THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 221-2002
THE WRESTLING TRUST
(Spink Sport Stories, published 1921)
By Al Spink
Marin Plestina, greatest wrestler in the world.
Chris Jordan, champion middleweight wrestler of the world.
The above are two wonderful wrestlers, not members of the wrestling trust that is operated by certain New York promoters.
As a result of their position, these men are barred from taking part in any wrestling bout with other so-called champion wrestlers.
Plestina and the great Jordan claim to be champion wrestlers, because so far they have beaten all comers, and for the reason rhat they stand ready to meet any other wrestlers of equal weights. And to prove they are in earnest about this, they announce their readiness to wager any reasonable amount on their winning.
Plestina has several thousand up now in different places, $2,000 of it up in Chicago, which he stands ready to wager on his right to the title of champion heavyweight wrestler of the world. The backers of these two men are ready and willing to put up thousands that they are the real champions in the heavy, welter and middleweight classes.
But while they are willing to do this, all the other so-called champions hold off and apparently want none of their game.
"Why are they shying away from you?" I asked of Plestina the other day.
"Why, because they are acting under orders from the trust," said the giant wrestler.
"The trust has already settled the heavyweight wrestling championship, settled it six months in advance, if you may.
"Caddock, Stecher, Lewis, Zbyszko and all the heavyweights are to meet in a series of a matches, but it has all been agreed that Stecher is to come out winner in the end.
"The king of the wrestling trust has so ordered, and so it must be."
"Who is the king of the wrestling trust?" I asked, for I had often heard the story and wanted new information on the subject.
"Jack Curley," was the reply. "Curley’s the main guy."
"Of what is his kingdom?" I asked.
"It extends from New York to San Francisco," was the prompt reply. "He controls the wrestling game in the two great cities of the east and west."
"Does he control Chicago?"
"What cities outside of Chicago and New York does he control then?"
"He controls Norfolk, Va.; Montreal, Canada; Savannah, Ga.; Des Moines, Iowa; Kansas City, Omaha and a few other places. He did control Toronto until his wrestlers killed the game in that city. It was once a great stand for the wrestling game."
I had heard of the fight trust and the boxing trust and a few other of the trusts in New York before, but I never paid any attention to them. Now the time has come, it appears, when writers of sport throughout the country should sit up and take notice.
The real foundation of all sport is the spirit of fair play. Cut that out from under any sport and the finish will come sooner or later.
Here today is actual evidence of the existence of a wrestling trust that would bar from all wrestling contests three men who are of good standing in the professional wrestling game. Three who have never offended, who have respected the amenities of life insofar as their treatment of their wrestling opponents and the public is concerned, three who ask no favors, but only a fair field and who are willing to stake their last dollars on the outcome.
These three come out boldly and assert that they are barred from open competition by the wrestling trust. (The third man is welterweight champion Jack Reynolds, yet another booked out of the Chicago office of John "Doc" Krone.)
The fact that their challenges are ignored, that they have been notified that they will not be allowed to meet members of the wrestling trust in open matches, is of itself proof that they are barred from open competition and denied fair play.
The story of the New York wrestling trust always seemed too funny for me to believe.
I have heard it a thousand times, but I always laughed, because always they put down Jack Curley as its king. I laughed at Curley being king of anything. I laughed, because I knew Curley many years ago in Chicago, when he was a hustling kid.
Jack Curley’s right name is Armand Schultz, born in Chicago of poor but honest parents, as they say in the fairy tales.
Jack started out as a newsboy, got a job in the old Edelweiss restaurant and graduated from there to a waiter’s job in the Great Northern hotel, where he became popular and got many tips.
In a little while Jack had enough tip money to rent a building at Monroe and Dearborn streets where he opened a saloon. Tiring of the saloon business, he rented an office in the Hartford building, where with Paddy Carroll he opened up a booking business and commenced looking after the business end for several of the local boxers. Among the fighters on the Curley string were Clarence and Harry Forbes, then at the very height of their fame as boxers.
From then on Curley did other things in the sport line. He managed the Gotch-Hackenschmidt wrestling match in Chicago, cleared a fortune in it and then lost it all in promoting the Jack Johnson-Flynn fight for the championship.
From all these things now it appears Jack has risen to be a real king in New York and he really does run a wrestling trust.
One of the wrestlers, to prove Jack’s greatness in New York, tells this story:
J.C. Marsh, Plestina’s manager, called on Tex Rickard, at the head of the fight game in New York, recently and said to him:
"Mr. Rickard, you have the reputation on the outside of being an honest man, one who always plays fair. Now, then, why not give a heavyweight wrestling tournament in Madison Square Garden and invite all the world’s champions to enter, including Marin Plestina."
"Ah," said Rickard, "Plestina … I’ve heard that name before. And a world’s wrestling tournament with Plestina in it would certainly be worth seeing.
"But certain sporting men object to Plestina, don’t you know, and then I’ve as good as given my word not to touch the wrestling game in New York. Jack Curley is handling that sport here now and certain parties have asked me to keep hands off his game."
Here was more evidence of a wrestling trust, with New York as its main center. But as Chicago is not named as one of its members, why can’t a wrestling tournament be arranged for this city in the Coliseum, with Plestina appearing there and offering to meet all the great wrestlers in the world at the different weights?
While certain of the wrestlers belonging to the trust might fight shy of these challengers the tournament prizes might induce them to break away from the trust, and if they did Chicago would see a series of real wrestling matches, the like of which she has never seen before and never will see until something of the sort is done to raise the embargo on the meeting of these three with all the other best wrestlers of their weight in the world.
(ED. NOTE – The above, as you may have guessed, comes from the industrious researches of Mr. Steve Yohe. Our perennial thanks to him.)
AUTOPSY PERFORMED ON TERRY McGINNIS
(Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, April 1, 1952)
Wrestler Terry McGinnis, 41, who died suddenly following a workout Sunday afternoon at Ocean Park Arena, died of coronary arteriosclerosis, or simple hardening of the arteries, according to Dr. Alexander Griswold, assistant coroner’s autopsy surgeon who performed the autopsy yesterday at Wilshire Funeral Home in Santa Monica.
The body has been sent to the McCormick Colonial Mortuary, Manhattan Beach. Funeral services will be held Thursday at 2 p.m. in Grace Chapel, Inglewood.
BARON AND CHAMP GRAPPLE TO AN HOUR DRAW
(Los Angeles Times, April 15, 1952)
Baron Leone and The Champ (Joe Pazandak) tugged and tussled for an hour and were right back where they started minus some perspiration as they wound up in a draw in the wrestling main event last night at Hollywood Legion Stadium. Neither was able to score a fall.
In the semi-windup, Toshi Yamaguichi and Masa Kimura won two straight falls over the team of Judo Jack Terry and Bob Corby. Sandor Szabo whipped Red Vagnone in the special event and Frank Jares dumped Ray Piret in the opener.
‘HONEST’ PUBLICITY STIPULATED IN MAT CODE
(Associated Press, July 22, 1955)
PITTSBURGH – Paul G. Sullivan, a member of the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission, said yesterday a proposed boxing and wrestling code will stipulate that wrestling promoters advertise honestly.
The commission is asking the state legislature to enact legislation spelling out the code.
"If any fight or wrestling match is to be a real contest, with no stalling or hippodrome tactics involved, it will have to be so advertised. We have to protect the public which pays for such action.
"If they (the public) want to see exhibitions, that is all right. But if they’re paying for a contest, we’ll see to it that they see a contest or the athletes and others involved will face suspension or revocation of their licenses."
THESZ RALLIES TO BEAT MIGHTY URSUS
(Seattle Times, July 17, 1956)
Lou Thesz won the last two falls after losing the first one to win from Mighty Ursus in last night’s wrestling feature at the Eagles’ Auditorium.
In other matches, Hardboiled Haggerty beat Pat Meehan, Red Devil took Ivan Kameroff and Stu Hart and Reg Parks wrestled to a draw. Referee for the card was Jack Sharkey, former heavyweight boxing king.
LOUIS THOUGHT HEART AILMENT WAS INJURED RIB
(Associated Press, July 24, 1956)
NEW YORK – Mrs. Joe Louis said today the former heavyweight boxing champion had known for a month that something was wrong with his heart although at first he suspected he was suffering from an injured rib.
Louis, now a professional wrestler, was denied a license by the Illinois Athletic Commission when a commission doctor reported yesterday that the one-time Brown Bomber has a damaged heart.
When Louis first felt the pain in his chest, he visited a Detroit doctor and learned it was his heart, Mrs. Louis said prior to her departure for Chicago and the side of her husband.
She said that after the Chicago announcement Louis had telephoned her and told her he probably would quit the mat sport. He wrestled twice, she said, after learning in Detroit that it was his heart, not his ribs, that caused his pain.
In Dayton, Ohio, officials said Louis informed them today by
telephone that he was canceling a wrestling bout scheduled for tonight.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 222-2002
YOKEL IS AS GOOD AS EVER IN CAREER
(The Oregonian, Portland OR, Sunday, Nov. 9, 1924)
In any other sport but wrestling, Mike Yokel, the veteran matman and popular citizen of Wilson, Wyo, would have been through years ago. Athletic stars of other lines of sport shine but a few years before passing into the discard, but here is Yokel, after 20 years of hard campaigning on the mat, just as good as ever and right at the top of the light heavyweight division.
Because wrestling more than any other sport requires experience the grapplers are really not at their best until they begin to get along in years. There was Frank Gotch, the greatest of them all, who did not win the heavyweight title until he was past 40 years of age (sic). Ed (Strangler) Lewis, present champion, is no spring chicken, while Walter Miller, another great little grappler, is well past the voting age.
Yokel started wrestling as a professional 20 years ago, after winning the national amateur title in New York. Today he declares he is every bit as good as at any previous time in his career and ready for another strenuous season.
Yokel attributes his long career in the wrestling game to clean living, plenty of outdoor exercise and, above everything else, eating the proper foods. When not touring around the country in quest of some wrestler’s scalp, Yokel works on his farm in Wyoming. That work hardens him for the long tussles that he has to go through on the mat.
"Few people realize the importance of eating properly cooked foodstuffs," said Yokel. "Take bread, for example. Whole wheat bread is the only kind that gives the best of the wheat. White bread is not only injurious, but has not the food value of whole wheat bread.
"Too much cooked food is not good, either. A few raw vegetables now and then are a wonderful body builder."
Yokel is now in Portland, where he intends to remain for several matches. He may take on Bull Montana at the next wrestling show at the Heilig Theater November 19, although there is nothing certain as to that yet. Montana has been booked for matches here before, but canceled them at the last minute. This time promoter Virgil Hamlin says he will demand that Montana put up appearance money if he accepts the match with Yokel.
NOMELLINI’S DUAL CAREER
(Seattle Times, July 8, 1955)
By Lenny Anderson
For Leo Nomellini, the calendar year is neatly divided into two seasons. There is the football season. Then there is the wrestling season. Or vice versa. Six months’ apiece, give or take two or three weeks.
When he visited Seattle yesterday and last night to while away an hour or so twisting the bones of a party called Sky Hi Lee, the wrestling season was beginning to draw to a close.
There now is one bout left on Leo’s agenda. He meets Lou Thesz, who generally is recognized as the heavyweight wrestling champion of the world, next Friday in St. Louis. Three days later, the San Francisco ‘49ers, who number Nomellini among their most valued members, open the training season at St. Mary’s College, Moraga, Calif.
From then on, he will be occupied with the duties of defensive tackle until the middle of December or later.
It is a rugged schedule, but Leo is built for it. He is 6 feet 3 inches in height and weighs 254 pounds. His chest measurement, normal, comes close to being a first down; expanded, they wouldn’t even bother to bring out the chain.
Somewhat surprisingly, Nomellini regards professional wrestling as the more rugged of his two lines of work, and by quite a margin. He wrestles, on the average, three times a week. Football comes only once a week. Over and above that simple mathematical comparison, he points out, knocking wood, that he has yet to suffer an injury in nine years of football – four for the University of Minnesota and five for the ‘49ers. In five years of professional grappling, on the other hand, he has suffered two rather serious injuries to his left knee. "Hyperextension" was the term he used, I think.
To compensate for the added wear and tear, wrestling contributes a great deal more to the Nomellini bank balance. For instance, the total game for two bouts against Thesz in San Francisco’s Cow Palace came, he says, to $94,000. A crowd of 16,000 attended last March, when Nomellini won on a foul – a route that precluded his winning the title.
Still and all, when he nears the end of the wrestling season, Leo finds himself looking forward to the beginning of football. By December, the yen will be reversed …
Leo prepared himself well at Minnesota for his dual career. Almost everyone is aware of his gridiron play as a member of the last of Bernie Bierman’s powrhouses; in fact, Leo captained the Gopher team that beat Washington, 20-0, here in 1948. However, he majored in grappling for four years as well, working out regularly with professionals who visited the Minnesota campus during his last two years.
Nomellini will be back in Seattle on August 20 when the ‘49ers meet the New York Giants in an exhibition game in the Washington Stadium. Discussing the San Francisco team, he had a word about the Husky alumnus, Hugh McElhenny.
"He’s the greatest running back I ever saw," Leo said flatly … He ventured the forecast that, barring injury, McElhenny will establish a professional football rushing record in the season ahead.
Another Nomellini special that went unchallenged named the ‘49ers as the 1955 champions of the National League.
Though the bout was only a few hours away at the time, he didn’t go so far as to prophesy the outcome of his match with Sky Hi Lee, but for the record, Leo won.
RICHES AND SCARS MARK ROBERT
(Real Ringside, March, 1956)
By Nat Broudy
If there are ambitious mamas in the house who want junior to grow up to be a doctor or a lawyer, bend an ear to the startling income of Yvon Robert, a remarkable handsome giant of 40 who has been sending wrestling fans into a tizzy for something like 25 years.
Robert is understandably bashful about the subject, but according to his manager, pal, and promoter of matches, Eddie Quinn, the French-Canadian idol has taken out an estimated $700,000 from pachyderm palaces since he first stepped into the ring in 1931. The cigar-smoking grappler reached the $20,000-per-year bracket in the middle ‘30s, has averaged $40,000 for the past 10 years, and maybe a little higher during the last few years.
All of which makes Robert the highest money-earner in Canadian athletic history, and barring a crippling injury, he should be able to add to his hefty bank account for a good man years. His is a talent that has grown with the game, and if he had anything to say about it, the end is still out of sight.
Robert always has had the physique demanded of a big-time wrestler, for even as a youngster of 14, when he first attracted the eye of Canadian champion John Masson, he was a big fella. At first, he had visions of devoting his brawn to the pursuance of a blacksmith’s career, but when an opportunity to become a professional grappler beckoned, he lost little time heading for St. Faustin and a lengthy training grind under the experienced eye of Emil Maupas, a wrestling star of the old school. He made his debut in 1931 at the little old Mount Royal Arena in Montreal, got $25 for downing his opponent in six minutes and today, 3,500 matches later, still is going strong.
Life is mighty rosy for Robert now, but he can recall the days when he flitted from town to town with sheets of paper crammed into his air-conditioned shoes to keep out the biting cold that snapped at his frigid feet. His first few years in the game were hard ones, to say the least, and he was still a struggling young matman when he tied up with Quinn, who had been invited to look him over at the famous Emil Maupas’ training camp in the Laurentians. The rest is history.
"We managed pretty good," Robert recounts with a wave at Eddie. "He couldn’t speak French, and I couldn’t speak English, but we were both out to make a buck, and I guess that’s what you call a universal language, eh?"
"But not knowing the language can get you into trouble sometimes," interrupted Quinn.
"Yeah, like that time in New York, huh, Eddie?"
It seems that Quinn, a real cutie when it comes to lining up publicity for his wrestlers, arranged to get Robert on a radio show featuring stars in various branches of sports. Roberts demurred at appearing on the show, explaining, with gestures, that he couldn’t speak the language. But Quinn changed his mind for him.
"Look," he said to Robert, "you can read English, can’t you? Okay, I know you don’t understand the language, but you just follow the script, see? The guy behind the mike’ll ask you questions, and yuh just read off the answers from your script, okay?"
Robert agreed with some misgivings, but somewhere along the line, the Quinn delight in putting one over got the better of him. He switched Robert’s script for one which was to be read by a husky member of the Chicago football Bears, and the interview went like this:
Sportscaster: "Tell me, Yvon, how long have you been wrestling?"
Robert: "I’ve been playing quarterback with the Chicago Bears for three years!"
The interviewer raised his eyebrows at that one, but plunged on bravely.
Interviewer: "What’s your favorite hold?"
Robert: "I stick to the forward pass!"
The sportscaster almost swallowed his mike before an assistant hurried in with the proper script, and though Robert can chuckle about the incident today, a gent called Edmund Regan William Quinn nearly found himself shy one pair of ears shortly after the sports show.
Before that, more of that same Quinn hi-jinks had forced Boston wrestling promoter Paul Bowser to agree to a Danno O’Mahoney-Robert match, even though Bowser had argued vehemently that he wasn’t interested.
The Irish muscleman was wrestling Frank Judson one night in Boston, and it so happened that two ringside spectators were Robert and Quinn. It also so happened that Robert had his wrestling trunks under his civvies, and just before the main bout started, big Yvon peeled off his duds, rushed into the ring, and challenged Danno.
Needless to say, quite a rhubarb developed, but since the pair had paid for their tickets, they were persuaded to return to their seats where they proceeded to belavor the bejabbers out of the Irishman.
One slur led to another, and after Danno had put away his opponent, begorra, Robert was in the ring again. This time he walloped The Whip ice cold, and before too long, the two were signed to a match. It took place in the big Montreal Forum on July 16, 1936, and for the first time in his career, O’Mahoney was defeated in a match that went two falls in three. The Montreal Commission had refused to recognize that the defeat of O’Mahoney by Dick Shikat involved the world title, because the rule in Montreal, and indeed in all Canada under the Canadian Federation, was two falls in three. So when Robert defeated the big Irishman, he was recognized in all Canada as champion. He lost it frequently, but was champion on six successive occasions.
While Robert nurses a warm affection for the game, he is the first to admit that it is not without its painful moments. For example, he estimates that he has spent three years in hospitals recuperating from injuries sustained in the wrestling ring.
There was the time he was sidelined for nine months after breaking his leg in five places. He has broken his shoulder, suffered injuries to his knees, and recalls vividly the time he broke his back in a match with Ed Don George. It was while convalescing in a Holyoke, Mass., hospital that he met, wooed and married his nurse. The Roberts have two girls, aged 14 and 10, and a strapping young son of 12, who shows signs, physically at least, of following in poppa’s footsteps one day.
Robert is extremely sensitive about his profession. Indeed, anyone foolish enough to sneer at the game in his presence may very well wind up on the long end of a short-arm scissors. And to those who are prone to snicker at "feigned injuries" among matmen, Robert is ready:
Says he, pointing to his gnarled ears: "Believe me, I
didn’t get these answering telephones!"
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 223-2002
(ED. NOTE – Paul McArthur generated the following. Beats me where it was discovered, though. Poor record-keeping. Wrestling Perspective is a publication worth supporting, though, for an eclectic mix of historical items.)
AN INTERVIEW WITH LORD ALFRED HAYES
Lord Alfred Hayes was on the ground floor of the World Wrestling Federation's national expansion and experienced Vince McMahon's business acumen first hand. In this interview conducted by Paul MacArthur, his Lordship discusses those WWF days, his thoughts about several wrestling legends, and what a nice English chap is doing living in Texas.
Wrestling Perspective: When did you join the WWF?
Lord Alfred Hayes: In 1982.
Wrestling Perspective: So right before the national expansion.
Lord Alfred Hayes: Yes. I was one of the TV announcers on their first Wrestlemania.
Wrestling Perspective: When you saw the national expansion happening, how did you think that was going to affect the rest of the business?
Lord Alfred Hayes: I had no idea. Nobody did. Everybody thought that Vince had bitten off too much, but he knew better than everybody else. He really is a maestro, I don't know a word to describe him, but he knows that television business, the wrestling side of it, inside out. Other things he doesn't know. Like he tried to get into other things and they took all of his money. Boxing, they absolutely just sucked money out of him when he tried that. Then he went into the bodybuilding thing and boy did those guys take him for a ride. Bodybuilders are usually stupid. They're usually very stupid people, but they sure took Vince for a ride. (laughs) Oh, millions. However, Vince has always come back with wrestling.
Then he went into the film business and he tried to make films and once again, ah boy, everybody was chuckling and ha-ha-ing like Vince was there. Vince wanted to be the big director. They allowed him to be that, all the time they kept saying, "Yes, Vince, this is fantastic. I'll get somebody else to work that for you," and "Yeah, my friend does that." They all had like a great paid holiday, vacation. But Vince has had the last laugh because with wrestling he's always made a tremendous comeback. Even Ted Turner, with all his assets, can't do anything about it.
Wrestling Perspective: It seems that when it comes to wrestling, Vince understands it and knows what's going to work better than anyone else.
Lord Alfred Hayes: He does, and he knows how to apply it to television too. He is a master at that. Very, very, very good indeed.
Wrestling Perspective: Yet it seems like many famous people or successful people, he wants to stretch beyond what he's good at.
Lord Alfred Hayes: Yes they do. I don't know why, but they do.
Wrestling Perspective: When did your tenure with the WWF come to an end?
Lord Alfred Hayes: Six years ago.
Wrestling Perspective: What were the circumstances surrounding that?
Lord Alfred Hayes: It was a retirement. I retired. I was too old for it, well, not too old, but I wanted to retire. I was, then I was 65. I felt, "Boy, I've done enough now."
Wrestling Perspective: Did you enjoy your stint as an announcer there?
Lord Alfred Hayes: Yes, I did, very much. And no matter what people say about Vince, and a lot of them have nasty things to say about him, I found Vince, strangely enough, paradoxically enough, a truthful person. Although, people have told me of all this treachery and everything, but that applies to them. It doesn't apply to me. I've always said, what people do to me is how I judge them, by my standard. The same thing with Pat O'Connor and Bob Giegel. You know a lot of people said things about them, the promoters, but I always found Pat O'Connor especially to be a really nice guy. In wrestling, I'm afraid, a lot of the opinions have been colored by how those people have treated them, which I suppose they have every right to.
Wrestling Perspective: Did you enjoy doing all the skits, like the advice to the lovelorn?
Lord Alfred Hayes: Yeah, I didn't mind doing those at all. They were good. One or two of them I didn't because I didn't want to and that was okay. Vince said, "Okay, we'll get somebody else to do that." So in the beginning there was that. For example, he wanted me to a thing, in fact, after I had retired. He said, "I'll pay you for it Alfred." And when he said that, he meant that. It was an old-time thing and there I was supposed to be making commentary on a pair of older wrestlers, you know my generation wrestlers who were in the ring wrestling each other. Then gradually, the camera lowers itself down and when it lowers itself down, I don't have pants on, but I have a baby nappy type thing on, like a Depends. You know, that's to show like I'm wetting myself. He's like: "This will be great, Alfred. Then you're wearing Depends. Ha, ha, ha!" I said, "No, no, no." (laughs) I'm not going to do that. (laughs) What would my daughter's friends say? "I saw your father with Depends on, on television, ha, ha." So I didn't do that. So Vince said, "Okay, you don't have to."
Wrestling Perspective: When you were in Florida. This was when Dusty was at his peak?
Lord Alfred Hayes: Yes.
Wrestling Perspective: What was that like?
Lord Alfred Hayes: Well, God I hate to speak ill of anybody, but Dusty was unto himself. Everything unto himself. Everything that he did, he took the lion's share. And I'll give you one example. Harley Race, gosh, he didn't like this at all. Harley Race was very, very angry. But Dusty Rhodes had been wrestling somebody, I forget who it was. But Harley Race was going wrestle Andre in the big football stadium there. I was on the card. I was on with the younger of the Briscos. And Harley Race and the Giant were supposed to be the main event. But when it came to the billing and everything, they were obviously the ones who drew the crowd. Dusty and Race were co-main events. So he put himself up there. Consequently he got a main-event payoff from this and they had a good crowd. It was very good there. But that's what Dusty did. He was disliked for that. He could have, for once, just taken a runner-up event, instead of a co-main event, a double main event. But he didn't. He did it that way. And they were the things Dusty used to do. Then he would bring some fellow in and he would beat everybody in the territory - he did this everywhere he went - and then when they'd beaten everybody in the territory, Dusty Rhodes would jump in and beat the living daylights out of this fellow. That's what Dusty Rhodes did. But he had a good brain in doing that. But once he left that territory, it was down for a long time because he really took everything out of it. He milked it.
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FANS SLAM POSSIBLE TAG-TEAMING OF RIVAL LEAGUES
(Charlotte Observer, Friday, March 23, 2001)
By Rick Rothacker
World Championship Wrestling - a Southern sports tradition with roots in Charlotte - is bracing for a body slam.
Turner Broadcasting System Inc.'s announcement this week that it would air its last WCW show on Monday and sell its wrestling operations came after years of decline. But even WCW stalwarts such as Charlotte's Ric Flair didn't expect such a sudden end to a nearly 30-year run on Atlanta-based TBS -- and the possible demise of the organization.
"Somehow we always thought it would work out," said platinum-maned Flair, who joined Charlotte's National Wrestling Alliance in the '70s and stayed on when it was sold to Ted Turner's network. "It's unbelievable. I always thought it would be part of TBS."
Now wrestling watchers say the likely buyer of the WCW is Vince McMahon's rival World Wrestling Federation, with its Northeastern roots and racier story lines. Such a sale probably means the eventual end of the WCW, with perhaps some of its more high profile wrestlers joining the WWF, said Dave Meltzer, publisher of Wrestling Observer, a San Jose, Calif., newsletter.
"Southern-style wrestling on a national basis is dead probably forever," Meltzer said.
Before Charlotte had the NBA Hornets and NFL Panthers, its sports heroes were stock car drivers and wrestlers. The NWA, run by the Crockett family's promotion company, put the Queen City on the entertainment map in the 1940s and 1950s.
With stars such as "Nature Boy" Flair, Wahoo McDaniel and Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat, the league grew in popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, drawing thousands to performances in arenas in small and large towns throughout the Carolinas and the Southeast. The Crocketts also produced shows for television.
With some performances already airing on TBS, the Crocketts sold out to Turner in 1988. That meant the center of the Southern-wrestling universe - with more acrobatic moves and less bulky stars than its Northern rival - moved to Atlanta, ending an era in the Carolinas.
"People felt kind of double-crossed," said Flair, who used to perform at weekly matches in towns such as Greensboro, Charlotte and Norfolk, Va.
The renamed WCW continued to draw ratings and fans in the South and nationwide, though, competing fiercely with the WWF. But in 1998, McMahon began to gain the upper hand with new stars such as The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, Meltzer said. Although its violent and sex-driven shows have many critics, the WWF won over the teen-age audience on its way to becoming a multimillion-dollar business.
The WCW has been "a very poor product for the last couple of years," Meltzer said. "They didn't create new stars. The old guys grew stale."
After losing $80 million on the WCW last year, TBS said in January it planned to sell its wrestling operations but was expected to continue airing matches. But as TBS parent Time Warner Inc. completed its merger with America Online Inc., to form AOL Time Warner, the network signaled a new direction. This week, TBS said that direction leaves WCW behind.
"We've had a nice ride but the ride is over," said TBS spokesman Jim Weiss. "Professional wrestling is not consistent with the upscale brand of TNT and TBS."
With other possible suitors pulling out, the Connecticut-based WWF, a $441million publicly traded company, appears to be a likely buyer. Weiss, of TBS, said a sale could come swiftly.
Fans are already mourning the possible end of the WCW and the potential impact on the wrestling world.
"The strongpoint of wrestling has always been the competition (between the WCW and WWF)," said Fritz Grondy, a 26-year-old wrestling fan in Greensboro. The loss of the WCW "could lead to the rise of independent organizations or the death of wrestling."
Flair notes that without competing leagues, younger wrestlers also will have less opportunity and little leverage when negotiating their salaries.
On Highspots.com, a Charlotte-based wrestling Web site, one fan posted this message: "I'm really hoping WCW doesn't close down. It has been such an institution for a long time. Besides, they have too much talent to just close down."
With or without a sale, what will happen to WCW's wrestlers and the 140 employees at its Smyrna, Ga., headquarters is unclear. Weiss, of TBS, declined to comment about their future.
Flair, who wrestled briefly for the WWF but endures in the WCW pantheon, said he wouldn't mind working again with McMahon, widely regarded as a marketing genius despite the recent poor ratings of his recently debuted XFL football league.
"I think he could make it fly again," he said. "He has been great to me personally. He has done miraculous things with wrestling."
While Flair, 52, says he is not worried about his future - and his guaranteed contract - he is concerned about the company's secretaries, stagehands and camera operators.
The WCW's last performance on a TBS network will be aired live at 8 p.m. Monday from Panama City, Fla. The match-ups and story lines are being closely guarded.
"I'm sure it will be handled professionally," Flair
says of the final match, in which he expects to perform. "It will be a
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 224-2002
NEWS OF THE MAT WORLD
(Ring Magazine, January, 1934)
By "Tex" Austin
In the last issue of The RING, we gave our readers the first annual ranking of wrestlers, something never before attempted by any publication, and judging by the number of letters we received from all over the world, particularly from members of boxing commissions, The RING is to be complimented on its fine selections. For example, our readers will recall that we chose Jim Browning first; Jim Londos second, and Don George third, in our list, and although we did not consider the status of these three wrestlers as far as championship recognition was concerned in the various states, we were elated to find that our rating met with world-wide approval.
A letter from Canada shows that Jim Browning has been honored in that territory by being given first ranking, and messages from various states in our country show that 22 states have acclaimed Browning the kingpin.
Jim Londos received the nomination in only nine states, and Don George in six. Thus The RING’s rating for 1933 stands out.
Browning came through a stiff month’s campaign with colors flying. The Missouri gentleman-farmer makes the rounds of the U.S. and Canada without a loss to mar his record since ascending the throne through his win over Strangler Lewis. Regardless of whatever else may be said about Browning, no one will deny that he is a skilled and clever grappler and fearless. He’ll meet any one. He may not possess as much color as some of the others, but what he lacks along those lines, he more than makes up for in ability and willingness.
Londos, recipient of second honors in our ranking, has started off on another country-wide tour of victories after defeating Kola Kwariani before his countrymen in Greece. He and Browning will meet soon as the Londos and Curley groups have combined.
Don George, who captured third honors, invaded New York and showed plenty of class and skill in time-limit affairs. George is a fast, clever, and clean matman, and will probably meet Browning in a finish match before the summer’s over.
Here is the way the various commissions answered when asked whom they recognized as world champion in their locality.
Browning is recognized as champion in the following states and localities: Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and all of Canada, including the provinces of Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
The National Wrestling Association claims support in Mississippi, but there is no mat competition in that state. Mississippi falls into line because Harry J. Landry, president of the N.W.A., resides at Friars Point, Miss. Other N.W.A. states which recognize Londos are Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Pennsylvania.
George is the champion in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
The following states regulate the sport through athletic commissions: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington, plus Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia in Canada.
No recognition is given in 13 states as follows: Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia and West Virginia.
--Chief Chewacki pulled a funny one in his bout with Pat O’Shocker recently and wound up with a suspension in Indiana.
Chewacki had won the first fall and O’Shocker the second. When they came out for the third fall, the Chief clamped on a leg scissors. Pat writhed as if touched with a hot iron, broke the hold, and jumped out of the ring and tried to let the referee in on the secret. The latter quit counting and yanked Chewacki’s trunks down, only to find that the Indian had placed tacks through cardboard and sandpaper under his trunks. It took a police escort to safely convey Chewacki to his dressing room, the fans yelping for the redskin’s scalp.
--That never-ending controversy of boxer vs. wrestler remains as complicated as ever. In the latest edition, the wrestler came out on top. Dorv Roche, barrel-chested Pennsylvania miner, took on Jack League, the man who had Primo Carnera on the floor seven times, and pinned him in the second round of their mixed bout.
--Thanksgiving Day saw the advent of professional football in Canada and Toronto faced the Chiefs. Playing for the Toronto team were the well-known Joe Savoldi, Lionel Conacher, and Mayes McLain. Thirteen thousand fans saw these grappling grid stars tote the pigskin.
McLain was one of the greatest football stars ever turned out in the Mid-West, when fighting for dear old Iowa. Conacher is the greatest all-around athlete ever turned out in Canada, while Savoldi and Notre Dame are synonymous.
--Jack Kennedy, young Chicago light-heavyweight, scored two wins over Gus Kallio, recognized middleweight champ, in Benton Harbor bouts, the first when Kallio was disqualified for slugging.
All the dentists in Benton Harbor attended the return match.
--One of the easiest holds to apply, but one of the hardest to break, is the short-arm scissors. Few holds are as punishing as this one. Not only is the victim of the hold in a position where it is next to impossible to counter with another grip, but he also has the strength in his arm considerably lowered by having the flow of blood cut off, leaving his hand and wrist white and very weak when he finally does escape that torturous viselike grip.
--Many wrestlers are afflicted with the dreaded scourge of the mat – that horrible eye disease known as trachoma. It’s a pity to see these athletes with fine bodies groping their way around the mat because they have been unfortunate enough to catch this foreign affliction. Isn’t there some way in which these cases can be cured, or at least be kept from spreading to other grapplers?
How about a little cooperation from the various state athletic commissions?
--Although the attendances are decreasing in Boston, the Don George-Leo Numa bout attracted 10,000 fans. This was a return match and ended with Numa in a hospital. The Seattle blond had taken the first fall and was launching a series of flying tackles when he missed his adversary and crashed into one of the steel turnbuckles in one of the ring corners and was rendered hors de combat. At the hospital it was said that he was suffering from a slight brain concussion. Numa was able to leave the institution three days later.
--Paul Bowser lost one of his right-hand men when Frank Smith, manager of Jim Browning, the heavyweight champ, dropped dead in the Queensberry Sporting Club of Toronto after handling Browning in a match with Joe Savoldi. Heart disease was the cause.
Smith, a native of Joplin, Mo., was decorated for bravery in the World War after being wounded in action.
Prior to coming to Boston to enter the employ of Bowser, Smith for 21 years was a member of the sports staff of the Chicago Tribune. His many friends and acquaintances will miss him no end.
--Rudy Dusek lost and then won from Joe Malcewicz in Toronto matches. Dusek is a throwback to the days of Fred Beell, Dan McLeod, George Bothner, and Charley Olson. He grapples along the lines of Beell more than any matman now appearing before the public. In fact, he greatly resembles the late Wisconsin marvel, and old-timers who recall Beell’s matches with Tom Jenkins, McLeod, and Frank Gotch admit that Rudy has much of the giant killer in his make-up.
--Leon Balkin, who made a big name for himself as a matchmaker for Tom Packs in St. Louis, is now acting as matchmaker for the numerous clubs around the country booked by Jack Curley. Balkin, a Philadelphia product, had to go to St. Louis to make good, building up the receipts in that city from a mere $1,600 to the huge sum of $310,000 for 29 matches.
--We have received innumerable letters from Australia and New Zealand, praising George Walker, claimant of the British Empire championship, and asking for an article on him.
Walker is an ex-Canadian who has been beaten only six times in five seasons Down Under. John Pesek, Stanley Pinto, Kara Pasha, Tom Alley, Joe Varga and Al Karasick were his conquerers. Pesek was the only one to take two falls from Walker. Karasick won on points, and the others on disqualifications. Walker’s favorite winning hold is the back-flip. He has garnered close to $50,000 for his efforts this season.
--Stanley Sokolis, who recently made his debut in big-time grappling circles, plays "pro" football with the Philadelphia Eagles. Stan was captain and star tackle of the University of Pennsylvania football team in 1932 and weighs 210 pounds. For the past seven summers he has been a life guard at Wildwood, N.J., and has 252 rescues to his credit.
--DO YOU KNOW THAT: George Hagen, the ex-Marine, is playing in Maurice Chevalier’s next picture? … George Sauer, Ray Steele’s brother, and his wife, Bernice, were married in the ring at Oklahoma City? … Marshall Blackstock is the sponsor of an autograph society? … Marsh once tossed a whole football team out of a restaurant because they flirted with pretty li’l Mrs. Blackstock? … Ernie Dusek demands a long list of references before he gives his autographs to femmes? … Ray Steele has been married for the past 15 years to a Houston girl? … The Steeles have a cute little Spanish place in Glendale, Calif.? … Ray loves to play tricks on his wrestler pals, his favorite being to smear limburger cheese on their belongings? … They got even by taking all of his clothes out of the locker one night while he wrestled, making it necessary for Ray to go to the hotel in an old dilapidated raincoat? … Paul Jones plans to become a minister after he retires from the mat? … George Cochran, a 26-year-old comer from Washington, D.C., has been barred from "pro" football because he is too rough? … Jim Coffield used to play football basketball and baseball? …
Glenn Munn, brother of the late Wayne (Big) Munn, former world’s
heavyweight mat king, once worked as a tire salesman? … Dutch Hefner was a
bookie at the race tracks? … Marsh Blackstock pulled a good one when he untied
Dorv Roche’s shoelaces, and then tied them together, causing Dorv to spill on
his face when he attempted to lunge at Marsh? … Sammy Stein played in the
flicker, The Lost Patrol? … Bald-headed Pete Schuh carries a birth certificate
around with him to prove that he is only 27? … Gino Garibaldi gets a great
kick out of filling his mouth with BBs and shooting them at people, then looking
innocently away? … Lou Plummer at one time was crolss-eyed, but saved his
money and had an operation performed which proved most successful? … Bernice
and Bette thank Joe Savoldi for the nice autographs? … Strangler Lewis has
only one eye, having lost the other in an accident outside the ring? … Lewis
also was a victim of trachoma at one time but an operation saved the sight of
his lone orb? … Jim Londos drinks temperately of wines and plays the mandolin?
… His pet ambition is to be a concert vocalist, of all things? …
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 225-2002
WRESTLING CARGO IN CRASH, FIVE INJURED
(Associated Press, Tuesday, January 26, 1943)
NEWTON, Kan. – Heavyweight wrestler Wladek Zbyszko met a culvert abutment in his automobile Monday.
He and wrestlers John Suzek, John Grandovich, Frank Nelson and Ivan Risovich were brought to a Newton hospital for treatment of minor injuries.
The crash interrupted a trip to Wichita for ring appearances.
MIKE MAZURKI WINNER IN TWO CONTESTS
(San Bernardino Sun, Saturday, February 5, 1944)
The manpower shortage struck the wrestling game last night and it resulted in Mike Mazurki being credited with two victories.
In the opening match on the three-bout card at the San Bernardino club last night, Mazurki won the one-fall match from Gene Bowman of Knoxville, Tenn., in 23 minutes.
Powerful Mike then substituted for the Green Hornet in the feature tussle. It was announced that the Green Hornet was inducted in the army yesterday and was unable to appear for his match with El Diablo.
However, the second match on the card was between Alberto Corral of Mexico, who won over Ted Christy in 16 minutes. The fall came as a surprise because Christy had a step-over toe hold on Corral but Christy used the ropes to get a leverage and although cautioned many times, kept up the illegal tactics. The fall then went to Corral.
The deciding fall went to Corral on a body roll and press in 10 minutes.
In the main tussle, El Diablo took the first flop with a hammerlock in 12 minutes. El Diablo had at least a dozen such holds before he weakened his opponent to win.
Mazurki took the next fall in less than 10 minutes with a body scissors and then used a rollover leg press to win the match in 15 minutes.
It appeared Mazurki was in a bad way until he rolled his opponent over and applied the leg press that on the match.
‘BLOCK BUSTER’ BEATS MAZURKI IN 18 MINUTES
(San Bernardino Sun, Saturday, February 12, 1944)
Ivan (Block Buster) Talun, the Polish giant, was too much of a wrestler for Mike Mazurki and won two falls in short order last night at the San Bernardino club.
The first fall came after 11 minutes in which Mazurki was entirely on the defensive and did a lot of leg work around the ring in evading his huge opponent.
Talun had both the referee and Mazurki sprawled on the floor at various times and only Mike’s speed and evasive tactics prevented the fall earlier than 11 minutes. It came as the result of a body press.
Talun took the second fall in seven minutes with a double nelson, a neck hold in which Talun shook up Mazurki considerably.
Alberto Corral won over Tug Carlson in one fall in 32 minutes. In the remaining period of the match neither wrestler was able to secure a fall and Corral was declared the winner.
In the opening match, a one-fall affair, Pantaleon Manlapig, the Filipino champion, won from Gene Bowman of Memphis, Tenn., in 16 minutes with a face lock. Manlapig was the aggressor during most of the match.
BRONKO NAGURSKI IN ARMY 4-F RANKING
(Associated Press, February 11, 1944)
MINNEAPOLIS – Bronko Nagurski today said he had been classified as 4-F upon completion of his pre-induction examination at Fort Snelling.
The former University of Minnesota football star, who returned to pro football with the Chicago Bears and resumed wrestling this fall after a period of "retirement" from both sports, said his rejection for military service apparently resulted from back and knee conditions.
JARES FLATTENS JONES AT ARENA
(San Bernardino Sun-Telegram, Sunday, September 18, 1949)
Primo Carnera, a former boxer turned wrestler, appeared at the San Bernardino club last night to announce he would be unable to meet Marvin Jones in his match due to injuries.
Jones met Brother Frank Jares in the feature two out of three falls match, Jares winning two of the three falls.
Jones, a husky Texan, won the first fall in 16 minutes with a body drop and press, but Jares took the next two falls. Jares won with a series of elbow smashes and body press in seven minutes, and the clincher in 10 minutes with knee jolts and a press.
In the tag match Chester Hayes and Jim Coffield combined to win two of the three falls from George Temple and Chico Gracia. The first fall went to Gracia in 19 minutes with a body press. The second fall went to Hayes in 16 minutes with elbow smashes and a press. Then Coffield tossed Temple with a series of body slams in 13 minutes.
In the opener, Miguel Mosqueda of the Santa Fe shops wrestled to a 20-minute draw with Rocco Toma of Brazil.
ORVILLE BROWN TO SERVE AS MATCHMAKER
(Kansas City Star, January 15, 1952)
Orville Brown, longtime wrestling favorite in Kansas City, is now matchmaker for all programs to be presented by George Simpson in Greater Kansas City.
Simpson made the announcement yesterday at a press and radio luncheon at the Hotel Commonwealth.
Simpson and Brown signed a long-term contract, with the latter scheduled to take over his new duties immediately. Simpson also sold a one-fourth interest in his promotional enterprises to Brown, with the amount of the sale not revealed.
Brown’s wrestling career ended two years ago when he was injured in an automobile accident.
BEDLAM REIGNS AS RICE, BOLO DRAW IN MAT MAIN
(San Bernardino Sun-Telegram, Sunday, April 24, 1955)
Bedlam reigned at San Bernardino Arena Saturday night, in the wake of a draw in the main event between the Great Bolo and Tom Rice. Four uniformed officers and every wrestler who had appeared earlier joined in to subdue Rice and Bolo, after referee Mike Ruby had been knocked out.
Rice took the first in 7:58 with a roll-over press, then Bolo evened it in 5:15 with head butts. While Rice was pulling Bolo’s mask off, both rolled over on Ruby, kayoing him and breaking out the melee.
In the co-main, Sandor Szabo used a suplex in 15:48 to pin Juan Humberto, then took the second in 3:13 by disqualification. Ed Gardenia’s backbreaker whipped Joe Blanchard in 19:55 in the special.
Dr. Lee Grable and Nick Bockwinkel drew in the opener, then the doctor came back to hypnotize several fans at the end. Promoter Roy Warner announced UCLA’s Jack Ellena, Ray Stern and Enrique Romero would top next week’s card.
GEORGE GORDIENKO’S ‘AUTOBIOGRAPHY’
(prepared for the Cauliflower Alley Club, October 19, 2000)
By George Gordienko
In 1928 I was born in the city of Winnipeg. I had two older brothers. Sports was a popular pastime and since we were located on the edge of town and almost in the openness of the prairies, there was a lot of space for playing fields. I was big and sturdy for my age. In high school I was one of the star players on the gridiron.
I must have been about 15 years old when I got into wrestling. Albert Olsen, who was five or six years older, was responsible. Albert was a very good, all-round athlete excelling in just about everything. He was the first to get the idea of wrestling. He asked me if I would train with him.
I had been training with weights for a couple of years. Our equipment was homemade and crude compared to the competition sets, but that may have been advantageous since were principally concerned with feats of strength, more than body building.
Albert joined the R.C.A.F., i.e., the Canadian Air Force, and became a P.T.I. That meant that we could only train together when he was in town on leave. But I continued and found other guys to train with on the mat.
After the war the local club at the Y.M.C.A. expanded when the young men were released from service.
Albert was one of the top guys and was the national lightheavyweight champ at one time. There were some others who were pretty good, such as Gordon Nelson, Harold Nelson (no relation), Jake Costello, Steve (The Little Giant) Kozak, and I should not forget Jimmy Trifunow, who was very accomplished and became the coach of the Canadian Olympic team and later was awarded the Order of Canada for his contribution to Canadian culture.
About that time professional wrestling opened in Winnipeg and drew big crowds. The boys came from Minneapolis, out of Tony Stecher’s office. I remember seeing Ray Steele, Ed "Strangler" Lewis, Sky Hi Lee, Cliff Gustafson, Dick Raines, Abe Kashey, Sandor Szabo, Joe Pazandak, etc. There were many more of those great "golden oldies" who would need mention.
One night when I was training at the "Y" Wally Karbo and Joe Pazandak made a visit. Joe worked out with me and didn’t take me off my feet for six minutes, when Wally called out that Joe should conserve his energy for his coming bout. Not bad for an 18-year-old. I was very strong but lacked knowledge.
I think Joe and Wally spoke to Tony Stecher. One day I received a letter from the office asking if I was interesting in going to Minneapolis. I think Joe decided that I would make a good training mate. Well, I accepted and made the journey.
I stayed with Joe and we worked out daily unless he made a long trip somewhere. Joe had more confidence when he was at home and he could handle me at first. However, after about a year I could hold my own even for an hour or more.
We also trained a bit with weights and played handball. I guess you could say we were in great shape. I had never played handball before. Joe was a good player. Sometime later I took up squash and since there is a similarity, I picked it up fairly quickly. Also, I played with experienced players, which was a help.
It was not too long before I broke in as a "pro." One of my starting matches was with Iron Mike Burnell. Mike was one of the guys I liked and he helped me. I think he could claim to be a former A.A.U. heavyweight champion. He got out of the business a short time later. I think he saved his money and bought some earth-moving equipment. I hope he made out okay.
I went to San Francisco, then back to Minneapolis, then on to Buffalo, N.Y., for Ed Don George.
I was 18 years old when I broke into the business and I was now 19. I was growing tired of traveling as it did not leave much time for anything else. When I was in Winnipeg I attended art school and was able to take some lessons in San Francisco as well. I guess I had the "itch."
While I was young and had a lifetime ahead of me, I decided to make a break. In hindsight, I did the right thing because now I am doing "my thing" which to me is so satisfying and interesting. It is life itself.
I think some people were critical of my departure and rumors flew.
I went back to Canada where the art scene was very quiet, at least in western Canada. I worked at odd jobs which I now consider useful since the experiences come together in later life. For me, anyway.
One day in 1953 Stu Hart called me from Calgary and asked if I was interested in working again. Okay. So off I went to Calgary. It worked out alright, though there were long distances between towns. Later in the year I went to Australia. On the return journey, instead of flying back to North America, I exchanged my ticket for passage on an ocean liner to Europe. Can’t think of why I did that, and it wasn’t a dumb idea. Departed from Sydney and disembarked in Naples, Italy.
From there, I took a train to Rome, Florence, and Paris. I spent a few weeks in Paris – and loved it. From there I went to London. I stopped there a fair length of time – ‘til my money ran out. I attended St. Martin’s School of Art and had Anthony Caro as an instructor in sculpture. Caro became internationally famous and was knighted for his work.
When the time came I took an ocean liner again to Quebec City on the St. Lawrence River.
I made some money again working for Stu Hart. Through some friends, I heard from Joint Promotions in England they were willing to pay my fare and guarantee my purse money.
I had fallen in love with Europe and going back there gave me a feeling of being "at home." A great place for an aspiring artist.
I settled into London and it became my headquarters for a number of years. There was a lot to take in. Cultural life on a very high level. I got to other parts of Europe often: France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Holland, Austria, Greece, etc.
I should mention Paris in particular. There were a couple of boys there who were into painting and had personal showings. They knew Picasso, since he watched wrestling on television and was said to be an avid fan. He would not be disturbed when the bouts were on.
Eventually, and to my very good fortune, while I was in the company of the lads who painted we encountered Picasso, and had coffee together. What a polite, well-mannered person. He even insisted on paying. This was truly a high spot in my life.
I also wrestled in other spots around the globe: India, the Middle East, a lot of places in Africa, Japan, New Zealand, the Caribbean, etc.
In 1975 I got back to serious painting and moved to Italy – which was very good to me. I said goodbye to wrestling this time for good. Life had moved on, and I was no longer a young man. Europe was very good to me, very rich in cultural experiences that could perhaps be described as unparalleled.
Now I am back in Canada, on Vancouver Island. I have a quiet
location and am trying to put all my experiences together, hoping it will mean
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 226-2002
SLAM! BANG! PINNED BY WRESTLING!
(Washington Post, Monday, April 1, 1985)
By Paul Attanasio
"I saw Richard Burton in ‘Hamlet’ in 1964 and I’ve been waiting for a similar event ever since," said Jay Power, a waggish, bespectacled man who works for the AFL-CIO, as he eased into an uneaseful chair in a packed ballroom at the Sheraton Washington Hotel. "And this is it."
The event was WrestleMania, an extravaganza staged yesterday in New York’s Madison Square Garden and cablecast to two dozen foreign countries and hundreds of locations across the nation, including the D.C. Armory and the Sheraton, where Powers and more than 3,000 others plunked down a double sawbuck to watch celebrated grapplers wheel and deal in the Squared Circle.
"I said it before," said Jesse (The Body) Ventura, who narrated the epic along with Gorilla Monsoon. "Woodstock was to rock ‘n’ roll what WrestleMania is to wrestling."
The crowd of parents and children, blacks and whites, elegant silver-haired ladies, and good old boys with Harley T-shirts and fatigue pants, sat enthralled before an array of five projection television screens as King Kong Bundy, the 458-pound dark side of the Pillsbury Dough Boy, crushed S.D. (Special Delivery) Jones in a record nine seconds. And rock pheenom/wrestling manager Cyndi Lauper ushered her protégé, Wendi Richter, to victory and the women’s title.
All of this, though, was only a preliminary for the instantly legendary grudge tag-team match pitting Rowdy Roddy Piper and the egomaniacal Paul (Mr. Wonderful) Orndorff against champion Hulk Hogan, a towering surfer man-child, and none other than Mr. T of "The A-Team."
"T! T! T! T! T!" chanted the crowd.
Muhammad Ali served as guest referee; Liberace, after a brief kick-line routine with four Rockettes, kept time; and former Yankee manager Billy Martin assumed the ring announcer’s chores.
"Eye of the Tiger," the theme from "Rocky III," blasted into the ballroom, and Hogan and Mr. T, who appeared in that movie, entered the ring, unleashing a half-ton of mayhem that brooked no bounds.
Also, they won.
This is wrestling today, a phenomenon cross-marketed with prime-time television, Las Vegas, MTV, legitimate sports, and rock ‘n’ roll. Four of the top 10 shows on cable are wrestling shows; live wrestling draws about 10 million people a year. According to Gloria Steinem, Tiny Turner, Diane Keaton, Andy Warhol, Geraldine Ferraro and David Letterman, wrestling is in. Which can only mean one thing.
Wrestling is out.
Wrestlers are literally larger than life, most of them standing over six feet and weighing between 250 and 300 pounds. Hogan, the champion of the dominant World Wrestling Federation (which sponsored WrestleMania), is 6-8 and tips the scales at 302; the aptly named Andre the Giant stands 7-5, weighs 463 pounds and, as Sports Illustrated once illustrated, can lose a can of beer in his hand. Historically, the largest wrestler was the fabled Haystack Calhoun, who was said to sneak 700 pounds (sic) into his overalls each morning.
"What is portrayed by wrestling," wrote French critic Roland Barthes, "is an ideal understanding of things … wrestlers remain gods because they are, for a few moments, the key which opens Nature, the pure gesture which separates Good from Evil, and unveils the form of a Justice which is at last intelligible."
Wrestling is like ballet; an intricate choreography of head butts, heart punches, suplexes and superplexes, figure-four leg locks, body slams, bear hugs, eye gouges, headlocks and hammerlocks, atomic spine crushers and atomic elbow drops, sleeper holds, cobra clutches and Boston crabs, in which hero and villain seem to trade an expression of horrible suffering. Who could fail to be moved yesterday by the sight of Hogan, crawling kicked and battered across the canvas, while Mr. T stood by helplessly, waiting for the tag? In wrestling, the action is not as important as the pauses in between, filled with anguish, trembling, the stalking of the hunter, pleas for mercy and appeals to the attendees. Junk Yard Dog, a wrestler who entered the fray in chains, loomed above Greg (The Hammer) Valentine, pinioned against the turnbuckle, and gestured to the crowd for its verdict.
"You got to do it, brother!" said a woman at the Sheraton, 250 miles away.
And he did.
The division of Good and Evil is not as easy as you might think. Wrestlers are either good guys (also known as "fan favorites") or bad guys (also known as "hated rulebreakers"). But a villain can reform – Gorilla Monsoon, yesterday’s announcer, began as a hirsute Manchurian madman who spoke only four words of English ("I’ll break his back"), but later shaved his beard and became a highly articulate spokesman for the Good. Hulk Hogan, too, started as a hated rulebreaker, only to mellow and become the champ. Likewise, good guys sometimes turn bad.
There are certain subtle rules of etiquette. A bad guy breaks the rules from the opening bell. This means anything from inflicting a blow with a fist to bashing an opponent with a ringside chair (a blow Piper dealt Hogan in WrestleMania). A good guy will do these things only when he Gets Really Mad, which he invariably does. A bad guy might lacerate his opponent with a "foreign object," a twopenny nail or a can opener secreted in his trunks; a good guy NEVER does this. A bad guy uses tactics that send other wrestlers, after quick examination by the ringside doctor, on a stretcher to the hospital. Good guys don’t want to end other wrestlers’ careers; they just want to run them out of town.
In all of this, the referee is no help. When he’s not simply ineffectual, he’s busy enforcing the rules against the good guys while the bad guys pursue their depredations in the other corner. In yesterday’s spectacle, a ref frantically restraining Mike Rotundo didn’t see the Iron Sheik borrowing the cane of his manager, "Classy" Freddie Blassie, to cosh Barry Windham, the happy hellraiser from Sweetwater, Tex. The Russian Nikolai Volkoff smothered him the way the Russian winter smothered Napoleon, and the tag team belt changed hands.
"Cane?" Blassie said. "What cane? I don’t have no cane!"
Spring has come to Atlantic City, and with it Lou Albano (The Captain), manager nonpareil to 15 tag team champions, who saunters through the lobby of the Resorts International Hotel in a fog of bay rum.
"I got enough money to last till the rest of my life – if I live till tomorrow," he says.
And: "I weigh 300 pounds of sweet poetry in motion. Got the body that women love and men envy."
And: "The Captain believes he wouldn’t be nothing without the Good Lord."
Built like a bowling ball, Albano has long been wrestling’s craziest comic presence. His long hair frizzed around his head in a demonic halo, the spikes of his beard gathered by a rubber band echoed by more rubber bands dangling from safety pins stuck in his cheek and left ear, Albano used to be Middle America’s nightmare of what the counterculture was really about.
The Captain is a good guy now. He blames his past excesses on a "calcium deposit on the medulla oblongata." Last year he and co-chair Cyndi Lauper raised $4.2 million to fight multiple sclerosis. His hair is groomed. The breard is gone, revealing a face that 700 stitches have turned the texture of parchment, the legacy that wrestling, rigged or not, has left him.
Lou Albano is not in Atlantic City to gamble. Or listen to Anthony Newley. Or stroll the boardwalk. He is here to be a movie star.
"We were looking for a rather large guy," says Brian De Palma, a rather large guy himself and director of the upcoming "Wise Guys," who watches the Captain from his director’s chair with Olympian bemusement. "He had to be really big. He was supposed to be very large. So we turned to wrestlers, because they’re used to doing all this performing for their wrestling matches, and playing bad guys in a very overblown sense, they’re real stars. Lou’s just larger than life, like a movie star is."
"Wise Guys," which also stars Danny DeVito and Joe Piscopo, is a comedy about two small-time hoods who get tangled up with the big-time mob, including a hit man named Frankie the Fixer, played by Albano. The film is due for release later this year, and the advertising will be targeted, in part, at a wrestling audience.
The scene is set, the camera rolls. Watching Albano walk is like watching time-lapse photography of continental drift. In the scene, he harangues the hotel’s desk clerk. The whites of his eyes grow large and rattle like eggs in a fast-boiling pot. His growl fills the room. At the climax, he reaches over the desk and grabs the clerk, an actor named Anthony Holland. De Palma calls "Cut!" The crew cracks up.
"It’s like some nightmare come to life," says Holland. "I feel like a child."
What’s endlessly pleasurable about wrestling is the seemingly effortless way it keeps current. Take politics. German and Japanese villains were a staple of wrestling after World War II. These days, the arch-villains are the Iron Sheik and Volkoff. The Iron Sheik, a bald, swaybacked colossus with curly-toed boots out of the Arabian Nights, entered the ring first yesterday, holding aloft the Iranian flag; his crew-cut partner seized the microphone and sang the Soviet national anthem through a storm of paper cups, after which the Sheik proclaimed, "Russia: Number One! Iran: Number One! U.S.A.: haaach – ptui!" Then their opponents entered to the tune of Bruce Springsteen’s "Born in the USA."
Lately wrestling seems plugged directly into "Nightline." After the Iranian cris, Sgt. Slaughter, a mean-spirited Marine who was originally a hated rulebreaker, entered the hearts of the fans. Even the Japanese villain has been updated. Mr. Fuji, for example, before wrestling for the championship with his partner, Mr. Saito, addressed a crowd of 5,000 unemployed steelworkers in Allentown, Pa., by saying, "We have eclipsed you in technology. Next we will take the belt."
Vanity and ego are the worst sins a wrestler can commit – that’s why "Luscious" Johnny Valiant and Paul (Mr. Wonderful) Orndorff are so hated (the monikers say it all). And there is a tremendous fear of an id gone completely amok – hence the Animal, or Abdullah the Butcher, who has been known to eat live chickens while spectators watched aghast.
What’s interesting about all this is the way it stretches into the world outside the ring, in pre-match speeches or televised interview segments. Fake feuds stem from fake locker-room arguments or jealous competition for a woman, which is presented as real. "There is no distinction in wrestling between the play world and the real world," says David Marc, the author of "Demographic Vistas." "It’s not like ‘The Tonight Show,’ where the comedian gets up and does a stand-up routine, but then sits down and talks with Johnny about his so-called ‘real life.’ Instead, the Iron Sheik of Iran steps out of the ring and he’s more the Iron Sheik of Iran out of the ring than he is in it."
While the villains are as interesting as ever, the heroes today aren’t. What does Hulk Hogan stand for? Bruno Sammartino carried the flag for a way of life; a dour, blockish urban ethnic who fought fair but exploded when crossed, Sammartino personified church and neighborhood and the virtues of hard work. Rooted in Pittsburgh, he was an authentic local hero just like colorless, courageous Verne Gagne in the Midwest or flamboyant Mil Mascaras, the Southern California comet who was said to wear a mask even while bathing.
Hogan, on the other hand, is a guy who his fans imagine kicking back, popping a beer and turning on loud music. He is on record as liking rock ‘n’ roll. His archenemy, Rowdy Roddy Piper, doesn’t like rock ‘n’ roll. The metaphysics of wrestling has been debased, at its very core, into a debate between the upstairs and the downstairs of Tower Records. And this is no accident.
Wrestling has always had its ups and downs. During the Depression, wrestling "exhibitions" (as they are called in New York, by law) drew packed houses to Madison Square Garden and even Yankee Stadium. But by the end of the decade, A.J. Liebling could write, "If a promoter tried to rent the Yankee Stadium or even Ebbets Field for a wrestling show this summer, sporting people would think he had been overcome by the heat."
A renaissance came with the advent of television. Wrestling was featured on all the networks, with stars like Gorgeous George and Flying Antonino Rocca. But as the medium matured, wrestling was returned to the fringes of American life. "You could see why, in terms of advertising, the whole idea that whether it was ‘true’ or not ws open to debate was an uneasy thing," says Marc. "If this guy could be lying about the fact that there was real blood coming out of this guy’s head, maybe he wasn’t telling you the truth about a Chevrolet, either."
Promotion became strictly local, with the result that the sport itself became Balkanized into separate fiefdoms ruled by dueling promoters, each with its own champion.
All of this is bad for marketing, which depends on national exposure and standardized tastes. Network television, the favored marketing engine, had largely priced itself out of wrestling’s league (although NBC has recently scheduled wrestling in a once-a-month 11:30 p.m. slot).
But now syndicators have come to realize that cable, independent and UHF television can be combined to form ad hoc networks, affording advertisers network-league market penetration at lower-than-network rates. The man who has put the package together for wrestling is second-generation (sic) promoter Vince McMahon, Jr. of the WWF (his father ruled the wrestling roost here in Washington for years). WWF wrestling now dominates cable – it airs on the USA network, Ted Turner’s WTBS, the Madison Square Garden network and the WOR superstation; it appears as well on dozens of independently owned local stations.
Part of McMahon’s strategy is to achieve a sort of marketing synergy with other genres. When Mr. T teams with Hulk Hogan, wresting taps into "The A-Team’s" estimated 40 million viewers. The show features Top 40 hits: "Easy Lover" and "Another One Bites the Dust," as well as Springsteen and Lauper; Albano appears in Lauper’s rock videos. The notion is to establish wrestling as a leisure-time activity for a new generation. Which is why Hulk Hogan fights Rowdy Roddy Piper to defend beer and rock ‘n’ roll. These, after all, are the stuff of the student strikes of the ‘80s.
The strategy has begun to work. Accoding to the WWF, their network reaches some 20 million peolple and last November earned a national 9.6 Nielsen rating. Andre the Giant, Superfly Snuka and Big John Studd dolls are due in the stores this month. There is talk of Captain Lou Albano watches and Snuka beach towels and a trivia game called Cage Match.
Wrestling’s "Tuesday Night Titans," a sort of television equivalent of a potluck dinner, is now the No. 1 cable show in Manhattan, and that means yuppies. Wrestling, like pan-blackened Louisiana redfish and bowling shirts, has become an artifact of baby boom hip.
The essence of hip is a search for authenticity, and in baby boom culture, that expresses itself in slumming – chowing down on chicken-fried steak, scouring secondhand clothing stores for Hawaiian shirts. It is movie star Jodie Foster decorating her apartment at Yale with plastic furniture and year-round Christmas lights, and celebrating it as "soooooo tacky."
But the baby boomers are the first generation to grow up on television, and their slumming, more often than not, takes the form of rummaging through old television shows: Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi created a hip style out of the Blues Brothers, who dressed like the Untouchables; David Letterman, the yuppies’ Pied Piper, features "Mr. Science"; "Leave It To Beaver" and "Dobie Gillis," like wrestling, score nice ratings.
This isn’t authenticity – it’s authentic inauthenticity. What’s worse is that it recreates everything in its own image. The baby boomers see the world in 19 inches diagonal.
"TV automatically ironizes everything," says Mark Crispin Miller, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and a critic of popular culture. "Anything intense appears a little bit ridiculous. Parody is universal now; we’ve arrived at a cultural moment when everything’s ironized. A world in which nobody believes in anything, that consistently plays everything for a laugh."
The ironic attitude lends the illusion of being somehow apart from mass culture, all the while you’re lapping it up. It’s this attitude that has resulted in the rape of professional wrestling. It’s been robbed of its mortal seriousness, made into a joke, a parody, "sooooo tacky."
At the same time, wrestling has lost its authenticity for
everyone else. In the middle of yesterday’s show, an announcer came on
hysterically flacking T-shirts, baseball caps and posters; at that moment,
wrestling appeared in its modern form, another homogenized mass marketing
vehicle. There was no sense, at the Shertaton, that you were missing anything by
not being in New York. Television felt just right.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 227-2002
CHAMPIONSHIP EMBLEM FOR WRESTLERS
(Associated Press, May 8, 1919)
CHICAGO – A belt to cost $2250 to be emblematic of the world’s wrestling championship is to be presented to the winner of the Wladek Zbyszko-"Strangler" Lewis match here May 19, it was announced today by the Coliseum Athletic Club. Most of the wrestling promoters of the country have contributed to the cost of the trophy, which, to become the private property of a holder, must be defended five times.
STRANGLER LEWIS IS MARRIED
(Associated Press, May 8, 1919)
MERCER, Pa. – Robert F. (Strangler) Lewis, the wrestler, was married here this afternoon to Dr. Ada Scott. The wedding was the culmination of a romance begun two years ago in San Jose, Cal., when Lewis suffered a broken leg in a wrestling bout and Dr. Scott, then a railroad surgeon, attended him.
(ED. NOTE – The moniker – Robert F. "Strangler" Lewis – was constructed from Ed Lewis’ straight name, Robert Friedrich, his nickname – which came from the original wrestling "strangler," Evan Lewis, whose last name also was appropriated by the professional wrestling icon.)
WEAVER WINNER ON MAT CARD
(The Oregonian, Portland OR, Friday, Sept. 23, 1949)
Buck Weaver launched Tex Hager’s weekly mat show at Eagles Hall Thursday night by defeating Jack Kiser, two out of three falls, in a slam-bang main event.
Weaver took the first flop with headlocks in 16 minutes and Kiser evened the score 12 minutes later with a skin-cat. Weaver ended the brawl nine minutes afterward, applying his lethal jumping full nelson.
In the special event, Karl Grey, Milwaukie, and Tarzan Zimba of Canada, wrestled a fast, no-fall, 30-minute draw and Billy Hunter of Vancouver, B.C., was ruled winner of the opening tussle when Billy McEuin was disqualified for rough tactics.
WRESTLING CARD A MELTING POT
(Spokane Spokesman-Review, Sunday, Sept. 25, 1949)
Spokane’s professional wrestling impresario, Hat Freeman, has dipped into a stable of topflight mat performers to come up with an octet of the fans’ favorites for his inaugural fall card Thursday evening at the Masonic Temple. The card will have an international touch.
From Mexico ex-cavalry officer Juan Hernandez has been signed up to meet in the half-hour preliminary event Italian Tony Verdi.
A Greek Ted Tourtas, will tangle in the semifinal with Larry Tillman, one of the three native-born Americans on the card.
Freeman has reserved as the show’s hole card the Australian tag-team that will headline the event.
A tag match, designed by its originators, The Australian Wrestling Association, as the most legal form of murder under professional wrestling rules, works this way.
Of each two-man team one member is meeting his opponent in the ring while his partner is required to stay outside the ropes, on the canvas, and further to hold onto a towel tied to a ringpost. The losing wrestler in the ring attempts to grapple his opponent to a place where the loser can tag his partner and swap places with him in the ring. It doesn’t always work out that way when the going gets hot.
Thursday’s match will team Jerry Meeker and the Cardiff Giant against Leo Wallick and Stu Hart.
GIANT-MEEKER TEAM WINNER
(Spokane Spokesman-Review, September 30, 1949)
The Cardiff Giant and Jerry Meeker teamed up to teach Stu Hart and Juan Hernandez some of the finer points of rough, rugged wrestling in a team match which featured the opening of the Masonic Temple wrestling season.
The Giant and Meeker used body slams and finished their foes with body presses in the first and third falls. Hart and Hernandez grabbed the middle fall, however, with a flying cross hold after 15:43.
In the semiwindup, Ted Tourtas was forced to come back after losing the first fall to Larry Tillman and win the next two. After dropping the first in 43:54, he won the second after 3:45 with a rolling cradle and the third with a series of body slams and a body press from his still dazed opponent after 3:27.
Tony Verdi won the opener after 8:43 over Clarence Higdon with a Boston crab hold.
SZASZ TO TEST JACK O’REILLY
(The Oregonian, Portland OR, Sunday, Oct. 23, 1949)
Jack O’Reilly, the arrogant Australian who seems to be taking up his domination of Northwest wrestling circles where he left off six months ago when an injury laid him low, will again be the top-flight attraction on promoter Don Owen’s Monday night wrestling show at the Labor Temple.
The confident Aussie will tangle with Al Szasz in the main event of the show. O’Reilly trimmed tough Gust Johnson last week and has declared himself in peak form. He is angling for a shot at Buck Weaver’s coast light-heavyweight title. Szasz, however, points to his sensational record over the past few weeks and claims he has first call at a title bout. Monday night’s fracas may settle the issue.
In the semifinal, the Yaqui Kid returns to the local ring. The Indian battler, a protégé of old-time favorite Yaqui Joe, has just returned from his native Mexico where arrangements were made with immigration officials for another stay north of the border. Yaqui Joe asked that his boy be given a chance to show some of his wrestling skill against a clean grappler and Owen obliged by matching the youngster with Jack Kiser.
Maurice LaChappelle meets The Saint, a new masked marvel, in a special event and Jack Lipscomb will meet Billy Hunter in the opener.
GEORGE, MARVEL DRAW IN WRESTLING MAIN EVENT
(Seattle Times, Friday, February 1, 1952)
In the wrestling main event at Civic Auditorium last night, Gorgeous George and the Masked Marvel drew after one fall apiece.
Frank Stojack defeated Kemil Mahmout in the semiwindup. In other matches, Andy Tremaine defeated Jack Kiser, Eric the Great defeated Howard Cantonwine and Ted Evans and Jack O’Reilly drew.
GORKY’S LEAP STOPS WEAVER
(The Oregonian, Portland OR, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 1952)
Soldat Gorky pounced on Buck Weaver with a wolf leap to win the deciding fall in Monday’s main event on promoter Don Owen’s Labor Temple wrestling party, which turned into a wild skirmish when a couple of fans got in the act.
Two fans got a little "heated" at the end of the last match, but both were eventually quieted as Gorky went to the dressing room with his victory. Weaver took the first fall of the main and Gorky made it two in a row to win.
Jack Lipscomb and Prince Omar fought to a no-fall draw in the curtain raiser and Herb Parks used a stomping toehold to secure a fall over Gene Blakely in the special event.
Cowboy Carlson measured Gino Nicolini in the semifinal. It took nearly an hour before the match ended as the two men agreed at the end of the second fall, scored by Nicolini, to extend the bout until a third fall regardless of the 45-minute limit. Carlson used a pile driver to win. He took the first fall with his specialty, the bulldog hold.
GERMAN GAINS GRAPPLING WIN
(The Oregonian, Portland OR, Saturday, Feb. 9, 1952)
Kurt Von Poppenheim extended his grappling win skein to six straight with a main event victory over Ivan Gorky Friday night in the Portland Wrestling Club’s weekly card at the Portland Armory.
Cowboy Carlson and Bill Parks battled to a no-fall draw in the semifinal event, and Gino Nicolini won by a disqualification over Jack Lipscomb in the opener.
Von Poppenheim employed a back breaker hold to win the first fall over Gorky. The Russian won the second fall with an octopus hold, but succumbed when Von Poppenheim tangled Gorky’s leg in the ropes and employed a half crab to gain the deciding fall.
CARLSON WINS VIA FOUL ROUTE
(The Oregonian, Portland OR, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 1952)
Cowboy Carlson was awarded the main wrestling match of the Monday card at the Labor Temple when Eric Pedersen was disqualified after a wild ringside tugging match involving Pedersen, the referee, several fans and – in the middle – Carlson.
Each competitor had won a fall when Pedersen caught Carlson by the hair, pulled him off the ropes and outside the ring and attempted to pull him back in with a full nelson. While irate fans tried to help Carlson by holding his feet the muscular Swede tugged at the other end, seemingly oblivious to the referee’s attempt to tear him loose.
Pedersen reportedly made more enemies in Monday’s match against the popular Carlson than Soldat Gorky, previous top man on the "most-hated" list.
The semifinal wound up in a draw when Herb Parks and Ted Evans each won a fall in a lively bout.
Marcel Ouimet defeated Prince Omar and Jack Lipscomb defeated bill Parks, each by a single fall in the other matches.
JOHN SILVI, THE PANTHER MAN
(Detroit News, Thursday, February 28, 1991)
By Doug Bradford
When he was a professional wrestler in the 1940s and 1950s, John Silvi reminded his family that the bouts had good guys and bad guys.
Wrestling as the Panther Man, he was one of the good guys. That meant he won most of his staged matches.
But wrestling was just one of the careers for the longtime Livonia resident who died at 84 of a heart attack Tuesday, Feb. 26, 1991, in St. Mary Hospital, Livonia.
Mr. Silvi also was a bouncer, trapeze performer, racecar driver, salesman, author and handwriting analysis expert.
Born in Rome, he and his family moved to Canada when he was 3, then to Detroit in the late 1930s. He became proficient at acrobatics and gymnastics in the YMCA and became a catcher in trapeze acts in several circuses and vaudeville.
In the mid-1930s he was said to hold the record for the highest fly-away somersault. This type of entertaining eventually led him into wrestling, where some of his partners were Louis Klein and Bert Rubi.
Mr. Silvi became a favorite of fans in Metro Detroit and across the nation, said his son, James.
"Little old ladies in the front rows everywhere cheered for him," said his son. "Once, he beat Walter Palmer for the heavyweight championship, but Palmer’s leg was broken. So, being the ‘good’ guy, he refused to accept the title under those conditions."
Mr. Silvi also was a bouncer on the Bob Lo boat. He also tried his hand at racing cars and motorcycles.
Mr. Silvi also continued to perform feats of strength while working at his various jobs, such as pulling a car with his teeth in a race, and forming human pyramids.
He wrote a song, "Where Are You Now?" and later, after becoming interested in handwriting analysis, wrote several books on that subject, often interpreting a person’s character by his handwriting.
Later, he sold trucks, street cleaners, garbage packers and various other pieces of heavy equipment for Bell Equipment Co.
Surviving besides his son, James, are wife, Elinore; a son, Donald; stepdaughters, Valarie Clink and Barbara Work; stepsons, Thomas Panackia Jr. and Joseph Panackia; a sister and a brother; 22 grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren.
Services will be 10 a.m. Friday in the Harry J. Will Trust 100 Funeral Home, 37000 Six Mile, Livonia, with burial in Grand Lawn Cemetery, Detroit.
PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER LARRY CAMERON, 41
(Minneapolis Tribune, December 18, 1993)
Larry Cameron, 41, a pro wrestler and former professional football player who had made Minneapolis his home since the early 1980s, died Sunday.
He collapsed in the ring while wrestling in Bremen, Germany. Friends thought he had had a heart attack, but a preliminary autopsy found that he died of respiratory failure.
"Everywhere he wrestled he was a champion," said Ed Sharkey, of the Minneapolis-based Pro Wrestling America. "He was probably the best-liked wrestler in the business. He was a super athlete and just a real nice person."
Cameron was from a small town near Jackson, Miss. He had played with the Denver Broncos and with the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League. He moved to Minneapolis about 1981 and concentrated on body building for the next several years. He was named Mr. Minnesota in 1985 and won the Mr. North Country title, Sharkey said. He became a pro wrestler in 1987 and was Minnesota champion in the late 1980s. He had been a tag-team champion in Australia and Japan and a champion in Canada.
"He’s been a mentor to me for the last 10 years," said Bill Borea, a longtime friend. "He helped me train for body building contests and helped get me into wrestling as well. He was really disciplined – mentally, physically and spiritually." Borea said Cameron was thinking of retiring and opening a gym for at-risk children. He had been on an eight-month wrestling tour in Europe and was expected to come home for Christmas.
His friends are putting on a wrestling benefit Dec. 27 to
raise money to bring his body back to the United States. The benefit will begin
at 8 p.m. at Roper’s Bar and Restaurant, 3720 NE East River Rd., Fridley.
Cameron is survived by a daughter, Chelsea, of Minneapolis, and his parents and
a sister, all of Mississippi.
WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 228-2002LOPEZ KEEPS MAT TITLE IN BOO CHORUS
(San Francisco Chronicle, February 12, 1936)
Vincente Lopez of Mexico, world’s wrestling champion in months that have an "r," took two falls out of three to defend his title from the Hungarian menace, Sandor Szabo, before a near capacity house last night at Dreamland.
The presence of Strangler Lewis in Lopez’ corner as coach and kibitzer angered the fans, who were sympathetic to Szabo. They bombared the Strangler with programs and food, but failed to dislodge him.
Szabo won the first fall in 15:20 with a reverse flip and body press. Lopez took the second with a right to the jaw and a body press in 18:18 after both had been out of the ring. The Mexican won the deciding fall in 16:59 with a right to the stomach and body press.
Danny Winters beat the far-famed football star, Len Macaluso, in 22 minutes in the curtain-raiser.
In the special event, Strangler Lewis failed to throw Ernie Fedderson’s masked grappler in 20 minutes and forfeited the match. The masked lad had on a silk headgear, and Strangler’s favorite headlock didn’t seem to work so well.
Man Mountain Dean pancaked his diminutive Japanese opponent, Kimon Kudo, in seven minutes and 30 seconds.
Chief Little Wolf beat Jan Sitkowski after 12 minutes with a flying mare and a body press.
EVEN THE RASSLERS BAN RADIO
(San Francisco Chronicle, February 14, 1936)
From now on, there will be no radio or teleflash broadcasts of Tuesday night wrestling shows at Dreamland Auditorium.
Joe Malcewicz, promoter of the muscle industry at the Steiner Street arena, yesterday announced a no-broadcast policy for an indefinite period to learn what effect radio and teleflash have on attendance.
Malcewicz is following in the footsteps of Tony Palazola, fight promoter, who banned broadcasts of the Brubaker-Levinsky fight tonight at Dreamland and of all future shows under his promotion.
HIGAMI BEATS MAR-ALLAH
(San Francisco Chronicle, February 14, 1936)
Tsutao Higami wrestled himself to a two-out-of-three fall victory over Sheik Mar-Allah last night at Dreamland Auditorium before a good house.
The Sheik won the first fall in 14 minutes with a toe hold. Higami won the next two, the first with a Japanese arm bar in 9 minutes and the second in less than a minute when the fight was stopped as the Sheik couldn’t use his arm.
George Wilson tossed Al Karasick in 30 minutes with a body slam; Stacy Hall drew with Gorilla Poggi in 30 minutes; Bobby Pierce tossed Basanta Singh with a reverse chin hold in 18 minutes; Buzz Reynolds opened the show with a 15-minute draw with Tsutao Higami.
‘UNKNOWN’ MAT STARS FACE STATE BAN
(San Francisco Chronicle, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 1936)
By Will Connolly
The State Athletic Commission, with Philistine lack of imagination, is on the verge of outlawing forever from the rassling ring those exotic characters known variously as the Masked Marvel, The Unknown, The Scorpion and Mysterious Mr. X.
This is not official yet ubt it is a safe bet that you saw your last hooded hero last night when the Masked Unknown grappled to the death with Count Hugo de Collelmo of Italy at Dreamland.
Masked Unknown is known to all the trade by his baptismal name. Not being of the trade, I do not know for sure, but you could knock me over with a feather if it isn’t old Billy Bartush, the farm boy from Illinois and a pretty good rassler.
It is really a pity that the commission is getting religion in such a virile way all of a sudden. You can blame that on Commissioner George Payne of San Jose.
When he came into office a few months ago he was imbued with a boyish determination to clean the Augean stables, as the keynoters say, and caused an encyclical to be issued under date of November 30 outlawing kicking, hitting, slugging, abusing the referee, attacking spectators and all those innocent pranks that make life worth while to a rassling fan.
The latest ukase, so I’m told, will be against masked rasslers. If a rassler isn’t proud enough of his profession to show his face, then he ought not be allowed to practice within the confines of California.
I’m sorry to see such intriguing stage names as "The Scorpion," who was Milo Steinborn, consigned to the dead letter office.
I earnestly hoped somebody would write in, asking for a schoolboy’s text book of rassling as she is spoke but nobody has, so I must fake a letter asking for vital information.
It seems nobody is interested.
In answer to a letter I never received, I would like to bore you with the oft-told fact that there are two species of rasslers, the salaried and the percentage men.
The salaried men work for from $75 to $125 a week and usually must play the kerosene circuit, which is Monday in Sacramento, Tuesday in our town, Wednesday in Los Angeles, Thursday in San Diego and Friday in Long Beach.
Some of the boys spend Friday in Oakland and others take wings to Portland, Seattle and Vancouver when they are dispatched on the Great Circle route.
The percentage boys are big enough to demand a cut of the house. Ray Steele made $24,000 in one year on percentage. He was important enough to scoff at a straight salary. George Wilson quit the Paul Bowser firm in a huff when they took him off percentage and put him on a salary and now he is working for the rival firm which shows Thursdays at the Exposition Auditorium.
The Bowser people are not cheap. They pay rasslers salary AND expenses and if a rassler puts "25c tip to waitress" on his swindle sheet the Bowser auditing clerks will not question whether she was a blonde or brunette. They are big.
Also in answer to the letter I did not receive because nobody thought enough to write in, the Bowser firm can freeze out a local promoter who won’t cooperate, by sending him bum cards, as happened in the case of Jack Ganson here.
After a month of poor attractions, through no fault of Ganson’s, the Bowser people could say: "Sorry, Jack, you’ll have to go. Your receipts are below the high standard of our organization."
I do wish somebody were interested enough in the inside of rassling to ask about the other world’s champions, not recognized by the Bowser chain stores. I feel like a fool volunteering information when nobody asks for it. It’s embarrassing.
For the two students of contemporary pantomime who have read down his far, there is another undisputed champion of the universe, Everett Marshall of La Junta, Colo. Danno O’Mahoney, the Irish hammer thrower, is the undisputed champion of the universe of the Bowser faith, to refresh your memory.
Marshall operates out of Columbus, Ohio, on a minor league circuit booked by Billy Sandow, himself a reformed rassler. Marshall is without doubt the one and only champion of the universe, just as O’Mahoney is.
The governor of the commonwealth of Colorado says so. Last June, Governor Ed C. Johnson took time out from the manifold duties of state to tie a metallic belt around the tummy of Marshall, proclaiming him, in the name of Colorado, wrestling champion of the universe and where’s that guy O’Mahoney?
The ceremony was so impressive that the Kansas City News-Press printed a special supplement recording it for generations unborn. It said, in part:
"The good Governor of Colorado, gazing upon Everett Marshall, after the Colorado commission declared him world’s champion, realized that he was looking on the greatest wrestler of all times."
The governor must have choked with the emotional turbulence that seized him. He probably wiped away a furtive tear.
Marshall now spends his waking hours baiting O’Mahoney into a match, which, of course, O’Mahoney won’t accept because Marshall is the better rassler.
Marshall even goes so far as to say he is part Irish and please, for the sake of the auld sod, Danno, me boy, let me have an opportunity to throw you and give our race a real representative.
But Danno isn’t that patriotic.
(ED. NOTE – Mr. Connolly’s fears proved unfounded. After a brief ruckus, San Francisco was made safe again for masked men and remained that way for many years.)
LOPEZ WINS OVER SZABO
(San Francisco Chronicle, February 19, 1936)
A large wrestling crowd threw apples, oranges, programs and other handy weapons at Strangler Lewis last night at Dreamland Auditorium, but not while the Strangler was in the ring.
It was while he was seconding Vicente Lopez of Mexico, who eventually won in two straight falls from Sandor Szabo of Hungary. The crowd apparently didn’t like the Strangler’s words from the corner, and neither did Szabo.
After losing the first fall in 40 minutes on a flying tackle, he was later thrown from the ring and while being counted out he went over to Lewis and took a poke at his jaw. In the meantime, referee Sammy Stein had counted a full 20 and Lopez won the second and deciding fall. Other results:
Strangler Lewis won from Danny Winters in 17 minutes with a headlock; Gino Garibaldi and Blue Sun Jennings went 30 minutes to a draw; the Masked Unknown downed Hugo De Collelmo in 19 minutes with a sock to the jaw and body press; Tiny Roebuck downed Tony Felice with a head scissors and body press in eight minutes.
STRANGLER ED TOSSES SZABO
(San Francisco Chronicle, February 26, 1936)
Inability to take it, such as bumping his head hard on the floor several times and still not being able to walk, lost the wrestling match at Dreamland Auditorium last night for Sandor Szabo.
Sandor was doing all right with Strangler Ed Lewis, former world’s champ, until he tried to crash through the floor outside the ring by missing a flying tackle. He never quite got over it, strange as it may seem, so Lewis pinned him twice.
After falling kerplunk out of the ring, Lewis put on a head to gain the first fall in 27 minutes and repeated the same act in one minute after the rest period to pin a foggy-minded Szabo and win the bout.
"Man Mountain" Dean, the Georgia Hill Billy, added a little horrible color to the affair by squashing "Blue Sun" Jennings, an Indian, in 12 minutes in the semi-windup. As usual, Dean upped and landed on Mr. Jennings’ tummy and ended hostilities amid the groans and facial contortions of the sat-on Indian. Other results:
The "Masked Unknown" tossed little Danny Winters in
20 minutes with a body slam; "Tiny" Roebuck defeated Harry Jacobs in
eight minutes with a press, and Kimon Kudo opened the show with a jiu-jitsu
victory over Ted Sarris in eight minutes.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 229-2002
(ED. NOTE – We’ve told you before about the reminiscences of Percival A. Friend, located at www.geocities.com/percivalafriend. Here are more of the memories.)
REMEMBERING THE TIME I MANAGED TANK PATTON
For some time now, I have wanted to tell you about one of the nicest young men I ever managed. He was a moving force in a field of young men that I was directly in charge of training.
Tank Patton was, in fact, a product of a sincere upbringing in Staunton, Virginia, the same place that the Statler Brothers are from. After school, he began coaching football in a small town in North Carolina. He achieved every dream that he had a vision of to that point. He was a big fan of NWA wrestling, which was based in Charlotte under the supervision of the Crockett empire.
A mutual friend of his who was from Virginia introduced Tank to Big Jim Crockett, and Crockett was so impressed with Patton's size, he asked if Tank would like to start training to be a pro wrestler. Under the watchful eyes of his friend, Tank Patton started training, first in the gym, and then in the small arenas that were run on a nightly basis in the minor leagues. After three months' training, Tank went north to work for a promotion that was an offshoot from the broken-up Detroit wrestling office.
Jack Cain and Killer Tim Brooks, along with about 10 other guys, began sharpening Tank's skills in the ring. They didn't have to worry about his strength; they didn't have to worry about his size; they didn't have to worry about him showing up for the scheduled matches they promoted; they just had to worry about getting opponents for him to meet in the ring.
Tank met and beat the best that this newly formed group had put together---men like Bad News Willy Jackson, Gary Young, Irish Mickey Doyle, Ken Luca, and Tony Marino. Even though he was making a very good living wrestling five nights a week, Tank wanted bigger and better things for himself. He longed for bigger crowds, bigger towns, and more money coming in.
He asked Jack Cain for a release so that he could go to Kansas City. I was contacted about Tank and gave the final approval to have him come in. His initial appearance in the Heart of America area was in Wichita, Kansas on a Monday night. He was matched against Rick McGraw, a great little guy who should have gone a long way in our business.
Tank and Rick went to a 30-minute time limit draw that had people just about coming into the ring at the Century II arena. They combined strength, stamina, speed, and wrestling knowledge to try and outwit each other. Rick McGraw had the uncanny ability to reverse holds put on him in most every situation. He could turn you around before you were in a sitting position on the mat. His amateur training had followed him into the professional ring.
Tank, on the other hand, was a big young man with a lot of natural strength that came from a lot of hard work growing up. He was 6 feet, 4 inches tall and tipped the Toledos at around 275 pounds. He used a pet maneuver called "The Big Gunn," a version of Stan Hansen's clothesline blow to the chest.
At the end of their 30-minute draw, they stood in the ring and shook hands and were patting each other on the back when I stormed down to ringside to admonish Tank for being a soft-headed, sympathetic fool, and to ask for five more minutes, so that he could show the crowd what a real wrestler he was. My request was answered by Gust Karras, who was seated at ringside to add his support to the card.
During the next five minutes, Tank taught the less fortunate young wrestler what pain was all about and that it was related to misery and misfortune. He left McGraw as a crumpled, beaten mess in the middle of the ring and continued to punish him at my command, until Mike George, from the St. Joe Wrestling office, stuck his nose into our affairs.
Gust Karras hired Mike to be a key man in bending spirits of new wrestlers whom he thought were rule-breaking, non-conforming-to-his-ideas types of guys. Gust wanted the wrestling ring to be free of rough talent and had done his best in the 50 years he was in the business to try and do just that.
Mike hit the ring, and he and Tank got locked up in one of the darnedest fights I have ever seen in and out of the ring. They knocked over a whole row of seats that people had been in just a few seconds before. They fought in the aisleways, all the way to the top row in the building. Then, they fought all the way back down to the arena floor, where all the guys from the dressing room were called out, along with the riot squad, to break these two young giants up.
The two even battled near where Gust was seated, and he tried to smack Tank with his heavy metal cane. I was instrumental in knocking the cane away with my briefcase, and it hit the arena floor and went flying under a chair at ringside.
We made it back to the dressing room, where I knew it would be safe, and, before I had a chance to sit down and collect my thoughts, Tank grabbed me by the arm and said, "I want to fight that guy Mike George again," and the sooner, the better. Tank got my attention very fast that night, and the feeling continued for the next year, which was my last in the business.
After I came back from the main event that night with Ripper Collins, I confronted Karras about a match between the two young lions of the ring. Gust just happened to have an open contract with him that had been signed by Mike George, but it was for Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I eagerly signed the contract, and the match was on. I figured it would be a piece of cake, but that would change as the match date came closer.
Cedar Rapids was a great Sunday town, and the fans were die-hard people who would come out if they had a blizzard or if the skies were clear. As usual, the building was sold out, thanks to the work of the matchmaker, Larry. He was the local boy with plenty of stroke among the people of Iowa. They would come from as far away as Osceola and Charles City and Strawberry Point to see the matches there every month.
I had gone on television and spoken about the factory worker-turned-office bum named Mike George. I spoke about the new reform in wrestling with a much bigger man then I had ever managed. I had the world by the brass ring, and I was bringing this great find to Cedar Rapids to show all the pig farmers what a real athlete was made of. Mike George would be sorry that he involved me in any of his shenanigans.
Saturday night, we were in Waterloo, and Tank opened the card against Bobby Whitlock from Alabama. Not only did he defeat Whitlock in record time---less then five minutes---he left him in a crumpled mess in the middle of the ring. Tank continued to pound on his hopeless opponent till Mike George came running out of the dressing room to help, and he hit the ring with blood in his eyes. Tank saw him and started beating the living heck out of him.
By then, the rest of the dressing room had emptied onto the arena floor and was involved again with trying to break these two huge athletes up. After about five minutes of tugging and tussling with each other, the group of guys on the card finally succeeded in bringing law and order to the ring. I was whisked from the arena floor and told to stay in the dressing room for the main event, which featured Harley Race and Danny Littlebear. I had been hired by Race to be at his side, as he had been a victim of Gust Karras' misuse of power. Karras had cheated Harley out of a championship match with Littlebear, who commanded the Central States belt. He claimed that Harley used illegal tactics and cheated his way back to being the number one contender since returning from a tour of Japan. Of course, we denied these allegations and wanted to show the fans of Waterloo that Harley was not just another challenger for the title.
Unbeknownst to Karras, I obtained a second's license for Tank, and we went with Race to the ring. Harley ended the match in a little over 20 minutes by getting a count-out on Littlebear. He won the match, but the title couldn't be changed by a count-out.
The next evening at Cedar Rapids, we were signed to meet Mike in the second match on the card. The main event had Ronnie Etchison, the old pro from St. Joe, facing the former NWA World champion, Dory Funk Jr., and that proved to be one of the toughest matches that Funk had been in thus far in his career. Even as champion for four and a half years, he had never faced such a stiff competitor. They went on to a 60-minute draw in front of a sellout crowd.
The opening match on the card was Jean Antone facing Betty Niccoli for the Ladies' U.S. Championship. These two gals were some of the roughest fighters in the business. Betty had been the champion for a few years, and Jean wanted the belt in the worst way. Even with the help of someone's cane (and I won't mention any names---but he was a one-legged promoter who liked to sit at ringside), Jean was unable to upset the ladies championship from its holder. Betty won the match with a big swing and body press.
The bell rang for the second match, and I started out the door with Tank right behind me. The audience was less than favorable towards me and began shouting insults at me and at Tank as well. Tank reached out to grab one guy that was screaming at us, and the guy turned pure white with fright. The guy must have thought that it was judgment day, and he was going to be taken away.
I stopped at the timekeeper's table and had a few words with that old cane-swinging promoter, Gust Karras. I was about to give him more than he deserved when Mike George came running towards the ring. He dropped the $10 ring jacket-hooded sweatshirt that Gust had bought him and was in the ring and charging at Tank.
It took all that I had as far as strength and wisdom to keep Tank from ripping Mike apart. I wanted the bell to ring so that we could be proud of the decision when we beat him. Tank began pacing at the side of the ring as the announcements were being made and was chomping at the bit to get his hands on Mike George.
I made it a point while the referee was giving instructions to do things that would make Mike very angry and mad at me. I called him names like "Goat Roper" and "Office Stooge" and "Blimp," and, finally, he could take it no more and grabbed me by the lapels of my beautiful, hand-made, red velvet sport coat and pulled me into his face and started screaming at me to shut up.
Tank took the opportunity to take things into his own hands and smacked Mike with a big right forearm across his back. This brought both of us down, as Mike still had me by the lapels. Tank called for the bell and shoved me out of the ring and, in one big movement, picked Mike from the mat and slammed him into the corner nearest to me. I reached for my briefcase, but it was not there.
One of the fans had picked it up and taken it to Gust Karras and was complaining that one end was a lot heavier than the other. Gust took the case and gave it to security to take to the dressing room. What would I do without my briefcase?
By now, Tank had been beating the helpless Mike George into a battered mess. He grabbed a hammerlock and was about to break the arm when, in a burst of energy, Mike pulled his arm out from behind him and reversed the hold, causing Tank to holler out in pain. Tank made it to the ropes, and that broke the hold. I called Tank over and told him to put plan "B" into play.
Jumping from the ring and with Mike right after him, Tank ran around the ring and right past me. I tripped Mike with the steel-toed Dingo boots I had custom made by the Tony Lama bootmakers, and he fell to the floor in front of me. I started kicking him with all my might, and I could feel the fans pulling at my jacket trying to get me off of Mike.
By now, Harley had come from the back and fought his way towards me, knocking to the floor two other wrestlers that had come from the dressing room to help in the melee. Harley grabbed Mike and held him away from me while Tank started beating on Mike again. Mike was suddenly covered with blood from a huge gash in his head from my steel-toed boot. I was tired of getting the heck beaten out of me by this St. Joseph Office Bum.
They threw Mike back into the ring just in time to break the 20 count on the floor. Tank climbed into the ring and was inflicting more pain on him when Gust Karras tossed his heavy metal cane into the ring. Mike grabbed it and was wailing a black and blue mark on Tank's back with the cane.
Mike hit Tank with a huge right fist after tossing the cane that belonged to Karras back out to him. Then, there was a cover on Tank, and the referee counted 1-2- and I grabbed the ankle of Mike George and pulled him off. Mike grabbed Tank and busted his head open with a huge right fist, and both men were covered with blood.
With less then one minute left in the match, I had to do something. I jumped up on the ring apron and was voicing my feelings to Mike George when I heard a bunch of screaming at my back. I was pulled from the apron by Rufus R. Jones, and he proceeded to carry me back to his dressing room. I was kicking and shouting out for help, but no one came to my rescue.
Tank and Mike were at each other's throats when the bell rang, signaling the time limit ending. It took every single wrestler, including the police and the riot squad, to get them off each other and to the separate dressing rooms. By now, I had broken away from Jones and made it back to my dressing room. I was never so happy to see familiar walls, even as drab and ugly as they were.
The fans at ringside were all over Karras, wanting a rematch, and they wanted Rufus to be involved as a special policeman for the battle to watch me. Karras gave them the rematch four weeks later, and it proved to be another sellout crowd to witness Mike George handed one of the few defeats in his career.
Tank Patton (whose real name was Doug McMichen) wrestled for a few more years and then settled in Beaumont, Texas. He ran a very successful roofing company.
He died on December 31, 1998 at the tender age of 52. I will always remember your huge body as a wrestler, but I will mostly remember you and your warm heart and giving attitude when it came to those who were less fortunate.
Rest in Peace, Doug.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 230-2002
GRAPPLERS MEET TUESDAY
(New York Times, Sunday, Feb. 10, 1924)
Wrestling will make a bid for popular favor at the Seventy-first Regiment Armory Tuesday night when the Mayflower A.C., of which Jack Curley is matchmaker, will hold its first card of grappling bouts. A world’s heavyweight championship match in which Ed (Strangler) Lewis will defend his title against Pat McGill, Nebraska wrestler, will feature the card. The heavyweights are scheduled for a finish match, a fall to decide the winner.
Lewis will step on the mat a favorite over his challenger. The title-holder has demonstrated his qualifications here in previous bouts. With his crushing headlock, the burly Kentuckian has conquered all opponents in his march to the title. It is with this favorite lock that Lewis will seek to pin the shoulders of McGill to the mat. Little is known of McGill. He comes to this city reputed to be a capable grappler with a record during the past year which includes a victory over the veteran Stanislaus Zbyszko, former heavyweight champion.
STRANGLER LEWIS DEFEATS McGILL
(New York Times, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 1924)
Through the crushing power of his dread headlock, Ed (Strangler) Lewis, burly Kentuckian, last night retained his world’s heavyweight wrestling championship title against the aggressions of Pat McGill, sturdy Nebraska grappler, in their finish bout before a small crowd at the Seventy-first Regiment Armory.
With three successive applications of the hold that had crushed many other rival grapplers in defeat, Lewis brought McGill down and pinned the Nebraskan’s shoulders to the mat for the fall which gave the champion victory in 1 hour, 15 minutes and 36 seconds. In his victory, Lewis supplied a palpitating finish to one of the most spectacular wrestling bouts ever seen here. The champion’s application of three headlocks came as the climax to a full hour of exciting wrestling which ahd the crowd of about 3,000 up on chairs yelling hoarsely first for the challenger and then for the champion as the tide of battle swung back and forth like a pendulum until McGill finally succumbed.
The bout was crowded with action and exciting moments. Lewis was six times thrown bodily out of the ring in the first hour by the strong young Irish-American. But the stirring action of the first hour was as nothing compared with the fierceness of that closing to minutes of grappling, in which both sought desperately for a hold which would bring victory. Two minutes before the finish, Lewis was gasping and twisting and squirming in the grasp of a powerful head scissors and an armlock which seemed to hold the champion helpless. Lewis finally wrenched himself free from this strength-sapping hold, only to have another slipped on immediately by the agile McGill.
The crowd was in an uproar as the challenger held the champion in the viselike grip of his entwining legs and held Lewis’ left arm securely in an arm lock which added to the pain for the titleholder. The pressure of McGill’s head scissors, however, lessened as Lewis twisted and squirmed and lunged frantically about until finally the champion broke loose and came erect, blinking and staggering.
Instead of clamping on another hold, McGill waited for Lewis to come and almost immediately regretted it. The champion mauled around for a brief space until his head cleared and then, with a typical leap, was on McGill with a headlock, the first of three which were to end the bout. For twenty-five seconds Lewis held the lock on his rival’s head before McGill broke loose. But McGill was free only for an instant, for Lewis lunged in again and again got a headlock which brought McGill down. This time the champion held the hold for twenty seconds. When he regained his feet McGill still was groggy from the power of Lewis’ terrific hold and was an easy victim for a third headlock, which came with a suddenness and fury which pinned McGill’s shoulders to the mat.
McGill proved something of a surprise. With crotch holds, arm locks, body holds, body scissors holds and toe holds, he harassed and worried the champion through the first hour and was leading on points until the closing five minutes of the bout. Lewis tried, all told, eighteen headlocks through the match. Lewis weighed 228 pounds and McGill 208.
Wayne Munn, also of Nebraska, threw Bill Beth, Scotch-American heavyweight, in 7 minutes 10 seconds with a headlock, in the match that preceded the main bout. Frank Judson, former Harvard coach, and Mike Romano, Italian grappler, wrestled to a draw in a 20-minute time limit bout, and Fred Meyers brought Charles Disch to the mat in a 30-minute time limit match in 11 minutes 31 seconds with a headlock.
TWO WORLD TITLE BATTLES THURSDAY
(Advertisement, Kansas City Star, March 25, 1952)
There’s nothing to equal the sensational wrestling program Thursday night in Memorial Hall, Kansas City, Kansas! It simply is the greatest wrestling card that has been brought to the Middle West in years! Two world championships will be stake! Lou Thesz, world heavyweight champion, will defend his crown against the challenge of Enrique Torres, the great California star, while Danny McShain will risk his world junior heavyweight title against rugged Al Massey. Tickets are now on sale at the Commonwealth Hotel. For reservations call Highland 6572.
THESZ, McSHAIN WINNERS
(Kansas City Star, Friday, March 28, 1952)
Lou Thesz and Danny McShain retired their respective mat laurels in last night’s co-featured matches before a crowd of 4,200 persons in Memorial Hall, Kansas City, Kansas. Thesz beat off the challenge of Enrique Torres in the heavyweight skirmish, while McShain conquered Al Massey in the junior heavyweight bout.
The Thesz-Torres match developed into a thriller with both men resorting to aerial tactics during their 3-fall milling. Thesz scored first when he flattened Torres with a high-flying body scissors. Torres bounced back to even matters in the second fall when he dropped Lou with an overhead body slam.
Lou took the deciding fall in an unorthodox manner. Both men collided as they tried to toss each other with back body drops. However, Lou landed on top for the shoulder press.
McShain twice employed his version of the atomic drop to take two of the three falls over Massey. Jim (Goon) Henry, the 260-pound North Carolina giant, defeated Frank Taylor, Ohio’s towering heavyweight, in a special event. Ed (Gardenia) Faieta of New York won the opener, using a back body drop to pin Babe Zaharias of Cripple Creek, Colo., in 14:31.
GOOD MEETS EVIL IN WRESTLING RING
(Edmonton Journal, March 1, 1985)
By Marc Horton
Across the top of her left breast, a tatooed Pegasus, the winged horse, galloped toward what appeared to be The Grim Reaper, tattooed on the top of her right breast.
She was discussing diets. She wondered whether rye had many calories and felt certain that, like most good things in life, it probably did.
She was one of about 5,000 pro wrestling fans at the Northlands Coliseum watching the fourth such card put on by Titan Sports out of Connecticut.
In the wrestling world, Titan puts on the class acts. They’ve got the big names – Andre the Giant, the Iron Sheik, Big John Studd, Olympic weightlifter Ken Patera – all of whom work a major-league, big-money circuit across North America.
And, before we go any further, I had fun watching these big men grunt and grapple their way through more than two hours of wrestling.
These guys work. Some of the holds may look a little phoney, some of the punches may be pulled, but the sweat is very real.
Sure, it’s all patently show-biz. Spot Moondog, for example, lost to Gama Singh in the opener. In the wrestling world, where the difference between good and evil is usually very clear, Spot Moondog is a baddie.
It’s understandable. He carries what appears to be the leg bone of a wild animal in the ring which he’ll use as an instrument of terror.
But he’s nowhere near as bad as Gama Singh, because Gama displays cowardice in the ring and is really, really sneaky.
In any case, Gama won despite a chant of "Paki, go hom!"
Nice crowd, this.
Playboy Buddy Rose, who entered the ring wearing sequined robe, snatched the microphone from the hand of the announcer to say that once he removed the robe, we’d be treated to a look at the best body ever to be put on display.
While his sagging belly might draw applause from beer salesmen, it drew only boos from this discriminating audience.
Besides, he was going against an up-and-coming goodie, a huge, bald black man with rippling muscles called Tony (Mr. U.S.A.) Atlas.
Poor, egocentric Buddy didn’t stand a chance.
But all of this was only leading up to the BIG ONE.
Andre the Giant, at 495 pounds, partnered Pat Patterson, a svelte 250, in a tag team bout against Patera, 270, and Big John Studd, 362.
This was it. In a recent match, Andre had been rendered unconscious by Studd, and while lying face down on the mat, had been shorn of his hair.
This tonsorial tragedy had not been forgotten.
Would Andre lose his strength, like Samson?
More importantly, Big John must be made to pay for this indignity.
And pay he did. He and his partner were thumped, gouged, choked, slapped, and punched into humiliating submission.
The crowd loved it. The forces of light had once again prevailed over the forces of darkness.
My favorite? The Iron Sheik, who entered the ring waving an Iranian flag, shouting "The U.S.A. sucks! Canada sucks!"
He demanded that we stand for 10 seconds to honor his flag. Fat chance, fella.
Undaunted by the boos, the Iron Sheik made very quick work of The Cobra.
But is it all fake?
Jake Krys, chairman of Edmonton’s boxing and wrestling commission, says no.
But, remember, he’s the same guy who was billed as Killer
Krys in the ‘60s. And he smiled when he said it.
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