THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 241-2002
EX-LIGHTY CHAMPION BECOMES GRAPPLING REFEREE
(San Diego Union, Sunday, March 29, 1936)
By John J. Romano
Benny Leonard retired as lightweight champion of the world 11 years ago. There was little Benny needed in the way of the world’s goods at the time. He had become prosperous as one of the most satisfactory performers the game had ever known, and to this day there is quite a dispute between young and old followers of the prize ring as to the greatest lightweight the game has ever known. There are those who insist Joe Gans was the "old master," and there are those just as voluble and sincere who point to Leonard.
Benny had a $400,000 match with Mickey Walker, then welterweight champion, on tap when the former’s mother urged him to give up the gloves.
Mrs. Leonard had grown too old to worry about the consequence of what might happen to her favorite son in the prize ring. Like the dutiful, well-behaved young man that he was, and is to this day, Benny complied with her wishes and gave up the gloves. But not for good, as things turned out.
Seven years later the fans were to see the much discussed Leonard donning his silken trunks and pulling the wine-colored gloves over his hands, as was his wont years before. The Benny Leonard who had baffled more than 150 opponents in 12 years of fighting was not the trim young man of 21 years, who caught the fleet Freddie Welsh and knocked him out for the world’s 135-pound title.
He was now a full-fledged welterweight. He carried some fat around his waist, and his slick black hair showed streaks of thinness where once it was so heavy that mussing up the well combed hair caused foolhardy, youthful rivals to taste the sting of Leonard’s knockout punch.
What was the reason for Leonard’s return after he had passed his prime? Losses incurred by investing in a night club for his brother. Those who knew the pair knew they were running up bills. But the easy going Leonard refused to press these so-called friends to pay his debts. He had the same tough luck with an automobile tire concern, the stock market, as owner of the Pittsburgh hockey team, which also wound up in the red.
Benny has run the gamut of what can be expected from a prominent figure. Vaudeville, movie, radio, master of ceremonies, vice president and general manager of a real estate company. Now Leonard, starting Monday at Quincy, Mass., and on successive days in Boston, New Bedford, Attleboro and Brockton, appears in the role of wrestling referee.
What does Benny Leonard know about the wrestling game? Not much from a practical standpoint. But before he would accept the offer, Benny sat in on a good many exhibitions and diligently studied the rules. He knows all the holds. He practiced them and can distinguish one from the other. But not to the extent that he wants to turn wrestler at this time. He leaves that to the giants, who have more brawn than brain for the science of twist and grip.
Leonard had one experience as a wrestler he is not likely to forget. When he was lightweight champion he was in a New York restaurant owned by his manager, Billy Gibson. A large beefy German was stowing away a big meal of turkey, washing the bird down with a good many seidels of beer.
Came a call from Miner’s Theater in the Bowery asking Gibson to furnish a substitute for a wrestler who had failed to appear, and to bring Leonard along as the referee. Benny was the idol of the East Side, and his presence would compensate the fans for the substituted bout. The turkey-eating Teuton agreed to wrestle the headliner.
Knowing little about the game, Benny used his legs to good advantage, keeping out of the way while the headliner maneuvered his opponent until he could wrap his legs around the body of the heaving German. The "scissors" was applied and when pressure was put on the grunts of the turkey and beer consumer were audible to those sitting back twenty rows. He appealed to Leonard to make his torturer break the hold.
Thinking the German wanted to quit, Benny tapped the headliner on the back, declaring him the winner. The Teuton jumped to his feet and made a dive at Leonard. Again, Benny’s agile legs saved him. Not knowing what to do under such a circumstance, Benny reverted to type and lashed out with one of the prettiest rights in his repertoire, and Mr. Wrestler went head over heels into the orchestra pit. It was the first and last victory Leonard scored in a wrestling match.
(ED. NOTE – Our thanks, again, to Steve Yohe, who has run to ground the clips involving yet another world title change.)
ROBERT RISKS TITLE FRIDAY AGAINST MANAGOFF
(Houston Post, November 22, 1942)
Yvon Robert, French Canadian mat master, now is the unquestioned heavyweight wrestling champion of the world. He gained a pretty staunch toehold on the title late in October when he pinned "Wild Bill" Longson twice in Montreal in a battle which Longson questioned and even got out an injunction against Robert, claiming the crown. But Friday night in St. Louis, Robert again faced Longson, and this time he outroughed and beat Longson beyond any shadow of doubt, throwing Longson completely out of the ring, and defying him to return.
On that same St. Louis card, in the semifinal spot, Young Bobby Managoff demonstrated his Houston-gained acumen by pinning Joe Dusek, St. Louis’ pride, almost stealing the play away from the top bout.
Friday night at the City Auditorium, in a bout which every wrestling center in the nation would clamor to get, promoter Morris Sigel will present young Bobby Managoff, Houston’s idol, versus Yvon Robert, for the heavyweight wrestling championship of the world.
Promoter Sigel had a representative at the St. Louis ringside this past Friday evening, and literally stole the marbles right out from under the very nose of Tom Packs, one of the nation’s top matchmakers.
Robert stipulated that, should be lose the title to Managoff, Bobby would agree to give him a return whack at it within 90 days. This Young Bobby agreed to do.
This simple request on Robert’s part may indicate that the title sits rockily on his head.
Bobby Managoff, whose rise has been one of the most rapid in mat history, is well known to Houston fans. He fought his way up here, from bottom to top.
The new champion, however, is a complete stranger to local fans. He has done most of his grappling in Canada and, like Managoff, is the sort of man who has washed up most of the opposition in his home area.
You pronounced his name as if it were spelled e-VON ro-BAIR, and from what those who have seen him say, he really is a bear. Any man who can outrough Longson definitely has something on the ball, and Friday night two such men will meet when Bobby Managoff faces Yvon Robert.
On the same card, Mildred Burke will tackle the Purple Flash. This battle in itself will be outstanding since the masked mystery is the only feminine grappler who has ever pinned Mildred Burke in a Texas ring or, for that matter, any other ring. She turned this neat little trick in a tag match here three weeks ago. Three additional prelimns will complete the card.
ROBERT RISKS MAT CROWN TO BOB MANAGOFF TONIGHT
(Houston Post, Friday, November 27, 1942)
Yvon Robert, 228-pound French-Canadian heavyweight wrestling champion of the world, will make his first wrestling appearance in Houston Friday night at the City Auditorium when he risks his newly acquired title to young Bobby Managoff, Houston’s idol and the nation’s top contender for matdom’s top honors.
Robert, who had been knocking at the title for almost a year, won it in late October by downing "Wild Bill" Longson in two falls of a questionable Montreal bout that went four falls before it was over. Thus, with the title hanging questionably on the heads of two claimants, Tom Packs, St. Louis promoter, matched Robert and Longson again in St. Louis last Friday night and Robert beat Longson decisively to take the crown without doubt.
On that same card, young Bobby Managoff faced Joe Dusek in the semi-final and beat the Nebraskan so handily that there was no question but what he was entitled to a shot at Robert.
Promoter Morris Sigel of Houston had a representative at that St. Louis ringside and before the main event decision had gotten out over all the news wires, he had already signed Robert to this local battle against the sensational young Armenian.
Not, however, before Robert had insisted upon one thing: That should Bobby win, he must agree to give Robert a return battle within 90 days. Managoff, advised by his father, who is also his coach, trainer and second, readily agreed. "If Bobby can beat him tonight, he can certainly repeat the beating any time within the next 90 days," was Pop Managoff’s comment.
That Managoff has an excellent chance to take Robert’s title is attested to by most local mat fans, and backed up by the statement of Louis Thesz, who has met both men at different times. "I have met and defeated Yvon Robert in Canada this year before he acquired the title," says the man who has been twice champion himself. "And I think Bobby, whom I also have wrestled, will beat him."
Texas’ wrestling commissioner, John D. Reed, and his able chief deputy, Bill Cummins, will be present, as probably will Col. Harry J. Landry, president of the National Wrestling Association. Hundreds of out-of-towners, anxious to get in their last big championship mat battle before gasoline rationing, have bought ducats.
The entire card is outstanding. In the semifinal slot, Louis Thesz will tackle Jim (Goon) Henry, making his last mat stand before being inducted into the United States Army. A special battle sends Mildred Burke, the world’s leading female grappler, in against the masked, mysterious Purple Flash, only young lady who has ever pinned her shoulders to the mat here. Prelims will include: Ray Eckert vs. Dynamite Joe Cox , and Roy Graham versus Chief Joe Little Beaver. The curtain-raiser will begin promptly at 8:30 p.m.
BOBBY MANAGOFF COPS WORLD TITLE
(Houston Post, Saturday, Nov. 28, 1942)
Young Bobby Managoff was crowned the new heavyweight wrestling champion of the world Friday night at the City Auditorium in Houston, before a cheering capacity crowd that had flocked into the building to see their idol work against Yvon Robert.
Although the crowd was there to see Bobby conquer, they could hardly believe their eyes when referee Ellis Bashara held Bobby’s hand up in the symbol of victory, and stayed standing many minutes after the bout was over in a tribute of admiration to the scintillating young Armenian boy and his faithful father who holds the reins of destiny in his slow, sure, tedious trek to the title.
Bobby has the distinction of being the youngest man in grappling history to reign over the heavyweights. His recent rise to championship heights has taken place almost wholly in Houston, and twice before he made bids for the crown against Longson. While he gave the Utah titleholder physical beatings both times they met, Managoff always came out second best in the record books.
But last week in St. Louis, appearing in the semi-final battle on the card wherein Robert defeated Wild Bill Longson, Bobby made his first Missouri appearance, and blasted Joe Dusek to gain his first national notice. Promoter Morris Sigel, who has been convinced since the first time he saw Bobby wrestle that here was a sure champion, had a representative at that St. Louis ringside, and literally stole this Managoff-Robert contest right out from under the very noses of a half dozen of the nation’s leading matchmakers.
Before Robert could sign to meet Managoff, however, he insisted upon a clause in the contract which stipulated that should Managoff win he must agree to give Robert a return chance within 90 days. This return battle is something which the fans can now begin to look forward to for, if Friday night’s fray is any criterion, such battles are few and far between.
It was evident from the first time Managoff and Robert went into a clinch that they were evenly matched. For a few torrid minutes they delved into conventional holds, measuring each other up, and then it was a question of the best man winning. Bobby Managoff proved to be that man. He pinned Robert twice, right out in the center of the ring.
The first fall went 22 minutes, with Managoff using a step-over toe-hold to win. In the second fall, Robert came back to the ring with determination breaking out in his own cold sweat, and clamped a rolling short-arm scissors on Bobby, to even it up, in 10 minutes and five seconds. Bobby, getting much the worst of it for a time, finally came through with the winning combination when he applied at least a dozen lightning-like, bombastic flying drop-kicks to take the fall, the match, and the championship after seven minutes of the third fall.
Mildred Burke got back at the masked, mysterious Purple Flash in a special added battle, using her favorite alligator clutch to beat the masked femme in 18 minutes.
Louis Thesz, himself a former two-time champion, looked every bit the part in the semi-final with his own airplane spin clamped on Jim (Goon) Henry. He beat the Goon in 15 minutes. It was Thesz, incidentally, who maintained throughout the week that Managoff would win the world’s mat title when he faced Robert.
Ray Eckert and Dynamite Joe Cox wrestled to a thrilling 20-minute draw in the card’s second slot, while Chief Joe Little Beaver used a Boston Crab to dispose of Roy Graham after only five minutes of the opener. John Galiano refereed the women’s match, while Paul Jones officiated in the other prelims.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 242-2002
‘FOUR IN ONE’ IS MATMAN’S CHALLENGE
(San Francisco Call & Post, Monday, Sept. 7, 1925)
"Give me four of your 200-pound wrestlers and I’ll throw them in one night." A perfectly normal wrestler said it yesterday – with utter contempt for the wrestler’s book of etiquette, which requires that from one to two hours be spent in pinning an opponent to the mat.
With that blast, John Evko – giant Jugo-Slav wrestling champ – returned here unexpectedly from his crying trip to Chicago and points West.
"It’s all a fake – this wrestling game here," sings Evko in his choicest Jugo-Slav tone. "Just to show how terrible a fake it is I’m willing to beat four of your best boys. And beat ‘em so fast that the fans will all be home by 10 o’clock."
Four gentlemen whom Evko offers to pin to the mat in one evening represent nearly 1,000 pounds of wrestling brawn and gray matter.
Here’s Evko’s idea of a nice workout before supper:
First course, Reginald Siki, big chocolate-coated grappler. Reginald is one of those undernourished children that you’ll find even among the wrestlers. He’s 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 230 pounds.
Second course would be some hot Spanish sauce in the person of Don Andreas Costanos. Nearly six feet tall and weighs close to the 250-pound mark.
For entrée the challenger asks a little "braised chest of wrestler." In this case it would be the great Joe Komar, who boasts the biggest chest in captivity. Chest and all, Joe weighs 251 pounds.
Dessert of the evening would be Italian pastry – Renato Gardini. Evko claims that Gardini is easier to put away than a cream puff. And that despite the fact that Gardini can train down to 205 pounds without weakening himself.
"You think these fellas are tough, eh?" asks Evko. "Waal. I’ll throw them all so fast they’ll think they’ve been in a cement mixer. And I’ve got nearly $500 that says that I can turn the trick on these fellas."
All of which talk is quite in line with Evko’s plan to force Wladek Zbyszko from the throne of Rassleania.
"I’ll do anything for the poor boys who have to wrestle," says Evko. "Just remember that we’re all under the heel of King Wladek and his prime minister, Stanislaus Zbyszko. Once I throw these four guys in one night, the people will know how much a fake it is. They’ll not stand for Wladek being king any more."
Evko confesses that his main objection to Costanos, Gardini, Siki and Komar is that they eat too regularly.
"It looks suspicious," says Evko, "when these four muscleers wrestle at Dreamland Rink every week and collect for their services. I haven’t been able to secure a match at Dreamland Rink since my arrival in San Francisco."
BIG RASSLERS HOLD THEIR TOEBILEE
(San Francisco Call & Post, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 1925)
By James A. O’Gara
The Children’s Hour came into its own last night when Renato Gardini and Jeemy Londos wrestled to a one-hour draw in the main event of the Dreamland Rink show.
Parents having gone to the parade or somewhere the Gardini boy and the Londos boy climbed into the ring and played around until long after bedtime.
First they played horse. Gardini got down on his knees. Then Londos climbed on his back and off they’d gallop on the first lap of the Dreamland steeplechase.
Once they even took referee Charley Andrews into the game. Charley got caught between the two bvig grapplers. And the pair of them proceeded to squeeze the life out of him.
Even the crowd got onto the game.
"Yellow! Yellow!" That became the war cry of the mob.
And Gardini, registering fifty-seven varieties of fear, would go slinking into one of the ring corners, while Londos made faces at him.
Then these 200-pound kiddies played hide and seek with one another’s toes. Idea being to grab opponent’s big toe and twist it into submission. Gardini was quite good at that sort of thing.
Gouging, kicking, punching, thumbing, kneeing, elbowing, slugging, pounding, scratching, bumping and other forms of light exercise completed the evening’s performance.
Finally, these two lads hurried off to bed – a pair of tired, but happy youngsters.
In the semi-windup, Wladek Zbyszko was awarded a decision over the German Giant, Hans Steinke, after an hour’s milling.
First bout on the card took the big Reginald Siki by surprise when he was thrown in record time of three minutes by the husky Mr. Jack Palmi.
MUNN SORRY SIGHT IN RING
(Associated Press, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 1925)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Wayne (Big) Munn, heavyweight wrestler and former University of Nebraska football star, essaying for the second time a ring career, was knocked out here tonight in the first round of a scheduled 10-round bout by Andre Andersen of Chicago. Munn lasted only two minutes.
Munn’s previous venture with the gloves ended similarly. He was knocked out by Jack Clifford several years ago, shortly after leaving the university.
Andersen, a trial horse in the heavyweight division for years, poked a few short jabs to Munn’s chin and the 259-pound wrestler hit the canvas. He rose ponderously, on the count of nine, with blood streaming from his mouth, and Andersen shot two more short ones to the chin. Munn crashed down and was out.
Munn presented a ludicrous appearance as he came out from his corner for the fray. He held his head far back, and he was wide open.
Not more than two dozen blows were exchanged. Only once did Munn connect for a solid blow. This, a right to the side of the head, was delivered just before Anderson opened up with the jabs that sent Munn down the first time. Anderson weighed 239 pounds.
Munn at one time claimed the heavyweight wrestling championship, having defeated the then champion, Ed (Strangler) Lewis, in a disputed match in Kansas City.
The crowd booed Munn’s showing tonight.
THE MASKED MARVEL-TURNED-CHRISTIAN TELECASTER
(Warner Pacific University promotional copy)
By Scott Thompson
THE DALLES, Ore. -- Bob Pettitt still remembers the moment over thirty years ago when a doctor leaned over his hospital bed to tell him he had less than day to live. Pettitt, who was well-known on TV sets in Tennessee as the villainous professional wrestler "The Masked Marvel," had suffered severe damage to his heart after stabbing himself during an attempted suicide. In his testimony "Saved by Grace, not by the Bell," Pettitt recounts his miraculous recovery and eventual Christian conversion following his retirement from the ring.
However, these days, Pettitt, 54, is a television personality of a different sort. He spends his time encircled by television monitors, video cameras, and spaghetti-like twists of cable—all packed into a converted classroom at Calvary Baptist Church, in The Dalles. For six years, these crowded confines have comprised the tiny "engine-that-could" television station called KRHP - Channel 14, which broadcasts Christian-oriented programming 24-hours a day in the mid-Columbia Gorge region.
"We are not a multi-million-dollar TBN [Trinity Broadcasting Network] operation," Pettitt explained. "We are a very modest, bare-bones operation, but people don’t know that."
After Pettitt became a Christian, he set out to be a pastor. He earned both a B.A. (in Religion) and a Masters of Religion degree (in ’76, and ’77 respectively) from WPC, but soon concluded he didn’t have the temperament to be a pastor. He then earned masters degrees in both teaching and business administration from Portland State University, and eventually became the chair of the business department at Concordia College, in N.E. Portland, during the early 1980s.
Pettitt might still be teaching college today if it hadn’t been for a visit from his old friend, traveling evangelist Ray "Black Buffalo" Wilson. Wilson, a mentor of Pettitt’s, invited him down to Hemet, California (mid-way between Los Angeles and San Diego) to work full-time with North American Indian Missions (NAIM) — with no pay, of course. Pettitt had just signed a five-year contract with Concordia, thinking he had finally found his niche.
Needless to say, Pettitt was a hard sale. His wife Diana, however, committed Wilson’s proposal to prayer.
"It went in one ear and out the other," Pettitt explained. "I had a family to support, with two daughters. Well, my wife is a praying woman and she started praying, and about a week later, she came to me and she said, ‘Honey, I’ve been praying and I think maybe we ought to look into this position down at North American Indian Missions.’"
Remarkably, Concordia released Pettitt from his contract with its blessing; Diana was offered a teaching job in Yucaipa, California on the spot during her only job interview; and the Pettitts found a renter for their Portland home after only three hours of phone-calling. The initially reluctant Pettitt was convinced. The family packed up and Pettitt became operations manager of North American Indian Missions.
However, there were more surprises in store for the Pettitt family. It was in Hemet that Pettitt first felt led to start a Christian television station.
"Don’t ask me how, but I knew that the Holy Spirit was the one that was talking to me and telling me to do that," Pettitt said. "I’d like to tell you that I said, ‘Oh sure. I’d be happy to. Yes, Lord. Whatever you want,’ but I started arguing with God. I said, ‘God, there are a lot skinnier people that have nice deep voices, not my nasally twang.’ After each argument, God said, ‘Do it,’"
Soon thereafter, Channel 54, in Hemet, was born. Despite his wealth of education, Pettitt had no training in television production, whatsoever, and had to learn through the school of hard knocks, broken tripods, blown-circuits, and dead monitors.
"I think I earned a 5th college degree from the Holy Spirit," Pettit explained. "When I set up my first television studio, I believe God caused everything to go wrong that could go wrong. The Spirit taught me how to fix it. God wants people who are available, not talented. He did all of the teaching. He put all of this together."
While Pettitt hasn’t wrestled for years, he still uses his background in professional wrestling to promote the gospel. Last spring, Pettitt invited members of the Christian Wrestling Federation (CWF) — a traveling band of wrestlers who preach The Gospel — to put on a show at Calvary Baptist. The wrestlers agreed and performed in the church’s gymnasium on May 19th. Sure enough, the Masked Marvel made a brief, dramatic return, pinning CWF leader Rob "Jesus Freak" Vaughn before an audience of over 400, five times the number that typically watches wrestling shows from Portland. This time, however, the Masked Marvel played the good guy.
"Of course, it was my home town," Pettitt chuckled.
For Pettitt, the highlight of the event came a few weeks later when he received a call from a couple that had attended the wrestling night. They wanted to be baptized at Calvary Baptist by none other than the man who played the Masked Marvel. Pettitt happily obliged, and in August baptized the couple (he wore regular clothing, of course).
"God has allowed us to see just a little of the impact we’re having," Pettitt concluded. "God’s been gracious."
(ED. NOTE – Nearly 20 years ago, when Pettitt was teaching college courses in Portland, Ore., he penned some notes that wound up in the WAWLI archives. One section, describing his work as a wrestler in Tennessee, follows: "During the mid and late ‘60s when I worked out of Nashville, the office was operated by Nick Gulas and Roy Welch. Nick was usually the booker and matchmaker. The big towns, as well as the promoters that were run out of Nashville, included: Memphis – Civic Auditorium – Roy Welch; Lexington KY – Jerry Jarrett; Birmingham AL – Civic Auditorium – Nick Gulas and Mike Denninburg; Huntsville AL – Gus Gulas; Chattanooga TN – Roy Welch, Nick Gulas and Harry Thornton; Knoxville TN – Nick Gulas and John Cazana. Many other towns within a 350-mile radius of Nashville, in Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee also were run on a weekly basis. Almost every small village, town, nook and cranny was run at some time as a spot show. I personally promoted the following towns in Tennessee: Crossville, Cookville, Shelbyville, Tullahoma, Dixon, Waverly, Henderson and Lawrenceburg, plus Decatur, Alabama, and some others whose names escape me." Pettit went on to relate experiences in that territory – where, on occasion, he would become one of the Masked Spoilers with either Lorenzo Parente or Joey Corea in small towns – and for the Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Calgary offices before following his call to teach the Gospel.)
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 243-2002
(ED. NOTE – The dogged and determined researches of the venerable Don Luce have been focused on the roots of Ed "Strangler" Lewis’ career for the past couple of years. Here are more products of those efforts.)
IS GETTING THERE
(Wood County Reporter, Grand Rapids WI, Aug. 15, 1912)
"Bob" Friedrich, who used to wrestle around this part of the country some time ago, is located in Lansing, Iowa, and runs a picture show there. The following clipped from the New Hampton (Iowa) Gazette shows that "Bob" is getting there in the wrestling business:
"Manly Pecoy of Cresco and ‘Bob’ Friedrich of Lansing wrestled one hour and forty-five minutes at the Auditorium last night, without either man getting a fall. The wrestling mat got all torn to pieces and, there being no sign of either man giving up, referee Weirmeister called the match a draw. About three hundred saw the match, which was promoted by Will Hamilton of this city."
SZABO REMINISCES OF DELIGHTFUL BUDAPEST
(San Francisco Chronicle, Friday, Sept. 17, 1937)
By Harry B. Smith
Sandor Szabo, Hungarian born wrestler, and good one, came into the office the other day with Joe Malcewicz to talk of Budapest, one of my favorite European cities. Szabo had heard we visited Budapest while abroad and were thrilled by our brief stay.
"How long were you there?" questioned Sandor. "When I shook my head shamefacedly and said, "24 hours," he remarked as did all folks from Budapest. "Not long enough. Three weeks at least."
Szabo was born in a then Hungarian city some 300 miles from Budapest. After the war the Czechoslovakians took over two-thirds of Hungary. With it the Szabo home. So the family moved to Budapest. There Sandor grew up. Was an amateur wrestler and a water polo player. Won wrestling championships in the Olympic Games and was a utility man on the water polo squad. He knows quite well Count Nandor Zichy and L. E. De Almasy, now of the Royal Aero Club of Egypt at Cairo and the men who showed us Budapest.
Szabo wants to go back to Budapest for a visit. He has corresponded with the publisher of a sports daily in Budapest who is willing to promote a professional wrestling bout with Europe’s finest. It would have to be Graeco-Roman, but that’s all right with Sandor for he knows the style. He may also wrestle Indian style which is in mud some nine inches deep. All holds, of course, above the waist. For his first visit Szabo can get his transportation and a $2,000 guarantee. They will wrestle in the park where I saw my first professional soccer football game, and figure to draw 75,000 people.
"Best city in Europe. Finest hotels in the world," murmured Szabo. I agreed with him. Perhaps I can go back next summer to Budapest with the wrestler and spend three weeks there. Only, part of the time I would want to visit the night clubs, stroll along the blue Danube, and listen to those wonderful Gypsy bands. You see, I’m sold on Budapest. Best include it in your next trip to Europe.
The roughness of wrestling has been confined chiefly to America. It’s quite interesting to get the Lewis slant. He is quoted in the Auckland Star of New Zealand: "I became a villain – from a hero to a villain. For two years after the new rough, catch-as-catch-can style of wrestling became popular, I stayed orthodox. Then I found I was not drawing as well; that I was slipping. So I had to change my sense of the game. Figured it out like this: If I go into a shop and ask for a pound of coffee, and the shopkeeper insists on my taking a pound of tea, I’m not going to like it. The public wants rough stuff in wrestling. Why should I insist on giving them my style? So I became a villain."
Lewis admits he doesn’t like the rough stuff. He says it’s too dangerous. Points out that until six years ago there had been only six men killed and the sport goes back right through history. Since then there have been 15 or 16 killed and some 25 permanently injured. He believes it will kill the game if the roughness is allowed to maintain.
Lewis is right when he says: "Any athletic sport that cripples men ceases to be a good sport."
A group of stars included Jack Dempsey, James J. Jeffries, Maxie Rosenbloom, Bull Montana, Man Mountain Dean, Jackie Fields, Gus Sonnenberg, Snowy Baker, Jimmy McLarnin, Joe Rivera, Jim Thorpe and some of the lesser lights.
Between scenes, actors and athletes reviewed old times. Jeffries discussed early picture days with Charley Grapewin and described his spot at Burbank where he trains boxing hopefuls in his barn. Spencer Tracy and Frank Borzage debated polo with Snowy Baker, once an Australian fight promoter and the first chap I ever knew to wear wrist watch. That was long before the days of the Great War.
Bull Montana described his picture experience to Man Mountain Dean, who attended the "banquet" with his leg in a cast. It had been broken a week before in a wrestling match. When it was necessary to move Dean to his wheel chair, George Godfrey, Bull Montana, Mrs. Dean and a goodly portion of the stage crew assisted the gargantuan wrestler.
(ED. NOTE – Don Sugai Matsuda, the wrestler who would die in a 1951 car wreck, was one of the athletes whose role in "Big City" was uncredited.
CASEY, GEORGE MEET IN MAIN EVENT TUESDAY
(Albany Times-Union, April 16, 1939)
Steve "I’ll Kill Him Dead" Casey will try to lay the heavy hand on Ed Don George when they come to grips in the two out of three fall main wrestling bout at Capitol Arena Tuesday night. The Irish strong boy never has been beaten in Albany and figures on keeping his record clean. Meanwhile, he admits that George should be one of the toughest opponents he has faced in some time.
His respect for the former titleholder is based on the fact that George is one of the cagiest veterans in the bone bending business, and knows as many, or more, tricks of the trade than does the Crusher himself. Both men are set for a hard battle, and it should be one of the most interesting in quite a while.
A strong supporting card has been lined up for the main event. In the 45-minute semi-final, Chief Chewacki, full-blooded Indian, is down for a joust with Al Mercier, a hard hitter from Springfield. Mercier has made quite a hit with the fans here during the past month and rates the nod over the Indian, but only after a real tussle.
A bad man, who has many friends and followers in this section, will return for one of the 30-minute jousts. He is George Linehan, of Boston, who will be recalled for his hectic battles with Charley Allen and Joe Dusek a couple of seasons ago. He is slated to meet George Kondyolis, the gorgeous Greek from New York.
In the other preliminary, Eddie Newman, fat man from the Coast, is down for a joust with Pete Baltran, latest European importation.
CASEY, GEORGE TANGLE IN MAT FEATURE TONIGHT
(Albany Times-Union, Tuesday, Apr. 18, 1939)
Some real wrestling should be in store for the mat customers when Steve (Crusher) Casey bulges muscles with Ed Don George in the two-out-of-three pinnings melee tonight at the Capitol Arena.
Casey has never been on the losing end of a match in Albany. In fact, he has lost only one match over a period of years, that to the Shadow in Boston about a month ago.
In George, though, the Crusher meets one of the most able men in this bone-bending business. George knows just as many tricks as Casey and it may be the breaks that decide tonight’s scramble.
The supporting bouts promise a good amount of action, too. In the 45-minute semi-final, Chief Chewacki, the full-blooded Indian, opposes Al Mercier, the Springfield, Mass., slugger. Mercier in his recent appearances here has become quite a favorite with the fans.
George Linehan, of Boston, one of wrestling’s bad men, will take to the mat with George Kondyolis, Greek star from New York, in one of the 30-minute preliminary affairs.
Eddie Newman, Pacific Coast bruiser, appears against Pete Baltran, latest European importation, in the other 30-minute joust.
GEORGE TAKES DECISION OVER CRUSHER CASEY
(Albany Times-Union, April 19, 1939)
Ed Don George finally accomplished what only a few of America’s top wrestlers have been able to do for the past two years – lick Steve (The Crusher) Casey, 225-pound Irish importation.
The former world’s heavyweight contender from North Java earned the plaudits of 1,200 spectators last night by winning a decisive decision after one hour and 32 minutes of rocking and rolling in a match that was cut short by the 11 o’clock state curfew. It was the first time in over a year that the main weekly grunt and groan exhibition at the Capitol Arena extended over an hour for a single fall.
George, at 238, was on the offensive throughout the out. Only once, several minutes before the deadline, did Casey make any kind of attempt to go after the New Yorker. Besides staging the cleanest individual performance of the year, George consistently broke Casey’s tight holds through sheer power and three times forced "The Crusher" to slip out of the ring for safety’s sake.
"The Crusher" appeared the master definitely for the first time at the one-hour mark, holding a step-over grapevine twice for a brief spell, only to witness George break the grip both times by applying pressure. Meanwhile, the North Java ace kept Casey worrying plenty with a Japanese arm lock. And to top off his brilliant show, George literally picked up his foe from off his feet to break up a standing head lock one minute before the finish.
In the one-fall, 45-minute semi-final, Chief Chewacki, 241-pound Colorado Indian, apparently dazed after a few heaves, caught Al Mercier unawares and tossed the 215-pound Springfield performer with a body press in 21:59.
After taking all the bullying and clouting that Ed Newman, 236-pound badman from St. Louis, had to offer for 22 minutes, Pete Baltran clamped on the body press in 22:09 in the curtain-raiser preliminary. Baltran weighed 218.
Because of the length of the feature bout, the second one-fall preliminary scheduled between George Linehan of Boston and George Kondyolis of New York could not be run off.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 244-2002
(Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash., Aug. 1, 1933)
Dishman will bristle with brawn tonight when six heavyweight wrestlers will tangle on the Will Maylon-Harvey Miller four-bout wrestling card. Chief interest among the big boys is Jim Browning, Missouri farm boy, recognized by many as the best in the world. He meets Ted Thye, who originated in these parts and who once was in a class by himself and knows plenty about the grappling game. He always draws a crowd and usually gets the fans sore with his sniping tricks. But in Browning, who weighs 230, he will find someone who can hand back all the dirt Thye can dish out.
Browning gained his title by pinning Ed (Strangler) Lewis, feared giant, to the mat, and has beaten him twice since their championship match. The title of world'’ champion wrestler is a much argued one and there are others who lay claim to it in some states.
That doesn’t bother Browning and probably won’t anyone that sees the match, unless it be some of the Grecian boys who still think there is nobody like Jim Londos.
Browning comes to Spokane fresh from a victory over the butting Gus Sonnenberg in Los Angeles. There he mussed up the hair of the tremendous ex-football star seriously and is said to have laid Gus up for repairs.
His match with Thye is scheduled for two hours and will be more of an exhibition of all the holds of which both are master and particularly the scissors, with which Browning crushes most of his opponents.
There is going to be a Spokane boy in the special event, Toby
Wallace, who got that way hustling beer kegs in a local brewery. The trade of
coopering once made a great fighter. If building empty barrels makes a man
strong, what will lifting full ones do, Toby wants to know.
REMEMBERING THE OLD IWA
(ESPN Classic Wrestling, January 12, 2002)
By David Taub
This week's episode is IWA International Championship Wrestling from the mid-1970s (in color).
Opening titles that runs down IWA's roster (Mil Mascaras, Ivan Koloff, the Mongols, etc.)
Jack Reynolds and Tex McKenzie welcome us to the show in front of an IWA logo.
Ring announcer Rick Martin informs us that our referee is Tommy Young and Charlie Babb is our timekeeper.
Match 1: Frenchy Martin & Joe Turco vs. Argentina Apollo & Luis Martinez
Is this the same Frenchy that was Dino Bravo's manager in the
WWF in the 1980s? Not sure, but he has some blue satin pants to wrestle in. Lots
of grappling moves, trading of holds, etc. Apollo is barefoot and wrestles like
his namesake Argentina Rocca.
WINNERS: Apollo & Martinez via pin in 12:30
Match 2: Joe Richards vs. North American champ Dick "Bulldog" Brower
Brower is way out of shape (Adrian Adonis level) but is the big brute, punch, headlocks etc. They go out of the ring and Brower levels Richards with a chair (in front of referee Young, none the less, but no DQ). McKenzie informs us (ad nauseum) that Brower should be called "Mad Dog."
WINNER: Brower by a cobra hold (Million Dollar Dream, etc.) in 3:59
Match 3: Bobby Garcia vs. IWA World champ Mil Mascaras
Among the claims by Reynolds and McKenzie: Mil's films are showing in many major U.S. cities, he has wreslted in many of the wrestling capitals including Brazilia, he wears his mask to be mysterious, etc. This broadcast team is big on hyperbole. Mascaras finishes off Garcia with a flying forearm which McKenzie calls a "Mexican surfboard."
WINNER: Mascaras by pin in 4:00
Match 4: Marshall Lewis v.s Kurt Von Hess (w/ Al Costello)
The broadcasters put over Tommy Young more than they do Von Hess.
WINNER: Von Hess by pin in 2:24
Match 5: Del Starr & Jim Wilson vs. Hartfield & Reginald Love (w/Costello)
Jim Wilson was the man who tried to "expose" the wrestling biz in 1985 in the infamous 20/20 story on wrestling. He made claims that he was blackballed because he wouldn't put out. So, it was interesting to see him in action. He had decent size and a little charisma, but not much else. The Love Bros. are supposed to be British imports who are leftover hippies. The announcers kept on calling newcomer Del Starr "Marshall Lewis" (from the previous match).
WINNNERS: The Love Brothers in 4:40
An interview with Bob Ellis. Of course, they give away the result of the next match, by telling us that Ernie Ladd turned on Ellis. McKenzie offered to team up with Cowboy Bob for revenge. Why did they run this interview before? Wouldn't it be much hotter not to give away the result of the following match?
Match 6: Bob Ellis & Ernie Ladd vs. tag champions The Mongols (w/ George Cannon)
Ladd has Bolo (Bill Eadie) tied up for Bob to hit him, but decks Ladd instead accidentally. Bob shakes it off and so does the Big Cat. Not a high quality match. Same scenario later but Ladd and Bob are reversed. But, Ladd is able to hold back before decking Cowboy Bob. Later in the match, Ladd finally turns on his partner beating him down and choking him.
WINNERS: Mongols by DQ
And that is the end of our show. ESPN Classic usually carries a classic wrestling episode every Saturday at 7 a.m. Eastern. Last week, it was an episode of "Wrestling from the Marigold" in Chicago circa 1960s. Next week is a Mid-South episode. Check espn.com for the latest (as the show gets pre-empted every so often).
(ED. NOTE – Ever wonder what goes through the mind of the modern sports entertainment fan when he looks at something about 20 years old? Below is your answer.)
1983 AWA ‘SUPER SUNDAY’ PPV
(April 24, 1983, St. Paul Civic Center)
By Jay Walker
The Big News: The Incredible Hulk Hogan (decked out in red trunks) got jerked for the heavyweight title when (after the Hogan pinfall) the decision was made that Hogan was disqualified for throwing champion Nick Bockwinkel over the top rope. Verne Gagne came out of retirement to wrestle one "last" match with Mad Dog Vachon against Jerry Blackwell and Sheik Kaissie.
Title Changes: Hogan briefly captured his first title to a huge pop but only to have it removed by the Powers That Be, Stanley Blackburn.
Babyface/Heel Turns: Yeah, right.
Best Match: Hogan v. Bockwinkel
Worst Match: Rocky Stone v. Brad Rheingans. I never heard of these guys before and they worked a decent curtain-jerker but the action was slow and lots of punches and kicks. They obviously had no storyline or any push. However, the pinfall did get the crowd off their hands.
Smut Factor Rating (1 to 10): 2
I imagine that the color from Mad Dog Vachon was more memorable at the time it happened.
Absurdity of the Week:
1) The fact that they were putting over the Jerry "The King" Lawler’s piledriver as the most dangerous move in wrestling and argued that it should have been banned over a decade before one of the best Wrestler’s ever lost a year off his career to the move.
2) I finally understand why people are making the comparisons of Shane O’ Mac to Greg Gagne. Gagne was horrible. Worse than Hogan because he is in dire need of a personal trainer, and his old man was better in the main event. At least Shane’s father wasn’t a wrestler.
3) I can’t believe that Verne Gagne & Mad Dog came out to the music "Celebrate."
4) Jerry Blackwell advertised at 470 lbs.????
Analysis/Highlights: This was a time when wrestling was just wrestling. I actually enjoyed this PPV and think the nostalgia alone was well worth the 10 bucks. What I liked about it was the logic in booking and match presentation. The women knew how to get over by using real wrestling techniques. I can’t remember the last time I saw a flying head scissors, inverse body vices, etc. in a wrestling ring performed by women. It must be that heavy silicone preventing the girls these days from working a decent match.
Maybe Jazz and Molly could work with these women but forget about girls like Lita and Trish. I also like how (read this WWF) EACH AND EVERY WRESTLER, EVEN THE WOMEN, KNEW HOW TO TELL A STORY IN THE RING! I understand that times have changed and this type of wrestling show would draw a 2.0 rating every week but there is something to be said for the ability for a wrestler to tell the story. Hulk Hogan was horrible. But he was over. He was over not because he had the most devastating finishing move in history or because he dove off of steel cages. He was over because he had charisma, could talk a good promo, and could follow it up in the ring and tell the story. If they couldn’t do a decent promo, then great talkers like Bobby Heenan did the talking. I also like the lengths of the matches and the "real" feeling that this old show gave me.
Brad Rheingans d. Rocky Stone
"Rock n Roll" Buck Zumhoffe d. Steve Regal (not that Steve Regal)
Jerry "The King" Lawler d. John "Golden Greek" Tolos w/ the piledriver
Richter, Grable d. Martin, McIntyre to retain Women’s Tag Belts
Wahoo McDaniel d. Dizzy Ed "I’m on steroids" Boulder w/ the Tomahawk Chop
Ventura, Patera, Lanza d. Gagne, Brunzell, Martel in a screw job D.Q. finish with the heels using a foreign object.
Hulk Hogan d. Nick Bockwinkel but loses the title after a D.Q. was called by owner
Verne Gagne & Mad Dog Vachon d. Jerry Blackwell & Sheik Kaissie.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 245-2002
STOMPING AT THE GREENSBORO COLISEUM
(Esquire Magazine, November, 1968)
By Larry Bonko
It is maybe thirty minutes before the main event. Make that Main Event! Subtlety is for the Lowenbrau ads. This is professional wrestling. The posters look undressed without here and there: Main Event! The Masked Infernos versus The Scott Brothers! Four Big Bouts! Smoking in the Lobby!
Thirty minutes or so before the Main Event! Masked Inferno Number One is sitting around in what he calls his ordinary, everyday street mask. It is a cloth number in cobalt blue trimmed in black. Very nice.
This is the mask with an extra large hole around the mouth to accommodate a slice of toast or a serving of grits. "They wear the masks to breakfast," confides J.C. Dykes.
Dykes is dressed in tights and a shirt the precise shade of his hair. Type O positive red. Dykes is working with his boys on this night. Usually they go on without him.
Dykes says his guys will wear those damn masks to bed, too, if he hears about somebody prowling the motel and asking questions. The Infernos come from Europe. That is all you get from Dykes.
Dykes said it is easier to get Howard Hughes’ phone number than to find out more about his guys.
Consider Dykes, and perhaps Dumas pere was not so demanding of his man in the mask. Yet with Count Mattioli, or whoever it was in the iron mask, the consequence was the wrath of Louis XIV. With the Infernos the mask is making a living, baby, a living.
When the semi-windup is on, The Infernos start to strap on ghastly leather masks. Work clothes. The masks have thick laces in the back. Dykes pulls the laces tight. Maximum security is a fishermen’s-bend knot.
If some punk in the ring pulls off a mask, it is all over for J.C. Dykes and The Infernos. Bye-bye to the big money. Bye-bye to $70,000 per.
The masks are their bag, the schtick. If the mask comes off, it is finish to twenty-nine months of building the act in places like Norfolk, Virginia; Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Charleston, West Virginia.
Suppose somebody high up in government spills it about Failsafe. We’ll recover. Suppose somebody finds out when Zsa Zsa Gabor was born. She’ll live through it.
If the masks go, it is End of Act. It is back to the preliminaries. Or worse. Back to wrestling Victor, the 540-pound bear, or Terrible Teddy, who is also a wrestling bear.
Dykes looks after his boys and their masks because he is the manager. He is what the other wrestlers call a "piece" man because he gets a piece of the action.
Once in a while, if the price is right, Dykes will wrestle at the elbow of his guys in the six-man tag matches. This is bad business for the people who clean up arenas. When Dykes is in the ring the customers throw things at him, including large chairs.
Dykes is not bad when it comes to the double wristlock or the chicken wing or the inside toehold. But what Dykes does best is talk.
"We are the best and most talked about and the most publicized tag tag in the whole world," he says. All the tag teams are modest like that. Go ahead and ask The Amazing Zuma and Haystack Calhoun what they think. Go ahead and ask The Fabulous Kangaroos.
Dykes is right about one thing. The Infernos are quite big on The Tour. The Tour consists of one-night stands in a broad sweep of the middle Atlantic; north to Richmond, west to Charleston, and south to the bright-leaf country.
The Tour is eight years old. It belongs to C&M Promotions and The Tour is doing phenomenal business. The Tour also has a little thing going on television. Weekly programs have beefy Nielsens in twelve rich markets down South, including Miami. "You name it for this part of the country and we’re a better attraction," said Joe Murnick, who is the M in C&M. The C is Jim Crockett who leaves The Tour to Murnick.
Murnick IS The Tour to the good old boys and the good old girls who show up, right regular, to see four bouts, twelve wrestlers and ninety minutes of action. The format never changes.
Murnick has wide shoulders and his closely cropped hair is shocking white. Somebody once said that Murnick looks like an alp. Maybe so. But he is friendlier, smarter than an alp and knows what kind of live entertainment sells along with the red-eyed gravy.
One of these days Murnick and Crockett will outdo themselves and maybe a lot of arenas and school gymnasiums will be crushed to splinters by the ticket buyers. One of these days C&M Promotions will develop the absolute attraction in professional wrestling; perhaps an Oriental midget female tag team.
Until then the citizens must make do with what is available. There is Chief Little Eagle who is three quarters Shoshone. There is Haystack Calhoun who is 601 pounds. There is Tammie Jones who is a fine cook, and there is Hiro Matsuda from Japan somewhere and Nikita Mulkovitch from Dubno in the Ukraine.
C&M has made a capitalist of Mulkovitch. This solid, bearded, fearless, "dirty" Russian wrestler is as welcome as matches at a pot party. Promoters love him. Customers despise him.
"I pull hair. I kick. I stick finger in other man’s eye. I hit with fist. I am dirty," admits Mulkovitch, smiling through a handsome beard. "Would you believe I paint? Oils. Look here."
Out pops a color Kodak. The Russian has painted a matador in a perfect pirouette.
Mulkovitch is the absolute villain. He wants to be a bad guy. No guessing about him. A bad actor. Same goes with The Infernos.
The Infernos are polite people but basically evil people right
own to their shoelaces. God bless professional wrestling for making the
definition between good and evil as sharp as it is. Other masked men in other
vocations have come to us as chiaroscurists.
The Lone Ranger, for example, operated outside the law and never once advised criminals of their right to an attorney. Hardly anybody ever trusted Tonto, who also wore a mask. And only heaven knows what Batman and Robin had going for them.
But Mr. Wrestling is as absolutely good as The Infernos are evil. He wears a white mask and white trunks. He is stronger than dirt. He is a good guy. Bright, too. Listen and hear how he strings together three words without even one grunt. A clean man. One day, when the universe is ready for it, he will confront the evil of The Infernos. The ultimate match will be here. "Get thee behind me, Satan."
Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson have bleached their hair. Who can trust a man who does THAT? Hiss on Hawk and Hanson. Down with The Infernos.
The poison is there for these guys four nights a week. The cheers and the affection is there, too, for George and Sandy Scott and Johnny Weaver and George Becker who, well, who look like good people.
"Weaver is my favorite," said the swinger in the leopard-skin coat. She is wearing purple lipstick. Good legs.
Who cares about the gold drain? So whatever happened to the Pueblo? Who is Gene McCarthy? Never mind that. The people in the seats want to know about the important stuff. Why in the name of heaven did Rip Hawk have to tear up Little Eagle’s war bonnet and beat him bloody?
The lady in Row B made a sign and brought it for The Infernos to see. It says, "Let’s trade J.C. Dykes for three Vietcong."
Before the main event, Sandy Scott is in his dressing room trying to add up victories. It is no use. "In twelve years I guess we have won ninety percent of our bouts." The exact count escapes him.
Nobody counts victories or defeats. There is no need. The customers tell the promoter who is going good. They buy or they stay home. If the Scotts do not play to 12,000 people in one week it is an off-week.
There is a lot of burlesque in professional wrestling. No laughs or pratfalls or anything like that. But the participants have the exaggerated movements of a second banana. Some old men are still in the ring. Some of the old girls stayed too long in burlesque, too. The flab shows.
"This here business is ninety-five percent scientific wrestling and five percent showmanship," insists Dykes.
Many of the other wrestlers agree. Come on, now. It is more like fifty-fifty. If these big men played it ninety-five-to-five the people would stay home and watch The Beverly Hillbillies on television.
Murnick and his partner had the benefit of timing when they began The Tour in 1960. Professional wrestling was ready for a comeback. It flourished and died along with Uncle Miltie and those other grey faces in the early days of television.
The wrestlers worked in Australia, England, Scotland, central Europe and Africa, and waited for somebody to get the sport going again. Murnick and Crockett obliged. They booked tight, ninety-minute shows with wrestlers who established rapport with the audiences.
It was simple stuff. The good against the bad. The pretty wrestler against the ugly one. If the citizens wanted to hear Bernstein conducting Grieg’s Norwegian Dance Number Two, or if they dug Gore Vidal, they could go watch somewhere else.
"The people want action," said Murnick. "It’s here."
The tag event is large box office because four men are involved and four men make more noise, create more excitement and create more boos and hisses than two men. The pay is exceptionally good. Murnick once paid a tag team $700 for one match. The main-event guys always work against a share of the house.
When Murnick books a head-to-head match in the main event he books a name; people like Gene Kiniski or Lou Thesz. On other nights it is the tag-team match or, for a spectacular, the six-man event or the twelve-man lumberjack match.
The bill proclaims, "Eight strong wrestlers surround the ring to keep the tag-team contestants in the ring at all times. Should they choose to leave they will be thrown back in by the seat of the pants."
The citizens are in a frenzy for tickets. On a lumberjack night in Norfolk, Murnick could sell out the 3,452-seat arena three times over. Four major cities in the state are about to start construction on facilities of 10,500 seats or more.
Murnick wonders what is taking so long to get the things built. The double lumberjack match awaits! Midgets girls versus more midget girls!
When The Infernos and the Scotts met in the main event at the Norfolk Municipal Auditorium last March it was bloody. Nobody is sure which team won because, at the end of the third fall, all the wrestlers leaped into the ring and started to beat the hell out of each other.
The customers stood on their chairs and said, "Hot damn. Give it to the Infernos." The Citizens would talk about it all week.
Sandy Scott has been in the ring for twelve years. He worries about a possible spinal injury which could end his career tomorrow or the next night or the night after that. He said it is no problem to come back from the broken nose and the torn tissue.
"But when something happens to the back … that is it."
Becker started young and has been in and out of rings for thirty years. With Weaver, Becker won the Southern Tag-Team Championship. The title means a nod of recognition from the obscure National Wrestling Association, a large metal belt and, always, a guarantee of a percentage against the gate.
"This sport gets in your blood," said Becker. He quit for a while. His brother Bobby, also a wrestler, died of leukemia. George was shaken.
Becker is getting too old for the traveling. Here today and there tomorrow. The two-suiter is packed just so. After the bout it is a shower, maybe an autograph or two, and pop! The grip snaps shut; on to another town.
(to be concluded in the New WAWLI Papers No. 246-2002)
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 246-2002
STOMPING AT THE GREENSBORO COLISEUM (continued)
Johnny Heidemann used to be in the main events. Nothing to it. Agree to wrestle a bear and you are in.
"So maybe you’ll get lucky and get the bear in a good humor."
Heidemann, sweat glistening on his bald head, was talking about the times he was in there against Ginger and Terrible Teddy. Bad customers.
"The winter is no good. The bears would rather be where they should be. In hibernation. The last place they want to be is in a ring. The summer is no good. Too hot. Hot lights and thick fur."
Heidemann used to wrestle bears all the time. The last time was in Albany, Georgia. When the match ended he phoned his wife and said it was all over with the bears.
Heidemann explained, "They muzzle the bears but it’s still easy to get a finger inside the leather. I almost lost a knuckle. That night the bear was making a swishing noise. Look out. That swishing noise means an angry bear.
"After he clamped down on my finger, about 1,600 pounds of pressure, I scrambled out of the ring with the bear still mad. The referee puts up his hand to show me the way out of the ring and the bear makes a sweep for his hand. He got a finger. I tore the ref’s pants and made a tourniquet."
Only bears win over bears, said Heidemann.
You survive in bear wrestling by using a technique called the turtle. Fall down in a lump and pull in arms and legs. Make like a turtle. Maybe the bear will go away.
Mulkovitch knows about the bears, too.
"You think to yourself that in the forest the bear swats ten-pound salmon out of streams with a little swish of the paw. You think about this when the bears stand up high in front of you. Maybe seven feet high."
So what if the bear is wearing a muzzle and so what if somebody removed the claws. "I spent a lot of my time before a bear match in mortal fear," said Heidemann. "The other guys would stand around and watch me shake."
The bear bit is an act, a staple in professional wrestling.
The men revel in whatever eclat has come to them. They have a way about them which suggests the satiation of contestants around Plaza de Toros de Sevilla. It is the kind of fulfillment you find in a hippie who has inspected a bundle from home and found, among other things, a button proclaiming, "Apple pie makes you sterile."
Hey, there, Rip, baby. Want to talk about that beauty of a scar you got there in the middle of your forehead?
"Hell, yes. Cracked ‘er open on a ring post. Bled like a pig."
Now this is not the style of the Black Venus. The Black Venus will look away with her shoelaces when somebody asks about the time Black Venus broke a black ankle when a tough sweetheart bounced her out of the ring on her black tail.
The Black Venus! The Black Venus is 34-26-42.
The Black Venus is thirty-eight. She is a mother eleven times. She is a grandmother several times. Black Venus is 34-26-42 which is, well, not bad for a grandmother.
"The men don’t know about the children. They make passes. I hear the wolf whistles," said Black Venus.
Two or three years ago a promoter took Waver Pearl Bryant to one side and said, "Look here. Pearl is for Pearl Bailey. Let’s get you a new name. Black Venus."
The promoter had bad eyes. The Black Venus is brown. Up there in the ring the sweat is all over her brown thighs. Somebody has left a Hershey bar out in a light rain.
The kids are back home, in Los Angeles. They are with Mr. Black Venus who is the pastor of the New Morning Star Baptist Church.
Somebody once wrote of the Black Venus, "She is a champion in the ring and at home.
She explains, "I liked this wrestling thing ever since I can remember. It is always what I wanted to be in."
A match involving Negro women is not of headline caliber. Third banana. But it has consistent appeal. Black Venus heard about the money in it and she started to train after Number Eleven arrived.
Every once in a while Black Venus is in the ring against Miss Marva Scott, who is younger. Miss Marva Scott wears eye shadow and a white outfit which could have been in Slave Girl Moola’s wardrobe.
"I believe we have a lot of sex appeal," said Miss Scott.
The good old boys in the audience look hard at the girls. Hard as hell. Who knows? A tit is liable to pop out of that white thing she is wearing.
Then again maybe it is masochism. A lot of the customers on Tobacco Road never heard of masochism but they know it feels good under checkered shirts to see one woman, all sweaty, up there in a ring dominating, mistreating and hurting another one.
Now, sure enough, maybe the wife won’t go for it. But these girls do it. They do it for money. "The money is good," said Miss Marva Scott.
The times are good, too. The men are attentive. So what if Miss Marva Scott is a wrestler, a professional wrestler. So what if she doesn’t smoke and so what if she says never mind to Haig & Haig. So what?
Explained Miss Scott, white teeth showing, "I have to keep strong so I can carry on."
She means carry on up there in the ring where the money is. Talk about your attractions in sports and the theatre. Mantle at bat in the bottom of the ninth. Who needs him? Unitas with the ball on third down and three. Forget it. Give the customers a couple of Negro girls in the ring, and hot damn, you have something there.
The women wrestle with quick moves. Flair. "Fast style, I call it," said Marva Scott of Columbus, Ohio.
There HAS to be a lot of hair pulling. Women fight that way.
"Not much of it," say the girls. This is business. Who wants mussed hair? Look at Ethel Johnson and Penny Banner and the rest. They keep themselves looking very good.
Style! It just has to be. The Garvin Brothers from Canada somewhere have their hair a shocking shade of white or yellow. Hiro Matsuda of Japan somewhere wrestles in his bare feet and gives the customers a little karate between falls. He would make it in a remake of Charlie Chan.
The girls have style, too. The Black Venus has to have something because she is a grandmother and the good old boys whistle when she comes into the ring and a lot of the soul brothers like her just fine. Just fine.
It is absolute showmanship. A lot of people dismiss the whole sport as theatre and not very good theatre at that.
Sandy Scott said if wrestling is theatre the bouts should be held off-Broadway. "They say we are actors. How come the actors’ union doesn’t make us join? We could use a union."
A union could picket for equal rights. Everybody march for the right to gouge the other guy. "The hard way is the best way for me," said Scott. "The hard way is the scientific way."
Maybe a union could do something about the guys who work on old injuries. Got a gash in the forehead? Watch out because some lug is going to ram your head into the ring post.
"When I get hurt like that I think maybe I am in the wrong business," said Paul Jones, a young wrestler with handsome features and thick wavy hair. Here is a matinee idol if there ever was one.
One day, perhaps in a year or two, Jones will be headline material. Maybe he will find another wrestler who will take the name of David Farragut. Think of it. Main Event! Paul Jones and David Farragut versus the entire Confederate Flotilla!
It could be a boffola act if they can get the Confederate Flotilla to wear masks.
1985 PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING RESULTS
Los Angeles CA: January 1, 1985
(Sports Arena, att. 8,372) … Greg Valentine beat Tito Santana (dq) … Jimmy Snuka and Tonga Kid beat Roddy Piper and Bob Orton Jr. (dq) … Buddy Rose beat Chief Jay Strongbow … (Ladies) Wendi Richter beat Judy Martin … Don Muraco beat Swede Hanson … Junkyard Dog beat Iron Sheik … Steve Pardee drew Jack Armstrong … Alexis Smirnoff beat Ken Shepherd
Atlanta GA: January 1, 1985
(Omni, att. 5,000) … Ole Anderson and Thunderbolt Patterson beat Terminators (Dan Rignati and Jon Voight) … Ron Garvin beat Ox Baker (sub for Wahoo McDaniel) … Ron Slinker beat Bob Roop (dq) … Ron Ritchie beat Ox Baker (dq) … Brian Addidas beat Chick Donovan … Len Denton beat Jerry Oates … Italian Stallion (Gary Quartenelli) drew Rip Rogers
San Antonio TX: January 1, 1985
(Hemisfair) … Tim Brooks and Al Madril beat Sheepherders (dq) … Bob Sweetan and Chicky Starr beat Eric Embry and Dan Greer … Kevin Sullivan beat Bugsy McGraw … Rick Casey and Jerry Olski beat The Mummy and Zarrock (Juan Reynosa) … Ron Sexton beat Vinnie Valentino … Snake beat Manny Villalobos
Tampa FL: January 1, 1985
(Univ. of Tampa Center, att. 4,000) … (WTM) Ric Flair* beat Pez Whatley … Mark Youngblood and Jay Youngblood beat Jim Neidhart and Krusher Kruschev … Jesse Barr drew B Brian Blair (nc) … (Lumberjack Match) Dutch Mantell beat The Saint … Skip Young beat King Cobra … Norvell Austin and Koko B. Ware beat Scott McGhee and Frank Lang
Oakland CA: January 2, 1985
(Arena, att. 11,669) … Jimmy Snuka and Tonga Kid beat Roddy Piper and Bob Orton Jr. (dq) … Greg Valentine beat Tito Santana (dq) … Junkyard Dog beat Iron Sheik … George Wells beat Alexis Smirnoff … (Ladies) Wendi Richter beat Judy Martin … Ivan Putski beat Guy Lambert … Don Muraco beat Swede Hanson … Buddy Rose beat Chief Jay Strongbow … Steve Pardee drew Jerry Monti
Kansas City KS: January 3, 1985
(Memorial Hall) … Harley Race beat Mr. Pogo (dq) … Marty Jeanetty and Bob Brown beat Gary Royal and Roger Kirby (dq) … Rufus Jones and Art Crews beat T.G. Stone and Ken Timbs … Mike Bond drew Dave Peterson … Outlaw beat Dusty Wolfe … Sheik Abdullah beat Steve Sybert
St. Louis MO: January 4, 1985
(Kiel Aud., att. 7,500) … (WTM) Ric Flair* beat Bruiser Brody (22:00, dq) … Kerry Von Erich beat Tug Taylor (sub for Jerry Blackwell) … Wahoo McDaniel beat Terry Funk … Harley Race drew Bob Backlund … Rufus Jones and Bob Brown beat Roger Kirby and Mr. Pogo … Roger Kirby beat Ken Timbs … Marty Jeanetty and Mike Bond and Dave Peterson beat Gary Royal and T.G. Stone and Sheik Abdullah …
Boston MA: January 5, 1985
(Boston Garden) … Ken Patera and John Studd beat Andre the Giant and Junkyard Dog (dq) … Blackjack Mulligan beat Dave Shults … Don Muraco beat S.D. Jones … Tito Santana beat Greg Valentine (cor) … Adrian Adonis and Dick Murdoch beat Jack Brisco and Jerry Brisco … Brutus Beefcake beat Swede Hanson … Bret Hart beat Pete Doherty
East Rutherford NJ: January 6,1985
(Meadowlands) … Mike Rotundo and Barry Windham eliminated Nicolai Volkoff and Iron Sheik (won 10-team tag-team battle royal) … Adrian Adonis and Dick Murdoch beat Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo … Tony Atlas and George Wells beat Johnny Rodz and Don Muraco … Jack Brisco and Jerry Brisco beat John Valiant and Brutus Beefcake … Nicolai Volkoff and Iron Sheik beat Salvatore Bellomo and S.D. Jones … Paul Orndorff beat Junkyard Dog
Rockford IL: January 6, 1985
(WHC) Jim Garvin beat Rick Martel* (dq) … Curt Hennig beat Superstar (dq) … Stan Lane and Steve Keirn beat Billy Robinson and Steve Regal … Nick Bockwinkel beat Larry Hennig … Mr. Saito beat Tom Zenk
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 247-2002
(Associated Press, Wednesday, July 24, 1929)
CHICAGO -- The Illinois State Athletic Commission has denied promoter Joe Coffey permission to hold a show featuring Joe Stecher, former heavyweight wrestling champion, and Joe Malcewicz. The body based its ruling on the fact that the men have met three times recently, at Boston, in California, and Tulsa, Okla. Coffey proposed to hold the show July 31.
WES SCHULMERICH WILL GRAPPLE AS WINTER PASTIME
(Associated Press, July 7, 1930)
LOS ANGELES -- The sporting world and Art Shires, meet Wes Schulmerich.
Schulmerich is doing a large share of the heavy hitting for the Los Angeles club of the Pacific Coast League, but he would like to make a try at this business of professional ring duty as a wrestler.
The rotund youth made something of a name for himself as a fullback for Oregon State, also indulging in some college wrestling. He went to Butte of the Montana Copper Mines League and thence to Los Angeles.
In 1927 Schulmerich hit .317. Last year he increased it to .328, and this season has been keeping the veteran big leaguer, George Harper, on the bench by hitting .378 during the first ten weeks.
KARASICK BECOMING ASTORIA FAVORITE
(The Oregonian, Portland, Ore., Monday, July 21, 1930)
Al Karasick, the Roaring Russian Lion, one of Portland's wrestling favorites, has caught the fancy of mat fans in Astoria, according to word coming from the city at the mouth of the Columbia River. At first Gentleman Al, who has been appearing in Astoria since the game closed down for the summer here, was decidedly unpopular, but his colorful and flashy tactics soon established him as a favorite.
In his last match Karasick defeated Abe Coleman, Jewish light heavyweight from New York, in a sensational manner. Some idea of what the Astoria fans think of Karasick is shown in a letter which Al received from one of the Astoria wrestling patrons.
The letter from James A. Titus follows:
"I am not personally acquainted with you, but as a sincere admirer of your wrestling ability, I think you the best man of your weight that ever entered the ring.
"A man that took the butting you did last night in the match with Coleman and then had the heart to go on and win that last fall is more than human. Every one I talked with today said they had never seen anything like it. The nerve, will power, stamina, endurance, heart, and, to be plain, the 'guts' was more than human.
"The breaks were even against you. The referee distracted your attention by shaking his fist at you and letting Coleman use him as a shield to get in one of his devastating butts. It's no wonder the whole town is today admiring you."
A TIP FOR POLICE CHIEF HART
(Minneapolis Star, Friday, Dec. 8, 1933)
By Charles Johnson
From many sources we have been rather definitely told that John Hart is about the last word in his position as chief of police, but we are beginning to doubt these reports. The pacemaker for such police bosses is a newcomer at Mason City, Iowa, at least as far as supervising wrestling is concerned.
Abe Kashey and Jack Hader were furnishing the main event in Mason City Wednesday night. As usual, Abe couldn’t desist from his usual practice of getting a little rough. Try as he would, he simply had to do some biting, kicking and slugging. He was himself Wednesday night for five minutes. Hader wasn’t so bad, either.
When Abe and Jack got down to the serious part of their show, they did a bang-up job. But it was too much for Mason City’s law-and-order chief. Sitting at the ringside when the fun started, the blue coat had both wrestlers arrested. The charge? That’s simple. It was for disturbing the peace.
Times are hard for wrestlers, like others. They were held for $100 bond. They couldn’t raise much more than "coffee and" money while lodged in the hoosegow. So they stayed there until court opened. Yesterday morning, they were fined $10 for disturbing the peace.
Chief Hart, there’s your cue. When the boys get too rough at the Auditorium, park ‘em in the "cooler" for a night.
REFEREE CHARGES HE WAS BEATEN BY CROWD
(United Press, December 12, 1933)
ST. LOUIS – Trial of a $25,000 damage suit against wrestling promoter Thomas N. Packs brought by referee Harry S. Sharpe was resumed today after the plaintiff told the court yesterday how he was mobbed by a crowd of irate fans following his award of a wrestling match to Jimmy Londos when the fans thought Fred Grubmeier of Iowa should have been named the winner.
Adequate protection was not afforded by Packs, the plaintiff alleged. An illness of nine weeks and a mouth infection which caused loss of 14 teeth, followed the beating administered by the mob, Sharpe told the jury, none of whom had ever witnessed a wrestling match.
LONDOS TO MEET TOURNEY WINNER
(United Press, December 26, 1933)
ST. LOUIS – Tom Packs, St. Louis wrestling promoter, announced today that Jim Londos, claimant of the world’s heavyweight championship, has agreed to meet the winner of an elimination series for the undisputed title.
The plan, Packs said, is for Ray Steele to meet the numerous disputants of Londos’ title, thus producing a logical challenger. The Steele opponents would be Jim Browning, Gus Sonnenberg, Ed Don George and Henri Deglane, whom he recently challenged.
Steele, widely regarded as Londos’ "policeman," defeated Ed (Strangler) Lewis, former champion, here this week, first technically knocking him out with a right hand smash to the jaw, then pinning his shoulder before the cobwebs cleared.
MEETING OF RIVAL MAT FACTIONS
(Minneapolis Star, December 27, 1933)
Professional wrestling is going to have a legitimate and universally accepted heavyweight champion before the year 1934 draws to a close.
Back from a meeting of leading grappling promoters of the country held in St. Louis, Tony Stecher, as Minneapolis’ representative, announced today that this sport will have a new deal during the next 12 months.
Promoters called the bosses of the two rival mat circuits – the east and the west – together in St. Louis last week and laid down the law to them. They insisted that there was no use continuing in the sport unless suitable arrangements could be made to get all of the good talent together with the idea of determining the real American titleholder among the bigger grunters and groaners.
At the end of the session, an agreement was reached whereby there will be an exchange of talent between the eastern and western groups so that each section will be permitted to show throughout the country.
"This means," Stecher went on to explain, "that there will be a nationwide elimination tournament, with the best in each section meeting and the eventual winner being accepted as the national champion. At present, the west claims Londos as the titleholder and east says Jim Browning is the best grappler.
"As a result of this peace meeting, Minneapolis will see much better talent on future shows. I already have arranged for some of the leading members of the eastern group to appear here as part of the elimination program. Under this arrangement, every city where wrestling is being sponsored will be treated to much better entertainment. But most important is the fact that we’ll have a champion that will be unanimously recognized throughout the United States," Stecher concluded.
While in St. Louis last week, Stecher was able to sign some of the best mat performers in the game, and he hopes to announce the names of the new entertainers in the near future.
For some time, the rival wrestling trusts have been battling
each other tooth and nail. Jack Curley has headed the eastern faction while Ed
White and Tom Packs have been bosses of the western group. They haven’t merged
their interests, but they have agreed to an exchange of talent in hopes of
eliminating the muddled that the sports has been in for some time.
A REVIEW OF DAVE MELTZER’S ‘TRIBUTES’
(Edmonton Sun, January 21, 2002)
By Michael Jenkinson
Regular readers of this space know that I'm a professional
wrestling fan. So it was only natural that when I received a copy of a new
wrestling book recently, it would be high on my reading list.
Tributes is an unusual book. While most wrestling-themed books released in the last couple of years have been autobiographies or histories of the pseudo-sport, Tributes is a collection of obituaries.
It was written by Dave Meltzer, the California-based writer of the 20-year-old Wrestling Observer Newsletter, the pro-wrestling industry's best "insider" publication, which has about 6,500 subscribers around the world and is read by everyone in the business, from fans to the top executives of the World Wrestling Federation. The obituaries contained in Tributes originally ran in the Observer over the years, and Meltzer compiled them into a book after one of his subscribers suggested it.
THIS BOOK LEFT ME CHILLED
While I race through most books and declare at the end that I loved or hated them, I wasn't sure what to think about Tributes except that it left me chilled.
Don't get me wrong, it's a good book, meticulously researched (as all of Meltzer's work is), well-written and thoroughly illustrated. In fact, Meltzer rewrote many of the original Observer obituary articles to make them more accessible to a general audience. But the further along into the 182-page book I got, the more uncomfortable it became.
Though it was surely not Meltzer's intention, Tributes certainly reinforces the point that too many wrestlers die tragic deaths at too young an age.
It's an observation that's not lost on Meltzer, as many readers have remarked to him over the years that his lengthy obituaries are some of his best work.
"I've always had to say I've had a lot of practice," he says in a phone interview. "That's the unfortunate part. If I've gotten good at being an obituary writer, it's because I've done three times as many as I should have. It's really morbid in some ways."
Indeed. Owen Hart died in a wrestling stunt gone wrong in 1999 at the age of 34. Brian Pillman died in 1997 of a heart failure at 35. His body was found in a hotel room with several bottles of painkillers, muscle relaxants and other medications, though the death was not considered a suicide. Rick Rude, died of an accidental overdose of pain medication in 1999 at 41. Louie Spicolli, who was never more than a journeyman wrestler, died in his sleep after taking 27 Somas and choking on his vomit in 1998 at age 27. Kerry Von Erich, 33, who died in 1993 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, also saw three of his other wrestling brothers die young, two from suicide and one from a drug overdose.
More than half of the 20 obituary subjects in Tributes could be considered to have died under tragic circumstances before their time.
STABBED TO DEATH IN THE LOCKER ROOM
Like the subject of the first major obituary piece that Meltzer ever wrote, Frank "Bruiser Brody" Goodish, who was stabbed to death in a Puerto Rico locker room in 1988. Meltzer says he sat at his typewriter for six hours struggling to write the first sentence, and when he could finally find the words, he wrote seven pages in five hours.
Writing Brody's obituary was tough, says Meltzer, but Pillman's was the worst. "I knew him really well," says the 42-year-old Meltzer. "I think I knew too much on that one. It's not like you didn't see it coming.
"That's what's really sad about some of these. Sometimes the deaths are not unexpected, like the Von Erichs. I remember getting those phone calls from Texas once every other year. It was like, who died today?"
Meltzer says he's learned to differentiate between the product on TV and what goes on behind the scenes - which is what a good chunk of his newsletter focuses on. "To me, pro wrestling is entertainment, but I'm not going to turn a blind eye to certain aspects of it," he says.
Unfortunately, too many people in the business still do. Meltzer says that while the WWF has gotten better lately at clamping down on drug abuse by their performers, the independent scene is almost completely unchecked.
Which means there will probably be a sequel to Tributes down the road, whether Meltzer intends to write another one or not.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 248-2002
(ED. NOTE – Occasional contributor Avo Sismets
discovered the following at www.naturalstrength.com, in the history section,
apparently contributed from the files of Vic Boff. Our thanks, naturally, for
'HACK' COMES BACK
(Health & Strength Magazine, March 7, 1931)
Hackenschmidt, the Russian Lion, is generally regarded as the
most outstanding wrestler of his time, if not of all time. The feats he
performed were always highly spectacular, and his rugged strength and
lionhearted nature captured all who came into contact with him.
It was with considerable surprise that I saw him seated at the "H. and S." display at the Holborn Empire on St. Valentine's Day, and I accordingly lost no opportunity of seeing him at his hotel.
Naturally enough, physical development soon became the topic of conversation. He seemed eager enough to talk about wrestling in general, but when it came to enlarging upon his own feats, he closed up like the proverbial oyster.
It seemed as though my task would prove a hopeless one when he suddenly twirled round and grasped me by the shoulders. So powerful was his grip that I felt I had been caught in the works; yet I am sure he did not intend to hurt in the least.
Giants of the Mat
"Look here," he said eagerly, "you must come and dine with me. I should like you to meet my wife." I was thoroughly delighted, for it was a privilege I had never dreamed of.
As a host, it is hard to imagine anyone more hospitable or
genial than this giant. Both he and his charming French wife did their utmost to
make me feel thoroughly at home. Dinner over, we fell to discussing the
comparative merits and demerits of the wrestlers, past and present, the
attraction of the mat, and various other problems near and dear to the heart of
all true physical educationists.
In the course of conversation, I learnt that Hack is still keen on physical development for its own sake. He looks as fit today as any man I have ever seen, though over fifty years of age. Most of the men who watched him when at the zenith of his fame are now fat and flabby, while this Hercules is so fit that he could enter the arena tomorrow.
Of course, it is hardly fair to expect the same degree of physical fitness from him today as when he was in his prime. But the fact that he can give a standing jump over two chairs, a feat which he performed fully clothed in front of me, demonstrates his toughness. His enthusiasm remains truly boyish, and once we got on the subject of wrestling, I was able to extract various pieces of information about his wonderful past.
Probably the most amusing story he related during the evening
was one about his tailor, and it is characteristic of Hack that the laugh was
against him. Unlike most strong men, Hack has a distinct penchant for good
clothes and a neat appearance. He believes in looking his best always, and one
day, when in his prime, a tailor called upon him armed with strong
recommendations from friends.
Hack decided to have a suit, and not very long after called for it. When he tried it on, however, he found that it hung on him like a sack! It had been sized too large and the champion was distinctly annoyed. The tailor, poor fellow, could not make head or tail of it. On consulting his book, he found the measurements to be correct. While he was apologizing, Hack took a deep breath and swelled out his massive chest. Immediately the coat was filled and fitted him like a glove! It seemed that he had expanded his muscles fully when the measurements were taken, and the suit had been made for his flexed limbs.
Brains and Brawn
During our conversation, I found Hackenschmidt to be a man of deep learning, with a quick wit and very human leanings. Physical development is his hobby, and he devotes a great deal of his time to probing the mysteries of the human body. He had just returned from a protracted tour of the Continent, where he has been in consultation with some of the best brains at the various universities. He has rather original theories regarding the human structure, which he has been testing out. He hopes to return to England on a lecturing tour either this year or in the spring of 1932, when he will look up old friends, speak with leaguers, and generally try to further the cause of physical development.
A "Raw Deal"
Our conversation veered round to his wrestling matches, and
particularly to his contests with Gotch. In the first, Hack certainly got a
For three months before the contest, Gotch rubbed his body with oil 'till it became so permeated with the liquid that it was almost impossible to get a grip of body or limbs. On the night of the fight, Hack suggested that Gotch should take a bath, which his cunning assailant refused to do.
"The bout," said Hack, "took place in Chicago, and I am afraid I took Gotch too cheaply, and so did not train as thoroughly as I should have. As a matter of fact, the authorities at the Chicago gym, refused me permission to use their premises, and in consequence the greater portion of my training was done in the corridors of my hotel; also, I was troubled with water on the knee.
"Gotch was a cunning and tricky wrestler, and as strong as a bear. I soon found it impossible to get a grip of him, and so was at a great disadvantage. In addition, Gotch was not above probing me in the eye from time to time with his thumb, until I was almost blinded."
A terrific struggle ensued, and Hack was defeated.
Hackenschmidt, a man who has always played fairly, was amazed at the foul tactics displayed by Gotch, and it was only after challenging him repeatedly, that the American could be induced to face him once more.
The Inside Story
I do not think the inside story of the second match, which
also took place in Chicago, has previously been related.
Hack first trained at Shoreham under Zbyszko, and when he arrived in Chicago, was in wonderful condition; so splendid indeed, that whilst preparing, he threw Americus, of Baltimore, one of the most famous wrestlers in America, in one minute; then Koch in six minutes, and next Dr. Roller in seven minutes.
"After this," said Hack, "Dr. Roller advised me to stop, but I requested him to hold me down once more, and I should endeavor to get up from the knees. I jumped up to my feet, but, unfortunately, Dr. Roller had the same movement as myself, and in consequence caught me with my right foot over his knee, and in doing so he tore the sinews from the bone-this only five days before the contest with Gotch was to take place.
"When it was dark, I was carried home. The following day Dr. Mackenzie, the doctor who extracted the bullet from President McKinley, when the latter was shot, was called in.
"Curley, my manager, and the promoter of the contest," continued Hack, "was insistent that I should not compete against Gotch unless I felt able to do so. I knew that tickets to the value of over £6,000 had been sold, and a lot of other expenses incurred, but it was the splendid attitude of Curley that finally determined me to go forward.
"In addition to 20 yards of India-rubber bandaging round my right knee. I had ordinary bandages from my ankle upwards, and it was in that condition I engaged upon the match.
"Before leaving my dressing room, Curley brought me my money for the engagement, but I told him to put it away until after the match.
"On entering the ring, I requested the referee to call off all the bets. At first he refused, but on my saying that otherwise I should leave immediately, he did as asked."
After a gallant fight. Hack was defeated-how could it have been otherwise? For two years afterwards the Russian Lion was compelled to wear India-rubber bandages, and even to this day he still at times, feels the effects of his unfortunate mishap.
The Terrible Turk Match
His match with Madraldi, the "Terrible Turk," was
the most sensational in which he ever took part. Hack told me that people in
those days awaited the result of an important wrestling encounter with as much
anxiety as they now look for the result of a championship boxing match.
Thousands of people were turned away when he fought Madraldi.
The Turk had been preceded by a fearsome reputation, so Hack determined to exert every ounce of strength to prevent defeat. His antagonist possessed an awe-inspiring appearance, though he was goodhearted enough when you got to know him. It was with considerable misgivings that Hack entered the arena, but when he saw the Turk stripped, he felt that his chances of victory were brighter than he imagined. The Turk looked a monster, but there was something about his condition that gave Hack confidence.
On the signal he rushed in and in a few minutes the combat was over. Everyone knows what a sorry mess he made of the Turk. Hack said he was very upset at Madraldi having encountered the accident, but as his reputation was at stake, he could do no less than give of his best.
Hack's colossal strength can be imagined from a story he told me. Thirty-five years ago the roads were hardly as safe as they are today, and it was not rare for actors, boxers and wrestlers to get beaten and robbed by footpads on their way home.
One night Hack was leaving the theatre, when as attendant warned him to be careful, as the streets he had to traverse were infested by a singularly tough crowd. Hack, however, laughed at the man's fears and stepped into the night with a jaunty stride. He was crossing a badly lighted square, shaded with a number of trees, when a gang of seven or eight men sprang out and, brandishing sticks, attacked the champion. Hack immediately recalled the warning he had received, and darted into the middle of the gang. He picked the leader bodily off the ground, and grasping him by the ankles, used him as a flail!
Amazing Feats by Hack
The man's terrified yells as the sticks of his confederates
fell on him were appalling. The gang, though they had the advantage of surprise
on their side, were routed, so Hack released his improvised weapon. The man
bounded into a side alley and was lost to view.
This is by no means surprising when you remember some of the remarkable feats he has performed -- 142 ½ kilograms in wrestler's bridge (a world record); 132 kilograms pressed with right arm; and 92 kilograms snatched with right arm.
Hack told me that he was one of those fortunate men who possessed a considerable amount of natural strength, but that it was only by developing himself by progressive exercise that he managed to gain a championship. He is emphatic that only hard work and enthusiasm will help a man to win through. So, if you are endowed with natural strength, do not rest contented, but increase it by hard work.
No one who meets Hack can fail to like him, for he is wonderfully good natured, clever and modest, particularly anxious to help the human race. As a living model for all a physical culturist should be, he is hard to beat.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 249-2002
BOX-OFFICE MAGNATES OF MAT
(Syndicated column, Minneapolis Star, December 28, 1934)
This is about the time to start reviewing the 1934 sports campaign, so I might as well start at the bottom and begin with wrestling.
This isn’t going to be a thorough review of the year’s wrestling results, because the merry matmen engage in too many matches for even such a sports mastermind as myself to keep up with all the ups and downs of the grimacing brigade.
This being the case, I intend to confine myself to discussing the two most colorful mat thespians of 1934 – "Jeemy" Londos, generally recognized rassling kink, and that gargantuan burper, Man Mountain Dean, who took the Pacific Coast fans by storm during the past six months or so.
Of Mister Londos I have spoken at length before. The "Great Grik" is the matinee idol of the lard-tossing industry, and the crowd always loves it when that dear Jeemy throws around one of those big hunks of suet which we call wrestlers.
Londos has a regular routine which, although beginning to pall slightly, still attracts the wrestling addicts (who are they, anyway?) in considerable numbers.
James always goes through a lot of apparent torture and appears on the very brink of catastrophrous defeat when, by a Herculean effort, he suddenly turns the tables on his adversary and pins his shoulders to the well-known mat. This sudden victorious comeback always – or about always – goes over big.
There isn’t much space left for me to deal with such a large subject (300 pounds on the hoof) as Man Mountain Dean, but suffice it to say that this overstuffed sofa has run up a long series of wins on the Coast after proving a terrible frost in the East. Maybe the famous California climate changed him into a ferocious man-killer.
‘STRANGLER’ WILL TACKLE ALLIGATOR UNDER WATER
(United Press, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 1935)
SILVER SPRINGS, Fla. – Ed (Strangler) Lewis, four times holder of the world’s heavyweight wrestling championship, today will attempt to conquer new fields. He is going to wrestle an alligator under water here. Lewis said he is more concerned over Florida’s cold wave and the temperature of the water than he is over his opponent.
(ED. NOTE – I’ve never found a follow-up story to the above. Lewis was back in the wrestling ring, however, the next night, all the way up in Pittsburgh, Pa.)
ROARS HAVE IT AND LEWIS GETS VERDICT
(International News Service, December 19, 1935)
ST. LOUIS – The veteran Ed (Strangler) Lewis, who has been world’s heavyweight wrestling champion four times, defeated Man Mountain Dean in a thrill-packed match here in the Arena last night with State Athletic Commissioner Ernest Oakley having to award the final decision.
Near the close of the battle, Lewis picked up the "Man Mountain" bodily and tossed him out of the ring. Dean returned at the count of 15 but shortly afterward was slugged on the jaw and fell out of the ring, remaining there for the 20-second count.
The referee hoisted Dean’s hand in victory, giving him the decision on a foul, but Lewis and the crowd roared their disapproval. Lewis wanted to resume the match, but Dean sent word from his dressing room later that he was unable to return, and State Athletic Commission Oakley then declared Lewis the winner.
FANS RIOT, SINGH FAINTS
(United Press, December 24, 1935)
DETROIT – A crowd of more than 3,000 persons, enraged at the kicking tactics used by Nanjo Singh, of India, rioted during a wrestling match at Arena Gardens last night.
As a result, Singh was in the Henry Ford Hospital today suffering possible internal injuries. His opponent, Ivan Rasputin, of Russia, was in jail, pending outcome of the East Indian’s injuries.
The fans rioted after the match had gone 15 minutes. Singh had kicked his opponent from the ring four times. Amid cries of "kill the brute," the crowd closed in, some with chairs and pop bottles.
The melee was halted by a squad of police. Referee Perry Shad awarded the match to Rasputin. Coincidentally, Singh fainted and was rushed to the hospital.
FAMED MAT CHAMP, THE STRANGLER, DIES
(United Press, Monday, August 8, 1966)
By Jeff Meyers
NEW YORK – Between world wars, when Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey were the highest paid athletes in baseball and boxing, wrestler Ed (Strangler) Lewis made and lost $3 million and became the greatest gate attraction of his era.
Lewis, whose real name was Robert H. Frederick (sic), died at the age of 76 Sunday in the Veterans Administration Hospital at Muskogee, Okla. His death evoked memories of wrestling’s good old days when the time limits were non-existent and the sport enjoyed equal popularity with boxing.
The Strangler, so named because of his match-ending headholds, began wrestling as a 13-year-old, 190-pound Kentuckian in 1903 (sic) and concluded his career 100 pounds heavier and 6,200 bouts later.
Five times world champion, Lewis amassed a fortune and lost it with the same adroitness that enabled him to find religion after a bout with alcoholism.
"I earned more than $3,000,000 during my 44 years in the ring and blew the whole works," Lewis said recently. "Around 1940, I was an alcoholic for three years. But, through reading the Bible, I cured myself. I’m a millionaire in memories and friendships."
Wrestling four or five times a week on junkets that took him around the world five times, across the Atlantic 22 times and "goodness knows how many times across this country," Lewis built up a devoted following.
"I’ve attracted more money in the box office than any other single athlete -- $15,000,000. That’s four million dollars better than Jack Dempsey, who ranks second to me," Lewis once boasted.
"Of course, wrestlers work harder than boxers," he added. "Those sissy heavyweights are lucky to fight three times a year ordinarily."
With 6,200 bouts to look back on – "more ring appearnaces than all the heavyweight boxing champions in history combined" – Lewis singled out three matches that lingered in his memory. Two were brawling marathons and the third never happened because of a scared opponent.
"I had many great matches with Jim Londos," Lewis once recalled. "Although I beat him 15 straight times, he always gave me a rough time. In Chicago about 10 years ago (1937) – (sic) – I whipped him and the gate was $106,000 (sic) – my biggest single gate."
Lewis never had a longer series with an opponent (sic), but for marathon matches the Strangler considered Joe Stecher his toughest foe. Once, on the Fourth of July in 1916, Lewis and Stecher stepped into the ring at 4 o’clock and battled continuously until after 9:30.
"Joe Stecher was real tough," Lewis said. "We met three times and went nearly 11 hours before I won a fall. In 1915, we went two hours to a draw (sic). In 1916, we fought 5 ½ hours to a draw. Finally, in 1917 at Madison Square Garden, I threw him in three hours and eight minutes (sic)."
About the match that never was, in 1948, retired and working as a physical instructor, he was challenged to a bout by Jack Sherry whom Lewis had defeated 13 years (sic) before. Guaranteed $2,500, the Strangler attempted to get in shape.
Finally shedding 35 pounds to 260 after taking on his pupils at a rate of one every five minutes as a training exercise, Lewis traveled to Honolulu for the bout. But his reputation and training routine had arrived before he did, and Sherry never showed. Lewis, however, received his $2,500.
(ED. NOTE – His name was Robert Friedrich. He didn’t become a "Kentuckian" until 1912, when he lived in Lexington. Lewis was counted out of the ring in the 1915 bout. The three-hour bout with Stecher in New York was not until 1919 – and Lewis lost it. He and Londos did draw a huge gate in Chicago, but the year was 1934 and Londos, not Lewis, won the match. He defeated Sherry in 1932, not in 1934. And, the number of times – at least 50, and probably more if all the records were available -- Lewis met Dick Daviscourt on the mat dwarfed the alleged 16 times he met Londos.)
GRAY MASK AGAIN TRIMS BERRY IN TITLE MATCH
(San Diego Union, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 1944)
The "Cannonball Express," otherwise known as the Gray Mask, railroaded his way to a successful defense of his light-heavyweight wrestling crown last night at the Coliseum by derailing Wild Red Berry, his most persistent challenger, in two falls out of three. Emplying his famous cannonball hold, the Mask throttled Berry in 10:12 to win the first fall and start on the long trail to victory. Berry recovered from his grogginess to come back at 5:40 to tie the Mask into knots with his guillotine twist and even matters.
With the championship hanging in the balance, the Mask and Berry see-sawed their way back and forth in the clincher, Berry apparently being about to pin the Mask and take back his title on several occasions.
However, the Mask got steam up after 9:04 and again made use of the cannonball hold to send Berry down for the count.
In the op half of the double semi-windup, Dick Trout and Dangerous Danny McShain left the mat all even after 45 minutes of grappling. McShain was away to a flying start, winning the first fall in 25:30 via a double key lock. Trout came back to even matters in 7:00 with an airplane spin followed by a right cross to the jaw. With only two minutes to go, the lads were unable to settle their differences.
After referee Clayton Fisher had awarded him the first fall on a foul, winsome George Dusette went out on his own hook and took the second fall and the match from Tony Ross in the other half of the semi. Ross, the "Alaska Falcon," waxed a bit too rough, according to Fisher’s ideas in the first session and found himself disqualified in 11:45. Dusette registered the clincher in 10:15 with a full nelson.
Al Williams and Jimmie Lott started the long show off with a 20-minute draw, neither grappler being able to come close to pinning his foe’s shoulders.
FRANCIS VIES FOR MAT TITLE
(The Oregonian, Portland, Ore., August 3, 1960)
A real wrestling classic awaits Portland grapple fans when world heavyweight champion Pat O’Connor faces Gentleman Ed Francis at the Armory Friday night.
A real champion, O’Connor meets all comers and in Francis faces one of the all-time great grapplers. Francis is the ex-junio rheavyweight champion, a title he held for some 14 months before finding it too difficult to meet the 200-pound limit.
The match is bound to be vicious and rugged as both grapplers are big and strong.
An all-star supporting cast also has been lined up including a tag team match between the Soldat Gorky-Kurt Von Poppenheim duo and the flashy Chief Billy White Wolf and Luigi Macera. The nasties – Gorky and Poppy – have yet to lose a match in the Northwest.
Also on the card will be a bout between Duke Keomuka and Wild Bill Savage, which could steal the show. Both are of the rough and tumble school and anything could happen.
Other matches will feature Ramon Torres against Haru Sasaki and Shag Thomas facing Ken Larimore.
Prices for the big championship card are $3 for ringside ducats, $2 for the balcony and bleachers, with kids admitted for half price. Tickets can be picked up at the Armory ticket office. Reservations are available by phoning the Armory.
KING RETAINS MAT CROWN
(The Oregonian, Portland, Ore., Saturday, Aug. 6, 1960)
World heavyweight wrestling champion Pat O’Connor and Northwest heavy king Gentleman Ed Francis battled a full 60 minutes at the Portland Armory Friday night, with O’Connor gaining the only fall in what was termed, "The greatest match ever witnessed in Portland."
It wasn’t until 35 minutes had passed that the great champion got the only fall. Francis had bounced off the ropes and was in the middle of applying a flying scissors when O’Connor converted the maneuver into a back body slam and put on a rolling pin hold.
The match was clean all the way and well received by the better than 2,500 fans.
In the semi-windup, the team of Kurt Von Poppenheim and Soldat Gorky remained undefeated as they took care of Chief Billy White Wolf and Luigi Macera in two out of three falls. The last fall was a Gorky special, the Siberian wolfleap to the throat of Macera. That ended the match and the Mexican pepperpot was hauled from the ring.
In other action, Shag Thomas defeated Ken Larimore in one fall; Ramon Torres downed Haru Sasaki in one fall, and Duke Keomuka and Wild Bill Savage battled to a no-fall draw.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 250-2002
RICH MAN, WOLFMAN
(Esquire Magazine, February, 1998)
By Charles P. Pierce
It starts as a single dollar handed over in a little place very much like the N-N Express convenience store on Hall Street in Manchester, New Hampshire. All the single dollars from all the little places in all the towns in all this great country – a roiling stampede of single dollar bills chased across the landscape the way that the Indians used to chase the buffalo herds. All the single dollars come running together, and they all end up at a place in Boston, where they all wait together until someone calls for them.
Then, every December for the next twenty-five Decembers, 2,656,258 of the single dollar bills will move as one. (If you like, this can be reckoned as 303 of them every hour, 7,277 every day, 51,082 every week, and 221,355 every month.) They come running through the federal system and into the state treasury in a place very much like Concord, New Hampshire, where 28 percent of them are siphoned off.
The rest of them are herded into a bank account belonging to two people who, one day, in no particular hurry, walked into a place called the N-N Express in Manchester to find that the money stopped right there in front of them, close enough to grab by the scruff of the neck.
And now, every December until the year 2021, 1,912,506 of those single dollar bills will make their way from Boston into the bank account of Jason and Mary Sanderson. And despite that, nearly every weekend in a small Lions Club hall off a dirt road in the middle of the beaten New Hampshire woods, Jason Sanderson will pull on his tattered jeans. He will let down his hair. He will wave his hands and stomp his feet. He will roar his mighty roar. He will throw people on their heads for the vast amusement of the children and adults who pay ten dollars to watch him do it, who gaze upon Jason Sanderson as though they were looking at the awesome power of their own dreams come alive. He will keep doing it, even though he has sixty-six million good reasons not to do it. And because of all that, because if you follow the money you will find a story of the truest America, the best country yet devised in which to be lucky, there is only one way that this story can begin, and this is it:
Once upon a time.
Once upon a time, there was a Wolfman.
Wolfmen are not born but made.
So he was not born a Wolfman but became a Wolfman later in life. He is from the woods, though, sure enough, from a small town called West Burke in what is known as the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont – Baja Quebec, truth be told – where the Wolfman and the rest of the Sandersons had been pillars of their tiny community for nearly three hundred years. The Sandersons were constables and wardens. They were mayors and ballot clerks. The son of a carpenter and the woman who drove the local school bus, Jason Sanderson was born into what passes in the Northeast Kingdom for a political machine.
"There’s one strain of the family that’s Abenaki
Indian, so I guess you can say we’ve been there since the earth cooled,"
Jason explains. "In fact, I’m about the only person in my family who’s
never held either an elective or appointive office since the family came over in
1640. I’m the one who finally figured it out and got the hell out of
West Burke has always been a rough and brawly place. A long time ago, the people of the Northeast Kingdom used to flock to wrestling matches staged by a particularly enthusiastic claque of Irish missionary priests. The matches drew their participants out of the fields and the sawmills. Yankee riverboat hands grappled with Quebecois lumberjacks. They were wild affairs, with clergy and laity alike sailing through the air and the gospel’s injunction regarding the turning of cheeks seeming more than anything else an invitation to be bitten on one of them.
When Jason Sanderson was growing up, wrestling has just moved onto television, the stark Jurassic period of the glorified whizbang that professional wrestling has become. Jason was fascinated by the shows beamed out of Montreal, the dimly lit exploits of the Vachon brothers, Butcher and Mad Dog. Jason would watch the matches endlessly. He would go out into the yard later, trying out on phantom opponents the moves that worked so well for les freres Vachon.
"It was," he says, "a living comic book."
He graduated from high school and left the Northeast Kingdom. He worked for a while on a dog ranch in Texas, herding chow chows and Great Pyrenees, mostly. He then moved back to Vermont. There was a period of about ten years during which Jason lost touch with wrestling. Then he moved back to Texas, living in Blanco, on the fringes of the Hill Country. He began following the legends of Texas wrestling – Jose Lothario in San Antonio, the Funk family from Amarillo, and the imperial Von Erichs, so many of whom came to such terrible ends. From time to time, Jason and the other ranch hands would clear out a warehouse or the back room of a bar, and they would engage in what Jason recalls as "scuffles," which were not all that different from the matches staged long ago by the grappling clerics of the Northeast Kingdom. Round and powerful, with a chest out of a waterfront saloon and hair and a beard out of the Book of Jeremiah, Jason threw himself into these scuffles with all the gusto – and science – he could muster.
"We’d just have a wrestling match," Sanderson says. "We’d try out what we saw on TV. If somebody saw a figure-four leg lock, he’d just try it. He wouldn’t do it right, but he’d try it."
Eventually, in the mid-1980s, Sanderson moved back to New England. One weekend, a friend invited him to a mid-summer fair near Salem in New Hampshire. There, Jason met Mary, a small brunette whose passion for professional wrestling nearly equaled his own. Better yet, she had cable television, which allowed Jason to catch up with what had become a booming sport. Vince McMahon’s WWF had managed to marry wrestling to entertainment with unprecedented results. (Later, of course, McMahon’s empire would stagger beneath several garish scandals, and the power in professional wrestling largely would pass to Ted Turner’s WCW operation in Atlanta.)
One night after they were married, the two of them went to a small WWF show near Salem. "She said, ‘Why don’t you try it>’" Jason recalls. "She told me that she’d rather I tried something and, even if it didn’t work, it would be better than years from now me being a bitter old man about it."
Jason looked around for someone to train him; the most obvious
choice was the wrestling school run by the legendary Walter "Killer"
Kowalski in Massachusetts, but Jason couldn’t afford the $1,700 fee. Then he
found a former student of Kowalski’s named Jeff Costa, who ran an independent
wrestling outfit near the Sandersons. He walked into Costa’s office, and Costa
had Jason take off his shirt and let down his hair. "My chest, arms, and
back look pretty much like my chin," Sanderson explains.
"I looked at him," Costa says, "and I knew I could do something with this guy." Costa asked him to snarl; Jason snarled.
All right, Costa said. You’re the Wolfman.
Fine, Jason replied. I’m the Wolfman.
(Wolfmen are not born; they are made.)
Jason began working Costa’s shows, most of which took place in the Lions Club Hall in Hudson. When he wasn’t wrestling, he worked the door, or he sold popcorn, or he mixed the various effluvia used in the famous "toilet-bowl matches," in which the loser received what used to be called a swirly in all the better frat houses. Costa originally planned to use the Wolfman as a bad guy – a "heel," as the tradecraft of wrestling has it. At his first match as the Wolfman, he scared a nephew of one of his opponents so badly that the boy never came to another show. But Jason’s heart was never in it, and, as the Wolfman quickly became one of the most popular of Costa’s wrestlers, his career as a heel was a short one.
Last December, Jason and Mary were living in a two-bedroom apartment in Manchester with three dogs, two cats, and an odd number of birds. Most of the animals came through Mary’s volunteer work at a local animal shelter. Money was as tight as space in the apartment. The payment on Jason’s truck was overdue, and he’d recently changed jobs. One morning, Mary awoke from the strangest dream. She’d been dreaming of numbers – a random procession of them, no logic or pattern, just number. Three was one of them; so were 5, 13, 18, 45, and 20.
On December 17, there was a multistate Powerball lottery
drawing. The purse of $66.4 million. Mary asked Jason if she should play the
numbers that came to her in her dream.
Of course, Jason replied, and he roller over and went back to sleep.
On the afternoon of December 17, while Jason was working on the road at his new metal-printing job, Mary went into the N-N Express store in Manchester. She handed a single dollar bill to Mohammad Nawaz, and she played the numbers that had come to her in her dream. A few hours later, she called Jason at the machine shop where he was working.
You have to come home, Mary told him. Right now.
It is Good Friday in Hudson, so the crowd in the Lions Hall is
a thin one. An oldies station from Boston, piped through the public-address
system, is warming up what patrons there are. Outside, the trees around the
parking lot are stirring at their tops with the night’s early breezes. Inside,
the houselights go down. The hall is bounded by small yellow lights at its
perimeter, and a great burst of shining white is at its center, where the ring
is. The place smells of must and old popcorn. Children run freely through the
"And now," the announcer barks, "at 290 pounds, the world’s richest wrestler – the Wolfman!"
He bounds through the arena door, hair flying to all points of the compass. He greets the folks in the ringside seats. He waves his arms. He stomps his feet. He roars his mighty roar. His opponent this night is a smallish fellow named Bart Hart, whom everyone calls "Pinky," which he purports to hate. Which means that the crowd spends most of the match chanting it at him. Perhaps inflamed by this insult to his essential dignity – or at least as much of it as can be insulted in any man dressed in flaming-pink tights – Hart resorts to subterfuge, yanking the Wolfman’s hair. It is a little like watching triple-A baseball or Ivy League football. The finely honed spectating synapses work a little faster than the action itself. A wrestler begins to tumble backward a split second BEFORE he is hit on the head. Still another grabs his back in obvious agony every time he is thrown – even if he is thrown onto his chest.
Finally, desperate to avoid being pinned, Hart lies facedown on the mat. "No playing possum on my watch," roars the Wolfman, who throws Pinky on his head, winning the match. The crowd is ecstatic. Jason stands in the ring, his arms above his head, deep in the long shadows of the arena.
He actually IS the richest wrestler in the world. (The only person involved in the sport who is richer is probably Ted Turner, whom nobody gets to throw on his head.) When word got out that Jason and Mary had hit the Powerball with the numbers out of Mary’s dream, Jeff Costa’s promotional mind went into overdrive.
"The first thing that Jeff asked me was if I was still going to wrestle," Jason explains. "He said, ‘I think we can get some publicity out of this.’"
Costa suggested to Jason that they work out a "run-in" with Captain USA and Lobster Man during the official lottery press conference. However, Mary failed to see the essential need for the presence of Lobster Man. If you do that, she told him, I am going to say that you’re all gay and I’m just the housekeeper.
"His wife didn’t go for it," says Costa sadly. "It would’ve been great, though."
However, Jason did mention an upcoming match at the press conference: Costa got the biggest crowd he’d ever put into the Lions Hall. Subsequently, Jason also consented to put the lottery money "at risk" in one of his matches. He won, of course. The purse was safe. The crowd was thrilled. "There were people there who actually thought they were wrestling for $55 million," Mary Sanderson says. "Amazing."
She immediately quit her job at the phone company ("You know those people who win the lottery and say that they’re going to keep working?" Mary told her supervisor. "I’m not one of them."), and she devoted herself to her animals. Jason stayed on at his metal-printing job, and he kept working shows for Costa.
"For a while," he says, "I was wrestling every week." There was even some stirring from Atlanta, some talk that Ted Turner might want the Wolfman for his own shows to forge an alliance between the two richest men in wrestling. "Nothing ever came of it," Jason says. "The answer would’ve been no anyway. I like what I’m doing. I like the small halls – two hundred people or so. I like walking through the crowds, feeling like I’m back home, back in the small town where I grew up.
"You know, I’ve thought a lot about why I do it, why I still do it. The only thing I can say is that wrestling is like a love affair, but it’s a love affair with a mistress that doesn’t do anything good for you, and that’s pretty demanding. Unforgiving, I’d say. I just love it. I love all of it – the stage aspect, the athletic aspect."
The first check came a few months ago, and it’s almost gone.
The Sandersons got a lawyer and an adviser to handle their money. Jason paid off
his old truck on time, at last, and he bought a new one big enough to haul the
ring around in. The mail was rough for a few months. "Congratulations on
winning the Powerball," said one letter, "even though I need the money
But the Sandersons got one letter that Jason framed. It was from a woman who signed her name only as "Louise." She was not asking for money, she said. "You have to remember that everybody else’s problems are not your problems," she wrote. "And your good fortune is not everybody else’s good fortune."
"You know," Jason says, "I never gave money to anyone who asked for it, but there have been several times, when I knew somebody needed it, that I gave it to them without a second thought. It was just somebody who deserves a break. Knowing that I can do that and then doing it, if that’s what a rich guy feels like, then I guess I feel like one."
Most of the first check went to buy a farm, a vast, rolling place at the top of a hill, an estate once owned by a toy tycoon and most recently the home of a dog-track millionaire. There is a fishpond and woodlots, and in one of the pastures there’s a helipad that the Wolfman plans to rip up soon – with his bare hands, if necessary. The three dogs and the two cats have come along, and the Wolfman’s going to buy some draft horses for the place, probably with the second of the checks that are going to come every December for the next twenty-four Decembers. All the furniture from the old two-bedroom apartment fits in one and a half of the seventeen rooms that are in the farmhouse where the Wolfman has come to live.
Plato – who had no Wolfman in his life, as far as the scholars can tell – once pointed out that, without public performance, the athlete becomes a mere brute. Every other Friday or so, the Wolfman loads up his new truck and drives it down the rolling hillside and over the back roads to Hudson, where, in a dark and noisy hall, he performs. He doesn’t have to perform, but he does. And the people all cheer, and they are happy for a time, and then the Wolfman drives home again, over the back roads and up the little hillside to his place. And this is where the story ends, on a quiet hillside budding thick with the coming summer – a bright-green corner of the best country yet devised in which to be lucky, where all the single dollar bills finally came to rest once upon a time.
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