THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 201-2001


(New York Mirror, circa early 1954)

By Dan Parker

Rafael Halpern, the wrestling rabbi, is going back to Israel, disillusioned. When he came to America 16 months ago to pursue a career on the mat, he thought that two Yankee Doodlers whose word need not be supported by an oath were George Washington and Toots Mondt.

Don’t think that Rafael the Rassler mistrusted all other Americans. Having studied the Scriptures, Rafael believes that he should have faith in all his fellow men. But there was something about Toots Mondt – maybe that extra roll of fat on the back of his neck – which made him believe that here, indeed, was a man whose word you could take, without reaching for Lot’s wife in her saline phase.

Consequently when Tootsie Boy assured the former Yeshiva buchar, by the beard of the prophet, that fame and wealth would be his if he proved himself worthy of the patronage of such a benevolent being as the last (thank Heavens) of the Mondts, Rafael, a kindly young man of lofty ideals, couldn’t help exclaiming fervently: "Sholom aleichem!"

And don’t you think Toots was right back at him instantly with so fervent an "Aleichem sholom," (learned from Jack Pfefer) that you would have sworn it was a long-delayed echo of an ancient patriarch’s reply to his flock!

So, with vim, vigor, absolute trust in the master of the herd and a beautiful build, Rafael took to the mat for Tootsie and won 159 matches in a row – 32 of them in less than a minute and, of course, all on the level. All this time, he was asking Uncle Toots for his chance to reach the top as promised. Once Mondt booked a match for him with Antonino (Bunions) Rocca in Trenton, but Antonino crossed not only the Delaware but Rafael and didn’t show up.

Toots pacified Rafael by assuring him Rocca had "fallen archeries" and "toe-nail poisoning from something he ett" or, maybe, stepped on in the ring.

Rocca, fined $200 for this runout, was matched again with Rafael. This time he developed nostalgia just before the date and flew back to that dear old Argentina. Just to show that his heart was in the right place where promises are concerned, Toots lost no time in promising Halpern a third match, and the date was set for last Tuesday night at the St. Nick. This time the Buenos Aires Bunion Boy was calloused about the whole business – on both feet. He didn’t even bother to invent an excuse for canceling. Disillusioned about his idol, Mondt and American wrestling, Halpern is now going back to Israel to conduct health schools he owns in Tel-Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem. There he expects to develop wrestling and boxing talent to bring back to the U.S. and make Toots sorry.

As an ordained rabbi, Rafael has never raised his hand to get satisfaction against opponents who use foul tactics. If they bite, scratch or gouge his eyes, he forgives them in the Biblical manner with a "Peace be with you." Of late, he he had run into an increasing amount of rough stuff and he thinks it was deliberate.

"Maybe they hate me because I won’t put on a show," he said. "Maybe they’re afraid to give me a chance because I’m different."

One word of advice I would give my friend, Rafael, before he thinks of bringing any wrestlers over to America: Keep them under lock and chain whenever Honest Toots Mondt is around, or Tootsie will own them, gold teeth and all, before gentle Rafael can say "Sholom aleichem" again to the man in whom his faith has been shaken.

If Rafael wants support for this sound advice, I would suggest he speak to Kola Kwariani, the ex-wrestler who lassoed the barefoot boy from Argentina when Rocca was wrestling under the management of Morris Siegel of Houston, the most honest wrestling promoter since Jack Pfefer himself. Pfefer is the entrepeneur with the unclipped hair and fingernails who had a chance to walk away with the Empire State Building the last time he was down on 34th Street but decided that honesty was the best policy after trying in vain to budge it with both shoulders. For this he was voted Most Honest Wrestling Promoter of 1953 by the National Wrestling Alliance.

But getting back to Kwariani, he brought Rocca to Mondt after kidnapping him from Honest Mawruss, knowing that Toots was a man he could trust because he has never been known to take pennies from a dead man’s eyes on account of being allergic to copper poisoning. That was sufficient proof of Toots’ honest for Kwariani. So when Rocca went back to Argentina and needed a new permit to get back into the country, Kola entrusted the paper work to Halpern’s shattered idol. Tootsie Boy made out the papers and, incidentally, a new contract which was also required by the immigration authorities. Through one of the oddest mistakes on record, while suffering a recurrence of the absentmindedness which grips him whenever he sees a bill collector approaching or something loose, Toots inserted his own name instead of Kola’s as manager of the jumping jack of the Pampas. So now Toots is manager of Rocca and Mawruss Siegel is willing to nominate Mondt for the presidency of Barren Island out of gratitude for thus being avenged against Kwariani.

To complicate matters, The Game was left briefly without an official organ because the "reliable" National Association Official Wrestling Magazine for which Toots used to write the editorials, crossword puzzles and advice to the lovelorn column has gone into bankruptcy for $15,469, the printers having been so devoid of sportsmanship as to refuse to settle their bill for a promise and an autographed photo of Rocca’s bare feet. How callous can a printer get? Luckily, Ned Brown, one of Herb Swope’s old World boys, plugged the breach with a brand new publication titled Wrestling World, probably out of compliment to the old master. For the three best guesses as to who is backing him in this new endeavor, Ned will give a pair of passes to one of Jack Pfefer’s cancelled shows. The first issue features a layout of Halpern which doubtlessly would have been pulled out of the forms if the news of Rafael’s rebellion had been learned in time for a replate.

As Rabbi Halpern doesn’t plan to leave for Israel until the middle of February, there is still a chance that Toots will dissuade him from his resolve by offering him first refusal of some Brooklyn Bridge Redemption Bonds paying 95 percent that he has printed up for himself and 60 percent of a new oil well he struck in Canarsie recently by drilling directly into the storage tank of a filling station.


(, December 20, 2001)

By Dave Meltzer

Question for the day? Why is it that when a talk show host, particularly a sports talk show host, interviews a pro wrestler, they consider it to be carte blanche to be unprepared? If it's because wrestling is such a joke, then they embarrass themselves for having wrestlers as guests. If wrestling is a serious enough and popular enough form of entertainment to be covered on such a show, then it's issues are as serious as any issues in real sports.

While there are exceptions, Michael Landsberg on TSN being the most noted, watching Chris Connelly with Hulk Hogan was nearly as transparent as Hogan's attempt to jump back into the WWF for Wrestlemania by claiming his son asked him to do it. Connelly treated Hogan like he was still the biggest name in wrestling, a title he held at one time, but hasn't at any point in at least three years. The comparisons to Babe Ruth were nearly as silly as Hogan's exaggerations, such as the guys today like HHH, Steve Austin and Rock (who he kissed up to clearly trying to get to work in that company and trying for those guys to work programs with him) work 400 matches per year (try 150-180, probably less since all will miss time with injuries and other commitments). Or Hogan trying to reinvent his legend as someone who combined entertainment with great athleticism. Hogan even talked about his match at the XWF tapings that went 30 minutes. Oh, really, can anyone remember Hogan wrestling for 30 minutes? Ever? Or that he pressed Andre over his head before 94,000 in his most famous match. And that Andre weighed 700 pounds at the time.

Connelly seemed mystified as he opened the show saying that Hogan was going to give his real thoughts on Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura, and then you could see in his face the feeling of being double-crossed when Hogan joined the McMahon "kiss my ass" club, saying that now that he's older and wiser, he realizes that Vince made the right decisions when they had their falling out. It was the same look on the prosecutors' face during the McMahon trial in 1994, when Hogan, given immunity against prosecution because of evidence uncovered on him, was to be one of the key witnesses against McMahon, but then helped unravel the case with his testimony. When the subject of Ventura came up, he responded by cutting an 80s pro wrestling promo like he did when both were in the AWA. There was a day when people would have gone wild. But today, in the background, you saw a few teenagers at the ESPN Zone eating french fries, seeming somewhat amused, a some mild clapping from others in the audience.

No questions about the death of WCW. He did ask about his leaving the WWF, although Hogan never answered the question. When asked about the ratings decline of WWF, Hogan's only answer is that nothing was wrong in wrestling today, only that they needed Hulk Hogan in the mix. While Hogan is clearly embarrassed with his track record in the movies (and I had to relive many nightmares watching clips of his acting in Mr. Nanny). Connelly was in awe of Hogan's still large arms. He did ask about steroids, pussy footing around by asking Hogan his own pat response, "Don't you think you were the fall guy for steroids in the WWF?"

Hogan was singled out because he lied on national television, and in the media for months on the subject, and later under oath, admitted that he had lied during McMahon's trial. It would tend to shine a lightning rod when you are pushing Hulk Hogan Vitamins for children, spend years promoting yourself around milk, vitamins and say no to drugs, and for it to then come out in a trial that you had purchased steroids from a doctor who was convicted of several felonies. And then to go on national television claiming it was the doctor who was lying, and he didn't even know the doctor except that he once posed for a fan boy photo for said doctor. And then one person after another comes forward to dispute the story, and eventually, in court, you have to admit you lied. He claimed all athletes during that time period were using steroids, not just wrestlers, which one would think would have had Connelly questioning the term all, but instead, he couldn't wait to get away from anything serious. Hogan passed it off as not being an issue today, which it isn't. But it begged for Connelly to respond if it's not an issue because nobody uses them, or not as issue because they are even more prevalent.

Hogan mentioned the XWF several times, acting like he's sitting there waiting to come back and deciding between two organizations. When talking about a company that tried to turn wrestling into Jerry Springer, the host thought he was talking about McMahon, but he said he was talking about WCW. He portrayed himself as the bastion for wrestling taking place in the ring regarding his philosophical problems with WCW that put him on the sideline, just like Thesz and Lewis before him.

Connelly tried to touch the raw never all retired athletes, have, Vince made hundreds of millions on his stardom. Hogan, knowing exactly what he wanted, was far too clever to fall for it, saying Vince worked as hard as anyone, and that Vince was the one who gave him the ball and he owed his stardom to Vince.

The funniest part was when Hogan went on a diatribe about the wrestlers of his era, who would work through major injuries, and how the wrestlers of today would take time off with their guaranteed contracts, and Connelly brought up Bill Goldberg. Hogan then, while running off Goldberg's various injuries as if he didn't mean Goldberg when he said it, added Goldberg to the list of people who were among his best friends. Hogan has been around long enough to know that no matter how far out of the picture somebody seems today, you never know who will be in power in a few years in this business. In that sense, HHH can still learn a few things from the master politician.

If there was one thing this show did tell, it's that the Hogan-Savage situation is exactly how it is being portrayed. Hogan never once mentioned Savage's name, despite getting a national outlet to do so. Savage is pathetically running around the country running his own angle. Hogan, smartly, wouldn't even dignify it. The host, being so well prepared, probably was clueless of it.


(Galveston County Daily News, December 20, 2001)

By Scott Williams

It’s said that nature abhors a vacuum, but the wrestling industry has been making what Ross Perot might call "giant sucking sounds" for months. A couple of would-be players are scrambling to fill the void, but scrambles often turn to stumbles.

Don’t be fooled by the apparent prosperity of the World Wrestling Federation. The Rock might sit with the Bushes at the Republican National Convention, but business is down. Flagship program "Raw," is drawing ratings similar to those the C-level show, "Sunday Night Heat," was getting in 1998 and 1999. Every source of revenue has declined at an alarming pace over the course of the year.

Even worse, for all intents and purposes, the WWF has been >he only game in town since March. A year ago, the WWF was one of three national companies, competing with the creatively bankrupt World Championship Wrestling and the financially bankrupt Extreme Championship Wrestling.

WCW effectively died in March, after Time-Warner/AOL executive Jamie Kellner decided to kick wrestling off the cable networks TNT and TBS. Without TV, WCW was a worthless commodity to pretty much everyone except WWF owner Vince McMahon. He snatched up the company for about $2.5 million, about what the WWF has lost by not letting DirecTV satellite providers carry its pay per views since October.

At the time of the WCW purchase, ECW was cold in the grave. The company was behind on payments to wrestlers and practically everyone else, and gave up the ghost.

Whatever embers were left of the once-roaring flames of both companies died due to incompetent storytelling. WCW might not have had Goldberg, Sting, or many of its other top stars, but it deserved better than the treatment WWF writers and stars gave it. The WCW crew came in, setting up potential dream matches, only to be squashed like bugs.

The WWF-WCW war became the most lopsided affair since those college kids decided to take on Chinese tanks back in 1989. Even the (fictional) injection of ECW into the story couldn’t save it.

This creative failure caused much of the decrease in fan support and revenue. The only national wrestling company left is struggling a bit. While it does, fans have had no viewing alternative and wrestlers have had more limited employment options than ever.

Recently, two new groups have emerged, each struggling to find a niche and make a mark.

World Wrestling All-Stars was the brainchild of former WWF and WCW writer Vince Russo. The group, which Russo left soon after its birth, used castoffs from the U.S. scene to stock a roster and tour Australia and Europe, markets starved for big-budget action.

The tours have enjoyed a degree of success, but the company is planning a February pay per view. ECW and WCW pay-per-view ventures have shown that success is far from guaranteed even for groups with weekly nationwide TV exposure. No one should be optimistic about the chances of a pay per view from a group with no exposure.

The other new kid on the block is the XWF, headed by former WWF manager Jimmy Hart. The group has taped a number of shows at Universal Studios theme park in Florida, and hopes to sell them as pilots for a series. The XWF content appears to be a little more appropriate for all ages than the frequently raunchy WWF, but the group lacks superstar presence. When your top guys are Vampiro, Curt Hennig and Buff Bagwell, you have no top guys.

Until the XWF gets on the air, the All-Star group gets its head out of the cloud, or a new player with a new vision comes along, it looks like your wrestling choices have slimmed to exactly one.


THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 202-2001


(New York Daily News, circa 1953)

By Hy Turkin

They’ve wrenched his arm, torturously twisted his foot, kicked him in the face and slammed his body, but Rabbi Raphael Halpern has smilingly come back for more. Not to the concentration camps of Europe … but to the wrestling mats of the United States.

A muscular marvel from Israel, 26-year-old Halpern turned to pro wrestling last fall and since then has taken falls out of all 72 foes. The unbeaten grappler is aiming for a lucrative June outdoor match against either NWA champion Lou Thesz or unofficial kingpin Antonino Rocca.

Halpern’s dreams of gold are not on a selfish level. He wants to reap a rich harvest of the Yankee dollars so that when he returns to Israel later in the year, he can realize his lifetime ambition of founding a chain of physical training institutes.

The dark-eyed, handsome athlete would like to train enough Israeli athletes for the Blue-and-White to make a fine showing in future Olympics. But, even more important, he wants to give his countrymen the benefit of his body-building knowledge so that they may better face the arduous years still ahead.

Nobody can serve as a better example of Halpern’s athletic preachings than Raphael himself. "Soon after World War II, I was a skinny, 145-pounder," recalls the sturdy six-footer. "Then I happened to see an American magazine on physical culture, and became fascinated by pictures of the model physiques. So I devoted myself to steady training … and now I have a 32-inch waist, 17-inch biceps and a 48 chest that expands to 50. I weigh 210 pounds."

His newfound strength was put to instant use in Israel’s struggle for freedom. As an officer of Haganna, he trained thousands of his poorly armed countrymen … not only in rugged calisthenics that built up their bodies, but also in judo and commando tactics.

All in all, the Vienna-born Hercules already has packed several amazing careers into his 26 years. He was graduated from the Hebron Yeshiva in Tel Aviv and ordained a rabbi, but recharted his life very quickly. He became a diamond cutter, advancing to the post of a $1,000-a-month foreman, before Israel’s struggle for independence suddenly started. Now he’s a successful pro wrestler here.

He also owns gyms in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem. But he won’t rest until he can build enough gyms "to train 10,000 boys in free gyms, pools and athletic fields."

He’s just the one to do it, too!


(Associated Press, June 9, 1951)

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – Gorgeous George, a professional wrestler, was accused today of ungentlemanly conduct outside the ring.

As a result, W.G. Wightman, Bethany, Mo., a member of the State Athletic Commission, recommended a life suspension and a $5,000 fine. His recommendation also included George’s manager, Howard Cantonwine.

George defeated Ronnie Etchison, St. Joseph, in a match last night. Etchison claimed Gorgeous George had used the ropes illegally in the final fall and protested. He went to George’s dressing room, but all he got for his trouble was a door slamming in his face.

Etchison then appealed to Wightman, who reversed the decision.

Wight said the wrestler and his manager then called him names. The recommendation for suspension and a fine followed.


(Tacoma News Tribune, September 9, 1952)

By Dan Walton

A small item in the Portland papers a few days ago reported that Martin Norbeck, age 68, had died in that city.

That’s the first time we ever knew that Norbeck had a square front handle. He was known as "Moose."

Moose turned pro wrestler in 1915, and in his day toiled and tussled with the best of them: Strangler Lewis, Jim Londos, the Zbyszkos, Charley Cutler, Marin Plestina, et al.

He perhaps was better known to more people as the star performer on the carnival midway athletic shows. Norbeck was a combination wrestler-boxer, meet-all-comers guy at the "AT" tent.

The Moose was of ferocious mien, square-jibbed, jutting jaw, primordial brow, multiple-fractured nose. And EARS that would have won all the prizes in the cauliflower division of the vegetable show at the Puyallup fair. He often showed there, in fact, but not in the Agriculture Bldg. The Moose looked the part and he knew all the tricks of the boxing and wrestling trades.

A quarter-century or more ago, Fred (Windy) Winsor, who was one of several managers of Jack Dempsey in the latter’s pre-Kearns days, sprung a tall fir sort of young fellow on the palpitating pugilistic public. Windy found him somewhere in the foothills of Mt. Hood, probably on the east side of the peak. Winsor billed him as the "Oregon Giant." And he was, too, tall as a Paul Bunyan story, although somewhat to the lean side.

After the Ore. G. had knocked out Annette Kellerman or some other equally well-known diver of the time, Windy matched him with Norbeck. It may have been that Fred was too busy beating the publicity drums for the Giant, at least he overlooked one trivial detail. He forgot to tell Norbeck that the Giant was supposed to win. That probably would have been all right with Moose, who was an obliging fellow. Besides, he wasn’t going anywhere as a fistic hope. So Norbeck, unaware of the script, exploded a right hand on the Giant’s "thick and thin," as the chin was called in those days among the wise guys. The Giant fell as if fallers with double-bitted axes had been whacking at his knees.

A year or so later, Lonnie Austin, of Seattle, brought out a big fellow from the British Columbia logging camps. Big Bill McWilliams, we believe his name was.

Big Bill won a few fights. Then, strange as it may seem, Lonnie matched him with Norbeck. Austin was school-teacherish sort, who wouldn’t stoop to "angling," as chicanery then was known – and still is, so far as we know. Indubitably, Lonnie didn’t give Norbeck a "buzz." Moose knocked McWilliams as stiff and as flat as an ironing board. Thereafter, Big Bad Bill was called "Sweet William."

Just 25 years ago, Bill Helis, who died two or three years ago, was trying to promote wrestling in Tacoma. Helis is a fabulous story in himself. Briefly, after his unhappy promotional experience here, he hooked on with Huey Long in Louisiana in an oil deal and became a multi-millionaire times over. That’s his son, William Helis, Jr. – more power to him for not dropping the "Jr.," who owns Spartan Valor and other stakes runners.

But to get back to the original thought, times were tough here with the big Greek. He decided to put on a mixed bout, wrestler vs. boxer. Helis named Norbeck as the boxer and Somebody-or-Other took the rassling role.

At the time, wrestler vs. boxer was a subject of some controversy, so we asked Helis whom he thought would win.

"I’m NOT promoting boxing," Bill replied laconically.

So the wrestler won the mixed bout.

Moose Norbeck was quite a fellow, one not to be taken at his face value – if you get what we mean.


(Associated Press, August 20, 1953)

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana, only state which tries to control the quality of pro wrestling, has licensed four out-of-state booking office managers

Arch Hindman, chairman of the State Athletic Commission, said last night the $100 licenses have been issued to Al Haft, Columbus, Ohio; Fred Kohler, Chicago; Cliff Maupin, Toledo, and Sam Muchnick, St. Louis.

All Indiana promoters must book wrestlers from that foursome.


(Scripps-Howard News Service, Dec. 30, 2001)

By Alex Marvez

Never has Ric Flair's trademark "Woooo!" sounded so good.

Flair's recent return to wrestling after an eight-month absence was long overdue. Flair - who is regarded as the greatest performer in wrestling history by most industry observers - debuted in the World Wrestling Federation last month as the promotion's "co-owner" along with Vince McMahon.

Flair was one of the performers whose contract wasn't purchased last March when the WWF bought World Championship Wrestling from parent company Time-Warner. With the WWF desperate for his services amid slumping business, Flair negotiated a buyout and landed a lucrative three-year contract.

"I didn't think that I'd be happy being out of the business for another year," Flair said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "There were those who said to wait another year, but so much can happen. So many things in life are timing. The opportunity presented itself and the timing was right."

In a career spanning almost 30 years, Flair had a record 18 to 20 reins as a world champion. But Flair said the only time he has been happier than now is when he was kingpin for Jim Crockett Promotions in the mid-1980s.

Flair deserves it considering what he was forced to go through in his final years in WCW.

Fueled by jealous matchmakers, Flair was cast into such embarrassing situations as being placed in a mental institution, abandoned in a desert and having his head shaved for a storyline that went nowhere. But not only did he honor his WCW contract, Flair retained the bulk of his popularity.

"The last two years were just a nightmare for me," said Flair, who was also involved in a messy lawsuit against Time-Warner that eventually was settled. "It was a real negative environment."

But being away from wrestling allowed Flair to enjoy a family life that he never could when working more than 300 nights a year during his heyday. Flair spent time attending the athletic endeavors of his children and planning for a life outside the ring.

"It took about a month and half to realize that I wouldn't be wrestling again because I had two years left on my (Time-Warner) contract," said Flair, 52. "I had accepted it. I was really unhappy to see anybody lose their job at WCW. That was a real downside (of the sale). But as far as the company being sold, I don't think it could have gotten any worse."

Now fully recovered from rotator cuff surgery, Flair said he expects to soon resume being an active performer on at least an occasional basis. Flair already was physically involved on Monday Night Raw four days ago by placing McMahon in his patented figure-four leg-lock.

"I feel great," said Flair, who became more injury prone late in his career after more than two decades in the ring. "I just need to lose some weight. I've been running on a treadmill, but it's different running around the ring. I want to wrestle with my trunks on. I do not want to have clothes on again (when wrestling). I'm not sure when I'm going to wrestle, but I'm just going to plan for the middle of January."

Flair also is cementing his legacy outside of the WWF. Flair, whose real name is Richard Fliehr, is expected to begin work on his autobiography in January. Flair's son, David, also is cutting his teeth in Ohio Valley Wrestling, a Louisville, Ky.,-based WWF developmental territory

When the two reunite for the holidays next week, the Flairs have five training sessions set for the ring of WWF performer Crash Holly outside of Charlotte, N.C.

"I think (David) is going to be OK," said Flair, whose son was overmatched when learning the ropes in WCW. "I think the best thing that happened to him was going up there to get away from everything (in WCW)."

Just like his father.

(For the world of joy that is Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer online site, please click yourself to


THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS Nos. 203-2001 & 204-2001

(ED. NOTE – The following clip is one that has appeared in an earlier edition of the WAWLI series. It’s worth revisiting, though, because – starting with this issue of the New WAWLI Papers – we’re going to reprint the Saturday Evening Post article from December, 1935, that inspired Marshall to launch his million-dollar lawsuit.)


(Associated Press, Friday, December 20, 1935)

COLUMBUS, Ohio—Everett Marshall, of La Junta, Colo., a claimant to the heavyweight wrestling title, charged six sports promoters with forming a "monopoly on wrestling" in a suit filed Friday asking a million dollars damage.

One of the promoters, Paul Bowser of Boston, termed the suit "just a publicity stunt." Bowswer, at Boston, denied Marshall’s charge of a monopoly in wrestling and said Marshall failed to "take" with Boston fans.

Another, Tom Packs of St. Louis, admitted there was "more or less a gentleman’s agreement" among the six promoters but denied the agreement constituted a "wrestling monopoly."

"We had to organize to protect ourselves and to get talent," Packs said at St. Louis. "When we are organized, managers and wrestlers can’t dictate to us."

Marshall, who makes his headquarters here, declared in the suit, filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, that a partnership formed by the six promoters barred all outsiders and used only wrestlers managed by the various partners.

Besides Bowser and Packs, he named as defendants Jack Curley of New York, Joseph Mondt of Los Angeles, Edward White of Chicago, and Ray Fabiani of Philadelphia.

Marshall named the Curtis Publishing Co. of Philadelphia as another defendant, alleging that the firm conspired with the promoters to "belittle" Marshall’s ability and to "destroy his standing as a heavyweight contender" through an article published in The Saturday Evening Post.

He said the combine had rejected his offers to meet the recognized champion, Danno O’Mahoney, whom he described in the suit as "a second rate wrestler of mediocre caliber."


(Saturday Evening Post, December 14, 1935)

By Milton MacKaye

The standing of wrestling as a profit-making enterprise has received little attention in the economic journals, and even those publications devoted to the fevers of sport have been niggardly in space and headlines. There has been a general tendency to regard wrestling as a sort of little country cousin of the opulent boxing profession, a rude and primitive trial of strength persisting feebly in the backwoods sections, but destined ultimately to become as extinct as the broadsword. As a public spectacle, it has been rated just ahead of long-distance walking contests and the hop, skip, and jump, and considerably behind the breath-taking thrills and romance of puss-in-the-corner and the potato race.

The fact is that, despite the indifference of the swankier trade, wrestling is now the most solvent of sports. The American public in these difficult times is paying some $5,000,000 a year to see the behemoths tug, haul, pull, shove and hurl each other about. Nightly, in a hundred smoke-filled arenas, the customers gather to witness the dreadful carnage and to push real money through the ticket windows. Any industry that can gross $5,000,000 a year is big business and deserves respectful attention from the realists of finance. No public, whatever the cynics say, has ever paid $5,000,000 to see potato races.

Tex Rickard was the man who put golden handcuffs on pugilism. He created the million-dollar gate, and since his time the legend has persisted that boxing is pure bonanza. As a matter of truth, until the recent bout between Joe Louis and Max Baer there had not been a million-dollar gate since Dempsey fought Tunney at Chicago in 1927. Boxing is in the doldrums. The public, nevertheless, is still inclined to believe, as a result of the publicity which isolated large purses receive, that boxing is the most profitable sport, and that any reasonably good boxer may retire after a few compensatory buffets with a rich and satisfying competence. This is an illusion. For all the rude gibes which have accompanied its recrudescence, wrestling today is the more profitable enterprise, and a share of stock in the syndicate which controls it is worth a dozen shares in the companies which stake their all on the five-ounce gloves.

There has never been a million-dollar gate in wrestling. When Frank Gotch met George Hackenschmidt for the championship of the world, in 1911, the net returns were $95,000 – equal, perhaps, to $450,000 by the standards of today – and when Jim Londos and Ed (Strangler) Lewis wrestled in Chicago in 1934, there were receipts of $207,000. Taxes decreased appreciably the net on the latter match. These two competitions hold the record. But there is a sharp difference between a heavyweight pugilistic champion and the journeyman of wrestling. A Dempsey or Tunney or Baer defends his title once a year. A wrestler is active three, four or five times a week. He is constantly on the move, and though his purses are smaller, they fill his pockets with comfortable frequency.

Londos, the Greek, who began his career as a dishwasher in a San Francisco restaurant, is generally considered to be the biggest money maker in the history of wrestling. He is said to have earned $2,500,000. This is a considerably larger stake than the great Tunney was able to amass in the boom times of boxing – he received $525,000 for the Tom Heeney match alone – and probably is little surpassed by Dempsey’s prodigious returns. Strangler Lewis, mat champion so many times that the statistician becomes dizzy, has earned between $500,000 and $600,000. Gotch made a fortune. Stanislaus and Wladek Zbyszko both retired rich. Joe Stecher, who in his day could and did flop Londos without trouble, was sufficiently solvent when he retired to pay $100,000 in cash for a single plot of land.

These gentlemen were the performers and not the promoters. When they profited, the promoters profited in an even greater degree. There seems to be no reason to doubt that, despite its wide publicity, boxing has slipped back as a profit-making enterprise, and that wrestling, like a thief in the night, has sneaked up on the box office and stolen the prize.

Wrestling, of course, has seen more glamorous times. Back in the days of the Rutherford B. Hayes administration, when the G.A.R. still controlled elections and the coal-oil lamp was considered the modern miracle of science, the champion of the world was one William Muldoon. In that period, prize fighting was illegal in all except the most loose and licentious localities, while wrestling was considered to be a just and civilized test of skill and strength. Muldoon profited by the outlawing of the brutal boxing game and amassed a fortune at his profession. He died in 1933, full of honors and deep in his eighties, a member of the New York Athletic Commission, the proprietor of a famous health resort for renovating tired tycoons, and immortalized in fiction by Theodore Dreiser as Culhane, the Solid Man. In Muldoon’s day the stage was an additional avenue of profits for a champion. Muldoon made large weekly salaries with vaudeville and variety turns, and turned definitely to art when Modjeska made her triumphal Shakespearean invasion.

Muldoon toured America with Modjeska as Charles, the wrestler, in As You Like It. So sport discovered Shakespeare long before Gene Tunney went into culture and several decades before Bernard Shaw discovered sport.

As the nineteenth century vanished in a haze of glory and the twentieth appeared with the popping of two-cylinder motorcars, champagne corks and Boer rifles, wrestling still continued to hold its own as an admirable phase of manly endeavor. Youngsters learned the efficacy of the half nelson and the wristlock in a million back yards, and Farmer Burns, a champion himself, found in the unlikely environs of Humboldt, Iowa, the young fellow who was eventually to be the greatest grappler of them all. There is, so far as studious inquiry can determine, no one to challenge the statement that Frank Gotch was the champion of champions. He was trained by Burns, but he himself brought so much science and skill to the game that no one has bothered since to discover anything other than the innovations of showmanship and ballyhoo. As cold art, it was impossible for wrestling to go beyond Gotch, and after his time – and indeed during his time – the sport began a steady and implacable decline. This wasting-away process was largely subterranean and was not evident at all during the first decade of the century. To a considerable section of the population, the invasion of George Hackenschmidt, champion wrestler of Europe, was a weightier event of 1908 than the election of Taft to the presidency or unrest in the Philippines.

Hackenschmidt was an interesting figure. Born a peasant boy in one of Russia’s outer provinces, he became a soldier in the Imperial Guard, and then, because of his phenomenal muscular development, one of the Czar’s personal bodyguards. Hackenschmidt was only 5 feet 9 ½ inches tall, but he weighed 224 pounds, his chest measured 52 inches around, and his biceps nineteen inches. He attracted the attention of a rich nobleman whose hobby was athletics. The nobleman decided that Hackenschmidt had in him the makings of a champion, and promptly set about grooming him for the job. Through political influence he obtained Hack’s release from the Imperial Guard, and paid his expenses while he was tutored by wrestling instructors and trained to a fine point of physical fettle in St. Petersburg gymnasiums. Hack was not only a wrestler; he was tremendously powerful. Atlas having managed the job of holding the world on his shoulders, there was only one task at which a modern titan could prove his worth at feats of strength – the besting of Sandow the Strong Man.

This was considered – and I am indebted for the details of Hackenschmidt’s history to Jack Curley, who was his impresario in America – a sizable undertaking. Sandow was ready to fight, break bones, or be shot from a cannon. When Hackenschmidt’s patron finally decided that school days were over, the two embarked for London. Sandow was appearing at a music hall, and it was his custom at the end of a theatrical performance to challenge any member of the audience to step forward and equal his feats of strength; he offered an appreciable amount of money if the victim’s arteries and nerve centers survived the test. On a fateful Friday night Hackenschmidt and his patron bought a stage box for the London performance. Sandow went through his usual routine, lifting sausages marked plainly "4000 lbs.," snapping crowbars with his bare hands, permitting a dozen men to load themselves on a platform balanced on his chest and then lifting platform and all with one puff of his pneumatic lungs. Then came the challenge. At that moment – such was the careful planning – Hackenschmidt dropped his trousers in the darkness of the box, peeled off his shirt and jumped to the stage in full gymnasium costume. The engagement was brief. Hackenschmidt not only managed all the feats of strength but dusted the floor with Sandow’s extremities and then ran him clear into the wings. That finished Sandow and started Hackenschmidt.

Hackenschmidt is now a man in his sixties, and the owner of a physical-culture school in London. He was a man of wealth at the time of his American debut, and though postwar declines cut into his principal, he still is entirely solvent. Hack was probably the first professional athlete to decide that there was something in this stuff about the brain. Following his retirement, he became interested in philosophy and metaphysics, and wrote a book. The fact that it received little critical attention is of no importance – when a wrestler writes a book, that is the ultimate answer to the defeatists. Evolution is a workable hypothesis. From ape to man is a sizable step, but from wrestler to articulateness is a geologic age.

Hatred of foreign invasion was responsible for the massacres of the Boxer Rebellion and the cash returns of Hackenschmidt’s tour of America. Hack met Gotch in 1908 and retired, after one fall, with what he described as an injured ankle. He had also lost his championship. This added to a native belief that one American could lick a dozen foreigners, but not sufficiently to curb Hack’s talents as a public attraction. When he returned to this country again, he packed the auditoriums and managed to throw all the opponents who faced him. Gotch in the meantime had begun to retire. This was a procedure which took four years to come to real fruition. Gotch’s retirements were never taken too seriously, and in 1912 he defended his title against Mahmout the Terrible Turk. This was not difficult, and he bought himself another section of Iowa land.

It would be pleasant here to report that Gotch was a kindly and equable gentleman who held his own ability in intellectual contempt. The fact is that he was short-tempered, and as irritable as a hibernating bear. He considered himself as important as a United States senator and his manners were very little better. He developed a very personal dislike for Hackenschmidt, and once described him as a "money-hungry greaseball." Gotch was convinced that Hack had quit cold in their 1908 engagement, and missed few public opportunities to say so. A large section of the sporting group agreed with Gotch’s diagnosis of Hack’s competitive temperament, and Curley, then managing the Russian’s tour, and never one to neglect public disgust, decided that Gotch’s anger might pay dividends. His manner of making it do so is an almost historic example of the guile and duplicity that go into successful sports promotions and the negotiating of international armament pacts.

Gotch was determined that he would never wrestle Hack again, because he believed his own prestige would bring thousands to the arena and allow the Russian to split a munificent purse. Gotch didn’t want Hackenschmidt to make money. Curley played his cards carefully. Gotch, a prosperous farmer, was sure to attend the yearly stock show in Chicago. Hack was scheduled to wrestle Jess Westergaard in Chicago at the same time. Curley sent Gotch complimentary tickets for a box seat and then laid a nefarious trap. When Gotch entered the Coliseum and took his seat, a spotlight played on him. Hackenschmidt, in the ring, rose to his feet and praised his old adversary as the champion of champions. That put Gotch in a spot, and immediately Curley henchmen, planted in the aisles, began a demand that he get up in the ring. Gotch reluctantly went forward and was introduced. Then the legion of Curley hecklers changed tune and demanded to know why he wouldn’t wrestle Hack. Was he afraid? Said Gotch, sweating in torment under the floodlights:

"Well, I’ll tell you fellows. No dirty foreigner is going to make money out of my reputation. I’m not afraid of Hackenschmidt and I’ll wrestle him for a $20,000 guaranty. No promoter can pay that and make any money for himself and Hackenschmidt."

"I’ll pay it," said the Machiavellian Mr. Curley, now putting in a public appearance for the first time. There under the floodlights he calmly wrote out a check for $20,000.

"And a thousand dollars for training expenses," Gotch said weakly.

"And a thousand dollars for expenses," said Curley.

"Put it to my account in the Peoples Bank at Humboldt," said Gotch.

"It’s done," said Curley.

Gotch wrestled Hackenschmidt again, and before the largest crowd in history. Gotch won. The crowd not only paid his guaranty but a $13,500 purse to the Russian and a much more generous profit to Mr. Curley, who thought it all up after all.

Dr. Ben Roller, a Seattle physician, was Gotch’s favorite claimant for his own title. Roller was a very skillful athlete, versed in all the cunning of his trade, but he lacked the poundage necessary for the exigencies of championship matters. In 1910 he and Gotch had toured the country for four months, meeting all comers. Doctor Roller then was fifty years of age, but he wrestled 191 men, threw each of them within fifteen minutes, and won the $250 stake offered for each contest. In the same year, Doctor Roller wrestled Stanislaus Zbyszko in Vienna and was pinned to the mat. During his training period, however, Doctor Roller managed to find time to study under Professor Ehrlich at Frankfort. He returned to America without victory, but with his scientific knowledge increased.

Doctor Roller was always an enigma to his managers and opponents; he regarded wrestling with a lukewarm eye and would wander away from the railway station in any tank town to argue with the village doctor about infections and contagious diseases. After Gotch’s definite retirement, Roller won the American championship in 1912 by defeating Charley Cutler. In 1915, when Roller was fifty-five, Ed (Strangler) Lewis took his title away and the good doctor returned to medicine.

Wrestling had a few moments of autumnal glory just after the war. The rise of two young athletes in the Middle West created a profitable patriotic fervor in the embattled farm region. These young men – Earl Caddock, of Iowa, and Joe Stecher, of Nebraska – were clean upstanding citizens, free of the poolroom taint and endowed with great natural skill at their art. Caddock’s most spectacular maneuver was the toehold, an ingenious method of inflicting sufficient pain to cause an adversary to surrender or turn on his back. Stecher’s fame rested on the scissors – a hold which consists in locking the legs around an opponent’s midriff and squeezing until a series of gentle crackles announces that his ribs are no longer in one piece.

Stecher and Caddock played to full houses. Their most frequent adversaries were the two Zbyszko brothers, Stanislaus and the younger Wladek, and the bull-necked Strangler Lewis. The Zbyszko brothers were foreigners, and thus represented the menace of king-ridden Europe; Lewis, born in Kentucky (sic), was famous for his headlock, a very brutal treatment of the human skull which was generally reported to result in fractures, concussions, brain lesions and small padded rooms in private sanitariums. When Lewis wrestled, thousands of advocates of fair play could be counted upon to pay their way to the ringside to express their disapproval of his methods.

Eventually the first enthusiasm for this five-cornered competition began to take tucks in itself. There was some criticism of the manner in which Caddock, Stecher, the Zbyszkos and Lewis seasonally traded the title among themselves.

There were even base attacks upon the sincerity of the athletes themselves, and suggestions that their rivalry was not so bitter and antipathetic as the philippics of their press agents made out. Athletes standing with envious eyes outside the charmed circle charged that a wrestling trust existed, and that the ballyhooed battles of the titans were merely family theatricals.

This abating of public confidence probably was only a minor factor in the collapse of wrestling as a drawing card. Its essential weakness as a public spectacle was its dullness. A few men, fortified with a knowledge of the intricate technique of the mat and gathered three-deep around a roped arena, could enjoy the muscular chess playing of the adversaries, admire the deft bridging and swift shifts of posture which countered an offensive. But for a crowd of eight or ten thousand people, hung along the rafters in giant coliseums, it was quite another matter. From the top balconies of the Metropolitan Opera House the singers on the stage may be visible only with spyglass and binoculars, but at least their voices can be heard, and people go there to hear singing. People do not go to wrestling matches to hear singing. The excellent acoustics of any particular auditorium will rarely mollify the gentleman who paid cash money for his ticket and is unable to tell with the naked eye whether Big Boy Benzine or whether the Bonebreaker has gone back on his pledge to give in.

The truth is that wrestling is a sport not cut out for stadiums and bizarre spectacles. Those who have attended championship prize fights and purchased what are laughingly called ringside seats know how difficult it is, even in boxing, to follow from astronomical distances just what is going on down there under the floodlights. But in a boxing match two men are on their feet and moving around the arena. Wrestlers who are fanatically in earnest spend most of their time in a reclining posture, tangled up together like swamp trees and so intermingled that it is impossible to determine, without tattoo marks or some definitely distinguishable mutilation, whose arm is whose, and whose tibia has been twisted into the shape of a wishing ring. They may even, on occasion, lie almost inert for periods ranging from two hours to two days. This is a remarkable proof of their tenacity and endurance, but it is not calculated to raise a fever in the spectator who can barely glimpse them from afar.

There were sad days for wrestling during the early 1920s. Caddock, whose expertness was never equaled by his weight or stamina, was retired by a tonsil operation from which he never entirely recovered. Stecher, Lewis, the aged Zbyszkos, continued on the prowl, but their royalty had become a little faded. In smaller localities the sport managed to exist, but the big cities were indifferent and the sports sections of the newspapers – often a reasonable mirror of public interest – reported matches with sparse lines of fine type or not at all. Such promoters as Jack Curley, of New York, Paul Bowser, of Boston, and others knew that wrestling was sick. It took some time to find the cure.

The ultimate solution is now history. The promoters took a leaf from the book of football. In the early days of football, ground gaining was principally tug and haul. Two teams were closely engaged in the manner of two locomotives trying to push each other off the track. Games so often ended in 0-0 ties that the only proof of superiority was to do bookkeeping on the number of broken bones and hand the laurel to the eleven which finally managed a murder. This was great fun for the football teams, the student managers and the hospital interns, but it did not build million-dollar stadiums. Football paid off the college mortgage only when close formations were abandoned. Broken-field running, the forward and lateral pass, the shift, made football a dramatic show for the man in the stands. He got action and thrills. He could see what was happening. In short, the open game was responsible for that overemphasis which disgusted the educators, pleased the alumni, and made it possible for even the humble iron puddler to get a college education and support the old folks at home in considerable ease.

The promoters opened up wrestling. The accident which gave them new vision was the violent advent of Gus Sonnenberg into the field of competition. Sonnenberg ws an All-American football player who had desolated the gridirons of New England was a member of the Dartmouth eleven. Sonnenberg didn’t know much about wrestling, but he had stature, bounce and, as the linguists say, plenty of moxie. In his first match he almost started a riot. Instead of engaging in the usual preliminary sparring about, he leaped from his corner, dived halfway across the ring, and hit his amazed opponent with a flying tackle. The opponent, being a man of no particular educational attainments, had never heard of the stiff arm as a defense against tacklers, and promptly subsided into such a deep silence that he was carried out of the arena by four awe-struck attendants.

Sonnenberg’s flying tackle took the customers by storm. It guaranteed action, drama and the thunderous collision of bodies. When, a very short time after he begun his career, Sonnenberg wrestled Strangler Lewis in Boston in what was advertised as a championship match, a counting of the gate receipts showed that a new success formula had been found. The long tussle upon the mat, the protracted inertia at full length, passed out of style. Wrestlers began hurling one another out of the ring, slapping one another’s faces, butting heads, kicking, scratching and gouging. They roared imprecations, screamed with pain, bared their teeth in fearful snarls, and on occasion aimed wild swings at the referee. It wasn’t wrestling, but no one cared about that; the departure of refinement signaled the return of prosperity.

The success of wrestling as a theatrical enterprise requires a constant supply of new blood. When Sonnenberg’s success coined money for promoter Bowser in Boston, rival promoters went out and dug up football players of their own. Jim McMillen, of the University of Illinois, was soon tangling with Jim Londos for promoter Curley in New York; Ed Don George was recruited to dispose of Sonnenberg; Jumping Joe Savoldi, of Notre Dame, became a sensation in Chicago. Various others had a fling at the game – Sam Stein; Len Macaluso, of Colgate; Mike Mazurki, of Manhattan College; Jim Bausch, of Kansas; Tony Siano, of Fordham, and a dozen more. Joe Savoldi’s tour de force was known as the "flying drop kick." He leaped high in the air, propelled himself forward and let his opponent have both feet squarely in the mouth. This rarely left the opponent with a friendly feeling, and so annoyed Jim Londos that he refused, after meeting Savoldi, to believe the fanciful story that he, Londos, had lost the match and blithely continued to call himself the champion of the world.

Even before the advent of the football players, the indiscriminate importation of boatloads of foreign talent had been begun. Jack Pfefer, a small, agile gentleman with a deep-purple accent, a cane and a very confident manner, was one of the first impresarios of what has come to be known as "freak talent." Mr. Pfefer, who prefers to speak of himself as the "Little Napoleon," came to this country from Russia, where he had managed grand-opera troupes wandering through the lesser cities of Europe and Asia. He knew nothing whatever about wrestling, but he did know about showmanship and color. One of his first importations – it was back in 1923 – was Ivan Poddubny, known variously as Ivan the Terrible, the Cruel Cossack, and, because of the proportions of his great mustaches, Old Handlebars. Poddubny had indeed once been champion of Europe, but when Pfefer rediscovered him he was sixty years of age. His mustaches, however, were still stiff and luxuriant, he had a chest full of medals and he made a country-wide tour in triumph, tossing all opponents on his route. Eventually Poddubny entered New York with a full-blown reputation as a wonder man, and met Joe Stecher at the Seventy-First Regiment Armory in a match for the world championship. Stecher was one hour and forty minutes in throwing Poddubny. There is a curious sequel. A few weeks after the rich championship match, the Cruel Cossack wrestled Tom Draak, a third-rater, in Newark. Draak pinned his shoulders in twelve minutes. Poddubny went back to Europe to spend his old age at the spas.

("On the Hoof" will conclude in The New WAWLI Papers No. 205-2001)


THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 205-2001

ON THE HOOF (continued from New WAWLI Papers No. 204-2001)

Jack Pfefer at that time was an associate of Curley in promotion, and they continued their importations. There was, for instance, Fritz Kley, the German, a massive contortionist; Leo Pinetzki, the long-armed giant from Poland; the immense and billowing Sandor Szabo; Serge Kalmikoff, the Cossack; and Ferenc Holuban, the odd Hungarian, advertised as "The Man Without a Neck." All these aliens were heralded upon arrival as bone crushers, savage mercenaries and gorilla men. Pinetzki had an arm reach of eighty-one inches and very little else in the matter of talent. The brief interval between Holuban’s chin and shoulders measured twenty-one inches around. Kalmikoff’s claim to a footnote in the history of the ring was that he introduced the beard to the American sporting public. It was Kalmikoff’s habit to roar like a lion in the ring and to stand twirling his whiskers as his opponent charged. Since that time beards have become almost standard equipment. No show now is complete without at least one set of Dundrearies or a challengingly neat Vandyke.

Kalmikoff talked very little English, but he knew well the crowd-pulling value of his beard. After his first tour here, he became engaged in a quarrel with the hot-headed Toots Mondt, one of the Curley partners. Mr. Moots Mondt, a former wrestler himself, is now a promoter on the Pacific Coast. During his angry conversation with Kalmikoff, ignorant of the fact that Curley had signed a contract to bring back the Cossack the following season, Mondt outlined succinctly what he considered to be Kalmikoff’s weaknesses as a wrestler and as an individual. The Cossack walked out in a fury. Forty-five minutes later he returned. He kicked open the door to Mondt’s office. Kalmikoff’s lace curtains were gone; that bountiful harvest of crisp black foliage had been denuded and there was only a powdered, shorn chin to show for years of careful culture. Kalmikoff enjoyed Mondt’s horrified glance a moment. Then he spoke.

"Ya-a-a-a-a-h," he said derisively, and dashed for the boat for Europe.

Promoters have that kind of difficulty. Holuban, the man without a neck, was another problem child. He spoke no English and he was entrusted to the care of a Hungarian journalist, who brought him through the customs and established him in a boarding house. Curley had arranged, for seven o’clock the following evening, a dinner of welcome, one of those hands-across-the-seas affairs at which the Hungarian consul, newspapermen and as many celebrities as could be conveniently corralled were to be guests. Unknown to Curley, the Hungarian journalist went through Holuban’s wardrobe the day of the dinner and discovered that the wrestler had no dinner jacket. Indeed, he discovered that Holuban had only one suit to his name, a light-brown affair that seemed in doubtful taste. This dismayed the journalist; he told Holuban that the American custom demanded that, in the absence of dinner clothes, he must at least provide himself with a dark suit. This was an apparently insuperable difficulty. It was quite impossible to fit Holuban, who weighed several hundred pounds more than he had any right to, in a ready-made suit. The journalist finally hit upon a solution – the brown suit could be dyed. The dinner guests convened that evening at seven. At 7:30 Holuban had not yet arrived. At 8:15 Curley ordered the dinner served and sent couriers to find the guest of honor. They found him at his boarding house, shaved and pomaded – and in his underwear. His brown suit was still at the dyers; the color had been changed, but the garment stubbornly refused to dry.

One of the couriers rushed to the tailor shop, snatched the suit from the drying room, took out the dampness with a borrowed electric iron. Three hours later Holuban arrived at his dinner, conservatively clad in black.

Several elements have permitted wrestling to outstrip boxing as a money-making enterprise during the last few years. One is an epidemic of dull and pacific boxing matches. Another is the lower price scale for mat shows. Still another is the efficient way in which the wrestling industry has been organized. Roughly, the promoters divide the country into seven geographical sections – the areas of Los Angeles, Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis, Boston, Philadelphia and New York. In each of these cities there is a boss entrepreneur who owns a stable of wrestlers. These gentlemen finance and produce the shows in their own cities, but they also operate booking offices which provide talent for smaller towns and keep their athletes at work. The wrestling circuits, in fact, closely resemble vaudeville circuits, and they function much the same. The athletes who perform in Camden on Tuesday night play Trenton on Wednesday. Camden is capable of producing a $9000 house. Fifty per cent of that goes to the local promoter who rented the auditorium and stands the incidental expense. He pays $4500 to the booking office, which, in turn, rewards his talent.

The secret of the success of the circuits is that they do not permit the local impresario to lose money. A well-known promoter thus described the operations of his booking office to me: "Let’s say that a fellow comes in from Zenithville and tells me that he wants some talent for a show. Well, a thousand dollar house is about as small as you can fool with. I tell the fellow that my talent will cost $500. For that I send him a complete card. The boys split $400 between themselves and my office gets $100. The local promoter gets $500. His expenses are, say, $200. At that rate he can make $15,000 or $20,000 a year. Where else can he make it? And he takes no gamble. If the first show is a flop, we cut our price or give him the talent for only their railroad expenses. The talent is willing. That’s where wrestlers are wiser than fighters. They waive their purse when the promoter takes it on the chin. They lose money that night, but they’ve made a friend, who will book them again."

Each promoter is encouraged to develop local talent. Often a popular following can be had for a muscular butcher, a home-town policeman for a tough guy from over the tracks. He meets one of the lesser members of the traveling troupe in a preliminary to the main event. He is quite likely to win. After a series of victories, he may even be matched in a main event, and then scheduled in nearby cities. If the home-town boy has real ability, he will get a job on the traveling circuit. That’s rather infrequent.

The Zenithvilles, theQuincys and Shamokins do not turn in million dollar gates, but they all add up. They add up to an approximate $5,000,000 a year. In the major cities alone the grosses total $1,500,000. Here they are, and very conservatively estimated: New York, $200,000; Chicago, $200,000; Boston, $400,000; Los Angeles, $400,000; St. Louis, $150,000; Philadelphia, $150,000. And these are only six cities. Big matches swell the totals. A few grosses over a period of years: In New York, Caddock-Stecher, $85,000; Londos-McMillen, $56,000; Londos-Garibaldi, $38,000; Londos-Stein, $44,000; Shikat-Holuban, $35,000; Londos-Holuban, $48,000; in Boston, Sonnenberg-Lewis, $75,000; Sonnenberg-Lewis, return engagement, $68,000; Sonnenberg-George, $62,000. In Los Angeles, a year or so ago, a Brooklyn boy named Frank Leavitt grossed $500,000 for the matches in which he was engaged. He had grown a beard after leaving Brooklyn, and was known on the Coast as Man Mountain Dean. Leavitt, who weighed about 300 pounds, bowled over opponents until Londos came out to meet him. Some 38,000 paid $38,000 to see the match. Leavitt lost. It is only fair to say that this was no surprise to the people who had known him before he grew the beard.

One of the regrettable things about the boxing profession is that many of the most promising candidates for laurels are detoured by adulation and the bright lights. This does not hold true in wrestling. A heavyweight boxing champion fights, at most, twice a year. A heavyweight wrestling champion – and only the heavyweights seem to have box-office value – is engaged at least once a week, and usually oftener.

Wrestlers don’t have time for the bright lights; they are always on the road. A few have been spoiled by public attention, but most of them are too busy saving money and working to bother about swank and effect. A boxer stays at a good hotel; a wrestler stays in a boarding house. This, perhaps, is the explanation of the statement of Jack Curley, forty years a promoter, that he had never been panhandled by any aging wrestler who was once in his employ. The career of a boxer is necessarily brief; few of them stay in the top flight after the age of thirty-two. Wrestlers go on forever. Londos was wrestling in 1915; he has not yet retired. Strangler Lewis defeated Doctor Roller in 1915, and he still is too much for the football talent. Stan Zbyszko is well past sixty and thinks he could scrimmage a little bit if the purse were large enough. The average wrestler of non-championship caliber makes $20 to $100 a night on the circuits and is engaged five nights a week. That, estimating the indoor season at 170 nights a year, is a very comfortable income. Especially, as one impresario remarked, when you think of what they would make as motormen.

Since wrestling is now an industry, it is probably futile to criticize its theatricals on the basis of sport or to debate about championships. There are no record books, as in boxing, to register the changes of title, and indeed for several years there were a number of simultaneous world champions. At the present time the major promoters are at peace and agreed upon a titleholder. This is an unusual situation and may be changed tomorrow. Since Gotch there has been no king of wrestling recognized by the true connoisseurs of the game. Caddock came nearest to their acclaim, but he only weighed at his weightiest some 168 pounds. There is a general agreement among the students of the game, however, that in a non-theatrical enterprise Caddock, Stecher, the Zbyszkos, and Lewis, in his prime, could have tossed fourteen football players, a boatload of Holubans, and at least two Jim Londoses in an hour’s interval. Possibly, George Bothner, lightweight champion from 1898 to 1917, and now a wrestling coach, could have thrown them all. An interesting fact in the consideration of Londos, champion in some circles from 1929 until a few months ago, is that he was thrown a dozen times by Lewis before he conquered the old Strangler before that record-breaking crowd in Chicago.

This, however, is all academic. Wrestling has been opened up and fouls outlawed. The crowd likes the slaughterhouse atmosphere and the cynics go for amusement. It isn’t wrestling and it isn’t fighting, but the mayhem and rowdiness provide a lot of fun. The crowds have action. During the late ‘20s and the early ‘30s your guess was as good as mine about the championship. Mr. Curley and Mr. Bowser, for example, had their own titleholders, and the titleholders never met. The whole affair, what with Lewis and Londos refusing to give up titles after defeat, and with Dick Shikat recognized by the athletic commission of one state, and Ed Don George or Jim Browning by another, became too difficult to follow through to any conclusion. At one time there were five world champions touring the country simultaneously. And when the warring promoters eventually made peace and the championship was located in one man, the enemies of wrestling said that competition had been stifled. They may, of course, have been right.

Danno O’Mahoney, a broth of a boy from the Free State, is now the champion of the world everywhere except in Colorado. There, by a ruling of the state commission, a certain Everett Marshall holds the title, and he was given a belt by the governor to prove it. O’Mahoney may, himself, have become champion by fortuitous choice. There is a story that Mr. Paul Bowser, of Boston, a heavily Irish town, sent scouts to Ireland to sign upl Doctor Callaghan, the Olympic weight thrower. Doctor Callaghan, a practicing physician, had no interest in championships or American gold. Gossip has it that the scouts wired back that although Doctor Callaghan was indifferent, they had seen a fine broth of a boy in the Irish National Army. "Sign him up," Colonel Bowser is reported to have replied. O’Mahoney resigned from the army, emigrated and immediately began winning sensational victories in Boston. His favorite hold has been described by the press agents as the "Irish whip." Since no one knows the peculiar magic of this hold, it is generally and probably safely assumed that it has the same authenticity as the other holds invented by press agents – the "Indian death grip," the "airplane spin," and half a dozen others. The fact is that there have been few holds invented in wrestling during the 5,000 known years of its history. On the temple tombs of Beni Hasan near the Nile are sculptured hundreds of scenes from wrestling matches, depicting practically all the known muscular hazards utilized today. So far as can be determined, the Irish whip, the airplane spin and many other publicized maneuvers are nothing else than the old-fashioned jugglings of balance and strength that were used when the Pyramids still were young.

Eventually, with promoters at peace, the Irish Mr. O’Mahoney managed to clear up disputes over title.

In Boston, he threw Ed Don George. He also threw Jim Londos, the only other major claimant of the championship. Since that time he has never met defeat, but there are reports that there will be another champion soon.

Every now and then, no matter how the question is dogged, the inquiry arises as to whether wrestling is on the square. This inquiry rarely takes into consideration the fact that wrestlers travel as troupes, one member grappling with his teammate every other night for title and honor. The New York Athletic Commission probably is the best guide in these matters. Under the New York rules, a wrestling engagement must always be advertised as a "wrestling exhibition," and not as a "wrestling match."

Well, that gives you a rough idea, and anyhow the industry doesn’t mind.

(ED. NOTE – The part that Everett Marshall and his manager, Billy Sandow, probably most objected to appeared in a caption beneath a photo of Marshall and Jim Londos which appeared along with the type on the first page of the sprawling article and in which the former appeared to be bouncing the latter on his head: "The 24th Londos-Marshall Reunion, All Won by Londos. Marshall Practicing Boy Scout Knots on Londos’ Legs." There ensued a brief flurry of stories, about how many times the two actually had met, and then no more was heard. It is doubtful that Marshall ever collected a penny and the trust, to its satisfaction, continued to operate in, one fashion or another, for another fifty years before Vincent K. McMahon decided to gather it all to his bosom and/or bottom, not to mention the infamous "stinkface" of the roly-poly one known as Rikishi.)


THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 206-2001


Denver CO: January 1, 1951

(Mammoth Garden) … Frank James beat Mr. Boston … Brother Jonathan and Don Leo Jonathan beat Jimmy Blood and Danny Loos … Paul Stafford and Tugger Zeke drew Nick Kapitan and Al Lolotai

Denver CO: January 8, 1951

(MG) … Frank James beat Mr. Boston (unmasked as 250-pound "Jack Boston") … Don Leo Jonathan beat Jimmy Blood … Danny Loos drew Brother Jonathan (dcor) … Nick Kapitan drew Tugger Zeke

Denver CO: January 15, 1951

(MG) … Swedish Angel beat Jimmy Blood … Jack Boston beat Danny Loos … Brother Jonathan and Don Leo Jonathan beat Frank James and Nick Kapitan

Denver CO: January 22, 1951

(MG) … (Ladies) Mildred Burke beat Elvira Snodgrass … Brother Jonathan and Don Leo Jonathan beat Joe Bennicasa and Jimmy Blood … Tugger Zeke and Nick Kapitan vs Jumbo Jim Lankas and Frank James

Denver CO: January 29, 1951

(MG) … Joe Bennicasa beat Frank James (won Rocky Mountain title) … Don Leo Jonathan beat Swedish Angel … Nick Kapitan beat Jimmy Blood (dq) … Brother Jonathan drew Jim Lankas

Denver CO: February 5, 1951

(MG, att. 4,000) … Joe Bennicasa beat Don Leo Jonathan … Brother Jonathan beat Nick Kapitan … Jimmy Blood and Tiger Joe Marsh beat Frank James and Jim Lankas … (Ladies) Mars Bennett beat Cora Combs

Denver CO: February 12, 1951

(MG) … (WJHTM) Verne Gagne* beat Danny Loos … Joe Bennicasa vs Brother Jonathan … Frank James and Jim Lankas vs Jimmy Blood and Tiger Joe Marsh

Denver CO: February 19, 1951

(MG) … Don Leo Jonathanb beat Joe Bennicasa (dq) … Danny Loos vs Jimmy Blood … Joe Campbell vs Tugger Zeke … Brother Jonathan vs Matt Kosternich

Denver CO: February 26, 1951

(MG) … Danny Loos beat Joe Bennicasa (dq) … Don Leo Jonathan drew Joe Campbell … Brother Jonathan and Matt Kosternich beat Tugger Zeke and Jimmy Blood

Denver CO: March 5, 1951

(MG) … (WTM) Lou Thesz* beat Emil Dusek … Don Leo Jonathan drew Danny Loos … Jimmy Blood and Joe Bennicasa beat Jim Lankas and Brother Jonathan

Denver CO: March 12, 1951

(MG) … (Ladies) Mae Young beat Elvira Snodgrass … Brother Jonathan and Don Leo Jonathan drew Joe Bennicasa and Tiger Joe Marsh … Matt Kosternich drew Joe Campbell

Denver CO: March 19, 1951

(MG) … Danny Loos beat Joe Stalin … Brother Jonathan and Don Leo Jonathan beat Joe Bennicasa and Matt Kosternich … Masked Monster beat Joe Campbell

Denver CO: March 26, 1951

(MG) … Don Leo Jonathan vs Jimmy Blood … Joe Stalin vs Matt Kosternich … Masked Monster vs Brother Jonathan … Danny Loos vs Joe Campbell

Denver CO: April 2, 1951

(MG) … Joe Stalin and Masked Monster beat Brother Jonathan and Don Leo Jonathan … Danny Loos and Matt Kosternich beat Jimmy Blood and Jim Lankas … Joe Campbell drew Clark Gable

Denver CO: April 9, 1951

(MG) … (Ladies) Mae Young beat Cora Combs … Joe Stalin and Masked Monster vs Don Leo Jonathan and Brother Jonathan … Jimmy Blood and Joe Campbell vs Danny Loos and Matt Kosternich

Denver CO: April 16, 1951

(MG) … Joe Stalin and Masked Monster beat Danny Loos and Matt Kosternich … (Ladies) Mae Young beat Joyce Ford … Brother Jonathan and Don Leo Jonathan drew Jimmy Blood and Lefty Pacer

Denver CO: April 23, 1951

(MG) … Primo Carnera beat Joe Stalin (dq) … Referee: Max Baer … Brother Jonathan and Don Leo Jonathan beat Masked Monster and Jimmy Blood (dq) … Lefty Pacer drew Matt Kosternich

Denver CO: April 30, 1951

(MG) … Primo Carnera and Don Leo Jonathan vs Joe Stalin and Masked Monster … Referee: Max Baer … Danny Loos vs Matt Kosternich … Jim Lankas vs Jimmy Blood … Lefty Pacer vs Clark Gable

San Francisco CA: April 5, 1955

(Winterland) … Mike Sharpe and Ben Sharpe drew Rocky Brown and BoboBrazil … Lord Blears beat Don Kindred … Art Michalik beat Baron Gattoni … Gene Dubuque drew Vic Christy

San Francisco CA: April 12, 1955

(Wtld) … Leo Nomellini beat Sandor Szabo … Lord Blears and Gene Kiniski beat Bobo Brazil and Alo Leilani … Rocky Brown beat Vern Taft … Steve Stanlee drew Art Michalik

San Francisco CA: April 19, 1955

(Wtld) … Johnny Barend and Enrique Torres and Art Michalik drew Gene Dubuque and Gene Kiniski and Lord Blears … Bob Orton beat George Scott … Mighty Ursus beat Aldo Bogni … Steve Stanlee beat Steve Scott

San Francisco CA: April 26, 1955

(Wtld) … Art Michalik and Enrique Torres and Johnny Barend beat Lord Blears and Gene Kiniski and Gene Dubuque (dq) … Mike Mazurki beat Steve Stanlee … Rocky Brown beat Baron Gattoni

San Francisco CA: May 3, 1955

(Wtld) … Mike Sharpe and Ben Sharpe beat Rocky Brown and Mike Mazurki … Bob Orton beat Aldo Bogni … Art Michalik beat Mighty Ursus (dq) … Vic Christy drew Gene Dubuque

San Francisco CA: May 10, 1955

(Wtld) … Lord Blears and Gene Kiniski beat Mike Sharpe and Ben Sharpe … Rikidozan beat Cliff Olson … Baron Gattoni beat Carl Cooper … Steve Stanlee drew Mike Mazurki

San Francisco CA: May 17, 1955

(Wtld) … Lord Blears beat Gorgeous George … Rikidozan beat Baron Gattoni … Bob Orton and Gene Dubuque beat Vic Christy and Johnny Barend … Rocky Brown beat Mike Mazurki

San Francisco CA: May 24, 1955

(Wtld) … Rocky Brown and Rikidozan beat Bob Orton and Gene Dubuque … Mike Sharpe beat Mighty Ursus (dq) … Gene Kiniski drew Johnny Barend … Greg Jarque beat Cliff Olson

San Francisco CA: May 31, 1955

(Wtld) … (WTM) Lou Thesz* beat Rocky Brown … Gene Stanlee and Steve Stanlee beat Baron Gattoni and Aldo Bogni … Lord Blears drew Art Michalik … Bob Orton beat Vic Christy

San Francisco CA: June 7, 1955

(Coliseum Bowl) … Leo Nomellini beat Bob Orton … Gene Stanlee and Steve Stanlee beat Gene Dubuque and Mighty Ursus … Greg Jarque beat George Bruckman … Art Michalik drew Gene Kiniski

San Francisco CA: June 14, 1955

(CB) … Gene Kiniski and Lord Blears beat Leo Nomellini and Art Michalik … Gene Stanlee beat Baron Gattoni … Rikidozan beat Roberto Pico … Gene Dubuque beat Greg Jarque

San Francisco CA: June 21, 1955

(CB) … Gene Stanlee and Steve Stanlee beat Gene Dubuque and Roberto Pico (dq) … Mike Sharpe drew Rikidozan … Bob Orton beat Ramon Cernades … Vic Christy drew Lee Henning

San Francisco CA: June 28, 1955

(CB) … Gene Kiniski and Lord Blears beat Gene Stanlee and Steve Stanlee … Rikidozan beat Gene Dubuque (dq) … Lee Henning beat Mighty Ursus … Greg Jarque drew Bob Orton

San Francisco CA: July 5, 1955

(CB) … Gene Stanlee beat Lord Blears … Enrique Torres and Johnny Barend beat Gene Kiniski and Lee Henning … Tom Rice drew Greg Jarque … Vic Christy drew Clyde Steeves

San Francisco CA: July 12, 1955

(CB) … Gene Kiniski and Lord Blears drew Gene Stanlee and Steve Stanlee … Cyclone Anaya beat Tom Rice … Greg Jarque beat Bob Orton … Roberto Pico drew Vic Christy

San Francisco CA: July 19, 1955

(CB) … Mike Sharpe and Ben Sharpe beat Enrique Torres and Johnny Barend (cor) … Lord Blears beat Vic Christy … Greg Jarque beat Roberto Pico (dq) … Clyde Steeves drew Ray Jennings

San Francisco CA: July 26, 1955

(CB) … Enrique Torres and Johnny Barend beat Mike Sharpe and Ben Sharpe … Gene Stanlee beat Lee Henning (dq) … Steve Stanlee beat Gene Dubuque … Tom Rice drew Vic Christy

San Francisco CA: August 2, 1955

(CB) … Gene Kiniski and Lord Blears beat Gene Stanlee and Steve Stanlee … Cyclone Anaya beat Roberto Pico … Greg Jarque drew Lee Henning … Gene Dubuque drew Clyde Steeves

San Francisco CA: August 9, 1955

(CB) … Gene Kiniski and Lord Blears beat Enrique Torres and Johnny Barend … Mike Sharpe beat Vic Christy … Lee Henning beat Ray Jennings … Gene Dubuque drew Steve Stanlee

San Francisco CA: August 16, 1955

(CB) … Gene Kiniski and Lord Blears beat Enrique Torres and Johnny Barend (cor) … Gene Stanlee beat Tom Rice … Baron Gattoni beat Clyde Steeves … Roberto Pico drew Greg Jarque

San Francisco CA: August 23, 1955

(CB) … Mike Sharpe and Ben Sharpe drew Enrique Torres and Cyclone Anaya … Gene Dubuque beat Vic Christy … Lee Henning beat Greg Jarque … Baron Gattoni beat Ted Christy

San Francisco CA: August 30, 1955

(CB) … Enrique Torres and Cyclone Anaya beat Mike Sharpe and Ben Sharpe (dq) … Referee: Pete Peterson … Gene Dubuque beat Clyde Steeves … Sandor Kovacs beat Baron Gattoni … Bobby Bruns beat Roberto Pico

San Francisco CA: September 6, 1955

(CB) … Enrique Torres beat Lord Blears … Referee: Jack Wagner … Tom Rice and Lee Henning beat Bobby Bruns and Steve Stanlee … Sandor Koacs beat Gene Dubuque … Gene Kiniski beat Greg Jarque

San Francisco CA: September 13, 1955

(CB) … Tom Rice and Lee Henning beat Enrique Torres and Bobby Bruns (cnc) … Mike Lane beat Gene Kiniski (dq) … Ronnie Etchison beat Earl Rasmussen … Juan Humberto drew Bud Curtis

San Francisco CA: September 20, 1955

(Winterland) … (WTM) Lou Thesz* drew Enrique Torres … Tom Rice and Lee Henning beat Gene Stanlee and Steve Stanlee … Lord Blears drew Sandor Kovacs … Juan Humberto drew John Cretoria

San Francisco CA: September 27, 1955

(Wtld) … Tom Rice and Lee henning beat Cyclone Anaya and Sandor Kovacs … Ronnie Etchison drew Gene Kiniski … Lord Blears beat John Cretoria … Bobby Bruns drew Bill Melby


THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 207-2001


Houston TX: January 6, 1950

(City Auditorium) … Verne Gagne beat Ted Cox … Rito Romero beat Monte LaDue … Dutch Hefner beat Jimmy Blood … Sonny Myers drew Billy Hickson … Frank Taylor beat Angelo Cistoldi … Frank James drew Buddy Jackson

Houston TX: January 13, 1950

(CA) … (Texas Title*) Danny McShain beat Verne Gagne … Sonny Myers beat Karl Davis (dq) … Wild Red Berry drew Miguel (Black) Guzman … Tim Geohagen beat Angelo Cistoldi … Buddy Jackson beat Frank James

Houston TX: January 20, 1950

(CA) … Tim Geohagen beat Danny McShain … Miguel Guzman drew Billy Hickson … Verne Gagne beat Karl Davis … Sonny Myers beat Frank Taylor … Rito Romero beat Wild Red Berry (dq)

Houston TX: January 27, 1950

(CA) … (WTM) Lou Thesz* beat Tim Geohagen … Miguel Guzman and Rito Romero beat Danny McShain and Wild Red Berry … Sonny Myers drew Verne Gagne … Jackie Nichols beat Billy Hickson … Al Lovelock beat Angelo Cistoldi

Houston TX: February 3, 1950

(CA) … Danny McShain beat Miguel Guzman … Rito Romero drew Wild Red Berry … Ivan Kalmikoff and Wladislaw Talun beat Al Lovelock and Sonny Myers … Verne Gagne beat Billy Hickson … Cowboy Carlson beat Monte LaDue

Houston TX: February 10, 1950

(CA) … Tim Geohagen beat Danny McShain … Miguel Guzman drew Jackie Nichols … Wladislaw Talun beat Wild Red Berry … Verne Gagne beat Ivan Kalmikoff (dq) … Rito Romero beat Sonny Myers

Houston TX: February 17, 1950

(CA) … Tim Geohagen beat Wladislaw Talun … Ivan Kalmikoff and Danny McShain vs Miguel Guzman and Rito Romero … Verne Gagne vs Ruffy Silverstein … Al Lovelock vs Frank Taylor … Angelo Cistoldi vs Jackie Nichols

Houston TX: February 24, 1950

(CA) … Miguel Guzman and Rito Romero beat Danny McShain and Ivan Kalmikoff … Ruffy Silverstein beat Monte LaDue … (Animal vs Man) Ginger the Bear beat Wladislaw Talun … Wild Red Berry beat Billy Hickson … Ivan Kalmikoff drew Rito Romero … Danny McShain beat Miguel Guzman

Houston TX: March 3, 1950

(CA) … Miguel Guzman and Rito Romero beat Danny McShain and Wild Red Berry … Ruffy Silverstein drew Jackie Nichols … Tim Geohagen beat Frank Jares (dq) … Al Lovelock beat Verne Gagne … Jack Terry beat Cowboy Carlson

Houston TX: March 10, 1950

(CA) … (WTM) Lou Thesz* beat Danny McShain … Rito Romero and Miguel Guzman beat Jack Terry and Wild Red Berry … Tim Geohagen drew Ruffy Silverstein … Verne Gagne beat Frank Jares … Johnny Demchuk beat Ivan Kalmikoff

Houston TX: March 17, 1950

(CA) … Danny McShain beat Tim Geohagen … (Ladies) Nell Stewart beat Celia Blevins … (Ladies) Mae Young beat Ellen Olsen … Miguel Guzman beat Ivan Kalmikoff … Johnny Demchuk drew Wild Red Berry … Rito Romero beat Jack Terry (dq)

Houston TX: March 24, 1950

(CA) … Bill Longson beat Danny McShain (dq) … Ernie Dusek beat Miguel Guzman … (Ladies) Nell Stewart beat Mae Young … Wild Red Berry drew Frank Jares … Johnny Demchuk beat Jack Terry

Houston TX: March 31, 1950

(CA) … Miguel Guzman beat Ernie Dusek … Rito Romero drew Danny McShain … (Ladies) Nell Stewart beat Ellen Olsen … Wild Red Berry beat Johnny Demchuk … Al Lovelock drew Jackie Nichols … Joe Pazandak beat Ivan Kalmikoff

Houston TX: April 7, 1950

(CA) … Danny McShain beat Rito Romero … Carlos Moreno and Miguel Guzman beat Wild Red Berry and Ernie Dusek … Tim Geohagen drew Joe Pazandak … George Pencheff beat Al Lovelock … Jack Terry beat Jackie Nichols

Houston TX: April 14, 1950

(CA) … Danny McShain beat Rito Romero … George Pencheff beat Ernie Dusek … Miguel Guzman beat Jack Terry … Whitey Whittler and Benny Trudell beat Lou Newman and Joe Pazandak … Carlos Moreno beat Ray Clements

Houston TX: April 21, 1950

(CA) … Danny McShain beat George Pencheff … Wladek Kowalski beat Tim Geohagen … Miguel Guzman and Carlos Moreno beat Whitey Whittler and Benny Trudell … Otto Kuss drew Joe Pazandak … Al Lovelock beat Marvin Jones

Houston TX: April 28, 1950

(CA) … Wladek Kowalski beat Danny McShain … Ruffy Silverstein drew George Pencheff … Miguel Guzman beat Whitey Whittler (dq) … Carlos Moreno drew Lou Newman … Al Lovelock beat Jack Bloomfield

Houston TX: May 5, 1950

(Sam Houston Coliseum, att. 10,000) … (WTM) Lou Thesz* beat Wladek Kowalski (dq) … Danny McShain beat Miguel Guzman … (Ladies) Nell Stewart beat Carol Cook … Rito Romero and Carlos Moreno beat Tim Geohagen and Ruffy Silverstein … Don Blackman beat Don Kindred

Houston TX: May 12, 1950

(CA) … Miguel Guzman and Carlos Moreno and Rito Romero beat Danny McShain and Al Lovelock and Whitey Whittler … Danny McShain beat Miguel Guzman (dq) … Carlos Moreno beat Whitey Whittler … Rito Romero beat Al Lovelock … (Ladies) Nell Stewart beat Beverly Lehmer … Ruffy Silverstein beat Jack Terry … George Pencheff beat Ellis Bashara


(Associated Press, January 5, 1929)

BOSTON, Mass. – "Dynamite" Gus Sonnenberg wants to be an active heavyweight wrestling champion. He said today that he would rest only two weeks and then take on any opponent any promoter selected for him.

Paul Bowser, who promoted last night’s championship match, which ended when the referee disqualified Ed (Strangler) Lewis and gave his title to Sonnenberg, has been acting as Sonnenberg’s adviser since he took up wrestling last February. Bowser said that the former Dartmouth football player probably would engage in one or two Boston bouts in about two weeks and then tour the country’s wrestling centers, taking on all comers.

Neither Lewis nor Billy Sandow, his manager, have asked for a return bout with Sonnenberg.


(Chicago Tribune, January 6, 1929)

MARQUETTE, Mich., Jan. 5 – (Special) – A farmer boy from "the sticks" of the northern peninsula of Michigan today wears the world’s heavyweight championship wrestling belt and the "old home town" is right proud. The champion is Gustav Sonnenberg, who took the title from Strangler Lewis at Boston, Mass., last night, and the "old home town" is Marquette.

In days gone by, Gus lived on a farm at Green Garden, near here, but obtained his high school education and normal school training in Marquette, and it was here that he started in athletics.

Coming in from the farm a stocky boy, he went out for football his freshman year and made the first team as a guard. He was seen again the next year, but during his last two years he played tackle, did the punting and some plunging, being pulled out of the line on the old Minnesota shift play. He also played basketball for three years in high school.

The first year spent in the Northern State Teacher college here saw him at fullback for one season. Later he coached the Escanaba High School team and finally went east to become, as the east prefers to call him, "the former Dartmouth star."


(Chicago Tribune, Tuesday, January 8, 1929)

Charles (Midget) Fischer won the referee’s decision in his wrestling match last night at the Broadway Armory with Johnny Meyers, former middleweight champion.

Meyers won the first fall in 58 minutes and 27 seconds with an arm stopper hold, but Fischer came back to take the second fall with a wristlock and cross body hold. The time was 26:03.

The pair then finished the remainder of the two hours permitted by the commission’s ruoles, after which referee Emil Thiry awarded Fischer the decision because of his aggressiveness.

Lou Talaber won a decision over Tony Hadjich in 34 minutes. In the other preliminaries, Zack Malkov threw Walter Billeter in 21:15 and Jack Smith won the decision over George Mack in a 30-minute bout.


(Chicago Tribune, Friday, October 15, 1954)

A triple feature wrestling show will be presented in Rainbo Arena tonight with six outstanding performers as principals. These are Chief Don Eagle, Ruffy Silverstein, Bill Miller, The Great Karpozilos, Sonny Myers, and Wild Bill Longson.

The show will launch a new Rainbo policy. Promoter Leonard Schwartz will offer two shows monthly on Fridays instead of weekly Wednesday programs.

In the main bout tonight, Don Eagle, Mohawk Indian regarded as the No. 1 contender for Lou Thesz’ title, will engage Longson, who lost the title to Thesz in 1948. The bout will be two of three falls with a 60-minute limit.

In another feature, Miller, former Big Ten wrestling champion and football player at Ohio State, meets Myers, who grappled Thesz to a 60-minute draw several months ago. Karpozilos, the Greek champion who has won 20 straight bouts since coming to this country, will wrestle Silverstein, who won the Big Ten title three years in succession while at Illinois.

Two other bouts will complete the card. Dick Hutton, who won the intercollegiate championship three times while at Oklahoma and represented the United States in the 1948 Olympics, opposes Lou Montana. A tag match will pair Billy McDaniels and Stu Gibson against Joe Millich and Ralph Garibaldi.


(Chicago Tribune, October 15, 1954)

By Frank Mastro

The Illinois Athletic Commission yesterday threatened legislation which would bar wrestling if members of the board’s mat refereeing corps continue to fail to enforce rules of the game. Any violation calls for disqualification and if a wrestler is disqualified in "a certain number of bouts" he should be suspended. The commission’s ultimatum also warned lax referees that failure to abide by the rules might cause their suspension.

The commission’s statement said:

"Matters have gone from bad to worse. If these violations continue, we are of the opinion that bills will be presented to the Legislature at its next session beginning next Jan. 1, asking that wrestling and wrestling exhibitions be abolished."


The body of Mrs. Carie Brown, 82, mother-in-law of Dick Axman, veteran Chicago boxing and wrestling publicitor, will be shipped to Bay City, Mich., today for burial. Mrs. Brown died in a hospital on the south side on Wednesday.


Dr. Mitchell Corbett, 68, veteran Illinois Athletic Commission physician, yesterday was rushed to Norwegian American hospital for a blood transfusion. He was reported to be suffering from hemorrhage of the stomach.


THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 208-2001

(ED. NOTE – There follows more lovely artifacts of professional wrestling’s storied past, courtesy of Steve Yohe and the remarkable "Yohe Press.")


(Philadelphia Inquirer, Friday, April 13,1928

By Perry Lewis

Three young American wrestlers who are seeking recognition as championship contenders, and one veteran who is generally recognized as the most dangerous challenger Ed (Strangler) Lewis is consistently avoiding, will go into action tonight at Aurelio Fabiani’s fortnightly mat entertainment at the Arena.

The native-born grapplers who are rarin’ to go are Ray Steele, of California; Paul Jones, Texas cowboy, and Nat Pendleton, formerly of Princeton. The veteran referred to is John Pesek, Bohemian by birth and Nebraska rancher by choice.

Steele meets Pesek in the finish match. It will be the first time the burly Californian ever came to grips with the Bohemian Eel, which probably accounts for the fact that Ray has been going around with a contented expression on his rugged features. Those who have met Pesek once or twice wear a very serious look when they are rematched with him. They are pretty sure that something very important is about to happen to them.

Not so Steele. Since Ray prevented Jim Londos from pinning him for two hours and nine minutes, he has become one of the most confident young men in the wrestling business. He has convinced himself that he is good, and he doesn’t fear even the resourceful Pesek.

"Only my fool carelessness in letting Londos ‘play groggy’ with me cost me that match," explained Steele after he had finished his last workout yesterday. "I want another chance at Londos, and Fabiani has promised to match us if I can get by Pesek. I believe I am stronger than the Bohemian, and I am going to be mighty careful that he doesn’t catch me in any of his trick holds as he did Jones."

Fabiani also has given his promise to Pesek to do everything possible to get him a match with Londos provided he disposes of Steele. He may be able to make good, but if he does, those who know Londos’ reluctance to mix with the Bohemian will admit he is a wizard.

It is to be regretted that Londos declines to take on Pesek and Shikat. Everyone who knows his wrestling is convinced that the Greek could hold his own with any grappler in the world. There is no reason why he should fear Pesek, Shikat, Lewis or any other man who ever stepped on the mat, and if he would consent to engage in an elimination series with the first two named and Hans Steinke the mat game might get somewhere.

Before Pesek and Steele come in grips tonight, four other wrestlers will meet in two time-limit preliminaries. Paul Jones will attempt to start another upward climb after being given a setback by Pesek two weeks ago, and at the expense of John Maxos, another Greek Adonis. This bout is limited to forty-five minutes.

Nat Pendleton makes his first appearance in Philadelphia in a thirty-minute bout with Fred Meyers, greatest of Jewish grapplers. Nat, who was an amateur champion before he turned pro, has been in the West, camping on the trail of the Strangler and trying to force the champion into a title match.

"No use," said Pendleton yesterday. "Lewis tells me to go out and beat certain men, and I know if I do beat them he will never talk business with me."


(Philadelphia Inquirer, Saturday, April 14, 1928)

By Perry Lewis

When John Pesek, the Bohemian eel, who makes his home on a Nebraska ranch, remarked a week ago that he would flatten Ray Steele in about half the time that Jim Londos required, he evidently wasn’t making an idle boast.

For last night at the Arena before a crowd of 4,500 mat fans Pesek reduced the burly Californian to a quivering mass of trembling flesh with a head scissors, with a combined arm lock and grapevine, in one hour, ten minutes and five seconds.

In the matter of mat science, Pesek proved that he has probably forgotten more about grappling than Steele will ever know and had it not been for the rough stuff that the Californian resorted to, combined with his amazing strength, the Bohemian would have probably won much quicker than he did.

Certainly the bout was rough, probably the most strenuous of the current indoor season. Almost from the first, Steele, using his unique straight arm defense, held Pesek off by jabbing his open hands into the smaller man’s face. Although this is within the rules as long as a man keeps his hand extended and does not use it as a fist, it is not one of the things that is being done in our best wrestling circles.

Pesek made no complaint to referee Billy Herrmann, but occasionally retaliated by using the elbow nudge and all the punishing holds in his repertoire. A number of times Steele sent Pesek head first through the ropes on the ring extension and on one occasion followed him through the ropes and in his rage attempted to make a roughhouse of the affair then and there. Had it not been for the coolness and quick action of referee Herrmann a serious mixup might have resulted.

The fans did not approve of Steele’s tactics and hooted him almost continuously. They did not realize, however, that the Californian was in there against a master wrestler who was determined to inflict as much punishment on his enraged opponent as he possibly could. Pesek did nothing, however, that was not entirely proper under the rules of wrestling.

The bout may well be considered in its three phases. The first extended over the first fifteen minutes, during which time the Bohemian permitted Steele to do most of the forcing. During the following thirty minutes there was more rough stuff than there was wrestling with Steele being the guilty party nine out of ten times. During this half-hour Steele was in a frenzy of range as he constantly showered verbal abuse on his elusive opponent who neglected no opportunity to goad his bigger and younger opponent.

The third and last stage, which saw the complete ascendancy of Pesek, was inaugurated after the first forty-five minutes and extended to the end. During this period, Pesek handled the burly Californian around just as he pleased. Darting in and out like a cat with marvelous speed, the Bohemian had Steele in difficulty all the time. Ray repeatedly resorted to the ropes in his efforts to escape and took plenty of punishment in breaking some of the Bohemian’s best holds.

Finally, in his desperation, Steele lunged desperately at Pesek, who was standing with his back to the ropes. The Tiger man sidestepped like a flash and Steele, slung back to the center of the ring by the hempen strands as a stone is flung by a sling shot, landed heavily on the back of his head.

The impact stunned Ray, who staggered as he finally regained his feet. Now he was easy prey for the versatile Tiger man who quickly clamped on a head scissors and then with an armlock and grapevine pressed his victim’s shoulders to the mat.

Steele did not seem to realize what it was all about and when Pesek released him, tried to renew hostilities with his conqueror. But before he could get to Pesek, who had taken his corner, the ever-alert Herrmann nabbed him and both wrestler and referee came to the floor with a thud. Herrmann, himself a great wrestler in his youth, had no difficulty in pinning the half-crazed Steele down and holding him until he had been quieted by Dr. Baron, the State Athletic Club’s official physician.

Pesek weighed 195 and Steele 208.

Fred Meyers, Jewish heavyweight wrestler, failed to appear for his match with Nat Pendleton, former Princeton mat star, for the opening preliminary.

In his place Jim Tofalos, a 205-pound Greek, who makes his home in Chicago, tackled Nat, but failed to make any part of a success of the enterprise. Tofalos hadn’t much more to recommend him as a wrestler than a well-waxed mustache and plenty of fat. As the result, Pendleton threw him about as he pleased in 4 minutes 58 seconds, with an inside crotch lift, followed by a half Nelson. Pendleton weighed 190 pounds.

Paul Jones, inventor and leading exponent of the figure 4 body scissors, and John Maxos, Greek Adonis, furnished the semi-windup. Jones weighed 200 pounds, while Maxos went 205.

During the first 15 minutes Maxos went out in front by virtue of his clever application of headlocks and scissors. Jones tried a number of times for his famous figure 4, but the Greek was too alert and escaped his deadly hold three times straight, wiggling himself free before Jones could get his legs properly locked.

At the thirty-minute mark, both applied split holds that were so complete that in each case referee Herman Wolfe advised first Jones and then Maxos to give up before serious injury resulted. Both refused, however, and ultimately escaped.

Immediately following this, Maxos hurled Jones down six times with a headlock. But when the Greek went after his seventh lock, Jones suddenly leaped in the air and secured a perfect figure 4 body scissors. For three minutes, the tortured Maxos fought to escape, but it was useless and his shoulders were downed in 32 minutes 20 seconds.


(Philadelphia Inquirer, Wednesday, May 2, 1928)

Wrestling in Philadelphia, revived four years ago by the irrepressible Aurelio Fabiani, may touch its peak tonight when those arch rivals of the mat, Jim Londos and John Pesek, come to grips in a finish match at the Arena.

The Quaker City has entertained seven or eight world’s championship bouts since the renaissance of the sport here, but none of these have inspired the discussion stirred up by the Londos-Pesek affair.

There are a number of good and sufficient reasons for this. Thee is a long-standing rivalry between the two, born when they handled each other so roughly in Omaha, in 1919, that the police stopped the gory battle, and there is the fact that both are outstanding challengers for the title now held by Ed (Strangler) Lewis.

But the fact that this match will bring together two great wrestlers who are evenly matched is the main factor in making the bout the most fascinating in recent years. The men will enter the ring at even money provided there isn’t a shift in the betting odds between this writing and the moment of action.

Never before has this been the case with a feature match on a Philadelphia card. Before Lewis lost his title to Munn, he defended here twice against Renato Gardini, and both times was an outstanding favorite.

Munn defended against Stanislaus Zbyszko at the Arena three years ago, and was a 10 to 1 shot. After he had won the championship from Zbyszko, Joe Stecher met more than half a dozen challengers here, and was always favored to win by an overwhelming margin.

But in the approaching brawl between Pesek, the Bohemian, and Londos, the Greek, one is conceded as much chance as the other. Like Dick Shikat and Hans Steinke, the two stand out head and shoulders above all others.

There is another reason the bout is heralded as the most notable wrestling "natural" of the last five years. It is that Londos and Pesek are the "little giants" of heavyweight wrestling. The Greek will weigh about 195 when he steps in the ring, while Pesek will go six or seven pounds lighter.

Of course, as ordinary men go, Pesek and Londos are robust enough. But compared to the athletes they have been meeting and beating year after year, they are pygmies. Four out of five men who achieve prominence in heavyweight wrestling weigh over 200 pounds, and half of them go over 215.

Therefore, the Greek and the Bohemian are outweighed by many pounds every time they step on the mat. Tonight, however, they are about evenly matched in poundage, for five or six pounds make little difference on the mat.

Furthermore, they appear to be about evenly matched in every other way. It would be difficult to say which is the faster, for both are greyhounds on the mat. Pesek is credited with possessing a more profound knowledge of holds than Londos, but this is a matter of opinion. In the matter of sheer strength Londos undoubtedly enjoys an advantage.

Both can give punishment, and both can take it without making a fuss. They will be forced tonight, for each is determined to inflict as much torture on the other as the rules of wrestling will permit.

Much is at stake in tonight’s brawl. The loser is certain to lose caste and to surrender to the victor his share of a claim to championship recognition. The financial opportunities that will accrue to the winner are manifold.

The victor’s services will be in demand for a match with either Steinke, Shikat, or both. If successful against the Germans, tonight’s winner will be in a position to force the issue with Lewis and either get a title match or drive the Strangler out of the game.

Londos has been quoted as saying that he fears Frank Wiener, chairman of the State Athletic Commission, more than he does Pesek – which indicates that the Greek does not expect the match to be any part of a pink tea. Wiener has the reputation among wrestlers of enforcing the rules to the letter, with disqualification and suspension for those who offend.

The chairman has warned both men to be careful. He told them he didn’t care a hang what they did to each other so long as they obeyed the rules. He went over with them the commission’s interpretation of the mat code and all concerned have come to a thorough understanding.

Both men are ready, trained to the minute, and so far the fans and all records for attendance at an indoor wrestling bout in the East will probably be shattered. Let the bone cracking start and may the best cracker win.


THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 209-2001


(Philadelphia Inquirer, Thursday, May 3, 1928)

By Perry Lewis

Outwrestled for one hundred out of the hundred and ten minutes, his shoulders within a few inches of the floor time after time as a crafty and profound student of mat tactics resorted to every trick of grappling, Jim Londos raised his curly black head from the aches of defeat at the Arena last night, and in one magnificent explosion of energy scored one of the most impressive triumphs of his career by flattening John Pesek.

The fall came one hour and fifty minutes after the men had come to grips, and the hold that established Londos as the outstanding challenger of the world’s championship held by Strangler Lewis was a Japanese headlock.

About 10,000 delirious wrestling fanatics occupied every available space within the Arena to see these two archrivals of the mat settle the question of supremacy.

They did not go away disappointed, for they saw one of the most desperate battles in the history of wrestling in Philadelphia. An epic of the mat between two of the most evenly matched and formidable grapplers in the world.

Londos can attribute his victory to his uncanny ability to take advantage of every break; to his astuteness in conserving his energy until the time came to strike the decisive blow, and, lastly, to the fact that, as usual, Lady Luck smiled upon him.

Up until within five minutes of the finish Pesek looked like a winner. He had shown a greater knowledge of holds and ability to use them; he had been the aggressor much of the time, and he had held the Greek in jeopardy repeatedly.

Meanwhile, Londos bided his time, waiting for the break, and finally it came. Pesek lunged forward as Londos sidestepped, and tripping over a lower rope, fell flat, his face striking the three-foot extension outside of the ropes.

Both men had plunged through the ropes in much the same manner repeatedly, and without injuring themselves. But this time Pesek had the misfortune to strike his forehead on the edge of the extension.

He was dazed, blinded, but he did not follow the procedure of most wrestlers in such a crisis. Instead, the courageous Bohemian quickly scrambled back into the ring, shaking his head and rubbing his eyes to clear away the mist that was threatening him with oblivion.

The crowd, aroused to frenzy, expected to see Pesek flattened then and there. But to the surprise of every one, when Londos came rushing in to finish him, the dazed man nailed his attacker with a Lewis headlock, and hurled the surprised Greek down.

Londos bounded up like a rubber ball and, as the Bohemian leaped at him again, the crafty Hellenic matman attacked, bending himself almost double at the waist.

Pesek found himself groping at nothing more substantial than the air, and before he could regain his balance, Londos came up like a Jack-in-the-Box beneath his opponent and in such a way that he caused his victim to turn over in the air.

The Bohemian came down on his neck with a thud that fairly shook the building. The shock of this fall, added to the bump he had received in falling out of the ring a minute before, just about rendered Pesek unconscious.

Moving so fast that the eye could scarcely follow his movements, Londos seized his prey with a body hold and Japanese headlock before the stricken man could make an effort to slip away from his precarious position.

One brawny Greek arm encircled Pesek’s buzzing cranium, the other imprisoned his body, and upon his heaving chest, Londos bore down with every ounce of his 197 pounds.

There was still plenty of fight in Pesek for two minutes he threshed around like a stricken tiger. One shoulder was always down, but for a time his hysterical efforts kept first one, then the other shoulder off the canvas.

But with each second, his contortions grew weaker, and finally he ceased to move altogether. Referee Ken Paul’s arm swung up and down once, and the most discussed match in the history of Quaker City wrestling belonged to history.

Like all matches between evenly matched men who are fighting for a career stake, there was much pawing and sparring for position. Most of the time Londos was reluctant to do the leading, and it was evident that he intended to take no chances with his dangerous rival.

Pesek worked with more daring, and had it been necessary at any time to stop the proceedings and render a decision, he would undoubtedly have been the winner. But this was a finish match, and the crafty Londos operated accordingly, letting Pesek expend his energy as he pleased, and concentrating on the business of defense.

It was necessary, too, for the Greek to know his defensive stuff. Pesek was in there applying his favorite holds and applying them with every thing that he had.

He opened with an attack on the Greek’s arms and wrists with all the twisting "locks" that he knew. The powerful Londos broke some of them quickly, some of them brought him down, but always he escaped with a minimum of damage.

For forty-five minutes, Pesek continued this style of attack, but convinced that it would get him nowhere, switched to figure-four head scissors combined with half nelsons and arm locks.

Time after time his lightning speed enabled him to secure these holds and repeatedly he had Londos within inches of defeat. The Greek was worried, but he was always working well within his strength and always managed to escape – sometimes by twisting himself under the ropes, on other occasions by more sportsmanlike methods, but he always got away.

Occasionally, Jim snapped into it with headlocks or toe holds, but didn’t pursue his spasmodic attacks when he sensed that he was not able to hold the ornery Tigerman. Back he went into a shell to await the "break" that finally came.

The bout was rough, but not as rough as many believed it would be. There was considerable elbow work and slapping of each other behind the ears with the heel of the hand, or the palms.

Of course, Londos was the chief offender and he was repeatedly warned by the referee to cut out the fisticuffs. But in the main Jim behaved himself pretty well, and appeared to fear disqualification more than he usually does.

It was an earnestly waged, desperate battle and the most resourceful of fights. For the first time in his life, Londos worked in his bare feet, thinking that pedaling in nature’s dress would increase his speed.

Londos was elated in his dressing room following his triumph.

"When I pinned Pesek’s shoulders to the mat I realized the first of two ambitions I have in life," said the victor. "One was to smash Pesek to the canvas and the second is to pin Lewis to the floor.

"The day that dream is accomplished I am ready to die. But for all time I am finished with Pesek. I never want to meet him again.

"For twelve years he has hounded me, calling me coward, saying I was afraid of him. And tonight I have proved to the wrestling world that I am his master.

"He may be faster than I am – have a knowledge of more holds – but I am his master. He knows it, the world knows, and I am supremely happy."

The beaten man was disconsolate and still somewhat dizzy when visited in his dressing room. Said he:

"I would like to meet Londos again. Up to the time that I struck my head falling out of the ring I had all the better of it; never was I in danger. And I was fresh; not one bit tired.

"But when I struck my forehead on the boards I lost my senses. All I could seem to remember was the commission’s warning before the bout; that if I stayed outside the ropes over a few seconds I would be disqualified.

"I was still bewildered and in a daze when I returned to the mat. I don’t remember one action after stepping through the ropes.

"A sane man would have sparred for time until the cobwebs cleared from his brain. But I am told I rushed right to Londos.

"It is a shame, for I know I could have beaten him had I not hit my head."

The semi-windup brought back Dick Daviscourt, of California, who wrestled Joe Stecher twice in Philadelphia last year, but who has been out of action all this winter due to an operation. His opponent was Pat Maguire, the Irish favorite.

Daviscourt weighed 220, while Maguire was ten pounds heavier.

Daviscourt and Maguire appeared to catch the spirit of the occasion from the start and their meeting was no part of a pink tea. Referee Wolff found it necessary to warn Daviscourt for too free use of the heel of his hand, while Maguire drew a warning for attempting to take advantage of the Californian, while the latter was off his guard as he was lectured to by the referee.

In the end Daviscourt’s superior knowledge of wrestling and proficiency with the headlock enabled him to flatten the aggressive lad from the Emerald Isle in 30 minutes and 43 seconds.

A number of times Maguire made the Californian like it with toe holds, but when he was good and ready Daviscourt hurled the Irishman around a while with headlocks and finally so stunned him that it was a simple matter for him to pin the Irishman’s shoulders to the mat.

The entertainment opened with a thirty-minute bout, bringing into competition Dick Shikat, German champion and challenger for the world’s heavyweight championship, with Alec Zarlich, a recent arrival from Russia. The Teuton weighed 220 pounds, while the Russian went 226. The referee was Herman Wolff, former amateur middleweight champion of the world.

For ten minutes Zarlich gave the German a hard battle, but after that period rapidly went into eclipse, falling a victim to a wrist lock in 14 minutes and 35 seconds.

The Russian fresh from a sea voyage was much overweight. There was a roll of fat around his waist and this superfluous weight slowed him down as the bout progressed. Three minutes before the finish Shikat stunned Zarlich by flinging him tot he mat with a crotch and half Nelson. Alec rallied momentarily, but he was still groggy when Shikat twisted him over with a wrist lock and then, lying on his chest, pressed the Russian’s shoulders to the mat.


(Chicago Defender, March 19-25, 1966)

Ernie Ladd, giant Negro defensive tackle in pro football, will make his Chicago debut in wrestling March 26 when he meets Bulldog Plechas in the Amphitheatre, 43rd and Halstead Sts.

Ladd, who played with the San Diego Chargers in the American pro football league last year, was supposed to sign with the Houston Oilers for 1966 but Joe Foss, the AFL commissioner nullified the deal on the charge of tampering.

Ladd stands six feet, eight inches and weighs over 300 pounds. He was originally a student at Grambling College in Grambling, La., and hails from Orange, Texas. He is 27 years of age. He meets a tough and experienced wrestler in Plechas.

Headlining the March 26th card will be a return match between Dick the Bruiser and Mad Dog Vachon. In their first encounter, the Bruiser was counted out when he fell from the ring. In a tag match, Wilbur Snyder and Verne Gagne face the team of the Assassins. Johnny Valentine of Hollywood wrestles Bobby Managoff of Chicago.

Pat O’Connor meets Angelo Poffo and Ivan Volkoff faces Santiago Acosta. First match starts at 8:30 p.m.


THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 210-2001


(Los Angeles Times, Wednesday, September 10, 1952)

By Jeane Hoffman

Will James Greenleaf Whittier object to a little revising, courtesy of Poetic License No. 354?

Change that line about "Blessings on thee, little man, barefoot boy with cheeks of tan." Make it read: " – barefoot boy with checks of green. Long green!"

Here, kiddies, we’ve been laboring under the delusion that success was achieved by using one’s head. So along comes Argentine Rocca, the Dandy of the Andes, who earns a mere $100,000 per year by using his feet. Argentine, who meets Lou Thesz at Chez Olympic tonight, may not be the first to land feet first in the top money bracket.

But he’s the first to prove that heels can be popular in the rasslin’ racket … HIS heels!

Rocca, whose arrival in California rates equal fanfare with the second coming of Aly Khan, hopes that his insteps will make World Champ Thesz out-step. For Rocca gets his socko by kicking like a bronco with soles tougher than tanned morocco – size 13 ½. Thesz is no "shoe-in cinch" in their din of inequity meeting, for minus the leather, Rocca’s light as a feather and it’s an even guess whether he’ll be able to tether Lou the Theszzzer.

"Never have I worn shoes while wrestling," declared the 28-year-old, 225-pound Italian who migrated to Argentina when he was 15. "Now, I wear shoes fo rwalking and playing rugby. But wrestling, that is different. Here is why: when I was 18 I was the star of the Rosario Athletic Club rugby team. We were a very good team. For three years straight we beat England in international matches.

"One time we are in Buenos Aires for a match, and I got to see a wrestling match at Luna Park in the evening. It is the first wrestling match I have ever seen, but in two minutes my mind is made up. I know I want to be a wrestler. So I approach the manager of Luna park and ask if I may enter his world championship wrestling tournament. He tells me first I must prove I ‘have the stuff.’

"He has me report to a gym, where he gives me a tryout against two international veterans, Kola Kwariani and Count Karol Nowina. But when he goes to outfit me with shoes, he finds he has none my size. They turn the gym upside down, but nowhere are wrestling shoes that big. So I say okay, I wrestle barefooted."

Barefooted, but wearing a brilliant necktie on his hairy chest, Rocca – who couldn’t have distinguished a knee grip from a week-end grip – Roccaed Kola and made a no-account of the Count. He entered the Luna Park Invitational World Championship, won it by defeating all 26 contestants and Argentina lost its greatest rugby star.

"So I don’t bother with shoes thereafter," shrugged Rocca, who is married to a beautiful blond Canadian girl, Louise Albert-Simmons.

Rocca, who was graduated from the University of Buenos Aires with a degree in electrical engineering and has had numerous musical compositions published, didn’t entirely neglect rugby in his switch to wrestling. He brought along the drop kick, and with it has won over 600 contests without a loss. He drew South America’s highest gate, $232,000, wrestling a Japanese in 1947. He also rates the lowest take: 25 shrunken human heads. That was when he was invited 3,000 miles up into the Amazon jungle to wrestle 18 huge natives who also specialized in barefoot booting.

"Their style is called ‘capoera,’" explained Rocca. "When I got there the tribe’s chief had lined up all 18, single file, and I took them on, one after another, for three hours. After I’d defeated them all, the chief solemnly handed me the shrunken heads as my prize." A pure case of heads over heels, no doubt.


(Los Angeles Times, Wednesday, September 10, 1952)

By Don Snyder

King Louis Thesz, heavyweight champion of the wrestling world, puts all but his title on the block tonight at Olympic Auditorium where he risks his reputation, his health, his pride and other vital valuables against Argentine Rocca.

And the house will be as crammed as sardines in the can.

This is the one the fans, fanettes and fanatics have been demanding a match between two of modern matdom’s he-men, neither of whom ever approached a beauty parlor.

The match will not be televised or broadcast.

There will be no monkey business tonight, unless the barkers decide to sell monkeys instead of popcorn. Thesz and Rocca are two of a serious kind.

Thesz, a Missourian who stands 6-2 and sclaes 230, is a grappler groomed by one from the old school, his manager, Ed (Strangler) Lewis. But even before he and Ed became partners in the trade, St. Louis Louie knew well the difference between a headlock and a padlock. He was indoctrinated in Graeco-Roman wrestling techniques long before as a teen-ager by his father, who himself wrestled in his native Hungary.

Thesz is nobody’s lollypop, hard to fool and rarely maps strategy before elbow shows. He is a super craftsman of crunch with quick reflexes and builds his own schemes of attack during the course of the occasion.

Lou’s standout weapons are dropkicks, flying scissors and, most of all, airplane spins. This latter, however, could prove Thesz’ undoing if he doesn’t employ radar tonight. For Rocca is a high flyer and hard to shoot down.

Argentina, a 6-footer with 225 pounds to carry on takeoffs, is in the air more often than not.

The match will be two out of three falls.

Thesz isn’t putting up his title since he insists he’s entitled in an outdoor match for his next defense. Even so, Rocca will undoubtedly claim the crown if he wins, which sounds reasonable.

One thing for sure, two real honest-to-gosh grapplers will be grunting and groaning tonight. Only the lady fans will wear perfume.

Preliminary matches: Mr. Moto vs. George Becker, Krippler Karl Davis vs. Rito Romero, Kola Kwariani vs. Bobby Becker, and Lone Eagle vs. Pepe Pasquale.


(Los Angeles Times, Thursday, September 11, 1952)

By Don Snyder

Nobody would have guessed it, but last night’s rhapsody in black and blue at jam-packed Olympic Auditorium wound up in a one-all draw. However, it was Argentine Rocca who emerged the hero and the champ; Lou Thesz, the chump.

A bellowing gathering of 10,400 and some odd fans, some very odd, made more noise than inside a popcorn popper as they chunked in a gross gate of $33,434.75 to jeer and cheer and modern he-men of wrestling to their tie.

The first fall seemed as endless as Figueroa Blvd. It lasted 4m. 6s. It started on a note of silence and the battle appeared very gentlemanly. They were even caught once shaking hands in a headlock.

But it was after a half-hour of persecuting each other with painful headlocks, toelocks and other locks which keys don’t fit that friction appeared. Thesz took a slap at Rocca which Rocca and the fans didn’t like at all. Neither one shook hands any more.

Rocca, who is known for his aerial maneuvers, left his airplane in the hangar. He never did go up all night.

Anyhow, Thesz survived four body slams, picked himself up and won the first heat with what was described as a Graeco-Roman pile-driver. This maneuver was made possible by hoisting the South American and throwing him for a loop.

The bare-footed Latin returned the compliment 12m. 13s. later when Thesz fell apart. Argentine put one of his naked tootsies in St. Louis Lou’s face, then took him for an airplane ride, bumped him for a backbreaker and Thesz was down and out and loser of the fall.

With only two minutes remaining, Argentine, who by now was the obvious hero because of Thesz’s unfair slaps, called for a 10-minute overtime. The fans agreed in thundering cheer. However, Thesz’s manager, Ed (Strangler) Lewis, refused to allow such a thing. But Thesz, in order to save his face which was in a pretty puny state by now, agreed.

And so for 10 minutes, Rocca used the world’s heavyweight champ as a basketball. He dribbled him all over the square, but couldn’t connect for even a free shot. Time, like a Del Mar plug, ran out and that was the end of the old fall game.

The outcome set the stage for a roaring outdoor rematch in the near future, in case you had not guessed by now.

A man identified as an unidentified fan won the semi-windup. After Mr. Moto had out-tricked and dirty-tricked George Becker into defeat, the intruder, dressed in his Sunday suit, dashed inside the ropes and beat old man Moto over the bean.

In other one-act preliminaries, Rito Romero flying-drop-kicked Killer Karl Davis for a field goal, Bobby Becker picked up Kola Kwariani’s big body for a victory slam and Pepe Pasquale made Lone Eagle feel all the lonesomer by pinning him


(San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, April 3, 1955)

By Bill Leiser

Leo Nomellini, who believes he has something of a right to claim some sort of a world wrestling championship, is challenged by an Oklahoma citizen whose offer should be attractive at least in one sense. He guarantees not to kick Leo in the face. Not even if Leo dives out of the ring. In fact, he says he wouldn’t let Leo get out of the ring.

Here’s the offer, as relayed by a manager, Max Bauman:

"Roy Dunn (not affiliated with the self-serving National Wrestling Alliance) agrees to beat both the Alliance champion, Lou Thesz, and Nomellini, one fall each in one hour, same evening.

"This offer," says Bauman, "is made with the object of taking wrestling out of the burlesque stage."

Dunn doesn’t ask a dollar for his service. Is ready to contribute all of his end to any charity named, or to work for nothing – that is, just the privilege of beating Nomellini, or Thesz. Or both. Preferably both.

Tom Harmon of CBS has mentioned Dunn’s offer to meet anybody, and obviously he’s quite sincere. He’s of Alva, Okla. He lists himself as former AAU champion and "Winner and present holder of the World’s Heavyweight Championship Belt." Just where he got the belt we don’t know, but we never could keep up with all the world’s heavyweight wrestling championships and champs.

But, why not take the guy on? If Leo Nomellini is good enough to be a champion, what could he lose?