THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 251-2002
MATMEN MUST POST FORFEIT FOR SANCTION
(Associated Press, Friday, January 31, 1930)
CINCINNATI -- Midnight tomorrow is the last hour the 19 wrestlers declared eligible by the National Boxing Association can enter a sanctioned tournament for world's titles.
Ten of them have qualified and posted forfeits ranging from $2,500 to $5,000, Stanley M. Isaacs, president of the N.B.A., announced today.
Isaacs said all not entering by the time limit will be indefinitely suspended from wrestling in the 32 states forming the N.B.A. territory. The N.B.A. also has announced that wrestlers defeated before the first official elimination bout on March 1 automatically become ineligible to participate in the championship matches.
Two contestants have posted $5,000 forfeits and are eligible to meet as heavyweights. They are John Pesek, Ravenna, Neb., and Jim Londos, Philadelphia. Pete Sauer, one of the original five eligible heavies, has been eliminated. Gus Sonnenberg, Providence, R.I., has refused to enter, opposing the N.B.A. rulings. Richard Schikat, Philadelphia, has not directly indicated his intentions, Isaacs said.
Three entries posted $2,500 forfeits in the light-heavy class and are eligible. They are Hugh Nichols, Mexia, Texas; Pinkie Gardner, Schenectady, N.Y., and Joe Banaskie, Chicago. Ted Thye, Portland, Ore., has not been heard from and Clarence Eklund, Buffalo, Wyo., refused to enter, saying he did not believe in supervision of wrestling by either state or national bodies.
In the middleweight class, Gus Kallio, Finland; Ralph Parcaut, Spencer, Ia., and Ray Carpenter, Lancaster, O., have qualified. Charles Fischer, Butternut, Wis., refused to post a forfeit, claiming he already is champion of two classes, the middle and light-heavyweight. Bobby Myers, Portland, Ore., has not declared himself.
Charley Grip, Huntington, W.Va., and Jack Reynolds, Cincinnati, have qualified in the welterweight class. Two other welters, Billy Hallas, Canutilla, Tex., and Robin Reed, Reedsport, Ore., have informed the N.B.A. they are trying to raise their forfeit money.
Russell Vis, Los Angeles, the fifth eligible welterweight, has not signified his intention. Isaacs said he understands Viz wishes to retire.
A special meeting of the entire N.B.A. will be held here Monday during whidch time public drawing will be made from the qualified entries determining the matches. The first two names drawn will meet on March 1.
Promoters have until February 15 to bid for the matches.
BOXING BODY DRAWS MAT PAIRINGS
(Associated Press, Monday, February 3, 1930)
CINCINNATI -- The National Boxing Association met heree today in special session and drew match pairings to determine official wrestling championships.
Only two men qualified for the heavyweight title -- John Pesek, Ravenna, Neb., and Jim Londos, Philadelphia. Pinkie Gardner, Schenectady, N.Y., and Joe Banaskie, Chicago, were paired in the light-heavy class and the winner will wrestle Hugh Nichols, Mexia, Tex., for the title. Gus Kallio, Finland, and Ralph Parcaut, Spencer, Ia., meet in the first middleweight contest. Ray Carpenter, Lancaster, Ohio, obtained the bye and will grapple the Kallio-Parcaut victor for the title.
Charley Grip, Huntington, W.Va., and Jack Reynolds, Cincinnati, were the only qualifiers for the welterweight title.
The managers of Pesek and Londos told the N.B.A. that if the organization would permit they wanted the winner of the official heavyweight bout to meet Gus Sonnenberg, Providence, R.I., and Richard Shikat, Philadelphia. The latter two heavyweights are under suspension for failure to enter the tournament, but the N.B.A. voted to reinstate either or both if they will meet the Pesek-Londos winner.
A NEW WRESTLING FIND
(Boxing & Wrestling News, April 1933)
By Marvin Williams
When we discover that a youngster of barely twenty-one summers in the short space of less than a year has already nearly defeated a great ex-champion, Gus Sonnenberg, and recently gave the present champion, Jim Browning, a tough battle, we naturally prick up our ears and decide to look into the matter. We realize that this is a very rare case. We remember that such a fine wrestler as Earl McCready, after successfully wrestling for years, made the statement when a match between himself and Jim Londos was talked about, "I am not yet ready to meet Londos. I feel that I require more experience."
We wonder if Paul Boesch is too ambitious and if he will be a flash in the pan? We wonder if he will grow discouraged by being defeated, even though the defeats thus far have only been at the hands of the finest? Or can it be possible that Paul is a "great"; one of those instinctive wrestlers who acquires great skill without long years of practice? Perhaps he figures that the finest experience in the world can only come from real matches against the best.
At any rate, Paul Boesch has proven himself a capable and determined wrestler and if properly coached and guided should go far up the ladder of wrestling fame.
This youngster is by race a German-Hebrew and was discovered by the wrestling fraternity when a life guard at Long Beach, New York. Starting in 1932 he decisively won his first seven starts by the adroit usage of the flying tackle. So impressive was his work that it was decided that he was good enough to enter the Jewish championship race of which clique (Herb) Freeman is considered one of the best. The bout was accordingly arranged and a really fine crowd turned out to watch this youngster strut his stuff against a veteran of many years' experience.
It required but a few minutes to discover that this lad was no setup and the crowd became delirious in their praise when they saw that actually he was out in front and that Freeman was indeed sorely pressed. But suddenly the picture changed. We are reminded of some of the early bouts of Gus Sonnenberg, when he was acquiring the perfection which is now his, the flying tackle. Gus at first could not always control his leap, and for that matter even to this day often lands outside the ring. Was it not in an early match against Joe Malcewicz that Gus flew out of the ring and struck his head "kerplunk" against a concrete post?
Well, Paul Boesch, sensing that he had Freeman sufficiently softened for a fall, struck like lightning with a flying tackle but, alas, he only grazed Freeman and suddenly discovered himself flying out and landing entirely off the apron of the ring on the floor and with such terrific force that one shoulder was so badly wrenched he could not continue.
So, temporarily, we find this ex-life guard recuperating from his injuries. We might fill in this breathing spell by describing the tactics of this stripling; he weighs but a scant 192 pounds, which is very light for a full-fledged wrestler. In appearance, one is reminded of another Jewish hero, Sammy Stein. And like Stein, who is a former professional football player, Paul uses the flying tackle as his most effective weapon. The critics of the mat say that he is only surpassed by "Dynamite" Gus Sonnenberg in his ability to use this weapon. Like Gus he can spring from any position and employ the sam neck twist as he lands, which plays havoc with the mid-section of the unfortunate recipient. Paul is daily practicing other holds but, of course, will require quite a considerable amount of time before he can become really adept at all the most important ones.
So, in January, 1933, we find Paul Boesch once more squared off on the mat. This time his opponent was Wong Bock Cheung, the Chinese who has been cutting quite a picture and who has been rather impressive in his ability to adopt his style to the American methods. The bout was only a preliminary, but we find that the press notices the following day devoted more space to this bout than to the final.
Yes, sir, the bout was fast and furious and for twenty-nine minutes they kept the crowd at fever pitch, but finally Paul caught the "Chink" with one of his deadly tackles and naturally the Chinaman dropped like a shot, but quickly arose before Paul could follow up his advantage. Then one, two, three more sudden tackles until Bock Cheung was helpless and fell an easy prey to a body press. How often have we seen Gus perform this same trick? Particularly do we remember the way he flopped the mighty "Strangler" Lewis with seven straight tackles.
The striking similarity was so evident to one and all that it was instantly decided that the crowd would love to see a bout between Paul and Gus. So the matter was easily arranged and on January 26th we find the two going at it hammer and tongs.
If the fans had been startled by seeing Paul Boesch's supremacy in the Freeman match, they were even more astounded when they saw the mighty Gus being tossed about like a pigmy by this human dynamo. Five times by actual count did Paul throw Gus through the ropes; and they were not love pats which accomplished this feat. Once and once only was Gus able to connect with his famous crouching dive and then Paul was clever enough to avoid the body press which inevitably follows a successful tackle of Gus'. Several times Paul had Gus in such a position that the referee commenced his count. Now some of us will say, what is unusual about this so far? Does not Gus quite often resort to this trick of being seemingly helpless, of being sorely pressed, only to become suddenly galvanized into action when least expected and catapult his victim into oblivion? True, Gus has done this on more than one occasion and particularly when against a less experienced foe. True it is that Gus may have started off in this battle with the same idea. But those at the ringside will argue long and hard that he soon gave up the idea and was really battling to stave off defeat and to emerge the victor.
Finally, Paul connected with a deadly tackle which sent the mighty Gus spinning to the floor. Five successive tackles found Gus in the same position that he has so often inflicted on others. We find Gus, starry-eyed and almost out, backed in the corner of the ropes holding himself up for dear life. Another deadly dive, but this time Gus unconsciously raised a knee for protection. It was too late for Paul to see the move, knee and head collided and Paul fell. The force of the dive sent Gus back into the ropes, but the recoil of the ropes threw him forward and he landed on Paul's back. With that instinctive ability which is the greatest asset of a real wrestler, and Gus has certainly proved to the satisfaction of all that he is, Gus dazedly pressed Paul Boesch's shoulders to the mat. A great bout was over. But when Gus' arm was raised as the victor it was he and not Paul Boesch who was still dazed. He actually had to be led to his corner so confused was he.
So Paul Boesch lost his chance to achieve the seemingly impossible. If he had, as he came mighty near doing, pinned the famous Gus, what a shout would have gone up. A youngster with scarcely twenty bouts to his credit defeating the maestro, Gus Sonnenberg, with a thousand and more matches to his credit.
When a return bout takes place as is bound to take place sooner or later, what a thrill will be awaiting the fans.
Naturally, this bout earned for Paul a return match with Freeman and so in the metropolis of Camden we find the "encore" staged.
Freeman was the first to employ illegal methods and to some extent weakened his foe to gain the first fall. After Boesch had tried a flying tackle, he attempted another, only to have Freeman halt his rush by clamping his hands under the German's chin to floor the latter with a crash. But Paul wiggled away and hit Herbie flush in the stomach with a flying tackle and when he attempted another, Freeman caught him again under the chin with clasped hands and Boesch landed on his back with a crash. Freeman was on top like a flash and Boesch could not free himself 'til the fatal three was counted.
Resuming the fray, Freeman scored with a number of forearm blows, Boesch going down three times in succession, but suddenly he unleashed a flying tackle that caught the Hebrew in the pit of the stomach, to score the second fall in four minutes and twenty-eight seconds.
Soon after they re-entered the ring, Boesch used a ruse in scoring the deciding fall. While exchanging blows, Boesch stopped suddenly and glanced towards the roof of the armory, Freeman following Boesch's gaze. Paul then caught his foe unawares and floored him with a flying tackle in seven minutes and thirty-one seconds.
So, in round two between these two, we find Paul Boesch sitting pretty and we wager to say that when the third bout is arranged we will find Paul on top once more.
That little ruse of the German once more reminds us of the similarity between him and Gus Sonnenberg.
With this victory under his belt we find Paul tangling with Tiny Roebuck and adding him to his list of victims in twenty-seven minutes and two seconds. Likewise, Bill Middlekauf felt the weight of this terrific tackler.
We will not discuss the fray between Jim Browning and Paul because it happened so recently that I believe the bout still remains clearly in most of our minds.
Rather would I like to wind up this little yarn about this remarkable lad by paying tribute to his courage and ability on such short notice to tangle with the finest in the wrestling game. I would like, however, to sound a note of caution and say that I hope he will not become too confident and will continue his practice of diligent training and the mastering of all the holds of this great game of wrestling.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 252-2002
RESIN THESPIANS OFFER 'TONIGHT AT 8:30'
(Rocky Mountain News, Denver CO, Sunday, Dec. 5, 1937)
By Abe Pollock
Our dear resin thespians, the muscle necks, will light the gas lamps tomorrow night at City Auditorium in another of those spasms of playlets made famous by Noel Coward
The wrestlers, under the guidance of Impressario Jack Kanner, will present matdom's version of "Tonight at 8:30" in five, instead of nine, short -- shall we say -- plays. Heading the list will be Gus Sonnenberg, ace of all the muggers, and Bill Longson in a 90-minute, two-out-of-three engagement.
Other heart-stirring dramas will be dished out by Benny Ginsberg and George Harben, Dick Lever and Lee Henning, Abe Friedman and Bob Jessen, Ray Laffoon and Tom Zaharias. It should be wonderful.
Incidentally, the wrestling "tent shows" will be quite prominent in Colorado for the next 10 days. From the State Boxing Commission comes word that three different stables are putting on shows in our fair state within a period of less than two weeks.
The combined headed by Toots Mondt, former Coloradan, with headquarters in New York City, has charge of the wrestlers appearing on the card here Monday night.
Fremont County Athletic Club's show last night at Canon City was supplied by the Sam Bauman-Johnny Atkins stable out of Kansas City. Ira Dern's clan of bone benders, operating thru Utah and the Northwest, will put on their acts at Grand Jundction Thursday night.
The Grand Junction card follows: Ira Dern vs. Jim Romero, Floyd Hanson vs. Earl McCann, Jimmy Reynolds vs. Lee Chase, Bob Thomas vs. Earl Lacy.
'MAT CHAMP' APPEARS HERE WEDNESDAY
(Rocky Mountain News, Denver CO, Sunday, Dec. 12, 1937)
By Abe Pollock
Royalty will honor us with its presence here next Wednesday night and I don't mean the duke and duchess.
Dean Detton, who claims the world's heavyweight wrestling championship by the glace of the Lord and a strong right arm, will defend his claim to the coveted crown against Bill Longson in the top spot on a five-bout cauliflower carnival.
Detton's dynasty can be traced to his victory over youthful Dave Levin in Philadelphia last year, according to mat historians, making Deanie champion No. 1324. Which reminds us of a crack not long ago about all this business. Said the wag:
"There are ten heavyweight wrestling champions now campaigning, or, one to each customer at the present gate figures."
At least, Mr. Detton has a great press agent. Says the tub thumper (and I believe every little word of it):
"Since stripping Dave Levin of the heavyweight title in Philadelphia, Detton has been a busy champion, wrestling night after night and defending his prize bauble against all comers. The Salt Lake City grappler is reaping a fortune, but has no intentions of retiring from the game unless defeated by some outstanding foe worthy of wearing the crown."
I like that part about "unless defeated by some outstanding foe worthy, etc." It just goes to prove what is inside one of those strong, noble gentlemen who bend bones and scramble ears.
I'm afraid, however, Mr. Detton will not increase his "fortune" by any four figures here Wednesday night when he so graciously flexes his muscles for the dear filberts of this city. Last week's receipts barely reached $700, so Deanie must be wrestling for his own amusement as well as for the enjoyment of the populace.
As far as I know, Deanie is the only heavyweight champion of the world on the card Wednesday night. No doubt, several of the supporting cast can show you medals and certificates of lesser titles.
In the minor playlets, Pat Fraley meets Dick Lever, Benny Ginsberg takes on Lee Henning, Joe (Wop) Tonti meets George Harben and Bob Jessen opposes Bobby Stewart.
The show starts at 8:30 o'clock. Promoter Kanner assures the customers the crowd will be handled with less confusion than was the Denver-Colorado football crush.
ED LEWIS TO QUIT WRESTLING
(United Press, Saturday, Dec. 11, 1937)
NEW YORK -- Ed (Strangler) Lewis cocked a cauliflower ear to the warnings of time today and announce he would retire from the wrestling ring and live in Hollywood with his wife.
"I've been wrestling for 30 years," he said on the liner Washington. "I am now 46. I weigh 250 pounds and I was the undisputed world's champion five times."
He decried the present-day slambang, unscientific wrestling.
DETTON PINS LONGSON IN MAT GO
(Rocky Mountain News, Denver CO, Thursday, Dec. 16, 1937)
By Abe Pollock
A couple of boys from the other side of the divide -- Salt Lake City -- staged a little home-town brawl in our midst last night with Dean Detton, the former Utah U. football player, making Bill Longson say "uncle" in the feature of a pretty good wrestling show in City Auditorium.
Longson, 228 pounds, quit after 11 minutes, 10 seconds of the third and deciding fall as Detton allegedly applied plenty of pressure on what appeared to be a torturous leg hold.
Previously, the 205-pound Detton ended the first fall in exactly 29 seconds. He simply walked out, let fly a couple of haymakers to the jaw and fell on the prone William.
But the popular Longson fellow came back to take the second stanza in 17 minutes, 48 seconds while the thousand customers cheered. Bill clamped on one headlock after another to daze Dangerous Dean, then flung him to the mat for the fall.
Pat Fraley, a 225-pound giant, made quite a bow before the local filberts by leaping into the air to kick Abe Friedman, 215, out of commission in 13 minutes, 17 seconds of the semi-windup.
Fraley leaped up, kicked Abie in the midsection, then slammed him to the mat for the fall.
The preliminaries were better than average in spite of the small crowd. Bob Jessen opened the show by kicking Al Laffoon in the chin to get a fall in 10:15. The boys offered considerable action during their say.
Joe Tonti and George Harben went 20 minutes to a draw in an eventful skirmish.
Benny Ginsberg, the best showman of the lot, body slammed Lee Henning into submission in 15 minutes, 57 seconds. Benny was as bad as always, which made the show a pretty good one.
PRIMO CARNERA IS ILL
(United Press, Thursday, Dec. 16, 1937)
BUDAPEST -- Primo Carnera, former world heavyweight boxing champion, has suffered a hemorrhage of the kidneys, according to physicians. It was said, however, that he would recover in time to fulfill an engagement here Sunday.
EVERETT MARSHALL SUSPENDED
(United Press, Saturday, December 18, 1937)
TOPEKA, Kan. -- Everett Marshall of La Junta, Colo., one of the "champions" of the wrestling fraternity, tonight was under suspension in Kansas. Frank Gilleece, executive secretary of the Kansas Athletic Commission, said the order would be in effect until Marshall explains his failure to appear at Wichita last July.
PRIMO, POOR AND ILL, WILL NEVER FIGHT AGAIN
(Associated Press, Sunday, Dec. 19, 1937)
BUDAPEST -- Primo Carnera, lonesome, poor and assured his fighting days are over, will be taken to Venice Tuesday.
He has been in a sanatorium here with a kidney hemorrhage which physicians say will prevent him fighting again. He still looks pale and ill and his kidneys are in such a condition another hemorrhage my occur.
But Primo wants very badly to go home to his mother, so the Italian legation has arranged to take him.
"My mother didn't know I was sick. Otherwise she would have spent all she had to come see me," he said today. "I was desperately lonesome in this hospital. Nobody called. Nobody sent flowers. I hope I recover my health in Venice.
"I never have been to school and I can barely read and write so I can't do anything but manage a small Venice hotel which I once bought with my savings and which my mother now is managing.
"I once had many dollars, but all I have got to show for it is that hotel. I never thought I would have to live on that. I am certain my fighting days are over."
Carnera stretches out on two hospital beds. Nearby he has a small valise containing a silk dressing gown, a memento of his "salad days" when he fought at Madison Square Garden and in the Yankee Stadium.
NOTE: (Dec. 30, 1937) ... Bronko Nagurski publicity claims 235 wins in 236 matches since turning to pro wrestling mat ...
LONDOS, THE GREEK WHO GAVE SEX APPEAL TO RASSLIN'
(United Press, February 6, 1938)
By Jack Guenther
LOS ANGELES -- Jimmy Londos, kingpin of Great Britain, Arabia, Bangor, Maine, and several other points north and west, returns to American wrestling again tomorrow for the advertised purpose of earning his third million dollars.
Except that his black hair is a trifle thinner and his classical body a bit thicker, Londos has changed little since he arrived from Greece two dozen years ago and introduced sex appeal into a sport that then was floundering badly. At 41, he is the same little fellow, matching his speed against the weight and blubber of maulers.
Despite a career longer and more arduous than that of any wrestler save Ed (Strangler) Lewis, Jimmy still is sleek and handsome, still polished and affable, and, like Old Man River, still is rolling along. He claims the reasons he is able to do it are simple.
"Jeemy" is one of the wealthiest men in sports
For this reason, a large block of local patrons scoff at money as a pretense for the comeback. Its actual purpose is slightly sinister and very complicated, hinging on the Pacific Coast trust's latest attempt to prove itself bigger than its synthetic champion, who at the moment is Bronko Nagurski.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 253-2002
MUCH WRESTLING BALLYHOO
(Rocky Mountain News, Denver CO, Thursday, Feb. 17, 1938)
By Abe Pollock
There seems to be no limit to the believing of a wrestling fan.
We say this after digging ourself from under a deluge of canned publicity as ground out by the tub thumpers employed by an Eastern mat trust and we muyst add that either the gentle filberts who worship the scrambled ears are as naive as adolescents or the tin-ear literati is underestimating the intelligence of the feverish fantatics.
Stacks upon stacks of pretty envelopes have been finding their way to our desk for lo so many weeks.
For brief moments each day, we are flattered, but we are soon disillusioned for instead of the mailman bringing mash notes from comely widows and invitations from one of the Astors or Vanderbilts to spend the winter on their yacht in the tropics we find that he has brought terse little dispatches from the headquarters of a cauliflower farm.
To read it and believe it a person would have to strain his capacity for nonsense. In fact, one's mental equipment would be subjected to risk of a compound fracture. The publicity is a cross between war propaganda as dashed off by the Spanish Loyalists, Grimm's Fairy Tales and the dream of a Chinese who just inhaled enough opium smoke to float the ghost of the ill-fated Hindenberg dirigible.
We give you excerpts from some of the stuff. Please stick around near the water cooler in event this affects you:
"Louis Thesz, world heavyweight wrestling champion, has declared war on all Irish wrestlers. Thesz wrote promoter Paul Bowser that he has already disposed of one Irishman and that he will fairly crucify Crusher Casey in their bout in Boston."
Doesn't that excite you?
And now we quote from a stirring speech credited to Mr. Thesz:
"I understand Casey's three brothers are heading for America. Well, when I finish with Steve it will be a lesson for his brothers and other Irishmen to stay over in their country, right where they belong. It makes me fairly boil to see these Harps come to our country and take away our money. Irishmen haven't done wrestling or any other sport any good and my job is to rid the game of them."
This gives you a pretty fair idea that a heart of gold with platinum inlay is carried around in the manly bosom of our champion.
And now we pass the loud speaker to Casey, who, with the aid of the press agent, speaks thusly:
"I promised my friends in Ireland that I was coming to America to win the world championship and I want to make good my word."
And the government refuses the use of its mails to fake oil promoters!
(ED. NOTE -- Per usual, the aging Mr. Pollock failed to note a key ingredient of the above exchange. The title match between Thesz and Casey had taken place the preceding week, Casey winning the title belt at Boston Garden.)
PRIMO CARNERA ON FEET
(United Press, February 18, 1938)
PADUA, Italy -- For the first time in 15 days of convalescence after a kidney operation, former heavyweight boxing champion Primo Carnera stood up today. Aided by a cane, he took a few steps. He said he still was extremely weak.
WRESTLER LAUDS AUSTRALIAN SPORT
(United Press, Sunday, March 8, 1938)
LONDON, Eng. -- Australia and New Zealand are the true homes of scientific wrestling, declares Earl McCready, 29-year-old claimant ot the heavyweight wrestling title of the British Empire, who has arrived in England from Canada on a "crusade."
Denouncing the "all-in" variety of wrestling as a travesty of the true sport, McCready announced that he will not wrestle in any hall where the "all-in" game is shown, but if any of its exponents doubt that he is British Empire heavyweight champion, McCready will meet the doubter in a gymnasium with a referee and sporting writers as an audience and without payment.
"I do hope," he said, "that the scientific sport, catch-as-catch-can style, again will become popular over here. I am told that a great many sportsmen in England have ceased to be interested in wrestling here because the 'all-in' variety has antagonized them. I should imagine it would antagonize anyone with elementary knowledge of the sport."
NAGURSKI TOSSES SZABO TO RETAIN TITLE
(Rocky Mountain News, Denver CO, Friday, Apr. 15, 1938)
By Chester Nelson
A mighty man is the Nagurski!
The 230-pound Bronko toppled Sandor Szabo, "Denver's hero" of grunt and groan, retained his world heavyweight title and showed his muscles splendidly before 2,520 rain-dampened customers in City Auditorium.
The "Nag," famous for his deeds in professional football, showed the partisan gathering some scientific grappling, if a serious thought may be had at this point, in spinning the 215-pound Hungarian Adonis to the canvas for the necessary three seconds twice in three falls.
Bronko toppled the brown-skinned and handsome Szabo in 21 minutes 3 seconds for the first fall which was action in direct contrast to the rowdy-dow theatrics our patient faithful have been accustomed to.
Nagurski rammed Sandor to the floor a half dozen times with authoritative flying tackles, then flung his vast frame on his shoulders for the duke.
Szabo won the second fall after being allegedly on the ragged edge several times. He flipped the huge Bronko to the canvas with head holds three times, then toppled him with an arm press and head hold, so my neighbor explained. The time was 12 minutes 20 seconds.
Nagurski shook himself out of a headlock and clamped Sandor to the mat with a body press after six minutes 15 seconds to walk out of the arena victorious.
It was indeed refreshing the way the pair of gladiators refrained from the phonus-balonus rough tactics and supplied a display of strength work with their holds.
Perhaps it wasn't as exciting as some of the Bull Martin exploits, but it was not without its interest as fully three-fourths of the crowd urged the underdog Szabo on.
At least Nagurski showed he was a better wrestler than showman. He didn't choose the ringsiders, and he didn't do a lot of phony eye-gouging, slugging and kicking. And Szabo -- well, that guy was good enough to win two Olympic championships back yonder, so he knows a little about the more earnest endeavor.
The show wasn't without its showmen being as how Bull Martin and the Golden Terror, a pair of fat men with loud voices, were in the prelims.
Martin, as good as ever, found an enthusiastic youngster in Tommy O'Toole, a fine brother of a lad to be sure, and was stripped of his wrist tape and tossed in 15 minutes 45 seconds of the semi-windup.
The Terror, children, flopped Tony Pilduski in 10 minutes 6 seconds, then came back to throw George Becker in seven minutes 46 seconds to make good his advertised boast of throwing two men inside of 30 minutes.
Mike Strelich toppled Pancho Valdez in 11 minutes 10 seconds of the curtain raiser.
GEORGE ZAHARIAS SUSPENDED
(Associated Press, November 30, 1938)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- George Zaharias, 235, Pueblo, Colo., cannot wrestle in Missouri for the next 30 days, under a ruling by Garrett Smalley, chairman of the Missouri Athletic Commission. Smalley ruled the Coloradan threw a chair at Frank Sexton, 240, Columbus, Ohio, during a match last night, disqualifying himself.
DEMPSEY TOYS WITH IDEA OF RING GO WITH MR. TUNNEY
(Syndicated column, Saturday, July 20, 1940)
By John Lardner
CHICAGO -- Jack Dempsey, Democrat, of New York, is here in Chicago with a small party, including two bruised ribs and one swollen ear.
Mr. Dempsey did not acquire these souvenirs from the delegates, whom he kept in line in his capacity of assistant sergeant-at-arms at the Democratic convention. The delegates are soft and timid fellows. They revere Mr. Dempsey, and buckle to his slightest wish. If all the men he met in this world were delegates, Mr. Dempsey would be a happier citizen.
Unfortunately, the world is also full of sulky wrestlers with coarse manners. Mr. Dempsey has been fighting characters like this recently for several thousand dollars a performance, and though he always wins by a knockout, coveniently early, he sometimes wonders whether the business really pays.
Two weeks ago he suffered bruises and abrasions while subduing Cowboy Luttrall in Atlanta, Ga. This week he received a further bruise in the ribs and a puffed ear, the gifts of one Bull Curry, Detroit wrestler.
Aside from these wounds, the damage to Mr. Dempsey's dignity has been terrific. Mr. Bull Curry held Jack in his headlock till the great man's face turned mauve. He also hauled Mr. Dempsey out of the ring in one of the double jackknife dives so dear to the hearts of wrestlers. He was uncouth from start to finish, and he humiliated Mr. Dempsey in from of Mr. Dempsey's friends.
In revenge, the best Jack could do was to knock "The Bull" out, and this was a hollow satisfaction, since Mr. Dempsey had no way of telling whether the Bull was really out or not. Mr. Curry often flops from force of habit.
"Why am I doing it?" says Mr. Dempsey. "To be very frank with you, boy, I am doing it for the dough."
Mr. Dempsey's predicament is tragic. He is a rich man, but he is land-poor, annuity-por, and alimony-poor. For the sake of ready cash, he must sacrifice his prestige to the boorish society of wrestlers.
Mr. Dempsey has annuities totaling $400,000, but they will not fall due till 1942. He has $65,000 sunk, and well sunk, in his tea-shoppe on Broadway, New York City. He has deposited $150,000, per arrangement, to the accounts of his two daughters. He has a piece of this and a piece of that, but nothing that pays off in cash.
The support of his wife (they were recently separated) will set Mr. Dempsey back a stiff toll every week, and he is still one of the world's softest touches for a loan.
A notion very close to Mr. Dempsey's heart at the moment is that of luring Mr. Gene Tunney, the rich Connecticut bourgeois, back to the ring in Chicago for a brief fight. He admits that such a spectacle would draw something less than the $3,000,000 Dempsey and Tunney drew in Chicago thirteen years ago, but something less than $3,000,000 might still be something pretty good.
"Where's the harm in it?" demands Mr. Dempsey. "The Red Cross would cut in for a good amount. Gene and me are both in good shape for our age, and we know enough about this business not to get hurt or break any blood vessels. It would be a nice show, and the public would get a wallop out of it."
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 254-2002
WRESTLER BARRED IN TEXAS
(Associated Press, Thursday, January 8, 1942)
AUSTIN, Tex. -- Mike London, a claimant to the junior light heavyweight wrestling championship of the world, today was barred from exhibitions in Texas for an indefinite period by John D. Reed, state labor commissioner.
The license of London, who has been appearing over the state, especially in El Paso, was suspended because of the wrestler's alleged failure to fulfill a contract with promoter Harry Coffman to meet Don Hill in El Paso last Tuesday.
MATMEN TO GET MINIMUM PAY
(Associated Press, January 26, 1942)
DETROIT -- John J. Hettche stepped out today as the grunt and groan artists' best friend.
The Michigan boxing commissioner announced he is putting the wrestling business in the state on a pay-as-you-go basis by establishing minimum pay rates for the performers. He acted afrter Walter Roxy, a veteran wrestler, had protested that an exhibition at one of Detroit's leading wrestling centers had yielded him only $5.
Another wrestler reported he received $1.99 for working in a doubleheader. At another show the same performer said he was paid 50 cents for a bout, then earned an additional $1.49 by pinch-hitting for a wrestler who failed to show up.
MAT TILT WON BY HOLBROOK
(Arizona Republic, Phoenix AZ, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 1942)
Vic Holbrook added another of the wrestling game's "meanies" to his list of vanquished foes last night as he won in straight falls from Phoenix' current mystery grappler, the Masked Boom Boom, in less than 20 minutes of ring activity.
Holbrook, 230-pounder from Boston, Mass., cut loose with a series of flying tackles to soften up Boom Boom and then pinned him with a full body press to take the first fall in 17:12.
When the action was resumed the Mystery Man decided to get some satisfaction by fair or foul means and, brushing referee Frenchy Leavitte aside when he sought to interfere, proceeded to attempt to choke Holbrook with the aid of the ring ropes.
Finally despairing of convincing Boom Boom that he meant business, referee Leavitte brought an end to the proceedings by awarding the second and deciding fall to Holbrook, disqualifying Boom Boom in 2:46.
In the twin half of the main event, Alberto Corral, 220, Mexico City, won in straight falls from Mike Mazurki, 232, New York City. Corral, popular with the galleries, annexed the first fall in 10:02 with a half nelson and body press, and the second in 11:45 with a standing leg split.
In the one-fall, 20-minute opener, Leavitte, warming for his refereeing job, pinned Chief Shoulderblade, 255, Kingfisher, Okla., in 5:35 with a full body press.
CURLS 'N' ALL, 'GORGEOUS GEORGE' LEGAL NOW
(International News Service, Tuesday, Dec. 26, 1950)
LOS ANGELES -- George Raymond Wagner, the wrestler, legally died today.
In his stead was "Gorgeous George," the wrestler with the marcelled locks and bulging bankroll.
The large hunk of humanity who is one of the "grunt and groan" fraternity's leading personalities, asked for and was granted the legal name of "Gorgeous George" in place of his former monicker. His wife, Betty, received a new handle -- "Mrs. Gorgeous George."
George arrived in court in a purple suit, gray tie with an orchid painted on it, yellow shirt and yellow pocket hanky, and golden curls, but without his valet, red carpet and perfume spray gun.
JUMBO KENNEDY, FORMER GIANT WRESTLER, DIES
(United Press, January 24, 1957)
SAN FRANCISCO -- Willie (Jumbo) Kennedy, once known as the world's biggest wrestler, died last night of a heart ailment resulting from his obesity.
Kennedy was stricken at his apartment. He died shortly after entering a hospital. His physician was Dr. Bobby Brown, former New York Yankee third baseman.
Kennedy's weight was a matter of conjecture at the time of his death. He outweighed the hospital scales, which go only up to 400 pounds. Hospital attendants guessed he might have weighed as much as 600 pounds.
Brown said Kennedy's usual size was swelled as a result of fluids caused by his heart ailment.
Twelve ambulance stewards and firemen were required to carry Kennedy from his apartment to the ambulance. He was strapped in a heavy duty rescue stretcher for the move.
Kennedy weighed in at 465 pounds for his first wrestling match here May 4, 1947. He flattened his opponent, Brono Valdez of Mexico City, in two minutes and 14 seconds.
The state athletic commission suspended him temporarily two years later when his weight shot up to 550 pounds.
Kennedy once played football for the University of San Francisco. His football weight was 375 pounds.
TAG TEAM GO ENDS IN RIOT AS ROPE SNAPS
(Fresno Bee, Sunday, December 7, 1957)
What happened to the top strand of the ring rope in the Fresno Memorial Auditorium is almost as big a puzzler to DAV Club wrestling matchmaker as what happened to the usual steady crowd of mat fans last night. There were few to see the show.
When five big bruisers got into the ring last night in what was scheduled to be a singles "grudge" match between Mike Sharpe and Ilio DiPaolo, the "unbreakable" strand finally gave way under their combined weights.
Mike and Ilio each had won a fall apiece. DiPaolo had Mike in an airplane spin, about ready to flop Mike to the canvas. Then Mike's brother Ben stepped into the ring and tripped up Ilio. All three piled into the strand (rubber covered hemp) and it broke. This prompted Tex McKenzie, an earlier performer, to jump to Ilio's aid. Next came Stan Kowalski into the fray -- a free for all. The referee and police at ringside finally halted it and DiPaolo was decreed the victor because Ben Sharpe was the first violator.
In the tag team match which preceded, a tame affair by comparison, Ben Sharpe pinned McKenzie, then McKenzie pinned Ben. Kowalski subdued Bobo Brazil for the third fall, giving victory to Ben and Kowalski.
Al Torres pinned Bud Curtis with a reverse arm lock in 15:37 of the opener.
TORRES, WARREN KEEP TAG TEAM CROWN, PRONE
(Fresno Bee, Tuesday, May 25, 1958)
Ramon Torres and Nick Warren still are the National Wrestling Alliance tag team champions but the latter is a little worse for wear following a technical draw with grid stars Leo Nomellini and Don Manoukian in the Memorial Auditorium last night.
The match was deadlocked at one fall each when Nomellini, the San Francisco Forty Niners star tackle, and Warren collided head-on in the center of the ring after each missed a flying tackle.
Both were knocked out and although Nomellini was revived after about a minute referee Art Williams counted both grapplers out and called the match a technical draw. Warren was carted from the ring on a stretcher.
Manoukian pinned Torres in 21:30 with flying tackles and Torres returned the favor in 6:18 with the same tactics.
In the semi-windup Tiny Mills and Johnny Barend exchanged falls before Williams disqualified Mills for roughness and awarded the match to Barend. Mills banged Barend's head against the ring post and refused to stop despite Williams' warnings.
Mike Valentino and Ramon Torres grappled to a 30-minute, no-fall draw in the special opener.
VILLAINS LOSE TAG TEAM MATCH MATCH
(Fresno Bee, Sunday, August 10, 1958)
Villains Strutter DuBuque and Mike Valentino, with an assist from poison oak and some unethical tactics by Hombre Montana, continue unbeaten as a tag team in the Fresno Memorial Auditorium.
The pair snatched victory over John Barend and Montana by winning two of three falls in the heavyweight feature match. The 300-plus-pound Montana came in as a last-minute substitution for soldier Nick Warren, who is confined to Fort Ord with a dose of poison oak.
So, Montana started off the activities by trying to give Barend some help. This prompted referee Jack Kenyon to disqualify the team for the illegal action.
Montana made up for it about eight minutes later by softening up Valentino with a bear hug and then applying a body press. DuBuque, however, copped the decider by pinning Barend.
The midget grapplers ended their performance on a happy note as Tiny Tim and Little Red Feather took two of three falls from rough housers Bull Brummel and Tennessee James.
DAV Club promoter Al Dermer said one of the largest crowds of youngsters ever to see wrestling turned out for the show, primarily because of the midgets.
The Red Hangman used head butts to subdue Jim Siskay in the 30-minute preliminary.
(ED. NOTE -- "Nick Warren" was the name Nick Bockwinkel used -- a variation of his and his father's name -- to keep Fort Ord authorities unaware of his moonlighting mat career. Gene Dubuque, of course, later was Magnificent Maurice. The Red Hangman would be unmasked as Tom Rice. And Mike Valentino gained greater fame and glory in the East as Baron Scicluna.)
SHADOWS & SUBSTANCE (sports column)
(Fresno Bee, Sunday, December 6, 1959)
By Arthur Robinson
IVAN LINOW -- pronounced Leen-uff -- was a wrestler who was known as The Russian Lion. Ivan had ambitions to be an opera singer. One night, during prohibition, he found himself wrestling on the stage of Hammerstein's Opera House on 34th Street, opposite the Penn Railroad Station in New York. Hammerstein -- the first of the Oscars -- was a colorful impressario and he had built the opera house to break up the monopoly which the Metropolitan had on opera in this country. The project failed financially and the opera house went into receivership. Came, then, wrestling tournaments and, surprisingly, fashionable crowds -- women in evening gowns, and men in tails and white ties.
Ivan's opponent applied a flying mare to him and the Russian Lion zoomed through space and landed upright near the footlights. Ivan was transfixed by the glittering spectacle of tiers of golden seats and boxes, of pendant chandeliers, of the diamond horse shoe in the first balcony -- so, of course, he erupted into an aria from Moussorgsky's Boris Godunov.
Ivan's opponent -- I've forgotten his name -- apparently was something of a music critic. He applied a strangle hold to Ivan and then flung him backward onto the wrestling mat. Ivan was pinned down for the fall, still gurling the aria.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 255-2002
NOW HE'S JUST PLAIN ED MILLER
(Fresno Bee, Sunday, February 12, 1961)
It was a night of frustration and disappointment for Big Ed Miller, the erstwhile Mr. Kleen Miller.
Earlier in the day, Miller received a letter from a soap company warning him he would be facing a suit if he didn't desist using the name, Mr. Kleen. The soap people said they have a copywright on the name.
Obviously unhappy about losing his nom de plume, Miller threw Joe Swiderski out of the ring at the 17-minute period, then kept on kicking Joe. The referee finally disqualified ex-Mr. Kleen.
Gene (Big Daddy) Lipscomb proved to be as much of a terror in the ring as for halfbacks opposing the Baltimore Colts' line. He squelched Pat Fraley with a mighty bear hug to win the third and deciding fall in the bout which paired him and 49er Leo Nomellini against Pat and Freddy Fraley.
Leo used flying tackles to blast young Fraley, but Pat used a neck twister to even matters against Leo.
Meanie Fred Blassie won two of three falls from Ricky Romero, thus knocking Romero from the ranks of the coast championship series.
LEGIT WRESTLING? HORRORS, SAYS MILWAUKEE PROMOTER
(Associated Press, February 11, 1964)
MILWAUKEE, Wis. -- Honest wrestling just won't work, a Milwaukee promoter said today, and state regulation of the lucrative grunt and groan industry in Wisconsin would kill the goose that laid the golden egg.
Johnny Heim, whose mat shows frequently pack the huge Milwaukee Arena, took a dim view of a recent proposal of the State Athletic Commission to regulate wrestling and take a slice of the gate receipts in return.
"It would be no good," said Heim. "They would have to run it like college wrestling -- honest -- and that would not work.
"You can't sell a legitimate contest. There hasn't been a legitimate wrestling contest in 50 years. We tried it once. You could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium. If you put on a legitimate contest, no one would come back for the next one."
State regulation -- with a 5 per cent cut of the receipts going to the commission -- probably would force most of Wisconsin's little promoters out of business, Heim believes, and the state's take wouldn't be worth the trouble.
Heim thinks the proposal was prompted only because of the decline of boxing receipts.
He's a little indignant about it.
"They didn't want to mix their good stuff with our hippodroming when boxing was in good shape," he commented. "It's only in the last few years we have been prosperous and now everyone wants in ... We never needed a commissioner before and we don't need one now."
WRESTLING ACADEMY GRAPPLES FOR SUCCESS
(Associated Press, December 14, 1997)
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. -- Don't try this at home: Slam your adversary to the floor and lock him in a head scissors while he pleads for mercy.
Hand over $2,400 and dedicate eight months of your time and Gary "Krusher" Key will teach that move and other tricks at his new studio called the Grappling Den, a professional wrestling school for workaday folks that hopes to cash in on the pro-wrestling craze.
The curriculum includes acrobatic moves, lessons in ring psychology and sessions on how to create your own unique wrestling persona and gimmick.
Key is a massive 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds who wrestled professionally for nine years under names like Krusher, the Samurai Warrior, the Black Ninja, Krusty the Clown, Doink the Clown or Gary Lee. His Grappling Den partner is Pete Balgochian.
"Wrestling is kind of addictive. It's fun," Key said. "I was in martial arts for some time, and wrestling got me completely out of martial arts. This school will allow me to run my own show and share the excitement with others."
Key and Balgochian also are starting their own wrestling organization, Impact Wrestling Federation. Local and cable television stations willing, they hope to broadcast their Grappling Den bouts in the spring.
"This area is hungry for this type of entertainment," said Key, 34, an Oxnard resident. "Our audience is from 6 to 60. Everyone watches wrestling. It's almost like a soap opera."
The 4,000-square-foot Grappling Den, which opened this month, joins up to 20 "legitimate schools" nationwide, estimates semi-retired wrestler James "Shadowe" Boone, who hosts the talk radio show "Squared Circle" about wrestling on the Cable Radio Network.
Professional wrestling is enjoying a renaissance, Boone said.
"In California, they lack television," he said. "A lot of organizations in other states are on television and do great in business. California doesn't have a local organization that has hit the TV scene and taken over, so it's a perfect time for wrestling schools to start up here."
So what will be learned at the Grappling Den? Much of it is confidential, but Key was willing to share a few details.
Aspiring wrestlers will learn basics -- such as running the ropes and standard moves including the headlock, he said. They will also learn the high-flying feats popularized by Mexican wrestling -- including the head scissors where a wrestler jumps and chokes his adversary with his mighty thighs.
The toughest skill, though, is ring psychology. Key said a wrestler must learn to keep steely composure and develop a storyline that holds the audience's interest for 10 to 15 minutes. Wrestlers must also study coping strategies in case the audience responds with the most dreaded of insults, "Boooor-ring."
Key and the other two teachers at the school will not teach weight training, but students are encouraged to beef up on their own.
"You have to be really honest with yourself" to enter pro wrestling, Key said. "If you have the heart, that's 90 percent of it there. Never look at someone and say, `You'll never make it.' If you're determined, there's a place for you in the industry ... We get guys from 5 feet, 6 inches, 160 pounds to guys 6 feet, 4 inches, 305 pounds. A lot of people think you have to be big and muscular. That's not true. A lot of the small guys are fast and acrobatic."
Women also get into the act, Key said, although the demand for their talents is rather small.
"We can easily teach 20 or 30 students here," said Balgochian, 32, a wrestling fan who owns a gold jewelry store in Simi Valley. "We'll teach three nights a week, and add nights if necessary.
"We're working on a kids class, for 12- or 16-year-olds. And we're thinking about a father-son class. It would be fun to see the kids kick the fathers' butts."
WRESTLERS TO SQUARE OFF AT THE ORLEANS
(Las Vegas View, Wednesday, March 3, 1999)
By Kirk Kern
When "Buffalo" Jim Barrier staged the first graduation/exhibition for Buffalo Jim's Wrestling School, more than 2,200 people showed up.
"At that point, I figured we'd better get an arena and put on a big show," Barrier said. Barrier chose the arena at The Orleans for the first Buffalo Wrestling Federation card, scheduled for March 20. "It's a nice venue, a neighborhood venue," Barrier said. "It's for the people of Vegas and I liked that. They were able to accommodate me and work with me. I really hope to work something out with them to be a permanent fixture there. I'm not much for change; I'd like to stick in one place awhile."
Barrier said the card will include a feature match between the first BWF heavyweight champion, Rush, against veteran pro wrestler The Tonga Kid. The six-match card is also scheduled to feature Greg "The Hammer" Valentine and tag-team competitors Public Enemy and The Head Shrinkers. Nick Bockwinkel will serve as guest announcer.
"We're just gonna go out and see what we can do with it," Barrier said. "We can show it can be done."
One person who hopes for success is Rush, otherwise known as Gary Mills. Mills, 28, became the first BWF heavyweight champion by winning a 10-man elimination tournament during the school's "graduation." The 6-foot-5, 270-pound Mills says his nickname is short for Adrenaline Rush, because that describes his style in the ring. It will be Mills' first one-on-one match.
"You have to see me to appreciate me," he said. "I have the utmost confidence. The Tonga Kid is one of those guys from the old school, so he's pretty experienced."
Right now, Rush is a good guy, or "baby face." That could change, however.
"It's good for now," he said. "If the people don't like it, I can change. That's even better." If he changes, Mills could end up like "Superstar" Mike Lane, a veteran wrestler also scheduled to compete in the first card. Lane is what's known as a heel, the wrestler fans love to hate. He has been in the business 14 years and has competed around the United States and Europe.
"I'm 236-pounds, 5-foot-11 of twisted steel and sex appeal," he said. "I'm every man's regret and every women's pet. I'm the human heartthrob himself."
Lane is scheduled to wrestle a recent graduate of Barrier school known as Big Dollars. "He calls himself Big Dollars, but I call him Small Change," Lane said. "He's 383 pounds. This will be his debut, but it could also be his end. I'm going to cash him in."
Barrier hopes to cash in as well on a sports/entertainment show that has surged in popularity the last few years. The World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling shows on Monday nights are part of the reason Monday Night Football finished with its lowest ratings in its 28-year history.
Nielson Media Research recorded Monday Night Football was viewed by 13.8 million households, an 8 percent decline from the average in 1997.
"A lot of people might say it's fake, but I've seen a couple of dozen guys come and go at the school already," Mills said. "They can't hang, and you never see them again.
"They pay a few hundred dollars to get the snot beat out of them. But the fact is, you enjoy it for the entertainment. As long as you get some emotion out of it, you're entertained."
Tickets for the March 20 show are available at TicketMaster locations and at the box office of The Orleans and Gold Coast hotel-casinos. Prices are $12, $18 and $24. The show begins at 7 p.m.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 256-2002
(ED. NOTE -- The recent appearance of Johnny Legend at the Cauliflower Alley Club reunion, coupled with fond memories of Andy Kaufman and his work with the legendary Fred Blassie, has the WAWLI Papers back mining a familiar vein to veteran readers of these old clippings.)
A FEW EXCERPTS A JOHNNY LEGEND INTERVIEW
(Exotic Magazine, December, 1999)
By Viva Las Vegas
Johnny Legend....I can hardly get my mouth to wrap around even the words anymore. One night with the infamous embodiment of pop culture's leftovers and warped recalls and I was stunned into near speechlessness. This man is, in a word, HUGE. His life has spanned the length of rock'n'roll and his experience the breadth. An hour with him and you've heard unheard of stories about everyone from Elvis through the Fleetwood Mac/Beached Boys years to Debbie Harry. And eventually, unfailingly, there's Courtney Love! This man is a veritable repository of pop culture TRASH, and as we people of taste know, that's where all the good stuff is anyway!
For those of you who haven't met the man, Johnny Legend is perhaps first and foremost a rockabilly rebel. He's fronted rockabilly bands since he was a punk at Simi Valley High School in San Fernando, California, including, most famously, the Rockabilly Rebels. The Rebels have been around for over twenty years now and have toured the world with their demented stage show and Real Rock 'n' Roll music. They recruit pretty girls to go-go dance at every show, and Johnny's got a way with those girls. Legend-arily, one long-celibate girl attacked him, and he had to perform his smokin' grooves on his back with his face pinned beneath her pelvis!! In Portland, I witnessed him playing harmonica while absolutely buried in my stripper-buddy's luscious butt! What a guy!!!
A true renaissance man after my own heart, Johnny's other famous incarnations include actor,
film producer, music producer, porn star, composer for obscure Oriental porn scores, and incredibly strange wrestler. Yet somehow he remains, according to his close friend and biographer, the most stand-up guy in the states, the purest punk in SoCal.
Johnny starred in 1971's Pot, Parents, and Police, an "awful shockumentary about a boy who stumbles down the road to ruin with the help of a marijuana cigarette." Then he made a few porno flicks that even his mother would be proud of. His clothed films include the 1981 cult classic My Breakfast with Blassie, which features Andy Kaufmann (in his last film) discussing topics such as toilet hygiene and wrestling with women with wrestling champ Classy Freddie Blassie. Blassie also helped Johnny on his hit tune "Pencil Necked Geek." Johnny's a Hollywood roustabout and awful good-looking, so he's naturally got a number of movie star stories to spice his abundant name-dropping of the richest and most famous musicians.
I had to settle for Hung Far Low, where my half-hour interview turned into three hours and I still hadn't managed to weasel in any of my de riguer questions. Oh well, Oh hell. In retrospect, my only mistake was to ask Johnny to brief me on the gory details of his history. A fine way to start out an interview with a Legend, but only if you have a year to transcribe it!
For instance, when I asked Johnny if he'd ever crossed paths with Mr. Bob Dylan, he of course had, and proceeded to tell me a story that involved ten angry Samoans, Elvis impersonators, the Traveling Wilburys, a sumo wrestler, two cast mixups both resulting in cushy extra parts for Johnny, twenty young hoofers who just got kicked off the cast of Fame, thirty elderly folk in wheel chairs, a revelation that Johnny was into dance and tumble all through the seventies with famous
Everywhere, in every time, Johnny Legend has been there, done that. He is the X factor, the strange glue underpinning our goofy culture. The man is huge. Unstoppable. The mack truck of mack daddies. An ideal conversation with such a legend would be sleep-over style, with a bevy of scantily-clad babes ooohing and aahhing at the incredible diversity of this dude's non-stop fabulousness!
VIVA: So you're originally from San Fernando, California.
JOHNNY: Yep! And I'm still there, in the family house. It's where they filmed Plan Nine From Outer Space.
DUDE: Now his sister--and he'll get mad at me for this--was Andy Kaufmann's gal pal. And in this new Milos Foreman movie that's coming out [Man in the Moon], Courtney Love plays Johnny's sister. Johnny: Yeah, my sister and her spent a lot of time together. They grilled her unmercifully, because she and Andy Kaufmann were inseparable until he died. She was the last love of his life. They met on camera in My Breakfast with Blassie. Andy was interviewing Blassie, and my sister was in the background eating as an extra at the restaurant.
VIVA: Wow! So, who is Classy Freddie Blassie?
JOHNNY: He's like the Jerry Lee Lewis of wrestling. He came out of nowhere back in the sixties when we were all kids. He's just this weird human juggernaut. This bleached blonde torpedo roaming around with legs. He has a totally unique charisma. So one day I had this dream of making a record with him. One of my friends infiltrated the wrestling industry, and eventually we made the record "Pencil Necked Geek." He had no sense of music, no idea of a verse or a chorus or meter or anything. He was a wrestler, you know. He finished the whole thing in thirty seconds like a locker room interview. So we spent days and days on the thing, and to make it worse, at the end he started trying to do it phonetically correct....I said "Fred! No! It sounds like My Fair Lady!" So, it took over a year to get it done. There are lots of people out there still who will tell you that "Pencil Necked Geek" was like the most important thing in their life.
BLASSIE COME HOME
(The Metro, San Jose CA, January 27, 2000)
By Richard Von Busack
Johnny Legend is one of the many who has been mistaken for Andy Kaufman. In one of Fred Lovece's two books on the television show Taxi, the author describes Kaufman's short film My Breakfast With Blassie as "directed by Kaufman under the pseudonym Johnny Legend."
Legend is no mere pseudonym. He's a rockabilly musician, director and film archivist who has lurked around San Jose nightclubs and theaters for years. Legend has a new record out, Bitchin. He also has a walk on role in Man on the Moon, the Jim Carrey starring bio-pic about Kaufman. Blink and you'll miss Legend, who plays a New Age shaman covered with beads and gray waist-length beard and hair. The hair is all his.
"I sort of fought my way into the thing," Legend says by telephone from Portland. "There were lots of people involved on the edges of Kaufman's career who tried to get into the movie and ended up on the cutting-room floor."
Legend's sister, Lynne Margulies, was Kaufman's longtime companion and the model for the character played by Courtney Love. For reasons unknown, the [Courtney] Love interest in Man on the Moon isn't a film director like the real Lynne Margulies.
Legend is road-showing his sister's film I'm From Hollywood in a double-bill with his own Kaufman movie, My Breakfast With Blassie. (He mentions casually that there's a floor show with the revived double-bill in Portland featuring "live LSD victims and naked psycho nymphos.")
Ballyhoo aside, when Legend says that his sister is "an accomplished filmmaker in her own right," he isn't engaging in mere nepotism. Margulies' 1989 documentary I'm From Hollywood (co-directed by Joe Orr) and her documentary about Kaufman now playing on A&E, both reveal the gap between Carrey's Golden Globe-winning, warmhearted performance and the real-life diabolical comedian.
Legend claims that Man on the Moon, far from being a vanity project for Carrey, was a much contended for role, with Nicolas Cage, Kevin Spacey and even Tom Hanks showing interest in the part. Carrey lobbied hardest, making his own audition tapes.
Now that the film's done, it's easy to wonder what it would have been like if a more tough-minded actor had captured the beady-eyed, Lee Harvey Oswald-lookin' spirit of the comedian.
The difference between Carrey's Kaufman and the real McCoy is like the difference between the real, aggro Lenny Bruce and the menschy Dustin Hoffman, eyes flickering apologies at the audience, when he impersonated Bruce in Bob Fosse's film Lenny.
I'm From Hollywood is the best history of the real Kaufman's career as Intergender Wrestling Champ, one of his most notorious provocations. Dressed in white long underwear, Kaufman wrestled some 400 different female volunteers from audiences around the country.
During one such match, he was spontaneously challenged by Jerry "The King" Lawler, the hero wrestler who had previously humbled such contenders as Crusher Blackwell and Handsome Jimmy Badd. Lawler's combination suplex/pile driver left Kaufman in a neck brace. The rivalry between the two lasted years.
In a series of videotaped communiqués in I'm From Hollywood, Kaufman spurts out gratuitous, gestalt-level insults at Southerners in general and Lawler in particular. Kaufman's mask is complete with cravenness and sniveling cowardice. He offers cash to any wrestler who could put Lawler in the hospital.
By embodying a redneck's worst hatred of a Jewish Hollywood sharpie, Kaufman assaulted his audience. He had a school-yard bully's ability to find a vulnerable spot and draw blood--if it hadn't been so preposterous, it would have been an outrage. As it is, the running bit is outrageously funny.
Legend's own film starring Kaufman, My Breakfast With Blassie, is the only Louis Malle parody ever to star a professional wrestler--with the exception, of course, of the Scarlet Maniac's 1977 opus, Murmur of the Heart-Punch.
Staged in a Sambo's coffee shop in downtown L.A., My Breakfast With Blassie records a long table-talk conversation between Freddie Blassie "The King of Men," a gruff former wrestler famous for his novelty record "Pencil-Necked Geeks." The two were friends. According to Legend, "Andy and Fred used to turn up on talk shows, claiming that they were ready to remake Sons of the Desert; I have a tape of the Letterman show with Kaufman as Laurel and Fred as a much more surly Oliver Hardy."
In February, Legend is bringing My Breakfast With Blassie to a "re-premiere" at the Nuart Theater in West Los Angeles. The rep theater hosted the film's original opening, the last public appearance Kaufman made before he succumbed to cancer.
"He was thin and bald," Legend remembers," and he had a Mohawk. I guess he went from Taxi to Taxi Driver. And he was very wary about the film, because he thought it would be the coffin nail in his career. But it was an uplifting affair, and the audience gave him a standing ovation."
Like the original My Dinner With Andre, My Breakfast With Blassie is too static for its own good, and I noticed walkouts during the long scenes of Blassie giving Kaufman lessons in a professional wrestler's deportment. (One rule: Never shake hands with fans. You don't know where these people have been.)
But at the end there's an interesting sequence in which Blassie outlines cost of wrestling. Blassie, a burly, sun-baked party who looks like he could crumble Lawrence Tierney with one hand, lists his injuries. He has had multiple fractures and concussions, and an eye put out by an egg thrown at him by an angry spectator. Kaufman, rapt, listens, eager to take on similar wounds in the service of his own comedic muse.
My Breakfast With Blassie is, despite itself, touching and lonely, even with Kaufman's stilted reading of a script at the end. Would Kaufman have ever made it as an actor in anything he hadn't scripted himself? The question, like so many about Kaufman remains unanswered.
TWO SLICES OF PURE ANDY
(The Stranger.com, January 13, 2000)
By Gillian G. Gear
While the Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon succeeds at illustrating the gifted, surreal comedian's frustration at working within the confines of a hit TV sitcom, it never really explores much of his other work. Two programs at the Little Theatre should offer fresh insights for anyone interested in Kaufman's oeuvre, especially because the "docudramas" My Breakfast with Blassie and I'm from Hollywood will be introduced by Kaufman's close friends: girlfriend Lynne Margulies and her brother, psychotronic Renaissance man Johnny Legend.
By the time Legend met Kaufman, he was riding high on his success with Taxi. Legend had a pretty impressive resume himself: "a rock 'n' roll star in my spare time" with Johnny Legend & His Naked Apes; the man behind Teenage Cruisers ("the first X-rated rockabilly movie!"); and the writer and producer of wrestler Fred Blassie's record, "Pencil-Necked Geek." Hating My Dinner with Andre, Legend was inspired to make a parody with Blassie as one of the film's raconteurs.
"We were wondering who would be the perfect foil, and then it suddenly hit us: Andy," says Legend. "So one fateful night we were all on the way to Madison Square Garden, and we cornered Andy before the show and hit him with the idea of doing this take-off. A week or so later, he went to see My Dinner with Andre, passed out in the theater, and called us in the middle of the night, saying, 'I have to do this!'"
One of the first films shot for the video market in the summer of 1982, Blassie begins with Kaufman's bus ride to Sambo's, a long-since vanished chain of theme restaurants based on the children's story of the "Little Black Sambo" who ingeniously turned tigers into butter. For the next five hours, he filmed the two chewing the fat on the subjects of celebrity, cleanliness, and why you shouldn't eat "dough" for breakfast (pancakes, waffles).
Undeniably self-indulgent, Blassie also has moments of genuine absurdity, as when Kaufman insults the women at a nearby table, then tries to pick them up. The film also captures Kaufman meeting his future girlfriend, Margulies, one of the women at the table. "He really was trying to hit on Lynne," Legend says. "After we were done, every time I'd call him he'd ask me how she was doing and could he get her number." Kaufman's co-conspirator, Bob Zmuda, also appears in the obligatory vomit scene.
Legend is considering a "making of" film on the project, due to the wealth of outtakes. "Not to toot our own horns or anything, but Blassie was actually a masterful editing job!" he says. "A lot of people think it takes place in real time, which is quite flattering. There's a whole lot of conversations where we'd take three or four words from a sentence and then cut to 20 minutes or an hour later for the reaction shot. It was a whole Citizen Kane-ish ordeal getting it to make sense."
I'm from Hollywood, which Margulies co-wrote, directed, and edited, looks at Kaufman's intergender wrestling career, and his long-running feud with wrestler Jerry Lawler. Released in 1992, it treats Kaufman's wrestling escapades in all seriousness. Footage of his wrestling matches with women, his taunting of the entire Memphis wrestling community, and the "neck-breaking" incident with Lawler, are intercut with contemporary interviews with Lawler, a worried Robin Williams, and a zonked-out Tony Danza (the great musical interludes are provided by vocal group the Bobs).
Though each film is available on video, shorts and other rare footage will be shown at each screening. When Legend speaks of his work on Blassie, he could just as easily be talking about Hollywood as well: "Andy thought this was the best slice of pure Andy that had ever been captured. A full hour without it having to be part of a plot line, or a bunch of skits, or where he only has 10 minutes to do something. This was a warts-and-all, complete dose of Kaufman -- which is what he really liked about it."
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 257-2002
(ED. NOTE -- Yet another recent guest at the Cauliflower Alley Club reunion, among some 550 in the soldout Grand Ballroom of the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, was Robbie Ellis ... who happens to be one of the few professional wrestlers to ever be featured in Sports Illustrated.)
WHAT SPORTS ILLUSTRATED SAID ABOUT ROBBIE ELLIS
Until several months ago, his neighbors in Portland, Maine knew Rob Elowitch only as the urbane and rather scholarly co-owner of the city's respected Barridoff Galleries. Elowitch, a cum laude graduate of Amherst College, has for years devoted much of his time to developing artistic and cultural programs throughout Maine; his gallery has sold works by such renowned American painters as Eakins and Homer for prices as high as $225,000 [today, $500,000]. Elowitch also belongs to one of Portland's most accomplished families.
His sister is a former mayor of the city, and his father is co-founder of a thriving manufacturing company. Yet for the last 20 years Rob Elowitch has led a secret life -- as a professional wrestler. He [as Robbie Ellis] has competed in rings throughout the U.S. and Europe, playing the hero [a persona that has undergone radical changes since this article] against the likes of Lord Herculon and Killer Kowalski. Elowitch, who has grappled for Amherst was concerned about his image. He hid his mat career from his customers, parents and most of his friends by never competing in Portland; he often squeezed in matches while on business trips. His secret became public when he reluctantly agreed to be listed on a wrestling card in Portland, and local papers put him on the front page. To his relief, Elowitch has found that the publicity about his wrestling career hasn't hurt his gallery business at all. In fact, in the art world he's now admired more than ever.
Elowitch and his wife, Annette, have three children. Jennifer, a graduate of the Eastman School of Music with a masters in performance from Yale, is a professional violinist in Boston, who has toured with the Boston Symphony and Pops Orchestras as well as with the Mark Morris Dance Company. She is the co-founder of the Portland Chamber Music Festival. Sam, a graduate of Brandeis with a masters degree from Berkeley, is a freelancer working in the publishing business out of the home he shares with Leah Binder, his wife since May of 1997. Leah, who also graduated from Brandeis and comes from Portland, Maine - though the two met for the first time in New York - was until recently a senior deputy in charge of health care for the City of New York in the Giuliani administration. She gave birth on May 29, 1998 to Henry Lysander Elowitch, who weighed in at a strapping 10 lbs, 13 oz and is today on his way to becoming a professional wrestler for sure - and unlike Robbie, a HEAVYWEIGHT champ! Sam, Leah, and Henry have recently moved from NYC to Farmington, Maine where Leah has taken a job as director of the Healthy Community Coalition at the Franklin Community Hospital in Farmington, Maine and Sam is continuing freelance work as an editor for the publishing business by way of his expertise with computers.
WHY AMERICA'S HOOKED ON WRESTLING
(Newsweek, February 7, 2000)
By John Leland
On Dec. 13 of last year, the World Wrestling Federation was broadcasting live from Tampa, Fla., and trouble, as they say, was afoot. Baseball legend Wade Boggs was in the house; the nation's No. 1 author, a man in a leather mask named World Wrestling Federation Mankind, was scheduled to wrestle; the women's chocolate-pudding match was good to go. Yet all was not right: not for the WWF, not for Vince McMahon, its chairman and mastermind. On the previous week's broadcast, his real-life daughter, Stephanie, had been "tricked" into marrying his arch nemesis, the wrestler Triple H. Now McMahon was running into the ring with a sledgehammer, out for blood. Stephanie had a surprise for him. She was in love with Triple H, she told him. And further, they were taking control of the company. "Triple H outsmarted you by making business personal. That's something you know all about."
This is the same Vince McMahon who, from a sleek corporate office in Stamford, Conn., presides over a huge media empire. In the last 17 years, using tactics not so different from the Machiavellian drama on screen, he has transformed a modest family company into a media machine of surprising scale and synergy-a louder, raunchier version of the Disney kingdom. To the uninitiated or unconvinced, pro wrestling may seem like a dopey spectacle in which really big guys put on silly tights and pretend to beat each other up. And OK, it is that, but it is also a very big business, and has become an addiction for a broad cross section of young America. The WWF's "Raw Is War," watched by about 5 million households weekly, is the highest-rated show on cable; "SmackDown!," seen in another 5 million, is the top-rated show on UPN. These are just the wheels of the machine, though.
The WWF's home videos routinely rank No. 1 in sports, its action figures outsell Pokemon's and its Web site is one of the first outlets to turn streaming video into profits (other than porn sites, of course-and some would argue the distinction is subtle). The autobiographies of two WWF wrestlers, Mankind (Mick Foley) and the Rock (Dwayne Johnson), are currently Nos. 1 and 3 on The New York Times best-seller list. Add in revenue from live ticket sales, pay-per-views, platinum-selling CDs and a new theme restaurant, all in turn promoting the shows and each other. "If someone said, 'Build me a model program, something that'll have all kinds of synergies and profit centers'," McMahon says, "you would build this."
You should be so savvy. The company is projecting sales of $340 million for this year, up from $250 million in 1999. The stock market values the company, 83 percent of which is owned by the family, at more than $1 billion. At a time when television has lost the ability to seduce young male viewers with sex and violence, McMahon has crafted a luridly compelling new delivery system: comic, winking, with daredevil action, larger-than-life cleavage and soap-opera plots. For a jaded audience raised on Quentin Tarantino and bored by political correctness, he gave up the pretense that wrestling was real. In its place, he framed the bouts with a "behind the scenes" saga about his own family, full of sex and intrigue, and starring the McMahons themselves-a second layer of unreality, creating ironic distance from the first. You could take it straight, or with a twist. Here was something to believe in: the candidly, honestly fake.
Of course, the company is not Disney, and not just because it's more popular with 14-year-olds. A third-generation wrestling promoter, McMahon has set new standards of sleaze, outraging some parents and embarrassing many of the genre's legends. Cardboard good guys and bad guys were replaced with pimps, porn stars and sociopaths. "Darwin proved there was a theory of evolution," says Jim (Baron Von) Raschke, 59, who wrestled until the early '90s. "McMahon has taken us back to where we started." The story of his rise, and the enemies he has made along the way, is made for a family soap opera. It is made, in fact, for "SmackDown!" The Rock, a third-generation grappler himself, understands that life inside the squared circle is like no other. "Frankly," he says, "if you're not born in the business, it's hard to grasp."
Vincent Kennedy McMahon was born on Aug. 24, 1945, the second son of parents already speeding toward divorce. Raised by his mother and stepfather in rural North Carolina, he met his father when he was 12, and began his twin obsessions with family and business that would govern his adult life. From his offices in Washington, D.C.'s Franklin Park Hotel, Vincent James McMahon ran Capital Wrestling, a regional circuit that put on shows from Virginia to Maine.
In that era, wrestlers worked in "territories," performing throughout one region of the country for crowds of a few hundred to a few thousand. The promoters had an unwritten agreement not to invade each other's turf or steal each other's wrestlers. It was a period of louche glamour. Wrestlers lived in a state of nomadic grace, a nightly caravan of big men in big cars. The pay wasn't like today, when big-timers can make $5 million a year, plus stock options, but the performers' resourcefulness was the stuff of legend. "I've seen four midgets in one bed in a hotel room," says "Pretty Boy" Larry Sharpe. "And four broads knocking on the door to get in." They were their own outsize tribe, "the last of the Gypsies," says McMahon. "Of course I came along and drove all that out."
As he grew closer to his father, Vince fell under the thrall of a flamboyant blond wrestler named Dr. Jerry Graham. What Dr. Jerry offered the boy was a far cry from life in his mother's trailer park. "How often do you get to ride around in a 1959 blood red Cadillac convertible, lighting a cigar with a hundred-dollar bill, not stopping at stoplights?" asks McMahon. He was hooked. When his father suspected an underling of stealing from him, he reluctantly let Vince take over the shows in Bangor, Maine, a minor Capital outpost.
Where his father was polished, Vince was brashly ambitious, a Sonny Corleone in a world of spandex and brawn. He was a cocky kid, a born "heel" (villain) in the only industry in which becoming the most-hated man in America qualifies as a noble career objective. He expanded into neighboring towns and urged his father to wage a broader turf war. What worked in the East, he figured, would work even better nationwide. To his father, this was apostasy.
By 1982, the old man was talking about selling the business, threatening to put Vince out of a job. Borrowing money, Vince and his wife, Linda, made him and his partners an offer: four quarterly payments of about $250,000 each; if they missed any payment, they forfeited the company and whatever money they'd put in. "It was one of the original LBOs," says Linda. "We really bought it with the revenue that we were generating from the business itself." To boost cash flow, McMahon started promoting shows in other territories.
The enemies McMahon was making were often former wrestlers, sometimes rough men-"the type of guys who'd steal a hot stove and come back later for the lid," says veteran wrestling and boxing writer Bert Sugar. Jim Ross, now an announcer and talent scout at the WWF, was working for another promoter at the time, and remembers attending a kind of general war council in Kansas City to organize against the young upstart. In the men's room, says Ross, he overheard two promoters discussing an extreme remedy. "They started saying, 'One way we can put an end to this is to have the s.o.b. killed.' I'm sitting on the throne, creeping my legs up so they won't see me. I was dead certain they were serious." In the end, though, nothing came of the meeting, or the plot. Says Ross, "They couldn't cooperate on that, either."
One of the men McMahon put out of business was Verne Gagne, who ran the American Wrestling Alliance out of Minneapolis. "I have no love for Vince McMahon," says Gagne, now 73. In the 1970s and early '80s, Gagne built a rippled pantheon that included Hulk Hogan, Jesse (The Body) Ventura and Ric Flair, among others. Since the promoters mostly cooperated with one another-often to the detriment of the wrestlers-Gagne did not need to have his stars under contract. Then McMahon came along. "He took 37 of my people, including my announcer," Mean Gene Okerlund, says Gagne. "Then he came into my territory and used them against me."
By the mid-1980s, McMahon's scorched-earth tactics had winnowed the field of big-time wresting promoters to the WWF and a limping circuit called the National Wrestling Alliance. Through TV syndication, McMahon could build his wrestlers' profiles over all the old territories at the same time. He flooded independent stations with videotapes of his matches-often paying to have them aired-stoking demand for his wrestlers, not the local guy's. He made his money from the live gate, writing off TV costs as the price of promotion. It was risky, but this was the Reagan era. McMahon was developing a slicker, kid-friendly product, with cartoonish stars like Hulk Hogan doing commercials telling kids to eat their vitamins. Micromanaging every detail, from wrestlers' names to the color of their tights, he was pushing the grappling game farther from the scruffy realm of the carnival and closer to the workaholic template of a high-budget, high-concept Hollywood star factory.
With the advent of pay-per-view technology, McMahon seized another emerging medium and trampled another wrestling dictum. Though the public may have been dubious (no one ever bet on pro wrestling), promoters had for decades presented their spectacle as honest sport. Accordingly, it fell under the purview of state athletic commissions. Now these commissions wanted to tax pay-per-view broadcasts. Vince and Linda repositioned their product as "sports entertainment," convincing authorities that their matches were scripted, the outcomes fixed. Though WWF folks paint this as a bold move in the direction of candor, really it was a way out of an onerous tax. A funny thing happened: wrestling began to seem less alien to mainstream entertainments and advertisers, crossing into music videos and network TV. It grew more popular than ever. For a 1987 show at the Pontiac Silverdome, the company sold 93,000 tickets, with more tuning in on pay-per-view.
Then trouble struck. In the early 1990s, the company found itself mired in a steroid scandal and allegations of sexual misconduct. As the WWF reeled, a newly reinvigorated National Wrestling Alliance, now owned by Ted Turner and rechristened World Championship Wrestling, gained ground by experimenting with higher production values and more sophisticated "story lines," the mock behind-the-scenes soap operas that were beginning to overshadow the grappling. McMahon, who casts the competition as a steel-cage match between himself and Billionaire Ted, was being beaten at his own game. "We didn't give the audience what they wanted," he admits. "We weren't relevant." Starting in July 1996, the WCW began 83 consecutive weeks ahead in the ratings war.
The WWF roared back, however, and now doubles the ratings of its competition. McMahon did it the old-fashioned way, with extra helpings of savvy and sleaze. Hiring writers from Conan O'Brien and MTV, McMahon has let his inner miscreant run free: one plot had a wrestler winning another's wife in a poker game, and sending videos of the consummation; for Thanksgiving, two women wrestled in gravy. He pushes the boundaries of civility as gleefully as his stars trample the rules of the ring: you never know what might happen. For the converted, this is a recipe for great television, but it is a gambit. When Coke pulled ads from "SmackDown!," McMahon cleaned up the show to get a PG rating. "It was Vince's decision," says UPN head Dean Valentine, who brought wrestling to the new network last summer. "I was supportive. I would have been supportive if he hadn't. I didn't have a problem before, I don't have one now." But even cleaned up, the WWF kept growing. A month after the change, he says, ratings are up 10 percent.
The old carny days are dead and gone. Last Monday, in the bowels of the First Union Center in Philadelphia, a couple of dozen "superstars" (WWF-speak for wrestlers) killed the hours before showtime watching a videotape of the previous night's pay-per-view, the Royal Rumble. Like any group of traveling athletes, they divided into cliques, each looking up to check his or her performance. When the wrestler Darren Drozdov entered the room in a wheelchair, paralyzed after fracturing his neck in the ring last October, they all applauded, then lined up to hug their fallen colleague. A languid camaraderie pervades.
"When a new guy comes in, I try to give him financial tips," says Mick Foley, who doubles as both the lovable Mankind and the redneck psychopath Cactus Jack. "I hear Bradshaw knows a lot, but he delves into individual stocks, and they scare me." Bradshaw is John Layfield, a former NFL player who is known among the other wrestlers for bringing a bruising verisimilitude to his hits. The son of a banker, Layfield says he earned 88 percent on his investments last year and 73 percent the year before. "That just shouldn't happen."
McMahon is now in expansion mode once again. Though the stock price has lagged lately (analysts blame the advertiser imbroglio and an injury to star Stone Cold Steve Austin), last October's initial public offering still raised $170 million to expand the WWF's online activities. In his unprepossessing office at the WWF, Shane McMahon spins a basketball on his finger as he discusses the destiny of his father's company. Shane, 30, is the WWF's president of new media; his childhood friends wrestle as the Mean Street Posse, a group of rich kids from the snooty suburb of Greenwich, Conn.-which, in fact, they are. "We do over 6 million video streams a month," he says, most of them free of charge. Like his father at the same age, Shane represents the future of the family business. "We know that the Internet will be our own 24/7 network," says Linda. Shane worked intensely with techies at Microsoft to customize a new format for bringing the WWF's pay-per-views online. "The WWF has been a pioneer in using new media to bring events to broad audiences," says Dave Fester, director of marketing for Microsoft's Digital Media Division. "We've learned a lot working with them."
But McMahon's most cherished innovation remains his family-the on-screen version and the real. As TV's malevolent Mr. McMahon, he plays a natty corporate monster who would destroy anyone, including his wrestlers, in the pursuit of power. Here is a heel any wrestling fan can get behind-preferably to shove down the stairs. It is a role many said he'd been playing all along. The current story line has Stephanie and her "husband," Triple H, running the company with vindictive malice-a filial jihad that might ring a bell among students of the real McMahon saga. It is a gloriously multilevel play between what wrestlers call the work and the shoot, the staged and the real-real. And it suits the times.
As Triple H says, in the post-cold-war era "there is no horror now. To the average person, the real-life enemy now is their boss." Shane has sided with Vince; Linda with Stephanie, a formidable team. But don't count the patriarch out yet. Though he is secretive about story lines, he allows himself a little laugh about the family drama to come. "I've got one coming up with Stephanie and Linda that Linda doesn't know about," he says, chuckling. Then, punctuating each word like a slap, he recites a line of prospective dialogue: "Oh, you bitch."
In wrestling, though, truth is often funkier than fiction. The McMahon family boasts of tight blood ties. Shane calls his father "my best friend, my hero, my boss, my mentor, my brother, my confidant, my buddy." When he married three years ago, Shane asked his father to be his best man. Stephanie, 23, sells ads, and is similarly devoted. Their mother, Linda McMahon, 51, has run the company's day-to-day affairs from the beginning. The first time Vince's brother, Rod, saw them all together, at Shane's wedding, he thought, "An outsider might have thought they were phony, they were so demonstrative. Maybe that comes from what [Vince] lacked growing up."
So at its heart, this is still a story about an American family. OK, there's power, money and some blood. And one thing is for sure-it's all turned up really loud.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 258-2002
GLASSMAN-SHERRY AND THE PENN COMMISH, INCORPULATED
(Boxing & Wrestling, April, 1933)
By Lee Simpson
Before bringing out the old searchlight on this little matter, let us review briefly the various things which happened -- according to what has been made public -- in this involved tangle of Phil Glassman, Philadelphia wrestling and fight promoter; Ed Lewis, now "ex" but at that time "the (in New York state) champion bonebender of the works; Jack Sherry, thorn in the side of nearly every title claimant of recent years, and the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission, being the Honorable Robert Nelson, Philadelphia, member of that august body.
Well, here goes.
Phil Glassman had been operating as a fight manager and promoter for a number of years, until about a year or so ago when he got ambitious and branched out as a wrestling nabob. For a while he felt like the hunter who grabbed a bear by the tail easily enough but found it "hard as Harry" to let go. But, after due trials and tribulations, Glassman began packing 'em in the Philadelphia Convention Hall like nobody's business.
He booked some real hot matches and the cash customers, by this time knowing the difference between punks and the real thing, came out in droves. There was another reason, too, but that will be talked about later.
Anyway, during the week of February 6th, Sir Phil announced that he had landed the plum of the mat game for his next show, which would be on Wednesday, the 15th. Ed (Strangler) Lewis, heavyweight champion of the world -- in the state of New York, thank you -- was to meet his arch rival, Jack Sherry, heavyweight champion of the world in Jerusalem and, actually, one of the toughest boys of the tin-eared family anywhere, over the one fall to win with no time limit route as the piece de resistance in the next Glassman show. And did the cash customers buy their ducats in advance!
A few days later, however, a second announcement emanated from the Glassman headquarters. Sherry had phoned from New York, it seemed, and passed out the good news that an injury would prevent him from keeping his contract. Thereupon Glassman communicated with Commissioner Nelson, gained his permission to make a substitution -- which was the only thing possible -- and finally got in touch with Stanley Pinto, the Nebraska Bohemian who is also plenty tough, but not quite in Sherry's circle of ability. This substitution lined up, Glassman gave the details to the press and everything continued rosy.
A Pinto-Lewis scrap would be almost as good as the Sherry-Lewis number originally scheduled and the fans accepted the substitution as an act of Providence and kept their tempers down and their faces straight. But on the day before the match the old fireworks began to pop -- Sherry called from New York and claimed he had seen press notices about the whole affair, and he put up an awful holler to the effect that he had not been injured, that he had not called Glassman at all and that he was being given the old run-around -- that some friend of the Strangler had engineered the plot in order to sidetrack the Jewish-Indian heavy. It is possible, of course, that things like that have been done in the past and John Public ate up his evening edition like ice cream and cake. Glassman, it seemed, could do nothing about it, so Sherry trotted post haste to Commissioner Nelson.
So far, so good.
The hearing was scheduled for Wednesday morning -- in plenty of time for the outcome to appear in print in all the early evening editions of the Ledger, Bulletin and Daily News. Which, as Little Bennie says, it did, several versions of it, so that it is a bit hazy as to just exactly what happened in that official interview. Sherry said his piece, then one of Glassman's associates, Nat Frank, testified that he had recognized the Sherry voice on the New York call. Glassman argued that Pinto had cancelled elsewhere in order to accommodate him and that he thought Pinto should have the bout. And so they battled, getting nowhere and the outcome of it was that when the principals could not come to terms, Commissioner Nelson politely informed all concerned that there would be no wrestling in the Convention Hall that night -- nor the following Wednesday, either. He scheduled an additional hearing for the twenty-first, and called it a day. Nelson, it seems, had a bright idea that he did not want to put himself in the middle on the deal, which was a very good idea for him to have.
Then the scene shifts to New York. There, on the night before the second Philadelphia hearing was to come off, grandfatherly old Ed Lewis ran afoul Giant Jim Browning's spinning scissors, and lost such title claims as he had. Next day, in Philadelphia, business was brisk again. Sherry was long and loud in his accusations of having been robbed out of the Lewis bout the Wednesday before, swearing right and left that he could have beaten Lewis on that night. Then he pointed to the Lewis defeat at the hands of Browning, and orated much to the effect that the Strangler had handed his title over to the younger man to protect it from the attacks of a righteously indignant Sherry. That all sounded good, so good, in fact, that Nelson was taken in by it, the final outcome being that Sir Phil G. is not running any more shows for a while.
A few days later, the Quaker City's weekly scandal sheets came out with all the details -- how Sherry had been offered ten grand to do the tank act and all that. Something tells me that Sherry has a darned good publicity man somewhere, a guy who is slick enough to cash in 100 per cent on every little thing, which would mean a whole lot in this particular array of circumstances had he made the figure larger.
All this made hot reading for the jaded appetites of sports fans who have about tired of learning what a fine football player Ed Whoozis used to be at dear old Alma Mater, or how wild and woolly he used to be out in Punxsatawney or Ishpeming. And did they gobble it up -- for a while. But some of the wise ones -- fellows who have read lots of exciting news from time to time, soon began to smell a rat somewhere, to wonder whether somebody had put the icing on a little too thick somewhere. And this is the song they began to hum:
This chap Glassman has the reputation of being about two jumps ahead of his nearest follower in everything here and there. He knows all the questions and all the answers, too, 'tis said. So, this being true, how does this look -- Lewis and Sherry looked like a good house in terms of the do-re-mi. No question about that. But, on the other hand, the old Convention Hall holds an awful pack of people, and if it could be packed to the S.R.O. sign, instead of, say, three-fourths filled -- . Now, why I should ask you?
So, then, with the fans steamed up over Lewis and Sherry meeting, then learning of the substitution of Pinto for Sherry -- that would still be good enough to keep them all agog over the battle, so they'd not forget the date -- and finally to learn that Sherry had been (apparently) given the run around, well, this would sharpen their appetites no little. Only one thing, then, would be necessary to complete the picture, round out the plot, and let Sir Phil turn 'em away on Wednesday night -- if Commissioner Nelson had taken his cue, stood up, cleared his throat, looked stern and severe and uttered an ultimatum to the group that morning to the effect that "I am the Commissioner and what I say goes. Now, Lewis, you have a contract with Sherry; he has one with you. There is no proof that he cancelled the bout, so you will wrestle him tonight or you will not wrestle at all." Well, as said herein before, it all happened in time for the afternoon papers to spread the gospel, and in that case there would have been more broken dinner engagements in the City of Brotherly Love than at any time since the deluge.
But -- the old history book is full of that word -- Commissioner Nelson did not fall into the well constructed and cleverly baited trap and, instead of becoming its victim, he converted it into a boomerang which thumped back, solidly, against the Glassman dome and purse, as previously set forth.
The promoter, of course, was left in the middle, exactly where he had planned to leave Nelson and that night, instead of watching the shekels pour into his coffers, he nursed a magnificent headache while he beheld his ticket sellers refunding the money which advance purchasers of tickets had paid in.
As I have said previously, I think Sherry has one swell publicity agent who is to be commended upon his alacrity and cleverness in capitalizing upon Lewis' defeat in New York. After all, I believe lots of the good boys are afraid of Jack and all of them have avoided meeting him whenever possible, so it is perhaps time that he should get a break for a little publicity. But there is one little mistake as I see it in this nice story -- the tale is that Sherry was offered ten grand to flop that night. Well, whoever wrote that yarn would have done much better by his little Jack had he made that figure at least three times ten grand. Get this: with the hall packed, as it would have been, Sherry's end would have been a fourth of that figure and with him and all the good boys making so much money as they do these days, an offer of $10,000 would be like a glove in the face. Yes, the publicity man should have made that at least thirty grand -- the story would have sounded much better.
Sherry, so that bit of calorific writing goes, would have beaten Lewis easily on the night of the fifteenth, had they met, and, in spite of the fact that the rest of the fantasy is a lot of hooey, I believe that one statement. To be specific, I saw the Strangler the following (sixteenth) night and in the condition he was at that time lots of good boys could have rolled him to his expansive back, in which position, with his florid skin and black tights, about his corpulence, he'd have looked like a loaf of raw hamburger with some sort of trick black gravy over the middle. In condition such as he was in when he recently won over Steele, I believe the old Strangler is still the toughest of the lot, but he will never be in that good shape again -- he dislikes training too much.
From the Glassman angle there is one more little thing I have been wondering about. It is this: while the cancellation of his show that night cost him plenty of cabbage, there is a little idea in the back of the old noggin to the effect that, perhaps after all, Phil may be glad to get rid of the bear at last. You see, the rent in that Convention Hall is an awful item, it is so situated that it is hard to reach (unless one has a chariot) and the fans who have to use the trolley or subway will stay away in droves unless the show is plenty hot. Phil could write a book about this.
Now, in order to tease 'em out, when the show was not a three-alarm fire on paper, the management used to flood the burg with cut rate tickets which entitled the holder to gain admittance at a price lower than the face value of the seat he bought. This reduction, in some instances, was considerable, and when the house was flooded with "half fares" the net cash realized on it was not so much and a full house didn't always mean full coffers. More than that, on all tickets a state tax of 5 per cent had to be paid, plus a federal tax of 10 per cent -- and this latter was on the FACE value of the ticket, regardless of the figure for which it was sold, or even if given away. And all these deductions, on top of the cut-rate business, certainly put the vanishing act on the shekels that originally came in the till.
All in all, promoting wrestling was something of a hot potato to Sir Phil, and it is just barely possible that he is not so terribly furious at the turn of affairs, now that he is out of it and with a good excuse to hand out, that "the Commission did it."
REMEMBERING NELSON ROYAL
(SLAM! Wrestling, February 4, 2002)
By David Isley
I met Nelson Royal for the first time in 1985. My friend, later tag-team partner Gene Ligon introduced him to me. I told him that I wanted to wrestle and he said that he was starting a camp and was getting ready to have try outs. I went for the try outs and it was being held on Nelson's ranch in Mooresville, NC.
Nelson had a huge cornfield and he told us we needed to run it twice. It had just been plowed and it was bumpy as hell. It was hot and after that, we had to take another student and run up this big hill with them on our back. Lucky me, I had the smallest guy in the bunch, the late Mitch Snow who took his life a few years back.
After the hill climbing I was wearing out, he then made us do as close to 1000 "hindu squats" and then run sprints. Needless to say at this point, I was DEAD!! Nelson and Gene Anderson then led us to the ring and we had to get in the ring and amateur style someone and I had the Italian Stallion, who was a pretty good "shooter".
I passed the test and then we started camp a few weeks later and I was the happiest man in the world, but I was one beat up and tired man. Without a doubt, people that know me will tell you that this training was the hardest training I had ever been thru in my life. He made me so mad that I wanted to fight him (thank God I didn't try) but that's what he wanted me to do, get me mad so I could learn the moves he wanted me to learn.
Because of the wrestling business, Nelson showed me things about life and who I could trust and who I couldn't. I have a few people that I call friends and they are the guys that I was in camp with. I met others in the business and as well can call them a friend.
I will miss him very much and when his daughter Shannon called me to be a pallbearer, I was honored. I looked up to Nelson and one thing for sure, you couldn't "blow him up". Other people talk about being the "baddest SOB" in the wrestling business, this man WAS one of them.
RIP my friend.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 259-2002
(Boxing & Wrestling, April, 1933)
By Harry Mann
Jim Browning showed the fans that his victory over the former mat "King" was no fluke when he defeated the "Strangler" in a return match. Browning disposed of Lewis in Madison Square Garden, taking two seconds less than an hour to turn the trick.
Victory came when the Missouri Farmer caught the "Strangler" in a pinwheel scissors. Jim crashed Lewis to the mat and more than 11,000 fans left the hall satisfied that the new champion, New York, will hold on to the crown long enough to increase the bankroll a lot. And that is something these days.
* * * * *
Ed Don George, one of the rival mat "Kings" and by far the best looking one of the lot, was the hero of an episode that rivaled the old time melodramas for excitement, heart interest and what have you.
Ed was appropriately cast as the hero of the thriller and he played his part to perfection. Seeing the beautiful heroine struggling in the arms of a bold, bad, man, Ed dashed forward and conquered the villain with one blow. While he was reassuring the victim of the bold assault, the villain of the piece slipped away to supply you with any details as to his appearance, etc.
As to the heroine, well this time life treated a hero as well as any author could. The young lady in the case, Anne Boland, is a real beauty. Any of those fans who were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the young lady as she helped to beautify Earl Carroll's Vanities will envy Ed.
* * * * *
While on the subject of champions it would never do to forget Jimmy Londos for, after all, hanging on to that title has gotten to be quite a habit with him. Jimmy hung on to that title tightly during the past month and in no battle did the Handsome Greek have to work any harder than he did in disposing of Everett Marshall in St. Louis. Londos worked more than the Union hour for a champion. We hope he got paid double time for the extra four minutes and 56 seconds that he spent in the ring. He worked hard enough during the first 60 minutes of that bout to earn his evening's pay.
Jim nearly ended the match at the 50-minute mark. At this point he secured a Japanese toe hold and leg lock. For a time it looked as if Marshall would have to resign to save his leg, but the Colorado grappler managed to crawl to the ropes. Londos repeated the hold, but again Marshall managed to get to the ropes.
Just as the fans were getting ready to leave, Everett snapped out of it and staged a rally that had Londos dizzy. Marshall secured a headlock on the champion. Jimmy got tangled up in the ropes and the referee was forced to break that one. As they came together again Everett secured another headlock. Marshall had Jimmy choking before they were separated this time.
But that was the end and in a short time Jimmy picked the Coloradoan up and bounced him on the canvas a couple times and the bout was over.
* * * * *
Abe Coleman made a hit in the first bout on that card. It was the first time that the St. Louis fans had had a chance to see the hammered-down New Yorker. Ernie Dusek was expected to make short work of Coleman, but Rudy's little brother was glad to receive a draw at the end of the bout.
Joe Stecher defeated Pat O'Shocker in another bout on the card. The former mat King was in good shape and disposed of the wild Irishman in 21 minutes, 27 seconds. The winning hold was a scissors and as usual a body scissors. Dr. Ralph Wilson disposed of John Katan in 22 minutes, 26 seconds. Wilson was trying to tie several knots in the Canadian's leg at the finish.
* * * * *
George Jenkins was the winner in the headline bout in Worcester, taking two straight from Charley Hanson. The veteran was no match for the youngster who scored the first fall in 22 minutes and ended the bout by taking the second fall in less than 10 minutes.
"Gentleman" Jack Washburn was all set to make a rough match out of his bout with John Freberg when something went wrong the "Gentleman" was knocked out. And this happened to the rough baby after two minutes of the rough stuff.
"Casey" Kazanjian and Leo Numa went 30 minutes to a draw. The boys were evenly matched and the fans saw plenty of fast action. Jim Donnellan took 13 minutes, 26 seconds to toss Leo Shepsky in the other bout on the program.
* * * * *
Sammy Stein tried to take Jim Browning's crown away from the new champion in a bout in New York. Sammy was too ambitious and he learned this to his sorrow after struggling for 46 minutes, 48 seconds. Sammy had most of the fans pulling for him, but that wasn't enough to turn the tide.
* * * * *
Jim defended his crown in Worcester and was successful in turning back George Jenkins. Jim won the first fall in 25 minutes, 24 seconds and the second in 11 minutes. If this keeps up Jim's turnover scissors will take its place with the other famous holds.
Joe Malcewicz and Pat Fraley tangled in a rough bout. This one went 30 minutes to a draw. Count Zarynoff defeated Jim Donnellan in 14 minutes, 52 seconds. The Count showed the fans some real tumbling as well as skillful wrestling. Joe Frieberg took 14 minutes, 46 seconds to finish Jim Heslyn.
* * * * *
Stanley Pinto, Australian giant, defeated Pat Riley, winning two falls when the Texan was disqualified. Pat won the first one and this left everyone dissatisfied.
Pat O'Hara saved Ireland from disgrace when he won the semi-final, tossing Mario Gigli in 15 minutes, 40 seconds. Ralph Gordon, Maine, tossed Freddie Moran, Newport, in 15 minutes, 51 seconds. Axel Anderson, Sweden, and Joe Conley, New York, went twenty minutes to a draw. The other bout on the program ended in a draw, Frank Erlich and Jerry Eslinder being evenly matched.
* * * * *
Are they so rough in the wild open spaces of the Middle West? Just because there was a slight riot and the referee received a K.O. the Kansas Commission is thinking of suspending three wrestlers. If they suspended three wrestlers every time Bobby Jones takes it on the chin in Camden there wouldn't be any eligible wrestlers in the state.
But maybe this was different. Billy Edwards was matched with Elmer Guthrie. Oscar Lindley backed up Edwards and this started a riot. Result, one referee K.O.ed and three wrestlers on the verge of suspension.
* * * * *
We wonder how "Bull" Martin and Pat McGill made out in that bout in Boston, the one right in the middle of the banking holiday. The promoter agreed to accept I.O.U.'s from the fans for the bout if they happened to have been caught without any cash. We hope they had good luck and a big crowd. It was an honest effort to carry on and give the fans as good a break as possible and deserved success. P.S.: The fan who presented his divorce decree proved that he was entitled to freedom in some places, but was he given the freedom of the arena? We really would like to know the answer to that one.
* * * * *
Bull was the winner in a Chelsea Armory bout, defeating Andy Brown in straight falls. Benny Ginsburg won from Sailor Arnold; Rudy LaDitzi defeated Carl Laemle; Pat Riley defeated Chief Polo, and Nick Karas won from Tommy Carter on this card.
* * * * *
At the Broadway Arena, New York, Ray Steele took the headline bout from Joe DeVito. Abe Coleman won a decision from George Vassell; Eli Fischer tossed Tiny Ruff; Joe Cox threw Norton B. Jackson, and Hans Kampfer and Rudy Dusek struggled to a draw.
* * * * *
Jim Londos defeated Ernie Dusek in a bout in Albany, Frank Judson lost to the Pennsylvania champion in Washington and the Handsome Greek defeated Dr. Karl Sarpolis in a one-fall match in Cincinnati.
* * * * *
Ray Steele and Ernie Dusek struggled a long time before Dusek lost to Steele in a Philadelphia bout. Ray made up for that when he tossed Frank Judson in 20 minutes, 31 seconds in the headline bout in New York.
* * * * *
Ed Don George must have been out after the easy money when he wrestled Al Mercier in Lewistown, Maine. It was a two-fall match and George worked less than 40 minutes to win the two.
HALPERN FACES ROCCA TONIGHT
(Newark Star-Ledger, Saturday, March 27, 1954)
The long awaited clash between Antonino Rocca and Raphael Halpern tops a non-televised wrestling program at Newark Armory tonight. The bout is billed for one fall to a finish.
Halpern, native of Jerusalem and unbeaten in 162 matches, has been in this country for nearly two years, most of the time seeking a contest with Rocca. They were matched in Trenton a little more than a year ago but Rocca found a way out and was suspended.
Recently, Madison Square Garden promoters showed an inclination for the bout and when that happened, Newark promoters, recalling that they were the promoters when Rocca ran out in Trenton, put in a claim for the bout with State Athletic Commissioner Abe Greene. The boxing head followed up and Rocca was forced to honor the Jersey contract.
Halpern has never lost a fall. His top triumphs were over Lu Kim, Lord Carlton, the Zebra Kid, and Steve Stanlee.
A women’s go between Lillian Ellison and Darling Dagmar, one fall to a finish, is also on the program.
ROCCA DRAWS WITH HALPERN
(Newark Star-Ledger, Sunday, March 28, 1954)
The Antonino Rocca-Raphael Halpern match was declared a draw by referee Art Generous after one hour of wrestling last night at Newark Armory before a crowd of 4,459, largest of the season. The gross gate was $11,301. The feature bout, originally scheduled for one fall to a finish, was changed at ringtime to one fall with a one-hour time limit.
In other results, Chief Blue Eagle and Harry Lewis defeated Baron Gattoni and Nature Boy in a tag-team event, best of three falls, and Adrian Baillargeon pinned Frank Dallo in 14 minutes.
HALPERN TO WRESTLE UNDER GILZENBERG
(Newark Star-Ledger, Thursday, April 8, 1954)
Raphael Halpern, Hebrew heavyweight wrestler, leaves for his native Israel from International Airport tonight. Prior to his departure, the rabbinical grappler signed an exclusive contract to be handling by Willie Gilzenberg for the next two years.
Halpern will only stay long enough to look over his gymnasiums in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem. The gymnasiums are used mostly for developing the youth of Israel in body building exercises. Many of the youngsters take the courses before joining the Israeli army.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 260-2002
ORVILLE BROWN AND LEE WYCKOFF EACH WIN A FALL
(Kansas City Star, Sunday, March 23, 1947)
Orville Brown and Lee Wyckoff went to a 90-minute draw in the main event of the American Legion wrestling card at the former Scottish Rite Temple last night before a near-capacity crowd. Both grapplers resorted to rough methods and used every unorthodox maneuver they could muster in an effort to win. The bout ran out with both Brown and Wyckoff registering one fall apiece.
Brown gained the first fall after a series of flying tackles by employing a head lock against the Osborne, Kas., matman, clocked in 25:29. After Wyckoff had unsuccessfully tried to use the notorious reverse toe hold on three occasions, Brown bounced back to gain the initial fall.
Ede Virag, Wichita, Kas., heavyweight, racked up two straight falls to triumph over Jack Johnson, the Detroit Black Panther, in the semi-final event. Virag resorted to rough tactics from the opening bell and body slams were used at a fast pace to subdue the Detroit Negro. The Kansan’s first fall was registered in 13:18 when he swept off the ropes and downed Johnson with a full nelson suplex. Virag employed a leg split and shoulder press to score the second and decisive fall in 9:06.
Marshall Esteppe’s scientific style proved superior against Joe Adelman in the special event and the former pinned the Kansas City grapple rin 10:06 with an abdominal stretch, which forced Adelman to surrender. Gene Romar, Kansas City light-heavyweight, went on a roughhouse rampage and defeated Al Getz, Hartford, Conn., with a backbreaker slam and body press, clocked in 10:24, in the added attraction.
GARDEN BILLS GRAPPLERS FOR $7.50 TOP, YET!
(Associated Press, January 20, 1949)
By Jack Hand
NEW YORK – A shirt-sleeved gent from the Western Union brought a wire over to the sports department. It read like this:
"The most important sports press conference of the year will be held at the Astor hotel Wednesday, Jan. 19. An announcement of national importance will emanate from this conference."
It was signed "Bill Johnston."
Proper investigation led a reporter to a long conference room at the Astor where several assorted sports writers, radio announcers and television artists were seated.
Johnston was a little late in arriving with the big story. But there were a few refreshments in the corner and a hotel employe circulated with a tray of canapes. The waiting wasn’t too bad.
Finally the big moment arrived. The sports story of 1949 had reached the breaking point. Johnston was there.
"Gentlemen," he said, "we are going to promote wrestling in Madison Square Garden. We have signed for one date, Tuesday, Feb. 22, which is Washington’s birthday. We’ll try to get more later, any dates the garden will let us have."
There was no wild scramble for the waiting telephones. It seems everybody knew Feb. 22 was Washington’s birthday. They also knew about wrestling.
"This is the first wrestling in the Garden since 1937," said Johnston. The historians dug up the information that a match between Dick Shikat and Danno O’Mahoney was the last one (sic). Naturally, it was for the world’s heavyweight championship.
Johnston, who operates some eighteen wrestling clubs in New York, Long Island and New Jersey, thinks he has a chance to make some real cash. He may be right.
Television and Gorgeous George – the perfumed gentleman with the valet – have revived the game. People who thought wrestling had died out long ago, rediscovered the sport on their television screens. A whole new army of women fans has arisen, according to Johnston.
"Interest in wrestling has increased 100 per cent since television," said Johnston. He was referring to the sport in the New York area. It has been a hardy perennial in other sections, particularly the south and southwest with such added features as mud wrestling, women wrestling and tag wrestling.
"None of that stuff is allowed here," Johnston pointed out. "The commission, for twenty years or so, hasn’t allowed us to advertise a wrestling bout as a contest. It must be only an exhibition in New York state. But Frank Sexton is generally recognized as champion along the Atlantic seaboard.
"In New York there can be no hitting the referee," he continued, "no tossing a man out of the ring and no fighting after the bell."
It’s standard routine in many communities for the referee, who may be a celebrity like Jack Dempsey, to knock out the "villain."
Gorgeous George, Primo Carnera, Sexton and a vast array of characters are under consideration for the first Garden show. There will be five or seven bouts with $7.50 tops.
Johnston will work with the wrestling promoters and association and its chairman, Ed (Strangler) Lewis. He says he’ll co-operate with all circuits. Lewis is digging up talent in the west and Toots Mondt is down in Caracas, looking for new faces.
Don’t laugh too hard, Bub. It may sell out the Garden.
HOW TALL GREW THE CORN OVER GEORGE’S DEBUT!
(Denver Post, Saturday, February 19, 1949)
By Jack Frank
There wasn’t enough blood shed Friday night in Mammoth Garden to give a transfusion to an ailing cockroach, but who wants blood when you can watch Gorgeous George daintily pat his curls?
Gorgeous George, who prefers to be billed as a wrestler, engaged one George Craig in a hair-pulling match whose savagery recalled more spirited moments of a close-fought chess game.
Gorgeous George was in fine fettle. Every inch the "champion," he waddled into the ring as the organ pealed an off-key graduation march.
Jeffries, the gorgeous one’s valet, prepared the way for his master by spraying disinfectant about the ring. Craig, who was destined to be straight man at the evening’s festivities, sulked in his corner, gnawing on a gnarled thumb.
The stage was set. The house lights dimmed. Gorgeous George, aided by his man, Jeffries, drew off his robe. The overhead ring lights rippled over his biceps. His trunks were tighter than a Republican checking a Democratic budget.
By this time, Craig, apparently in a nervous funk, was counting the house to steady himself.
Then, rather anti-climatically, the two athletes locked in combat.
Craig clamped a half-nelson on his opponent. Gorgeous George wept. Gorgeous George grasped Craig by the hair. Craig pleaded for mercy.
The two men circled, eager for the kill. Gorgeous George, with a magnificent display of contempt for his opponent, leaped out of the ring. Craig, always the sportsman, put his heel in George’s eye as he climbed back into the arena.
Gorgeous George finally emerged as "victor," pinning Craig in two falls. Gorgeous George attributed his "victory" to superior skill.
Next week: The Marx Brothers in "The Truth About Lassie."
(RETURN TO WAWLI PAPERS INDEX PAGE)