THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.81-2001
JIM CORNETTE COMMENTARY TRANSCRIPT FROM RAW
By Jim Cornette
This is Jim Cornette, and the views that I'm about to express are not necessarily those of anybody else but me. But they oughta be. And as a matter of fact, they probably are.
You know, a lot of things in the wrestling world make me cranky these days. Especially the way some talent is treated and some talent is looked at by not only the promoters but some wrestling fans as well.
For example, a man like Arn Anderson who just had to retire from this sport, after giving it his entire life, because of some injury he suffered. A guy like "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, who in my opinion, is one of the greatest talents in the history of this business. Guys like Mankind, Cactus Jack, Dude Love, whatever you want to call him. Great talents in the WWF or WCW.
But who gets a lot of the attention, from the wrestling fans especially? Guys like the NWO, the New World Order. You know, all the fans think these guys are so cool and so sweeeeet, and so funny. Well, as far as I'm concerned, the NWO is like a bunch of guys meeting out in the backyard in a clubhouse in a tree. They're guys who, all they have to do... They go the easiest job in the world... All they have to do is go out there and be themselves. Childish, obnoxious, adolescent guys with a case of severe arrested emotional develpoment, and a fixation on trying to act macho.
You got a guy like Kevin Nash, 40 years old, trying to act like a teenager. Far as I'm concerned, the biggest "no-talent" in the business. He's got six moves, no mobility, and enough timing to cover-up for some of it. But what he does is he goes around and manipulates. Kevin Nash had a multi-million dollar promotional company, the WWF, push him to the moon to make him a star, and what does he do? He leaves... After he gives his word he's staying, so by the way, he's a liar, too... He leaves and he goes to WCW for a big contract. Why? More on that later.
You got a guy like Scott Hall, who's a good wrestler, but "good" is about it. He's the best of the bunch. But he had the same million dollar promotional company make him a star, after being in the business 10 years without putting three asses in a seat. And what does he do? He goes to WCW for a big contract. Why? More on that later.
And then you got a guy... Syxx, 1-2-3 Kid, his name's Sean Waltman. Whatever you want to call him. As far as I'm concerned, the only reason he's employed is because the other guys think he's funny when he gets drunk and throws up on himself. He has the distinction, in case you haven't noticed, of being the only guy since this "wrestling war" got started, that was released from a valid contract from one company to go to the other side, which shows you how valuable he is.
You know why they're all employed? Why they're all in the spot they are today? Because of Eric Bischoff. The boss of WCW, not the NWO. Look at the credits on the PPV if you can get one for free. The idiot's name is on it. He's the boss of WCW. He works for Ted Turner. And he throws a billionaire's money around, just like water, so he can have guys that he likes to hang out with.
Because, even more than being a mark... Yeah, for his own face and his own voice... Eric Bischoff is a guy who's a big fan of hanging around studly guys with long hair and beards, that smoke cigars, and ride Harley's. So that some of that can rub off on his little pansy-ass frame. So he takes that billionaire's money, and he throws that around like water to buy guys that he can hang around, to prove that his "johnson" is bigger than everybody else's.
And that's the sole reason the NWO guys are employed.
I think, me personally, that it's about time that the wrestling fans and the promoters, all of them in this business, start recognizing guys like "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, like Arn Anderson, like Cactus Jack. Guys who bust their ass. Who work hard, and have ability and talent to get where they are. Instead of a bunch of guys that get to their spot by hanging around with the boss and sucking-up.
I'm Jim Cornette, and that's my opinion.
GIVING THE SMACKDOWN TO VICE IN MEXICO
(Christian Science Monitor, August 22, 2001)
By Dan Murphy
MEXICO CITY -- The crowd gasps as the Blond Beast - who resembles the Cowardly Lion in most ways except the scowl stitched to his mask - slams Star Boy to the mat, pulls him up by his hair, and slings him through the ropes onto the concrete floor below.
Getting to his feet, Star Boy -- a "good-guy" wrestler -- hitches up his white tights and stumbles over to Alejandra Gallardo Lopez for advice. The grandmother, in her usual front-row seat, puts her arm around the battered hulk and yells above the din: "You can do it. You have to win for us."
After a revitalized Star Boy gets back into the ring and earns his victory, Mrs. Lopez explains why she's been coming to Mexico City's Naucalpan Arena every Sunday night for the past six years: "It's so exhilarating. And because they fight for good."
Lucha Libre -- which means Free Fighting -- is the Mexican version of professional wrestling. But, to millions of Mexicans, it is far more than a mere diversion. The nation's urban poor have followed the hulking, cartoonish stars for 70 years with a life-or-death passion that would amaze even Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.
Lucha Libre is Mexico's third-most-popular spectator sport, after soccer and boxing. "The people of Mexico support Lucha Libre with their whole hearts," says Rafael Nunez, a soft-spoken man who calls himself the Dorian Gray of wrestling and fights as the character El Scorpio, "a malicious guy who'll hit you with a chair, cheat, do whatever he can to win."
El Scorpio's nose is like a summer squash and his forehead is a maze of tiny scars, after 35 years in the ring.
Sometimes the luchadors fight for good, and not just metaphorically. The popularity of the event has spawned a venue for human rights activists and others who take on wrestling personas to fight for their beliefs.
Bad guys like El Scorpio are needed to build the stature of the good -- figures like El Santo, or The Saint, who remains one of Mexico's biggest heroes even 17 years after his death. "To call Santo a cultural icon is an understatement. He was the John Wayne of Mexico, only bigger," says John Molinaro, a Canadian writer and fan of Lucha Libre.
Like super-heroes, most luchadors wear masks and never reveal their identities. The mystique of the mask transforms many into icons of justice, virtual opponents of the corrupt cops and street toughs that many poor Mexicans contend with.
So, while Jesse "The Body" Ventura had to trade in his tights and nom de guerre for a suit and the name his mother gave him in order to run for governor, some would-be Mexican politicians put the mask on to ensure their success.
"We Mexicans like to talk in symbols, and Lucha Libre has a very simple symbolic structure, the good against the bad. People identify strongly with that," says Marco Rascon, the brains behind Super Barrio, a "wrestler" who fights for the rights of Mexico City's poorest.
Super Barrio became Mr. Rascon's springboard to national prominence. He created the character in 1987 to fight for federal funds to rebuild houses for 500,000 people left homeless by a devastating 1985 earthquake. "We were overwhelmed by need, so who could we turn to? We had to create Super Barrio."
The masked crusader would arrive with TV cameras and prevent the government from evicting families from the destroyed buildings they were squatting in. He led rallies of tens of thousands demanding the government do more to help the poor. Rascon served in Congress from 1997 to 2000.
"If it was just me talking, I had a hard time getting through to people. But if it's Super Barrio, everyone wants to listen," says Rascon.
Masks have always had symbolic resonance in Mexico. Aztec dancers wore masks to invoke the gods, and later, Mexicans incorporated those ancient traditions into their celebrations of Roman Catholic saints. Some intellectuals say the popularity of Chiapas insurgency leader Subcommandante Marcos stems from his Luchador-like refusal to take off his mask and reveal himself as a normal man, warts and all.
While the wrestling may be staged, the fighters are incredibly acrobatic, incorporating a muscular ballet with their strutting and taunting of the crowd. "It's much more of an art form. It has an inherent beauty in it that you don't see in wrestling on cable TV in the US," says Molinaro.
But there are fewer and fewer body slams, as TV and global culture give the young new heroes. Wrestling arenas are closing. Marco Moreno, the owner of the Naucalpan Arena, estimates there are 40 wrestling venues across Mexico today, compared with 250 in the 1980s.
Some even blame the march of global culture for Lucha Libre's relative decline. "Globalization is a threat to Lucha Libre. The people are being diverted to more modern and commercialized events," says Rascon, who is also one of Mexico's leading antiglobalization activists.
Still, at Naucalpan on a Sunday night, 2,000 fans scream, ring bells in support of the good guys, and hurl curses, insults, and the occasional plastic cup of beer at the bad guys.
Pablo Santa Maria, a security guard who's been coming to the arena for 25 years, says wrestling gives him the sense that he's participating in a struggle for something bigger than himself. "I know it's a show, but there's a realness to it also. When I support the good fighters and they win, I feel like I'm a part of their victory."
BET CABLE CHANNEL TO AIR UWA
(St. Petersburg Times, August 20, 2001)
By Jim Varsallone
The Urban Wrestling Alliance has inked a deal with the BET cable network with plans of airing shows Wednesday night, Saturday morning, Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon beginning in the fall.
You may have seen UWA already. They currently air on UPN at 1 a.m. Mondays. The UWA is a combination of wrestling and hip-hop/rap music. The federation gives everyone an equal opportunity to succeed.
"We're going to have all races," said UWA Promoter Rocky Johnson. "Everyone has the same, equal chance to become a star. If they don't make it, it won't be because they didn't get the opportunity. If they are good enough, we will sign them. That may lead to a contract with the WWF."
Johnson, a former international wrestling star, has opened the first Urban Wrestling Academy, in Davie in South Florida. Plans are to start another academy in Davie in the near future. The UWA received three rings from the WWF.
Prospective wrestlers will learn the ropes, including moves, bumps, mic work and psychology. Pro wrestling scouts will evaluate talent each month.
"We have a lot of young talent, and we are looking to work with others -- train them to become wrestlers," said Johnson, who is also the head trainer at the academy. "We don't guarantee anything. If they have what it takes, we will find out."
Johnson trained his son Dwayne, who is WWF star the Rock. For information, call (954) 476-5247.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.82-2001
(Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Sunday, August 19, 2001)
By Tanya Eiserer
On a warm spring night in April 2000, Chris Adams took his girlfriend for dinner, drinks and pool.
Still feeling like partying, the couple then went to a friend's Dallas apartment to drink some wine. They mixed the popular club drug GHB with orange juice and drank that, too.
Adams, a British-born pro wrestler who gained fame in the 1980s, said his next recollection is of waking up in Presbyterian Hospital of Plano.
His girlfriend, Linda Kaphengst, died there 12 hours later.
"It was the worst thing that's ever happened in my life," Adams said. "I don't think I ever will get over it."
Adams, 46, was charged in June with manslaughter in the death of Kaphengst, who died from ingesting GHB and alcohol. Under Texas law, a person can be convicted of manslaughter if the defendant recklessly causes someone else's death.
GHB -- or gamma hydroxybutyrate -- was supposedly safe, and many of Adams' wrestling and bodybuilding friends took it. He and his girlfriend had taken it no less than 20 times, he said.
"I liked the high feeling and the sexual feeling," Adams said.
Adams believed the claims that GHB would build muscle while a person slept. "It was meant to be this wonder thing, but obviously it turned sour on me," he said.
Now he knows GHB can kill, particularly when mixed with alcohol.
Adams, who is free on $25,000 bail, is expected to enter a plea of not guilty during a court appearance scheduled for Aug. 30 in McKinney.
"If he had slipped her something, that would be one thing. But she was partaking in it," said David J. Pire, a Dallas lawyer representing Adams. "It's a tragedy that a young woman died, but I don't believe it rises to the level of reckless."
Pire also questions why it prosecutors took 14 months to file charges against Adams. "If it was a reckless act in April 2000, it would make sense to arrest him that day and made him post a bond," Pire said.
Collin County prosecutors and Kaphengst's relatives declined to comment on the case.
More than a year later, Adams is wracked with remorse over Kaphengst's death.
"I can't imagine how her parents feel," he said. "I have three children myself, and it must be awful."
Adams is raising his 7-year-old daughter. His 10-year-old son lives in Detroit with his ex-wife, and a 19-year-old daughter lives in Colorado.
"He's a good guy. He's just made some bad mistakes," said Gary Hart, his former manager and friend.
"Gentleman" Chris Adams was loved and hated by wrestling fans. Loved when allied with wrestling's favorite sons, the Von Erich brothers -- hated when he feuded with them.
"Chris Adams and the Von Erichs were known everywhere," said Dave Meltzer, editor of Wrestling Observer, a weekly industry newsletter. "They were gods."
Adams, a three-time national judo champion in England, immigrated to the United States in the early 1980s.
"You can make people love you or hate you" with wrestling, Adams said. "It appealed to me -- the theatrics mixed with athletic ability."
During the high-rolling Von Erich era, Adams owned a house in England, land in Southlake, a red Corvette, two condos and a Mazda RX7.
"I thought it would never end," he said. "I lost it all through divorces, ignorance and mistakes."
Alcohol was the root of his misfortune, Adams said.
"Alcohol is something that changes Chris," Hart said. "He's no longer a nice, sweet guy."
Adams has twice been convicted of drunken driving, once in Tarrant County and once in Pittsburgh. He was sentenced to a year's probation after a 1989 incident in Lufkin, where he assaulted his second wife, Toni Adams, according to Adams and newspaper accounts. The couple divorced.
Die-hard Adams fans may still remember an incident on an American Airlines flight heading for Dallas on June 30, 1986.
Adams was returning from a Caribbean wrestling exhibition when engine trouble delayed the plane in Puerto Rico. When the plane took off again, he became belligerent after a flight attendant asked him to sit down, he said.
"I make 25 times the money you do, and no one like you is going to tell me what to do," a drunken Adams said, according to court testimony.
He head-butted the co-pilot, according to newspaper accounts. Adams testified he did not remember the assault. But in a recent interview, he said he pushed the co-pilot.
"I'm not proud of it, but I really didn't head-butt him," he said. "If I had, he would have been unconscious."
A federal jury convicted him of misdemeanor assault.
"Chris Adams, as the court knows, is a good young man," his lawyer, Balon Bradley, wrote in court documents. "He is not one who has a criminal outlook on life. His problem is that he tends to abuse alcohol."
In late 1999, Adams left Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling. He and his girlfriend of eight years split early last year.
A friend introduced him to Kaphengst, an insurance office secretary, and they began a romance that lasted four months until her death, Adams said.
"I thought that she was an angel from heaven. I fell absolutely, crazily in love with her," he said.
A couple of months before Kaphengst's death, Adams had been hospitalized in Denton when friends mistakenly thought he had overdosed on GHB because they couldn't wake him, he said. Still, he said he believed GHB was safe.
The liquid drug -- once sold on health food shelves as a sleep aid, sex enhancer and fitness product -- mimics the effects of alcohol without the hangover, experts say.
On that fateful night, the couple decided to go to their friend Brent Parnell's apartment to take some GHB, which Adams had left at Parnell's apartment, he said. Adams had moved out of the house he shared with his former girlfriend and was moving in with Parnell.
Adams said he was supposed to meet Kaphengst's family the next day.
Parnell said Kaphengst called to ask if the couple could visit. "They were laughing, and they had this little dog from Taco Bell. If you squeezed it, it said something. She couldn't hardly talk for laughing."
After the couple arrived, Parnell laid down on the couch. "They were loving on each other, so I decided I'd let them have their good time," he said.
The couple drank some wine and then downed orange juice mixed with GHB, Adams said.
"I said, 'Down the hatch,'" Adams recalled.
Parnell checked on them after noticing they had fallen silent. They were in the dining room. Adams was slumped over a chair. Kaphengst lay on the floor. Parnell frantically tried to administer CPR to her.
"I couldn't wake them up at all," Parnell said.
After Adams regained consciousness in the hospital, a nurse asked him if he wanted to see his girlfriend. Holding Kaphengst's hand, he begged her to get well, not realizing a machine was keeping her alive, he said.
"I said, 'Oh, come on, baby. I'll wait for you downstairs,'" Adams said.
Kaphengst died about 12 hours after arriving at the hospital, according to the Collin County Medical Examiner's Office.
"I wanted to die and be with Linda, but there was this little thing in the corner of my mind saying, 'You have children. You can't leave them,'" Adams said.
"I drank an awful lot after Linda died," he said. "I wanted to kill the pain."
He was hospitalized for depression, and he still sees a psychiatrist and a counselor, Adams said.
Friends say he still has what he calls "Linda attacks."
"He feels terrible about what happened," said Tom Lance, a friend and wrestling promoter. "He still thinks about Linda every day."
In the 1980s, sweaty, frenzied masses would pack into the Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth or the Sportatorium in Dallas every week to watch the modern-day gladiators of World Class Championship Wrestling, operated by local wrestling icon Fritz Von Erich.
Scantily clad women pranced around the outside of the ring, yelling at the opponents and wiping the sweat from their wrestlers' brows. There were throngs of screaming girls, prowling packs of boys, lusting grandmothers and old men intent on the action -- all of them believing every minute of it.
Adams rocketed to fame in 1983 when he joined the WCCW. Strutting into the ring in his trademark Union Jack attire, he often defeated opponents with his signature superkick, a karatelike thrust kick.
Adams achieved greater fame when he broke ranks with the Von Erichs. Wrestling fans may still remember a match at the Cotton Bowl when Adams hit Kevin Von Erich with a chair.
"I wanted to make the people angry," he said. "What I didn't expect was that it would really split his head wide open."
Adams came to enjoy his "bad guy" status, wrestling on the Dynamic Duo tag team with wrestling's casanova, Gino Hernandez. One match featured the tag team getting their heads shaved after being defeated by the Von Erichs.
"It was fun, and we were making so much money that we didn't care," Adams said.
Outside of the wrestling ring, tragedy befell many of Adams' contemporaries.
Hernandez died of a drug overdose in 1986. Three Von Erich brothers committed suicide, and one brother died from an intestinal inflammation in Tokyo during a wrestling tour.
"It was a boom period for wrestling," Meltzer said. "But the human cost from that era is unbelievable."
Wrestling began to fall out of vogue in the Metroplex after the Von Erichs faded, and Adams never regained the notoriety he once enjoyed. He has continued to wrestle off and on during the past decade.
In the early 1990s, Adams operated a wrestling school in Dallas and trained Stone Cold Steve Austin, now a highly paid World Wrestling Federation star.
"I thought I had paid my dues, and that it would never end," Adams said. "It's like a roller-coaster ride at Six Flags. It's up and down, then something comes along and makes it crash."
Adams said he was surprised by the manslaughter indictment, since more than a year had passed since Kaphengst's death. He has a new girlfriend and has been trying to get his life back together, he said. He had been selling wrestling rings and was part of the SuperStars of Wrestling, featuring some of the famed wrestlers from the Von Erich era.
He hasn't wrestled professionally since his arrest.
In a recent appearance at the Collin County Courthouse, Adams looked weary as his daughter played nearby.
"I feel guilty, but I just don't think I'm guilty of what they are accusing me of," Adams said in a later interview. "It was a tragic mistake."
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.83-2001
BRUISER HURLS CHAIR AT ERIC; HALT MAT BOUT
(Chicago Tribune, Saturday, October 18, 1958)
Boris and Nicoli Volkoff held Verne Gagne and Edouard Carpentier to a draw in the featured tag match in the wrestling show Friday night in the Amphitheater in the stock yards. But it was a mere warmup for what followed.
Dick the Bruiser Afflis and Yukon Eric engaged in a furious tussle that was called to a halt after the Bruiser had hit Eric with a ring turnbuckle and two chairs. Referee Andy Scott called it no contest.
The 5,053 spectators, who paid a gate of $13,325, booed the Bruiser’s tactics. Other results:
Wilbur Snyder threw Ivan the Terrible, 4:40; Bobo Brazil threw Legs Langevin, :45; Don and Jack Fargo beat Ray Schaefer and Roy McClarity in 27:10 in tag match; Ricki Starr threw Ned Taylor, 5:50.
LOU HOLDS ‘WORLD’ FROM DICK BRUISER
(Atlanta Journal, June 2, 1963)
By Wayne Thompson
When Lou Thesz, like Liberty Valance, comes into town – more aptly the wrestling arena – most men step aside.
The 48-year-old St. Louis native has been wrestling for almost 30 years, a champion. In fact, he still is the champion … of the world, in fact.
Thesz makes one of his few title defenses here next Friday night as part of a mammoth wrestling card at Ponce de Leon Park.
He has drawn a mountain of a man in Dick the Bruiser, the former Purdue and Green Bay Packer football player who retired Alex Karras from aspirations of a ring career in 11 minutes.
A total fo 22 wrestling stars will grapple under the stars at the Cracker ballpark next Friday night at 8:30 p.m. A total of nine matches are set, with the Thesz-Bruiser go topping the agenda.
Thesz, who won back his heavyweight championship against Buddy Rogers in Toronto earlier this year, figures to be the favorite, but sentiment enters the picture.
As a scientific wrestler and exponent of the headlock and flying body scissors there’s none better than this man, who is rated by some as the finest grappler who ever entered a ring.
But he’s seen his prime, years ago. He’s still in excellent physical shape, a stunning 6-4, 225-pounds of lean muscle, but he will be facing a specimen of 6-0, 245 pounds who thinks nothing of throwing chairs, referees or any other prop available at opponents to gain victory.
This specimen is Dick the Bruiser, Dick Afflis to football fans, a wild bull who put down controversial, 250-pound Alex Karras after a barroom brawl. In fact, brawls of that nature are up the Bruiser’s alley and he’s at home in unrestricted altercations.
Thesz, who learned his wrestling from the granddaddy of them all, Ed (Strangler) Lewis, now 70, but once the king of the mat, is recognized by the National Wrestling Alliance as their champion. The Bruiser is a fifth-ranked contender for that title.
A host of wrestling promoters will converge on Atlanta for this NWA-sanctioned match, a best two-out-of-three fall, one hour time limit affair. Sam Muchnick, commissioner of the NWA, will fly in from St. Louis, along with Johnny Doyle, Detroit promoter, Jim Barnett of Indianapolis, Fred Kohler of Chicago, Jim Crockett of Charlotte, Roy Welch and Nick Gulas of Nashville, and possibly Cowboy Luttrall of Tampa.’
Such wrestling names as Ray Gunkel, Corsica Joe, The Hillbillies, Bulldog Lawley, Lenny Montana, Tarzan Tyler, Dick Steinborn, Bill Dromo, Chief Little Eagle, Daryl Cochran, Tito Kopa of Argentina, Chris Averoff of Athens, Greece, Dolly Darcel, Baby Cheryl, Sweet Georgia Brown and Atlanta’s own Betty Ann Spencer will make up the all-star card.
At least 2,000 ringside seats will be available at Poncey for $3.50 each. General admission or regular ballpark seats will be $2.25 and $1 for children.
FROM WRESTLER TO OFFICER, WICKS LOVED IT ALL
(Asheville NC Citizen-Times, Friday, December 24, 1999)
By Sandy Wall
WAYNESVILLE – Billy Wicks always seems to be in the right place at the right time.
The 67-year-old son of a Norwegian immigrant was able to turn several chance meetings into two fascinating careers – one as a professional wrestler and the other as a law enforcement officer.
Along the way, Wicks battled tough guys across the country, was a witness to history during the trial of James Earl Ray and even met the King of Rock and Roll.
"I think I am very lucky," Wicks said with a grin.
Nowadays, Wicks works part time at the Waynesville Recreation Center. He jokes that he’s the man who fetches the toilet paper. But Wicks’ life has not been ordinary.
Wicks’ father, who was born Bjorn Johannson, sailed to the United States in 1912 aboard the California. During the crossing, he and other passengers saw a ship in the distance firing rockets into the sky.
The California’s captain, believing the faraway ship was shooting rockets to celebrate a party, dismissed it. The ship turned out to be the Titanic. It sank hours later.
Once in the United States, Wicks’ father changed his surname, settled in Minnesota, married and had two sons.
Wicks grew up in St. Paul, Minn. At age 16, he had a chance meeting with a college student who was teaching wrestling at the YMCA. He took to the sport almost immediately, and later worked out with the McAllister College wrestling team even though he was not a student there.
Another chance meeting, this one with a female professional wrestler at a record store, put him on the road to wrestling for money. During the early 1950s, Wicks worked at carnivals in the Midwest as a wrestling "hooker" – that is, wrestling volunteers from the audience.
Later, he hooked up with wrestling promoters and worked in "territories" from Oregon to Oklahoma to Texas. He eventually settled in Memphis, Tenn., where he earned fame wrestling on local television and at venues in western Tennessee and in adjoining states.
Basically, professional wrestlers were ego-maniacs, "Look at me, look how tough I am,’" Wicks said. "And I can make money at it."
In 1959, Wicks wrestled in a match refereed by former heavyweight boxing champion Rocky Marciano and witnessed by more than 15,000 people. About a year later, Wicks took the ecommendation of a friend and went to work as a deputy sheriff with the Shelby County, Tenn., Sheriff’s Department.
In 1969, Wicks served as bodyguard for the late Judge Preston Battle, who presided over the James Earl Ray trial. Ray pleaded guilty to killing the Rev. Martin Luther King, although he later recanted.
Wicks retired from wrestling in 1972, retired from the sheriff’s department in 1987 and moved to Waynesville in the early 1990s.
His body bears the scars of years of professional wrestling. He has self-described "tin ears," does not have full use of his right arm, has an artificial knee and recently underwent surgery to repair some vertebrae.
Despite the toll, Wicks has no regrets.
"I wouldn’t trade it for a million bucks, buddy," he said.
MARLIN REFEREED MATCHES BETWEEN KAUFMAN, LAWLER
(Hendersonville TN Star News, Friday, January 7, 2000)
By Suzie Perkins
Sumner County Executive Tommy Marlin is anxious to see the new movie "Man On the Moon."
After all, he might be portrayed in it.
Not only does the semi-biography of Andy Kaufman depict the late comedian’s famous "Mighty Mouse" and "Foreign Man" routines, it highlights his alleged feud with professional wrestler Jerry Lawler.
And that’s where Marlin comes in.
"I wrestled and refereed for 18 years," Marlin said in an interview last week. "I think I refereed both matches between Kaufman and Lawler, and a match between Andy Kaufman and a woman."
Because of all the publicity surrounding " Man On the Moon" (named for R.E.M.’s tribute song to Kaufman), the Comedy Central cable network recently aired the 1994 video, "I’m From Hollywood," released 10 years after Kaufman’s death at 35 from lung cancer. The quasi-documentary details Kaufman’s wrestling "career," including his very public and highly publicized antagonism towards Lawler.
At one point in the video, referee Marlin’s attempts to intercede in the 1982 grudge match between the two men are clearly shown.
"It ended up as a little problem between them – I’ll say that," Marlin responded when asked if he thinks the friction between the wrestler and comedian was serious.
"When you wrestle, you work hard. It’s a business, it’s an exhibition. In 18 years, I never saw any ketchup (fake blood). But I did think Lawler got out of line when he slapped Kaufman on the David Letterman show."
Marlin’s brother, Eddie, was the promoter of the Kaufman and Lawler bouts in Memphis, along with many others over three decades.
"He was involved in wrestling 30 years," Marlin said of his sibling. "I started with him, he’s the one who got me into it after I got out of the Navy. I loved every minute of it, except the traveling."
You can’t argue with Marlin on that point.
"Here was our schedule – Monday in Memphis, Tuesday in Louisville, Wednesday in Evansville, Ind., Thursday in Jackson, Tenn., and Friday in Tupelo, Miss.," Marlin recited without missing a beat. "Saturday morning was television in Memphis, then Saturday night in Jonesboro, Ark. That was our regular routine every week."
And, as if that weren’t enough, Marlin was based out of Nashville then, working days for the telephone company.
Marlin has stayed a little bit closer to his Hendersonville home in recent years, as property assessor for Sumner County and now as county executive.
And he has seen clips on televison from "Man On the Moon."
"Just from the little bit I’ve seen, I think Jim Carrey does a good job in portraying Andy Kaufman," he said. "I heard he’s having a hard time (distancing himself from the Kaufman character) because he lived it so thoroughly and put his heart and soul into it."
Does he plan to see the movie?
"There’s no doubt about it," Marlin said. "Maybe I’m due some royalties."
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.84-2001
‘ANGEL’ WINS FROM TURKISH CHAMP EASILY
(Davenport Democrat & Leader, Tuesday, December 31, 1940)
By Neuman Kerndt
Maurice Tillet, alias "The Angel," continued on his unbeaten parade of the U.S. by disposing of one Charlie Manoogian, billed as the Turkish title holder (there were no other Turks to dispute his title among the 1,000 who crowded into the Grand Theater Monday night).
Most of the Davenporters came to see for themselves how ugly and strong "The Angel" was. They were not disappointed. In real life the grotesque Frenchman is even more horrible to behold than in pictures. He resembles a gargoyle from the Cathedral of Notre Dame in his native Paris.
Wrestling ability? Maybe. He’s powerful. When he lowers that anvil-like nose and jutting chin that resembles a snow plow, wraps those tremendous arms around a foe, he probably exerts enough pressure to stop the ordinary individual. He disposed of the Turk, whose bald head looked like a croquet ball in contrast to Maurice’s massive skull, in five minutes in the first fall and three minutes in the second.
"The Angel" merely squeezed the breath out of the portly gent, tossed him to the mat and fell on him. When an individual is out of breath he is in no mood to move 275 pounds of flesh.
The Turk tried tripping up the brute and working on his heels, operating the Achilles theory, but the Frenchman was a bit too agile for that.
Six other assorted wrestlers entertained the crowd in the usual wrestling tricks. Ole Olsen, who labored 40 minutes to dispose of one Cowboy Red Ryan, a clown in the bout, was the most versatile of the entertainers.
Joe Esposito managed to endure Pete Baltran’s sly maneuvers for 30 minutes to earn a draw, and Frank Judson, billed as an ex-coach of Harvard, tossed Hans Bauer, a pug-ugly who apparently was not a college man, in 16 minutes.
ROCK ISLAND MAT PROGRAM ATTRACTS 600
(Davenport IA Leader, Sunday, Feb. 2, 1941)
With 600 cash customers howling their approval, Maurice Tillet, the grotesque Frenchman known as "The Angel," threw Hans Steinke, Los Angeles, in 18 minutes of their scheduled 90-minute match Friday night at the Rock Island Armory.
The match was tame in comparison to the semi-windup in which Ole Olson, giant Swede, used a leg slam and body pin to subdue Tom Casey in 20 ½ minutes.
Tillet, who is concluding a successful tour through the United States, was close to defeat in his match with Steinke. The German grappler clamped a toe hold on Tillet and it looked like curtains until the squat Frenchman worked his way to the ropes.
A knee lock turned the trick for the Angel.
Joe Esposito, who claims the Italian championship, employed a body slam to dispose of Charles Manoogian, Turkish grappler, in the opener in 22 minutes.
Frank Judson, ex-Harvard University mat mentor, and Albert "Lord" Mills fought to a 30-minute draw which saw both men on the verge of collapse several times.
WRESTLING CROWD HAS ITS LAUGHS
(Davenport Democrat & Leader, Tuesday, March 4, 1941)
(NOTE TO J. O’D – The obit reporter or one of your picture show critics would have been the best qualified to have handled the assignment that accompanied a couple of passes to the so-called wrestling show. Today in Davenport competitive wrestling is either dead or has slipped down from the category of an athletic event to that of a stage show.—E.W.Y.)
By Ed Young
So they had elephants in the Shrine circus, too.
Well, to be exact, eight of them Monday night stomped around a ring in the Eagles’ hall.
As good of way as any to describe the performance would be to put it Shakespearean:
Little Boo Peep,
Come blow your horn,
And rescue a sport
That’s deep in the corn.
The several hundred fans who loitered in Eagles hall waiting for the scheduled four-match show to start witnessed both a late beginning and a rather abrupt end.
Henry Kolln, third man in the ring, stole whatever plaudits the sparse crowd offered, be it by voice or hand. It was Henry who, in the final match, took on 550 pounds of Hans Steinke and Walter Talun and did a creditable job of entertaining an otherwise restless audience.
The big barefoot boy from Poland, Walter Talun of the Stan Zbyszko stables, wowed spectators with his 295 pounds of flesh, stretched out on a six-foot-eight bone framework and, during the course of 14 minutes of physical exercise (advertised as wrestling), gave a good account of himself against the veteran Steinke.
Henry (the referee) repeatedly warned Steinke against use of the strangle hold. Steinke, taking offense at these warnings, slapped Henry on the jaw and that was the end of the match booked for a maximum of one hour. Yes, there were many, many, many booes!
The mustached Talun’s hand was raised in victory.
Prior to curtains, however, customers were given a hilarious treat when Steinke tossed both the referee and the Polish pal out of the ring. Then, to bring the crowd to its feet laughing loudly, he leaped out onto the floor to continue the bout.
Dick Stahl pinned Joe DeVorek, substitute for Red Novak, in eight minutes. There were a few laughs.
Hans Bauer and Fred Burrell wriggled and squirmed to a draw at the end of 30 minutes. To these gents the crowd was most generous in appreciative applause. A few hands clapped.
Towering Ole Olson went through all manner of contortions to defeat Alex Kaffner, colored, in 17 minutes and 20 seconds in a match that included everything from biting to a near hanging. At one time the elongated Swede managed to entwine the colored lad’s head in the ropes and, by the simple process of tightening strands on the opposite side of the ring, gave the howling onlookers enough comedy to justify the price of admission. Here, too, as in the main event, Henry (the referee) came in for a few pokes and a general roughing.
The entire program (and program sounds more appropriate than sporting event) was, beyond a question of a doubt, very, very amusing. It was exactly what the "wise" guys expected.
The audience was given one thrill, the pleasure of seeing, in person, Stan Zbyszko, former world champion.
(Davenport Democrat & Leader, March 4, 1941)
The man who was the sorriest about the ending of the main event at the Eagles hall was promoter Walter N. Gettson.
"I was down at the box office with the tax men when the match ended so suddenly," he said Tuesday morning. "The first thing I knew the fans were going home.
"Maybe I’m wrong, but it looked like spite work on referee Kolln’s part to stop the match. I think I’ll challenge him.
STRONGBERG IS WINNER, BUT HE DRAWS THE BOOS
(Davenport Democrat & Leader, Friday, April 4, 1941)
By Forrest Kilmer
Despite his victory over Tiger Siki in the windup of the wrestling card at the Eagles Thursday night, the boos of 400 fans followed Rudy Strongberg to the dressing rooms as the cash customers yelled their disapproval at his tactics in the ring.
Strongberg, the muscle man of the mat game, won in two straight falls, but repeatedly he brought the patrons screaming to their feet with roughhouse wrestling.
The main go was a slap-slap affair with Strongberg doing most of the slapping and Siki, a Negro grappler, doing most of the receiving. Strongberg softened his opponent up with terrific body slams and then applied a half body slam to win the first fall in 27 minutes, 27 seconds.
Sensing the patrons were eager to get home before the clock tolled midnight, the grapplers wasted little time when they returned to the ring. Again employing a series of body slams, Strongberg pinned Siki for the decisive fall in three minutes.
The grudge battle (no one seemed to know what the grudge was about) between Henry Kolln, the Muscatine warrior, and the Masked Phantom was tame. Certainly the Phantom wasn’t mad at anyone. Kolln used an arm crusher after 14 minutes of sprawling around the ring to win the one-fall decision.
Hans Steinke, husky German grappler, and Steve Savage of Omaha failed to reach a decision in 30 minutes of assorted grunts and holds. Steinke, usually a clean, scientific grappler, brought the wrath of the crowd down on him from the start with his dirty blows, but Savage had the will and stamina to fight his larger opponent to a standstill.
Jack Wagner, Philadelphia, subbing for Jack Reeder, used a body press to throw Hans Bauer of Chicago in 14 minutes of the opening match.
MARSH TO MEET TOUGH FOE IN MAT PROGRAM
(Davenport Democrat & Leader, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 1946)
Tiger Joe Marsh, who practically exterminated Nick Waynes of Detroit on last week’s wrestling show, will run up against a much tougher foe in his headline bout Thursday night at the Labor Temple, 2100 Third Avenue, Rock Island.
This week Marsh will tangle with the popular and capable Curtis Nack of Sheboygan, Wis., a 240-pound matman who has a long line of victories to his credit.
Nack’s Rock Island performances in the past include a victory over Nick Elitch, the Chicago policeman who butts, gouges and uses other unorthodox tactics. The Sheboygan grappler also put away Jerome Mosberg at the Temple this fall, handling the University of Chicago matman with little difficulty.
The Sheboygan wrestler, called the "Wisconsin Powerhouse" by his press agent, is a big and rugged grappler, standing an inch over six feet and having what are claimed to be the widest shoulders in the mat game. He is an orthodox matman, depending largely on his strength and knowledge if opponents go in for slugging.
Marsh is also a skillful grappler, having been a mat instructor in the Navy, but the Chicago Serb also uses numerous tricks that aren’t in the book. In size he is evenly matched with Nack, weighing 235 pounds to Nack’s 240.
The Nack-Marsh bout, as well as the other half of the double feature, will be for two out of three falls, with a 60-minute time limit, while the bout between Harold Starr and Stanley Karolyi will be for one fall, with a 30-minute limit.
The other feature go will bring together Wladek Zbyszko, 238-pound member of the famous wrestling Zbyszkos of Poland, and Alex Kaffner, the "Black Panther," 212-pound Kansas City, Mo., colored grappler. Kaffner will pit his speed and youth against the experience and tremendous strength of Zbyszko.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.85-2001
(ED. NOTE – We are, again, indebted to the tireless researches of Steve Yohe, one of the world’s eminent wrestling historians, for the following items. The first happens to be authored by Marcus Griffin, author of the infamous "Fall Guys: The Barnums of Bounce," a 1938 book that broke kayfabe and which Mr. Yohe believes was partly designed to "put over" Joe "Toots" Mondt, then with the Manhattan booking office. What’s more, Mr. Yohe may be quite correct in his judgment of the Griffin-Mondt collaboration.)
THE GRUNT AND GROAN INDUSTRY HAS A PROBLEM
(Jack Dempsey’s Sports Magazine, June, 1938)
By Marcus Griffin
On a soft, summer night in June, 1937, there was but one World’s Heavyweight Wrestling Champion. His name was – and still is – Dean Detton. He was an odd sort of fellow, this champion. His spare moments were spent filling the duties of a Deacon in the First Church of Christ of the Latter Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church.
Wrestlers are notoriously rough and easy going. Yet, Detton won their respect, became known as one of the best wrestlers to scale the title heights since the abdication of Ed (Strangler) Lewis. He was called "a champion who can wrestle." And that, if you know the inner workings of the wrestling trusts, is somep’n!
Detton feared none, walked boldly into enemy territory, braving the schemes of rival promoters. Thus, when he accepted a match with Bronko Nagurski, the former All-American football star, he felt confident of the outcome.
True, Nagurski could point to 293 mat victories, but his opponents formed the raggle-taggle that supplements the star feature. Detton could have taken two – or even three – in the same ring, and pinned ‘em all without difficulty.
Then, the unexpected happened: Nagurski won!
The victory released an avalanche of charges, cries of "phony," threats of revenge. It was fixed, scoffed the wise guys. Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn’t. But these two facts stood out:
--Detton suffered an injured back that incapacitated him for six months.
--Nagurski was world’s heavyweight champion.
Fair or foul, it followed in sportsman code that the mantle which once draped Detton’s stock shoulders now belonged to Nagurski.
But it never was worn by the Bronc. And because of it, wrestling today has more champions claiming heavyweight titles than the boxing game ever had in its entire history.
After the Detton-Nagurski battle, the sport, which already had shown signs of feeling the whiplash of sports writing ringmasters, who had discovered the "inside" in some minor contests, became a battle of personalities. Not the personalities of the contestants themselves, but the grasping, avaricious, and jealous natures of the men behind the scenes. Here’s the yarn:
Nagurski was managed and controlled by a slight – but extremely persuasive – Bohemian named Tony Stecher, whose brother Joe once held the crown.
Stecher was different from the rest of the managerial crew. He saw the game as a fine sport, wanted the public to appreciate its worth and merit. He, more than any other man, fought to keep wrestling clean and on the level.
And that, friends, was laudable. But also laughable in these days of double and triple crossing. Yes, Tony was in the canine chateau and the masterminds such as Paul Bowser, Billy Sandow, Tom Packs, Ed White, Toots Mondt, Ray Fabiani, Rudy Dusek, Johnny Doyle, F.R. Musgrave (sic), Morris Siegel, Charlie Rentrop and Max Bauman – the coast-to-coast network – wouldn’t toss him a bone. Unless it were one of contention.
They had to unseat Nagurski, shear Tony of his power. But how? Find men to beat him? That would be logical and fair. Nay, not that. Maybe he couldn’t be beaten.
Then the solution was found. From Boston, the Hub’s major domo, Paul Bowser, declared:
"I won’t use Nagurski in my clubs but will set up my own champion."
Quicker than you can say Simone Simon a new champion was crowned in Yvon Robert of Montreal, a second-rate bonecrusher who had been beaten many times by program opponents and, more importantly, by Cliff Olson. Robert was installed by the American Wrestling Association, a dummy organization controlled by Bowser.
Then, to make the situation still more laughable, and impossible, Bowser proclaimed still another champion, one Danno O’Mahoney, who had lost his "crown" the year before in Madison Square Garden to the Fatherland’s Dick Shikat. He dropped his next two matches to Rudy Dusek and Gino Garibaldi. But to Bowser and his cohorts he was "The Champ."
Thus, one and one making two, we discover Paul Bowser with TWO WORLD’S HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONS, which should be enough for any manager-promoter. Yet, a scant nine months later in the Boston Garden, the indefatigable Bowser advertised a world title match between Steve (Crusher) Casey and Louis Thesz. Casey won – giving Bowser his THIRD champion.
It marked the beginning of the end. Promoters everywhere began making their own champions. Sportswriters and editors started goggle-eyed at every new contender, scarcely knowing whether to label him a wrestler or a champion. Wrestlers defeated many times re-occupied the spotlight as "Undisputed World Heavyweight Champions" – if you could believe the posters and broadsides.
Robert beat O’Mahoney but the latter still advertised himself as "world’s champion." Because he had beaten O’Mahoney, AFTER Danno had lost to Shikat, Rudy Dusek began calling himself champion. Being of an unselfish nature, however, Dusek also advertised his man Cliff Olson as champion because the latter had defeated Yvon Robert, BEFORE the Canadian had beaten O’Mahoney. Getting complicated? No more than the claims to fame of the various grappling kings now cluttering up the back alleyways of America. We could go on forever listing the various dizzy and daffy ways the mat moguls used to arrive at their establishment of "undisputed" world’s champions.
In the March issue of Ring Magazine, internationally accepted as the Bible of the boxing and wrestling business, Bronko Nagurski, by virtue of his victory over Detton, and subsequent victories over various contenders, was proclaimed as "Undisputed World’s Heavyweight Wrestling Champion." You’d think the matter would have rested there and the dizzy dalliances of mat promoters would have ended. But as we said before, you don’t know the wrestling business.
Wrestling champions have flowered since the Ring rating, almost as luxuriantly as votes for Roosevelt. Through the means of politically controlled State Athletic Commissions, phony wrestling associations and unscrupulous promoters, the following mastodons were "champions of the world" in their own territories:
Mexico ………….. Vincent Lopez
Brazil …………… Dr. Len Hall
St. Louis …………….Lou Thesz (a shoemaker)
Colorado …………..Everett Marshall
Idaho ……………Ray Steele
Eastern Canada ………….Yvon Robert
Western Canada ………….Earl McCready
Beaudette, Minn. …………. Cliff Olson
Detroit ………… Ali Baba (former Syrian rug peddler)
Florida ……………Leo Daniel Boone Savage
Cork, Ireland …………..Danno O’Mahoney
Omaha, Nebraska ………. Rudy Dusek
Manchester, England ………….Jack Sherry
Greece …………………..Jim Londos
Boston, Mass. ……………. Steve (Crusher) Casey
Texas ………………..Chief Little Beaver
Ravenna, Nebraska and Columbus, Ohio …….. John Pesek
India …………..Rama Arjan Singh
Harlem and Memphis, Tenn. ……..Samara Salassie (colored)
And, of course, Bronko Nagurski, who won his title in the ring.
To enumerate the number of times the above claimants have been defeated – among themselves, of course – would require a jigsaw puzzle expert. It’s no job for a sports writer and we wash our hands of it.
But say, in passing: "Who’s your favorite champion?"
WHY I’M THE CHAMP
(Jack Dempsey’s All Sports Magazine, June, 1938)
By Jim Londos
It often makes me smile when I pick up a newspaper and read that this or that fellow calls himself wrestling champion. There are several second and third raters going around billing themselves as title holders. I could take on them all – one after the other – and toss them in one night.
I feel that I’m the real world’s champion and the public everywhere must regard me as such because my matches outdraw all the stars and so-called title claimants about three or four to one.
It was only last fall that I returned from abroad where I won 57 straight matches without a defeat, winning from all the champions they had across the seas. In Greece, Turkey, South Africa, Egypt, France and England I not only drew record gates, but toppled over all the reigning champions.
My entire life has been devoted to the sport – and anybody with natural ability and the fondness I have for the game should succeed, especially if they have followed a strict dietetic and physical training system as I have done.
Just because a fellow successfully bucked the line or was able to stop some runner carrying the ball in football doesn’t qualify him to become a wrestling champion.
I became champion the hard way. I began when a mere stripling, and a sort of weakling at that, but by consistently following a program that I had in mind, I took on weight until I became a heavyweight. I have maintained the same weight – 200 pounds – ever since I defeated Dick Shikat for the title in Philadelphia June 6, 1930.
I don’t mind confessing that I was beaten before I became champion, but it was when I was still learning the countless holds and counter-holds that make up real wrestling.
One of the champions who beat me in the old days was Ed (Strangler) Lewis, a really great wrestler and a fine fellow, but long before he went into retirement I decisively defeated him in Chicago.
It makes me chuckle to myself when I consider the effrontery of young college athletes who think they can quit the gridiron and become capable matmen almost over night. It takes years and years of uphill struggle, all kinds of disappointment and self-denial to reach the peak. Despite the long experience that I have had I don’t mislead myself into believing that I know all there is to be learned about wrestling and I’m always on the alert to study new styles and methods.
It is true that Bronko Nagurksi is recognized as champion in this country, but I recently defeated Dean Detton, the man from whom he won the title last summer in Minneapolis and did it in quicker time than did Bronko. Dean is one of the really great wrestlers that we have in this country and I only defeated him after one of the hardest matches of my career.
I was seventeen months abroad and the big thrill of my life was when I wrestled in the old Olympic Stadium at Athens before 110,000 people. The crowds were correspondingly large in all the other countries.
In Paris I won recognition as world’s champion by defeating the best men the French Wrestling Federation designated for me.
Since I returned home I have been removing all aspirants to my championship as fast as they have come along. It was in Baltimore last fall that I defeated George Pencheff, the Australian champion, in less than an hour. The mayor of the city was there, so was the governor of the state and big figures in all walks of life, including Stanley Scheer, chairman of the Maryland Athletic Commission, who conferred on me a gold belt, emblematic of the world’s championship.
While abroad I also received gold belts as championship recognition in Egypt, South Africa, France and Greece.
Most everywhere aborad they have adopted the Australian system of wrestling and I wish they’d adopt it in this country as I am sure it would speed up all bouts. This style is along boxing lines, with ten-minute rounds, instead of three as in boxing, with the usual minute rest between rounds. The bouts on the other side, where this style generally prevails, are much faster than over here.
Clowning should be entirely cut out for the good of the game. Many of the boys should be sent back to the gyms to learn the fundamentals of the sport. I consider wrestling the greatest man-to-man sport and the quicker the promoters insist on the abolition of tom-foolery the better it will be for all.
I’m officially recognized as world’s champion in the countries I mentioned above and I’m willing to prove it to all state and country champions or anybody else here who goes around claiming the honor.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.86-2001
WRESTLING’S DREAM MATCH: GAGNE VS. CADDOCK
(Police Gazette, March, 1957)
By Stanley Weston
By far the most proficient wrestler in the world today is Verne Gagne, a beady-eyed ex-football hero with thinning black hair, two college degrees and a yearly income larger than that of the President of the United States. To those devout mat fans who longingly remember the cat-like stalking of Joe Stecher, the grimly determined Frank Gotch and the inexhaustible repertoire of Earl Caddock, young Vernon (Verne) Gagne is the lone link between wrestling’s "golden age" and the present.
In less than ten years Gagne has become the most sought after attraction in the wrestling business. To book him, promoters must file their requests at least one month in advance and it is not unusual for them to reshuffle their show dates to conform with Gagne’s tight traveling schedule. But even with such advance notice, it is impossible for Verne to accept all the matches offered him. One booking agent kept a close record of Gagne’s offers over a three-month period. "For Gagne to handle all the work tossed his way," the agent said, "he wouold have to wrestle six times a night, 365 days a year."
Straight man Gagne deplores the absurd gimmicks generally associated with his trade: flowing whiskers, perfume dousing, gaudy tunics, etc. Doggedly he sticks to his cold professional views: "Win the bout as quickly as possible but give the customers a run for their money so they will come back again next week."
Gagne’s brilliant technique and his immense knowledge of complex holds has swayed even the most stubborn skeptics over to his side. The late George Bothner, for instance, was so intrigued by Verne’s expertness that he said: "This boy is being wasted on people who can’t appreciate him. I only wish he could have been in his prime forty years ago when we had men his equal."
Suppose Bothner’s dream could be made to come true? Suppose Gagne were competing against greats like Gotch, Stecher and Caddock? How would he rate then? In an effort to find the answers, Police Gazette editors proposed a hypothetical match between Gagne and his generation-ago counterpart, "Man of a Thousand Hols," Earl Caddock.
We selected Caddock as Verne’s conjectural opponent because both seemed to be cut from the same mold. Like Gagne, Caddock used a vast variety of holds sliding from one weapon to the next with uncanny grace. He mastered the art of leverage and for every hold used against him Earl always had the perfect counter.
Caddock, who died in 1955, was, like Gagne, a comparatively small man as wrestlers go. Rarely did he concede less than twenty pounds to an opponent. But size was never a factor. As Caddock put it: "I gladly sacrifice weight and strength for speed and agility."
Caddock was an easy going Iowa farmboy plagued by sickness throughout his early youth. He took up wrestling to strengthen his frail body and wound up winning the heavyweight championship of the world. Wrestling was a never ending challenge for him. He read and memorized every word on the subject. He constantly experimented with new methods and spent endless hours in the gymnasium perfecting the revolutionary maneuvers which were to make him world famous.
Caddock’s vast range of holds was so astounding that the great William Muldoon once said: "They short-change Caddock every time they call The Man of a Thousand Holds. Ten thousand would be a more exact figure."
After losing his championship to Caddock in 1917, Joe Stecher, confused and chagrined, moaned: "I thought I was wrestling against five men at the same time."
Stecher and Caddock later became close friends and Caddock taught Joe some of his pet holds – including his famous half-nelson, double wristlock combination. But Stecher, even with such expert instruction, was never able to execute the maneuver with Caddock’s cunning finesse. The reason? Earl’s weapons weren’t merely holds as described in various textbooks. They were instead perfectly coordinated acts in which every muscle and nerve in his body played an intricate part.
To determine how Verne Gagne would fare against Caddock, if both were in their prime, we put this question to five leading experts: Assuming both were 25 years old, who would win a Gagne-Caddock bout? Describe the action as you think it might have progressed.
The experts canvassed were Ed "Strangler" Lewis, Joe "Toots" Mondt, Ed Don George, Rudy Dusek and veteran wrestling reporter Dick Levin. All knew Caddock personally and all, except Levin, wrestled against him.
All five experts agree that the bout would have been exceptionally fast – and that no one hold would have been held more than five minutes. Based on a one-fall-to-a-finish match, the unanimous opinion is that Caddock would have won after approximately one hour, fifteen minutes of a close struggle.
Prime reason for Caddock’s victory would be his great stamina and ability to counter. Said Strangler Lewis: "As clever as he is, Gagne could not cope with Caddock’s genius. Gagne might work into a strong position, confident of a definite advantage, when suddenly he would find himself laying helpless in one of Earl’s homemade counters.
Reporter Levin, although of the opinion that Caddock would have held the upper hand throughout the bout, thinks that he would have been forced to call on every ounce of his skill and strength to beat Gagne.
Rudy Dusek was the most definite in his views: "Caddock was entirely too much man for Gagne," Dusek said flatly. "I think he could have pinned Gagne any time he wanted to. Gagne is a great showman. Caddock was a great wrestler."
Toots Mondt saw it as a very close match with Caddock often on the verge of defeat. "Caddock’s ring generalship would win for him in the long run."
Don George’s opinion was similar to Mondt’s. Said George: "Caddock was the type who concentrated on one particular target. He’d drive you crazy with his dogged persistence. I think he would have outsmarted Gagne and forced him to quit."
Here is the experts’ condensed version of a Verne Gagne-Earl Caddock match:
Both men advanced quickly at the bell. Gagne missed a try for an armlock and Caddock took immediate advantage by clamping on a punishing headlock. Gagne dropped to a sitting position. He tried to squirm loose but Earl held tight. After two minutes, Gagne spun out of it. They circled in mid-ring. Gagne worked quickly into a body scissors. Earl tried to break away by countering with a headlock. But Gagne held tight and then strengthened his advantage by clamping on a half-nelson. Caddock was in visible trouble as Gagne quickly applied the pressure. Earl bit his lips in pain and tried to kick loose. Gagne’s legs turned white as he squeezed them around Earl’s waist.
Caddock finally freed himself by unlocking Gagne’s feet. He then snapped on a flimsy toehold which Verne broke easily.
At the fifteen minute mark, Caddock began to concentrate on Gagne’s left arm. He twisted it around in assorted armlocks and stretched it to the breaking point with painful hammerlocks. Each time Verne finally broke loose he ran around the ring, vigorously shaking his arm, trying to work back the circulation. Throughout the remainder of the match Verne favored that arm.
Caddock feinted for toeholds and leglocks and when he had Gagne off balance he snapped on that inevitable left armlock.
Gagne was at his best working from a standing position. As soon as he dropped to the mat Caddock worked him over with an endless assortment of holds. For every weapon Verne tried, Caddock had the tailormade counter. At the forty minute mark, Gagne tried a new attack – the torturous Japanese leglock. This is Verne’s pet hold, one he has completed mastered. He punished Earl with that hold until the old master began to counter it with a double wristlock. That vise-like counter neutralized Gagne’s best chance for victory.
Caddock went back to work on Gagne’s mutilated left arm. A perfect hammerlock this time, with a wristlock tacked on for greater leverage. Verne’s face twisted in pain. He slammed the floor in desperation. The referee asked him if he wanted to quit. Gagne hesitated a moment, then screamed: "NO!" Caddock increased the pressure. Once again the referee put the question to him. "Want to quit?" Gagne slowly shook his head.
After an hour of wrestling, Gagne was entirely on the defensive. His left arm hung by his side helplessly. He was tired and breathing heavily but he couldn’t rest. Stalking him every second was the crouching figure before him. Caddock feinted toward Verne’s limp arm then clamped on a full-nelson. But he held that only a few seconds, trading it for a bar armlock on Gagne’s throbbing limb.
Applying full pressure, Verne was forced to his knees and then to his back. Slowly Caddock bent the arm backward, then he dropped his weight across Verne’s chest, working for the fall. The referee, on hands and knees, poked his hand under Gagne’s shoulders. They were still an inch off the mat. Caddock increased the pressure to Gagne’s dead arm and pressed harder against his chest.
Again the referee reached for the airspace under Verne’s shoulders. But this time where wasn’t any. He counted: "One. Two. Three," then patted Caddock’s sweating back. The match was over and the winner in one hour, twelve minutes – Earl Caddock.
SPORTS OF THE TIMES by RED SMITH
(New York Times, August 24, 1975)
Jimmy Londos was the professional wrestling champion of this wide, bewilderedworld in the days of the Great Depression, Prohibition, Repeal and the New Deal. News of his death in California the other day brought back a vivid image of his thickly muscled figure and olive oil face with gently sorrowing brown eyes. Face and figure were as familiar to Americans 40 years ago as the Blue Eagle of the National Recovery Act.
Chances are the golden Greek was neither the strongest nor the most skillful wrestler of his time, but he was the richest, esteemed by his peers as the best
"worker" in the craft. In their business, one did not wrestle an opponent or even rassle him. You worked with him, and an accomplished worker like Londos could subject a man to tortures so fiendish that ringsiders' blood turned cold, without a trace of discomfort for the victim.
It was probably while working with Londos that the late Herman Hickman, the Tennessee Cannonball who later coached football at Yale, suffered his most embarrassing moment in the ring. Herman was on his ample stomach, screaming and pounding the mat with a fist, while behind him his adversary applied inhuman pressure with a toehold. For reasons of his own, the referee broke the hold and conducted the opponent across the ring but Herman still lay shrieking in mortal anguish until the hysterical laughter of the crowd told him his ordeal had ended.
"There was nobody like Chris," Herman used to say. "He could rip your arm from its socket and you'd never know he had laid a hand on you."
Jimmy was baptized Christopher Theophelus and was known as Chris in the lodge or bund or syndicate that employed most of the top performers. They all had code names for purposes of communication within the brotherhood. Hickman, for example, was Cannonball.
On the morning of a Londos-Hickman championship in say, Memphis, a telegram would arrive from syndicate headquarters in New York: "Cannonball Moon Chris." Instructions always arrived by Western Union, to be confirmed by Postal Telegraph. But the message would go: "Ok Cannonball Moon Chris."
It was not true, as some insisted, that these matches followed a prepared script in which every move had been rehearsed. These men were artists who improvised as they went along, tuning the tempo of the match to the temper of the crowd but making sure the climax would find Cannonball on his back looking at the moon as instructed, with Chris triumphant.
They were a gifted fraternity, bound by a mutual affection for show business but differing widely in temperament and ethnic roots. There were a few All-American Boys like Hickman, Gus Sonnenberg of Dartmouth and Jim McMillen, the Illinois guard who had led interference for Red Grange. Most of the rest were Russian counts, English lords, terrible Turks and Swedish, French or Italian Angels, with here and there an Indian chief whose squaw would crouch at ringside thumping a war drum to rouse her buck to competitive frenzy. Cowboys were big in Tennessee and hillbillies in Omaha.
The promotional pattern seldom varied. If Londos was defending his championship on one of the biweekly shows presented by Tom Packs in St. Louis, a newcomer would appear in a preliminary match. The new boy might be Pat O'Shocker, a fair-skinned redhead who was an accomplished bleeder. Pat would get a nosebleed in the opening scuffle but would struggle on undaunted to wind up in triumph bathed from head to foot in his own gore.
After that sensational debut, Pat would be back to bleed on every card, moving up to oppose George Zaharias, one of the Dusek brothers, John Pesek, and finally Dick Shikat, which would qualify him for a title shot with Londos.
As he always did, Londos would teeter on the brink of defeat for 30 minutes or so, harried and punished by his gory pursuer, then suddenly, swiftly, turn the tables and pluck victory from the jaws of slapstick. "Londos is on the mat!" a St. Louis sportscaster screamed one night. "He is writing in pain, but quick as a cucumber he breaks the hold -- ."
In the very early 1930s, Jack Curley built up a match between Londos and Ray Steele to ballpark proportions. The principals even set up training camps in the mountains which the New York newspapers covered dutifully. One dispatch began: "'Perhaps it is some atavistic instinct in me,' Jimmy Londos said today. 'I am not a cruel man, yet, I love to hear an opponent's bones crack.'"
The match drew at least 40,000 to Yankee Stadium or the Polo Grounds -- memory slips here -- and it ended with Londos's discovery of the dreaded Unconscious Hold. After about 40 minutes on the edge of disaster he stooped over the fallen Steele, lifted Ray's left foot and clutched it to his bosom like a child cuddling her dolly. Medical science has never explained why, but on that occasion and many times later, this induced temporary paralysis.
"They can say what they like about how Jimmy couldn't beat one side of Strangler Lewis," said Ray Fabiani, the Philadelphia promoter, "but he's a pretty good wrestler. I watch him working in the gym, that's how I can tell."
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.87/88-2001
(Minneapolis Tribune, Sunday, May 8, 1955)
By Daryle Feldmeir
Mr. Gorgeous George of Beaumont, Calif., is just a simple Nebraska farm boy who owns four orchid Cadillacs, 127 flamboyant dressing gowns insured for $50,000, and, on some nights, maybe, wears an orchid 'twined in his marcelled curls.
Mr. George parades his foppish mannerisms before arenas full of wrestling fans who shriek many epithets at his sissiness and plead with his opponents to pull him apart, golden lock by golden lock.
This moves him to walk to ring apron and disdainfully sneer "Peasants!" at the assembled multitudes, who pay for this privilege.
To give you an example of what the fans have paid for this privilege in the past several years: Mr. George eats in the finest restaurants, he owns a $220,000 turkey ranch in Beaumont, he has literally thrown away a million gold-plated (tax-deductible) "Georgie" pins in five years, and he still has enough left over to pay his valet a modest salary of about $400 a week.
His conspicuous affluence has not made Mr. George stuck up.
He fluffed the petals of the pancake-sized orchid on his lapel and said diffidently: "You just call me G.G."
G.G. is not the only thing the 210-pound muscled dainty has been called, but while he has suffered the usual number of broken bones from sticks and stones -- words have never hurt him.
"The only things I worry about," G.G. said with a nonchalant shrug when the matter of spectators' slurs came up, "the only things I worry about are money and taxes."
Oh, you will get a wrathful rise out of G.G. if you mention him and Liberace in the same breath.
"Liberace," he bites out the word scornfully, "he's imitating me."
What is particularly irksome to G.G. is Liberace's use of candelabra.
"I was using candelabra long before Liberace did. Back in late '47 or early '48, the wrestling commission in Los Angeles made me stop using candelabra on account of the fire hazard.
"I had Jeffries (his valet) bring in the candelabra and set it in the center of the ring before I entered, but they made me stop it. Liberace picked it up."
G.G. used the candelabra touch on his recent trip to the Twin Cities last month, snuffing out the candles with his pinkies. The crowd hooted in derision and almost drowned out the tinkle of silver and the rustle of greenbacks being counted in the box office. But not quite.
The folks back in the farming country around Butte, Neb., in Boyd County, might not recognize little George Wagner if they saw him today in his olive green slacks, the mink bow tie and the rust sport coat with the big orchid pinned on the lapel, but that's where it all started.
G.G. celebrated his 39th birthday (just like Jack Benny) last March 24. In honor of the occasion, he sliced a 50-pound birthday cake in the center of a New Orleans, La., wrestling ring, handed the pieces to four lovely girls who distributed them to ringsiders. That done, G.G. performed a somewhat similar feat on his opponent for the night, a gentleman named Tarzan White.
The Wagner family left Nebraska when George was a baby, moving first to Waterloo, Iowa, then to Sioux City, Iowa, and then -- when George was seven -- to Houston, Texas, for his mother's health.
George got the wrestling bug in Houston, but not until he had been bitten by the desire to be "noticed."
G.G. put it this way: "Even as a boy, I didn't want to look like anyone else when I walked down the street. I wanted people to notice me. I used to wear knickers so the other kids would tease me and pick a fight."
Then young Georgie Wagner would lay them out.
One day, when he was 9, as he tells it, his daddy gave him a dollar bill and told him to get a haircut.
"We were studying George Washington in school," G.G. recalls, "and I looked at his picture on the dollar bill and I noticed he had long hair."
That was where the Gorgeous curls originated, and though he later wrestled on occasion with short hair, there was a sharp correlation between long hair and dollar bills and he always went back to the fancy hair-do.
Nowadays, G.G. justifies his long hair theory by whipping a wad of greenbacks from his pocket and pointing to the picture on the face of the bills. Thjey aren't dollar bills any more -- they're 20s or bigger. And the hair is long.
George Wagner began wrestling as an amateur around the Houston YMCA, and ;when he was 17, he wrestled a seven-minute match at a carnival and was paid 35 cents. His wrestling coach happened to be in the crowd and when George went up to him after the match and prooffered his hand, his coach spurned the handshake.
"You're not an amateur any more," he told him, "you're a professional."
So George Wagner became a professional wrestler. His formal schooling had ended three years before, when he had to quit to help make the family living, and the wrestling trade appealed to him about as much as any of the odd jobs he'd turned his hand to.
He was, and is, a good wrestler. Scrape away all the showmanship today and even at his professed age of 39, he would whip most of the opponents at his own weight, matchmakers say.
George Wagner won his first championship, as wrestling championships go, in 1938 (he was 22) in Eugene, Ore., when he beat Buck Lipscomb for the northwest middleweight crown. Two years later he added the Pacific Coast lightheavyweight title at a tournament in Portland, Ore., and two years later claimed the world's lightheavyweight title.
Somewhere along the line, Wagner figured out that you have to do something more than just wrestle to make money at the game. He had his long hair and he already was indulging in some fancy robes and wrestling tights, sometimes spending more on clothes than he earned.
Then, the story goes, he entered the ring one night and overheard a woman at ringside sigh, "Isn't he gorgeous?" The announcer overheard her, too, and introduced him as "Gorgeous George Wagner," and that's where Gorgeous George was born.
He began using the name professionally in 1941 and in 1950 he legally changed his name to Gorgeous George in a Los Angeles court.
G.G. entered the courtroom dressed in a deep violet suit, yellow shirt, gray silk tie on which an orchid was painted. His bright cornstalk-colored curls were pinned in place with "Georgie" pins. His attorney, Mrs. S.E. Gramer, told Judge W. Turney Fox that G.G. "is known as 'the Human Orchid'."
So by 1941, he had the name and the fancy robes, so many fancy robes, in fact, that he had to hire someone to care for them. He never wears the same robe twice in the same city. He hired the first of seven or eight valets who have served him as "Jeffries."
Then the gimmicks came one at a time -- the prayer rug, his bath mat, the red carpet, the spray gun and atomizers -- many of them starting quite by accident.
The year after G.G. hired his first "Jeffries," he acquired a bad mat burn that became infected. His doctor told him the infection was caused by dirty wrestling mats, so G.G. instructed his valet to slip into the auditorium before the crowd gathered and spray the ring with disinfectant.
One night in 1944, G.G. and "Jeffries" were late for a match in Klamath Falls, Ore. A couple preliminaries already had been completed, but G.G. instructed "Jeffries" to go out there anyway and spray the ring just before his match. Jeffries did. The crowd was convulsed and G.G. adopted the routine.
He insists the spray is really a disinfectant, camouflaged with perfume so as not to offend the sensibilities of ringsiders. "We use Chanel No. 10," he says with a smile. "Why be half safe?"
The "Georgie" pins came by accident, too. G.G. was the world's best beauty salon customer.
"I have my hair done in more beauty salons than any woman in the world," G.G. proclaims modestly. "I have it done every time I make a public appearance." Then he adds, "And the gossip I have heard! Well, you could write a book about it but you couldn't get it printed."
G.G. scorned using black bobbie pins to hold his flaxen curls in place, so he found a firm that gold-plated them. Opposing wrestlers insisted he remove the pins before the fun started, and one night in 1949, as G.G. coyly lifted out a "Georgie" pin, a woman at ringside swooned, "Throw it to me, Gorgeous."
With all the disdain he could show, G.G. threw her the pin. And that started that.
Throw in a musical entrance and you've got it. First he used a portion of a recording of "Faust" but when he lost that record, he picked up a recording of Elgar's "Pomp and Cirumstance" and has used it since.
Then television came along.
No more seven-minute matches for 35 cents. He was big boxoffice now. In 1951, he is reported to have collected a clver $160,000 for 277 performances and the same year he is reported to have collected another $128,000 selling "The World's Most Gorgeous Broad-breasted Turkeys" from his Beaumont ranch.
He did say he made "at least" more than $150,000 in his top year.
G.G. spends lavishly but he has a knack for making it bounce back into his pocket. He gets his money's worth in publicity, if nothing else.
Another man might wince if he ruptured a ligament in his leg, as G.G. did in a match about a year ago. And another man might wince even more if he spent his seven-day recovery period in the maternity ward of a Tulsa, Okla., hospital, as G.G. did. But the Gorgeous One did no wincing.
"It made all the papers from coast to coast," he explained, "and one national television newcast spent three of its five minutes on my story alone." You could see the cash register clicking in his mind.
Then he has his turkey ranch -- "the largest and most sanitary in Southern California." His ex-wife, Elizabeth (they were divorced in 1951), and his two children (Carol Sue George, 10, and Donald George, 9) live on the ranch, all of whose buildings are painted G.G.'s favorite color. That's orchid, of course.
With an eye to scraping up a few extra bucks that might be lying around, G.G. spent last week in Las Vegas, Nev., writing a night club act for a four-week engagement at the Silver Slipper at $3,500 a week. He also is contemplating a one-week run (for $5,000) at the new Riviera club in Las Vegas (Liberace got $50,000 a week to open it recently).
Some say G.G. is near the tag-end of wrestling's most colorful career. Tag-end or no, the week he spent in the Twin Cities last month brought him about $2,000, according to Minneapolis matchmaker Wally Karbo, and it would have been about $600 more if G.G. had not worked for a half-fee in a Minneapolis baseball bond drive charity match. Not bad for a week's work.
Of course, you need that kind of money to maintain four orchid Cadillacs. G.G. owns a '55 limousine, a '53 convertible, a '52 limousine, and a '51 model.
"I don't know whether you can even count the '51," G.G. explained with a show of modesty. "We just use it on the turkey ranch to make hot-shot deliveries to local butcher shops."
A BOOK ON THE WORLD OF WRESTLING
(Hagerstown MD Herald-Mail, July 23, 2000)
By Tara Reilly
It's often the high risk moves, in-ring theatrics and on-going story lines that attract people to pro wrestling.
But what's sometimes hidden behind the entertainment elements are real-life struggles of living on the road, spending time away from loved ones and dealing with temptations, according to Howard Whittington of Smithsburg.
Whittington, a case manager at the Maryland Correctional Training Center and Washington County native, sets out to enlighten wrestling fans -- and even those who don't watch it -- about the out-of-ring tales in his new novel, "In the Ropes."
The novel centers around a 20-something man named Eric Justice, who Whittington created after watching former World Championship Wrestling and current World Wrestling Federation wrestler Chris Benoit. Justice gets a shot at becoming a pro wrestler but soon re-evaluates his dream after he falls in love with a Baltimore nursing student.
"Both want to pursue their dreams, but yet, they're in love and they're separated," Whittington said. "It's a neat story that men and women will be interested in."
Whittington also sidesteps the frequent "shock TV" tactics of wrestling plots by keeping his story clean.
"In the book they're not allowed to use steroids, because the wrestlers don't want a bad image," he said. "It's very limited in obscene language. It's kept very clean, and Eric is somewhat religious."
Whittington said writing a book has always been a goal, and he came up with the idea for "In the Ropes" about a little less then four years ago.
"I was watching wrestling, and I wondered what their lives must be like," he said. "Then I thought, "That's my book."
He said after he had the idea, he would rush home from work, grab something to eat and then spend all evening writing. He finished the book in about a year.
"Once I started it, I was obsessed," Whittington said. "I started working on it as soon as I got home from work. Before I knew it, it was eleven or twelve o'clock at night."
He said many people will enjoy his book because it deals with humanity, not just the rowdy side of pro wrestling.
"There's a little bit about us in it," Whittington said. "Most of us go and perform a job that is a legitimate job. We know that wrestling is not real, but we have to give them a lot of credit to do what they do. I think it'll make one hell of a movie. That's what I'm hoping - that the right person sees it and says we must do something with this."
In addition to his job as a case manager, Whittington also works part-time as an instructor of a program called Personal Assessment and Career Exploration, which helps about-to-be-released inmates find jobs. He also works part-time as a disc jockey. Whittington has a bachelor's of science degree in social science and served four years in the Air Force. He graduated from North Hagerstown High School.
He says anyone interested in the book can order a copy from Borders or Books & Things by asking for issue number 158721458x, or they can order or download a copy from The 1st Books Library web site at www.1stbooks.com.
Whittington has also written a sequel to "In the Ropes" called Submission."
WRESTLING ROYALTY UP FOR FIGHT
(USA Today, September 5, 2001)
By Jim Hopkins
LOS ANGELES — They are the king and queen of smackdown, but have they met their match?
Vince and Linda McMahon founded World Wrestling Federation Entertainment 20 years ago, turning a small-fry business into cable TV's No. 1 draw. More than 20 million people worldwide watch the company's shows weekly at packed stadiums and on TV.
But the McMahons are more than a couple of gray suits. They've joined their own parade of pumped-up wrestling superstars as caricatures of themselves — boosting attendance and their public personas.
Red-faced, Vince screams during one show: "To hell with my marriage. ... I want a divorce! ... You were never good enough for me, anyway. I'm Vince McMahon!"
At yet another show, fans gleefully hose Vince with obscenities. "I don't appreciate the way you're disrespecting a man of my distinction," he sneers.
But who needs respect? WWFE raked in $456 million last year — catapulting the McMahons into the entertainment industry's elite and making them billionaire residents of posh Greenwich, Conn.
Yet now their company is in a headlock. Attendance is flat at live shows. TV ad revenue is off 17% from a year ago. Sales growth of T-shirts, action dolls and other merchandise, a $120 million annual business, is sputtering. McMahon's attempt to launch the controversial XFL pro football league this year bombed.
The league, disparaged by sports announcer Bob Costas as "low-rent" TV, folded in the spring after just one season. And WWFE stock, which traded at $22 last winter, tanked with the XFL. It closed Wednesday at $11.79.
The McMahons say they aren't down for the count. "We understand live events. We understand television. We do all of that. We're wide open in terms of opportunities," says Vince, as barrel-chested as any of his stars.
His bravado is unabashed. He's even gone so far as to call wrestling "one of America's greatest exports."
It certainly has been great for the McMahons. Vince, 56, is chairman of WWFE. He owns virtually all of the company's 56 million class B shares — a stake worth close to $700 million, down from more than $1 billion last winter. As chairman, he made $1.9 million last year. Linda, 52, is the company's buttoned-down CEO. She was paid $1.4 million.
The high school sweethearts from tiny North Carolina towns married 35 years ago. Vince's father and grandfather were wrestling promoters when the industry was made up of only little companies.
Vince, who didn't meet his father, Vincent, until he was 12, was raised by his mother and a series of stepfathers. He fell in love with the business as a teenager while hanging out with his dad at Madison Square Garden wrestling matches.
After college, Vince wrestled into the company by expanding its TV deals to 30 stations. That paved the way for pro wrestling to become national entertainment. In 1982, the McMahons bought the company for $1 million in a deal financed by his father.
The McMahons are credited with making pro wrestling the entertainment blockbuster that it is today. Discarding the notion that pro-wrestling is a sport, WWFE shows feature stars such as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Steve Williams, better known as "Stone Cold Steve Austin."
Last year, the company published autobiographies of Johnson and another star, Mick "Mankind" Foley, that each hit No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. Showing growing crossover appeal, Johnson appeared in Universal's The Mummy Returns and stars in next year's The Scorpion King.
The word "smackdown," the name of one of the most popular shows by WWFE, has even entered popular language to describe big, public fights.
The WWFE shows follow a 16-page script packed with corporate intrigue, wrestler rivalries and the fictional domestic woes of the McMahons.
Off-camera, Vince is not nearly as bellicose as he is on stage — although there's no doubt he has the brasher personality of the McMahons. During interviews, Linda, soft-spoken and more polished, often defers to him. Her petite frame almost disappears next to his. Seated next to each other in separate chairs, they don't touch or fawn. Instead, they're like business associates: respectful and easy-going.
He's on the road 3 days a week at wrestling matches. She stays home, but they eat dinner together at least 4 nights a week. They spent their 35th wedding anniversary on the road.
In the business, Vince is more showman and idea guy; she's the one who executes. "I've seen myself on TV," Linda says with a grimace.
For Vince, putting on an act looks like a natural. His deep voice deepens. The slight North Carolina drawl recedes as he screams. His athletic frame paces around the ring, microphone in hand, veins in his neck bulging.
At a show last month in Los Angeles, Linda, dressed in a conservative print dress, met with senior company executives to discuss a rollout of videos. Vince, in a sport coat, huddled in a production trailer — fine-tuning the script according to audience reaction.
Fans can be merciless. "They will nail you in a heartbeat," Linda says.
The WWFE is also a family operation. Son Shane, 31, the fourth generation of wrestling McMahons, runs Internet operations. Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley, 24, is a writer for the shows. Both worked their way up — Shane in the warehouse, Stephanie as a receptionist.
Says Vince, in a voice as firm as his handshake: "I'm big on paying dues — every day, by the way."
Linda oversees nuts-and-bolts issues and more than 400 employees. She also must convince Wall Street analysts that WWFE is a "blue-chip" media-entertainment firm poised for long-term growth. Wall Street is cautiously optimistic.
Pro wrestling's popularity is cyclical, but it will always have a core audience. "It's been around since the Romans," says analyst Breck Wheeler of Legg Mason.
Plus, a new deal between WWFE and Sony could boost sales of videos and DVDs, analysts say. TV ratings are climbing. And WWFE is expanding overseas, where its shows air in 130 countries. Last spring, the McMahons decked their only direct rival — Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling — by buying it for $2.5 million.
A big unknown, says analyst Peter Swan of Pacific Growth Equities, is how the company will turn around TV ad revenue, which has tanked for most media. Still, WWFE has about $250 million in cash and little debt, which will help it weather the slow U.S. economy, Swan says.
The company's biggest black eye was the failed XFL. The idea was to relax game rules to generate action. Players were going to wear microphones so fans could get an inside feel. There was talk of scantily clad cheerleaders being encouraged to date players. Sizzle overtook substance. XFL died in May after partner NBC said it wouldn't broadcast next year's season.
Vince says WWFE failed to focus on football. He says sports writers favored the National Football League and relished the XFL's falling ratings. His resentment sits on his face for a second: "Once we slipped and fell, they didn't let us get back up."
The XFL debacle taught the McMahons to stick with what they know best: producing wrestling events where they have complete control. The shows are taped, then broadcast on TV domestically and abroad. WWFE also makes wildly popular DVDs and videos, including one devoted to wrestlers whacking each other with metal trash cans.
Indeed, WWFE has shown there's little it won't do for ratings. In its weekly shows, SmackDown! and Raw is War, pretty much anything happens in the ring — even, occasionally, wrestling.
Mixing soap-operatic plots and Jerry Springer-esque characters, the matches air twice a week on UPN, the Viacom network.
Charismatic stars such as Johnson, a towering former college football player known for his cocked right eyebrow, draw millions of fans.
The shows, produced four times a week, require a crew of 200 who haul sets and costumes in 14 mammoth trailers. Backstage seamstresses repair sequined costumes. Chiropractors treat wrestlers. Performers rehearse in the ring.
George Rodriguez of Whittier, Calif., takes his family to a dozen shows each year. At a recent show, the 40-year-old grocery executive jumps to his feet. "We know it's fake. But it is entertainment," he says, clutching a beer.
At a show the previous night, Rodriguez spent $700 on tickets, snacks, T-shirts and posters. Consumers like him are crucial. Merchandise sales accounted for 26% of annual revenue last year, the No. 2 source behind pay-per-view cable shows such as WrestleMania.
WWFE has been especially good at capturing an audience that advertisers covet — free-spending young men, 12 to 34 years old. They flock to the company's Web site to buy $20 "Rock" T-shirts and $15 biographical videos of stars like Lita, one of the company's up-and-coming female wrestlers. More women are showing up, too, attracted to the likes of Johnson. They make up 40% of viewers, Vince says.
WWFE also gets big-name fans. At a recent Los Angeles show, Arnold Schwarzenegger grinned as Johnson's "The Rock" and Booker "Booker T" Huffman taunted each other in and out of the ring.
Huffman threatened Johnson with his "spin-er-oni" move. Johnson, cool as a cucumber, sneered: "What's next? The dipsy doodle? The summer succotash?"
The same question could be thrown at the McMahons. Fans and investors can only watch and wait.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.
REFEREES HAD THE BEST ANGLE
(Cedar Rapids Gazette, August 1, 1996)
By Mike Hlas
ATLANTA -- It was a scene right out of professional wrestling.
The bad guy thinks he has won the match and starts to raise his arm, but the referee pushes it down and instead raises the hand of the good guy.
That's what happened at the Georgia World Congress Center Wednesday, only it was an Olympics freestyle wrestling championship match. The "hero" to the pro-American sellout crowd of 7,000 was 220-pound Kurt Angle of Pittsburgh. The "villain" was Iran's Abbas Jadidi.
The two battled the maximum eight minutes to a 1-1 draw. The first tiebreaker is the number of referee's passivity calls for stalling. Both men had two, leaving a stalemate that had to be broken by the officials. The judge and referee vote in such a situation. If they disagree, the mat chairman breaks the tie.
Jadidi listened in to the officials' post-match discussion. He walked back to the center of the mat acting as if he had learned he was the winner. The referee took an arm of each wrestler, started to raise Jadidi's, then suddenly pulled it down and instead raised Angle's. A moment of groaning was replaced by the loudest and happiest roar in Atlanta all afternoon.
Reportedly, the referee momentarily thought the mat chairman had sided with Jadidi, who had a different version of what happened.
"I heard the judge and the ref vote for me," Jadidi said. "The referee wanted to take my arm up as the winner, but another chief told him no."
FILA, the international governing body for wrestling, does not release the home nations of officials for security reasons. The referee for the Angle-Jadidi match was Adouchine Baskhou, the judge was Vassillos Pagonis, and the mat chairman was Etienne Martinetti.
Spurning a handshake with Angle, the Iranian pleaded angrily to all sorts of FILA officials. Jadidi claimed he should have received a point on a double-leg takedown with 1:24 left in the 3-minute overtime. No official protest was filed, though.
"I executed a double-leg right at the edge of the mat," Jadidi insisted at a press conference in which he urged journalists to review a videotape of the match and help him get the decision overturned.
"All he did was try to drive me out of bounds," Angle said.
Angle said he thought Jadidi's stalling in the overtime may have been his undoing. The Iranian clearly was exhausted in the overtime.
"I think if he'd gotten up and went back to the center of the mat right away, he'd have gotten the decision," Angle said. "But I wore him down."
Jadidi twice asked the official to delay the match in the overtime. Once, after Angle drove Jadidi out of bounds, an Iranian coach ran onto the mat and appeared to shout at Jadidi to get up.
However, no stalling warnings were issued in the overtime.
It almost took a forklift to get Jadidi on the platform during the medal ceremony, but he finally relented.
"My hesitation was because I was protesting and waiting for them to change their decision," he said, "and I still hope they change their decision. I was upset because they took what was mine.
"I respect (Angle) as a human being, but I don't respect him as an Olympic champion. I feel that gold medal that he is hanging on his neck is mine, and I feel they took that from me."
Angle, an NCAA champion in 1990 and 1992 at Pittsburgh, waited for over an agonizing minute to learn the judges' decision. When he learned he won, he crumpled over in emotion. Tears rolled down his face on the medal stand. Later, he didn't appear happy that controversy surrounded his victory.
"I feel I won," Angle said. "What they did was take the match as a whole and realized I was the aggressor most of the match.
"I feel we both deserved to win, but we did put the match in the officials' hands. When you do that, you can't be upset if the officials pick the other guy.
"I'm not gonna put myself down. I feel I wrestled just as good if not better."
Angle is the only member of the Dave Schultz Wrestling Club on the 10-man U.S. freestyle squad. Millionaire John du Pont was charged with murdering Schultz on du Pont's suburban Philadelphia compound earlier this year. Angle formerly belonged to du Pont's Team Foxcatcher club, as did Schultz and many other wrestlers including Olympian Tom Brands of Iowa.
"I know Dave is proud of me," Angle said. "I know his wife, Nancy, is proud of me. Now I know how Dave felt when he won in '84."
Should Nancy Schultz ask Angle to attend du Pont's trial, he said he would.
"I really don't want to see John du Pont," Angle said. "I don't know how I would react. I thought at one point I liked the guy. He'd always been good to me. But anybody that can do that, I just can't fathom the possibility of seeing him."
As Angle spoke in a press tent, Jadidi continued spewing his disgust in a neighboring room.
"I respect American people," the Iranian said, "... but my views are for the referees. They shouldn't have done this."
THREE CHEERS FOR ALEX ‘PALLY’ FIDLER
(Cedar Rapids Gazette, June 2, 1997)
By Gus Schrader
This column is long overdue. It is about Alex Fidler, a man who was an institution in Cedar Rapids for many, many years.
It was prompted by a letter from Betty Barger of Cedar Rapids, wife of the late Bill Barger, a United Airlines pilot. Betty asked about Alex's son, Paul, who retired after a fine career as a United pilot about 20 years ago and moved to Florida. The writer also asked about Alex, a longtime friend of mine.
You old-timers won't have difficulty in remembering Alex. He was The Gazette's street-circulation manager for several decades. This meant he hired youngsters who sold copies of The Gazette all over the business district. Now the papers are sold in machines.
I wish I could remember all the men who have told me through the years that "I sold papers for Alex when he operated down in a corner of The Gazette basement." Among them was Bill Fitch, who has coached basketball in every place but the belly of a whale.
These lively kids used to play a form of basketball in that area, using almost anything -- even a big wad of newsprint -- for a ball. They also get into scraps over street-sales territorial rights, and Alex usually invited them to fight it out in our Golden Gloves tourneys.
That was another dodge of his: refereeing. I think he still holds the world record for the number of boxing and wrestling (pro only) matches he officiated. I can't recall the number, but Alex could always tell you exactly. It was way up, many thousands. He was featured several times in the nationally syndicated "Believe It of Not" panel conducted by a man named Ripley.
In most of this time, pro boxing and wrestling around Iowa mostly was promoted by Pinkie George of Des Moines. Alex was Pinkie's referee, and he traveled all over the map working bouts for the great and the small.
Alex -- with Pinkie's help and financing - brought many famous men to Cedar Rapids, as contestants or "honorary referees." I was able to meet the giants of those two sports -- former world heavyweight boxing champions Joe Louis, Max Baer, Jack Dempsey, Ezzard Charles and some others I may have forgotten about. There were pro "rasslers" like Ed "Strangler" Lewis and Bronko Nagurski, who won fame as an All-American fullback and tackle at Minnesota and then with the Bears.
That reminds me. One night, after Bronko had performed on the Memorial Coliseum mat, he joined Alex, me and my wife for dinner at Eli Abodeely's 316 Grill on Second Avenue SE. My wife was pregnant with our second child (this was 1951), and I can remember Alex and Bronko telling my wife, "If you have twins, and you name one after each of us, we'll send them to college."
I always wondered how Alex and Bronko Schrader would have sounded. Perhaps it was better the birth was single, and we named her Ann Elizabeth.
Everybody in town knew Alex, and most called him "Pally," because that's the way he greeted everyone. He was a good businessman with a heart of gold. He rarely got credit for all the help he gave the needy, and the meals he bought for "former boxers" down on their luck.
Paul was the only child of Alex and his wife, Sadie. Alex was awfully proud of Paul, who captained the UAL plane that flew Iowa's football squad to the Rose Bowl in December 1956. Alex bought dozens of old Iowa helmets and had them painted bright gold with the '56 scores. I still have mine. Down at the bottom was added "Pilot to the Rose Bowl: Paul Fidler."
He was a sportsaholic. His first love affair with athletics, I believe, was with Leo Novak's old Washington High football champions. Then he branched out to serve as trainer for Moray Eby's teams at Coe, then with Iowa, where he also had charge of stadium and field house concessions. He sold food and drink at C.R. baseball games, too, and at Memorial Coliseum and Hawkeye Downs.
Alex wouldn't accept pay for refereeing our Golden Gloves bouts, but each year we would take him to Chicago to help train our champions. Everyone there knew "Pally." On one trip I had to write a column, so I left Alex with Lou Breuer, Gazette police reporter who managed our Gloves. When I returned, Lou told me: "Alex and all of his old buddies talked for an hour, and they didn't mention any living person once!"
I've got dozens of other Alex Fidler stories. I've always thought Cedar Rapids should honor him, maybe name a school or building after him. It would be much more fitting than some of our dead presidents.
WEIGHING IN ON ‘RASSLING’
(Cedar Rapids Gazette, June 1, 1998)
By Gus Schrader
I'm being honest when I say I never saw any of Jerry Springer's controversial TV shows before the big storm erupted over the revelation of scripting for those participating -- or combating -- on the air.
I have watched just enough since then to turn my stomach, and that takes some doing, as I used to look at pro wrestling, which is very similar. Actually, I never COVERED pro wrestling for The Gazette. I always maintained that should be left to the theatrical section of the paper. However, once in a blue moon I would go to Memorial Coliseum and do what I considered a playful column on the strong, brutal and well-scripted "rasslers." I don't believe the promoters appreciated it, but -- what the hey -- in pro sports any publicity should be welcome.
One of my favorite rasslers was Earl Wampler, called "the Scranton (Iowa) farmer." Promoter Pinkie George sent him and his sweaty playmates around Iowa. Usually the whole cast all rode in the same car, probably discussing the plot of their next "bout."
I enjoyed watching old Wampler, even though he was always cast as the villain. Wampler usually had some kind of illegal gimmick that was very obvious to the fans but, for some reason, was never seen by the referee. For instance, he would pull a length of dirty twine from his trunks and use it to choke his clean-cut adversary. When the poor hero protested, the ref could never find the offending cord while ringside watchers would scream, "It's in his trunks!" or "He put it in his mouth!" (he really did, too).
The clean-cut guy usually would win, garroted or not, but sometimes Wampler would prevail with his nefarious tricks and there would be a rematch next time. I recall once when the promoter announced, "There will be a revenge match Feb. 12 with Wampler competing against an opponent to be named later."
Another villain was a good friend of mine. He was Bob Geigel, a former U of Iowa heavyweight wrestler from Algona. Bob made a lot of money in pro wrestling, and later became the promoter out of Kansas City when Gust Karras died.
But, let's get back to Geigel's own days as a wrestler. He learned all of the dirty tricks and used most of them in the ring struggles. I'll tell you how effective he was. When I was sports editor of The Gazette, the wrestling promoters used to leave a handful of free tickets to each rassling show. Few of them were ever used.
Then I discovered our family's wonderful old baby sitter just loved to watch rassling. She actually believed it was real, so I used to give her passes whenever she wished.
One evening when she came to sit with our kids, she drew me aside and said, "I think I am obligated to tell you this, Gus, although I don't want to. I know you are a good friend of Mr. Geigel, but you should be told that he really is not a very nice person in the wrestling ring. In fact, I must say he is downright dirty and underhanded."
I didn't want to tell her the whole thing was a charade, so I urged her to overlook any villainous habits of my friend Geigel. I think our sitter went to her grave failing to see how I could call such a blackguard a friend.
Well, I came far afield of the Jerry Springer TV shows, which I found as disgusting as any pro rassling circus. However, I did learn a certain admiration for the way Springer defended his practices when interviewed by critics on TV.
When he was asked how he could promote such phony and degrading spectacles especially with youngsters watching -- he looked at his questioner and asked why his shows could be called any worse than the daily soap operas shown on the same commercial networks. He cited soap plots that included cheating, infidelity, cruelty, sex, violence, crime, even murder and incest.
Yes, Springer at least made a strong point. Now if he would just find himself a good villain like Earl Wampler or Bob Geigel he could really build entertaining shows.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.90-2001
THE ROCK IS WWF BAD BOY
(Cedar Rapids Gazette, August 7, 1998)
By Luke DeKoster
When Dwayne Johnson was a kid, he didn't dream of becoming the president, a doctor or even a star major-league pitcher.
Now called Rocky Maivia professionally, the 26-year-old has fulfilled his dream: breaking noses and thrilling crowds as a pro wrestler.
Johnson -- and his character, The Rock, to whom he refers in the third person -- will be in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday as part of the World Wrestling Federation's (WWF) "Highway to Hell" Tour. The lineup at the Five Seasons Center also will include several other WWF stars, including the Undertaker, and Kane and Owen Hart. On Thursday, the WWF heads to The Mark of the Quad Cities in Davenport.
With Johnson's father, Rocky Johnson, and his grandfather Peter "High Chief" Maivia also involved in pro wrestling, it was no surprise that the younger Johnson ended up in the big ring.
"I knew one day, somewhere down the line, I would involve myself in professional wrestling, because it was in my blood," he says.
The legacy ensured the Johnson family's financial well-being, but it did have a downside.
"The money is phenomenal and fantastic, but at the same time, there's a lot of demons in this industry," says Johnson, who says he makes between $500,000 and $800,000 a year. "I hardly ever saw my dad, except when I would travel with him."
Before Johnson started clotheslining competitors with his bruising forearms, he was body-slamming quarterbacks as a defensive end at the University of Miami.
In 1991, he helped the Hurricanes win a national championship, and as a senior in 1994, he might have started, but for the presence of current Tampa Bay Buccaneers star Warren Sapp.
When an injury slowed his football career, Johnson headed for the WWF.
His education in wrestling began in a tiny ring in Tampa, Fla., with his recently retired dad as his teacher.
"It was six months of really detailed training," he says. "Falls, psychology, which is the biggest part of professional wrestling, and basic wrestling moves."
Johnson made his pro-wrestling debut as Rocky Maivia in March 1996 in Corpus Christi, Texas, an appearance that soon led to a contract with the WWF.
By February 1997, he was the Intercontinental Champion, an ascent to the top that turned out to be a little too rushed.
"I was 24 years old then, and I was the youngest Intercontinental Champ in history," he says. "It went so fast that it kind of hurt me."
Those less informed about professional wrestling should know that success in this glitzy world isn't always a matter of pure talent and skill.
Johnson, confirming what cynics always have said, described matches as "a ton of theatrics and a ton of showmanship."
The WWF has writers who shape the plot of the wrestling season, and the storyline is dictated by what the fans like to see, which is why "Stone Cold" Steve Austin is the current world champ, Johnson says.
As recently as 10 years ago, the ideal wrestler was a "good guy," an athlete who was nice to the fans but rough on the competition. In 1996, Johnson says, Austin defied that image by habitually raising his middle finger toward the crowd, among other stunts.
"Steve Austin was doing everything despicable and ignorant, and people started liking him," Johnson says. "Naturally, you'll see the world title around his waist - it's only good business."
With "outlaws" as the popular wrestlers, the baby-faced, honest Rocky Maivia was left in the cold.
"I would come out and smile, and people hated it," he said.
So he modified his character into arrogant, cocky the Rock, and he was a hit again.
"You also need your quintessential bad guy that everybody will pay to see get beat up, and that's the Rock," he says with a laugh. "Then when I don't lose the Intercontinental Title, it incites them even more."
He's proud of his role.
"I'm one of those men you love to hate. The Rock doesn't kiss babies and help old ladies across the street. The Rock loves it when you boo him," he says. "Just to incite that much emotion in someone means a lot to me, and to have the ability to do that is extraordinary."
WINDY CITY WRESTLING BRINGS IN BIG GUYS
(Cedar Rapids Gazette, December 20, 1998)
By Adam Lowenstein
There are no 10-foot video screens or fancy pyrotechnics at the matches and some of the muscle-bound participants toil 40 hours a week in their "regular" jobs. But please don't call the professional Windy City Wrestling organization minor league.
That might make league champion Ripper Manson, all 255 pounds of him, angry. And when he gets angry, his tattoo-covered arms, as thick as an ordinary man's thigh, could do some damage.
"This is at that level," Manson said Saturday afternoon, a few hours before his title bout with Greg "The Hammer" Valentine at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Cedar Rapids.
By "that level," he meant the level of better-known wrestling organizations like the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) or World Championship Wrestling, where ring action is hyped with fog, lasers and video.
"They're bigger multimillion-dollar outfits, whereas we're smaller, independent, based in the Midwest area. But what we've got to work with, what we do, is the same quality. I don't think anyone will be disappointed coming to one of our shows," said Manson, 30.
WINDY CITY Wrestling (WCW) is, as the name indicates, based in Chicago, where its matches often are televised.
Founded 12 years ago by former wrestler Samuel DeCero (known as Super Maxx in his fighting days), WCW boasts about 70 wrestlers. It exists in what is labeled the "independent circuit" of wrestling, meaning the wrestlers are not under exclusive contract to WCW. As independent contractors, they sign up for one or two matches at a time.
That differs from the WWF, where the biggest names sign lucrative, exclusive contracts for a year or longer.
Any day now, 32-year-old Chicago native Mike Anthony will sign with WWF, where he wrestles as Devastation Inc. with his tag-team partner, Steve Boz.
He expects to get at least $250,000 when he signs. As the Windy City heavyweight champ he collects about $500 per match.
He agrees with Manson that, for whatever reasons, Windy City Wrestling and other organizations like it are considered small-time. The biggest myth of the independent circuit, he said, "is just that we're lower class than the higher-up guys.
"Well, this is where they all started. In fact, I'm there (with the higher-ups) now. But I still wrestle here. It's the same (at the WWF), except we get more money."
Well, not exactly the same.
For example, it's unlikely that there are too many full-time electricians wrestling for Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling.
But that's what Ripper Manson does 40 hours per week. On weekends he wrestles, something he's been doing for nine years.
And rarely are prominent wrestlers from the World Wrestling Federation required to help build the ring before matches, as rookies at Windy City do. And it's a safe bet that most World Championship Wrestling stars earn more than 40 bucks for a bout, which sometimes is the payout for Windy City guys, Manson said.
The last time Hulk Hogan and friends were in Cedar Rapids, they packed 8,000 fans into the Five Seasons Center. Promoters expected the 2,500-seat Coliseum to be a half to three-quarters full last night.
But none of that matters to the wrestlers.
When they're in that ring, the clotheslines are as painful, the referees are as gullible, and the chairs are as hard as in any professional wrestling match in the country, whether it's "Stone Cold" Steve Austin wrestling for the Federation or Ripper Manson wrestling for Windy City.
"It's a rush. It's just an adrenaline rush," Manson said. "If you've even been in a situation where you are confronted with somebody, and you get that tingle that runs up the back of your neck, and you get that little numbness in your hand, I'll tell you what, nothing beats that feeling."
IOWA CAMEO ON ‘BIOGRAPHY’
(Cedar Rapids Gazette, January 11, 1999)
By Gus Schrader
Maybe you missed what we newspaper types call "local angles" to significant stories in 1998.
Let's start with Jesse Ventura, the new governor of our wonderful sister state Minnesota. I hope you were able to watch "Biography" on the A&E channel Dec. 30 when Ventura's interesting life story was presented in hourlong fashion.
The man who got him started in pro wrestling was Bob Geigel, a University of Iowa graduate from Algona who was a heavyweight wrestler for the Hawkeyes, then went on to a long career in the pro circuit. When Bob grew tired of being bounced around tank-town mats, he joined Gust correct Karras, the Kansas City promoter. He took over the operation after Karras died.
Speaking of Geigel reminds me of the last time he wrestled (as an amateur) Verne Gagne, NCAA champion from Minnesota. The two had met eight times during their collegiate careers, with Gagne winning them all. The ninth time came in the finals of the National AAU tournament at Coe's Moray Eby Fieldhouse.
This match was dynamite. The two struggled with might and main with very close scoring. When it was over, the referee huddled with the scorers, then came out and raised Geigel's hand. The crowd, which included many Geigel boosters from Iowa, went wild and practically carried their hero to the dressing room. Only then did the officials huddle again. They called the competitors back from their lockers, and this time came the sad announcement there had been an error in scoring and Gagne was the real champion.
The two men faced each other countless times on the pro circuit. I don't know how those "matches" came out, but Gagne was the "national champion" (Midwest version at least) there, too, often using his famous "sleeper hold" that finished opponents.
Oh, one more thing about Ventura: The "Biography" show mentioned his mother was born in Iowa. Does anyone know what her maiden name was and what Iowa town or city she came from?
TIM CASTS HIS VOTE FOR WRESTLING
(Cedar Rapids IA Gazette, May 26, 1999)
By Suzanne Barnes
Professional wrestling has had a headlock on Tim Burrow since he was a youngster.
And the wrestler who put the hold on him was Andre the Giant, the 7-foot 4- inch 540-pound professional wrestler Tim first spied from the fourth row of Chase Arena in St. Louis. Tim had gone to the match with his father.
In August 1989, when Tim was living in Cedar Rapids and attending Prairie High School, he again saw Andre the Giant. This time it was "when they had that little incident with the (KCRG) TV-9 cameraman."
Andre the Giant apparently was upset that the cameraman had filmed his losing match with the Ultimate Warrior and, after ripping the camera from his hands, put the cameraman in a headlock. Police arrested the Giant, who went quietly with the officers.
"I got his handprint from jail," says Tim, who produces his photo copy. "I had a teacher who was friends with a guy down at the jail."
Andre the Giant has since passed away, so these days, Tim watches "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. Hogan used to be considered a good guy in wrestling but now he's gone to the other side. Flair seems to be turning into a bad guy too, Tim says.
After the election of Jesse Ventura as governor of Minnesota, there was talk that Hogan would enter politics. Tim grins and says if it happens, he'd be really proud. "I'll probably definitely vote if that happens."
Tim, who works in maintenance at the Five Seasons Center, likes professional wrestling so much he considered going to wrestling school. The $1,000 or so tuition has kept him from actually enrolling though.
However, Tim doesn't like the direction he sees some professional wrestling taking. "Wrestling is different than it was in the '80s," he says. "It's not so much like family entertainment. It's going toward more the adult-oriented type entertainment.
WWF (World Wrestling Federation) is going that way and WCW (World Championship Wrestling) is more the family show."
Tim doesn't think kids should be watching some of the female wrestlers or the violence in the ring or hearing the cursing. "I know it's all entertainment, that they don't go out there and try to hurt each other," but children may not understand.
Karen, Tim's wife, will watch televised wrestling with Tim, but she won't go to a live event. Too noisy, she says. Yet it's not just noise that makes live events different from TV.
"You see things that you normally wouldn't see on TV," says Tim, such as the action that continues during commercial breaks, or when a fight goes on after the telecast has ended.
He says before a live event that is being recorded for TV begins, the announcer comes out and inflames the crowd, reminding them it's a nationally televised event. Tim, who is relatively mild mannered, gets pumped for wrestling. "Every now and then I'll yell at the TV when I'm watching," he admits. "She'll have to calm me down."
Tim scans the TV magazine for any appearance by a pro wrestler so he or Karen can tape it. He also collects pro wrestling tapes, finding bargains at garage sales or video store sales. Tim keeps a list of what tapes he has in his collection so he doesn't buy duplicates.
Because of his job at the Five Seasons Center, Tim occasionally gets a glimpse of a pro wrestler during a live event, usually during someone else's match. They'll say "Hi" or something, he says.
And, in spite of all the violence in the ring, pro wrestlers are fairly tidy in their dressing rooms. "They're clean, they're tame compared with the rock stars and stuff," says Tim, who cleans up after both.
"You'd think it would be the other way around since they're so rowdy and stuff like that."
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