, WWF wrestlers talking about their moves in interviews would slyly allude to "the Pat Patterson go-behind." In wrestleworld, this passes for sublime wit.
For former ring attendant Tom Cole, it isn't funny and understandably so. When Cole was 15 or 16, he recalls, "Patterson would look at you when he was talking to you. He'd look right at your crotch and he'd lick his lips. He'd put his hand on your ass and squeeze your ass and stuff like that." Cole, now 28 and a married small business owner, was speaking on the record and last year also gave a detailed interview to the newsletter Wrestling Perspective.
Cole got started with the WWF around 1984 at the age of 12, in Yonkers, N.Y., through Mel Phillips, then a ring announcer and head of the ring crew. Cole says Phillips had a black book with names of kids -- mostly from broken homes -- from all over the country.
"He used to have a thing where he played with your feet," Cole says. "He would wrestle you for five seconds, then he'd pull your shoes off and start playing with your toes. When I was a young kid, I wasn't thinking too much about it. Now I look at it like, 'Wow, that was a foot fetish. There's something wrong here.'"
In 1990, Cole says, Patterson's assistant Terry Garvin secured him a steady job at the WWF parts warehouse and promised him a tryout as a ring announcer. Garvin subsequently maneuvered Cole to his house, near the WWF's Stamford, Conn., base, on an evening when Garvin's wife and two kids were away. Garvin popped a porn tape into the VCR and offered to fellate Cole, who declined and spent the night in a van parked outside. Shortly thereafter, Cole was fired.
Cole first told his story to Phil Mushnick of the New York Post (and now TV Guide), the only mainstream journalist who has given the industry any kind of sustained scrutiny. In 1992, evidence of harassment and abuse of underage ring boys synergized with a federal grand jury investigation of McMahon's role in steroid trafficking among WWF talent. Hopelessly in over his head, Cole settled, on the eve of Phil Donahue and Geraldo Rivera shows devoted to the scandals, for $150,000, back pay and the return of his old job. (Cole says his lawyer, Alan Fuchsberg, pocketed $100,000 of the settlement sum for "about four hours' work.")
At the height of the tabloid blitz, Patterson, Phillips and Garvin (who died last year) all left the company. But within a few weeks, Patterson had quietly returned. Barely more than a year later the WWF fired Cole again because, he contends, he stopped sharing information from his grand jury testimony and refused to cooperate in McMahon's ultimately unsuccessful libel suit against Mushnick and the Post.
Not all of wrestling's legal-sexual problems stem from homosexual conduct. In 1999, the WWF's former women's champion Sable (Rena Mero), a Playboy cover girl, filed a $120 million lawsuit claiming she was verbally assaulted and threatened by WWF personnel who also had tried to coerce her into baring her breasts on a pay-per-view show and participating in a lesbian "angle." The suit was later dropped. Meanwhile, WCW has had several parallel pieces of litigation, the best known of which featured former valet Missy Hyatt and was settled in 1996.
And not every incident of male aggression stops at sex. In 1983, the girlfriend of then-WWF headliner Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka died from a blow to the head in a motel room in Allentown, PA. Observers who have studied the case still question the official ruling of accidental death.
* * * * *
For the feds, naturally the big enchilada was Vince McMahon. And when they smelled blood, accusers of varying degrees of probity came out of the woodwork faster than The Rock can ooze hiphop attitude. One of them, Murray Hodgson, who was briefly employed by the WWF in a minor TV announcing slot, claimed in a civil lawsuit that Pat Patterson had crudely propositioned him. But at the conclusion of Hodgson's videotaped deposition, his attorney, Ed Nusbaum, withdrew from the case.
"The WWF spent what I would estimate at around $100,000 in its private investigation of Hodgson," Nusbaum says. (Tom Cole believes that during certain periods he was tailed by WWF-hired detectives from the Fairfax Group, now DSFX.) "I was absolutely convinced by the evidence that emerged establishing that Hodgson was a lifelong con man."
Around the same time, the WWF's first female referee, Rita Chatterton, came forward with a tale of having been raped by McMahon in the back seat of his limousine. Chauffeur Jim Stuart corroborated Chatterton's account and filed a lawsuit of his own, alleging that, during his WWF employment, he had been forced into witnessing the commission of crimes. Both Chatterton and Stuart have since disappeared into the fog machine. Stuart's lawyer at the time, Frank Riccio, is not returning calls.
For McMahon's part, he relies heavily in such situations on Jerry McDevitt of the Pittsburgh law firm Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, otherwise distinguished by his representation of President Clinton's naughty ex-political consultant, Dick Morris. Ultimately, the grand jury ignored the sex stuff and handed down indictments on charges that McMahon had brokered illegal steroid transactions for WWF wrestlers through a Pennsylvania doctor.
At a sensational 1994 trial in New York, prosecutors thought they were delivering the goods via the testimony of McMahon's former secretary, Emily Feinberg, the wife of a WWF script writer and a one-time Playboy model, and someone assumed to have spent time doing the nasty with Vince. Feinberg's performance under cross-examination withered, however. Some speculate this had something to do with the fact that, outside the courtroom, she had been pumped for information by one Martin Bergman, who may or may not have been a TV producer, but who definitely was the husband of McMahon's lead defense attorney, Laura Brevetti. (Bergman also is the brother of Lowell Bergman, the 60 Minutes producer who took on the tobacco industry and is portrayed by Al Pacino in The Insider.) In any event, a jury acquitted McMahon on all counts.
Now fast-forward four years. McMahon, heretofore a babyface TV announcer, calculates that he is of more value to his company playing the evil corporate boss in a feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin. And so, in one popular magazine interview after another, McMahon becomes the first imminent Wall Street tycoon ever to brag -- falsely -- that he was convicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute steroids. And the magazine writers buy it, giving Virtual Vince even more of an outlaw image than he deserves.
Book that, Kevin Sullivan.
(ED. NOTE – The late Sam Muchnick would probably describe his nephew, Irving, as . . . well . . . "undignified." But, a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do, eh?)
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.75-2001
LONGSON TAKES ROUGHHOUSE MAT BATTLE FROM ALI BABA
(Minneapolis Tribune, Wednesday, April 1, 1942)
By George A. Barton
It is said Bill Longson, new world’s heavyweight champion wrestler, learned the tricks and holds of the catch-as-catch-can pastime as a student at the University of Utah.
But, some 3,500 mat addicts who watched Longson defeat Ali Baba at the auditorium Tuesday night gained the impression that Bill learned his trade among the longshoremen on the docks of some seaport city.
Bill staged a regular pier brawl when battering Baba into submission in a tussle lasting 17 minutes and 3 seconds.
He did everything to the squat Turk except rip out a ringpost and wrap it around Ali’s well-shaved noggin.
Minneapolis wrestling fans, who thought Lou Plummer, Abe Kashey, Dick Raines and Joe Cox were rough guys, decided they were Little Lord Fauntleroys after seeing Longson in his local debut.
"Wild Bill," as he is called back in Utah, starts in where the other four mat ruffians left off.
There are no dull moments with Longson in action. He kept the crowd in a frenzy from the time he greeted Baba with a punch on the chin until he crushed the Turk like a collapsed accordion with his deadly piledriver hold. This crusher device consists of slapping a leg-scissors hold around an opponent’s neck, then gripping him around the waist with his arms and banging the other guy’s head against the mat.
The champion knocked out Baba with his punishing hold, but the gritty little Turk quickly recovered and walked out of the ring under his own power.
Judging from his actions, Longson must have taken a vow to make the public despise him.
At least, he worked along that line in manhandling Baba. On several occasions, Wild Bill caused the fans to question his gameness by leaping out of the ring when Baba retaliated by smacking the champ on the kisser with his fists.
Baba lost the match but he won the admiration of the crowd because of willingness to absorb punishment. The Turk wrestled the champ virtually on even terms up to the time he fell victim to Longson’s piledriver hold.
The fans cheered Baba and jeered Longson. It was evident they would like to see some rough guy take Longson apart next time he appears here.
Longson weighed 238, Baba 205.
Bill Kuusisto increased his prestige by wrestling Ray Steele, former world’s champion, to a draw in 30 minutes.
The youngster made an impressive showing against Steele in a spirited match. Kuusisto weighed 228, Steele 216.
In the other matches, Rudy Strongberg, 233, and John Grandovich, 251, tussled to a draw in 30 minutes, while Johnny Carlin, 196, threw Johnny Seal, 197, in 17 minutes and 19 seconds.
Whitey Koopman refereed all of the matches.
JOHN VALENTINE TURNS TRAITOR IN TEAM MATCH
(Houston Chronicle, Saturday, June 12, 1954)
Johnny Valentine turned traitor in the eight-man tag match Friday night at City Auditorium, helping his opponents pin Larry Chene for the final loss.
The winning quartet was composed of Danny McShane, Bull Curry, Don Evans and Bill McDaniels. The losers were Ray Gunkel, Rito Romero, Chene and Valentine.
Valentine set Chene up and then helped McShane and McDaniels pin him.
The Texas state title changed hands in another feature attraction that saw Gentleman Ed Francis use a drop kick to win the third fall from Enrique Guzman.
Al Ventres, Francis’ manager, drew the ire of the fans when they thought he pulled the top rope as Guzman flying into it for a drop kick. With no rope there to hit, Guzman sailed onto the floor. When he got back into the ring, Francis won with a drop kick.
In other matches, McShane was awarded a decision over Chene in an extra five-minute period. Curry and Romero fought to a draw. Don Evans was disqualified against Gunkel and Valentine whipped McDaniels.
GAGNE KEEPS HIS TITLE; FOE IS HURT
(Sioux City Journal, Wednesday, September 1, 1954)
Verne Gagne again defended his United States wrestling title successfully Tuesday night when his opponent, Roy McClarity, was unable to continue because of a shoulder injury.
The title match was staged as a George Parnassus promotion at Soos baseball park. A crowd said to exceed 6,500 watched the action.
The decision came after each man had won a fall. McClarity, in being flung out of the ring by Gagne for the second fall, struck his shoulder on the edge of the ring. He did not make it into the ring during the three-minute intermission, nor in a five-minute extension generously offered by Gagne.
The two popular clean-type grapplers made a hit with the crowd with a fast and furious exhibition of legitimate holds and breaks. It took 24 minutes, 46 seconds of action before the first fall went to the Canadian flash. McClarity, who was able to slip out of Gagne’s sleeper hold, applied his own version to the champ and took the fall.
A body block and shoulder toss by Gagne threw Roy out of the ring after 42:01 total elapsed time. Gagne won that fall, and when McClarity was not able to continue, the bout went to Verne.
In the semiwindup the brutish Hans Hermann of Boston was shcoked into a one-minute, 33-second defeat at the hands of Ronnie Etchison of St. Joseph, Mo. After using illegal tactics on Ronnie, Hans found himself slammed so hard the ringposts shook.
Joe Dusek and Larry Hamilton grunted to a 20-minute draw in another bout and Mike DiBiase finished Gentleman Jim Dobie with a body block and a shoulder toss in 17:20 of the opener.
LOUIS GAINS WIN IN THIRD
(Omaha World, Tuesday, September 28, 1954)
Joe Louis, 40, Monday night returned to the ring in the City Auditorium to toss a little leather.
He was matched against rassler Art Nielsen, who also wore boxing gloves for the scheduled six-round exhibition.
The rounds were to be two minutes. Sam Vacanti of the State Boxing Commission reminded time Clink Claire before the bout.
Louis was declared the winner in 1:27 of the third round.
Nielsen, who had hit the canvas in the third following a sharp Louis right, was disqualified because one of his rassling cohorts, Reggie Lisowski, jumped into the ring to choose Joe. Lisowski was Nielsen’s "second."
Joe promptly walloped Reggie, too.
Louis, still a lot of fighter though a trifle flabby at the midriff, wasn’t able to show his boxing ability. He was mauled too much by Nielsen’s rassling tactics.
However, he did get off a few whistling lefts to Nielsen’s mid-section.
Louis – who once fought before a single crowd of 70,043 in Yankee Stadium during his brilliant championship career – performed before a paid house of 3,492 this time.
Ernie Dusek, who will return to Canada for a bout before hurrying back for Nebraska’s duck-hunting opener October 8, drew in 30 minutes with Mike DiBiase. Other rassling results:
Yukon Eric defeated Reggie Lisowski in 4:15.
Bob Orton defeated Dave Simms: 12:15 first fall, 12:00 second fall.
Dick Dusek drew with Roberto Pico in 15 minutes.
ROCCA TOSSES SCHMIDT IN WRESTLING FEATURE
(Kingston, N.Y., Daily Freeman, Wednesday, September 29, 1954)
Antonino Rocca, 227, the barefoot boy from the Argentine, won two falls from Hans Schmidt, 251, the Man Man from Munich, in the professional wrestling exhibition last night at the municipal auditorium.
A large crowd saw the man with the educated feet rally for victory after Schmidt copped the first fall with a body slam and press at 13:27.
Rocca scored the equalizer at 6:18 with his famed back-breaker and was awarded the decision when Schmidt was disqualified for excessive rough tactics at 8:10 of the third fall.
The match between the TV titans was rough and lively and was interrupted once while referee Joe Vozdik cleared the ring of some flash bulbs tossed in by overenthusiastic patrons.
Mr. America (Steve Stanlee, brother of the better known Gene Stanlee) copped the semi-final in two straight falls over Abe Zvonkin, 239, of Hamilton, Ontario.
Zvonkin was disqualified at 10:15 of the first fall for unnecessary roughness. Stanlee, who hails from New York City, terminated the wild match at 25:32 for the wrapup with a spin slam and press.
Jackie Nichols, 218, Richmond, Maine, won the 30-minute curtain raiser from Harry Lewis, New York, with a drop kick and headlock in 21 minutes.
MAT DECISION TO McCLARITY
(Des Moines Register, Thursday, September 30, 1954)
Roy McClarity, who wrestled Verne Gagne to a draw here a week ago, had things easy Wednesday night as he defeated Art Neilson before an estimated 2,000 spectators at KRNT Theater.
McClarity took the opening fall on a reverse leg scissors. Neilson squared things in the second fall with a knee stomp and a body press.
Throughout the final fall, Neilson kept the fans booing with his body slams and headlocks. However, McClarity regained his poise and used his sleeper hold to win the match.
Two comical midgets, Pee Wee James and Tiny Tim, delighted the fans as they won their two-out-of-three fall match with Sky Low Low and Otto Bowman. James beat Low in an earlier event to gain the first fall for the winners.
Sky Low Low came back in the second and put a body press on Tiny Tim to even the match. James finished the affair with a body slam and press on Bowman.
In another affair, Yukon Eric was declared winner over Danny Ferrazzo. Eric won with a bear hug.
MELBY DEFEATS TARZAN ZIMBA IN MAT SHOW
(Idaho State Journal, Pocatello, Saturday, October 2, 1954)
Handsome Bill Melby dropped Tarzan Zimba with a body press for the third fall Friday night to win the evening’s feature match in promoter E.R. Reynolds’ first wrestling show of the season.
Melby copped the first fall in his match with Zimba with a jackknife with 10 minutes gone. But Zimba came back with his patented "Over the World Throw" to win the second. Zimba was applying the same hold when Melby escaped and pinned Zimba to take the match.
In the other half of the double main event, Treach Phillips took two out of three falls from Chale Martinez to grab an upset win. Phillips appeared on the card after substituting for Mel Peters, and he surprised Martinez with an attack that ended with a fall-winning body press after 12 minutes. Martinez came back with a surfboard to win the second fall, but Phillips used a backbreaker to gain the third and deciding fall.
In the curtain raiser, Steve Anetri and Dave Reynolds grappled for 20 minutes with neither wrestler winning a fall. Then each applied a cross leg lock on the other and became unable to free themselves. After five spectators and referee Skip McGuire tried in vain to pull them apart, Tarzan Zimba freed them. Both wrestlers were helped from the ring and the match was called a draw.
About 200 fans were in attendance.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.76-2001
THERE’S MIST IN LOU DARO’S EYES
(Los Angeles Herald, February 9, 1938)
Lou Daro’s eyes will be misty tonight when Dan Tobey, veteran announcer, calls the main event principals to the center of the ring.
The first star of his first wrestling show in Los Angeles returns to the fold when Jimmy Londos, the international heavyweight champion, comes to grips with Sandor Szabo, the Hungarian Adonis, who holds the California state title belt.
Fifteen years ago "Carnation Lou" made his debut as a promoter in this city. Jimmy Londos was his featured performer. Both men have come a long way since that time. Londos is rated a millionaire today.
Lou Daro is now rated the biggest figure in wrestling promotion despite his repeated statements that he has retired.
For the first time in 15 months Lou will be on hand to take in a wrestling show. Illness has prevented him from taking in the excitement but he cannot resist coming out to see Londos, his favorite wrestler.
Londos has not shown here since 1935. Since that time the Gorgeous Greek has toured the old Continent and far away places like Egypt and South Africa.
Londos returns appearing much the same as he did years ago. A great athlete, the Greek is a slave to his body. He trains every day of his life.
Londos has the recognition as international champion from France, Greece, Turkey, Great Britain, Egypt, South Africa and Central Africa. The Greek refuses to recognize Bronko Nagurski as a world champion. He says Nagurski is but an American champion.
Szabo, the opponent of Londos, calls himself a "man of destiny." He is at the top of his form right now and openly boasts that he will heave Jimmy right into front-row seats and out of the mat game.
Last week Szabo polished off the Monster Man, Ivan Rasputin. The week before he used his "death swing" to beat "Gentleman George" Zaharias.
Don McDonald will referee the feature. He was third man in Londos’ first match in California.
In the supporting card George Zaharias faces Frank Malcewicz, the Utica Bad Boy, in a rough-house championship affair at one fall to a finish as the semi-windup.
El Pulpo, the octopus-hold exponent, meets Nick Lutze. Killa Shikuma, Japanese star, faces Abe Yourist, a Russian grappler.
Ranjit, the Hinda snake charmer, tangles with Bull Martin, the Boston Bully.
LONDOS VICTOR OVER SZABO IN DUEL ON MAT
(Los Angeles Times, Thursday, February 10, 1938)
Jimmy Londos, self-styled international mat champion, last night defeated Sandor Szabo in straight falls in the main wrestling event at the Olympic Auditorium.
The first fall was a marathon affair and lasted one hour and three seconds. Londos finally annexed the pinning with a double leg and back breaker.
Sandor was hurt by the fall and Dr. Lloyd Mace, after an examination, okayed him to return to the battle. Sandor came out for the second fall but was easy prey for the veteran Londos, who pinned him in ten seconds when Sandor folded on the canvas.
The celebrated and feared face lock of George Zaharias had its showing in the semi-windup when the Greek from Cripple Creek, Colo., made mincemeat out of Frank Malcewicz. Zaharias slugged his seemingly helpless foe all around the ring and then applied his brutal hold to put Malcewicz away in 5m 42s.
Mexico’s El Pulpo, the octopus man, and Nick Lutze, Venice lifeguard, battled through twenty hectic minutes to a draw. Lutze nearly had his Latin foe on the canvas in the final minutes, but the time-limit bell saved El Pulpo from any such embarrassment.
Nick Campofreda used a series of flying tackles to dispose of Baron Ginsberg in 6m. 3s. In the fourth match Killa Shikuma, barefoot Japanese wrestler, tossed Abe Yourist a Japanese sleeping powder in 6m. 16s. The hold was a form of ju-jitsu.
The Hindu, Ranjit, proved the master over Bull Martin in 11m. 1s. with a vicious body slam. Sammy Menacher employed an airplane spin to pin Leo Papiano in 5m. 6s. In the opener, Danny Dusek defeated Joe Tonti in 9m. 32s. with a giant swing.
THAT’S $29.95 WELL SPENT
By Bill Simmons
Imagine ESPN merging with Sports Illustrated and the Sporting News. Imagine the Backstreet Boys merging with 'N Sync and Leo DiCaprio's posse. Imagine the Playboy Channel merging with the Spice Network and Action Pay-Per-View. Seems implausible, right? Could never happen, right?
That's how any professional wrestling fan would have responded three years ago had you predicted that the three biggest wrestling federations in the country -- the WWF, WCW and ECW -- would eventually morph into one uber-federation controlled by WWF chairman Vince McMahon and his children, Shane and Stephanie. Just about every relevant wrestler working under the same roof, on the same cards, getting paychecks from the same place? How could this happen?
I'm telling you, in the summer of 2001, it happened.
When Ted Turner and TBS pulled the plug on the struggling WCW around the same time that ECW filed for bankruptcy this spring, McMahon swooped in like Gordon Gekko, purchasing the WCW and hiring a number of former ECW stars by mid-summer. And since the WWF's "Summer Slam" pay-per-view aired last Sunday night, the time seemed ripe for my first guilt-free WWF pay-per-view purchase of the year.
Of course, I kept a running diary. Here's what transpired:
8 p.m.: We're live from the Sports Guy Mansion in Boston! I'm joined here by some stale BBQ low-fat Pringles and a Bud Light bottle that I just found in the back of the fridge, as well as WWF announcers Jim Ross and Paul Heyman in San Jose. As an added bonus, tonight's telecast is presented by Chef Boyardee.
(I always thought "Chef Boyardee" would make a great wrestling gimmick for somebody, just for the costume alone. Can't you hear Ross screaming, "My God, what's that? Wait a second ... th-that's Chef Boyardee's music!!!!" as the Chef runs out from backstage, cleans house in the ring and performs the Spaghetti-O on somebody?)
8:02: Here's the Cliff's Notes version of tonight's pay-per-view plot: Earlier this summer, the evil McMahon kids (Shane and Stephanie) seized control of the WCW and ECW, renamed it "The Alliance" and declared war on their father and his beloved WWF (a plot apparently inspired by the Menendez family). Each side ultimately hopes to hold as many championship belts as possible or something.
8:05: Our first match: Intercontinental champ Lance Storm (ECW) takes on high-flying WWF star Edge (no relation to U2 guitarist The Edge). The Intercontinental title is like the PGA Championship in golf -- it's one of the majors, but it's not really one of the majors, if you get my drift.
That's why you have people like David Toms and Lance Storm holding the belts right now.
(By the way, Storm's gimmick includes 1.) telling the audience to shut up, and 2.) occasionally making everyone stand for the Canadian national anthem. You know they don't know what to do with a wrestler when he's making fans stand for a national anthem. It's like waving a white flag and saying, "This guy has no personality -- we give up.")
8:10: First shot of the WWF guys in the locker room cheering on Edge. High comedy for some reason. You can almost hear the director going, "All right, guys, on three, start cheering and pretending you're interested ... ready, 1, 2, 3 ... action! (three-second pause) And ... cut! Good work!"
8:16: Edge pins Storm with a DDT, despite the fact that Christian (Edge's brother) interfered with the match and inadvertently speared his brother, causing a little post-match tension between the brothers. You can see this bitter breakup looming down the road in a David Arquette/Courteney Cox kinda way.
8:18: Backstage interviewer Michael Cole catches up with Test, a wrestler who recently crossed over from the WWF to the Alliance. If the WWF isn't sure about a gimmick, you can usually tell, because the wrestler will only have one name. It's like they're saying, "He's not that interesting, so let's keep his name as concise as possible."
(And if he only has one name and makes people stand for the national anthem, well ...)
8:22: Time for a six-man tag-team match: Spike Dudley and the APA against Test and the Dudley Boyz. There's some bad blood here, because Spike remained with the WWF when his illegitimate brothers (Devon and Bubba-Ray) moved to the Alliance (don't ask). Also, the Dudley Boyz are known for their affection for power-bombing people through tables (again, don't ask).
Needless to say, you can pretty much guess what's going to happen with Spike in a few minutes. I'm already wincing.
8:25: Before I die, I want to give somebody a chair shot. Just once.
8:30: After eight minutes of brawling, Test chucked little Spike out of the ring and through a table -- 9.5 on the "Wow" scale -- followed by evil Shane McMahon sneaking into the ring and hitting one of the APA members with a chair so the Alliance could get the cheap win. Pretty good match. Frankly, I'm enjoying myself right now.
8:31: Just did a few jumping jacks.
8:35: WWF lightweight champ Tajiri steps in to face WCW cruiserweight champ X-Pac, who looks disturbingly like the Backstreet Boy who just went into rehab. They should go the whole nine yards here and have X-Pac use that "Bye-Bye" song as his entrance music.
8:36: Was it 'N Sync or the Backstreet Boys who sang the "Bye-Bye" song? Hmmmmm. This is bothering me ...
8:36: Come on, sing it with me: "But it ain't no crime ... bye bye bye BYE-BYE!" (Now that song will be running through your head for the rest of the column ... and you'll be enduring the personal hell that I'm experiencing right now.)
8:42: After Prince Albert came out to help his buddy X-Pac, Tajiri spit a mysterious red mist into Albert's face to fight him off ... but he was so distracted that X-Pac landed a cheapshot in the franks & beans region, leading to an X-Pac pin. Jim Ross sums up everyone's feelings when he says, "I wish Albert had just stayed in the back and let the best man win." Amen, Jim. Amen.
(And how 'bout Prince Albert's night? They flew him all the way to San Jose so he could have red mist spat into his face? Does he get paid for this?)
(to be concluded in The New WAWLI Papers 77-2001)
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.77-2001
THAT’S $29.95 WELL SPENT (continued from 76-2001)
8:47: Next up: Chris "Y2J" Jericho takes on Rhyno, who's accompanied to the ring by ECW owner Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley. Needless to say, there's some history here: Steph hates Jericho because he pokes fun at her silicone implants and sexual promiscuity. Unfortunately, he can't make fun of her acting -- even some porn actresses have more range.
While we're on the subject, Steph's breast implants were the head-scratching wrestling development of the summer. Let's just say that she didn't need the help -- this was the NBA equivalent of the Lakers trading for Dikembe Mutombo.
I actually read a few running debates on wrestling message boards about whether Steph needed those implants. The wrestling world is torn on this one.
(Um, not that I've ever intentionally gone to a wrestling message board ...)
8:49: Heyman: "Rhyno is an animal that Y2J cannot tame." Can't they gag him or something? When's Jerry "The King" Lawler coming back?
8:54: All right, I'm enjoying Rhyno's "man-beast" gimmick: He keeps his hair long, wears full-body wrestling tights with a big "R" on the back and uses the "Rhino Gore" as his finishing move. Can't you imagine him watching the Discovery Channel one day while tossing around possible gimmicks and having one of those "Hey, wait a second!" epiphanies during a rhino segment?
8:58: Signs being held up by fans in the audience include: "Stephanie McBoobs," "Welcome to Silicone Valley," "Twins City" and "Stephanie McJugs."
Must be a proud day for Vince and the entire McMahon family.
9:02: Fun Stephanie-related fact of the day, as if the whole impants thing weren't exciting enough:
You might remember the wrestling plot last year where Steph "defied" her Dad and "married" WWF villain Hunter-Hearst Helmsley (aka "Triple H"). Behind the scenes, Triple H was actually dating Chyna -- the muscular, androgynous WWF female champ -- until they broke up last year and Triple H ended up falling for Stephanie in real life.
Now? They're still dating and Triple H is the odds-on favorite to capture the 2001 ESPY for "Upgrade of the Year."
(There's something endearing about Steph, despite the whole bad-girl/silicone/bad-acting thing. I've stopped trying to figure it out. Let's just move on.)
9:04: Y2J tames Rhyno for the win. Decent match. Solid PPV so far.
9:08: Time for everyone's favorite wrestler du' jour: Rob Van Dam, a high-flying, pompous version of Jean Claude Van-Damme who's also completely insane (he would jump off the fifth deck of Yankee Stadium if you dared him).
As an added bonus, RVD's wrestling a "Hardcore Ladder Match" against the always-good Jeff Hardy. I'm almost giddy. Somebody might get broken in half.
(Important note: RVD is approaching the always-exciting "The crowd loves him, but he's not getting a major push yet" phase which helps makes wrestling so much fun. It only happens once every few years -- Stone Cold in '96, The Rock in '98, Shawn Michaels in '93 and so on. Just thinking about it makes me want to perform one of those gushy "Sports Reporters" monologues.)
9:15: Wait a second, what's that? My God, that -- that's the Pizza Hut guy's music!!!! Good God, he's ringing my doorbell! This place is going crazy!!!!
9:17: Mmmmmm ... pepperoni pizza ...
9:21: All right, I'll say it: The "slow climb up the ladder" has officially replaced the "slow climb up the steel cage" as the definitive moment when wrestling just looks a little too fake.
9:23: Anyone who thinks that wrestlers aren't athletes needs to get a tape of a ladder match some time. Good God Almighty. I'm speechless. Even Maximus in "Gladiator" didn't take this much punishment.
9:26: Van Dam climbs to the top of the ladder, grabs the hardcore belt that's dangling 15 feet above the ring, unlatches it and suicidally drops back to the ring for the win. TREEEEEE-mendous match. That got three or four full-fledged "WOW"s from the Sports Guy.
9:28: This portion of the pay-per-view is still being sponsored by Pizza Hut.
9:30: Next up: a steel cage match for the WWF tag-team title belts, featuring brothers Undertaker and Kane against Alliance stars Diamond Dallas Page and Kanyon. There's some bad blood here, because, well, Page stalked Undertaker's wife and took some unauthorized videos of her earlier this summer. You hate to see that. As Ross notes, "There's a lot of personal animosity here."
It's not just animosity, folks ... it's personal animosity.
9:31: By the way, this match will stink for one simple reason -- every match with Kane and Undertaker stinks. They're big and plodding and generally uninteresting. If they were a Baywatch plot, they'd be anything revolving around Hobey.
9:33: Since this match is already dragging, here's a little history about the tag-team champs:
You might remember Kane as the guy who wrestled as evil dentist "Isaac Yankem" back in the mid-90's. Now he plays Undertaker's disfigured brother; he was burned in a fire as a child and enjoyed a love/hate relationship with Undertaker over the years. Kane wears one of those red Hannibal Lecter masks all the time; he also sets off telekinetic fireworks simply by raising his arms and bringing them down really fast. Until recently, he couldn't speak. And he wears Eddie Murphy's red leather outfit from the 1983 "Delirious" concert.
As for the Undertaker, up until last year, he played the "Prince of Darkness" role, performed ritual sacrifices and mock burials, rolled his eyes back in his head and basically acted creepy. Now he's a motorcycle-riding, hard-livin' Kid Rock fan who doesn't mention death at all. It must have been a phase.
(To spruce things up, the WWF should give Undertaker and Kane last names -- like Undertaker and Kane O'Brien, the O'Brien Brothers -- just for comedy's sake. Hopefully the door's still open.)
9:38: Hey, remember my "one-name" rule from before? It's still in effect with Kanyon - we're not sure what he does or why. He just climbed out of the cage for no apparent reason, leaving his partner Page alone with the O'Brien brothers. Apparently, Kanyon was late for his poker game with Test, Saturn, Rhyno and Glacier.
9:41: Ross on Page's subsequent 2-on-1 beating from the O'Briens: "My God, this is savagery!" When it comes right down to it, nobody uses the phrase "My God!" better than Jim Ross. My God, he's the master.
9:46: The O'Brien brothers knock Page around for a few minutes and finally pin him, prompting Kane to set off some celebratory fireworks. Lamest match of the night.
9:48: The Sports Gal just came home and noticed wrestling on the TV, prompting this exchange:
HER: "What are you doing?"
ME: "Just watching wrestling."
HER (noticing the pizza box): "You paid for this, didn't you?"
9:50: Both groups of wrestlers crowd around TVs in their respective dressing rooms to watch "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (WWF champ, former hero, current bad guy and star of the Alliance) battle Kurt Angle (former Olympic gold medalist, current WWF star).
As a near-hysterical Ross tells us, "You gotta believe, down deep in your soul, that this is gonna be as physically intense as perhaps anything we will ever see!"
9:51: All right, I just got that queasy feeling in my stomach ... you know, that sick feeling you get when you realize you're over 30 and you still watch wrestling? I wish I had someone to hug right now.
9:58: Stone Cold is busy doing "evil things" (calling the fans "losers" and stuff like that). He just tossed Angle out of the ring, followed him out, noticed a teenage heckler in the front row and shoved his middle finger about an inch from the teenager's face.
(Professional wrestling ... it's FANNNNNNN-tastic! I love this game ... er, sports entertainment!)
10:01: Hey, how come nobody has gone through the Spanish announcer's table once tonight? I had 9:25 in the ESPN.com office pool.
10:05: Lemme tell you something: Nobody takes a beating and sells it better than Kurt Angle. He's the modern-day Bob Backlund. Stone Cold just pounded his head against the ringpost and busted him wide open as Ross screamed, "Austin is sadistic and cold ... this is reprehensible!" Good stuff. I'm enjoying this match a little too much.
10:10: Ross just described Kurt Angle's face as a "proverbial crimson mask." He's in the zone right now.
(By the way, there's blood everywhere right now. Did we cure the AIDS virus, and I missed the memo? How come pro wrestling is the only sport that takes no health precautions whatsoever? Could we find the referee some latex gloves, please?)
10:15: Angle kicks out of a two-count for the 110th time, as Ross screams, "My God! My God! My God!"
Put it this way: it's only a matter of time before somebody knocks out the referee. You know it's coming. This match has been that good.
10:18: Yup ... Austin just popped the referee and knocked him out. It had to happen. Then he knocked out two subsequent replacement referees and earned himself the DQ -- one of the oldest wrestling tricks in the book. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Stay tuned for the rematch.
10:21: We've reached the portion of this column where I remind you that I know wrestling is fake. Yeah, I know. Hear you loud and clear. Point taken.
10:24: Time for tonight's main event: WCW champ Booker T against The Rock, the WWF's biggest star (and budding movie star), who's making his first PPV appearance in months. You have to love The Rock, even if he ripped off his entire gimmick from one of the true cinematic greats -- Cyrus, the leader of the Gramercy Riffs gang in "The Warriors."
As for Booker T, he doesn't have the charisma to rip off Cyrus, but he did manage to rip off Cyrus's catch phrase ("Cannnn youuu dig it?" - which the Rock had paraphrased into "Can you smell what the Rock is cookin'?" a few years ago) as well as some of Rock's best wrestling moves. They need to settle this thing with a baseball bat match in Central Park.
10:27: All right, I'm openly ignoring Paul Heyman at this point. He's reaching Jerry Glanville-level proportions for me.
10:30: Pretty good match so far. With that said, there's no way in hell The Rock is losing this thing. Even the Sixers-Bucks series last June wasn't this rigged.
10:35: Barring a last-minute catastrophe, the Spanish announcer's table has survived the entire night of mayhem. Absolutely, positively the upset of the night.
10:43: Just when it looks like Booker has the momentum, Rock unleashes the "Rock Bottom" clothesline on Booker T, pins him and wins the WCW title as the crowd legitimately goes bonkers, a solid end to a splendid pay-per-view. That's one of the beautiful things about pro wrestling -- the good guys usually win in the end. Usually.
Some quick final thoughts--Way too many titles are floating around right now. Seven titles were defended tonight, and that's before we even mention the WCW tag-team belts, the WCW hardcore belt, the WWF European championship, the women's titles, the IBF cruiserweight title, the WBO flyweight title ...
--Along those same lines, the WWF roster is inevitably deep right now -- too many quality wrestlers involved in too many plot lines, without enough time to resolve them properly. Once the WCW's show is up and running, that should settle the problem. You don't need 15-20 stars to carry a pay-per-view when 10-12 can suffice.
(Heck, we never even had the "match that's so bad that it sends everyone scurrying to the bathroom" match. That's a wrestling tradition! Every pay-per-view needs at least one stinker match between two lousy guys, just for comedy's sake.)--There was definitely poetic justice in The Rock capturing the WCW title. Up until two years ago, the WCW and WWF were involved in a bitter ratings bloodbath on Monday nights; you couldn't imagine a day when one side claimed definitive victory or how that victory would play out. Now? We know.
Having the WWF's most visible superstar capture the WCW belt was truly the final nail in the WCW coffin. As Undertaker O'Brien would say, "Rest in peace."
CONSERVATIONISTS BEAT PRO WRESTLERS
(The Associated Press, August 10, 2001)
By Ed Johnson
LONDON -- The World Wildlife Fund, best known for its efforts to protect the panda and other endangered animal species, won its court battle Friday against the World Wrestling Federation over the use of the initials WWF.
Justice Robin Jacob ruled that the wrestling group had breached a 1994 agreement between the two sides that limited its use of the initials. In a written judgment, Jacob said it was understandable the fund did not want to be associated with the wrestling group. "Some would say its (the federation's) glorification of violence is somewhat unsavory," Jacob said.
Jacob acknowledged it might cost the federation, famous for musclebound wrestlers such as The Rock and Undertaker, up to $50 million to change its logo, but said some of its arguments in court had been "hopeless" or "astonishingly poor."
The wildlife fund argued that worldwide exposure for wrestling had increased due to television and the Internet, leading to more widespread use of the initials by the federation. The two sides had almost identical Web site addresses.
The wildlife fund (www.wwf.org) accused the wrestling federation (www.wwf.com) of breaking their agreement and filed a lawsuit seeking enforcement of its trademark rights.
Anita Neville, spokeswoman for the wildlife fund -- known outside of the United States as the Worldwide Fund for Nature -- said the judgment "means that our name and reputation is upheld."
Jacob said the wresting organization, whose full corporate name is World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc., will be permitted a limited use of the initials in the United States, but will no longer be able to use that Web site address.
The Stamford, Conn.-based wrestling federation expected the decision based on the judge's comments during oral arguments, said spokesman Judd Everhart.
"We're not surprised by today's ruling," Everhart said. "But we think it's erroneous and we intend to appeal."
Everhart said he was not sure when the appeal would be filed. He was not sure what action the company would take regarding its Web site, though it remained active Friday.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.78-2001
SZABO CLAIMS HE WAS GIVEN SHORT COUNT
(Los Angeles Evening Herald, Thursday, April 28, 1938)
By E.W. Krauch
"I could see under his right shoulder!" yelled one fan.
"See under ONE shoulder," howled back another. "Say, Mister, you could have put Boulder Dam and Austria under that vacant spot!"
All of which leads up to the fact that of some 7,500 fans who witnessed last night’s wrestling matches at the Olympic Auditorium only 7,499 agreed with the referee – Mr. Dick Rutherford – when he decided that Sandor Szabo was down for the deciding fall in a contest of grunt and groan with Dean Detton.
The gentleman who failed to vote in favor of Mr. Dean Detton was none other than Mr. Dean Detton.
But, down in the dressing room, we bumped into an interesting offer.
It came from Sandor the Szabo himself.
"I am not the kind to quibble over matters of this sort," said Szabo. "As long as I have been wrestling, and it has been for many years, I have never found a referee who could count three like that fellow Rutherford – especially when I was not down.
"Now, Mr. Krauch," went on Szabo, "if you would be so kind, I am willing to make the following offer:
"First – I will give two front-row seats and second, an autographed photograph of myself – or Detton – to the person who will write into your paper the BEST letter on the subject of ‘how to make a referee, or rather force a referee, to not only count three full seconds, but also make certain that both shoulders are down on the canvas.’"
And there you are, you mat enthusiasts.
If you don’t think that Szabo was serious last night after losing to Detton, just write in those letters.
"Sometimes," said Szabo, "I think they are giving me the run-around.
"Sometimes I wish they’d put me in a room alone with some of these wrestlers that are always winning from me in some way or another and just let the two of us have it out alone. I know what would happen!:
Anyway, here’s what DID happen last night:
Detton, he wins the first fall with a step-over toe-hold. It took some 19 minutes with some rough stuff mixed in. That was okay.
Szabo, he wins the second session with a series of simplex holds and body slams in 6:15. That was okay.
But in the third fall, just as Szabo is about to toss Detton with another series of simplex slams, Detton suddenly switches his grip and drops Szabo with a backward body-slam.
Well, Szabo appeared to be on one shoulder.
Referee Rutherford looks over the situation.
But Rutherford immediately climbs on top of both wrestlers and gives Detton three of the shortest second counts on the back that you can imagine.
All the while Rutherford cannot see, as far as the customers are concerned, whether Szabo is actually down or whether the Chinese have retaken Shung-Ki-Shung.
And, maybe being in a hurry to get home, referee Rutherford climbs off both grapplers and hoists Detton’s arm.
That, my friends, is the story – as we saw it.
As for the other bouts, well, a merry evening, as usual, was enjoyed by the ringside customers with more grunt and groan guys in their laps than poppies in a California flower field.
Babe Zaharias and Del Kunkel staged a mammoth contest outside the ring that had even third-row spectators scurrying for cover. But nobody won because it was a draw.
Bolo Garcia lived up to his name by slugging Bronko Valdez into submission in some 1 minute and 7 seconds. Crusher Al Billings defeated Rusty Westcoatt after a lot of funny stuff in the front-row seats, while Jimmy Sarrandos, victim of a serious automobile accident several months ago, started on the comeback trail by beating Tom Zaharias with an arm press.
Shuniki Shikuma, the Japanese, proceeded to use his usual hold, which should be barred, inasmuch as it has nothing to do with wrestling, to subdue Vincent Austeri. If it’s jiu-jitsu let the boys wrestle jiu-jitsu but that neck grip of the Nippon’s is really not okay – so let’s have some more letters from the fans . . . What do you think?
Maybe I can get Jack Daro to put out two tickets for Wednesday night in my name if I can get some suggestions on the Japanese ace and his holds which remind me of George Zaharias and his strangle, only worse.
WWF PINNED WCW DEAL ON THE CHEAP
(Multichannel News, August 13, 2001)
By Steve DonohueIt was only four years ago that World Championship Wrestling produced the top-rated show on basic cable and beat its main rival, the World Wresting Federation, on a weekly basis.
And when World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc. acquired WCW from Turner Broadcasting System Inc. in March — after pounding it into submission in the ratings battle over the last few years — news reports put the price tag at up to $20 million. That marked a big drop from the reported $75 million that Fusient Media Ventures had offered for WCW during January, in a deal that later fell apart.
As it turns out, the WWF — which has seen its ratings for fall since it moved to new cable home TNN: The National Network — only paid a measly $2.5 million for WCW, plus an additional $1.8 million in related costs, the company revealed in a recent earnings report.
That's $4.3 million in total: the same price that Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Gary Sheffield was seeking for his Tampa home, the exact amount it recently cost to build a new air traffic control tower at Central Illinois Regional Airport, or the cost of a couple of Super Bowl commercials.
How did WCW's value fall from a reported $75 million offer to $4.3 million? The $75 million was a bogus number leaked by Turner executives "to save face," a source familiar with the deal said.
In reality, the source said, Fusient's original WCW offer in January was for $10 million, which included a guarantee that it would be allotted 5 percent of the primetime schedule on Turner Network Television and TBS Superstation for WCW programming.
Fusient agreed to pay up to an additional $65 million in seven years if WCW hit certain benchmarks, including increasing the value of the business to $1 billion, the source added.
Fusient later pulled its offer after it reviewed WCW's books, and made a second offer for WCW, which included no up-front money and an agreement to spend $5 million in advertising on properties owned by AOL Time Warner Inc. (Turner's parent company), a source said. Turner ended up taking WWF's offer.
TBS and Fusient executives declined to comment on the offer. All WWF president Stuart Snyder would say about the bargain price WWF paid for its longtime rival was, "It was the right number for both parties, and we've moved on."
After it acquired WCW, WWF executives originally said they would spin the company's wrestlers off into a dedicated series, and that WCW and WWF stars would eventually battle head to head in pay-per-view matches. But WWF has put off plans to launch a WCW series, and the company has only signed a few big-name WCW wrestlers.
Indeed, it hasn't picked up WCW's biggest stars, such as Bill Goldberg, Sting and Hulk Hogan, who will still remain under contract to AOL Time Warner.
"We never hesitate to take a step sideways or backward for the long-term gain. And yes, while we had thought about going and doing that, [launching WCW series], we didn't put a clock to when we would get there," Snyder said last week. The company still plans to eventually launch a WCW show, but "it's not as if we have a sense of urgency that it has to be accomplished in the next 30 days," Snyder added.
Yet, WWF is slowly beginning to integrate some WCW wrestlers into its programs on MTV, TNN and UPN. The WCW wrestlers have been grouped into the "Alliance," which includes grapplers from the bankrupt promotion Extreme Championship Wrestling and some big WWF names who have "jumped ship" in the storyline, including the popular Stone Cold Steve Austin.
WWF will debut a new magazine-style program on TNN later this month, which will run on Saturdays from 10 p.m. to midnight. The program, which premieres Aug. 25, will replace LiveWire and Superstars, two weekend morning shows that have been running on TNN.
Snyder said the show will contain a review of each week's WWF highlights, and probably a live segment that would include fan interaction through call-ins and the Internet. The later time slot will allow the WWF to offer edgier content, as the show will carry a TV-PG rating, Snyder added.
Ratings for WWF shows have fluctuated over the last year, largely because of its switch from USA Network to TNN and MTV: Music Television last September.
The WWF's most popular cable show, Monday night's Raw Is War, has averaged a 4.94 Nielsen Media Research rating since it moved to TNN last September, a drop from the 6 rating it pulled during August 2000, its final month on USA.
While the return of WWF star The Rock from a four-month hiatus helped TNN pull a 5.7 rating on July 30 — its highest rating ever — WWFE's acquisition of WCW hasn't sparked a jump in its numbers.
"I believe we have captured a fair amount of WCW fans. At the same time, there are most likely fans of the old WCW who are not quite there yet," Snyder said. "We will continue to work hard to get them."
Snyder said TNN's channel position on cable systems— and the fact that USA was viewed as a more mainstream network — also had an impact on the ratings dip since the shows moved. But Snyder said TNN's marketing commitment to the WWF, and a slate of new shows aimed at young males that are set to debut on the network this fall (including Baywatch and Star Trek: The Next Generation), bode well for improved WWF ratings.
Excluding its top-rated wrestling programming, TNN averaged a 0.6 rating in the second quarter, flat with last year, noted USA senior vice president of research Ray Giacopelli. TNN dropped 11 percent in adults 18 to 49, excluding WWF shows, he added.
But TNN vice president of research and planning Mark Loughney said ratings have been improving lately. Excluding wrestling, TNN was up 3 percent in household ratings during the first five weeks of the third quarter, and grew 6 percent among the 18 to 49 demo, Loughney said.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.79-2001
TWO-TON TONY SQUARES ASSAULT RAP FOR $250
(Associated Press, December 8, 1951)
GREENSBURG, Pa. – State police today arrested Two-Ton Tony Galento, former heavyweight boxer, on an assault-and-battery charge.
The charge was filed by Bill Johnson, a wrestling promoter in nearby McKeesport. Johnson said Galento knocked out four of his teeth after a wrestling show last night in an altercation over a split of the proceeds.
Johnson later dropped the charges when Galento agreed to pay him $250 for hospital bills.
The 41-year-old Orange, N.J., saloon keeper appeared on a wrestling card at McKeesport.
DEBTS WILL BE PAID BY CARNERA
(Associated Press, December 8, 1951)
LONDON, England – Primo Carnera settled a bankruptcy case in Britain last night after 14 years of hard times.
The London Gazette, official legal newspaper, announced that the Italian giant, who was coaxed out of Italy and nursed to the world heavyweight boxing championship, will pay off his debts in full next month.
The "Preem" earned a fortune with his fists but ended his boxing career with nothing but a fistful of debts.
Carnera got back into the black when he turned wrestler a few years ago. He took the circuit by storm in the United States and has just finished a successful European tour.
Last night’s announcement said that on January 14 his British creditors will receive all of the $12,107.20 he’s owed them since 1937.
Carnera still was in boxing when he went bankrupt, and the official announcement describes him as a professional boxer.
LADIES’ WRESTLING NIXED IN WEST VIRGINIA
(Associated Press, December 8, 1951)
HUNTINGTON, W. VA. -- The State Athletic Commission today banned women wrestlers from performing in West Virginia.
FRIDELL WINS MAT FEATURE
(Tacoma News Tribune, Saturday, September 27, 1958)
Don (Big Ox) Anderson, a 240-pound villain from Granger, Utah, made an inauspicious Tacoma wrestling debut last night, suffering a disqualification loss to Al Fridell of Seattle in the main event on promoter Cliff (Swede) Olson’s inaugural fall card at the Armory.
Honors were even at the time, each man having scored a fall.
Bill Wright, Minneapolis, pulled a switch by twice pinning Chief Thunderbird Jr., Vancouver Island, with Indian deathlocks to capture the nod in the semi-final.
Bill Corbett won over Bob Morse in the opener when Morse, victim of a freak accident, yielded to a full nelson. A fan threw popcorn into the ring, and an unpopped kernel found its way into Morse’s eye. Hospital attention was required to remove the kernel.
‘LITTLE’ GUY OFF MAT BILL
(Tacoma News Tribune, Wednesday, October 1, 1958)
If the right "little man" came along, promoter Cliff (Swede) Olson wouldn’t mind presenting wrestlers of lightheavyweight or even middleweight poundage on his weekly professional mat cards at the Tacoma Armory.
For the moment, however, Olson is concentrating on junior heavyweight (up to 205 pounds) and heavyweight grapplers.
Which is why Jess Venegas, a highly recommended Mexican matman, checked in yesterday and was found to weigh only 160 pounds. Olson was compelled to remove him from Friday’s card as a prospective foe for Don (Big Ox) Anderson, a Granger, Utah, resident who tips the beam at a cool 240.
The Swede related the incident as a joke on himself, although it probably wasn’t so funny to Venegas, who had traveled all the way from Houston, Texas, when informed "little" wrestlers, because of their agility, were in demand up this way. He didn’t know that by "little" they meant musclemen between 190 and 210 pounds.
Olson will present a triple main event Friday, with "Wild Red" Berry of Pittsburg, Kan., and Bill Wright of Minneapolis in the windup fracas, and Leo Wallick, Hollywood, clashing with Nelson Royal, Columbus, Ohio, in the second mix.
Cal Roberts, a capable performer from Vancouver, B.C., will tackle Anderson as a replacement for Venegas.
LAMAR CLARK TAGS GRAPPLER
(Associated Press, Saturday, January 24, 1959)
SALT LAKE CITY – Heavyweight Lamar Clark, who has been fighting more wrestlers lately than boxers, added another grappler to his list of knockout victims last night.
Clark, 183, of Cedar City, Utah, knocked out Ox Anderson, 245, Salt Lake City, in 1:38 of the second round in a scheduled six-round bout.
Anderson dropped Clark in the first round, but Clark was up
without a count. In the second round, Clark floored Anderson twice for nine
counts before finally stopping him.
WRESTLER ‘FOUGHT TO WIN’: PAUL VACHON REMINISCES
(Portland, Me., Press-Herald, Thursday, August 16, 2001)
By Darla L. Pickett
SKOWHEGAN — Paul "The Butcher" Vachon once traveled the world as a professional wrestler in the days "when wrestling was real."
He was at the top of his game as Canada's amateur wrestling champion.
On Wednesday, the rugged, 64-year-old athlete who once wrestled the likes of Jesse "The Body" Ventura, now the governor of Minnesota, and Gorgeous George, was hawking magnetic wands to patrons at the Skowhegan State Fair.
Among his customers were fans, young and old. Some said they remembered Vachon at the height of his career and wanted to shake his hand. Others, especially younger wrestling buffs, were just excited to meet a "real" wrestler.
Anxious to shake Vachon's hand, Edward Withee, of Waterville, remembered the wrestler as one of his favorites, like Jay Strongbow and George "The Animal" Steele.
Vachon said he was a wrestler back when "wrestling was real," when the fight was really a fight, not just a show.
"Oh yes, we did outrageous things. But it was a family show that you could watch with your kids.
"Today, it is morally scandalous. They swear, make lewd gestures and every wrestler is a bad guy. That's not the message to send."
Vachon was 17 years old when he started his professional wrestling career, his ticket away from the mundane chores of the family farm in Canada.
Born Joseph Ferdinand Paul Vachon — "all French Canadian males for 350 years were called Joseph," he said — Vachon set out to make a name for himself.
At more than 6 feet tall and with broad shoulders and powerful legs, Vachon said he nearly lost his chance at a wrestling career when a Detroit promoter said his blond hair and clean-shaven face made him look too young.
"I just about cried," he said. "I said, 'I'm not going back to the farm and milk cows.' "
So Vachon grew a beard and shaved his head.
"That was in 1956, when there was the Sputnik craze," he said. "(Promoters) made a Russian out of me. I haven't had a haircut since."
His brother, Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon, who was often part of a tag-team match with him, started his career as a wrestler in the 1948 Olympics.
Paul Vachon's career spanned 31 years, from 1955 to 1986. It took him to India, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Great Britain, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Sri Lanka, which in those days was called Ceylon.
"Every two weeks they sent us off to Europe for two or three days —to Paris, Germany, Greece, Japan," he said. "The way I did it, it afforded me a way to educate myself in the way of life in other places."
He said he lived for months, sometimes more than a year, in some countries, which gave him a chance to be more than just a tourist. He said he averaged 200 matches a year.
"I even made some movies," Vachon said.
He said the movie industry was big in India, "bigger than in Hollywood." He said he met Indian Dara Singh in Canada when he was a professional wrestler in the 1950s. Singh later became a big movie star in India, taking roles such as Tarzan and the Gladiator.
"They were short of people to play villains and, of course, villains had to be white, so there I was," Vachon said, smiling.
Vachon remembered wrestling in front of 85,000 people at a soccer stadium in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1963.
"It was the largest crowd ever drawn for a wrestling match worldwide," he said.
Of Ventura, Vachon said he was a "mediocre" wrestler.
"I wiped the floor up with him," he said. "But he's a great governor for Minnesota."
He said he and Ventura remain friendly, however.
Two years ago, when Vachon traveled to St. Paul, Minn., to promote a festival, Ventura sent his bodyguard and personal secretary to meet him.
Last year, Canada produced a documentary on Vachon's life titled "Wrestling with the Past."
Vachon's daughter, Luna, became a wrestler, he said, "making more in three years than I did in 32."
When Vachon retired at age 56, he did what he thought he would never do: He returned to the farmstead in Canada where he and his seven brothers and five sisters were raised. It is about a mile from the Vermont border.
But when Vachon sat to read and write his life story, he said he "got tired of sitting" and started printing T-shirts.
A wholesaler asked Vachon to go on the road selling his products. And now he is a long way from the career he started nearly five decades ago.
"I wrestled when wrestling was real," Vachon said. "I can't say I was fighting for my life; that wouldn't be true. But I was fighting to win."
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.80-2001
CARL BANKS REVEALS ALL
(Akron Beacon Journal, June 12, 1995)
By Terry Pluto
In Carl Banks' locker, you find two magazines that deal with personal computers. You'll also see a copy of Inside the White House by Ronald Kessler.
So why is this man talking about professional wrestling, and discussing it in remarkable detail? It would be like John Updike telling you that he has a passionate interest in beer-chugging contests.
"It's a lot tougher than you think it is," the Browns linebacker said.
Banks was talking about wrestling, not football or beer chugging.
"I know that 90 percent of it is fake," Banks said. "But those guys sometimes get violent with each other.
They hit each other the wrong way, then get mad and the next thing you know -- you've got a real fight out there."
Kind of like football, right?
"Something else," Banks said. "They all have aching knees, bad backs and crooked fingers."
That is exactly like pro football.
Banks' exposure to the World Wrestling Federation came on April 2, when he was a cornerman for old New York Giants buddy Lawrence Taylor. For $1 million, Taylor was grappling with Bam Bam Bigelow.
For a reported $30,000, Banks was to spend a night in Taylor's corner. Other NFL types wandering around the ring were Reggie White, Steve McMichael and Chris Spielman -- they also were well compensated thanks to a Pay Per View audience not only in the United States, but in places such as England and Japan.
"I've watched wrestling for a long time," Banks said. "When my daughter heard that I was going to be in a match with LT, she said, 'Daddy, are they going to throw you around the ring like that?' She was worried about me getting hurt."
Well, 6-year-old Carla Banks had the same concerns as Browns coach Bill Belichick. The last thing either wanted was Banks blowing out a knee trying to tackle Bam Bam Bigelow.
"My son, (C.J., who is 4 years old) told me, 'Daddy, you go in there and just bop 'em.' But I promised everybody that I'd stay out of the ring," Banks said.
Banks said he spent most of the match in his corner --standing behind Reggie White.
"I did a lot of taunting and finger point at Volkoff," he said. "He got mad at me and told me to come out from behind Reggie and fight like a man."
Volkoff is Nikolai Volkoff, a veteran wrestler-turned-manager. His act was to be the Big Bad Russian. He also is the cornerman to the 6-foot-2, 380-pound Bam Bam Bigelow.
Bam Bam features some very striking fire tattoos on his shaved head, and his approach to wrestling is to get you under his massive gut and smash you with it.
"I was surprised how little preparation they did," said Banks, who maybe expected 40 hours of team meetings and film sessions the week before the match. That comes from all the years Banks spent with Belichick as his football cornerman.
"The two wrestlers get together before the match and say
what moves they were going to use," Banks said. "They didn't say when
they were going to use them, they just said they were coming."
What about the match?
Taylor won. Naturally, he was supposed to win. That part was planned. "But I think LT thought he was going to get through it without breaking a sweat," Banks said. "By the end of the match, he was exhausted. He was as tired as any time I've ever seen him, worse than after any game."
Taylor also was more than a little scared, Banks said.
"There was this move where he was flat on his back, and Bam Bam stood on the ropes and then jumped down on top of LT," Banks said. "When Bam Bam was flying down on him, LT's eyes were about ready to pop out of his head. You can't fake a look like that."
Bam Bam landed the right way -- making a lot of noise in the ring, but no damage to Taylor. So, all was well – and everyone was well-paid.
"I enjoyed it and it's good family entertainment," Banks said. "But you'd never get me in that ring. I don't think my body can take all that falling down.
"But if someone wants me to stand in their corner, I'll be there."
RUMPLED BY ‘RUMBLE’
(Akron Beacon Journal, April 7, 2000)
By George M. Thomas
After sitting through "Ready to Rumble," you'll probably feel as if you've been locked in a half-nelson and pile-driven for the better part of two hours.
You'll walk out punch-drunk from the sheer stupidity of this exercise in frivolity. (Then again, the lucky ones will leave halfway through this mess.)
When the movie isn't mired in potty humor, it just lags. One scene has the film's heroes -- two portable toilet cleaners -- being drowned in raw sewage.
Another scene has one of them getting a free slushy by sticking his finger where the sun don't shine.
This is humor?
Not if you require some semblance of intelligent dialogue in the movies you view.
But maybe that's too much to ask from a movie about pro wrestling -- a contrived, brutish sport with legions of fans who plunk down serious do re mi to see grown men hit one another with chairs, pound one another to a pulp and throw one another out of the ring.
It's not difficult to see why two C-list actors such as David Arquette and Scott Caan would agree to star in this one-joke mess. However, when the likes of Oliver Platt and Martin Landau participate in movies such as this, it gives one pause. These two actors have received more than their share of accolades. Landau even owns an Oscar.
Luckily for them, they're the best aspects of "Ready to Rumble," each bringing a certain class (if you can believe that) to the film.
"Ready to Rumble" doesn't have the greatest pedigree. It's directed by Brian Robbins, the talent who brought us Good Burger and Varsity Blues, and written by Steven Brill, the guy who brought us three -- count 'em -- three "Mighty Duck" films.
Gordie (Arquette) and Sean (Caan) are two losers from Lusk, Wyo., a small town in the middle of nothing. Their dream? To get into the world of professional wrestling.
They idolize Jimmy King (Platt) and are devastated when the portly grappler loses his heavyweight crown. King sinks into a world of wearing women's lingerie and chugging cheap beer.
Sean and Gordie take him out of his silk-and-hops funk and, with the help of former wrestler Sal (Landau), they train King for a match to win back his crown.
You were expecting Shakespeare?
There is little energy required to create this film. Arquette and Caan are required only to act goofy. Platt and Landau actually seem to be enjoying their roles, taking them for what they're worth.
Robbins is becoming the master of mediocrity. That is probably what was needed to bring "Ready to Rumble" to the screen.
ONE TRIP TO SEE PRO WRESTLING
(Charlotte Observer, June 10, 2000)
By Ken Garfield, Religion Editor
Some people might find the descriptions below offensive. But to understand the popular world of professional wrestling, we believe you need to understand exactly what children are cheering on in arenas and on television.
With everyone talking about whether professional wrestling is bad for children, we thought we'd head over to the Charlotte Coliseum and see what all the fuss is about.
Here, then, is what your children saw last month as the World Wrestling Federation taped matches for two of its nationally televised TV shows before a near-sellout crowd of 16,000:
A character named Road Dogg climbs into the ring, writhes, gestures with both hands toward his crotch and tells the crowd that if they don't like it, he's got two words for them. At that, the crowd roars back, "Suck it."
A character named the Godfather, whose motto is "Pimpin'
Ain't Easy,'' struts to the ring with five scantily clad women known as the Ho
Train. Kids in the crowd cheer and hold up posters that say, "I Am The Ho
Train Conductor'' and "Wanted: Tickets For Ho Train.'' A group of guys,
each holding one letter, stand up with a sign that spells out:
In one of his two matches, the Godfather takes on two men who are wearing what appear to be cone-shaped plastic bras over their fishnet tops.
Handmade posters are everywhere: "Drunk & Proud.'' "Edge, you want me.'' Edge is a handsome wrestler. "Princess My (vulgarism).'' Princess is bad-girl Stephanie McMahon, daughter of WWF owner Vince McMahon.
Some of the posters are inspired by religion: "Austin 3:16'' is born of the devotion shown to anti-establishment hero Stone Cold Steve Austin. "Worship the Sock'' pays tribute to Mick Foley, a good guy who used to play with a talking hand puppet.
Instead of posters, many kids hold up foam-rubber hands with the middle finger raised. That's in honor of Austin, who guzzles beer, spews profanity and gives his enemies the finger. In Charlotte, the 3 1/2-hour show ends with Austin blowing up the tour bus of his enemies parked behind the Coliseum. He celebrates by drinking multiple beers in the center of the ring. The crowd goes wild.
A character named Val Venis is supposed to be a porn star. He comes out wrapped in a dark towel, wriggling like a striptease artist as images too suggestive to share here appear on a giant video screen. At one point in his match, Venis bumps and grinds over a prostrate foe.
Another character, Chyna, wears a bikini-style, black leather outfit that covers little of her breasts and is adorned with chains. She fights men.
Crowds gather around a counter to buy souvenirs with such sayings as "Pimpin' -- Just Say Ho,'' "On Your Roody Poo Candy (vulgarism)'' and "Not for the Innocent.''
A man on crutches buys a $25 T-shirt from a clerk who hands him his change and jokes, "Get your crippled (vulgarism) out of here.'' The man on crutches laughs.
Some teens wear black T-shirts emblazoned with the likeness of the wrestler the Undertaker and the phrase, "The Dark Days.'' He was part of a recent story line that saw Stone Cold Steve Austin buried alive one time and crucified another. The Undertaker was not part of the recent story line that hinted at oral sex and oral sex involving a transvestite.
A tag team named T&A -- one poster in the crowd states "Show Us T&A'' -- is led by a buxom blonde named Trish Stratus. At one point, a male wrestler is about to drop her onto a table from six feet above, but her legs are wrapped around his neck, and his face is buried in the lower part of her body. She begins kissing him all over. He appears hypnotized. He spares her.
As T&A march to the ring, Stratus appears in a brief, soft-porn-style film on the video screens. She is seen with barely covered breasts, rolling around on a table, whispering something that can't be heard over the crowd's roar.
The Big Show, a 7-foot-tall good guy, comes out in a black T-shirt that declares him a "Big Nasty (vulgarism).'' Triple H, the baddest of the bad guys, comes out, and the crowd chants a string of vulgarisms. Vince McMahon, the WWF owner and a bad guy who is part of a story line involving mass scheming and betrayal, comes out, and the crowd chants a string of vulgarisms again.
Throughout the evening, wrestlers grab a microphone and taunt their foes with language peppered by "damn'' and "hell.'' Some of the rough stuff is occasionally edited out for television.
In the middle of the evening, one of the ring announcers, a tall woman in a short skirt, performs the national anthem. A man in the crowd mutters loud enough for those around him to hear that he doesn't want to hear her sing: "I want to see you strip.''
The fictional story lines are filled with feuding families. Two brothers who form the Hardy Boyz tag team square off and wind up socking each other with metal ladders, garbage cans, garbage can lids and brooms. One sprays another in the face with a fire extinguisher.
A 401-pound wrestler named Rikishi wrestles in a black thong-style outfit that covers very little of a rump the size of New Jersey. His best move against another 400-pounder is crashing his exposed rear end into the man's midsection. When he's not wrestling, Rikishi is patting his posterior and dancing.
That's pretty much it.
We'll leave the arguing over the effect of all this to psychologists, sociologists and parents. What's certain is that the wrestling show drew 5,000 more people than the NBA's Charlotte Hornets drew a night earlier, and you could hardly hear yourself think for all the shrieking young people who stayed out late on a school night.
Near the end of the show, a middle school student notices me taking notes and asks what I'm doing.
"I'm writing a column for the paper about professional wrestling,'' I tell him.
"Is it going to be good or bad?''
"Neither,'' I answer. "It's going to be what it
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