THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS Nos. 191-2001 & 192-2001
SLAM! WRESTLING TELLS THE GEORGE SCOTT STORY
(SLAM! Wrestling, November, 2001)
By Greg Oliver
First, there was George Scott, the wrestler, who was a solid
competitor both in singles and tag matches with his younger brother Sandy from
1948 to 1972.
Then there was George Scott, the booker, who made the Mid-Atlantic territory sizzle in the '70s and early '80s, and was the calm hand behind the WWF at the first two WrestleManias.
Where to begin, then, when sitting down for dinner with George, his non-wrestling brother Walter and Walter's wife Evelyn? Well, why not at the beginning.
George Scott was born in Dalmeny, Scotland, but his parents actually lived in Hamilton, and were visiting relatives. Angus (Sandy) was the next born, followed by Walter. They also had a sister named Geannie who died young. Their father was a milkman in Hamilton.
As a youngster, George was into hockey, basketball and roller-skating. He began amateur wrestling at the YMCA at 12 and started weightlifting at 13. "I used to get in fights and get the crap beat out of me. I had to do something!" he said with a laugh.
The Scotts lived close to the home of the Sharpes -- Hamilton's best-known wrestlers at the time, Ben and Mike Sharpe, whose father was a policeman. "They were heroes of mine," Scott said. "I used to go sit on their door step."
In his early days, George credits Pat Murphy and Dano Macdonald as big helps.
Martin Hutzler was the other one who made a difference. Hutzler faced a young George Scott one day at the YMCA and came away impressed. "He beat the crap out of me but could not pin me," Scott said, explaining that Hutzler even tried all the dirty tricks like hair pulling and eye gouging. Two years later, George saw Hutzler after his first pro match and Hutzler didn't recognize him. "He and I became the best of friends after that."
Though it's a little unclear in the mists of time, Scott figures that his first match was at age 17 in Wasaga Beach. He claims that he was never actually 'wizened up' to the worked nature of pro wrestling, but that the education "just came along as you went along."
Frank 'Scotty' Thompson recalled the young man he met in the late '40s. "I first met George Scott in the Brantford armories. He looked far too young to be in the business. He was there trying to get Joe Maiche, the promoter and biggest thief in the business, to book him. I had not been in the business too long myself."
At 18, George sent some photos to Toledo, where Jack Pfefer promoted, on the advice of fellow local grapplers. To his surprise, Pfefer brought Scott to town, where he dubbed the youngster Benny Becker. "I'll never forget this. He says 'you're going to be my 19-year-old wonder-boy,'" Scott recalled, adding that he was quick to reply that he was only 18.
Scott learned a lot in Toledo. "Some of the oldtimers adopted me as their son," he said. During his time in Toledo, he got to fight Buddy Rogers twice and figures he took on Gorgeous George at least 15 times -- "plain George wrestles Gorgeous George".
Georgia and North Carolina followed his stint in Toledo, and then came Toronto under John Katan.
In 1952, George was paralyzed for six months after a match with Buddy Rogers in Florida. "I remember him kicking me in the back," Scott said. He went to work out the next day, then "I crawled to my apartment on my hands and knees."
He passed out in the bathroom, and the light was left on. A friend came by and, seeing the light on and Scott not responding to his knocking, broke into the apartment and got Scott to the hospital. The local hospital said it was a deep bruise in his hip and he used up four tickets on the plane back to Toronto to be comfortable enough.
In Toronto, he was diagnosed as having three ruptured discs in his back. Scott opted not to have surgery because the doctor told him he wouldn't be able to wrestle again. Instead, he took a year off, living with his parents.
Jack Laskin was just breaking into the business as George was off injured. "George hurt his back and was incapacitated for quite a while," Laskin said. "This was just before I broke into the business with John Katan and Tunney. We ran a couple of stags and fundraisers for George to help him get back on his feet."
For George, it was tough. "I had to start all over again," he said. His parents didn't want him to go back into wrestling either. "They were always afraid of me getting hurt. His mother wanted him to be a police officer. He worked for a while as a bouncer at a bar, and was offered a chance to manage the bar, but turned it down to return to wrestling.
In 1953, his brother Angus entered the wrestling business too,
and was billed as Sandy. Though George doesn't have a lot of good things to say
about his brother now -- "I wasted three years of my career with him"
-- he did help his brother break into the business. (Their break is of a more
recent vintage. George Scott explained his side. "I don't keep in touch
with him. He and I had a falling out when our mother passed away and he never
showed up for the funeral. Couple of other things happened that he did to me,
and I've never bothered with him since.")
The Scotts were a well-respected team back in the '50s, however. "George and Sandy Scott were a very good tag around Toronto and Buffalo territories in the late 50's and early 60's and then they moved to the Carolinas where they did very good," recalled The Destroyer Dick Beyer.
As a duo, the Scotts were Canadian tag champions in Alberta in 1954, two-time AWA tag champions in Indiana in the early '60s, and three-time tag champions in Australia later that same decade.
George Scott spent six years in Calgary with Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling, mostly teaming with Sandy. "I love Calgary," he said. "We did great business out in western Canada." One time, he recalled the promotion turning away 6,000 as the Scotts were facing The Miller Brothers in a main event.
Calgary was also the site of George's biggest 'missed opportunity.’ Whipper Billy Watson was coming in to Calgary as the champ and had sent a list in advance of people he wouldn't face from the territory -- Luther Lindsay, George Gordienko and George Scott.
It turns out that George had upset The Whip years before in Toronto when he worked against Lee Henning in a semi-main event. A newspaper wrote about the match stealing the show the next day. "From then on I never left the first or second match," he explained.
Whipper was facing Killer Kowalski in Calgary and the fans began chanting "We want Scott". Tuesday night in Edmonton, Watson offered Scott the chance to be his tag team partner back in Toronto. Scott recalled responding 'I don't need you Watson'. "Biggest mistake I ever made in my life," he said. Billy Red Lyons took the role and rocketed up the ranks.
In the ring, George Scott was just about always a clean-cut good guy. He is most associated with Calgary, where he helped Stu Hart with the booking, and the Carolinas, where he eventually became the booker for Jim Crockett Sr. Even when he was wrestling in the Mid-Atlantic area, Crockett Sr. wanted to keep Scott around. "I turned down Japan three times," he said, explaining that Crockett Sr. would always offer him something to keep him in the Carolinas.
After breaking his neck during a match in Texas in 1972, Scott's in-ring career ended, and an even more influential role as booker was about to begin.
Being a booker for any promotion is basically a thankless job.
There's always somebody upset with the way they are being used, their payoff or
So George Scott was very pleased to be thanked repeatedly at a WWF house show in Tampa recently by WWF owner Vince McMahon for all his work in helping to establish the company into the powerhouse it is today.
Though he got out of the business in 1986, Scott was the booker for the WWF during all of its initial big hits – WrestleMania I and II, the first few Saturday Night's Main Events on NBC. His last big show with the WWF was the appropriately titled Big Event at Toronto's Exhibition Stadium.
The irony of it, though, is that while Vince McMahon Jr. was plotting to take over territories across the continent, burning bridges with people his father had worked with for years, George Scott only came to work for the WWF because of his respect and friendship with Vince McMahon Sr.
Having left the Crocketts' Mid-Atlantic territory in 1982, Scott helped Jim Barnett a little with his promotion and considered buying the rights to the Oklahoma territory.
One day in 1983, he got a call from Vince McMahon Sr., with whom he used to trade talent with when he ran the Carolinas. McMahon Sr. was sick in Florida, and told Scott that his son Vince Jr. needed help. "I said I'd be glad to help him," recalled Scott.
His first stop was in Atlanta, where he was to oversee the deal to replace Georgia Championship Wrestling on TBS. That deal fell apart, in part because of viewer complaints. "I don't know what the true story was," Scott said. "But I was sitting there doing nothing."
One thing led to another, and Scott starting doing the booking out of Miami for a few towns, which quickly grew into booking for the whole company.
From today's perspective of massive gates (and ticket prices), huge TV production and inflated wrestler salaries, it's hard to understand what the WWF went through. The growth was phenomenal, as was the workload.
Besides deciding who won and who lost (with a noted exception in Hulk Hogan), Scott also had to figure out what talent to bring in, negotiate salaries and plan what went into the magazines too. Everything was booked six weeks ahead. "I was in charge of everything up there."
In his typical, matter-of-fact style, Scott described how the WWF was suddenly grossing $3-4 million on weekends in 1984-1985. "Things just started popping."
The money started changing the wrestlers and drugs ran rampant. "The only trouble was when I was in New York. That's when the drugs started," Scott explained. "I guess what happened was these drug dealers are coming and found out where they're staying, and said, 'Hey, try this.' They'd give it to them, and for a couple of weeks they'd be giving it all to them, then all of a sudden these guys had $500-a-day habits.
"So finally we had to go on a drug program up there, where we started drug testing."
The drug problems made planning programs difficult. "It was terrible. Doing the booking, and there'd be four to five guys that wouldn't show up for matches. It was all through drugs. We finally got it under control but it was a son-of-a-gun doing it.
"It got to the point where we did the drug testing, and if they failed they got suspended for six weeks. When they came back, the deal was if they got caught again, they were finished. Most of them cleaned up, but a few of them didn't."
Scott's relationship with then-WWF champ Hulk Hogan deteriorated after they had a big argument backstage in Madison Square Garden about some unsavoury characters hanging around. That led to Hogan going above Scott. "Hogan wasn't mine ... I had no control over him."
George ‘The Animal’ Steele was around the WWF in those early days, and recalled the problems between Scott and Hogan. "George Scott was a good man for the times. We were in uncharted waters and the business was changing fast. As all bookers, George had some favourites and tried to push them a little too fast. In the WWF it takes time to become a major player. That plus The Hulk had some different people in mind. Eventually those two forces came head to head. The Hulk had the power and there was not room for both."
Ego ran rampant at the first WrestleMania too, but not with
everyone. Scott said that Cyndi Lauper was "a jewel" and remembers a
drunk Billy Martin at a post-WrestleMania party claiming that he could beat up
He did some of the initial negotiations with Mr. T, and went to Atlanta to talk to him about appearing. Things didn't go well. "What a big shot. I told him where to get off!" Eventually, it was all smoothed over.
There are two things that stand out about Mr. T's participation for Scott. For one, Mr. T ran up $22,000 in expenses during the WrestleMania I week. The other happened during the main event of Hogan and Mr. T against Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff. At one point, Scott ran to ringside and pulled guest official Muhammad Ali out of the ring because Ali was to be the outside-the-ring ref, but it's off camera.
Scott has nothing but praise for Vince McMahon Jr. "The guy's a genius," Scott said, adding that he's also a workaholic.
That workload eventually got to Scott, but not before some other triumphs.
For the initial Saturday Night's Main Event, he recalled working three days straight with Dick Ebersol from NBC. "Ebsersol wanted to do all this goofy stuff," Scott said. "He wanted to make it like Saturday Night Live." Coming from a more traditional wrestling background, Scott was opposed to the cartoony stuff. "They did a lot of stuff they didn't tell me they were doing!"
Of course, the WWF had already been doing some cartoony things on the Tuesday Night Titans program.
"Early on George Scott pulled me aside and told me that Vince had a tendency to go to far on the Tuesday Night Titans show," George Steele explained. "George Scott told me that Vince had high respect for me and that if things started to get too far out to just call Vince aside and tell him.
"Butcher Vachon's wedding was the first total cartoon. I called Vince aside and ask him if he was going to use that tape on the USA show. I told him if he did that he might kill wrestling. Vince said that he would find out."
The wedding was shown on TV three weeks in a row. "That is when wrestling went to the top of the charts. I knew right then that wrestling had changed so I changed," Steele said. "Vince has always been the boss but George Scott was respected as the front man. Wrestling as it was went stage left after George Scott left."
"George Scott was not the right personality, in my opinion, for that job because he was too nice of a guy. He found it very hard playing people against each other," said wrestling journalist Bill Apter. "He couldn't deal with people who said 'No'."
Like all bookers, Apter said there were wrestlers that hated him. "A lot of guys hate a booker when they're not getting the push they think they should get. They consider it personal, but it's not."
Eventually, it wasn't the silliness that made Scott quit the WWF, it was the workload. "If I keep this up, I'm going to die," Scott recalled thinking.
After leaving the WWF in the summer of 1986, Scott went to World Class and Fritz Von Erich but decided he couldn't work there. A trip to North Carolina followed, but things didn't pan out. He settled in Florida, golfs and swims quite a bit, and rents condos out.
Early in his wrestling career, George Scott realized that he wanted to work behind the scenes.
In the 1950s, he helped Stu Hart make matches in Stampede Wrestling, dreaming of the day when he would be the sole booker.
That chance finally came in 1973. Scott had been knocked out of in-ring action by a broken back in Texas. John Ringly, Jim Crockett Sr.'s son-in-law, called up Scott and asked him to come to Charlotte, N.C. to help out.
Pretty soon, Scott had gained the confidence of the Crocketts. It was a changing of the guard there, as the senior Crockett was turning things over to his sons Jim Crockett Jr. and David Crockett.
Scott had a radical idea for the promotion, Les Thatcher told Dick Bourne in an interview with Mid-Atlantic Gateway: "What I do remember is George Scott mentioning to the Crocketts that he was going to kill the territory in essence to rebuild it, which was a bold statement to make back then, or to make anyway when your looking for a job, 'I'm going to kill your business so I can build it back again'!"
Scott's big plan was to bring Johnny Valentine in to the territory and base the promotion around him. Charlotte had traditionally been a tag-team territory, and the idea was to change the focus. Wahoo McDaniel and The Super Destroyer (Don Jardine) were the two other initial singles stars.
Valentine's ascent took time. "When I did the promotion for the cards in the Carolinas, [Valentine] was probably the hottest card I had in there," Scott said. "But it took me six, seven months for people to start coming, getting to him. But after then, he was ungodly real, we did ungodly business with him."
In Scott Teal's Whatever Happened to …? newsletter, Ronnie West talked about him. "George Scott was a good booker, too. It would take him awhile to get things going, but once he got things rolling, it really popped." Later West worked with Scott in the Atlanta territory, controlled by Jim Barnett. "I was his assistant when he booked Atlanta. Everybody was hollering, 'Man, he ain't drawing no money,' but you could see that it was going in the right direction. They just didn't give him time in Atlanta to do it."
Jack Brisco was the NWA World Champion when Scott began to
book in Charlotte. "All the boys in the business always thought that George
was -- he and Louie Tillet were two of the best bookers ever. Everybody thought
that George was a great booker," Brisco said. "What made George
different as a booker and an excellent booker was that he would always approach
each individual involved in the match and get their side of it, their opinion of
everything. Most bookers, when you got there, they had the finish laid out and
what they want to do and what direction they we wanted to go, between them and
the promoter. But George took the approach of getting the input from each
wrestler involved in it."
In a different interview on Mid-Atlantic Gateway, Thatcher said that he remembers Scott making Ric Flair sit down and watch tapes of 'Nature Boy' Buddy Rogers.
Brisco remembers how hot the territory was. "We had a
real good run when George was booking Mid-Atlantic. That was THE territory to be
in at that time. It was extremely hot. Of course, they were loaded from top to
bottom with great talent."
There was indeed some incredible talent starting to appear in the mid-'70s. Names like Ric Flair, Rick Steamboat, Superfly Jimmy Snuka and Roddy Piper owe a lot to George Scott. "All those guys were my proteges," he said. "Flair wanted to be a cowboy. I said 'You ain't going to be a cowboy!'"
Besides booking, Scott would appear on TV as the NWA 'Trouble Shooter' and would lace up his boots on occasion to put guys over.
In the late '70s, Scott joined up with Crockett Jr. to buy into Jack Tunney’s Maple Leaf Wrestling promotion. Scott's third of the promotion came out to $100,000. That opened up Toronto, Buffalo and the rest of southern Ontario to an NWA invasion of sorts, bringing different talent into the area. In the mid-'80s, Tunney sold out to Vince McMahon Jr. and the WWF. That lead to Scott suing Tunney, and in 1992, Scott got a $500,000 settlement, with $150,000 in lawyer fees.
In the early-'80s, Scott left the Mid-Atlantic territory. He insists that he quit. "And that's a true story. I quit. I've heard other stories," he said. "Everything I opened, I was supposed to get 5% of the gate."
Scott gave six-weeks notice before leaving. The success of the promotion meant that egos were out of control. "They were getting big heads" from bringing in so much business, he said. Payroll had grown from $20,000-$25,000 a week when he started to $100,000-$200,000 a week.
Crockett Jr. took Scott to court after he left, but the matter was dropped.
His success out of Charlotte meant that he had many opportunities. "I had so many offers it was unreal." After taking a couple of months off, he ended up with Jim Barnett and Georgia Championship Wrestling. Barnett said that he needed help, and Scott agreed to help out, but only for a short while. He lasted just two months.
On another occasion, Scott said that he was approached by Eddie Einhorn to help out with his big plan for a national wrestling promotion, which eventually was the IWA. Scott said that he was offered $250,000 a year and a percentage of the business, but that he turned it down.
When Atlanta fizzled, Scott looked into the Oklahoma promotion, which was up for sale. They were asking $250,000 for the territory. Scott investigated and found that the taxes hadn't been paid and said no. Bill Watts then came in.
His stint in the WWF was next up, and sealed Scott's legacy as one of the most important behind-the-scenes personalities ever in wrestling.
When asked about his booking success, he chalks it up to thinking the right way. "Positive thinking in how to draw money, how to draw people in there... it's a completely different thing now."
Scott didn't believe in wrestling and booking at the same time, except in specific cases, like when he took on Johnny Valentine and put him over, further elevating his star. He also had specific rules that seem quaint now -- only one save in a tag team match, no going over the top rope.
The kid from Hamilton sure meant a lot to the wrestling business from 1948 to 1986. Hopefully, after reading his story, more fans will come to appreciate his legacy.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 193-2001
(ED. NOTE – Industrious Los Angeles-area wrestling historian Steve Yohe has been unearthing additional clippings from the stockpile of pro wrestling history. We thank him for sharing for the benefit of WAWLI readers.)
WRESTLERS MEET MONDAY TO SETTLE LONG MAT DISPUTE
(Wichita Eagle, June 19, 1938)
In a bout under complete supervision of the Kansas athletic commission, Everett Marshall, La Junta, Colo., will meet Lee Wyckoff, Osborne, Kan., to settle the title dispute in a finish affair, best two out of three falls, modified rules, Monday night at Lawrence Stadium.
The participants, who have met several times during the past season without the issue having been settled, are each predicting a victory and the outcome will mean that the winner will be recognized by the Kansas athletic commission as the official heavyweight champion.
As a matter of fact it was the state athletic body that was instrumental in bringing the pair together in a finish bout.
Both wrestlers worked out before the public at different hours Saturday night at Sandy Beach.
Marshall said he felt certain that he could beat Wyckoff without the time handicap and said he planned to do it with the airplane spin.
Wyckoff in his workouts has been relying much on the headlock, which he hopes to use to beat Marshall.
Maxwell Bauman, manager of Wyckoff, arrived here yesterday afternoon in advance of the title match and predicted a decisive Wyckoff victory.
Seating arrangements have been completed at Lawrence Stadium, according to N.B. Stauffer, in charge of the ticket sale. There will be about 5,000 unreserved seats on sale at the minimum price, he said.
The rest of the card:
Louis Thesz, St. Louis, former world’s heavyweight champion, vs. Al Getz, Milwaukee, Wis.; Pat McCleary, New York City, vs. Firpo Wilcox, Bixby, Okla.; Dutch Wyman, Topeka, Kan., vs Harry Kent, Portland, Ore.
Opening bout will be at 8:30 p.m.
KYUS KIRKPATRICK AND EVERETT MARSHALL AT FAMILY REUNION
(Wichita Eagle, June 20, 1938)
"I’ll throw any of ‘em you can’t handle, Everett."
That’s what Kyus Kirkpatrick, who is celebrating his 90th birthday, Sunday told his grand-nephew, Everett Marshall, La Junta, Colo., former world’s heavyweight champion, and he meant it.
The Civil War veteran’s eyes lfashed as he spoke, for he is a rabid wrestling fan and never misses a match when Marshall headlines the bill.
"You bet I’ll be there Monday night," said Kirkpatrick when asked if he would be at the ringside this evening when Marshall clashes with Lee Wyckoff, Kansas heavyweight champion.
Kirklpatrick, whose appearance belies his years, and Marshall were honored guests at a picnic given for them by relatives Sunday afternoon at Park Villa. The younger man, however, took top honors when it came to eating chicken, although Kirkpatrick asked for several helpings.
Marshall was joined here by his wife, his two children, Robert, 4, and Ann, 2, and his mother, Mrs. H.C. Marshall, all of La Juna.
"Father couldn’t get away, as this is the busy season on the ranch, which comprises 1,100 acres of irrigated land," Marshall said. "We have enough work to do at the present time to keep 30 hired hands busy," he added.
Marshall made no predictions on the outcome of the match this evening, but the 75 relatives present answered for him with "Of course, Everett will win."
Kirkpatrick, whose faith in Marshall is unmatched by anyone, looks for him to win without any trouble.
The Civil War veteran, a native of Missouri, was a member of Company H, of the Eighth Missouri volunteer infantry and served in the last year of the war between the states.
In company with his daughter, Mrs. Nola Kastern, with whom he makes his home, Kirkpatrick will leave later in the month for Gettysburg, Pa., where he will be the guest of the United States government at a reunion of Union and Confederate veterans.
"I already have got my invitation," he said. "All I am waiting for now is railroad transportation."
He and his daughter will arrive at Gettysburg June 29 and will spend eight days visiting the battlefields, which marked the high tide of the Confederacy in the war of secession.
After the Civil War, Kirkpatrick remained in Missouri until 1880 when he went to La Junta, where he rode the cattle range and operated a ranch. Later, he moved to California and then came here several years ago to make his home with his only daughter.
Out-of-town guests at the picnic included Mr. And Mrs. William Bigelow, and daughter, of Moberly, Mo., and Mr. And Mrs. C. C. Buchanan, their daughter, Nina, and Miss Verna Boyer, all of Hutchinson.
WINNER OF MATCH TONIGHT WILL BE HEAVY CHAMPION
(Wichita Eagle, Monday, June 20, 1938)
Everett Marshall, La Junta, Colo., will wrestle Lee wyckoff in a bout to determine the world’s heavyweight championship under supervision of the Kansas athletic commission tonight at Lawrence Stadium.
Both Marshall and Wyckoff completed their training Sunday afternoon, each appearing in public workouts.
Before the title bout takes place, Lawrence Stadium will be transformed from a baseball plant into a wrestling arena. In other words, the ring is to be constructed near home plate and ringside seats are being added on all sides.
The Kansas athletic commission also must announce the referee for the championship bout this afternoon. Those close to the situation say that Frank Gilleece, state athletic commissioner, has named Lou Spangle, Missouri official, but this could not be confirmed last night at Topeka.
About 5,000 seats at the stadium are being offered at the minimum price and N.B. Stauffer, head of the ticket sales, believes the largest crowd that has attended a title bout here in history will be present.
Due to the fact that the Kansas commission has suspended the 12 o’clock closing time, either Marshall or Wyckoff is to be eliminated from claiming the championship. The winner, on the other hand, will be recognized in the commission states as the world’s titlist.
Maxwell Bauman, manager of Wyckoff, said that Lee was in better shape than any time during his career.
"I am confident that Wyckoff is the greatest wrestler in the country," said Bauman. "Compared to Marshall, he is stronger and more rugged and this, I predict, will be the reason that Lee Wyckoff will be known over the world after the Wichita match as the world’s champion."
Marshall spent most of Sunday with the exception of the time he worked out with his family – including his wife and two children – at the home of relatives here.
"There was never a match I desired to win as badly as the one against Wyckoff and I’ll be very disappointed if I fail to beat him," Marshall said.
The first of three special events that support the championship bout will start at 8:30 p.m. with the main attraction getting under way about two hours later.
KANSAN WINS LONE FALL IN SECOND OVERTIME PERIOD
(Wichita Eagle, Tuesday, June 21, 1938)
The Society for the Suppression of Lee Wyckoff will have to wait another season for a celebration.
The giant Kansan defended his claim to the state championship last night at Lawrence Stadium by winning a one-fall match from Everett Marshall in the second overtime period of a modified rules bout which, on the whole, was a dull affair.
The total elapsed time was one hour, 27 minutes, and 48 seconds.
The lone fall of the match came in 2:48 of the second extra session. They wrestled out the allotted one hour and a quarter without result, went to the first ten minutes extra period, likewise with no scores made, and then Wyckoff hit a homer in the second overtime, greatly to the disgust of most of the crowd estimated at 3,200 by sponsors.
The fans will be just as much divided in their opinions pro and con about Wyckoff’s wrestling ability as ever before. However, unquestionably last night, Marshall was the inferior wrestler. Outweighed by Wyckoff, the stocky blond Coloradoan gave but few flashes of his former championship ability.
On those few occasions when he did get going, he tossed Wyckoff out or over. The fans got their biggest kick when Marshall three times deposited Wyckoff in the lap of Lee’s brain trust, Maxwell Bauman, toward the end of the regular session.
But on the whole it was Wyckoff night at the stadium. Whether Marshall had a strange lapse of form, or whether Leering Lee is just a bit better than most of the folks thought is a matter of opinion. But the last-minute buzz that it was Wyckoff’s night held true. Lee forced the issue almost from the start, punished Marshall with toe holds and arm locks continually and even Marshall’s most ardent admirers were forced to admit that if Marshall had at one time been a superior wrestler he had either slipped badly last night, or didn’t care much, one or the other.
As far as a wrestling match was concerned, it wasn’t much. The big fellows toiled and tugged and sweat, while the fans were comfortable under a perfect summer evening. But there was no science displayed at any time. As for wrestling class it might have been just another Monday evening preliminary.
Referee Lou Spangle was the last-minute choice for arbiter, which was the tip off for a slight rush of wagering on Wyckoff – there wasn’t enough done, however, to break Jimmy’s penny bank. Fans constantly exhorted Spangle to watch Lee’s kneeing tactics, or punching. But the referee allowed all the old stuff to take place, on both sides of the fence.
Wyckoff by his victory settled the January draw. The two also had wrestled two or three draws in Kansas City and elsewhere.
In the semi-final, Louis Thesz, who took the title away from Marshall in December only to lose it to Crusher Casey a month later, dumped Al Getz in 16:35 of a good match. Thesz made a hit by fast and clever work.
Pat McCleary dumped Firpo Wilcox in 14:05 in the second bout and in the opener Dutch Wyman took Al Friedman to campj in 12:45.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 194-2001
WATSON SUBDUES RUGGED O’DONNELL IN ROUGH MATCH
(Globe & Mail, Toronto ON, Friday, Feb. 28, 1947)
By Jim Vipond
Whipper Billy Watson, idol of Toronto’s wrestling fandom, took 26 minutes and 21 seconds to successfully defend the initial challenge to his recently won world championship before more than 8,000 rabid supporters at Maple Leaf Gardens last night.
The challenger was badman Sandy O’Donnell, a caddish character who proved to be a stubborn stumbling block. On several occasions the villain caused the Watson entourage (which included most of the fans) to conjure up grim visions of sudden mat ruination as he came within a single slap from referee Cliff Worthy, of pinning the East York citizen and donning the accolade of ring superiority, as recognized in 36 of the U.S.A.
Sandy, a tallish operator who likes nothing better than to irritate the cash customers by sticking out his chest and strutting about the ring before and after a bout, win, lose or draw, used practically every illegal trick of the trade in a fruitless effort to vanquish the NWA champion of only a week’s duration.
He kicked, choked, gouged and punched the Whip for minutes on end to the accompaniment of the usual rush of faithful to the ringside screeching incriminations at the crew-cut performer.
However, Watson was equal to it all and had enough in reserve after twenty-five minutes to apply liberal portions of the flaying Irish Whip and the apparently unbreakable Canadian Avalanche. O’Donnell took a lot of punishment from the Whip with the whip, but it was the Avalanche that eventually cost him the bout.
The more rabid customers surrounded the ring after the bout and O’Donnell refused to leave until an adequate police cordon was provided. At that he had to run a gauntlet of men and women who let their irritation get the best of them and started charging the police line. One character managed to press a lighted cigaret against O’Donnell’s bare shoulder.
A new villain was introduced to Toronto fans in the semi-final in Lou Newman, making his first appearance at the Gardens. Newman, who calls Hollywood home, wrestled to a 30-minute draw with popular Bobby Bruns.
Also making his Toronto debut was a masked character named The Mummy. The fans had little opportunity of getting more than a quick glimpse at the strange one, however, as he took only five minutes and 47 seconds to subdue Toar Morgan with a body slam in the opening bout.
WHIP TAMES WILD BILL BEFORE MOB OF 15,000
(Globe & Mail, Toronto ON, Friday, March 7, 1947)
By Allan Nickleson
Whippah Billy Watson retained his newly won world wrestling championship before a jam-packed, roaring multitude of some 15,000 fans at Maple Leaf Gardens last night – and he accomplished the feat fairly easily againset the caddish chappie he beat for the bauble.
While movie cameras whirred and photographers’ flash bulbs popped, the moustached hero from East York came back from a wicked series of elbow smashes to smash balding Wild Bill Longson with the dreaded Canadian Avalanche – and that was all, brother! The largest crowd in at least 15 years saw it all.
The end came at 20:24, the mob streamed out happy and Wild Bill was in a terrible rage, indeed. He arose from the floor feeling his noggin and then, when the handsome Whip offered his hand, what did that loutish Longson do but give Whip his elbow – right in the chops.
The outraged Whipper gave that back with interest before special referee Jack Sharkey, imported from the land of the cod to officiate, broke it up by threatening to wallop all concerned with one of the fists that won him the world heavyweight boxing crown many years back.
As for the bout, the Whip never looked better. He held command most of the way, broke holds cleanly like the gent he is. The only work the thin-haired Sharkey had to do was to once whistle a right past Wild Bill’s ear when that ruffian swung at Boston John who had made him give up an illegal hold.
There were a few anxious moments, of course, for the world monarch (National Wrestling Association version, that is). Just before The Whippah came out of an apparent coma, induced by Longson’s knobby elbow joints as Watson came off the ropes, the 233-pound Canuck was down with Longson atop. The Whippah managed to separate his shoulder from the mat just as Sharkey’s hand was coming down for the third and final time.
The multitudes roared with glee ere that when Watson managed to entangle Longson’s feet and hands in the ropes, then belabored his helpless form with smashes to the chin and tummy. The Whip also ran Wild Bill’s cranium into the turnbuckles, which didn’t improve the temper of the oaf from St. Louis one iota.
When Watson applied the Avalanche – a dainty little thing he devised whereby the victim revolves like a pinwheel, striking his noggin hard on the floor each time the circle is completed – he revolved Longson four times, then leaped on him. Mr. Sharkey did the rest.
Before the main event, Col. Harry J. Landry of Friar’s Point, Ky., suh, presented The Whip with a bronze trophy, emblematic of the crown, and told the gathering that the championship belt would be along later. Mr. Watson has been expecting the belt since he took the title in Longson’s hometown two weeks ago when Wild Bill was disqualified.
Col. Landry happens to be president of the NWA as well as vice-president of the National Boxing Association, a cotton farmer, and as a banker, to boot, he probably helped promoter Frank Tunney count the house.
Indeed, Mons. Tunney was observed blowing huge clouds of cigar smoke and actually beaming along about the semi-final when the electrician away up in the beams was testing special blue spotlights to be used for better movie-lighting in the final.
That semi-final, incidentally, came close to stealing the show. The perfect cad, Strangler Bob Wagner, and the hero, Larry Moquin, did everything but throw the referee from the ring in wrestling to a 30-minute draw. The Strangler, a perfect longhair, was most unpleasant to Mons. Moquin and when Moquin replied in kind, with such tricks as kicking in the tummy, the crowd cheered like crazy.
There was humor, too. Once, Moquin entangled Wagner’s head and arms in the ropes so that the villain was looking at the audience with popping eyes and hanging tongue. An urchin popped up from nowhere and offered The Strangler a piece of hot dog. Mr. Wagner failed to accept.
Fred Von Schacht, towering smooth-dome, beat a hasty retreat to the showers past fist-swinging fans after traing Fred Blassie something horrible to win with a chinlock and head smash. In the first two preliminaries, Ernie Dusek bodyslammed Ben Sharpe into defeat in 10:32 and John Katan wrestled 20 minutes to a draw with Lou Newman.
BRITISH LORDS BEAT ARNOLD, NOMELLINI
(Sacramento Bee, March 30, 1954)
The English lords, Blears and Layton, defeated Don Arnold and Leo Nomellini last night in the tag team feature of the wrestling program in the Memorial Auditorium.
Layton used a body press to subdue Arnold in 19:40 for the opening fall. Arnold evened things in 14:45 by besting Blears with an airplane spin. Blears came back for the clincher to down Arnold in 9:05 with a back body drop.
The semiwindup went to Rocky Brown over Frank Valois in two straight falls, the first in seven minutes with a back breaker from which Valois was unable to recover.
The one-fall curtain raiser between Art Michalik and Aldo Bogni went 20 minutes to a draw.
NOMELLINI EXPECTS BIG THINGS FROM MICHALIK ON MAT
(Sacramento Bee, Tuesday, March 30, 1954)
By Marco Smolich
Leo Nomellini, all 252 pounds of him, pointed to a ruggedly handsome fellow, 24 years old, six feet two and 230 pounds.
"He was a successful amateur wrestler," declared Leo, a rugged tackle for the San Francisco 49ers and a rough character when it comes to grunting, groaning and grappling.
"Give him a chance to learn the professional style and he’ll do all right."
So spoke Nomellini about Art Michalik, a rookie standout in 1953 as a defensive guard for the San Francisco footballers.
Big Art was in the Memorial Auditorium dressing room last night prior to making his local debut as a wrestler. His opponent was to be Aldo Bogni, a mustachioed Argentinian, the villainous type about whom Michalik evidently knew little and cared less.
"This’ll be my 11th match as a pro," said Art. "I plan to keep on wrestling when I’m not playing football. Sure, Nomellini’s success gave me the idea but I’ve always liked to wrestle."
The sturdy American of Polish ancestry was quite a grappler for four years at St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa. He was unbeaten, made all-conference and in 1951 finished third in the Amateur Athletic Union’s national tournament.
For one year, before joining the 49ers, he was stationed as a marine at Treasure Island, where he coached the wrestling squad.
"There, see what I mean," interjected Nomellini, who was to appear in the tag team main event. "I’m telling you, let Art gain a little color in the ring and he and I will make up a fine tag combination."
Regardless of his wrestling background, Michalik, like Leo, is known better for his work on the gridiron. The 49ers did not latch onto him until the 19th pick and the other clubs still are kicking themselves.
How come an athlete of Michalik’s potential turned up for his collegiate ball at St. Ambrose?
"Well, I could have gone to any one of several Big Ten schools, or UCLA, or Notre Dame," remarked Art. "And there were others. I wanted to make sure I played right from the start, however, and at St. Ambrose there was no freshman rule so I got in four years of varsity experience."
Art, who merited Little All-American recognition, did not attend classes just to carry his books. He was graduated with a major in physical education and a minor in psychology.
"I may study for my masters in the Bay Area," he continued. "I like the West Coast. Chances are I’ll have my father, a police sergeant in Chicago, and mother move out here."
Both Michalik and Nomellini hold high hopes for the 49ers next season.
"As far as I know the only man we’re sure of losing to the army is Fred Bruney, a safety," observed Leo. "We’ll have ends Bill Jessup and Ed Henke and tackle Bob Toneff out of the service and halfback John Henry Johnson from the Canadian league. Those boys have proved themselves already.
"And we’ll ad some promising rookies. But I think a rookie will have a tough time making the club. If we pick up where we left off last year, we can take the championship."
Nomellini is happy Arnie Weinmeister, formerly a tackle for the New York Giants, decided to cast his lot in Canada.
"He’s easily the toughest player I’ve faced," said Leo.
Art’s idea of a really rough customer is Cleveland’s Frank Gatski, who figures to keep right on being troublesome.
"I’ll tell you something, though," added Leo. "Sixty minutes of wrestling takes more out of me than 60 minutes of football."
Anyway, after the wrestling wars, Nomellini and Michalik should need little work to be in shape for the 49ers game August 21 against the Washington Redskins at Hughes Stadium.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 195-2001
(ED. NOTE – Again, we are indebted to the fabulous ‘Yohe Press’ of Los Angeles.)
‘ALI BABA BAH!’ – SO SCOFFS GUS
(Detroit Free Press, April 28, 1936)
As far as Gus Sonnenberg is concerned, he will be wrestling for the world’s championship Friday night when he takes on Danno O’Mahoney at the Olympia. The dispute in the courts has not affected Gus in the least.
"I was in the same boat when I wrestled Ed (Strangler) Lewis about five, six years ago," he recalled. "Jim Browning was claiming the title, and so was Ed Don George. But I was interested in Lewis and whatever went with him. He was the champion as far as I was concerned and when I threw him, I took it.
"And it’s the same year," he continued. "Danno says he’s still the champ and it’s okay with me. I’ll throw him and I’ll take everything that goes with it. Especially that $10,000 belt. It’ll be worth my while at that."
Sonnenberg, who lacks no confidence in his own ability, was certain that he would pin O’Mahoney. He has tested the Irishman on several occasions but always fell shy of the mark.
"But he’s weakening," he said with a smile. "I’ve been softening him up."
If Sonnenberg upsets the Irishman, he will lack no opponents. Orville Brown, Jim McMillen and the veteran Lewis are on the same card and anxious to get the winner. Brown, especially, is on the trail of "Dynamite Gus" because of the manner in which the ex-gridder sidetracked him in their bout two weeks ago.
Brown is matched with Ernie Zeller, McMillen with Lewis, Sam Cordovano takes on Mike Romano and Nick Lutze meets Sun Jennings.
WARD TO THE WISE
(Detroit Free Press, May 4, 1936)
By Charles P. Ward
BOSTON – Recent developments in the wrestling industry have left Herr Adam (Cousin of Tarzan) Weissmuller sitting on top of the world. When this was written, Herr Weissmuller had the world champion in his custody, a truly remarkable individual with a name so remarkably appropriate that it must have been chosen by herr Weissmuller himself with malice aforethought. In all the wrestling industry there is no one else who could have sense of humor enough to think up a name like Ali Baba for the Kurd, Turk, Syrian, Armenian, man or beast, who has become the beneficiary of the strange concatenation of circumstances that recently have upset the wrestling status quo.
Even before he put the nose ring on his strange son of nature, Herr Weissmuller was doing very well by himself indeed. He had the Arena Gardens in Detroit which he had built into a very profitable enterprise. He made matches for a minor wrestling circuit which used smaller grapplers than the outsize pachyderms that have been popular throughout the country since the recent wrestling renaissance began. He also had a finger in a skating rink financial pic, and a couple of other enterprises which brought the blue chips rolling into the Weissmuller coffers in a stream that must have been truly gratifying.
Herr Weissmuller was not always so well fixed. In fact, only a few years ago, he was probably worse off financially and had a darker outlook than anybody else in Detroit. He is the one person who started from a considerable distance behind scratch and then beat the depression and even worse. One day, five or six years ago, a friend led a stumble bug, Herr Weissmuller, into the sports offices of the various Detroit newspapers. Herr Weissmuller was led in because, blind, he couldn’t find the way unless somebody steered him. He explained that he had been a wrestler and had contracted an eye disease common to matmen. He had no means of earning a livelihood and he wanted to know if the sports editors would mention it once in a while if he decided to promote wrestling shows in Detroit.
"This wolf that they are always talking about as being at the door," he explained, "is tough enough when you can see him. You ought to see how his howls can make your hair curl when you’re blind."
The sports editors consented to give Herr Weissmuller all the help they thought his enterprise deserved, and that was all Herr Weissmuller asked. He went away and started the enterprise that eventually became the Arena Gardens establishment and took the first steps on the long road to success.
Herr Weissmuller had a couple of bad years before he got his business upon a sound basis. He was handicapped by his eye trouble. He not only was blind but in great pain most of the time. He not only could not see but many a night could not sleep. He sat up holding his hands to his throbbing head, sweating and saying to himself, "They say this thing won’t seem to bad if I hang on a couple of years and it became chronic. I wonder if I can stand it? I wonder if I can hold out."
In those times Herr Weissmuller spent all of his profits on doctor bills and in traveling about the country to one specialist or another. When he heard of a doctor who had had any success in treating his disease he went to him.
There was a time when Herr Weissmuller made up his mind to have his eyes removed. He couldn’t stand the pain any more, he said, and since he had given up all hope of ever regaining his sight again, he decided to take the step that would end the scratching and burning and permit him to sleep.
Herr Weissmuller even told associates the day on which he would have the operation performed. But when that day arrived, he hesitated.
"The eyes don’t hurt so badly," he said, "and I’ve heard of another doctor. I’m going to try him."
Herr Weissmuller tried the other doctor and began to note improvement in his eyes. One day he discovered that he could see with his right eye once more. Weeks later the left eye began to improve. By slow stages he recovered. First he discarded the black glasses that he had worn so long. Then the glasses that had replaced them were tossed away. Eventually he was able to see as well as ever.
With the recovery of his sight Herr Weissmuller began to devote all of his attention to business. He made a lot of money even in the darkest days of the depression, but put most of it back into his business. He tried several times to resuscitate the prize fight industry in order to lessen the number of dark nights at the Gardens. When this failed he put in a roller rink and a costly pipe organ, and began to collect nightly profits.
His recent clash with the big eastern promoters is not Herr Weissmuller’s first battle since he began promoting; a few years ago he broke with Jack Reynolds and his powerful associations, but managed to remain in business.
But, despite his courage and canniness, Herr Weissmuller will have to be careful with his man-or-beast champion. He had better keep him off the street. Suppose Ray Steele or Jim Londos, or one of those other big guys, should pounce upon him on a crowded rue and pin him? He could claim the title and deprive Herr Weissmuller of much of the advantage he gained by working the hidden-champion trick with the aid of Herr Shikat. Of course, Herr Weissmuller could argue that that would not be a formal bout, but in the past there have been titular claims that have had less foundation than that.
LEO RETAINS MAT LAURELS WITH SHARPE
(Sacramento Union, Tuesday, March 29, 1955)
By Bob McCarty
The National Wrestling Alliance may not recognize Leo Nomellini as heavyweight wrestling champion of the world. Leo has no challengers in Sacramento County after the way he manhandled Ben Sharpe in Memorial Auditorium last night.
Off hand, we can think of no one in Yolo County who figures to give the San Francisco grid 49er a struggle – unless there is a "sleeper" in Woodland.
Large Leo took care of Mr. Sharpe in football fashion. Both came off the ropes for a flying tackle after bending each others’ arms and legs for about 20 minutes and both flattened out on the mat after the crash in mid-ring.
After moments of anxiety, they arose like sleeping giants and Leo proceeded to bull his opponent out of the ring. Sharpe dangled in mid-air for a moment when his left leg was caught in the strands and then continued his fall to the floor.
Ben wrenched his knee in the spill and was unable to get back into the ring at the count of 20. The end came after 24 minutes and 10 seconds.
Ben, who is known as a meanie in this mat business, hobbled to the dressing room with the aid of a couple of strong-armed gents while the fans hooted the loser.
We traipsed up to Nomellini’s powder room where the champ was accepted plaudits. His handler, Frank Malcewicz, did most of the talking while Leo grinned and showed his muscles.
Leo says he is serious about his mat work and may, or may not, get back to footballing for the 49ers.
The champ speaking: "If I do join the 49ers, it will be close to the start of the season. I can keep in shape wrestling and the pay isn’t bad."
Malcewicz has his tiger slated for action in Kansas City Thursday and St. Louis the following night. Leo meets Lu Kim the first night and "a fellow named (Johnny) Valentine" on Friday.
What about Lou Thesz, the gent Nomellini allegedly dethroned last week in San Francisco?
Malcewicz again: "We figure Lou should come to us. I think he took the easy way out with Leo and may not want to get back in the ring with him."
In the interim, rassling has two heavyweight champions and come fall, the 49ers will have two tackles in the starting lineup. Don’t bet large Leo is not one of them.
Last night’s show grossed a good $2,217.60. Other results:
Enrique Torres and Bobo Brazil trimmed Mike Sharpe and Jesus Ortega in the tag team semi-windup.
Mike took the first fall from Brazil with a body press and Brazil came back to even the count with Mike via a body slam. Sharpe was then disqualified for failure to allow Torres back in the ring on time.
Steve Stanlee and Johnny Barend went to a draw in the one-fall opener.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 196-2001
WORKING TITLE: ‘DEVIL ON THE CANVAS’
(ED. NOTE – "Barton Fink," a Coen brothers film release of 1991, revolves around a screenwriter and his efforts to write a B-movie pro wrestling script for Wallace Beery in the Hollywood of yore. The following precis relates to the film, and is embellished by a the relevant dialogue. The late Darwyn Swalve played the wrestler in a brief, dream sequence.)
By Damian Cannon, Movie Reviews UK
A subtle and probing jaunt into the darkness of "writer's block," Barton Fink peers into just what lies below people's perceived character. The elation of overnight success often changes the recipient in surprising ways, although in the case of Barton Fink (John Turturro) all he'd like to do is evade the limelight and return to his muse. However, Hollywood beckons with some obscenely large paychecks, providing an alternative to the common folk who are Fink's inspiration. He acquiesces but compromises by booking into an off-beat hotel, hoping to maintain some contact with ordinary people in the largely alien Los Angeles.
Once settled into the Earle, Barton has to figure out what to do with his time or, more importantly, what's expected of him. He doesn't get very far though and soon his attention wanders, flitting from the dust-covered stationary and sagging mattress to the painted-shut windows and soggy wallpaper. This place is a dump but, even worse that that, the walls are paper-thin. Moans, clanks, voices and squeaks seep in, the signature of energetic love-making and ancient pipe-work. Despite himself Barton is entranced by these details, eager for a distraction from the business of creation. This is provided in spades by Charlie Meadows (John Goodman), his overwhelming and out-going neighbor. At last Barton has found an ordinary guy, someone who'll listen to his pretentious plans.
Beyond the peeling walls of his hotel room there is, of course, a city and in it resides Capitol studios, in the shape of Jack Lipnick (Michael Lerner). Starting Barton off on something easy, Lipnick doles out a Wallace Beery wrestling picture -- nothing fancy, just the usual good wrestler/bad wrestler story. The problem is that Barton just can't get a grip on something that actually appeals to the common man, a topic as prosaic as wrestling. Crushed by deadline pressure and isolation, Barton finds some relief talking to Charlie, a man with many stories to tell. He isn't a writer though so Barton locates the most eminent author around, W.P.Mayhew (John Mahoney), and finds himself gazing into the chasm of his own future.
Audrey? Have you ever had to read any of Bill’s wrestling scenarios?
Yes, I’m afraid I have.
What are they like? What are they about?
Well, usually, they’re a . . . simply morality tales. There’s a good wrestler, and a bad wrestler whom he confronts at the end. In between, the good wrestler has a love interest or a child he has to protect. Bill would usually make the good wrestler a backwoods type, or a convict. And sometimes, instead of a waif, he’d have the wrestler protecting an idiot manchild. The studio always hated that. Oh, some of the scripts were so . . . spirited!
Lou. (Lou immediately rises and leaves. Lipnik's tone becomes confidential) . . . He used to have shares in the company. An ownership interest. Got bought out in the twenties -- muscled out according to some. Hell, according to me. So we keep him around, he's got a family. Poor schmuck. He's sensitive, don't mention the old days. Oh hell, say whatever you want. Look, barring a preference, Bart, we're gonna put you to work on a wrestling picture. Wallace Beery. I say this because they tell me you know the poetry of the street. That would rule out westerns, pirate pictures, screwball, Bible, Roman. . . (He rises and starts pacing.) But look, I'm not one of these guys thinks poetic has gotta be fruity. We're together on that, aren't we? I mean I'm from New York myself -- well, Minsk if you wanna go way back, which we won't if you don't mind and I ain't askin'. Now people're gonna tell you, wrestling. Wallace Beery, it's a B picture. You tell them, bullshit. We don't make B pictures here at Capitol. Let's put a stop to that rumor right now. (Lou enters with coffee.) . . . Thanks Lou. Join us. Join us. Talking about the Wallace Beery picture.
We got a treatment on it yet?
No, not yet Jack. We just bought the story. Saturday Evening Post.
Okay, the hell with the story. Wallace Beery is a wrestler. I wanna know his hopes, his dreams. Naturally, he'll have to get mixed up with a bad element. And a romantic interest. You know the drill. Romantic interest, or else a young kid. An orphan. What do you think, Lou? Wally a little too old for a romantic interest? Look at me, a writer in the room and I'm askin' Lou what the goddamn story should be! (After a robust laugh, he beams at Barton.) . . . Well, Bart, which is it? Orphan? Dame?
. . . Both maybe? (There is a disappointed silence. Lipnik looks at Lou. Lou clears his throat.)
. . . Maybe we should do a treatment.
Ah, hell, let Bart take a crack at it. He'll get into the swing of things or I don't know writers. Let's make it a dame, Bart, keep it simple. We don't gotta tackle the world our first time out. The important thing is we all have that Barton Fink feeling, but since you're Barton Fink I'm assuming you have it in spades. Seriously Bart, I like you. We're off to a good start. Dammit, if all our writers were like you I wouldn't have to get so goddamn involved. I'd like to see something by the end of the week. Lou is getting to his feet and signaling for Barton to do likewise. . . . Heard about your show, by the way. My man in New York saw it. Tells me it was pretty damn powerful. Pretty damn moving. A little fruity, he said, but I guess you know what you're doing. Thank you for your heart. We need more heart in pictures. We're all expecting great things.
(Black-and-white footage. A middle-aged man with a clapstick enters and shouts.)
DEVIL ON THE CANVAS, twelve baker take one. (Clap! The clapper withdraws. The angle is on a corner of the ring, where an old corner man stands behind his charge, a huge man in tights who is a little too flabby to be a real athlete. His hair is plastered against his bullet skull and he has a small mustache.)
Action. (The wrestler rises from his stool and heads toward center ring and the camera. He affects a German accent.)
I will destroy him! (He passes the camera.)
Cut. (Flash frames. The clapper enters again.)
Twelve baker take two. (Clap! He exits. The wrestler moves toward the camera.)
I will destroy him!
Cut. (The clapper enters.)
Twelve baker take three. (Clap!)
I will destroy him!
SLOW TRACK IN ON BARTON
(Seated alone in a dark screening room, the shaft of the projection beam flickering over his left shoulder. As we creep in closer.)
I will destroy him! . . . I will destroy him! . . . I will destroy him! . . . I will destroy him! . . . (Another off-microphone, distant voice from the screen.)
Okay, take five . . .
(A jerky pan, interrupted by flash frames. The wrestler is standing in a corner joking with a makeup girl who pats down his face as he smokes a cigarette. A cut in the film and another clapstick enters.)
Twelve charlie take one. On the clap.
BACK TO BARTON
(Staring at the screen, dull, wan, and forlorn.)
(The angle is low -- canvas level. We hold for a brief moment on the empty canvas before two wrestlers crash down into frame. The German is underneath, on his back, pinned by the other man. The referee enters, cropped at the knees, and throws counting fingers down into frame.)
One . . . two . . .
AAAAHHHH!! (The German bucks and throws his opponent out of frame.)
Twelve charlie take two. (Crash.)
One . . . two . . .
AAAAAAHHHHHH!! … AAAAAAHHHHHH!! … .AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!! . . .
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 197-2001
(Spy, June, 1991)
By Irving Muchnick
If you have remote control, a cable hookup and way too much
free time, you know Vince McMahon. He’s the tuxedoed, shellac-haired,
Nautilized emcee of the syndicated program "Superstars of Wrestling,"
the USA network’s "Prime Time Wrestling," and NBC’s "Saturday
Night’s Main Event," all produced under the aegis of the World Wrestling
Federation (WWF). McMahon’s is an uncharismatic, if he-manly, TV presence; he’s
TV wrestling’s Zeppo Marx, looking on, deadpan, while Hulk Hogan and Sergeant
Slaughter shove fingers in each other’s faces and pretend to argue. But like
Bill Cosby and Merv Griffin, whose on-screen personalities are equally
unpresumptuous, McMahon is actually a shrewd, tenacious businessman with a
multimillion-dollar empire. TitanSports Inc., his $150-million-a-year company
(and the parent company of the WWF), has a brand-new, $9 million office complex
in Stamford, Connecticut, complete with state-of-the-art TV-production
facilities. In addition to the cable and network shows, there are nightly live
wrestling exhibitions and four-times-yearly arena extravaganzas, broadcast over
pay-per-view for up to $30 a pop – WrestleMania V, staged in 1989, grossed
nearly $21 million. There are WWF videocasssettes, posters, toys, apparel, a WWF
Magazine, even WWF ice cream bars, molded in the images of WWF wrestlers. And
there are WWF stars who have managed to cross over into more conventional
realms: Rowdy Roddy Piper landed the lead in the 1988 movie "They
Live"; Jesse "The Body" Ventura was last fall elected mayor of
Brooklyn Park, Minnesota; and Hulk Hogan has starred in both feature films (the
forthcoming "Suburban Commando" and 1989’s "No Holds
Barred") and a commercial for Right Guard deodorant. Add it all up and you’ve
got an entertainment conglomerate of formidable financial might.
This, apparently, is not enough for McMahon. Having expanded wrestling’s audience beyond 12-year-olds and trailer-park rowdies to include parents and condo dwellers, having outmaneuvered Ted Turner (whose World Championship Wrestling organization lags far behind the WWF in attendance, pay-per-view, and merchandising revenues), McMahon is now diversifying into *bodybuilding*. The WWF kingpin’s fetish for pumping up is evident when he and his aides gather at one of their houses to screen Turner’s pay-per-view offerings. "During unimportant matches or interviews, Vince will go into another room with a pair of dumbbells," says a staffer. "He’ll come back all sweaty, with his shirt off and his chest and arms all pumped up. One of the guys will invariably say, ‘Vince, you look better than your wrestlers!’, and he’ll beam."
Last year McMahon announced the formation of the World Bodybuilding Federation (WBF), which would do for Berry "The Flexing Dutchman" DeMey and Troy "Top Guns" Zuccolotto what the WWF had done for Andre the Giant and Randy "Macho Man" Savage. At the inaugural press conference in January at The Plaza, McMahon introduced Tom Platz, a blond former Mr. Universe known in his prime as the Golden Eagle and now the WBF’s director of talent development. "I look forward to the day," Platz said, "when a WBF superstar is on an airplane and a tall black man looks over and says, ‘Hey I saw you on TV last night. And that tall black man is Magic Johnson.’"
Waiting in the wings were 13 male bodybuilders, the WBF’s first signees, clad in black-and-neon-green jackets, skintight tank tops, and black boxer shorts. Tony Pearson, known as Michael With Muscles because of his resemblance to Michael Jackson, flexed for the gathered journalists and said, "*This is the nineties.* We have the opportunity to show bodybuilding is a sport and an art form." Danny "The Giant Killer" Padilla, a mere 62 inches tall but with washboard abs, spoke about his seven brothers and sisters and his dog, Bruno. Mike Quinn, whose pectorals have the consistency of fibrocystic boulders, struck a few poses and shouted, "Get ready to rock ’n’ roll!"
Platz promised that WBF shows would be less stiff than other bodybuilding tournaments and would pioneer the use of theatrical values – implying that other shows were too naturalistic and understated. "We’re going to take the characteristics inherent in these guys and *blow them up*," he said. When asked if WBF contests would contain any elements of WWF-style pro wrestling, Platz, his voice firm, said, "No. The best bodies will still win. Our bodybuilders will *not* become professional wrestlers."
At that point McMahon glared at Platz, rendering the Golden Eagle a 97-pound weakling. Platz blanched and said, "Uh, what I mean is, uh, there won’t be any body slams on the stage."
* * *
The bodybuilding world has its own history, older than the WWF’s, and its own McMahonish control-freak impresario: Joe Weider. Weider (pronounced "weeder"), the son of a Jewish pants presser who emigrated from Poland to Montreal, has been in the muscle business since 1942, when at the age of 19 he started mimeographing and circulating a newsletter called Your Physique. Along with his brother Ben, with whom he co-founded the International Federation of Body Builders (IFBB) in 1946, Weider is responsible for publishing the muscle mags Muscle & Fitness, Flex, Shape, and Men’s Fitness and for the superstardom of Lou ("The Incredible Hulk") Ferrigno and, in his pre-Hollywood days, Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Were it not for Weider’s mentoring abilities, young Arnold’s quest for fame and Hyannis Port credentials might have ended at the 1965 Junior Mr. Europe competition.)
McMahon’s formation of the WBF was tantamount to a declaration of war on the Weiders, complete with a gangland-style opening salvo. The story unfolds, appropriately, in Chicago, where, four months prior to the Plaza Hotel press conference, McMahon spent $5,000 to set up a booth at the Weiders’ Mr. Olympia competition to promote Bodybuilding Lifestyles, the WBF’s then unpublished fitness magazine. The contest proceeded as expected: Lee Haney, Schwarzenegger’s not-quite-so-bankable successor as the sultan of sinew, walked off with his record tying seventh title, worth $70,000; as usual, some fans grumbled that Lee Labrada, the runner-up, had better legs, biceps, proportion, symmetry, and posing skill. The weekend’s most interesting moment actually took place offstage, where four of the 20 bodybuilders were disqualified for failing a drug test administered by International Olympic Committee-accredited technicians. The crackdown reinforced the Weiders’ newfound scrupulousness on the steroid issue; a few months earlier the IFBB had stripped Shawn Ray of the title he’d won in Columbus, Ohio, at the Arnold Classic – yes, such a thing exists – for a similar violation.
The closing ceremonies, at Chicago’s Arie Crown Theatre, was vintage Weider, full of lame, self-congratulatory Elks Club chatter filtered through a horrible audio system. The audience, a 4,600-strong collection of groupies, gym rats, and girlfriends of the aforementioned, paid little attention to what was going on onstage. Each of the competition’s sponsors was allotted a few minutes to talk up its products. Tom Platz, the designated spokesman for Bodybuilding Lifestyles, said, "I have a very important announcement to make. We at TitanSports and Bodybuilding Lifestyles magazine are pleased to announce the formation of the World Bodybuilding Federation. *And we’re going to kick the IFBB’s ass!*" The audience fell silent, and leggy models in slinky black evening gowns and Bodybuilding Lifestyles sashes emerged from the wings to distribute handbills promising "bodybuilding as it was meant to be" – a code phrase, some thought, for "no drug testing."
Vince McMahon had thoroughly upstaged the Weiders at their own event, and he still had one more trick up his sleeve: That evening, when the bodybuilding contestants returned to their rooms at the McCormick Center Hotel, they found WBF contract offers slipped under their doors. *Ba-ba-ba-BING! Ba-ba-ba-BOOM*! The war was on.
* * *
"I’m not angry – you can quote me," says Ben Weider, sounding not at all like a wronged crime boss who has just dispatched a lieutenant to deliver a fish wrapped in newspaper. "I’m not even disappointed. But let’s put it this way: It wasn’t a very sophisticated or very honorable thing to do." To demonstrate his lack of anger, Ben has promised lifetime suspensions from the IFBB to any bodybuilders who sign WBF contracts. "If we’d wanted to, we could have turned off Platz’s microphone or stopped his people from distributing their literature," he says. "But what the heck, we let them have their fun."
A stumpy, mustachioed sexagenarian with a tanned, friendly face, Ben tries hard to sound unworried: "Other federations have come and gone before. It took us a lifetime of dedication, sweat and blood, and millions of dollars of investment to get where we are. We’re a serious and – quote me – *ethical* sport."
Identified on IFBB stationery as "Ben Weider, C.M., Ph.D." – the C.M. for his membership in the Order of Canada, the Ph.D. for his honorary doctorate in sports science from the U.S. Sports Academy in Daphne, Alabama – Ben spends much of his time traveling around the world and cozying up to the dilettantes of sporting goodwill. (His oft-repeated slogan is "Bodybuilding is important for nation-building.") He has earned his self-aggrandizing, for-profit organization shocking international legitimacy: The IFBB is now recognized by 74 national Olympic committees, has 132 member countries, and recently forged relationships with the Soviet Union and China. Three years ago he was invited to address the executive board of the International Olympic Committee. "I was given only 15 minutes to speak," he says. "You may be sure it was hard to condense 43 years of hard work into 15 minutes!" Alas, the board was not sufficiently moved to make bodybuilding a Summer Olympics event, or even an exhibition sport; but Ben is still working to make Olympic pumping-up a reality. A true Renaissance man, he’s also a founding member of the Napoleonic Society of America and has co-authored a book, "The Murder of Napoleon," which retails a Swedish dentist’s theory that Bonaparte was poisoned with arsenic by a member of his entourage. Jack Nicholson controls the movie rights.
If Ben Weider is the IFBB’s brains, Joe is its brawn. In 1951, when he was 27, he entered the Mr. Universe contest himself, just to prove that he practiced what he preached. Of course, he was the only contestant in the tourney’s history to compete with his legs covered by suit pants. When he started printing his first newsletter in 1942, bodybuilding as we know it didn’t exist; posing exhibitions were annexed to Amateur Athletic Union-sanctioned weightlifting contests, and the dominant muscle magazines were published by the York Barbell Company. But Joe was on a mission. In 1949 he moved from Canada to New Jersey to begin his entrepreneurial career in earnest, and now he rules a company that he claims grosses nearly $200 million a year, most of it in equipment and health-food-supplement sales.
The magazines, glorified catalogs of Weider products, at first appealed primarily to consumers of gay porn; some of the early titles, like The Young Physique and Demi-Gods, plumbed this theme quite explicitly. It took four decades and the 1977 documentary "Pumping Iron" for them to achieve mainstream, supermarket-checkout-line success. In 1980, Muscle Builder, the lead magazine, became Muscle & Fitness, and cover cheesecake was added to the beefcake. (The homoerotic undertones persist, however. According to a mid-1980s study by the Northeastern University sociologist Alan Klein, between 40 and 75 percent of the pilgrims to bodybuilding’s mecca, Venice, California – home of Muscle Beach and the flagships of the Gold's and World Gym chains – still supported their lift-all-day lifestyle through gay prostitution and other forms of hustling.)
Inside the magazines it’s an ongoing tribute to the Master Blaster, as Joe likes to be called: articles by, about, or pertaining to Joe; photographs of Joe with Schwarzenegger and George Bush, and of trophies and vitamin bottles bearing Joe’s likeness – by one count, 224 references to Joe in a single 250-page issue of Muscle & Fitness. (The group’s general-interest magazine, M&F has an international circulation of 600,000. Flex is aimed at hardcore bodybuilders. Shape is for women.) But far from a brutish authoritarian, Joe seems Captain Kangaroo-ish, almost avuncular, with a salt-and-pepper mustache and a wavy pompadour. "Strive for excellence," he writes, "exceed yourself, love your friend, speak the truth, practice fidelity, and honor your father and mother."
Hef has its mansion; Joe and Ben have a swanky office building in Woodland Hills, California, that features a 20-foot-high waterfall on a marble wall. In the lobby is a bronze bust of the Master Blaster (Weider concedes it is actually a representation of his head atop the neck and shoulders of Robby Robinson, a veteran black bodybuilder).
Some former associates say Joe fixes his contests to suit the needs of his business empire. He practically admitted as much in 1970, when associates asked him why Schwarzenegger had won that year’s Mr. Olympia title when Sergio Oliva, a black Cuban, had clearly had the better physique. Joe smiled and said, in his clipped Quebecois-by-way-of-the-shtetl accent, "I put Sergio on the cover, I sell *x* magazines. I put Arnold on the cover, I sell *3x* magazines."
Bodybuilding receives only a smattering of TV coverage these days, mostly on cable. Network shows like NBC’s "SportsWorld" no longer pick up the Mr. Olympia contests, largely because those tournaments are stiff and anachronistic. Rochelle Larkin, the founding editor of Bodybuilding Lifestyles (Vince McMahon dismissed her in March), says the Weiders "never grasped the significance of the fitness craze. Think about it. How many bodybuilders are well known to the general public? One – Schwarzenegger."
"We are what we are," Ben says. "If we wanted to make funny shows, we could make funny shows. We will not, for the sake of money, reduce bodybuilding to some kind of show business."
("Pimping Iron" will conclude in The New WAWLI
Papers Nos. 190-2001)
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 198-2001
WRESTLING MATCH ENDS IN KNOCKOUT
(The Oregonian, Portland OR, Thursday, July 16, 1925)
Ira Dern of Salt Lake City knocked out Billy Edwards of Kansas City last night in the second round of a bout that had been advertised as a wrestling match, which proved to be a Donnybrook for two. If it was a wrestling match then Dern played in tough luck, for he took two falls in jig-time and lost the decision.
Emil Klank, who used to manage Frank Gotch, was the third man in the ring. He gave the bout to Edwards on a foul amid loud booing from the spectators, after Dern had punched Edwards in the chin 25 minutes from the start of the second chukker, period, inning, half, quarter or whatever you might call the interval during which the two muscle twisters were in the ring.
Dern felled his opponent for the first time with a hold that was new to most of those present in 8 ½ minutes. The grip is called a leg strangle.
The Salt Lake athlete threw Edwards all over the mat from the very start, shifting from one hold to another with chameleon-like rapidity. Dern seemed to be in the best condition of his career, being even faster than when he appeared here last year, and a great deal stronger. He outclassed Edwards in every department of the game, even turning the tables on the side-burned Kansan by using the headlock and knuckle-kneading specialty of the latter, frequently to Edwards’ ill-concealed chagrin.
When the wrestlers came on the mat for the second frame, Edwards rushed at Dern, sputtering, fuming and waving his arms like a South Sea islander about to consign a plump missionary to the iron kettle. He grabbed Dern four different times with his powerful headlock and bore him to the floor, only to have the Utahan wriggle out and plaster something even more painful in the way of a nerve excoriator on Edwards, who retaliated by gnashing his teeth, wrinkling his nose and pushing Dern through the ropes repeatedly.
However, even this was not rough enough for Edwards. Finally, he began what had every appearance of deliberately butting Dern under the chin with the top of his head. He did this three or four times, evidently to Dern’s rising anger.
Finally, after 25 minutes of the rough and tumble stuff, and about the fourth head-butting by Edwards, Dern grew petulant, for he stepped back of a clinch and shot his clenched right gracefully forward. His fist met Edwards’ chin and Edwards fell over backward on the floor. The referee could have counted a hundred over him.
He lay there until accommodating ringsiders carried him out of the ring and to his dressing room.
The referee ame back after viewing the remains and announced that Edwards was still out. Dern, meantime, had stepped back into the ring as if ready to go on with the match.
"I have been wrestling for 31 years," declared referee Klank, "and I have never seen a more deliberate foul than Dern committed. He hit Edwards in the face with his clenched fist. Edwards is still unconscious. So I declare Edwards the winner."
Edwards has the faculty in the ring of provoking his opponents to fisticuffs and manslaughter. Sailor Jack Wood retaliated for some of the butcher boy’s eye-kneading and head-butting in a match not long ago by knocking Edwards cold for the count. Chief of Police Jenkins once barred Edwards from wrestling here because of his roughness, but relented and let him go on again.
Jatrinda Gobar, champion of the heavyweight division of the British Empire, will wrestle Stanislaus Zbyszko, ex-heavyweight champion of the world and the grand old man of the mat, at the Heilig tonight. Zibby is touring the country by way of preparing for a title bout with Joe Stecher, present champion.
ZBYSZKO IS VICTOR IN WRESTLING BOUT
(The Oregonian, Portland OR, Friday, July 17, 1925)
Stanislaus Zbyszko, Big Munn’s 58-year-old conqueror, twice heavyweight champion of the world and loser of his second title only recently to Joe Stecher, made short work at the Heilig last night of the Giant Hindu, Jatrinda Gobar.
Zibby gained the first fall in 30 minutes, 1 second, with a crotch hold and half nelson. His cleverness was interestingly demonstrated in taking this fall, for Gobar had him apparently in trouble at the time with a standing wristlock. But Zibby, by a lightning move, seized Gobar by the crotch with his free arm and when Gobar, to protect himself, freed the other, Zibby applied a half nelson, raised Gobar’s 234 pounds a couple of feet off the floor, and dropped him with a thump to the mat. The fall followed almost immediately.
This hold, by the way, was the same with which Big Munn defeated Zibby in their first match, and also the same with which Zibby turned the tables on Munn in their second encounter.
Zbyszko wasted no time at all in gaining the second fall on Gobar last night after the ten-minute intermission.
He tried once for a flying mare, but missed. Again Gobar began working on Zibby from behind while both were standing. Zibby reached back, caught the Hindu with both hands behind the ears, and with the power of a steam-hoisting engine dragged him by his head up and over his own head and shoulders, and down with a plump on the mat.
The hard fall jarred the Hindu and it was only a matter of a few seconds for Zibby to pin him for the fall and match. The time was 7 minutes and 30 seconds, making the total wrestling time only 37 minutes, 7 seconds; the fall a flying mare.
It was a mighty interesting exhibition of scientific wrestling, with Gobar displaying plenty of skill and a versatility of holds, but in nowise the equal of the chunky ex-champion. Gobar weighed 234 pounds to 224 ½ for Zbyszko. Rollie Woodruff refereed.
Zibby gave the crowd a fine laugh once when Gobar attempted to headlock his shaved pate. Zibby sank his head down between his huge shoulders like a turtle and there was so little for Gobar to grab at that his arm slipped off Zibby’s dome as if it had been a greased onion. Gobar specialized in the wristlock as much as anything, but though he turned Zibby head over heels three or four times with it, couldn’t the Pole when he had him.
The third and concluding match of the three-day Elks convention wrestling carnival will be held tonight at the Heilig.
Ted Thye, who was to have wrestled the winner of the Billy Edwards-Ira Dern encounter, positively refuses to wrestle Edwards, who gained the decision from Dern Wednesday night on a foul. Thye says Edwards’ rough work is entirely too crude, that he never will wrestle him again unless Edwards posts a forfeit guaranteeing to keep himself within the bounds of wrestling decency.
With Thye declining to meet Edwards, promoter Virgil Hamlin has decided o put Dern and Edwards on again. He has withheld both wrestlers’ share of the purse Wednesday night, and whether they are paid tonight depends entirely on their good behavior.
"They can be as rough as they like within the wreslting rules, and that’s rough enough for any one," said Hamlin last night. "But head-butting and punching are barred. It must be a clean match. The match starts at 9 o’clock with Sailor Wood to appear against Mart Henderson in the preliminary at 8:30.
PIMPING IRON by Irving Muchnick (continued from New WAWLI
Show business is in Vince McMahon’s blood. His grandfather was a boxing and wrestling promoter who started out in the 1920s. His father controlled much of the Northeast pro-wrestling circuit in the 1960s and ’70s, when small-time promoters still divided the country into Mafia-like fiefdoms (a practice ended by the advent of cable TV and the deregulatory actions taken by the FCC). In 1982, two years before his father died, Vince bought out his stock in the WWF and began aggressively expanding operations across the country. Dick Ebersol, president of NBC Sports and original co-executive producer of "Saturday Night’s Main Event" – which in its six years on NBC has consistently drawn a larger audience than the show it irregularly replaces, "Saturday Night Live" – calls McMahon "the greatest promoter since P.T. Barnum." Despite McMahon’s shaky beginnings in the field – he was behind the coast-to-coast screenings of the 1974 Evel Knievel Snake River Canyon Jump and the '76 mixed match between Muhammad Ali and Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki – he has since developed into, depending on your estimation of his intellect, either a gifted ironist with a connoisseur’s eye for camp or a schlockmeister with genuine affection for B-list celebrities.
Or both. Late in 1984 he sent a camera crew to shoot, of all things, a Ms. Magazine banquet. Cyndi Lauper, then in her music-video heyday and involved in a public shtick with wrestling personality Captain Lou Albano, received one of the magazine’s Woman-of-the-Year awards. Another award went to Geraldine Ferraro. Lauper and McMahon’s crew begged Ferraro and Gloria Steinem to film promotional shots for the WWF. Ferraro dutifully turned to the camera and said, as she’d been instructed, "Rowdy Roddy Piper, why don’t you fight like a man?" Steinem recited an old WWF catcall about how Piper’s kilts resembled a skirt. Doubtless both women thought their spectacularly undignified promos would be seen only by a few insomniacs up at 2:00 a.m. A few months later MTV aired a live broadcast of a Madison Square Garden WWF show in prime time; Ferraro’s and Steinem’s comments had been edited to give the impression they were in the crowd.
The scene at the most recent WrestleMania, which took place at the L.A. Sports Arena in March, was equally improbable. Marla Maples conducted an interview with the Nasty Boys, a bad-guy tag team, and was guest timekeeper for the main event, a showdown between Hulk Hogan and Sergeant Slaughter. Willie Nelson, despite his ongoing difficulties with the IRS, was on hand to sing "America the Beautiful." George Steinbrenner debated with NBC football announcer Paul Maguire over the validity of the instant replay as a means of overturning referees’ decisions.
McMahon may have pushed his manic, low-culture sense of humor too far this time, though. WrestleMania VII had been moved at the last minute from L.A.’s Coliseum, which seats 100,000, to the Sports Arena, which seats 16,000 – advance ticket sales were slow, and the WWF had been criticized for exploiting the Gulf War. McMahon had rescripted the Sergeant Slaughter character as a Saddam Hussein sympathizer, and Hogan had been dispatched to visit U.S. military bases as a pro-America hell-raiser. McMahon tried to save face with a story about how fear of terrorism had motivated the move to the smaller, more easily guarded arena.
* * *
Even more than he relies on the allure of quasi celebrity and mock violence, McMahon relies on endocrinology. The WWF encourages the young, money-hungry dumbbells in its employ to do anything they please to their bodies. According to Superstar Billy Graham, a retired WWF champ crippled by bone and joint degeneration from steroid use, and Bruno Sammartino, who has had a falling-out with McMahon, nearly all of today’s WWF stars are "on the juice." "I love this business, and it’s really sad to see what’s happened to it," Sammartino says. "With all the drugs they take, the guys now are like zombies." Wrestler Jim Hellwig – a former chiropractor and one-time Venice Beach habitue who calls himself The Ultimate Warrior – is perhaps the ultimate example of the WWF’s bigger-is-better ethic. Even though he can barely pose and mug without getting winded, Hellwig was last year given the lead in the WWF troupe when Hogan was temporarily detained by Hollywood commitments. "I eat the chemical toxins that other men fear," the Warrior huffed and puffed in one TV interview. Dave Meltzer, wrestling columnist for The National and publisher of a newsletter called The Wrestling Observer, now refers to Hellwig as The Anabolic Warrior.
The IFBB, on the other hand, has stiffened its position against steroids. The Weiders, in their quest to get bodybuilding into the Olympics – Atlanta, 1996? – are no longer afraid to suspend or punish their star athletes, as they did Shawn Ray. "We want bodybuilders to be seen as true athletes, not chemical athletes," Ben says. "Bodybuilding is not body destruction. Quote me."
* * *
The IFBB also has begun to fight back against McMahon. After the Mr. Olympia debacle in Chicago, Ben Weider issued an advisory memorandum to his employees. McMahon’s bodybuilders, Ben pointed out, make as many as 50 promotional appearances a year – far fewer than pro wrestlers but grueling for bodybuilders, most of whom appear in only a handful of shows annually. If a WBF bodybuilder wins the publicized prize money at an event, it counts toward his guaranteed salary and is not necessarily paid over and above it. Furthermore, WBF bodybuilders’ percentages of earnings from licensed products, videos, and other merchandise are based on net profits rather than gross revenues.
But foremost among Ben Weider’s criticisms of McMahon is that everything he touches turns to kitsch. "The opinion of most people is that wrestling as organized by the [WWF] has been turned into a circus," Weider writes in his memo.
To Ben and Joe’s delight, the expected mass exodus of bodybuilders from the IFBB to the WBF has not happened. It also appears that the pro-wrestling boom that made McMahon a multimillionaire in the 1980s has crested. Pay-per-view revenues for the last two WrestleManias were significantly lower than the 1989 record, and live-wrestling gates have fallen from an estimated $43 million in 1988 to around $30 million last year.
But Vince McMahon presses on. Rumors are afoot that Lou Ferrigno is about to end his 17-year association with the Weiders to sign with the WBF. McMahon is also wooing Cory Everson, a six-time Ms. Olympia married to an editor at the Weiders’ Muscle & Fitness. The WBF’s first live competition is scheduled to take place this month in Atlantic City at – naturally – the Trump Taj Mahal; another is promised for later this year, and at least four more are slated for 1992. "I’m doing this for the athletes," McMahon has declared. "I just want to see them get a fair shake."
ROMERO DEFEATS LEVIN ON VALLEY GARDEN MAT
(Los Angeles Times, Sunday, June 15, 1952)
Rito Romero added another victim to his growing list last night on the Valley Garden Arena wrestling mat, where he downed Dave Levin in two out of three falls.
Sandor Szabo made Antone Leone say uncle in another match. Ray Piret bounced Bob Corby in the opener.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS
FIGHTS OF FANTASY
(San Francisco Chronicle, May 4, 2001)
By Dave Ford
Any cultural critic worth her Foucault knows that early-third-millennium America is a smash-mouth, trash-talkin', in-your-face Wrestlemania world where mere mortals bow before the power of hulking bruisers with bad mullet haircuts who blast bad talk.
And when the wrestlers are done questioning each other's masculinity, sensibility and virility, they attempt to stun each other with gallumphing moves that make elephant rutting look like ballet.
They are the gym-muscle-poppin', steroid-fired bad boys (and girls) of big- time, big-money, over-the-top wrestling, and they've got a choke hold on the gasping throat of America's fast-fainting excuse for pop culture.
Ah, but there are noises on the fringes, whispers in the alleys, weird little rumblings on the country road off Main Street. That glittery circus- tent mutant-show of oiled, well-scripted and TV-prettified wrestlers has a sick little bastard cousin.
It is called Incredibly Strange Wrestling. It was born and bred right here in San Francisco. And it is weird.
ISW wrestlers have names like Ku Klux Klown, El Pollo Diablo, Macho Sasquatcho, the SnackMaster and El Homo Loco. They trace their wrestlin' roots not to the stop-start, stomp-'n'-whomp hijinks of renowned American wrestlers past and present such as Gorgeous George and The Rock, but to the acrobatic, high-flyin' lunacy of Mexican lucha libre wrestling stars such as El Santo and the Black Shadow.
The ISW show -- including the outfit's sixth anniversary celebration tomorrow at the Fillmore Auditorium -- combines wrestling with music played by loud, hard bands. The show melds a comic book sensibility with punk rock's do- it-yourself ethos, and marries that to subversive political commentary. The result is the kind of glamorously amateurish -- and, therefore, truly wild -- shenanigans those over-planned TV corporate wrestle-fests can only dream of achieving.
"There's nothing else going on like it," says Audra Morse, a nightclub booking agent for the past 13 years and one of the ISW's founders. "There are these great costumes, and there are people flying through the air. How could you not be entertained? You'd have to be blind."
She waits a beat, then adds, "And most people don't have a 7-foot-tall horned chicken running through the wrestling ring."
Incredibly Strange Wrestling began, as so many incredibly strange things do, after-hours.
Morse and a handful of friends who collected comic books and lucha libre wrestling masks decided it'd be kind of a twisted in-joke to mount a wrestling show. So Morse booked a handful of bands one night at the Paradise Lounge on 11th Street, where she worked at the time. For an extra couple of bucks, patrons could hang out in the Transmission Theater next door, where, at 2:15 a. m., 10 wrestlers, including two semi-pro hulks from Mexico, went at it.
"We had solid oakwood staging with two layers of packing blankets and one of those blue tarps you get at Home Depot," Morse says. "I put on the mask of a famous wrestler from Mexico and a tutu and leggings, and we beat the crap out of each other until we couldn't wrestle any more. And the crowd loved it."
That was on May 15, 1995. A month or so later, after purchasing an actual ring, Morse booked three bands at the Transmission Theater and set up the ring in front of the stage. The basic Incredibly Strange Wrestling show -- combining thrash-rock bands with psycho wrestling -- was born.
The formula caught on; soon, the troupe received a call from organizers of the 1995 Lollapalooza tour, which packaged multiple rock bands for that summer's young adult concertgoers. ISW was to be part of the circus fairway area of the outdoor stadium shows, but the lack of organization -- not to mention water, money and changing facilities -- at a couple of shows in the Northwest dimmed the troupe's enthusiasm for the venture.
"They had this raver crew that was supposed to be doing production and sound," Morse says, "but they were doing ecstasy and riding around in golf carts most of the time."
The group called it quits after five shows and returned to San Francisco, where their Transmission Theater performances soon became the stuff of underground legend.
Wrestler Macho Sasquatcho says it was there that he got roped into the fray.
He was working at a nearby pizza parlor and delivered a couple
of slices to the crew, in part, to grease his way into the show later.
But when he goofed around in the empty ring, one of the evening's promoters told him to come back that night and wrestle El Gran Fangorio.
"So I go back later, and they introduce me to this guy who's, like, 6-foot- 2 and 240 pounds and has a championship belt," Sasquatcho says. (No ISW performer would give his non-wrestling name for this story.) "I talked to him for about a minute to figure out what we were going to do."
Once in the ring, the pair fell off the script. Sasquatcho panicked and wrapped his arms and legs around the bottom rope of the ring.
"The guy beat the crap out of me with the chair because he had to do something," Sasquatcho says. "He hit me so hard, he knocked me out for a second. I woke up, and was, like, 'Where am I?' Then I had the sad realization that I was in the middle of a wrestling match -- and it wasn't over yet."
As many bumps and bruises such moments caused, crowds ate it up -- including those at clubs on a 1997 San Francisco-to-Detroit tour, and others at Mission High School benefit shows. Soon the troupe outgrew the Transmission Theater.
Which brought them to the Fillmore.
You don't pack 1,500 beer-swilling, tortilla-throwing, testosterone-pumping wrestling fans into an all-ages show at a good-size rock hall without a draw, and with ISW the draw is its characters.
Wait. Tortilla-throwing? Check. Morse decided at one of the early ISW shows to hand out corn tortillas both as a way of encouraging audience participation and as a way of ensuring said participation didn't include hurling such projectiles as apples and beer bottles.
In the early days, the characters were charmingly -- sometimes disturbingly -- twisted. Uncle Nambla wrestled Little Timmy. Castro Boy -- an 18-year-old hunk of beef -- entered the stage by leaping from the Transmission Theater rafters. The Ku Klux Klown finished off the Man From M.O.N.K. with a high- flying dive only nominally softened by a teeny-weeny parachute.
Tomorrow will see the tag-teams of L'Empereur and Ku Klux Klown battle The Mexican Viking and Super Pulga (that's super flea). The Conquistador will square off against La Venganza de Montezuma (yes: Montezuma's Revenge).
The Man from M.O.N.K. (Maniacal Order of Nudist Killers) will be there too, as will 69, the Scientology boy band that also wrestles. So will the SnackMaster, with his plaid-skirt-and-white-blouse-sporting teen "ring girls." And then, of course, there's El Homo Loco, who promises he'll have "beautiful, diesel-dyke ring girls who should be able to protect me as I enter, if they're not too busy making out with each other."
Tasteless? Well, duh. But there's a post-postmodern sheen to the whole thing that makes it clear it's being done with a great big wink. The matches have a story line co-announced by a mountain of a man called Count Dante and his sidekick, Alan Bolte. The two riff from scripts prepared by Morse and others.
"There's enough dumb things that happen in the paper every day that we've got plenty of material," she says.
As to whether kids at an all-ages show might be adversely influenced by the ISW ethic, Morse is blunt.
"Parenting starts in the home," she says. "My parents taught me right from wrong. I could have gone to a wrestling show at age 6, and I would have known this isn't something I'd do to my little brother.
"Our show is more than guys smashing each other. It's funny; it's topical; it's current events. I think kids can learn from our shows."
And to those who might suggest a character like the pink-tutu-sporting El Homo Loco -- who spends most of his matches prancing around and attempting to, er, make anything that's male -- could be construed as being homophobic, Morse says the opposite is true.
"We make fun of the people who are racist and sexist and homophobic," she says. "Most of us are San Franciscans. And I'm a girl, and I'm running the whole show. I dare you to say anything derogatory against women. I'll sic a bunch of wrestlers on you."
El Homo Loco says, "The fact of the matter is, I'm a gay man, and I can live my life any way I choose. And if this is how I feel it's appropriate, that's exactly what the gay liberators have been working for. And if (people) don't like it, it's probably because they want me but can't have me."
What possesses an otherwise reasonably ordinary individual to leap into the wrestling ring for fun and minor profit? First, no reasonably ordinary individuals leap into wrestling rings.
"I wanted just once to wrestle before I died," says Dancin' Joey, one of the 69 boys. He hung around the ISW crew for a couple of years, fixing the ring, moving equipment and befriending the wrestlers.
"I was able to convince them I was allowed, that I was cool enough to hang with them," he says.
Then came the match with wrestler Riza del Norte, which was his inauguration into the ring.
"This guy beat the s-- out of me," Joey says, practically swooning. "He smashed my lip and loosened my teeth halfway through the match. But I finished. "
Bad Boy Corey, another 69 boy, is 21, has a Matt Damon smile and exudes a sort of antic charm.
"I've always been kind of nuts," he says jovially. "This is a good outlet for a hyperactive kid."
For El Homo Loco, ISW started as a lark. At an ISW show, he joked to a friend that he could wrestle as El Homo Loco. Morse overheard him and told him he'd be in the next show.
"It was pretty much right up my alley," he says, "along with the drinking. El Homo Loco is definitely alcoholic. I've only wrestled sober once, and I plan to keep it that way."
Sure, there are hardships, such as the injuries to arms, necks, ribs, wrists, knees. The troupe is insured by the club where they play, and there's always medical staff standing by at the shows.
"But wrestlers aren't in this to break a leg and have someone to sue," Morse says. "These guys are crazy. They enjoy getting beaten up for a living. They don't want to be whiners about their injuries. They like to take care of them and move on."
They aren't in it for the money either. Most ISW wrestlers make between $30 and $400 a night. Some come from Mexico for as little as $20 and all the tacos they can eat.
However, well-known veterans from Mexico can command as much as $2,000 to come to San Francisco, Morse says.
There is no love lost between the motley ISW crew and the idea of, say, the World Wrestling Federation, that cash cow of wrestlin' fever.
"I used to watch wrestling in the '70s and '80s," Morse says. "The guys were crazy. It sort of lost that in the '80s and '90s. I don't like WWF. It's a bunch of testosterone-steroid freaks, and all they do is talk. They hardly wrestle."
Count Dante, the ISW announcer, says ISW is to the WWF what punk rock was to bloated corporate rock music in the 1970s.
"Punk rock was started by bands like the Ramones, who weren't going into the pay-to-play system," he says. "They were not Yes or Genesis. ISW is the same. There are local wrestling schools where kids pay $5,000 or $10,000 to train to be pro wrestlers. They want to enter that pay-to-play system. We started out completely amateur."
But, he points out, that the WWF's near-monopoly on big-time wrestling leaves room for the ISW to mount shows that explode wrestling stereotypes.
"There's a fine line between being vulgar and subversive," he says. "And the side I'd like to see ISW stay on is the more subversive one."
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 200-2001
(ED. NOTE – Shame on you if you have not discovered the
remarkably personal and revealing archive of professional wrestling memories
authored by the "epitome of wrestling managers," Percival A. Friend.
Click upon it, just below, if you haven’t.)
THE SHEIK SPARKS MEMORIES OF TOLEDO
(www.geocities.com/percivalafriend, November 26, 2001)
This past week I had the distinct pleasure of visiting with The Sheik and his wonderful wife at one of their estate's in lower Michigan. It was a great time reminiscing over old times with the man that made wrestling feuds famous. May God continue to watch over you both for many more years to come.—Percival
Thursday nights were a tradition in Toledo, Ohio. The Toledo Sports Arena had hosted just about every major event that hit town ... until the new Seagate Center in downtown opened.
The year was 1967, and I had been in the business for four years. I had done just about everything that was expected of me as a human being. I say just about everything because the story I am about to tell changed my life and way of thinking that the business of Pro Wrestling was an easy business.
I had started as a ring announcer, filling in for Irv Chimovitz, who was the announcer at the old Flint Arena. I then went on as an official referee when Al Thomas, a popular Pontiac, Michigan school teacher and referee, was a no show due to illness at the Saginaw Civic Center for promoter Johnny Doyle.
I was later invited to go to Toledo and wrestle under a mask to fill in for someone that got hurt. I won my first pro match by disqualification … people were happy for me even though they couldn't see my face under the mask I wore. The Green Hornet was my alter ego and an identity I took on for my pro debut.
I had returned to Toledo to wrestle many times under the mask and felt really confident about my ability in the ring. I had beaten a lot of local and imported talent that matchmaker Martino Angelo had signed to face me. Some were seasoned veterans who gave me a pretty good run for my money.
It was the start of the 1967-68 season, and the feature bout on the card was The Sheik against Wild Bull Curry. The Sheik was the current U.S. Champion and had held wins over the likes of Bobo Brazil, The Stomper (Guy Mitchell), Ben Justice, Mark Lewin, Killer Karl Kox, Big Ernie Ladd, Chief White Owl, and Bull's own son, Flyin' Fred Curry.
Promoter Francis Fleser had bought out the partnership of Jim Barnett and Johnny Doyle during the summer off-season and had vowed to bring bigger and better bouts to the area of the Great Lakes. He certainly had done his best in bringing the top talent in for this card. I was scheduled to wrestle in the opener against Cowboy Frankie Laine.
I had arrived at the Arena at 6 p.m., wearing my bright Kelly Green mask with the white face ... a little ahead of the big crowds ... of course, there were the diehard fans that were awaiting outside the front doors. As I eased my big red Lincoln Convertible into the parking spot at the rear of the building, I saw fans starting towards my car. One of them shouted as I was getting out, "Watch out for that Bulldog move that Frankie Laine uses ... he's a pretty tough hombre." I thanked the fans and, as always, signed a few autographs, took a couple of pictures, and went into the building to my dressing room.
I was getting ready for the evening, loosening up by doing sit-ups, push-ups and squats. I was into a pretty good workout when Martino Angelo approached me. He walked over to the area I was in and extended his hand, and I gave him mine back. He was a former pro wrestler from the golden era of the 40's and 50's himself and one of the true good guys as far as helping the new kids on the turf.
"Kid ... Frankie Laine is not going to be here tonight, but you have come a long way to be here, so I want you to do me a favor," Martino said. "I want you to be a referee in the Main Event tonight." I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I always carried a referee shirt and slacks in my bag, out of habit. I was grateful for the chance to make a paycheck instead of going home with the short end of the stick, so I agreed. I thanked Martino and asked if there was anything else I could do to repay his kindness. He said, "No, kid ... just go out there and be the best you can be. Call 'em like you see 'em."
As I stood in the rear of the arena, watching most of the matches, not one fan came to me and said I looked a lot like the Green Hornet. Not one fan came to me and asked who I was, or why I was in the referee outfit. I was used to the hoopla and the attention I had received over the past four years. It really felt funny... I hadn't refereed in Toledo ever before.
The bell sounded for the Main Event and I headed for the ring, confident that I could do the job I had been asked to do. Bull Curry entered the ring first and was actually cheered. He had to have been the ugliest man, besides the Swedish Angel, that God had set on this earth. He had eyebrows that were combed upwards toward his hair.
They had to be at least two inches long. His body, which was not heavily muscled, gave you the impression that he couldn't do much ... WRONG ... he had a toughness within him that once led him to the ring to fight a draw match with the former great Boxing Champ Jack Dempsey. Bull Curry was not a cream puff.
Just then, I heard the sound of screams and chairs being knocked down by people trying to get out of the way of The Sheik. This man's looks could scare the living "yell" out of you. Attired in his native garb, he climbed between the ropes and began his pre match ritual, which included praying to Allah on his prayer rug.
As my story ended last week, I had driven to the Toledo Sports Arena to wrestle as The Green Hornet. I had arrived at 6 p.m., and I was working out in my dressing room when Martino Angelo, the matchmaker, came into the room. He informed me that my opponent for the night, Cowboy Frankie Laine, would not be there. He asked me to do him a favor and referee the Main Event. I had no idea who was in the match but agreed. I didn't want to go home with the short end of the stick for a payoff.
As the bell rang for the main event, I went to the ring and awaited the contestants. Bull Curry, the ugliest man in wrestling and probably the toughest old galoot to come down the pike, entered the ring to a round of cheers ... something that he was not used to. He paced the ring and punched at the air, breaking a sweat.
My train of thought was broken by the sounds of people screaming and chairs being knocked down by people trying to get away from the maniacal mad man ... The Sheik. I thought to myself, "What are you getting yourself into? These guys are way out of your league." The Sheik went through his pre-bout ritual of praying to Allah and getting the fans stirred up. Bull Curry didn't help matters, as he just wanted to fight; he definitely didn't want to pray.
It was a very evenly fought battle, both men grabbing at concealed objects and opening each other's heads open. Sheik had a habit of carrying a #2 pencil in his boot, and every time I tried to find it, he hid it somewhere else. He kept pointing to something in the ring lights and hollering ALO, ALO, ALO. I was quite confused at his antics but tried to keep law and order in the ring.
Bull Curry didn't help matters, as he had a pair of Brass Knuckles hid in his trunks. He had taken them out more then once and busted the Sheik's head open with them. The more the two fought, the more I just let them beat the heck out of each other. It wasn't my body that was getting all that treatment. What did I care?
As the match neared the 15-minute mark, both men were covered with blood and swinging wildly at each other. Bull had the Sheik in a side headlock and had somehow gotten a huge brass bolt from somewhere and was getting ready to belt the Sheik with it. I grabbed his arm and held it. The Sheik, out of nowhere, lifted his hand, and a huge ball of fire appeared. It missed me but got Bull and blinded him for a minute. By then, the Sheik had fallen to the mat in total exhaustion.
Bull grabbed me and must have thought he had the Sheik. He grabbed a side headlock, let out with a bellow of "WHO-WAH," and punched me right in the forehead with the Brass Bolt. The first thing I saw was blood running down into my eyes, and then I passed out. I woke up in the dressing room with a towel around my head and had a headache like I had never experienced before.
I went to the hospital after showering and got seven stitches put into my head. As I was leaving, The Sheik came out of one of the rooms in the emergency ward with his manager, Abdullah Farook. He looked at me with the stitches I had in my head, gave me the strangest look, muttered something in Arabic to Farook, and walked over to the cashier. He paid for my hospital bill along with his and left, not saying one word to me. I just kind of stood there with my mouth hanging open. I wondered if the night was really worth all that we had been through.
Bull Curry (Fred Khoury Sr.) has since gone to the Big Ring in the heavens, may God rest his soul. His son, Fred Jr., still wrestles, and his grandson, Fred III, is now involved in the wrestling business.
The Sheik is nearing 80 years old and is still very active and living at one of his estates in Lower Michigan, enjoying his retirement and being near his family.
The funny part is, I still don't know who won that battle.
JIM CASEY DRAWS WITH IVAN RASPUTIN
(Sacramento Union, November 17, 1942)
Ivan Rasputin, long-time favorite of Sacramento mat fans, stole the show last night on Johnny Rogers’ weekly wrestling card in Memorial Auditorium with a thrilling, entertaining draw against Jim Casey, the lion-hearted Celt.
The two were working the 45-minute semi-windup, but actually outclassed the main eventers. Rogers would do well to put the two men back in next week’s main event.
Ted Cox won the main go from Cy Williams, copping the first fall in 24:52 when he threw the Tallahassee Cyclone through the ropes. Williams was injured and hobbled badly for the second fall, losing it in only 28 seconds.
Abe Kashey won the first fall from John Swenski in 16:04, largely because of his superior weight.
STRANGLER LEWIS WILL MEET KING KONG COX
(Sacramento Union, February 3, 1947)
Ed (Strangler) Lewis, former world’s heavyweight wrestling champion, and Ted (King Kong) Cox of Lodi will clash in the Memorial Auditorium tonight in a best two out of three falls main mat match. The bout will be over the one-hour time limit.
Zefko Simunovich will tackle Hans Buesing in a best two out of three falls, 45-minute time limit semifinal.
Otto Kuss and Juan Humberto will open the program with a 30-minute, one-falol skirmish.
COX DOWNS LEWIS IN WRESTLING MATCH
(Sacramento Union, February 4, 1947)
The veteran Ed (Strangler) Lewis lost in the main wrestling event here last night to Ted Cox, the Lodi rough rider. Cox won a first fall and Lewis took the second. The Lodian scored the final down in a brief but rough session. Zefko Simunovich won the special event over Hans Buesing in straight falls. Juan Humberto and Otto Kuss did a draw in the curtain raiser.
AN INTERVIEW WITH LOW KI
(WBAI-FM Light Show, August 28, 2001)
By Evan Ginzburg and Fred Geobold
EG: This is Evan Ginzburg with Fred Geobold for WBAI-FM's
Light Show. We're here with Low Ki, one of the top prospects on the East Coast.
Low Ki, how are you doing? Any plans for Japan?
LK: I have big plans for Japan. I feel the competition is more up-tempo. It's stricter. The competition is a lot more aggressive.
EG: We hear a lot of buzz about you in the sheets. Everybody is talking about Low Ki working up and down the East Coast. Tell us about some of the highlights of your career.
LK: The biggest highlight of my career, so far, was having the opportunity to wrestle a dark match for the WWF in Madison Square Garden. Now being a native New Yorker, that's probably the biggest thing that can happen to you.
EG: Who did you work?
LK: It was me and Vince Goodnight out of Nebraska vs. the Mean Street Posse of Rodney and Pete Gas.
FG: You showed a real work ethic out there. I think you're
going to do real well in Japan. You think that competition is going to bring out
the best in you?
LK: I believe they have more intense competition, more intense training rituals and there's the strictness of the sport. More discipline that's presented over there will probably bring out the best in me.
EG: Today, we have hundreds and hundreds of independent
workers and basically 95% of them will not make it in this business, but the
buzz is out on you. Everybody is talking about you. What has brought you to the
top of the heap?
LK: Well, my discipline, my seriousness and my respect for this sport is pretty much what carries me. I'm not in there to play games. I'm in there strictly as a professional businessman.
EG: You have a very unique style. A lot of pure mat wrestling mixed with a lot of acrobatics. Tell us about it…
LK: I consider my style a very adaptable one. I don't particularly stress one unique style. I'm very intense in the ring. I'm very focused on what I have to do, and I accommodate my competition.
EG: Tell us about some of the best matches you've had. Some of the guys you've worked with.
LK: Some of the most intense matches I've had were versus the guy who trained me, Homicide. The gloves are off in those matches. We know how each other works. We're very serious and we're very aggressive in that ring.
EG: I saw you work Homicide a while back. It was a great match.
LK: I consider it a very good match, but there is always room for improvement. I don't believe in anyone being satisfied with what they have.
EG: So do you feel you're ready for Japan at this point?
LK: In Japan, as serious as I am, I still don't feel I'm ready, because I don't have enough experience.
EG: That's very humble.
LK: I'm a very humble person, and I'm very honest, too. Brutally honest in some cases.
EG: Where did you get the name Low Ki from?
LK: Low Ki has always been pretty much my personality. I'm not a flashy person. I'm not a person who goes into the room and demands attention. I'm very quiet. I keep to myself, but when I do my craft, I'm in there to do my best.
EG: Some people mistake Low Ki with one of the Norse Gods. You know Thor & Loki.
LK: I get that very, very much.
FG: Loki, the old trickster…
LK: My name is spelled Low Ki with an accent over the i.
EG: Tell us about some of the promotions you're working with.
LK: I just recently started working for ECWA, the East Coast Wrestling Association out of Wilmington, Delaware. That is Jim Kettner's promotion.
EG: I know Jim…
LK: A very strict promotion. A very, very good solid promotion, because of the experience that he has. He's been around for approximately 30 years as of August 2000.
EG: He's a serious promoter…
LK: A very serious promoter, which makes him the top promoter in this business.
EG: What's your next step in your career?
LK: The next step in my career is just to train harder, and become more and more focused in what I want to achieve. Like I said, I never settle at one particular level. There's just no satisfaction in my heart.
FG: Low Ki, I think you're one of them we have spotted early. I think you're going all the way.
EG: This might very well be one of these interviews where we
will say, "We saw him first. We caught him back when." So Low Ki, any
final comments for WBAI-FM's Light Show?
LK: Listeners, keep listening, and I'm pretty sure you're going to have future talent running in and out of this studio now and again.
EG: A very skilled wrestler, and a high flier. Low Ki, great having you on.
LK: Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it.
(RETURN TO WAWLI PAPERS INDEX PAGE)