The WAWLI Papers # 208...


(, March, 1997)

By Lou Thesz

At first, I thought of myself as an odd choice to speak on amateur wrestling, but on second thought, it gives me an excellent opportunity. An opportunity to personally testify for all the constructive aspects of amateur wrestling.

I concede that there is a gulf between amateur and professional wrestling greater than that between, say, amateur football and professional football. However, there is a gulf between all amateur and professional sports called rule changes. A professional sport subsists on ticket sales, therefore it must earn its fans with more exciting plays and faster paced action. Granted, professional wrestling has over-achieved in this respect, to the destruction of its own foundation -- amateur wrestling.

I won't bore you with the Pancratium history, but will say that wrestling is the oldest sport in the world. Is there any doubt in your mind about wrestling matches between Cain and Abel? Tradition is a tremendous part of amateur wrestling and part of that tradition is an eliteness the athlete feels about himself, even if he loses. He knows it takes someone special just to step on the mat.

In my case, amateur wresling took a shy, awkward, semi-foreigner and gave him the courage, maybe attitude; in today's venacular, to become a world champion. I did a lot of winning in amateur wrestling, because you win every time you compete. My hand was not always raised, but I won a little more confidence, a little more knowledge and a little more humility with every match.

This is not true of all sports. Wrestling is a one-on-one sport and it teaches self-reliance. I have almost worn out this saying: If it is to be, it is up to me. To this day, it will go through my mind when I am faced with a challenge. Challenge is what wrestling is all about -- there is always someone bigger and possibly better. The challenge is to stay focused, stay consistent, stay fit and stay ready. Just like in life.

Another great aspect of wrestling is it's equal opportunity. No matter your size or shape, there is a place for you in the sport. Wrestling only measures one's spirit. Some of the best matches are in the lower weight classes. As we read, on this site, about the athletes of amateur wrestling, I want us to keep in mind the dedication it takes to "make weight" by adhering to a very strict diet, and the fitness training involved, plus the unadulterated love of the sport it takes to step on the mat.

From high school meets, to sitting in with Grey Simons at Old Dominion University, to the World Championships I witnessed in Altanta in 1995, wrestling is a sport of grace, strength, stamina and heart. My amateur wrestling days were very unstructured, and were only intramural in a high school. Our coach was also the coach for other sports. I was trained for professional wrestling by a former Olympiad wrestler and college wrestling coach. As part of my training he would set up matches with the best wrestlers at the surrounding area colleges. Even on a college level wrestling, the organization was not as vast as it is today (travel wasn't that great, either).

The growth of the sport of wrestling in the amateurs and it's production of fantastic wrestlers is almost in direct corrolation to the rise of weightlifters and bodybuilders in professional wrestling. What a sad irony. What gives me a positive perspective is knowing their knowledge will go into the professional world in leadership roles.

Wrestling molds young people into leaders. The same principles of wrestling follow directly into any form of life. When I do business with a professional -- doctor, attorney, banker, etc., I am comfortable with the one who wrestled. He looks me in the eye, faces facts, confronts all the issues and has the courage of his convictions. That spirit survives beyond the wrestling meets and duels -- even beyond age.


It took a little more of the Cauliflower Alley Club members' attention than perhaps it had for past renewals, but the annual West Coast Reunion Banquet came off without many hitches in the Empire Room of the Studio City, Calif., Sportsmen's Lodge Saturday evening, March 14.

"We found out one thing," noted CAC vice president Karl Lauer at the group's board evening the night previous. "All the stuff Art Abrams did, it took something like 30 people to do."

Abrams, a founder of the 31-year-old "Ring of Friendship" with the late Mike Mazurki, died last fall, leaving a big gap in the lineup where he had previously "done it all" as CAC executive vice president, secretary and treasurer.

For the immediate future, at least five people will officially carry on in Abrams absence: Lauer, from his Missouri home, will take charge of membership cards and dues notices; Brittany Brown was appointed CAC secretary; Tom and Chris Drake will take over the treasurership and the financial reins of the organization; and longtime communication secretary Maria Bernardi will continue in that role.

Five others were appointed to churn out the CAC newsletters which keep the membership informed of happenings and coming events: Dean Silverstone, Tom Burke, Sheldon Goldberg, Scott Teal and J Michael Kenyon. Kenyon and Paul Mauer were voted in as board members at the conclusion of the March 13 meeting. Gary Ballin, publications director, will continue as chair of the scholarship committee, which picked Allen Lupoe -- a nominee of Ballin's -- as 1998 honor recipient.

Norm Cote, co-chair of the banquet along with Lauer, greeted the assemblage of some 300 at Saturday's gathering, which was headlined by a "roast and toast" of CAC president Lou Thesz.

Rev. Bill Pappas, who would receive the prestigious Art Abrams Lifetime Achievement Award (for his dedicated service to underprivileged youth) from Abrams' widow, Selma, gave the invocation. Thesz, capping off a full weekend of salutes, also took home the Iron Mike Mazurki Award.

A host of newspaper and magazine photographers recorded the events, headed by official CAC photographer Mike Neporadny.

Some 30 of Thesz' friends and former ring foes took turns alternating friendly jibes with volumes of praise for the quietly dignified 81-year-old who, for so many years, reigned as professional wrestling's "real" heavyweight champion. Another contemporary beltholder, Verne Gagne, elicited a good guffaw from the crowd when he "revealed" that "Lou Thesz was the first to use steroids . . . back around 1928 or '29."

No small number of the roasters chose to remember Thesz as a shooter and tough man to handle in the ring. Gene LeBell, while poking fun at the honorary, mirrored those sentiments when he suddenly leapt up and stood behind Thesz, seated at the head table. "There!" exclaimed LeBell, "I finally got behind you!"

Rolland (Red) Bastein had one of his favorite presents, a gold-plated crowbar, to present to Thesz in honor of his stiff wrestling habits.

Walter (Killer) Kowalski related a characteristic Thesz tale about Lou's insistence that his fellow wrestlers put up the toilet seat in the dressing room before urinating "otherwise I'll cripple you." Kowalski gleefully told of pouring water on the toilet seat and leaving it down just before Thesz went to use the facility. The ensuing outburst, as told by Kowalski, was sidesplitting.

Pat Patterson, Dick (The Destroyer) Beyer, Fritz Von Goering, Kinji Shibuya, Beautiful Bruce Swayze, Ella Waldek, Ida Mae Martinez, Penny Banner, Ray (Thunder) Stern, Balk Estes, Billy Darnell, Bob McCune, Tom Drake, Buddha Khan, Danny Hodge,

Count Billy Varga and other ex-wrestlers were joined by celebrities Stella Stevens and John Phillip Law in giving their best to rib the venerable Thesz, along with the daughter of late promoter and Thesz pal Billy Thom.

Steve Rickard, onetime N.W.A. champion from New Zealand, probably won the long-distance traveling award among those present.

The CAC board, while leaving the door open to future reunions in and around New York-Boston and Florida, also heard a proposal from director Mike Chapman, whose wrestling hall of fame opens this year in Newton, Iowa, some 30 miles outside Des Moines. Chapman hopes that the CAC can be enticed to hold a full-scale reunion at Newton, in conjunction with the opening of the museum's professional wrestling wing, in November.


(ED. NOTE--Presently posted on the Chicago Tribune's World Wide Web site are the 150 "greatest" moments in Chicago sports history. One, although ranked far below where it ought to have been in the order of things, was the first Gotch-Hackenschmidt match. For some reason, I have a memory of that bout taking place nearer to the Stockyards . . . with the second Gotch-Hackenschmidt match taking place at the White Sox Park on Labor Day, 1911. But who am to trust my memory against the mammoth archives of one of America's great papers?)

149. Gotch beats Hackenschmidt, April 4, 1906, White Sox Park

Frank Gotch was the No. 1 pro wrestler in the business. He made a huge $1,750 per week. He beat George ``Russian Lion'' Hackenschmidt in an exhibition match at White Sox Park. These were giants in their day, bigger than Hulk Hogan, or even Dennis Rodman, today.


From: "Sid G. Munn"
Subject: FW: Elmer Ferguson / 1962 story on Ed Lewis
Date: Thu, 19 Feb 1998 12:34:20 -0800


I really enjoyed the Ferguson story you recently provided to a wrestling website. I've been doing some research on my uncle, Wayne Munn, and am sort of new to what internet sources may exist, so it was gratifying to find info referring to Uncle Wayne. My father, Glen, was also a wrestler in the late 20s, and grew to be good friends with Ed Lewis.

I'll never forget, as a child when Ed came to our home in Caldwell, Idaho, and placing me in his famous head-lock, saying that I was probably the last Munn, he'd ever use it on. I think I was around 10 or so.

If you have any suggestions about internet sources for my research (am also trying to find information on another uncle, Monte Munn, who was a professional boxer (South American Champion) in the 1920's, I would greatly appreciate it.

Best regards, Sid Munn, Seattle, Wa.

P.S.  -- a better E-mail address for me is


(Minneapolis Star, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 1953)

(The following is the first in a series of three articles about pro wrestling from 1905 to 1953, written by Bill Hengen and published by the Minneapolis Star. Our thanks to Koji Miyamoto for contributing the pieces.)

By Bill Hengen

Twenty and more years ago wrestlers tugged -- and tugged. Concessionaires sold -- and sold out. No time limits on "leverage" matches made that possible.

 Today wrestling has the spectacular touch. Each match has a time limit. The concessionaire has only the intermission. Each style has earned its own place in the rather vague records of wrestling, according to Tony Stecher. Historian Stecher wrestled in one era, is promoting in the other.

Wrestling became a recorded fact in 1908 when Frank Gotch defeated George Hackenschmidt in the first recognized international title match. This was the leverage era -- when opponents stood toe to toe for hours trying to bend each other to the mat.

Gotch was big, strong, and -- 50 years ago -- terrific. Yet even he could lose. He lost to Tom Jenkins, and later to Fred Beell, a quick-reflexed but lighter opponent. But Gotch never lost a fall, let alone a match, from 1908 until he died in 1918 (sic). And in that span, when Gotch after seven undefeated years retired in 1913, he had disposed of another top-notch wrestler who never won the title -- Dr. B.F. Roller.

In a tournament to determine the next champion, Charley Cutler won from both Henry Ordemann of Minneapolis and Jesse Westergaard to claim the title. But in 1915 Cutler lost to a 20-year-old upstart, Joe Stecher, brother of Tony. Gotch offered the new champion a match, willing to come out of retirement, because it appeared as though a fabulous $100,000 gate were possible. Gotch wanted $40,000 and, when Joe Stecher's manager refused, Gotch was quoted as saying: "Don't forget . . . Sometime you'll reget never having the line 'Stecher beat Gotch' on the records." And, Tony says, "Gotch was so right."

The 1915-20 years produced outstanding scientific wrestlers. Ad Santel was one. Under 200 pounds, Santel made a habit of wrestling under various names. And he tossed almost everyone but Joe Stecher. John Pesek was another. Tony rates Pesek and Santel as two of the greatest leverage wrestlers never to win the title. This, too, was the Ed (Strangler) Lewis era. Earl Caddock first came into the picture. Then Wladek Zbyszko, 10 years younger than his brother, Stanislaus -- who came later -- moved onto the scene. Another was Americus -- the first to use a single name as wrestler. His given name was Gus Schoenlein.

Joe Stecher, three times a champ, lost his title to Caddock in 1917 and didn't get a chance to regain it until 1920. Then he won it back. In 1921 Stecher and Lewis wrestled for five hours and 20 minutes without a decision (sic). The second time that year they met, Lewis stayed out of Stecher's reach so long that the match was stopped.

But in 1923 (sic), with Stecher's arm slowly withering from an old injury, Lewis won the title.

Lewis retained the crown for two years. During that 1920-25 era, Europeans with the Greco-Roman style of wrestling moved into the states. Among the better wrestlers of this period were Stan Zbyszko, Wayne Munn, Hans Steinke -- big and slow, Martin Plestina, another big strong fellow; the Russian, Ivan Poddubny; and the older matmen who were gradually fading from the scene. Munn was good enough to win the title from Lewis in 1925, but he became one of the short-term holders -- three weeks (sic) -- before losing it to Stan Zbyszko.

In the same year Stecher regained the title for the third time, and held it until 1928 when Lewis once again regained the crown. Then Stecher passed from the wrestling picture. Lewis was to lose again, in 1929, to an All-American football player from Dartmouth, Gus Sonnenberg.

Sonnenberg was, along with Ed Don George, Dick Shikat, Ray Steele, Jim Browning, Henri DeGlane and Jim Londos, one of the upstarts of the 1925-30 period. Sonnenberg did two things when he won the title. He introduced the college angle into the mat game, and he sounded the death knell to leverage wrestling. It was going to take a few years, but the spectacular angle was destined to enter future matches.

(to be continued)

(ED. NOTE -- Like so many newspaper and magazine articles dedicated to professional wrestling "history," this three-part account by Hengen is rife with inaccuracies and factual missteps. While the overall narrative is approximately correct, Hengen had Gotch dying in the wrong year, misspelled names (one 'n' was dropped from Schoenlein, Roller was listed as "F.B." instead of "B.F." -- for Benjamin Franklin -- and the years of several milestones were wrong. The five-hour, twenty-minute Stecher-Lewis match did not occur in 1921. Stanislaus Zbyszko had shown up BEFORE his brother, in 1909, and unsuccessfully tested Gotch. He returned after the war to win "rolling-fall" bouts from Lewis in New York, before losing the title back to a straight three-count in Wichita in March of 1922 (not 1923, as Hengen wrote). Wayne Munn was a collegian, too, from the University of Nebraska, where he had earned a reputation as a football player. His wrestling skills were such that he could not be protected and he subsequently turned the title over to the elder Zybszko in a famous double-cross before Lewis could win it back in the much-ballyhooed Memorial Day match of 1925 at Michigan City, Indiana. Munn held it for more than three months, though, not just three weeks. Stecher, in turn, dumped the aging Zbyszko and, as Hengen rightly narrated, kept the title until losing to Lewis in February 1928 at St. Louis.)

 The WAWLI Papers #209...

(ED. NOTE—Koji Miyamoto, Japan’s foremost professional wrestling historian, and Don Luce of Buffalo, N.Y., one of the great mat archivists of the 20th century, have been discussing a point of order with regard to which title it was that Lou Thesz won when he flopped Everett Marshall on Dec. 29, 1937 in St. Louis. Now, I have been drawn into the discussion by Mr. Miyamoto, who is eager to once and for all pinpoint the "facts"—well, as much as "facts" can be ascertained in the professional wrestling realm. Readers are invited to peruse the Miyamoto-Luce correspondence. My rejoinder to all this will follow later.)


(Don Luce to Koji Miyamoto, dated March 11, 1998)


Enclosed are some newspaper copies which called Lou Thesz as American Wrestling Association champion, and show that John Pesek was N.W.A. titleholder in 1937-38. Also, a letter from Mark Hewitt which backs my story.

When I started research in the 1960s the microfilm readers didn’t have printers. I had to copy information in notebooks. Mark Hewitt had a lot of newspaper copies. Matt Buziak went to the Buffalo library to make a copy of the American Wrestling Association business.

The St. Louis program that called Harry Landry a 21-year president is likely wrong.If the National Wrestling Association had the same officers as the National Boxing Association, which was likely, Landry was not always president. Sam Marburger had different offices in the Association.

Ask Lou Thesz about the Montreal belt he won in June, 1940, from Leo Numa, and lost to Yvon Robert in 1941 at Montreal. Was it the Strangler Lewis belt? When Lou lost to Steve Casey (February, 1938, Boston), maybe promoter Paul Bowser put a different belt on Casey. Maybe (Billy) Sandow or (Tom) Packs took Lou’s belt home and later put it on (Everett) Marshall at the Montreal convention in September, 1938.

Marshall was called the Midwest Wrestling Association champion and wore a belt that Al Haft gave him. The belt was given back to Haft and Thesz got a new belt on December 29, 1937.

Best wishes, Don


(Buffalo Evening News, December 30, 1937)

ST. LOUIS, Dec. 30 (AP) -- Louis Thesz of St. Louis was acclaimed heavyweight champion by the American Wrestling Association Wednesday night by virtue of his victory over Everett Marshall, La Junta, Colo., in 53:48. Thesz weighed 218; Marshall, 221.

Dear Don,

Enclosed find articles on the Casey-Thesz bout and the NWA meetings. Casey was presented with a belt by Bob Gregory’s wife. Gregory was the referee. His wife was supposed to be the daughter of the White Rajah of Sarawak. She was usually ringside when he wrestled. I think Gregory was British. Despite what Thesz or anyone says the NWA had nothing to do with that match. They recognized John Pesek as the heavyweight champion during the period.

So long,
Mark Hewitt


(Boston newspaper account, February 10, 1938)

By Tom Fitzgerald

Probably the last person in the world you’d suspect of being a soft-hearted sentimentalist is Steve Casey, the sad-panned, savage-looking gentleman from County Kerry who tomorrow night at the Garden attempts to lift the midwestern rights to the wrestling crown from the person of Louis Thesz, the smoothie from St. Louis.

Stephen is a pretty vicious looking party, it must be admitted, as he furiously wades into the opposition with a mean gleam in his eye. But, if you can persuade your imagination to accept the fact, the erstwhile Crusher is a pretty sad young man among his playmates, afflicted with a huge helping of homesickness.

From the start of his sojourn here, the old boatman from the Roaring Water hasn’t been quite as happy as you’d have suspected. He’s never been a great conversationalist, but from the chance word that he’s dropped here and there, it isn’t hard to gather that he hasn’t considered his lot quite a bed of roses.

Unlike his more imaginative countryman, the good Danno (O’Mahoney), he has never been able to adapt himself completely to his new surroundings, and he has consequently been always eaten by a nostalgia of which he probably isn’t quite aware himself. He can’t, for instance, console himself to the loss of his favorite pastime of rowing in which he indulged with his five burly brothers back home.

And he misses, too, all the other strength-testing pastimes which was their sole avocation in the simple days back in the Kerry fishing village.After thinking it over for some time therefore, the good Stephen has come to a decision about all of this, and he goes into battle tomorrow night with two alternate plans in his mind about rectifying the situation.

First of all, if he wins, he’s going to dispatch a cable to Ireland bidding the entire family—mother and father and five brothers and two sisters—to come here so that he can transplant the hearth and home in which his attention seems to be centered.

If he loses, he’s going to send another cable announcing that he’s coming home himself, after fulfilling one or two engagements which he still has on tap here.


(Boston newspaper account, February 12, 1938)

By Tom Fitzgerald

Steve Casey, the sad-faced strong boy from County Kerry, lugged at least one portion of the straying mat title back to the Bowser trophy room last night when he turned back Louis Thesz, the mid-western pretender, before a gathering of between 12,000 and 14,000 -- the largest wrestling crowd the Garden has housed in more than two years.

The sorrowful Gael took the odd fall of one of the fastest and most convincing pachyderms in a good many months with his patented Killarney Flip at 30:15 of the third session.

Thesz took the opening fall in 29:25 with a series of headlocks. Steve came back to carry off the equalizer in 11:45 with a pair of flying mares.

With no small display of pomp and panopoly, the sometime fisherboy from the Roaring Water received due recognition of his triumph when he was presented the gaudy buckler, emblematic of the corn belt supremacy, by Mrs. Bob Gregory, blonde wife of the main bout referee and daughter of the Rajah of Sarawak.

Despite the fact that Casey was operating with a pair of hands swaddled in bandages as a result of what is said to be a scalding sustained in a shower bath, both boys moved at a high-geared pace marked by no little bedazzling mat science, a good deal of fancy tumbling and just enough of the rougher side of the pastime to keep the customers on the qu vive.

Casey surprisingly showed a lot more finesse and agility than he did on any of his previous strings of successive triumphs in our midst. Thesz contributed more than his share of the hipper dipper business in the opening canto, but Casey provided at least one neat trick when he maneuvered himself out of a leg spread into a Jap leg lock. This prestidigitation was, however, the immediate prelude for a series of 10 -- count ‘em -- 10 head locks which Thesz employed in taking the fall.

The second was short, not too sweet, with Stephen making all the better of some really convincing brawling before he worked his way into that pair of flying mares which are first cousins to his pet flip.Before the end came there was some real alley stuff with Stephen carrying the torch, and mixing in some back-cracking body slams for good measure. He set up the killing for a practical purpose when he tightly looped Louis into the press bench, just before the conclusion.

The members of the Irish boxing team which fights at the Garden Monday evening were introduced before the bout.

The supporting card provided a few choice items. The nearest tidbit from the customer’s point of view was whiffle-haired Cliff Olson’s tossing of mammoth Chief Saunooke in the special. Clifford finished the business in 14:48 when the aborigine surrendered under pressure of a stepover toe hold, but he performed the trick of the week earlier when, without aid of a tractor or army tank, he butted the 325-pound red man into the press row with a resounding crash.

Your old friend George Clark, the toughie from Glasgow, for all of his skill, could gain nothing better than a 15-minute draw with John Paul Jones, a newly found scissors exponent who is a pretty rowdy character on his own hook, while Ed Don George, the handsome young man from North Java, gave Pat Reilly, the Texas bad man, a vengeful beating, then captured the fall in 24:21 with an airplane whirl and slam.

The other preliminaries resulted as follows: Harry Mamos and Bibber McCoy, draw, 10 minutes; The Sheik threw Les Ryan, inside crotch, slam, 5:02. (Willie Davis and Hans Steinke won other preliminaries.)


(Boston newspaper account, February 12, 1938)

By Tom Fitzgerald

It may be just a vagrant suspicion, but you need not be surprised if wrestling, the sport with the nine lives, is about to enjoy another renaissance in this vicinity.

For just when the obity of the daffy pastime was being prepared along several fronts, the darned business took at least a temporary lease of further existence last night at the Garden when Steve Casey, the sorrowful Kerry fisherman, snatched the mid-western patent to the title from Louis Thesz, the stream-lined Magyar from St. Louis.

There have been so many parlous days in the grunt and groan industry since the time when Danno O’Mahoney faded from the scene that even the most sanguine members of the fraternity were not prepared to expect last evening’s house-filling audience that was estimated at anywhere from 10,000 to 14,000 and which exceeded any previous indoor gathering of the kind since the Danno and Yvon Robert get-together for the first time more than two years ago.

There is no reason to doubt, of course, that many of the pew-holders rose simply to the extra-curricular bait of royalty and young love which was so neatly served up by the rotund Col. Paul Bowser, the pachydermic Barnum, who is probably grinning a little knowingly today.

This leads logically to the conclusion that without the trappings aforementioned, the art of torso-twisting will fall once more upon parlous days. But it’s just as likely that it won’t.

For last night’s respectable gathering was treated to a performance that was likely to engage its fancy. Casey, although he was suffering from what Mr. Naylor Stone, the Boswerian Boswell, said were a pair of scalded hands that caused him to enter the ring heavily bandaged, nevertheless put on a more imaginative performance than he has at any other time since he started to compile his uninterrupted triumphant streak here.

There was a maximum of wrestling hipper-dipper about the whole business, too, which the pew holders seemed to relish, although the lads mixed in enough brawling to keep the fans from losing their faith in such things. The affair was condcuted in all possible good taste, it may be added, with the lads indulging in gnetlemanly handshakes all around instead of the post-bout riots which so often follow these occasions.

What the procedure from this point will be is a question, of course. It seems assured, at any rate, that special bait or no special bait, a large majority of the straying faithful are likely to be lured back into the fold by the exhibition Steve and Louis staged for their benefit last night. And it isn’t to be doubted that they’d come back in reassuring numbers for a second helping of the same.

The passing of the corn belt title to Casey, for one thing, is a great step toward Mr. Bowser’s policy of championship consolidation. He has now within his flock the holders of the two major mat crowns in Casey and Yvon Robert.

For the rest of this indoor season you may be sure that both Thesz and Everett Marshall, who held the midwest bauble before him, will be in the line with challenges for the dour Stephen, and you may be as fully assured that these challenges won’t go unanswered.

All of this will be to the profit side of the ledger, of course, and it takes no great stretch of the imagination to visualize a big ball park extravaganza between Messers. Robert and Casey for a final consolidation of their title claims.


(Associated Press, August 16, 1938)

INDIANAPOLIS—The world’s heavyweight wrestling title is vacant insofar as the National Wrestling Association is concerned, Sam Murbarger, chairman of the association’s rating committee, said today.

Murbarger said it was decided to declare the title vacant because John Pesek of Nebraska, the last designed titleholder, had refused to meet the "worthy opponents."

Murbarger said a new "world’s champion" would be selected at the association’s annual convention in Montreal in September.


(Associated Press, September 14, 1938)

MONTREAL—Everett Marshall of La Junta, Colo., was designed today as the "defending heavyweight wrestling champion" by the National Wrestling Association.

Recognition of Marshall, who succeeds John Pesek, came after an 8-6 vote, with two delegates not voting. Immediately after the announcement, Colonel Alfred Ballin of Columbus, Ohio, issued a challenge in behalf of Al Haft, Pesek’s manager, for a match between Marshall and Pesek within three months.(Colonel Harry J. Landry, Friar’s Point, Miss, was re-elected as treasurer of the parent National Boxing Association at this same convention, while Sam Marburger of Indianapolis was elected to the post of vice-president of the NBA. They had different roles in the NWA.)


(Minneapolis Star, Thursday, Dec. 17, 1953

By Bill Hengen, Part II

When Gus Sonnenberg, Dartmouth All-American, used his famous "Billy Goat Butt" to win the wrestling title from Ed (Strangler) Lewis in 1929, he opened a new era.

It became the opening wedge for spectacular wrestling. The "bump ‘em around" system moved in. Leverage wrestling—the toe to toe kind—hit a definite decline.

It was the beginning of a pattern change. More and more, time limit matches took over. And, in doing so, wrestling moved at a faster pace—and gave birth to a series of holds with shuddering names.

Sonnenberg’s two-year tenure as champion helped popularize the college man in wrestling. Ed Don George of Michigan won the title in 1931. George, in turn, lost to Lewis, Henri DeGlane defeated Lewis. In 1932, George won the title from DeGlane. Meanwhile, the championship situation became a little muddled. But it was not half as confusing as it was to be in the next few years.

Dick Shikat and Jim Londos helped start the trend of championships "by the dozen." In 1929, the two wrestled for the Pennsylvania championship. Shikat won, and immediately claimed the world title.

In 1930, Londos won from Shikat, so he put in his claim. But in 1932, with Shikat being recognized as champion (sic), Lewis met and won from Shikat for the New York world crown. A year later, Jim Browning defeated Lewis. In 1934, Londos won from Browning. And in 1935 Danno O’Mahoney lifted the crown from Londos.

About this time George, who had been carrying around his old championship claim after winning from DeGlane, wrestled O’Mahoney and lost. So Danno claimed the world title.

It became more confusing, too, as the various areas named champions. And this span in wrestling’s history confusion was the best hold in use.

In 1936, Shikat defeated O’Mahoney. In the same year, Ali Baba won from Shikat. And, in defending against Dave Levin, Ali Baba was disqualified and his title taken away. Later, the New Jersey athletic commission reversed the referee.That, however, didn’t prevent Levin from continuing to claim a title.

In the same year, Everett Marshall won from Ali Baba and became recognized by many as the National Wrestling Association champ.

Meanwhile, Dean Detton was defeating Levin. That set the stage for a year later when Bronko Nagurski wrestled and won from Detton here (in Minneapolis). At the same time, Lou Thesz erased Marshall from the roll call. In 1938, Londos won from Nagurski and in the same year Steve Casey was defeating Thesz for the association title and Marshall was winning from Casey.

The change in the wrestling format was noticeable in the latter match.First, Marshall was disqualified for throwing Casey out of the ring. Then the decision was reversed.

In 1939, Thesz beat Marshall and lost to Nagurski. In 1940, Ray Steele won from Bronko. In 1941, Nagurski won the title back from Steele. Then he lost it to Sandor Szabo. In 1942 Bill Longson won from Szabo and lost to Yvon Robert. Then Bobby Managoff won from Robert and, in 1943, Bill Longson took the title from Managoff.

In 1947, Whipper Bill Watson became champion. Then, in a series of three matches within the next year, Thesz won, lost and won from Whipper Bill to become the leading champion.

In was in 1947, too, that the National Wrestling Alliance was formed by the promoters. And two years later, in a determined effort to name one champion, the body decided to hold an elimination.

Frank Sexton, east; Thesz, south; Orville Brown, west; and Cliff Gustafson, middle west, were the candidates. But Brown was injured in an auto accident and Gustafson retired to become principal of schools at Gonvick, Minn. So Sexton wrestled and lost to Don Eagle, Eagle lost to George (sic), and Thesz defeated George (sic).

At last, the nation had what was to be considered the real champion as Thesz continued to defeat other area claimants one by one.

Today, Thesz is the recognized titlist. Now all he has to contend with are wrestlers like Verne Gagne, Pat O’Connor and others. Some day in the reasonable future, the feeling is that Thesz, too, will join the list of ex-champions.

But there’s gold in them thar holds. And that is why wrestling can be listed as "big business" in a world of big business.

(to be continued)

(ED. NOTE—Author Hengen’s woes with the facts continued unabated in part two of the Minneapolis Star series. While it is literally true that "Eagle lost to George, and Thesz defeated George," what he does not make clear is that the "George" involved—rather than refer to the earlier mentioned Ed Don George—was "Gorgeous" George (nee George Wagner), the marcelled showman who singlehandedly brought wrestling attendance back from the late Depression and World War II doldrums with a series of hugely successful tours in the late 1940s. Too, Hengen has simplified enormously the title chronology by saying that the National Wrestling Alliance staged an elimination tournament. Not so. They were going along, fine and dandy, with Orville Brown as their standard bearer until Brown was severely hurt in a truck-auto collision in early November, 1949. A hurried meeting of the minds decided upon anointing Thesz—then campaigning as the National Wrestling ASSOCIATION champ—as National Wrestling ALLIANCE champion as well. Sexton, meanwhile, was working eastern arenas as American Wrestling Association champ. It was this title he lost to Don Eagle, who was flopped by Gorgeous George three days later in a bit of a double-cross. When, a couple of months later, Gorgeous George met Lou Thesz in Chicago, with Thesz winning, the NWA (Alliance) publicists seized the opportunity to declare Thesz as undisputed world champ. However, Don Eagle continued to defend the A.W.A. belt, so it didn’t completely disappear from the scene. Even before this, in Hengen’s account, there occurs another oversimplification. Marshall’s DQ loss to Casey was not reversed for several months, or until Casey had temporarily left the country for a visit back home to Ireland (remember, he was homesick), leaving some promoters anxious for a champ. The National Wrestling Association appointed John Pesek as champion, but when he refused to follow their beckoning, was ousted in favor of Marshall. So, for a time, both Marshall and Casey were recognized as champions in various parts of the country (Casey was champ in Texas during the winter of 1938-39, until losing to Marshall in St. Louis—and Thesz, shortly thereafter, went over Marshall to help clear up the situation. However, another major belt—the Midwest Wrestling Association diadem—floated around for another decade. This was Pesek’s long-held title claim, which Marshall at times declared to own, and which later people like Bobby Bruns and, ultimately, Orville Brown, claimed as their own. The confusing thing about the MWA was that there were two branches—one in Columbus, Ohio, under Al Haft’s promotion and another in Kansas City under the Gabe Kaufman and Gust Karras aegis. Ed Lewis even had the MWA belt for a short time during World War II (along with Lee Wyckoff, Tom Zaharias and Dave Levin) but Orville Brown was the principal owner and it was that title claim which was continued as the National Wrestling ALLIANCE title when that promotional arm was formed -- in the summer of 1948, not 1947, as Hengen claims. Because Brown— and, later, Thesz—were popular in many areas of the country, it was relatively simple for the powerful midwest promoters to enlarge the Alliance to a point where, in 1953, it was the recognized sanctioning body in virtually all of North America. The popular NWA junior heavyweight belt, owned variously by Verne Gagne (odd that Hengen, a Minneapolis writer, spelled Gagne’s first name without the second "e"), Danny McShain and Baron Michele Leone, was another strong selling point for the group, as there were still a good number of promotions centered around 190-pounders in those days before the superheavyweights gradually began their ascent to the forefront of the major promotions.)

The WAWLI Papers #210...

(ED. NOTE -- The "Stanley" who wrote News of the Mat World for the Ring in the late '40s and early '50s was Stanley Weston, later a giant in the wrestling and boxing magazine publishing business.)


(Ring Magazine, November 1948)

Laverne Baxter takes our bid as the roughest wrestler in the country. His tactics are even money to start a riot anywhere. Recently Baxter and Tony Galento engaged in a so-called wrestling match in Washington, D.C. Max Baer, the former heavyweight boxing champion of the world, and kayo victor over Galento in 1939, was the referee.

As is his custom, Laverne began to rough up Tony with every trick in the book and Baer promptly awarded Galento the match. Baxter, who was wild with rage, made a dash for Maxie, but the latter was too fast and jumped over the ropes to safety. Baxter then turned his attentions to Galento and it took the police to pull him off the helpless former boxer.

Willie Gilzenberg, who handles the business affairs of Galento, was so upset at the methods used by Baxter that he took a punch at the big wrestler whereupon Laverne shoved little Willie, causing him to fall into a faint.

All in all, it was a pretty rough evening but so far as the spectators were concerned, it didn't last long enough. For Mister Baer and Galento, however, it lasted much too long.

WRESTLING'S JACK-OF-ALL-TRADES, Abe Stein, has been suspended by the New York State Athletic Commission for taking a sock at a referee. When interviewed by your reporter, Stein told of the rough treatment he had been receiving at the hands of this same referee during the past few months. Finally, he could take it no longer and when the official began to push Abe around and then threaten to hit him, that was too much and Stein let him have it. A hearing has been arranged for Stein and we hope he is pardoned so that the fans can once again view his pleasing style.

When we call Abe a jack-of-all-trades, we mean it. In addition to his wrestling, he is a fine artist, both with oils and with pencil. He is studying singing and has also appeared on the legitimate stage and in the movies. Some of you may have seen him in Mark Hellinger's "Naked City," or "Kiss of Death." He instructed Jimmy Cagney for the latter's role in "Blood on the Sun."

While we are on the subject of suspended wrestlers, word has just arrived of the life suspension of Gino Garibaldi in the state of New York. That odd New York ruling about tossing a man out of the ring was given as the reason for the suspension after Gino had dumped Sandor Kovacs over the ropes at Jamaica Arena.

It is amazing how a penalty of that sort can be imposed for so regular a happening as a wrestler being thrown out of the ring. It occurs regularly throughout the country.

AT A RECENT BOUT in Washington, D.C., we watched two wrestlers put on a show that lasted one full hour and was finally called because of the curfew. During the entire bout your correspondent counted a total of four holds used by both men. The rest of the time was spent throwing punches with both fists and elbows. It is our view that a match of this kind is beyond reason. The people paid for a wrestling match, not a boxing bout. Had they wanted to see a pugilistic contest they would have held their money until the following night when fights were presented.

EUROPEAN WRESTLING GOSSIP, by Charles "Spider" Mascall, follows:

Into Paris for a European tour with his giant, ambling protege, "The Angel," came Karl Pojello, doyen of wrestling men. Pojello, nowadays a promoter around and about Chicago, looks as youthful as ever. There isn't any question about it, he will rank among the great wrestlers of our time.

In the gymnasium, he looks better than most of the present-day stars . . . In London, at the Tottenham Spurs Football Stadium, before an estimated crowd of 12,000, Maurice "The Angel" Tillet wrestled Bert Assirati, heavyweight champion of Great Britain . . . Madrid is one of the best wrestling towns in Spain . . . In Vienna, Austria, a heavyweight tournament has been in progress and featured Nino Equatore, Italy; Felix Kershitz, Austria, and other leading European stars . . . Ed "Don" George, former world titlist, visited London to see the Olympic Games . . . Arrivals in England included Tiger Jim De Lisle, French-Canadian middleweight from Montreal, and Con Balaisis, Australian globetrotter . . . Dean Rockwell, Chicago light-heavy and former University of Michigan athlete, has been giving some good displays of wrestling knowledge during an English tour . . . Jim Burnett, Vancouver heavyweight who went gold-mining in South Africa, is also in the British Isles . . . Stan Karolyi, Paris-born Hungarian and Ed "Don" Virag, both well-known in the United States, have been barnstorming in Belgium . . . Rumours are circulating locally that Steve Casey, the Irishman, and Primo Carnera, ex-boxing titlist now wrestling star, may clash in Dublin this winter under the banner of versatile Gerald Egan . . .


(Minneapolis Star, Friday, December 18, 1953)

By Bill Hengen (Part 3 of a three-part series)

A wrestler is here today and gone tomorrow -- but probably in the Upper Midwest they're here all week. Some cynics have referred to their travels as "barnstorming," or "carnival." But to the wrestlers and promoters it is just good business. And the box office indicates fans have no objections. Let Promoter Tony Stecher explain why wrestlers work often within the same area:

"In the old days, the main event wrestlers received 50-60 per cent of the gate. There were no time limits (best two out of three falls, instead) and so there were fewer preliminaries.

"Today, a wrestling card features not two but eight or 10 good wrestlers. So, to do that, the main event can't receive more than 20 per cent. Then preliminary wrestlers receive adequate compensation.

"Now, you can't get the best wrestlers in the country here for one match at 20 per cent. So they come here and appear within this area (Winnipeg, Rochester, Austin, etc.) almost every night of the week.

"The wrestler is well paid for his trip here and every one usually makes good money."

The multiple methods of transportation today make possible what never could have happened in the old days. The wrestler can be here on day and 2,000 miles away the next. Naturally, he wants to keep busy, says Stecher, and so he may wrestle from three to five times a week. That, in Stecher's opinion, has helped, not hurt, the caliber of the sport.

For instance, Lou Thesz recently made the statment that he will have had 175 bouts this year. He'll earn around $150,000, but to do so he will have traveled 250,000 miles.

"Sure, wrestling has changed," said Stecher. "But haven't the live ball in baseball, the one-two-one platoon systems in football, the style of play in professional basketball and hockey been changed to please the crowds, too, in recent years?"

Stecher is not afraid of innovations. When he became promoter here in 1932 he inaugurated time-limit matches, starting at one-and-a-half-hours and gradually whittling it down. Then he brought in more and better wrestlers. Apparently the public feels he has been right.

"Time limit matches give a wrestler a chance to travel at full speed. Speed means more spectacular action," he said.

Stecher has his favorite wrestlers over the past 40 years. In the leverage era he rates Frank Gotch, his brother Joe Stecher and Ed (Strangler) Lewis as the big three. In the change-over his proven favorites are champion Thesz, Bronko Nagurski, Ray Steele, Sandor Szabo and Joe Pazandak.

Today, however, the promoter is a little reluctant to pick wrestlers with championship ability "without missing someone." But if he were to name 10 they would be: Verne Gagne, Pat O'Connor, Wladek Kowalski, Paul Baillargeon, Ray Gunkel, Argentina Rocca, H.B. Haggerty, Leo Nomellini, Kinji Shibuya and Whipper Bill Watson.

Many of your favorites on that list?


(Columbia, S.C., Record, Sunday, September 6, 1964)

By Bob Talbert

Mary Ann Kostecki, a big, pretty blonde in a pleated, white Grecian-style dress and gold thong slippers, was talking about her 4-year-old daughter Wendi, how to prepared cabbage rolls and house-cleaning at her duplex on Terrybrook Lane in Charlotte, N.C.

Her soft, straight blond hair was pulled away from a well-scrubbed face and knotted in a bun in back. Gold earrings dangled, her green eyes danced and silver-polished fingers flicked about in animated conversation.

The sign on the door at the Columbia Township Auditorium read: "Entertainers Only." The air-conditioner had cooled the dressing room too much and Mary Ann shivered, wishing she had brought along a cardigan.

Outside in the arena area, the resident rat finks of professional wrestling in Columbia, Bronko Lubich and Aldo Bogni, were gouging the eyes out of two masked fat fellows who call themselves the Bolos. Lubich had one of the Bolos' esophogus and was winding it up like a licorice twist. Bogni had the other Bolo around the neck and was twisting one way with one hand and the other way with the other, as if he were unscrewing a garden hose.

The crowd was going crazy. One skinny woman in pink Capris called "Olive Oil" wasn't rooting for a pinning. She was holding out for a beheading. "Kill the blankety-blank so-and-so!" she kept screaming and jumping up and down. An old pappy guy in the first row shook an arthritic hand toward the ring and admonished Bogni and Lubich: "Ya bums! Ya rotten, stinkin', crooked bums!"

Wadded-up paper cups pelted the canvas of the ring and the trailing ice and watery remains of soft drinks showered down on those at ringside. No one seemed to notice.

It was Tuesday night's wrestling matches at Township -- a unique form of double-think that goes on in a curious limbo between sport and theater. The crowd was now leaping up and down, wailing with screams, laughs, cheers and exultation as the Bolos reversed the tables and began to batter the rat finks about the ring.

The noise was unbelievable. The contortions, the flailing fists, the smashes to the mouth, were unbelievable. There is nothing in the whole world of sport or entertainment that approaches the complete, visceral satisfaction of this exultation.

It requires what Coleridge called "willing suspension of disbelief." Wrestling fans are neither scholarly, like horse racing fans, not technically minded, like stock car racing fans, nor cynical, like baseball and football fans -- but they are not so guileless as to believe that the spectacle they watch is real combat.

For them, they both believe and don't believe what they see going on in and around the ring -- duping themselves with double-think. Week by week, it becomes for them a serialized passion play, a drama of good and evil in the simplest, most direct form of conflict. One of the wrestlers in the ring had started to fall. But not merely fall, mind you. They do it in articulate stages. The left knee buckles, the right shoulder jerks to the rear, the eyes boggle and the tongue lolls, the neck twists and the belly jackknifes, all in stages and then the body stiffens as if suffering some painful spinal trauma.

Mary Ann Kostecki, the big, blonde Polish-German girl from St. Louis, Mo., listened to the roar of the crowd which gargled through the auditorium and smiled. As the Bolos, Lubich and Bogni trooped by the open door of her dressing room, she asked, "Good match?" The male wrestlers smiled.

"Bronco," Mary Ann said, "I want to catch a ride with you."

Earlier in the evening, Mary Ann had been on the card. Her name then was Penny Banner and she and another pretty girl named Peggy Allen from Bluefield, W. Va., had been in a drag-'em-by-the-hair blister of a match which Penny won. She hasn't lost in five years. A big strong girl -- she stands 5-8 and her 150 pounds is spread in 37-26-39 proportions, Penny should never lose. There are approximately 100 girl wrestlers in the country today, and maybe a dozen of them are good.

Penny Banner has been in the business since July of 1954 and is one of the best. Maybe the best. For the past five years, she's been a full-time wife and housekeeper of husband-wrestler Johnny Weaver and a part-time girl grappler. She turned 30 last month and doesn't look it.

There is none of the hard patina of paint and wear on Penny Banner one expects to find on a girl wrestler. She's feminine, soft-spoken and almost dainty (although she would never admit to this). When she was a full-time wrestler she made as much as $32,000 a year. Today, wrestling a few times a month out of Charlotte, she still manages to gross $13,000 a year, which is being banked away for the retirement days.

"You say in this business as long as the money is good. Girls are more or less an attraction and finding suitable opponents every week is a problem," she says. There are also problems of broken bones, dislocations which are painful in rainy weather, and other minor aches.

Penny . . . er, Mary Ann . . . keeps in shape with three weekly visits to the gym where she works out with 30-pound weights. "I like something that I can feel, something that makes me sweat and know I've had a workout," she says.

When she first broke into the business, Penny started out "clean," but "then tried the rugged type." Now she does a little of both, depending on what the match calls for.

"Villainess or heroine? I don't worry about this. I worry about giving the fans a good match and what they came to see."

Bronko Lubich poked his head in the room and said, "Ready?"

Mary Ann Kostecki then headed back to Charlotte where there was a cabbage roll to prepare and a duplex to straighten up. Four-year-old daughters can make a mess.

Soon she would be a housekeeper again. A pretty one who can chop up a salad or an opponent with equal grace and style.


(Associated Press, Thursday, March 26, 1998)

BOSTON - Pro wrestler ``Stone Cold'' Steve Austin asked Mike Tyson last month if he was man enough to take him on in the ring. Tyson responded Thursday with a big, wet smooch.

The former heavyweight champion and the wrestler met in the ring on City Hall Plaza during a promotional workout for the World Wrestling Federation's WrestleMania on Sunday at FleetCenter.

Tyson, banned from boxing last July when he bit off a piece of Evander Holyfield's ear, was booed by the rowdy crowd of wrestling fans that gathered for the workout.

"I hate Mike Tyson. I hope he gets killed,'' said accountant Jamie Chamberland.

"I'm waiting for something to happen, like he's going to flip out and hurt someone,'' said 24-year-old Mary Candler, waiting with a camera in the midst of a mostly male crowd.

The crowd hollered obscenities at Tyson, Austin and other wrestlers, and many held up signs and giant foam gloves showing an obscene gesture.

Tyson is supposed to play the "special enforcer'' at the WWF championship match between champion Shawn Michaels and Austin, the WWF's most popular wrestler. But there has been speculation that the boxer would enter the ring and throw some punches.

At the promotion, Tyson joined Michaels and two other wrestlers giving Austin a beating, and finished it off with a long kiss on the forehead while Austin was held against the ropes.

Tyson -- who wore a brown jacket and slacks in contrast to the colorful or menacing costumes favored by the other wrestlers -- looked decidedly awkward trying to join the theatrics as he lightly kicked Austin's legs. Tyson got a few moves and gestures down, but refrained from mooning the crowd from the roof of a limousine, like Michaels did.

During the event, someone in the crowd threw a film canister containing two batteries that hit Michaels in the head, and the wrestler promptly left the ring.

On Jan. 19 in Las Vegas, just as WWF owner Vince McMahon was to announce Tyson's Wrestlemania appearance, Austin appeared from nowhere, entered the ring and -- with a push and an obscene gesture -- questioned Tyson's manhood. McMahon suggested later that Tyson would wrestle Austin.

"I don't think he should really be here, because he blew his chance in the ring,'' said Jeremy DiFlaminies, 14, of Norwood. He and many other spectators said they'd rather see Holyfield -- boxing or wrestling.

Tyson, whose purses have topped $100 million in his last six fights, said he would be making a little more than $3.5 million for being involved in the WWF championship match - a $34.95 pay-per-view event.

As for how Tyson's appearance might affect any attempt to reapply for a boxing license with the Nevada State Athletic Commission, McMahon said he's been told the commission has ``no problem whatsoever with Mike being involved with the WWF in any capacity.''


(Boston Globe, Friday, March 27, 1998)

By Shira Springer

''Access?'' said the World Wrestling Federation's media relations manager, Jay Andronaco. ''To the superstars? I don't know. These things get pretty unpredictable.'' The man knows what he markets. For the final act of yesterday's promotional ''public workout,'' Stone Cold Steve Austin found Mike Tyson's fists in his face after champion Shawn Michaels set up Austin for a super kick. Michaels left the ring, perched on top of a limousine, and mooned the crowd.

Unpredictable? Indecent? All in the name of entertainment? Tough call. Considering that Tyson held the title of ''special enforcer,'' sound judgment was not part of the program. During the one-hour promotion for Sunday's Wrestlemania XIV at the FleetCenter, chaos and about 5,000 fans filled City Hall Plaza for the spectacle less than 100 yards from Boston's Holocaust memorial.

Enough helmeted police were present to fend off a small riot. Smart planning. A male spectator was asked to leave after screaming profanities but refused. According to a police report, ''He was put in protective custody as to prevent a riot from being incited. He was held in protective custody until a majority of the crowd had left.''

There were no formal arrests. Music with ultra-heavy bass rippled through the area from 124-foot-tall speakers stationed just outside City Hall. Fans carried signs reading, ''Taylor sucks'' and ''I want to join D-X.''

Though it was billed as a ''public workout,'' fans knew the noontime rally for the outlaw wrestling faction D-Generation X would degenerate when Michaels's main event opponent arrived. Tyson, the former heavyweight boxing champion anointed ''the baddest man on the planet'' by D-X, was no impartial spectator. He recently allied with wrestling's outlaws, whose members also include Hunter Hearst-Helmsley and female bodybuilder Chyna. Oh, the intrigue.

Tyson played his part, crossing his forearms in an ''X'' to show his allegiance and proclaiming, ''We're gonna end his career. He's finished. Stone Cold, Cold Knocked Out.'' For this show, parental guidance was advised, though truth be told, most of the onlookers were high school kids skipping a day of class. Said one pair of freshmen who didn't want their parents to know, ''We didn't feel like going to school, so we came down here.''

Michaels didn't feel like going to school, either. He had more pressing matters on his mind. ''I was doing fine in the limo,'' he said in his opening remarks. ''But once this cool breeze hit me, I've got to urinate like you wouldn't believe. But from what I understand, we're on some kind of government property, so I'll have to wait till I get back to my hotel to release my specimen.''

Terminator, Dominator, Herminator, meet ... ''the Urinator.''

By the way, Wrestlemania XIV will be available exclusively on pay-per-view. The FleetCenter is sold out. Following Michaels, Hearst-Helmsley riled up the crowd, calling the Patriots losers and dissing the Bruins and Celtics as well. ''Sports people can't wait to get out of Boston,'' said Hearst-Helmsley. `

And it goes like this for Shawn Michaels. He's going to walk out the WWF champion. Hip-hip-hooray.

The WAWLI Papers #211...


(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Thursday, August 18, 1988)

By Bob Broeg

When President Harry S Truman stopped off at Scott Air Force Base while heading home to Independence, Mo., after World War II,military brass lined the landing strip, eager to meet and to shake hands with the man whose use of the atomic bomb had ended the bloodbath.

Truman stood at the door of the presidential plane, waving his hat in a friendly salute. To begin his greetings, he spied a dumpy, smiling sergeant standing at attention among the non-coms and said, "Hi, Sam."

Sam Muchnick, now 83, remains one of the friendliest faces on both sides of the river. The sportswriter-promoter-good will man-good guy symbolizes the nice things that can happen to a temperate man who always has seemed to rise above life’s rat race.

At noon Friday in Belleville, barkeep-restaurateur Jack English will throw his annual, informal birthday lunch for Muchnick. As usual, politicians, newspapermen, old coaches and former athletes will pay their respect to good ol’ "Tham" the lisping man.

It’s a big year for Muchnick, if not for his beloved Cardinals, the club he covered in the pennant-winning seasons of 1930 and ‘31. He was a wrestling promoter for nearly 40 years and president of the National Wrestling Alliance for 25.

As a result, directors of the Missouri Athletic Club voted to extend to him a special meritorious-service award at the club’s annual sports dinner, moved up to Nov. 2 from January.

The dinner will be a private party, highlighted by the announcement of a man or woman sports personality of the year.awerlabw Muchnick’s appeal crosses economic and ecumenical borders. A Soviet-born Jew, Sam is closer to Catholic priests than to rabbis.

Sam still pines for the love of his life, Helen, 15 years younger, who died seven-plus years ago. Her death occurred 11 months before he sold his wrestling promotion.

His last crowd was a capacity 19,821 -- "paid," he emphasized—on New Year’s night 1982.

Although he hangs his hat in a fashionable Brentwood condominium, he skirts loneliness by spending more time
on the street than a Fuller Brush salesman. He’s a generous host and a good guest.

The kiss-and-makeup style engendered by Muchnick, a Central High graduate, was never more evident than when he headed the National Wrestling Alliance for a quarter-century. The alliance covered 40 states, four countries (Canada, Mexico, Japan and Australia) and had European agreements.

Now? The alliance is gone, and wrestling, always a circus, has degenerated into a chamber of horrors. Said the revolted Muchnick, "I think Lou Thesz could beat Hulk Hogan right now, and Lou’s 72."

If there’s one thing I like about Muchnick,s it’s his ranking journalism as second only to medicine among the
professions. "Without the newspaper," he has said more than once, "crooked politicians could run amok at all levels, local and national."

Muchnick got into the newspaper game unusually. A $1,900-a-year postal clerk, he entered a nationally
syndicated contest to pick the All-Star teams that had considerable appeal from the ‘20s and into the ‘30s. For
finishing third in 1925 -- "I still think Frank Frisch should have been at third base rather than Ozzie Bluege"—he
received $25 from the Post-Dispatch and an invitation to write what he thought the Cardinals and Browns needed for ‘26.

For the Redbirds, Sam listed a right fielder and a pitcher as a top need. They got both, Billy Southworth and Grover Cleveland Alexander, and their first pennant. By then, at the recommendation of Post-Dispatch sports editor John Edward Wray, Muchnick had sought and gained a sportswriting job at the old St. Louis Times.

"At a pay cut to 20 bucks a week," he recalled, grinning. When the Times went under in the Depression summer of 1932, Muchnick rejected a chance to go to New York and, also, turned down a job from old boss Sid Keener, then at the merged Star-Times. There, he would have had to take a friend’s job.

So as a combination boxing-wrestling columnist, he wound up in public relations for promoter Tom Packs. Ultimately, he promoted successfully on his own, including the most recent boxing championship bout in St. Louis, welterweight Don Jordan over St. Louis’ Virgil Akins in 1959.

But here I am running out of space without having told how Sam met Al Capone; how he beat Frank Lane in handball for a suit of clothes; how friend Ray Steele beat King Levinsky in a 35-second mixed wrestling-boxing match; and how Sam chickened out on a chance to play left field for the Cardinals in an exhibition game in ‘29 so he could drink Prohibition beer with a couple of pitchers; and how he loved to pull pranks on comic Lou Costello and others.

But maybe I’d be stepping on Muchnick’s lines when he accepts the meritorious award from the MAC.


(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Tuesday, August 21, 1990)

By Tom Wheatley

On Wednesday, Sam Muchnick turns 85 lovable years old. It’s impossible to estimate how much good will Mr.
Wrestling has kicked up since entering this earthly ring on Aug. 22, 1905, in the Ukraine.

Sam’s enthusiasm preceded Day One, which is how he came to be born in the Soviet Union instead of St. Louis. "My mother had gone back to the Ukraine to visit her sister, and I came two months early," Sam said. "I was a seven- month baby."

With that head start, he grew up to be a gentleman and a scholarly promoter. He ran pro wrestling and boxing shows here for 50 years, minus three years when he and former Cardinal Terry Moore helped the Army keep Panama free in World War II.

Pro grappling in the post-Cyndi Lauper era has degenerated into a pay-per-view cable spectacle. Under Sam, the body slams and pile drivers were more humanistic. He liked wrestlers and wrestling fans.

In sports today, owners and promoters seem to want all they can grab. Ticket-gouging is more common than all the eye-gouging ever done by George "The Animal" Steele.

Sam’s Promotional Lesson No. 1: The customer is always No. 1.

"If I saw an usher idling at a show, I’d say, ‘Hey, take care of these people,’ " Sam said. "Taking care of the customers is the most important thing in promotions. I didn’t believe in gouging fans. If I ran any pro sport today, the first thing I’d do is cut prices."

Sam is a reformed sportswriter. He was clerking for the post office in 1926 when he caught the eye of Post-Dispatch sports editor Ed Wray.

"They had a contest where Babe Ruth picked his All-Star team and you had to try to pick it along with him," Sam
said. "I finished second.

One guy had all the same picks. I missed one. I had Frankie Frisch on third base and Babe had Ossie Bluege."

As runner-up, Sam got to write an article for the Post on what the Cards and Browns must do to win in ‘26.

"I said the Browns didn’t have a chance," Sam said, "but if the Cards could get a right fielder and another pitcher, they would win. Later on, they got Billy Southworth to play right, and then they got Grover Cleveland Alexander from the Cubs to pitch.

"They won the pennant, and Mr. Wray remembered that. He said, ‘You should be a sport writer, but my staff is filled.’ So I applied to Sid Keener, sports editor of the St. Louis Times."

Lesson No. 2: Money is not No. 1.

Sam’s starting salary as a reporter was $20 a week. That was almost a 50 percent cut from his post office job, which paid $1,900 a year. Sam loved hobnobbing with newspaper types, such as Red Smith of the St. Louis Star. "Red was one of the greatest sport writers of all time," Sam said, "but I scooped him once."

Sam wrote that Bill Walker of the New York Giants had agreed to pitch batting practice for the Cards before the ‘31 World Series. Walker, from East St. Louis, was a top lefty. Smith’s boss told him by wire of Sam’s scoop.

Smith wired back: "Nothing to it. One of Muchnick’s pipedreams."

Lesson No. 3: You can’t place a price on a good friendship.

When the Star merged with the Times in ‘32, Sam could have stayed. "They wanted me to replace a friend of mine, so I turned it down," he said.

Tom Packs, a local wrestling promoter, heard that Sam was loose. "I was up to 50 bucks a week at the paper," Sam said. "He offered me 60."

After the war, Sam married his fiancee, Helen, and began promoting on his own. Wrestlers knew Sam’s word was better than any written contract.

Lesson No. 4: Be true in advertising.

It was Sam who coined the term "exhibitions" for his extravaganzas. "And if there were changes in the card, I’d
immediately announce it, even if it hurt the gate," Sam said. "The people pay to see a certain guy. If he isn’t there, you should say so."

Sam dislikes the current order, or lack thereof, in pro wrestling. He banned fighting outside the ring and assaults
on refs, and he hates matches drawn on racial lines.

Lesson No. 5: Hype has its limits.

It was Sam who revolutionized wrestling by restoring old wrestling holds and concocting new ones.

"Sure, you had to have a little showmanship," he said. "The people wanted it. But the wrestlers prided themselves on their wrestling. They’d say, ‘This guy can go,’ or ‘This guy can’t go.’ Now, I don’t want to take a slap at it, but it’s just entirely different."

Sam retired on Jan. 1, 1982, at age 76. His final show at The Arena drew more than 21,000 fans—"the paid crowd was 19,821," he said—and 2,000 more were turned away.

Sam and Helen, who died in 1981, raised three children. One son is a doctor and the other is an accountant. Their daughter edits a magazine.

Sam had financial rewards, too. "I did all right," said Sam, who lives in Clayton and is still spry. "I still get out and jump around a lot," he said. "I have a lot of friends."

And Mr. Wrestling won them with a soft touch, not a strong arm.


(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sunday, June 11, 1995)

By Dave Dorr

Sam Muchnick is standing in the kitchen of his 18th-floor Clayton condominium, thumbing through a stack of folders swollen with hundreds of photos he’s collected. He can’t find what he’s looking for.

"I’m running out of space," he says, perplexed. He shrugs his shoulders.

All around him, in almost every room, the walls are filled with plaques, pictures, mementos. They allow Muchnick,
now 89, to keep a close connection to his past.

Here’s Muchnick in 1929, the sports writer from the old St. Louis Times, in Bradenton, Fla., then the site of Cardinals spring training, in a Redbirds uniform taking infield practice
at third base.

Here’s Muchnick in a 1979 photo, displaying a 1945 edition of his wrestling publication "In The Ring." The lead story announces the fact that Ed Virag and Roy Dunn will be the opponents in the feature match at Kiel Auditorium on the first card that Muchnick promoted.

"Here’s Frankie Frisch, my favorite ballplayer. Here’s Pepper Martin, shaving in the morning. This is in Honolulu. That’s Lou Thesz, the wrestler, and his former wife. Here’s Jack Buck. This is Mel Price, the congressman, and me in Florida for spring training arguing about something. That’s me there. Here’s Gabby Street. Oh, and here’s Jesse Haines. . . . "

A plaque replicates a letter from President Harry S Truman on White House stationary, dated Sept. 10, 1948: "Dear Sam. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your courtesy in this matter. I hope to see you that evening."

The story behind the plaque: Truman was a U.S. senator from Missouri when Muchnick first met him in St. Louis.
Their paths crossed occasionally, and they came to know each other fairly well.

In 1945, Truman’s plane had stopped at Scott Air Force Base to refuel. As it turned out, Muchnick was stationed in the base public relations office. An honor guard was formed to greet the president.

Muchnick was standing near the generals when the plane rolled to a stop, the door opened and Truman walked out to the steps. Looking down, Truman scanned the waiting group and spotted a familiar face. "Hi, Sam!" said Truman, waving. Muchnick beamed—and felt the eyes of every jealous general riveted on him.

By 1948, Muchnick’s career as a professional wrestling promoter was beginning to take wing. He’d scheduled an event at Kiel Auditorium on a night that Truman wanted to speak during the presidential campaign race with Gov. Thomas E. Dewey of New York, the Republican nominee. A Democratic National Committee official asked Muchnick if he could resolve the conflict by moving his event to another day. Muchnick thought about it and replied, "Well, I’ve got a show. But for the president, I’ll change it." And Truman responded with a letter of thanks.

When Muchnick retired in 1982, St. Louis saluted him for almost five decades as a wrestling promoter and the place he’d achieved in the area’s sports spectrum. Former Mayor Vincent Schoemehl proclaimed Jan. 1, 1982, as Sam Muchnick Day. His wrestling shows at Kiel and at The Arena were a fixture for 37 years, beginning in 1945. They drew huge crowds. In 1959, Wrestling At The Chase, a televised event, made its debut. It was still going strong when Muchnick retired. He is a St. Louis sports icon.

Muchnick and pro wrestling were joined at the hip. He became pro wrestling’s caretaker. In large part because of his integrity, pro wrestling flourished in America. Wrestlers and those who did business with Muchnick alike knew him down to his bones for his honesty.

He befriended many, wrestlers included. They continued to remember his friendship.

One former wrestler, Gene Kiniski, calls Muchnick every Saturday from Blaine, Wash., where he lives. Dick and
Pauline Esser, who were Muchnick’s ticket agents for 40 years at their outlets at the Arcade Building and Adams Hat Store, bequeathed $49,000 to him.

Muchnick says, "When I asked them why, they told me, ‘We made our money working for you and we’re going to
give you some of it.’ "

While he made his name as a wrestling promoter, it was sportswriting that was his passion. He found it seductive. He traded a salary of $1,900 a year as a postal clerk in l926 to join the sports staff at the St. Louis Times for $20 a week. He was 20 years old.

To Muchnick, that job was the real deal, like finding himself alone in a stretch limo with Babe Ruth. Muchnick stayed at the St. Louis Times until 1932, when it merged with the St. Louis Star. Offered a position by the new management, he rejected it because it would have meant bumping a friend from the staff. Muchnick left and found his way into promotion.

During the period he traveled with the Cardinals in his job as a baseball writer he met celebrities and did the towns where the Cards were playing.

There was a romance to reporting that captivated him, this guy who was born in the Ukraine in 1905 of Jewish parents and given the Hebrew name of Jeshua (Jesus) Muchnick. His mother, Rebecca, once danced for Czar Nicholas II, the last Romanov ruler of Russia.

When Muchnick’s father Saul, a factory worker, brought the family to St. Louis in 1911, he decided it wouldn’t be proper to introduce his son as Jesus Muchnick. "Let’s make you Sammy," he said.

Life in St. Louis was not easy early on for young Sam. It was a hardscrabble existence; a lot of scuffed knuckles. The family lived for a while in the old Kerry Patch neighborhood, an enclave of many ethnic backgrounds including Irish, German, Jewish, Italian and Polish. The Muchnicks were in a third-floor flat on Franklin Avenue, moving down one floor when Saul’s paycheck increased. During the Depression, Sam contributed to the family finances by delivering vests to a tailor for $4 a week.

Now, he’s the oldest former major league baseball writer in St. Louis, and one of two oldest nationally living who
practiced the craft. (Charlie Segar of Sun City West, Ariz., a staff member at the old New York Mirror, is 91.)

From Muchnick’s condo, he has an uninterrupted view of the Clayton skyline. But he’s not one to sit and stare out the windows. He stays on the move.

On Mondays, he lunches at Maggie O’Brien’s with the 1-2-3 Club, a group of St. Louis sports movers and shakers of which he was one of the founders. On Fridays, his lunch schedule takes him to English’s Bar and Restaurant in Belleville—and has since 1964.

Muchnick doesn’t cook. Since the death of his wife, Helen, in 1981, he has dined often in restaurants. Or his daughter, Kathie Schneider, will eat lunch with him at his condo several times a week. He has two sons, Dick, 45, a St. Louis physician; and Dan, 44, of Douglasville, Ga., a certified public accountant; and three grandchildren.

Muchnick underwent a two-way bypass in 1993. He has a balky knee but says, "As long as I walk straight I’m OK." He still has a phenomenal memory for names and dates. Muchnick is a gentle man with a bewitching smile that grows wider whenever he reaches back to dredge up anecdotes of pranks for which he was responsible. You sense that the pranks were one of life’s basic pleasures for him, and that behind his smile there is more than he’s telling.

He was nothing if not a tease. On a recent afternoon, he sat in a booth at Layton’s in Clayton. This is the restaurant where he once had trapped a waitress by asking her for change.

"Sure," she told him, and, wanting to be polite to an elderly man, she didn’t think before putting in the cash register a $3 bill Muchnick had given her. It bore President Bill Clinton’s picture and was signed by Truman Capote.

Muchnick saw her again on his recent visit and called to her. But she recognized him and, feigning fluster, said, "Oh, no you don’t!" Muchnick flashed her a cat-ate-the-canary smile, then began laughing.

More than any other role, it was Muchnick’s guardianship of wrestling that won him critical respect.

In 1948, Muchnick and several of his fellow promoters formed at Waterloo, Iowa, the National Wrestling Alliance as a means of guaranteeing themselves the high-profile wrestlers for shows. Muchnick was the organization’s
president for 25 years.

He finds today’s version of pro wrestling reprehensible. He calls it "a carnival." Others concur. Of Hulk Hogan, a current star who appears under the auspices of World Championship Wrestling, Lou Thesz says: "As an actor, I’ll give him a 10. As a wrestler, I’ll give him a 1 -- or less."

Speaking of the thespian tendencies of pro wrestling -- current and former versions—Muchnick says that the fact that results of matches were prearranged didn’t bother fans at the old Kiel, especially women who jumped from their seats squealing and stuck hat pins into wrestlers they saw as villains. In fact, Muchnick went to newspapers in St. Louis in the early days of his promoting with hat in hand and a request: "I said I’ve got to be allowed a little showmanship or I won’t draw flies," he recalls.

To the fans, wrestling was high drama. To Muchnick, the orchestration of matches was acceptable.

"A lot of people knocked it," he says. But "I’d say 75 percent of it was OK because I knew the best wrestlers were winning. You can’t help it if two wrestlers get into the ring and make a deal among themselves."

In retrospect, Muchnick’s life has had a certain elegance. His wide circle of acquaintances ranged from Al Capone to Mae West to Frank Lane, yet he’d give anything for one more interview with The Babe. Muchnick once got the best of Lane, who in 1956 became general manager of the Cardinals. In the late 1920s, when a greyhound track called the Madison Kennel Club was thriving on the East Side, Muchnick was challenged by Lane, then a race judge at the club, to a game of handball with a new suit as the stakes.

The match took place after the races at 2 a.m. at the National Gym, located at Sixth and Pine. Muchnick,
describing himself as an ordinary player, won 21-20. Lane bought him a $150 suit—top of the line in fashion circles in those days.

Muchnick did his baseball writing in a bygone era when journalism didn’t question or analyze as it now does. Still, the evolution of professional sports in America distresses Muchnick, who says, "The president of the United States is paid $200,000 a year and a .214 hitter is paid $750,000. Can’t understand that."

During the 232-day baseball strike, Muchnick was asked what he thought about the owners. His answer: "I said they were the stupidest promoters in the world. And what about today’s players? They charge for autographs."

Muchnick can remember Ruth, in a white linen suit, walking out of old Sportsman’s Park and sitting down on a tree stump signing autographs for an hour for kids who were waiting for him. "Can you imagine ballplayers doing that today?" asks Muchnick, who always has had robust opinions—and the last word.

When arguing with his wife once, in exasperation at his know-it-all hidebound stubbornness, she blurted, "Who do you think you are, Jesus. ...?" Muchnick didn’t so much as blink. He replied, "Yes, I am."


(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Monday, August 28, 1995)

By Bob Broeg

When Sam Muchnick’s kids got around to honoring the old man the other night on his 90th birthday, they got a
confirmation from a young man whose RSVP was most impressive. Hideaki Myaki came from Japan—at his

Ichiban Myaki, a polite young entrepreneur, reflects the personal gate ttraction of Sam the Man.

The latter is a jelly-bellied legend who ranks as one of my heroes. He’s still romantic enough—or stupid enough — to wish that he’d never had to give up a humdrum financial existence as a sportswriter for riches as an outstanding wrestling promoter.

Muchnick’s old newspaper, the Times, went out of business back in 1932 when it was bought by the rival Star. When the paper folded on a Thursday, Sam and his associates didn’t get paid for the week’s last two days.

Sam loved his six-season stint as a baseball writer most, but he also wrote a boxing-wrestling column called "In the Ring."

At the no-gifts party the other night, which was crafted by daughter Kathy for nearly 300 at the Ritz-Carlton, attorney friend Godfrey Padberg and Judge Joe Simione surprised Muchnick privately by giving him a photocopy of his first story in 1926 and his last in ‘32.

When Muchnick graduated from good-natured wrestling public-relations lackey to promoter after World War II, aided by dear late wife Helen, he became a paragon of what hustling national colleagues didn’t have. That is, trust in each other.

For the next quarter-century, the National Wrestling Alliance burgeoned only because of the internationally respected man of integrity. That’s an amusing juxtaposition, in view of the fact that wrestling even then had showmanship that often made it merely an exhibition rather than a legitimate contest.

Three times the shogun of American wrestling traveled to Japan for the good of the NWA. The third time, he wanted to meet a Japanese kid who had become his pen pal. All he could tell his television hosts in Tokyo was the boy lived in Osaka.

Japanese TV did the rest. When Muchnick got to Osaka, young Myaki met him. No, he hadn’t heard the message, but a cousin at Okinawa had.

So dear Hidaeki was at ringside for a grinning greeting. And, as mentioned, he flew here 21 years later to honor a man who has more friends than just about any I’ve ever met.

Old friends and former champions Lou Thesz and Gene Kiniski came to honor him this time, but I’m sure many
others would have. The man is, if you’ll pardon the expression, all wool and a yard wide.

Over the years, I’ve spent as much time teasing Sam the Man as praising him. I ribbed him about looking like a Soviet spy when he wore a homburg, and even sent him a tyrolean
hat from Austria.

As I said the other night, proud to be given the chance many would have liked, I came not to praise Muchnick or to bury him, either, but to tease him.

Yet I couldn’t resist expressing my love for the old patron saint of the press box, a prince of a person, a man of all seasons with friends ranging from priests to rabbis, hoodlums to heroes, jockeys to judges.

When the Missouri state legislature recently honored him by resolution, one of the several "whereas" ranged his
"associates" from Al Capone to Mae West, from Frank Lane—whom he’d once beat in a handball match—to the president he knew personally, Harry S Truman.

Of all the good things about the grand gaffer of grunt-and- groan—he hates that label even as much as he does
modern mat histrionics—the greatest is his legacy from dear Helen.

He has two sons he didn’t want to become promoters—Dick, the doctor, and Danny, the certified public accountan t— and that dashing daughter — Kathy Muchnick Schneider, who can write as well as the old man.

After young Kate put together that shiny shindig, for which the doctor and the CPA honored her, Sam the Man
Muchnick acknowledged a mistake. "Kathy wanted to be a promoter," Sam the Man said. "I should have let her."

See, as I always insist, Sam, you’re only a chauvinistic pig.


The WAWLI Papers #212...


(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Friday, March 10, 1989)

By Donald Berns

The name of Algonquin Ridge appears only on some old records, but the residents of the small neighborhood in Glendale know where they are and they love it.

Algonquin Ridge, subdivided in 1938, has 38 lots on two streets, Berrywood Drive and Southridge Drive. Most of the houses were built within a few years after the land was subdivided. Virtually all of them were built as two-bedroom houses, but in the last 50 years many families have built additions. . .

Florence Hardcastle has the distinction of being the first buyer in Algonquin Ridge in 1939 and lives in the house today as the only original owner of one of the 38 houses. The neighborhood, which has outdoor parties and picnics, had a celebration last summer for Hardcastle’s 80th birthday.

"We bought our house for $8,000, and we were one of the families that added two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs," she said. "I can remember a lot of good times. We put in a swimming pool in 1944 and couldn’t get an architect because they thought building a swimming pool in a back yard was too risky and too crazy. But we built it anyway and had so many kids using it that we made the boys sit on one side and the girls on the other."

(The article went on, at length, to describe all manner of families, past and present, who had occupied the popular neighborhood. And then came an apparently harmless paragraph.)

Ewart Ash, the retired chief of the Glendale Fire Department and a member of the Glendale Historical Society, said the land subdivided for Algonquin Ridge was an open field that had not been cultivated or used for any other purpose before construction of the houses.

The only nearby activity was a greenhouse, which continued in business immediately south of the houses built in Algonquin Ridge. Ash, who was with the fire department 38 years, recalls that one of the fireplugs just across from the original boundaries of Algonquin Ridge was in front of the house of the late Lou Thesz, the former champion wrestler.


(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sunday, March 12, 1989)

Former professional wrestling champion Lou Thesz was incorrectly identified as "the late" Lou Thesz in a story in Friday’s real estate section. Thesz, who will be 73 next month, is alive and well in Norfork, Va.


(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Saturday, August 18, 1990)

Pat O’Connor, a former standout on the professional wrestling circuit, died of cancer Thursday night at Jewish Hospital. He was 65.

Mr. O’Connor, a native of New Zealand where he was an amateur champion, was recognized as the world champion by the National Wrestling Association after defeating Dick Hutton at Kiel Auditorium on Jan. 9, 1959.

He held the NWA title until June 30, 1961, when he lost to Buddy Rogers before a paid crowd of 38,622 at Comiskey Park in Chicago. That crowd is believed to be the second-largest in United States pro wrestling history.

Mr. O’Connor’s last match was on promoter Sam Muchnick’s last card, at The Arena on Jan. 1, 1982. Mr. O’Connor was a matchmaker for several years and retired about three years ago. He also was a partner in a wrestling operation in Kansas City and divided his time between Kansas City and St. Louis.

"Pat was a true main-eventer from the time he came from New Zealand," said Larry Matysik, the local promoter for the World Wrestling Federation.

"Pat wasn’t really a big man, but he was a real athlete with a very smooth and fluid style. He was a great crowd pleaser, especially in his matches with Lou Thesz, Fritz Von Erich, Gene Kiniski and some others.

"Pat was the first to do the reverse rolling cradle hold. He beat Hutton for the title with a spinning toehold and he went with the sleeper hold late in his career."

Mr. O’Connor served in the New Zealand Royal Air Force in World War II. He competed in the Pan-American Games in 1948 and the British Empire Games in 1950. He lived in Minneapolis, Chicago and Kansas City before moving to St. Louis in 1983.

A memorial service for Mr. O’Connor will be held at 3 p.m. Sept. 1 at Valhalla Chapel of Memories, 7600 St. Charles Rock Road. There will be no visitation.

He is survived by his wife Julie; three daughters, Carly Alvarado, Erin Diven and Robyn O’Connor, all of Kansas City; and a brother, Mervin, of New Zealand.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to the Wyoming Wildlife Association. Mr. O’Connor was a hunting guide in Wyoming.


(Scripps Howard Service, Saturday, November 16, 1991)

By Mike Bass

I read Tuesday that Richard "Sonny" Afflis had died, and I immediately was hit by a touch of saneness and a rush of nostalgia. And my mind raced back to the night I met the man . . . the myth . . . the legend . . . Dick The Bruiser.

I was attending the University of Illinois at the time, and The Bruiser was scheduled to wrestle at a local high school. Being a sports columnist for the school newspaper, this was a dream assignment for me.

After all, I’d grown up on Dick The Bruiser.

When I was younger, professional wrestling wasn’t what it is now. Today, it’s the marketing genius of the World Wrestling Federation. Today, it’s Hulk Hogan fuzzy slippers and Ultimate Warrior popcorn tins and Macho Man water pumpers.

In my youth, it was The Bruiser and The Crusher and Yukon Moose Cholak hawking used cars for a Chicago-area car dealership that could all but guarantee your loan no matter what your credit. I’d watch this on Sunday mornings, same as "Star Trek" and "Flash Gordon" reruns.

There wasn’t much choice. Who knew of cable or VCRs? In those days, we were mesmerized by Liquid Prell in the unbreakable bottle.

Wrestlers back then weren’t the showmen that they are today. But they could scream and intimidate and brag with the best of them. More than anything, they could look tough.

And nobody looked tougher than Dick The Bruiser, with that crewcut and sneer, with that gravely voice and rock-hard build. He was constructed like a football lineman, which makes sense, because he was just that for the Green Bay Packers in the 1950s.

There were wrestlers such as Vern Gagne and Bruno Sammartino, the Sheik and Baron Van Raschke. They became cult heroes in my neighborhood.

And it wasn’t just Chicago. Pat Harmon, long-time sports editor of The Cincinnati Post, remembers when Dick The Bruiser and other wrestlers would sell out the Cincinnati Gardens.

"One time, The Bruiser was thrown out of the ring," Harmon said. "I’m sitting at the press table, and as he climbs over me to get back in the ring, his foot catches my coat pocket and tears it. I didn’t say anything. But shortly after that, the promoter and I had a drink, and I told him about it. A few days later, I got a letter from Dick The Bruiser, offering to pay for a new suit. I didn’t take him up on it."

The list of cities grows . . .

"He was a big attraction in Detroit, too," Harmon said. "Alex Karras, who played with the Detroit Lions, was launching a pro wrestling career, and The Bruiser kept mouthing off that he could lick him with one hand, then Karras would come back at him. There was a restaurant there called Lindell AC, and both would come in there, but never at the same time.

"They met one night and tore the place apart. Karras walked in, and The Bruiser threw a TV at him, but missed. Karras picked up a chair and broke it over The Bruiser’s shoulders. There was a big story about it.

"Then they had a real match in Detroit, and it was a sellout. "I saw Karras a couple weeks ago and he said the fight at the restaurant was a fake. They had rehearsed it to set up the match."

Rehearsed? Fake? Nah. Try telling that to the hundreds of people who showed up at the high school that night more than a decade ago in Champaign, Ill. They, like me, were mainly there to see Dick The Bruiser. Toddlers and teen-agers. Mothers and grandmothers. The Bruiser bridged the generation gap.

That night, The Bruiser was facing some guy wearing a hood, and I remember The Bruiser got a huge ovation. The guy with the hood got eggs thrown at him. I know—I got some of the shrapnel. As for the match, The Bruiser took some knocks, but—surprise! -- The Bruiser won.

Afterward, I talked with The Bruiser in the locker room. He looked bigger than life on TV. Everyone does. He was 5-11, an inch shorter than me, and that didn’t seem possible. That made it easier to pose The Question:

Is wrestling real or is it fixed?

Dick The Bruiser said I could come into the ring with him sometime and find out.

N-n-n-n-o, thank you, Mr. Bruiser, sir, that’s good enough for me. The man might have been 5-11 and fiftysomething, but he still had a lineman’s build. Besides, is it really worth debating?

Yes, Virginia, there is reality in wrestling, as sure as there is good and evil, right and wrong. So little in our lives is so clear-cut as rooting for a Dick The Bruiser to win, and so little provided as much security as knowing he’d do it. Wrestling lets us enjoy a little innocence, a little entertainment. Dick The Bruiser represented that for me.

I didn’t know Richard Afflis.

But I’ll miss Dick The Bruiser.


(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Tuesday, July 9, 1996)

Floyd "Ray" Eckert, a professional wrestler from 1935 to 1954, drowned Sunday (July 7, 1996) at his farm in California, Mo. He was 79.

With his wife, Dorothy, he owned and operated the Western Auto Store in California from 1958 to 1988.

After winning the Pacific Coast heavyweight wrestling title, Mr. Eckert wrestled in the United States, Canada, Africa and the Hawaiian Islands. He was a member and elder of the First Christian Church in California.

He also belonged to the Missouri Sheriffs Association and was a 50-year member of the California Masonic No. 183 A.F.& A.M., California Chapter No. 58 R.A.M.

He was the past president of the California Chamber of Commerce and served in the past three years on the Welcome Wagon committee for new residents.

Mr. Eckert enjoyed swimming and taught it for 10 years at the California Recreation Association.

Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. today at Bowlin-Cantriel Funeral Home, 100 South Oak Street, California. A funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at First Christian Church, 107 North Oak Street in California. Burial will be in the California Masonic Cemetery.

In addition to his wife, survivors include a son, James "Gordon" Eckert of Maryland; and two sisters, Dorothy Vigano of St. Louis and Mildred Carpenter of Ivanhoe, Calif. Memorials contributions may be sent to the Memorial Fund at First Christian Church in California.


(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Thursday, February 22, 1996)

By Dave Luecking

Talk about your scary thoughts.

A hand-written flyer sent to this newspaper proclaims that "Wrestling At The Chase is now back at Big Texas."


Flighty Generation Xers and the disenfranchised youth of today might not remember Wrestling At The Chase, but it was big when Boomers were brats. Wrestling At The Chase was a weekly program on every Sunday morning on Channel 11, that featured professional wrestling cards at the late, great Chase-Park Plaza Hotel.

Mickey Garagiola, the brother of famous Hill denizen Joe Garagiola, served as the ring announcer and a county cop named Larry Matysik was the play-by-play announcer of the wrestling shows put on by venerable octogenarian Sam Muchnick.

The shows featured wrestling heroes such as world champion Harley Race, Rufus R. Jones, Dick The Bruiser, Rip Hawk, Cowboy Bob Ellis, Bruno Sammartino, Pat O’Connor and Bulldog Bob Brown.

There were head butts, sleeper holds, cradle holds, iron claw, step-over-spinning toe holds, suflex slams, pile drivers, full Nelsons, half-Nelsons and Ricky Nelsons. Talk about your fun.

Wrestling At The Chase and other small-time but quaint wrestling shows disappeared when pro rasslin’ went big time with the WWF, Hulk Hogan, WCW, Macho Man Randy Savage, action figures, Wrestlemania I through XXX and WCBW.

Well, as Dave Froezel and Frank Reed of Big Texas report "pro wrestling comes back to St. Louis." The shows are every Monday, beginning at 7:30 p.m. and running until 10 p.m.

They feature colorful characters such as Black Glove Butch Fletcher, Buckskin Jim, Street Warrior, Lunatic Max, Soulstealer, Dump Truck Dave Perry, El Diablo, Hawk Elliott, Iceman Dick Diamond, the Beast Ric Dustry, J.W. Thunder, Mean Mark Stone, Pretty Boy Floyd and Bad Bad Bubba Baker.

Not to mention names reminiscent of porno stars such as Texas Stud, Mr. Fantasy, and I’m Too Sexy (for my shirt?) Malaki Manson. The doors open at 5 p.m. There’s food and drink, of course, plus pool and darts. Advance tickets cost $6 for adults, and if you decide this is wholesome family entertainment for the kids, youngsters under 12 get in for $4.

For more information, call Big Texas at 739-7394. Big Texas is at 3415 N. Lindbergh, which is a half-mile south of Northwest Plaza.


(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sunday, August 4, 1996

By John M. McGuire

Just call them the guys.

What they call themselves is the 1-2-3 Club. They’re a seasoned bunch.

This assembly has nothing to do with numerology, and there’s no Greek motto or, really, any kind of specific purpose. Which makes it an uncommon organization these days.

The name is just a straightforward reminder of how long their weekly lunches used to last. First thing you know, it’s 3 p.m., and a few kibitzers are still holding forth. And talk about kibitzing; some of these fellows are world-class needlers and schmoozers. And what a body of experience.

Among them are old major-league ballplayers, a clutch of vintage sportswriters, a few retired sports executives, an ex-National Basketball Association player (Al Ferrari of the old St. Louis Hawks), and the man who’s probably the world’s longest-tenured sports cartoonist, Amadee Wohlschlaeger.

There’s also a handful of younger members rarely seen at the Monday midday gathering, but they usually make an annual appearance, at the 1-2-3 Club Christmas party at Norwood Hills Country Club. Each year, they have a Ladies Night ball at Norwood Hills for wives and significant others. A queen is named. One year it was Sam Muchnick.

In an era when most organizations and institutions are mindful of which way the wind of political correctness is blowing, the old 1-2-3 Club goes about its business the way it’s gone about its business for half a century.

Take away the gray hair and hearing aids, and it could be 1946.

The hard-core 1-2-3ers are the men who go back to the beginning, or close to it. Chief among them is Muchnick, 90, the only surviving member of the four 1-2-3 founders. The others were Globe-Democrat sports editor Bob Burnes; Bill Fairbairn, also of the Globe; and Leo Ward, the Cardinals traveling secretary.

"We’ve got more deceased members than we do active ones," cracked 84-year-old Wohlschlaeger, the cartoonist, his trademark cigar in one hand. If there was need for a recruiting poster for this unusual club, Wohlschlaeger would be a good candidate.

Indeed, age has set in to such an extent that most meetings have a hospital report. And guest speakers are urged to speak loudly (enunciating so that lips can be read) for those members whose hearing is impaired.

The first meeting in 1946 was innocent enough. It took place in a small Chinese restaurant at 11th and Locust streets downtown. Muchnick can’t recall the name.

"Leo didn’t have to be at the ballpark until 3, and Burnes and Fairbairn didn’t have to be at the Globe until about then," Muchnick says. "And, of course, I was a promoter," meaning wrestling promoters are not bound by time clocks.

From here on, who was admitted when becomes murky because the records were lost. But within a year or so, Bob Broeg (former sports editor of the Post-Dispatch) and some others joined, including Lowell Reidenbaugh of The Sporting News, Muchnick says.

This is a fraternity. To gain membership, another member must bring the applicant to two meetings. As with all fraternities, there is some ritual, such as walking clockwise around the squared tables, shaking each hand. Then the guest gives a little talk and later writes a brief autobiography. (Knowledge of sports, particularly the old days of baseball, probably helps.) Then the members vote. The group set a membership cap of 50.

They met for a time in the lounge of the long-gone Claridge Hotel at Locust and Eighth streets. Then at Fred Harvey’s in Union Station, a hotel at Jefferson Avenue and Market Street that’s now a parking lot, and, finally, the back room of Maggie O’Brien’s, 2000 Market Street.

In all, their combined ages total a number greater than the age of the United States. And in these Nineties, a decidedly ungilded age, they are what you’d call a counter-diversity group. Or an anachronism. The only woman present is the waitress, Mary Ann Kuehl. She could be the granddaughter of just about every man here.

Mostly, this group is about one thing—camaraderie, memories and sports trivia.

The 1-2-3 Club turned 50 this year. And in that half-century, only three women have been invited to sit around the joined tables. The first was Babe Didrickson Zaharias, a famous Olympic track star and golfer. She cost Muchnick money.

"Members have to pay a quarter if they use a profane word," he said. "Guests cost you 50 cents. She swore so much that I had to pay $12."

Later, Eileen Watson, widow of wrestler Whipper Watson, came for lunch. The third and most recent woman guest was Susie Mathieu, former public relations and marketing vice president for the Blues.

So each Monday, precisely at 11:30 a.m., there is this gathering around an arrangement of tables set in a large square—anchored at two corners by old big-league ballplayers, usually ex- catcher Del Wilber and Boris "Babe" Martin, who once went by Martinovich.

At another corner sits former St. Louis Cardinals publicity man Jim Toomey. And, of course, the chair in the southwest corner is always taken by Muchnick, the parliamentarian, the great, gray presence. Muchnick has this amazing habit of matching the day you see him with a significant moment in his life on that date. For instance, on Monday, June 22, he recalled that on that day in 1918 he was at a Cardinals game when Lee Meadows pitched. Meadows was the first pitcher to wear glasses.

That’s pretty much how it goes at a 1-2-3 luncheon.


(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sunday, October 12, 1997)

By Bob Broeg

Lou Thesz came home again the other day, at 81 the same amazing man who last wrestled professionally in Tokyo at age 74 and lost—because his artificial hip didn’t hold up.

Flat-stomached, exercising daily, the six-time former claimant of wrestling championships isn’t quite the same. But he’s far ahead of most physically and definitely in recollections.

Here, Thesz came in with other wrestlers of his general era - Gene Kiniski, Jack Briscoe, Harley Race and Terry and Dory Funk—to be honored with them and Sam Muchnick at an enlarged studio show of the Worldwide Wrestling Federation.

The WWF is a poor professional excuse except they laugh all the way to the bank—the grunt-and-groan grapplers and the promoters. The function was a Sunday sellout at Kiel Center, but they would have done all right if no one had come.

Now, nationally, often with closed circuit, the big bucks come via TV from guys and gals caught up in the pseudo violence of hulks like Hogan who wouldn’t know a half-nelson from Lord Nelson.

That’s the way many of us snobs see it, including those who also questioned matches even before Thesz won his first title in 1937. The point is, they could wrestle.

That’s what the old warrior did in that one-match comeback in Tokyo several years ago. Against a Japanese foe he had taught free-style wrestling, Thesz neared a fall. As he attempted to bridge for a back body drop, the artificial hip failed a test no sane doctor would have expected.

About the present-day box-office dandies, he thought he could pick many well-coached college heavyweights—even high school—to beat the big loin-skinned bozos.

"I was taught by two great ones, other than my father," Thesz recalled. Martin Thesz, a South Side cobbler, had been a middleweight wrestler in Hungary. The two pros who polished the cobbler’s kid were Ray Steele and George Tragos.

Tragos, a Greek Olympiad, was masterful and at one time the wrestling coach at the University of Missouri. For years, the talented Steele was the "policeman," the gifted guy who stood between wrestling wiseacres and the temptation to double-cross the "organization’s" championship order.

"Ray was a great friend and a great teacher who lived a fast short life," Thesz said.

Lou would rate Steele close up behind Ed "Strangler" Lewis.

Like the 92-year-old Muchnick, whom he dramatically

escorted into the Kiel ring the other night, Thesz regards

Lewis as No. 1. "And at one time one of the top bridge

players in the world,"

Thesz, who attended night high school briefly, absorbed culture and found articulation as a world traveler with frequent waking afternoons in public libraries.

By his estimation, wrestling everywhere except South America, he traveled about 16 million miles by plane, then drove by train or car another few million more.

"If,"he said, smiling, "we’d had frequent flyer miles, I never would have to pay."

Lou regarded British crowds as most appreciative. But perhaps the most unusual night was when he performed in what was Memphis’ first mixed match.

"Mixed in both senses of the word," he said. "The first, I recall, between a white and black performer and, in addition, mixed with a wrestler vs. a boxer."

Earlier, Thesz had seen Steele dispatch heavyweight boxer King Levinsky here in a Depression-era gimmick. It lasted only 35 seconds. Lou’s foe was more formidable, ex-heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott.

The bout, in three-minute boxing rounds, went into a fourth with lefty Lou, barehanded, fending off the fisted Walcott’s jabs and punches. Suddenly, Jersey Joe landed a home-run punch. Thesz’s knees buckled.

"Going down," he remembered, "I saw—and caught—Joe’s knees. I took him down. That was all."

Years earlier Thesz suffered a broken knee after football’s famed Bronko Nagurski dropped him over the top rope for a nine-foot fall to a concrete floor.

That should have been all, too, but the absence of more than a year just gave Thesz more time to crack the books.

The WAWLI Papers #213...


(Ring Magazine, November 1948)

By Wallie Ingram

WELLINGTON, N.Z.—If there is one magazine respected for its views in New Zealand, it is Nat Fleischer’s popular The Ring. About six years ago I wrote a special article for that publication on wrestling as it is conducted in New Zealand.

Today, with the passing of the years, I want to tell readers of at least one country where wrestling is not a sport where freaks parade as wrestlers and bring discredit to a sport that boasted such men as Hackenschmidt, Gotch, Farmer Burns, Tom Jenkins, and the Terrible Turk. Yes, even in New Zealand, many thousands of miles from America, we know of these men. After all, we do get The Ring. The history of wrestling in New Zealand is interesting. I could go back a matter of 20 years and tell of the days when the odd American passing through to Australia had a match or two. Why, Stanislaus Zbyszko once wrestled our Maori champion, Ike Robin, for the world title, but when midnight Saturday struck and the men were still on their feet without a fall, "curfew" was called to enable the good citizens—a handful only—to go to bed and get up in time to go to church.

The real solidarity of New Zealand wrestling started when former world champion in the lighter divisions, Walter Miller, arrived in company with a young Canadian, Earl McCready. Yes, sir, the advent of Miller and McCready really put wrestling on its feet in this country.

McCready, a big fellow who took the imagination for his clever, straight wrestling, is paying his eighth visit to New Zealand this season and is more popular than ever. McCready doesn’t claim any world titles, but he has the confidence of all New Zealanders that it will take a genuine world-class wrestler to beat him. He will find such men waiting for him this season.

We have had Len "Butch" Levy wrestling here and, for the benefit of those Ring readers who haven’t seen Levy in action I might go on record that whenever the ludicrous "world championship" position is cleared up—as it surely must be—Len Levy will be a worthy contender. He, like McCready, never starts jolting. He really wrestles in the manner that would do the heart of oldtimers good—but he has streamlined and speeded up the sport. Then we have Joe Pazandak. Now, contrary to a published report, Pazandak is not 6 feet tall. He’s about 5 feet 8 inches, but what there is, is solid. Pazandak, coming from Minneapolis, is a clever wrestler and has been engaged to coach New Zealand’s amateur wrestlers this season—in addition to fulfilling his own professional engagements. Bill Kuusisto, former American amateur champion, is another man doing well this season. Then, maybe Americans have heard of Jack Claybourne, the Negro wrestler? Jack’s acrobatics have added a spice of novelty to our wrestling. He’s a fine wrestler—not in the Pazandak, Levy, Kuusisto class when it comes to orthodox wrestling— but he’s tops with the crowd for his genuine ability to throw in dropkicks and tackles equal to the best. Every year since Walter Miller was given the task of selecting REAL wrestlers to compete under the control of the Dominion of New Zealand Wrestling Union attendances have increased. All matches are controlled by wrestling associations affiliated to the New Zealand Wrestling Union. These associations are formed in most towns and cities— every town with a population exceeding 8,0000 has an association—and comprise the leading businessmen. Patron of the Dominion of New Zealand Wrestling Union is New Zealand’s Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Peter Frazer. New Zealand’s own champion is Lofty Blomfield, who has met most of the topliners in modern wrestling and has held his own. He is now being challenged by another New Zealander, Ken Kenneth, who went to America to gain experience.

The Ring, a paper respected for its honest approach to sport, might take a look at the conduct of wrestling in New Zealand and suggest that here, in a land known to thousands of Marines—before they went north to Guadalcanal and Tarawa—is a place where the rebirth of wrestling is taking place.


(Wrestling Revue, February 1963)

By Robert J. Thornton

To look at Dan Hodge, you’d never suspect him of being a wrestler—least of all, a top one. The tall (6’2"), lantern-jawed grappler has the quiet, solemn manner of a preacher and dresses to fit the role. Even more deceptive is his spare, angular, smooth-muscled frame, which seems curiously out of place in a sport which abounds with bulging bruisers. But when Danny Boy whips off his dark blue robe and leaps at his opponent, the only picture that sticks in your mind is that of a lean, hungry tiger on the loose. With his two deadly holds—the Oklahoma Roll and the Knee Lift—Hodge has crashed his way to the world junior heavyweight title, and is now rampaging for the heavyweight crown. Those who known him best—and they include such famed veterans as LeRoy McGuirk and Ed (Strangler) Lewis—are confident that Dan can realize his biggest ambition: to hold both the junior and heavyweight diadems at the same time. "This boy," says the Strangler, "is so strong he can do anything he sets his mind on." McGuirk agrees: "I’ve never seen anybody like him."

Is Dan Hodge that good? Can he run roughshod over the mighty muscle men who bestride his path, and become the first man in history to wear both crowns at once? Many experts predict it’s only a matter of time before he rules the heavyweight roost. "And when he does," one observer remarked with conviction, "he’ll hang onto it longer than Lou Thesz did."

Mention of the ex-champion’s name brings up an ironic incident. It was Thesz who tried to interest Dan into turning pro after the University of Oklahoma wonder boy had beaten everybody in the collegiate ranks and had won berths on the 1952 and 1956 Olympic teams.

"Not for me," said Dan politely. He wanted to emulate John Devine, his wrestling coach at the high school in his native town of Perry, Okla.

Thesz could tell championship quality when he saw it. And he saw plenty of it in Hodge. Recently, Lou had occasion to back up his original estimate of the 30-year-old sensation. He did it in a most unusual way: by taking a beating! Now, granted, that’s an old way to prove a point. But it’s exactly what happened. Recently, Lou wrestled Dan in Chilhowee Park Amphitheater in Knoxville, Tenn., and lost by a disqualification.

With Hodge, winning titles is an old habit. He was a skinny, 13-year-old cotton-pickin’ farm boy when coach John Devine saw him flatten a bully on the high school grounds. "M-m-m," said Devine, poking Dan’s scrawny ribs with fatherly concern. "Don’t know how you beat that tough kid. You look like a good wind could blow you over." Devine took an immediate shine to the sharp-faced youngster. He learned that Dan had been living a rugged existence, kicking around from relative to relative. One day, he called Dan over. "Got a job for you down at the gas station," he said. "And I’ve worked out a deal for you to sleep at the fire house."

Dan showed his gratitude by winning the state school wrestling championship and then going on to capture the regional tournament three years in a row. By the time he got to Oklahoma U., he was a hard-bellied, slope-shouldered, 177-pound package of dynamite. He promptly set to work toppling the best college stars in the country.

Rex Peery, coaching the University of Pittsburgh mat team, caught several flashes of the Oklahoman in action and summed him up in these words: "He’s too good for college boys."

Dan’s teammate, George White, agreed. White, who was supplanted as Oklahoma’s first-string 177-pounder when Dan came along, sampled a bit of Hodge’s dynamite in practice sessions. "He’s a strong man," he commented, rubbing his bruises. "Strong as maybe three men, in fact." Working under coach Port Robertson, Hodge astounded collegiate circles by capturing every amateur title on the books. In winning 41 straight matches, Dan set a record that was even more astonishing because it included 32 pins, the last 19 of them in succession. (A pin is a rarity in college wrestling.)

In his quiet, methodical way, Hodge added more icing to his cake by holding three national titles in one year -- 1956. These were the NCAA (collegiate), and two AAU championships (standard and Greco-Roman forms). As if these laurels weren’t enough, the unbeaten collegian copped the NCAA crown in 1957 for the third year in a row - - an incredible feat in itself—and was hailed as America’s greatest amateur wrestler.

With this background, where else could he go but up? Dan mulled over his future after getting his B.A. in industrial arts in 1957 and flabbergasted everybody by deciding against a professional mat career.

Oh, he liked wrestling well enough. But he was a married man now, having just tied the knot with his high school sweetheart, Dolores, and he had to think about getting a steady job until he could land a teaching position. He got one, as a $500-a-month oil salesman. But it was a "package deal" which included a boxing career. It must have taken some doing to change Dan’s plans. But, then, Art Freeman is a mighty persuasive man.

It was Art, a former Oklahoma U. wrestler-boxer, now an independent oil operator in Wichita, Kansas, who swung the deal. "We’ll start you off in the amateurs and the $500 will keep you going until you hit it big as a pro fighter," he told Dan.

Hodge was apprehensive when he made his boxing debut in Convention Hall, a grimy brick building in Hutchinson, Kansas, againt a 208-pound Negro laborer reputed to have fought 65 times as an "amateur."

He needn’t have been. Dan decked his foe, one Raymond Scott, so many times that ringside reporters lost count. A flurry of blows finally dropped Scott for good at 1:35 of the second round.

Dan’s wife, who had shared his apprehension, was jubilant. "If I’d known it was going to be this simple," she burbled, "I would never have worried for a minute." If Dan were a drinking man, he would have celebrated. But this church-going athlete is a teetotaler as well as a non-smoker and he did the next best thing—he went on to win the Kansas amateur heavyweight title with three straight K.O.’s.

He then captured the National Golden Gloves heavyweight crown in Madison Square Garden in March of 1958, coming up from the floor to flatten 212-pound Fred Hood of Washington, D.C., in two rounds. It was his 12th K.O. in 17 consecutive wins.

Art Freeman now figured his boy was ready for a taste of pro money—and away they went, accompanied by "adviser" George Gainford, manager of Ray Robinson, trainer Charley Goldman and Sugar Ray Robinson himself. Hodge took on Norm Jackson in Scranton, Pa., on June 10, 1958, and polished him off in 1:12 of the first round. Except for one loss, which he soon rectified, Danny riddled seven more foes, including Garvin Sawyer, a prominent heavyweight.

But Danny, a man of great rectitude, was fast becoming disillusioned with the fight game and he wisely stepped out after the Cuban bomber, Nino Valdes, stopped him in eight rounds.

It was a peculiar bout. Dan still doesn’t know what happened. "When Valdes knocked me down," he says, "they told me to go to my corner and then they stopped the fight although I wasn’t hurt at all."

Some two years ago, the Oklahoma strong man returned to his first love, wrestling. Since then, he has fought more than 300 times and has been doing phenomenally well in the money department—so much so that he is expected to rake in about $80,000 this year!

That ought to be enough to make up for all the hurt he suffered in his boxing career—and he owes his good fortune, in large part, to Strangler Lewis and LeRoy McGuirk.

Will he hit the top? The Strangler says nothing can stop him: "It’s doubtful if there’s anyone at any weight who could beat him right now."

That kind of talk usually kicks up a beaut of an argument in mat circles. But maybe Strangler is right. Maybe Dan can add the biggest title of all to his long list. It will take a man of extraordinary strength to do it. Dan is such a man. If you need convincing, all you have to do is watch him tear a Manhattan-sized phone book in half without using tricks. Or crush a pair of steel pliers in his vise-like mitts. That’s a tough feat in anybody’s book. Besides, Dan has a lucky number going for him -- 13. He weighed 13 pounds at birth. He was born on the 13th of the month (a Friday, too!). And he began wrestling at 13. How can he miss?


(Miami Herald, Friday, February 5, 1965)

By Dick Meyer

FORT LAUDERDALE—Haystack Calhoun, wealthy at age 30, wants a wife.

She should be stout, a good cook and like to travel. Haystack—an ex-farmer whose square name is William—is a 620-pound wrestler who performs each season at the War Memorial Auditorium. He was there Wednesday night long enough to defeat Tarzan Tyler.

The bearded, long-haired Arkansas native says he will be back in Florida soon. However, his prompt return to Fort Lauderdale is unlikely, for promoter Red Cameron announced Thursday his decision to cancel remaining auditorium mat dates. (Red feels crowds should be larger.) It’s the uncertainty about wrestling tours that frets Haystack. After scuffling—his word for wrestling—he not always can find a restaurant nearby to serve his evening snack: five pounds of meat, a "trainload" of vegetables and three or four loaves of bread, all washed down with a half gallon of milk. Haystack loves to talk, yet now he travels alone in a station wagon with a driver’s seat twice the size of an ordinary one. "I talk quite a bit, so my wife should be a good listener," he said.

When Calhoun married his first wife—from whom he was divorced last year—she was too fragile for his taste. By eating at the same table with Haystack, she added 100 pounds and when their daughter was born, three years ago, Mrs. Calhoun weighed 230.

The pretty little girl, of average size, now lives with Calhoun’s parents in Texas. "When I could, I’d like to spend some time in Texas with Kathy Elizabeth and her new mother," Haystack says.

Another thing Haystack doesn’t appreciate about traveling is the lack of king-size beds. "I broke one at a motel the last time I stayed in Fort Lauderdale—I break beds wherever I go, ‘cause they are too small."

It was especially difficult for the big fellow to sleep well when he visited Japan, in 1963, to oppose sumo wrestlers. The Japanese treated Haystack as though he were royalty—

"They respect big men over there"—but didn’t have a bed anywhere near large enough for his huge frame. The fellow may talk like the farmer he was, but he’s not dumb.

When Internal Revenue men said Haystack should limit his food consumption on expenses-claimed trips to $20 a day, he took a couple of them to a restaurant and put away a Gargantuan meal.

"They agreed I could eat far more food than that." When an airline wanted to charge him double fare, he argued successfully that midget wrestlers don’t pay half fare. He paid for a single ticket, although an armrest had to be removed so he could use two seats.

"And," he points out with emphasis, "I’ve been wrestling for nine years and haven’t been injured."


(Boston Globe, Monday, March 30, 1998)

By Ron Borges

Mike Tyson was introduced last night as "the baddest man on the planet" when he made his entrance into WrestleMania XIV. That might be true, if you don’t include Atlanta.

Atlanta is where Evander Holyfield calls home. It’s also where he probably was laughing uproariously last night as Tyson entered the ring at the FleetCenter around 9:15 in a moment even more inglorious than the last time Tyson was in a ring ... which was the night he bit Holyfield’s ear off to get out of facing the beating he was about to get from Holyfield for the second time in as many outings. When he arrived last night, the boos far outweighed the cheers. Staring him square in the face was a spray-painted sign that read, "Bite Me, Mike." Tyson didn’t seem to notice. Dressed in combat boots and a sleeveless T-shirt with an expletive on it, Tyson didn’t exactly look the picture of the contrite banned boxer trying to get his life back in order as he made an occasional obscene gesture toward his man’s opponent, a guy he kept calling Cold Stone Steve Austin even though his name is Stone Cold Steve Austin. Whoever he is and whatever this was, it was a sight to behold. A sad sight unless you’re into absurdity, which now that I think of it is what most of Tyson’s life has been about in the first place.

The WrestleMania XIV festivities began long before Tyson arrived, however, but in fitting fashion - with a little street crime.

An enterprising T-shirt salesman was in mid-sale of a bootleg D-Generation X shirt over on Friend Street at "a special WrestleMania discount" when a member of the local T-shirt police showed up. End of sale.

There was no end to the salesmanship going on inside the FleetCenter, however. The place was packed more than an hour before the event began and when it finally got going just after 7 the crowd was ready—lustily booing a rock rendition of "Your National Anthem."

Not long after that things kicked off with a 30-man in the ring "Battle Royal" that included former Olympic power lifter Mark Henry.

The match was won by the Legion of Doom, which captured the victory with the help of two guys in overalls who hit Doom’s last standing opponents on the head with matching milk pails. That fight bore a strong resemblance to the first Riddick Bowe-Andrew Golota riotfest, the only thing missing being a guy swinging a cellular phone and two pairs of boxing gloves.

As the crowd roared its approval, Marvelous Marvin Hagler watched in wonderment as a guy calling himself Marvelous Marc Mero tried to steal his act without much luck while former two-time world boxing champion Vinny Pazienza sat next to him at ringside studying the wrestler’s costumes for future reference.

Eventually one of those costumes came flying in Pazienza’s direction wrapped around a rather large man who calls himself, for the sake of brevity, HHH. HHH and costume slammed into an iron guard rail in front of Pazienza, leading him to opine laughingly, "That’s the only way you can get hurt in this stuff. It ain’t real ... I don’t think." HHH, by the way, was wrestling for the "European title," whose competitors shared something with the multi-passported heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis, who claims England, Jamaica, and Canada as his home. Owen Hart, HHH’s challenger, went Lewis one better. He’s from Alberta, but apparently got special dispensation from Carmen San Diego to represent the European continent. About this time Lou Sahadi, who was working for Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation, came by with what he called "Facts not fiction." The facts, his press release said, was that attendance was 19,028, four thousand more seats than the WWF originally claimed it sold and thus "the highest grossing one-day arena event in Boston’s history" with a paid gate of $1,029,230. Good walk up, obviously. Wherever they came from, the Fleet was packed and rocking by the time they put on something called the Dumpster Title Match. The object was not to pin the opponent but rather to throw him into a large, red dumpster, and lock him in. By this time of the night a few of the more than half-dozen members of the more circumspect British press who had come to see Tyson in a new environment would loved to have joined them.

More than half the crowd would have loved to join Kane, the evil brother of The Undertaker, who body slammed all-time major league hit leader Pete Rose into the canvas minutes after he entered the ring in a tuxedo and said, "The last time I was in Boston, we kicked your ass. I left tickets for Bill Buckner but he couldn’t bend over to pick them up. Oh, Bucky Dent says hellooo, you city of losers!" One has to assume Rose will not include a video of his appearance when he seeks re-instatement by major league baseball, although, with Pete, you never know. At least, he could argue, it was gainful employment. Tyson will face no such problems if the Nevada State Athletic Commission asks him just what he was doing allied with WWF’s outlaw faction, D-Generation X. Originally, you may recall, Tyson had been hired to serve as special enforcer in the main event, a title match between Austin and the champion of D-Generation X, Shawn Michaels. But at some point Tyson switched sides, which he’s been doing a lot of lately, and signed on with the D-Generation X outlaw crowd.

But last night, once Austin the good guy got the upper hand, Tyson sold him out, just like he’s been accusing his managers, John Horne and Rory Holloway, of doing to him. Having apparently learned well from his deposed promoter, Don King, Tyson came in with the old champion and left with the new one.

For one night, at least, Tyson ended up on the side of good over evil when he landed a right "hand" to the face of a defeated Michaels. But not even that shift of allegiance could save Tyson from having to stand outside the ring as the crowd began a familiar chant.

"Holyfield, Holyfield, Holyfield," it hollered.

Once it would have been yelling "Tyson, Tyson, Tyson."

But that was a lot of Mania ago.

The WAWLI Papers #214...


Madison Square Garden, The Way It Was Years Ago (The Wrestling Exchange, October 1980)

By Allan Cooper

In past issues, we reviewed Atlanta, Georgia, and its climb to the top. In our last issue, we looked at St. Louis, and why it is the "Wrestling Capital of the World." Now we take a look at Madison Square Garden, New York City, and what keeps it the city that draws the largest crowds in the United States.

New York is unusual in that it has been a member of, first, the NWA, and now is currently a member of the WWF. No matter which group, crowds have been large all along, and seats are hard to come by the night of the show. Let’s go back to 1962, and look at this phenomenon on a first-hand basis. We will look at the situation on an "every other year" basis, for the last several years.


January 22 (20,777 attendance) -- Buddy Rogers-Bob Orton beat Bearcat Wright-Johnny Valentine, Giant Baba-Mr. Suzuki beat Bruno Sammartino-Argentine Apollo, Antonino Rocca beat Crusher Lisowski, Kangaroos (Al Costello-Roy Heffernan) drew Skull Murphy-Brute Bernard (no contest). February 26 -- Cowboy Bob Ellis-Johnny Valentine beat Buddy Rogers-Bob Orton, Skull Murphy-Brute Bernard beat Mark Lewin-Don Curtis, Bruno Sammartino-Argentine Apollo beat The Kangaroos (DQ), Antonino Rocca beat Mr. Suzuki. March 19 -- Buddy Rogers beat Cowboy Bob Ellis, Antonino Rocca-Johnny Valentine beat Skull Murphy-Brute Bernard, Kangaroos beat Miguel Perez-Billy Darnell, Great Baba-Mr. Suzuki drew Bob Orton-Great Scott (no contest).

May 25 -- Buddy Rogers drew Cowboy Bob Ellis, Johnny Valentine-Argentine Apollo drew Kangaroos, Antonino Rocca-Ed Carpentier beat Great Baba-Mr. Suzuki. June 22 -- Buddy Rogers beat Cowboy Bob Ellis, Johnny Valentine drew Johnny Barend (no contest), Antonino Rocca-Ed Carpentier beat Kangaroos. July 13 -- Buddy Rogers-Johnny Barend beat Cowboy Bob Ellis-Johnny Valentine, Antonino Rocca beat Hans Schmidt (DQ), Ed Carpentier-Bobo Brazil beat Kangaroos. August 3 -- Bobo Brazil-Ed Carpentier drew Buddy Rogers-Johnny Barend (no contest), Antonino Rocca beat Golden Terror, Johnny Valentine beat Giant Baba, Chuck Conley-Rip Collins beat Kangaroos.

August 24 -- Bobo Brazil-Ed Carpentier beat Buddy Rogers-Johnny Barend (DQ), Antonino Rocca-Miguel Perez beat Great Baba-Great Togo, Chuck Conley-Rip Collins beat Kangaroos.

September 21 -- Bobo Brazil beat Johnny Barend, Antonino Rocca beat Hans Schmidt, Ed Carpentier drew Killer Kowalski, John-Chris Tolos beat Kangaroos. October 5 -- Bobo Brazil-Ed Carpentier beat Buddy Rogers-Killer Kowalski, Antonino Rocca beat Giant Baba (DQ), Johnny Barend-Magnificent Maurice (Gene Dubuque) beat Chuck Conley-Rip Collins, John-Chris Tolos beat Argentine Apollo-Miguel Perez.

October 24 -- Buddy Rogers beat Killer Kowalski (DQ), Bobo Brazil-Ed Carpentier beat Kangaroos, Antonino Rocca-Argentine Apollo drew Johnny Barend-Magnificent Maurice. November 12 -- Buddy Rogers drew Dory Dixon (no contest), Johnny Barend-Magnificent Maurice beat Bobo Brazil-Killer Kowalski (DQ), John-Chris Tolos drew Ed Carpentier-Antonino Rocca, Giant Baba drew Argentine Apollo.

December 10 -- Dory Dixon beat Johnny Barend, Bobo Brazil drew Killer Kowalski, John-Chris Tolos beat Miguel Perez-Argentine Apollo, Ed Carpentier beat Giant Baba.


January 20 -- Bruno Sammartino beat Jerry Graham, Bobo Brazil-Argentine Apollo beat Killer Kowalski-Gorilla Monsoon, John-Chris Tolos beat Miguel Perez-Pedro Morales.

February 17 -- Bruno Sammartino beat Giant Baba, Bobo Brazil-Argentine Apollo beat Gorilla Monsoon-Killer Kowalski (DQ).

March 16 -- Bruno Sammartino beat Jerry Graham, Bill Watts beat Luke Graham, Gorilla Monsoon drew Killer Kowalski.

May 11 -- Gorilla Monsoon drew Bruno Sammartino, Bobo Brazil-Ernie Ladd beat Jerry-Luke Graham, Kentuckians beat Max-Hans Mortier (DQ).

June 6 -- Bruno Sammartino beat Gorilla Monsoon, Killer Kowalski drew Bill Watts, Jerry-Luke Graham beat Kentuckians, Bobo Brazil-Ernie Ladd beat Hans-Max Mortier.

July 11 -- Fred Blassie beat Bruno Sammartino (DQ), Jerry-Luke Graham beat Hans-Max Mortier, Bobo Brazil drew Golden Terror.

August 1 -- Bruno Sammartino beat Fred Blassie, Gorilla Monsoon-Killer Kowalski drew Bobo Brazil-Bill Watts, Jerry-Luke Graham beat Miguel Perez-Pedro Morales. August 22 -- Bruno Sammartino drew Waldo Von Erich (1 hour, 22 minutes, curfew), Jerry-Luke Graham beat Gorilla Monsoon-Killer Kowalski.

September 21 -- Bruno Sammartino beat Waldo Von Erich (COR), Fred Blassie drew Bobo Brazil, Gorilla Monsoon drew Bill Watts.

October 19 -- Bruno Sammartino beat Waldo Von Erich, Fred Blassie-Gorilla Monsoon drew Bill Watts-Don McClarity, Haystack Calhoun-Bobo Brazil beat Jerry-Luke Graham.

November 16 -- Bruno Sammartino beat Gene Kiniski (COR), Bobo Brazil drew Waldo Von Erich, Jerry-Luke Graham beat Bill Watts-Don McClarity. December 14 -- Bruno Sammartino beat Gene Kiniski, Haystack Calhoun beat Gorilla Monsoon (DQ), Jerry-Luke Graham beat Bobo Brazil-Jim Hady.


January 24 -- Bruno Sammartino beat Baron Scicluna (DQ), Bobo Brazil-Johnny Valentine beat Bill-Dan Miller (decision). March 28 -- Bruno Sammartino beat Prince Curtis Iaukea, Johnny Valentine-Tony Pugliese beat Bill-Dan Miller, Bobo Brazil drew Baron Scicluna.

November 7 -- Bruno Sammartino beat Bulldog Brower, Bobo Brazil drew Bill Miller, Baron Scicluna-Smasher Sloan beat Louie Cerdan-Tony Pugliese.


January 29 -- (last show at old Madison Square Garden) Bruno Sammartino beat Toru Tanaka, Bull Ramos beat Tony Pugliese, Hans Mortier drew Ed Carpentier.


(Nashville, Tenn., January 4, 1965)

By Bud Burns, Touching ‘Em All

It is seldom that a wrestling villain can be classified as popular but if there is one, Dick (The Bruiser) Afflis is closest to being the exception.

The Bruiser, a colorful, cigar-smoking character, is a stock 255-pounder who once played professional football for the Green Bay Packers. He is currently ranked among the top 10 in ratings compiled by the National Wrestling Alliance and will appear at the Hippodrome Jan. 19. Although it was one of his lesser tests, The Bruiser probably gained more nationwide publicity for his match in 1963 with suspended Detroit Lion footballer Alex Karras than for any other he has participated in. As expected, Karras, the talented football player, was no match for the trained wrestler.

Afflis is just one of many headliners promoters Nick Gulas and Roy Welch plan to bring in during 1965. The past year was the best wrestling has had since 1955 and the promoters are hopeful of keeping the attendance booming. Another newcomer headed this way is Wilbur Snyder, a 35-year-old who at one time was recognized as the king of TV wrestling and holder of the United States heavyweight belt. "He’s one of the best," says Gulas. "I’ve known Wilbur ever since he started wrestling. There’s a terrific demand for his services throughout the country. He’s a high-class boy with a tremendous future."

Like the Bruiser, Snyder formerly played professional football. A California native, he attended the University of Utah before joining the Los Angeles Rams. After a year with the National Football League club, he went to Canada and played for Edmonton. While there, he started wrestling during the off-season.

Incidentally, Snyder, who has been wrestling professionally for 11 years, says he is just reaching his peak and "I’m working on a plan to become champion of the world in 1965."


(ED. NOTE—From time to time, we can’t resist gleaning a passage or two from the rare back issues of Chuck Shepherd’s now-defunct Wrestling Letter. Shepherd is more familiar these days as the compiler of News of the Weird, a feature syndicated in newspapers and magazines all over the world. The following excerpts come from his Wrestling Letter for November 15, 1981.)

Preparing For Scenery Change in the WWF: Magnificent Muraco is winding down his tour of duty here, set to lose the Intercontinental crown soon to Pedro Morales (who, in promo for Nov. 23 MSG Texas Death Match, said it’s his "last chance"). Too bad, because MM’s a breath of fresh air in a dull circuit . . . WWF Style Ratings: 1) Muraco; 2) Adonis; 3) Patterson; 4) Khan; 5) Valentine; 6) Morales; 7)Roberto Soto; 8) Martel; 9) Saito; 10) Fuji; 11) Jose Estrada; 12) Backlund . . . Still Looking For Victory No. 1: Billy Verger, Charlie Brown, Jack Carson, Joe Cox, Jeff Craney, Phil Dixon, Angelo Gomez, Irish Terry Gunn, Barry Hart, Jerry Johnson, Steve King, Mike Mahalko, Victor Mercado, Pete Mitchell, Moose (Tub of Lard) Monroe, Juan Ringo, George Rosello, Lee Wong . . .

NWA to Upgrade GCW Showcase: Finally realizing its Atlanta Superstation goldmine, the NWA will begin shuffling an unprecedented array of big-timers in for national exposure. First salvo came on Oct. 31, when former Mid-Atlantic U.S. Champ Roddy Piper began co-commentator stint with Gordon Solie, and Austin Idol and Ivan Koloff returned. Andersons also back after six-month absence, and Champ Ric Flair has already made more Atlanta appearances than predecessor Dusty Rhodes did in his three-month reign. By-product: A loss of air time for year-long dominants, Hayes and Gordy . . . REVIEW: When a masked Austin Idol rushed into the ring during a Michael Hayes match to pummel his new feud foe, ref Nick Patrick tried to stop Idol by COUNTING. Like, he’s going to disqualify an intruder? . . . Gerald Findlay takes excellent turnbuckle . . . Great Mephisto at ringside without his headdress, looking like route salesman for Coca-Cola . . . I’m pleased that Gordon Solie assured me Mephisto had an "affidavid" . . . that Super Destroyer wasn’t really Superstar . . . and that newcomer Rick Benefield, matched against Ray Stevens, "likes to apply the figure four toehold" (he barely got in an one offensive hold at all before Stevens piledrove him) . . . NWA Style Ratings: 1) Ole Anderson; 2) DiBiase; 3) Race; 4) Flair; 5) Stevens; 6) Rich; 7) Hansen; 8) Koloff; 9) Kevin Von Erich; 10) Gordy; 11) Superstar; 12) Wells; 13) Tor Kamata; 14) Steve O; 15) Mr. Wrestling II; 16) Hayes; 17) Mike Jackson; 18) Jim Nelson; 19) Dusty Rhodes; 20) Gerald Findlay . . .

ONE-LINERS: Pat Patterson (WWF announcer) on King Kong Mosca: "That’s the kind of man Mosca is made out of" . . . Fred Blassie on upcoming Andre-Killer Khan match: "Andre won’t have to pay no hospital bills because I’ve reserved the same doctor and the same bed (that Khan put him into before)." (Really, Fred! Have you checked hospital costs lately?) . . . Don Muraco, promoting a Baltimore card featuring Tony Atlas and Dusty Rhodes: "What a magnificent evening! A black man, Tony Atlas, and a white man who wants to BE a black man, Dusty Rhodes" . . .


(Columbus Dispatch, October 30, 1996)

By Dick Fenlon

The one thing you do not want to do is to try to pull the wool over Rosanne B. Pike’s eyes.

"He thought no one would remember," Pike said by telephone from her home in Navarre, Fla. "Well, there is one old woman who remembers."

She is 83, and she remembers The Great Mephisto. And, James Ault, take it from her, she knew the The Great Mephisto and you are not the Great Mephisto. Not the first one, anyway.

The umbrage was screamed in hand-printed red ink across the top of an Oct. 9 article with picture in the Daily News of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., that was included in an irate letter from Pike, who moved to Florida from Columbus a year ago and, sorry, Florida, just plain hates it down there. "This is not our original The Great Mephisto!" the red ink declared. "Just a copy. How sad."

The story, captioned "A former villain finds his beloved sport going bad," included a picture of former Columbus resident James Ault in his Arabic robe and head piece as The Great Mephisto. The story by columnist Dennis Spears, with extensive quotes from Ault, leaves little doubt that he performed for years on the pro rasslin’ circuit as The Great Mephisto.

Now for the problem:

"Read the story and you’ll see that he’s 65," Pike said. "Well, The Great Mephisto wrestled in Columbus, too, just like he says he did, but he was a much older man than the 65-year-old copy, so this guy couldn’t be The Great Mephisto. I’m sure that’s where the copy came from. My son, Jim Pike, is 62, and when he was 10 he watched the original wrestle at Haft’s Acre Arena and the Columbus Auditorium."

Rosanne Pike knows because she was there a lot herself. For a bunch of years. As you can see, you do not want to get a rasslin’ fan all riled up, even if we’re talking, oh, say, a half century.

"They used to have ladies night down at the Columbus Auditorium and we used to go with them," she said. "And we all sat on the same bleacher. And at Haft’s Acre we had a corner up there, too. And then everybody would go to the Jai Lai just around the corner on High Street." We’re talking old places. The Columbus Auditorium, later to become Lazarus Annex, was at Town and Front streets. Haft’s Acre, an outoor arena, was at Goodale and Front streets. The original Jai Lai was the forerunner of the recently shuttered Jai Lai on Olentangy River Road. And we’re talking old names. And a memory as fresh as yesterday. And a disdain for the body-sculpted WWF of today.

"It was fixed a little bit, we all knew that," Pike said, "but it wasn’t bad then like it is now. It was real wrestling, with real holds. It was nice wrestling. I don’t watch any of it now. Too much of a show. Too artificial. Back in those days it wasn’t that bad. I just hate it."

Names? She’s got them.

"John Pesek was the champion," she said. "Whitey Wahlberg, Orville Brown, Ruffy Silverstein. Stacy Hall, the sheriff’s deputy. Frankie Talaber used the back-breaker. And, of course, Mephisto had the pile-driver."

Pike and Ault, identified as a Fort Walton Beach resident, obviously share one thing—a distaste for the Hulks of the modern era. "It’s the worst exhibition of wrestling you’ll see," Ault told Spears. He said his 50-year involvement in wrestling grew out of early matches in smokers around Columbus into a tag-team role with The Flaming Infernos, thence to years as a villainous Great Mephisto who often needed a police escort to leave the site of the crime unscathed.

Which is where Pike draws the line.

"The Great Mephisto was a good guy and dressed in all red," she said in her letter. "Never dressed as the copy we see in the picture. The Great Mephisto was really loved by the crowd at Haft’s Acre. At one time, it was said he was a relative of Jack Sharkey, the boxer. Do you know if this is true? I will always remember the original and legendary good guy, the red-garbed Great Mephisto." And, oh, yes, the P.S. "I am glad to get rid of the picture.

Every time I look at it, I get mad!!! Go Bucks!!!" It merely took a phone call to Florida yesterday to discover that it takes more than a month or so for Rosanne B. Pike to cool off.

"He was just a kid when he took that name from the original," she said of Ault. "He doesn’t know there’s an old lady around who knows the truth."

Attempts to reach Ault yesterday were fruitless, but Spears said he would get in touch with his Great Mephisto and ask him to call.

Let’s just hope he has a good story.


(Kansas City Star, February 8, 1997)

By Rich Sambol

Those were the glory days of Midwest wrestling ... The mid-1960s through the late-1970s ... "Bulldog" Bob Brown, Rufus R. Jones, Bob Geigel, "Handsome" Harley Race, "Cowboy" Bob Ellis, Pat O’Connor, Dick the Bruiser, The Viking, to name a few ... Bill Kersten at ringside ... Thursday nights at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan. ...

Yes, those were the days.

"Hel-l-lo, wrestling fans," Kersten would say. Television audiences loved them, too.

"All-Star Wrestling" ran on area television stations from 1965 into early 1982.

The people who enjoyed those wrestling shows were saddened Thursday morning when they heard that "Bulldog" Bob Brown suffered a fatal heart attack late Wednesday.

"He was a great guy, my friend for many years," Geigel said. They wrestled together, sometimes as tag-team partners. They even were security guards together at The Woodlands racetracks.

"He was a pleasant man," said Allan Meyers, the head of security/operations at The Woodlands and former Kansas City, Kan., police chief. "He was recognized by all the patrons. He’s would talk to them, sign autographs. He hadn’t changed from the days when he was in the ring. And he did a good job for us. "

Brown, 58, worked at The Woodlands for about three years before moving over to the Hilton Flamingo Casino. He went over as a security guard, but Missouri law wouldn’t allow him to work in security because he was a Canadian citizen. He had a heart attack in July, before the casino opened. But he was working regularly and was on the job when he had the fatal attack.

Brown began his wrestling career in Canada, starting out as a ring official in Winnipeg. Geigel first met him in 1958 and saw Brown nearly meet his match in about 1961. Geigel was in one of those cage matches and Brown was the referee, Geigel recalled. The match didn’t go the way some people expected and Brown was stuck in the cage because a couple of angry Hungarian wrestlers wanted his hide.

"It took some of the wrestlers (Geigel among them) and about six policemen to get him out of there," Geigel said. Kersten, now the mayor of Liberty, said he received several calls Thursday concerning Brown.

"It brought back memories of the good times," Kersten said.

"He was a classic guy, full of life, always good to be around.

He was one of the real memorable figures of our time. "


(Kansas City Star, February 19, 1997)

By Hearne Christopher Jr.

The "no spitting" crowd was out in force. The occasion: A Sunday farewell at Memorial Hall in KCK to Bulldog Bob Brown, who died Feb. 5, from a collection of the professional wrestler’s closest friends and former grapplers.

Some highlights:

Sir Soggy. Liberty Mayor Bill Kersten, ringside announcer from the 1960s, ‘70s and early ‘80s, remembers Brown fondly. Not to mention moistly.

"The funniest story is that nobody has spit on me since the last time I interviewed him," says Kersten, referring to Brown’s tendency to shower saliva through his missing front teeth and/or dentures. "Seems like every time I’d look at him, out’d come that saliva. "

The ref. That would be Richard "Dick" Moody, who left the ring in 1974.

"I went to work in the sheriff’s department down in Texas," he says. So who’s rougher, wrestling bad guys or criminals? "Well, you had a lot more control over the bad guys on the street than you did those big lummoxes. " Team spirit. Eight-time world wrestling champ Harley Race described tag partners Brown and Texas Bob Geigel as "probably one of the best-known tag teams throughout the Midwest. And there probably wasn’t a more obstinate team ever put together. "

Resilient. That’s how Tom Andrews, formerly of the masked Medics, remembers Brown.

"Brown and Geigel were on their way to Wichita to a match once, and all of a sudden Brown started having a heart attack—I mean he was dying. When they got to Topeka they pulled in to a hospital and all of a sudden he passed a kidney stone. Then they went on to the match and wrestled."

Shower power. Woodlands security officer Judy Pope, who worked with Brown at the KCK racetrack, says she had lunch with him every week, right until a week before he died. "He was so excited about getting his new teeth," Pope says. "He said, ‘Now I don’t have to spit on everybody anymore. Everybody always made a joke about it, as you talked to him you got a shower. "

Valentine past. Brown’s ex-wife, Anne Tunnell, was there to pay her final respects. They married during Brown’s golden era, between 1967 and 1977.

"A friend of mine was dating The Viking," she says. "And I started going to the matches and he started picking on me - that’s just the way he was—he’d pick on people he liked. " Area wrestling fans, for instance.

"The wrestling fans of Kansas City are just so full of love. I mean, they’d love to kill him, but they still loved him. And he loved his fans—he loved to aggravate them. "

The WAWLI Papers #215...


(Kansas City Star, January 25, 1996)

By Hearne Christopher Jr.

Things are calmer these days for former pro wrestler ``Texas'' Bob Geigel.

Geigel's wrestling career ended a long time ago. These days he's a security guard for the financially fragile Woodlands racetrack in KCK.

"It's the first 'job' I ever had in my life,'' Geigel says. "The first year it opened, we put out six or eight people every time there was a race. But we've eliminated all the drunks and now we've got a nice group of people, and we never have any trouble. ''

What's Geigel's "hobby'' now that he's no longer poking people in the eyes or jabbing his thumb in their throats?

"Deer hunting's my big thing. We went to Nebraska this year. It was terrible. We sat there and got five deer the first day -- we killed our limit -- so we went home. ''

As for wrestling: "Oh sure, I miss it. I had a lot of fun with a lot of guys. I started in 1950 and got out in 1975. '' Geigel says he's not impressed with modern-day pro wrestling.

"You watch it on TV today, and what it's telling the viewers is that everything they thought about wrestling being (fake) is true.''


(Kansas City Star, February 17, 1997)

By Marli Murphy

When I read the news that "Bulldog'' Bob Brown had gone to that big rasslin' match in the sky, I felt as if I'd been grabbed in an illegal choke hold.

In professional wrestling circles, he'd been considered a legend -- not just in Kansas City, but throughout the Midwest, where he performed from the 1960s through the mid-1980s. He'd been a frequent headliner at Memorial Hall.

By the time he suffered a fatal heart attack Feb. 5 at age 58, his career was long since over, and he was cashiering at valet parking for the Flamingo.

Even a legend has to eat, I guess.

But in his prime, Bulldog Bob Brown wouldn't have parked your car, he'd have stomped it clear into next week and made you say you liked it that way, by golly. Though I never met him, he looms large in my childhood memories as the man my grandmother loved to hate -- every Friday night at 10.

Dousing the living room lights, she'd inch up the volume on her black-and-white TV and settle into her easy chair for her favorite program, "Wrestling With Bob,'' on KFEQ, Channel 2, in St. Joseph.

Clad in the flannel nightgowns my grandmother had made for us, my little sister and I would huddle in front of the TV set in anticipation, singing at the top of our lungs to the corny opening song:

"They romp and they roll,

They stomp and they groan,

Doing the wrestling polka ... ''

Something like that. Then the show's host (another guy named Bob who was not a wrestler) would introduce the stars of the upcoming matches -- names like Texas Bob Geigel, the Mask, Handsome Harley Race and the Stomper.

We'd cheer or boo wildly, depending on whether the individual was a good guy or a bad guy. In our minds, the baddest of 'em all was Bulldog Bob Brown.

"Oh no! Not the Bulldog,'' my grandmother would exclaim.

"Somebody'll be killed, I just know it. I can't watch! '' Then she'd crouch forward on the edge of her chair so as not to miss one second of death-defying action.

Back then I assumed everyone's grandma tuned in regularly to professional wrestling. Only years later did it occur to me that a woman who refused to allow liquor in her house, wouldn't stand for bad language and spent hours crocheting doilies, baking rhubarb pies and doting on her grandchildren was an unlikely candidate for a die-hard rasslin' fan.

But was she ever. And nobody could get her dander up like the Bulldog. Sporting a stubby crewcut, he'd literally roar into the ring, growling and snarling and gnashing his teeth in a performance that earned him the additional nickname of "Mad Dog. '' The guy must have been having the time of his life.

Of course, so was my grandmother. She'd groan and moan with every body slam, every arm wringer twist, every toe stomp the Bulldog administered to his unlucky rivals. To encourage them, she'd holler at the TV, "Git 'im, git 'im! '' and "You give it to him good, he's fightin' dirty!''

But it was no use. Because we all knew that sooner or later that wily Bob Brown would resort to his most evil and possibly deadly maneuver: the ol' Indian sleeper hold. Whenever he used it, my grandma worked herself into such a frenzy that my sister and I worried she'd faint from all the excitement. Pass out cold, just like the Bulldog's unwary opponents at the hands of his expertly applied sleeper hold.

Oddly enough, some of the happiest moments of my youth were spent curled up under a quilt on my grandmother's scratchy living room carpet, slurping a big bowl of vanilla ice cream topped with Karo syrup, staring wide-eyed at the TV screen while Bulldog Bob Brown pretended to break some guy's legs.

And now he's doing the wrestling polka in the great beyond.

Betcha my grandma has a ringside seat.

(Marli Murphy is a contributing columnist to FYI on Mondays. She writes from her home in Kansas City, North.)


(Kansas City Star, February 17, 1997)

By Tom Smith

"Bulldog'' Bob Brown built a strong relationship with his colleagues during his career in professional wrestling, and fans enjoyed his work in the ring.

That was evident Sunday night when Brown, who died Feb. 5, was remembered at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan., where he frequently wrestled during his career.

"I worked with a lot of guys in wrestling, but there are very few who compared to Bob Brown,'' former world champion Harley Race said.

Mike George, who worked with Brown and Bob Geigel in security at The Woodlands racetrack after their wrestling careers ended, remembered some rough matches against Brown. But they came away as friends, and George became emotional after saying: "He was always there for you. I'll miss the man very much. ''

Geigel said Brown made his work as a wrestler and promoter enjoyable.

"He was a needler and an instigator,'' Geigel said. "He was everything anybody wanted to be, but he could back it up. ''

Although it might not have been evident when Brown was battling opponents in the ring, Race said Brown was an asset to the community.

"I'll always remember his work with the Leukemia Society,'' Race said. "He did a lot of work for charities.'' Rev. Joseph Biscoe of Kansas City, Kan., recalled seeing Brown after he suffered a heart attack last summer.

"In the midst of all his troubles, he was able to laugh,'' Biscoe said. ``That's a great trait. ''


(Kansas City Star, March 24, 1997)

By Tom Smith

It's nothing new when Iowa wins an NCAA wrestling championship, but it still makes former Hawkeyes proud.

Bob Geigel, who played football four years and wrestled three seasons while at Iowa during 1946-49, was happy when coach Dan Gable led the Hawkeyes to this year's championship during the weekend in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

"I was thrilled,'' said Geigel, who later became well-known in Kansas City as a professional wrestler. "Dan's a super coach. All you have to do is look at his record. ''

Iowa has won the NCAA championship three straight years, six of the last seven and 15 times overall during Gable's 21 seasons at Iowa.

Geigel was impressed that Gable was able to rebound from hip-replacement surgery on Jan. 23 and lead the Hawkeyes to the title.

"He gets the kids going,'' Geigel said. "Mentally, he has them ready to wrestle. He used to get right in there and wrestle with them, but he hasn't been able to do it this year because of his hip. ''

There is some speculation that Gable will retire.

"I'm already getting a lot of pressure from people (that) this is the perfect way to end,'' Gable told The Associated Press. "It is good. That's why I said that this could be the year.''

Geigel believes Gable will continue to be successful if he returns.

"The only trouble I can see is that some of his pupils have become coaches and use his approach,'' Geigel said. "But he's been able to handle that so far.''

(ED. NOTE--Legendary Iowa coach Dan Gable announced he would take a year's sabbatical on July 14, 1997. Then, after "his" Iowa Hawkeyes wrestling team, under the direction of Jim Zalesky, notched yet another NCAA title last month in Cleveland, he announced that he would retire from coaching on a permanent basis. Gable is presently helping oversee the organization of the amateur wing of Mike Chapman's Wrestling Hall of Fame outside Des Moines, while Lou Thesz works likewise with the organization of the professional wing. "He's been an inspiration to wrestling, not just in Iowa but throughout the United States,'' Bob Geigel said. "I feel bad about the decision, but I understand it. I imagine he'll be on the sideline watching.'')


(Kansas City Star, October 14, 1997)

By Hearne Christopher Jr.

An outbreak of pro wrestling in the Cowtown? Definitely.

And smack in the middle is -- who else? -- KC's own "Handsome'' Harley Race.

Rumor has it Race was to be recognized for his record eight world championships and 39 years in the wrestling biz at last week's World Wrestling Federation show at Kemper Arena. But things changed after the tragic death of wrestler "Flying'' Brian Pillman the night before.

Instead, "they did a live hookup with Pillman's wife,'' Race says, "and showed it at the arena and on national TV.''

The night before, Race and other world champions such as Lou Thesz and Gene Kiniski were honored at the Kiel Center in St. Louis with a proclamation by Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan.

"I got a five-minute standing ovation,'' Race says. "I came out next to last and they were chanting 'Har-ley!' when everyone left the ring.''

Race is still recuperating from being dropped while going through physical therapy after a auto accident in January 1995. But that didn't stop him and his wife, B.J., a banker with Fidelity Acceptance Corp., from giving a big chili feed.

One highlight: When wrestler Owen Hart loaded the chili ladle with "insanity hot sauce,'' B.J. says, "thinking Dude Love would dump the whole thing in his bowl.''

The prank backfired when Love stirred the pot before dipping in, turning the remaining chili blazingly hot.

"Normal human beings couldn't have eaten it to begin with,'' B.J. says. "That's why I had cold cuts for lightweights like me.''

Race extracted his revenge the next night before the Topeka show.

"I electrified him,'' Race says with a grin. "with a 230,000-volt stun gun right between the cheeks. He didn't do anything for a few seconds, then he ran.''


(Kansas City Star, March 1, 1997)

By Joe Popper

The recent death of former pro wrestler Bulldog Bob Brown produced an unusual outpouring of affection in these parts, and there's no doubt, say his former colleagues, that Brown would have enjoyed the attention.

For one thing, he was more used to outpourings of another sort.

"There was a fan who hated Bulldog so much that she poured a cup of Coke on his head each time she saw him,'' said Brown's tag-team partner Bob Geigel.

That soggy event occurred every Thursday night in Kansas City, Kan. As Brown was announced and began his walk from the dressing room to the ring in Memorial Hall, a howling woman in the stands always stalked him, armed with a large, ice-filled cup of Coca-Cola.

"You dirty, no good, stinking s.o.b.,'' she shouted as she bombed Brown's noggin. "I hope you get killed tonight.''

"Bob always knew it was coming,'' said Harley Race, a former world wrestling champion, "and he'd slow down to give her the thrill of doing it. ''

And so each week Brown received the woman's odd benediction, and each week he responded in the gentlemanly fashion that marked his every move.

"You fat, toothless, ugly old ... ,'' he'd shout, wiping softdrink from his eyes. "You smell so bad you probably don't use soap. ''

And then, amid the screaming, gyrating, honking and hooting bedlam that was Thursday night at Memorial Hall, he'd nod farewell to his tormentor.

"The Bulldog and I were not exactly crowd favorites,'' Geigel said recently.

They were tag-team partners for seven years, friends for much longer. Brown grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, where he played high school hockey and began to wrestle. When Geigel first met him there in 1958, Brown was 5 feet 11 inches, weighed 295 pounds and already was feisty.

"He was a tough kid but a real butterball,'' Geigel said. `"We called him the little fat kid. ''

Geigel, who also was a promoter, liked Brown and thought he had promise. He asked about him when other wrestlers returned from Canadian tours. They told him that the butterball was slimming down fast, becoming a good athlete.

"So I encouraged him to come to this region and give it a try,'' Geigel said.

Brown arrived just as regional wrestling entered its golden age, which ran from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s. The weekly matches had become a top-rated favorite on television, and Kansas City was the hub of a wrestling circuit that included much of Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas.

The wrestlers put on a first-class show. Most, like Geigel, were trained athletes, former collegiate wrestlers or football linemen.

And despite playing roles in a sport that Kansas City Star columnist Joe McGuff once labeled an athletic "Theater of the Absurd,'' many were tough customers.

"Sometimes the best matches were in the dressing rooms,'' Geigel said. "We always had a few ... who liked to get it on right there. If the other guys liked 'em they'd step in. If not they'd just watch and hope somebody got hurt.''

Every wrestler knew, however, that a far more serious threat of injury lurked outside the dressing rooms among the 3,000 wrought-up fans who packed Memorial Hall every week.

"From first-row ringside to the top of the balcony you could see the fans grimacing and jumping, just screaming their lungs out,'' said Bill Kersten, the longtime ring announcer whose trademark "Helooo Wrestliing Faaans'' made him a celebrity.

"Things got pretty wild. Sometimes the noise was so deafening that I couldn't hear the bell. A wrestler had to have eyes in the back of his head to stay in one piece, because anything you can think of happened down there.''

Folding chairs were a particular menace on all the wrestling circuits.

Some sort of world record was set during a match featuring Race in Winnipeg when 103 chairs landed in the ring.

"People were dropping all around me,'' Race recalled.

At Memorial Hall, chairs flew toward the ring with alarming regularity, as did canes, heavy coats, cups, utensils and an occasional fan.

"Fans who entered the ring were usually carried out,'' said Kersten. "The wrestlers didn't take kindly to being attacked.''

Television captured it all. Some regular ringside fans appeared so often on the tube that they became semi-celebrities. Undoubtedly the most recognizable were Mertie and Gertie Hite, known as "the twins. ''

The twins occupied ringside seats at Memorial Hall for as long as anyone could remember, dressed exactly alike, and were usually the very soul of rectitude.

But when the mysterious force of wrestling moved inside them, they leaped to their feet, raced screaming to the edge of the ring, pounded wildly on the canvas and cursed like drunken sailors.

And that was when they were in their 70s.

"They were certainly two of the most unusual ladies I ever met,'' said Race. "At one point they hated me worse than death. One of them even stabbed me in the butt with a hat pin. ''

When another loyal fan, a somewhat more somber type, didn't show up at Memorial Hall for a few weeks, Kersten became concerned.

"It was like a family down there, and I was worried about the guy,'' said Kersten, now the mayor of Liberty. "So I went by his place of business, and I found him with his arm in a cast. ''

The man said, "Remember that last match you saw me at, Bill? Well, that night I put a headlock on my bedpost and broke my arm. My doctor told me not to watch wrestling for a while.''

"Cable TV killed it, made it all national,'' Geigel said. "It used to be a real hometown thing. The fans knew all the wrestlers. It was a social event for thousands of people. That's all gone now. ''

Geigel was sitting in Winslow's City Market Smokehouse Barbecue, and most people who passed his table nodded, waved or said hello.

"Hey, Bobby, ain't seen you in a while,'' said a man dressed in overalls and a ball cap.

Geigel greeted the man warmly, though he barely knew him.

"I read about old Bulldog,'' the man said. "I sure didn't want to believe that. ''

"Me either,'' Geigel said.

"I always loved to see you come into the ring,'' the man continued. "You had one of those proud walks, one of those 'I'm kicking everybody's butt' kind of walks. ''

Geigel smiled. He is 72 now and works in the security department at The Woodlands. So did Bob Brown.

"You know we took up a collection for Bulldog out at the track,'' Geigel said. "We were going to send flowers. But we got enough to pay for his gravestone up in Winnipeg.''

"That's good,'' said the other man. "That's real good. ''

"Yeah,'' said Geigel. "I thought it was nice that people remembered him so kindly after all these years. ''