The WAWLI Papers #236...

(ED. NOTE: This edition -- and the next three  -- represents another temporary departure from our normal modus operandi in that we focus on the here and now and, largely, to illustrate the sort of articles which are being printed in the mainstream press these days. Such papers as the Toronto Sun, Detroit News, Chicago Daily News, New York Daily News and Miami Herald are printing and/or posting on their web sites weekly or bi-weekly articles concerning the WWF and WCW and, sometimes, the ECW. As far as can be determined, the principal reason for this is simply the strength of fan, or readership, support. With USA Cable and TNT drawing alltime record viewing levels for the so-called "Monday night wars" between RAW and Nitro -- and TNT now expanded to additional "Thunder" coverage on Thursday nights -- interest in the business of professional wrestling can be said to be at an unprecedented level—albeit for reasons generally beyond those of us who prefer the style of wrestling from another time and place. Here are some current examples of the modern enthusiasm.)

RODZILLA, MAILMAN TO BATTLE IT OUT AGAIN

(Miami Herald, Thursday, June 18, 1988)

By Bob Emanuel, Jr.

With a July 1 lockout on the horizon, NBA players will have a long summer to concentrate on their hobbies.

Some vacation on tropical islands, some party and others ... wrestle?

Chicago Bulls and former Detroit Pistons "Bad Boy" Dennis "Rodzilla" Rodman and Utah Jazz power forward Karl "Mailman" Malone will lock up again, this time

without the fear of technical fouls. The duo will be part of World Championship Wrestling’s July 12 pay-per-view, Bash at the Beach in San Diego.

The basketball stars, along with their wrestling counterparts Hollywood Hulk Hogan and Diamond Dallas Page, made an appearance Wednesday on NBC’s

Tonight Show with Jay Leno to promote their match.

"He’s a natural," said Hogan of Rodman during the show.

"I watched him in the playoffs and I watched the big man from the Jazz getting in his face. I watched Rodzilla take him down."

Rodman and Hogan will grapple with the team of Malone and Page in the main event. Rodman, for one, seemed confident.

"How is he going to beat me in the ring, when he couldn’t even beat me on the court?" asked Rodman, who participated in the event as Hogan’s partner last year

in Daytona Beach. "It’s a no-brainer."

That brought Malone and Page out from the back wielding metal folding chairs resulting in a brawl to end the segment.
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WCW STAR RIC FLAIR TAKES FIGHT TO COURT

(Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sunday, July 5, 1998)

By Jay Croft

Welcome to the two worlds of Ric Flair and watch as they zoom toward collision. In the curious, comic-book realm of big-time wrestling, Flair has reigned as the iconic "Nature Boy" for 25 years, cheered almost nightly by fans who scream for violent vengeance, even while knowing—or strongly suspecting—that it’s a setup, a hoax, a macho ballet of good vs. evil, choreographed to the endless,

symphonic ker-ching! ker-ching! of a massive profit machine.

In everyday Charlotte, though, Flair plays the suburban-Dad counterpoint to his brash on-stage persona. He owns eight gyms, four here in his adopted hometown, where he has lived since 1974. He drives a Mercedes sedan and

wears a Rolex—his third, he points out. Articulate and warm at 49, with his famously flowing white hair cut shoulder-length, Flair is also smaller than his image might suggest, built more like an ordinary aging jock than a 13-time world heavyweight champ.

Now the two faces of Flair are being drawn to one arena, Fulton County Superior Court, in a real-life battle more serious and somber than the arenas Flair has come to personify.

His longtime employer, Atlanta-based World Championship Wrestling, sued Flair in April for breach of contract after he began missing matches.

Flair sued back last month, saying he never signed a contract and had not been shown the esteem he’s due as the "Babe Ruth" of the ring.

"If you don’t have to take it, you shouldn’t, and I just drew the line," Flair said, adopting a third role as put-upon working man. "I had been vented on one too many times."

More than 30 million Americans tune in weekly to the matches of WCW and its rival World Wrestling Federation, the shows consistently drawing top cable and

pay-per-view ratings. The industry—a hybrid of vaudeville, TV’s lowest-common-denominator elements and even, perhaps, a touch of the ancient sport of wrestling—generates more than $1 billion a year from pay per view and merchandising alone. Fans follow it with an almost religious zeal.

For the uninitiated, though, a bit of context might be helpful in appreciating the magnitude of the Flair-WCW rift.

"This would be like the Yankees suing Mickey Mantle," so indelibly linked are Flair and WCW, said Dave Meltzer of California, publisher of the weekly Wrestling Observer newsletter. "Longevity-wise, he’s the longest-ranking

superstar and without question, he’s the greatest performer in the history of the industry."

During performances, like this Monday’s Nitro at the Georgia Dome, wrestlers bellow their taunts and fans shriek their adoration or loathing. Flair is known for

his battle-cry "Whooo!" as much as for his perfectly shaped blond tresses or rhinestone robes.

But the noise is muted in the court dispute. WCW won’t comment. Attorneys seem intent on bringing a little dignity to the brawl by not talking.

"They think they can take me off the air for six months [and be done with me]," Flair said. "Twenty years ago, I was selling out every arena in the southeast United States. I have endured the test of time. I’ve made millions. I’ve spent millions.

"They told me, ‘You’ll have a home here forever—you’re the one-and-only Ric Flair,’ " he said. "Famous last words."

In what’s often called a soap opera for men, Flair’s flamboyant style has served him well as both the "villain" and the "good guy" throughout the decades. Flair twice earned fans’ votes as "Most Hated Wrestler" along with unwavering respect. Since WCW sued him when he stopped performing in April, crowds have chanted "We Want Flair!" during matches featuring other wrestlers.

"A lot of fans have been taking this situation negatively, and they feel he should be treated with a lot more respect than he’s getting from WCW," said Jeff Bunda, 18, who lives just two miles from his hero, hangs Flair posters on his wall and maintains The Temple of the Nature Boy Web site.

Bunda doesn’t fret the lack of competition or suspense; he loves the spectacle.

It’s no different than "predetermined" dramas like the movie "Titanic" or even Shakespeare, he said. "You know that Romeo and Juliet are going to commit suicide. It’s the same principal."

Flair hit it big in wrestling almost from the start. After struggling in college, he stumbled his way into the ring in 1972 and arrived in Charlotte two years later, buying his first Cadillac with his first $1,000 paycheck. A plane crash broke his back in 1975, but Flair was back in the ring six months later.

He taught new lessons in self-promotion as a Cadillac-driving ladies man, "the latest and the greatest, stylin’ and profilin’."

In the last few years, with his four children and businesses growing and bringing demands for new roles, Flair has learned to tone down the antics in real life.

"You can’t go to the bank to get a loan and do the ‘Whoooo,’ " he said.

A courtroom arena is a logical extension of the ring’s pageantry and themes, said Michael R. Ball, author of "Professional Wrestling as Ritual Drama in American

Popular Culture" and a sociology professor at the University of Wisconsin.

Wrestling’s rituals are classic, involving heroes and villains, glory for the good, comeuppance for blowhards—and offering easy reinforcement of audience beliefs in "the system, the way things are, the way they have to be played out," Ball said

In its suit filed April 17, WCW accused Flair of reneging on a three-year, $1.95 million deal, forcing last-minute rewrites of "storylines" that propel the game.

WCW says it had planned to reintroduce the popular "Four Horsemen" group, with Flair as its leader. It says Flair started missing work with an April 9 nationally televised "Thunder" program in Tallahassee - and started talking to the dreaded competition at WWF, which he worked for briefly in the early 90s.

WCW wants at least $2 million in damages, plus legal costs and interest. In Flair’s counter-suit, he says he signed only a non-binding draft to stay at WCW, where he spent his entire career. During contract negotiations, WCW promised "reasonable involvement in the ‘story lines’ " and "legitimate consideration" for his experience and popularity, Flair’s suit says. But the final WCW offer fell far short and Flair refused to sign.

Flair agrees that he missed the April 9 show. But he says he gave notice months in advance that he planned to attend his 10-year-old son’s own national wrestling meet (which the boy later won) in Michigan.

His role had been downplayed, anyway, partly to meet the demands of Terry "Hollywood Hulk" Hogan, whom WCW lured from WWF in the early 1990s.

Further, WCW honcho Eric Bischoff treated Flair, off stage, "in an increasingly hostile, rude, threatening and degrading manner," Flair’s suit says. "Bischoff’s

language toward Mr. Flair is rude, crude and socially unacceptable, even in the world of professional wrestling."

It says Bischoff referred to Flair as "garbage" and threatened to bankrupt and exile him to another country.

Flair’s suit says he talked to rival WWF after it became clear the WCW deal wouldn’t fly. "The furthest thing from my mind was ever wanting to leave WCW," Flair said, adding he would consider returning - on the right terms.

"I don’t know how you put into words ‘mutual respect.’ I did a lot to help that company and have always been a very big supporter of WCW. Then again, that doesn’t mean you get a gold watch. It doesn’t mean anything. But to me it does."

Flair remains a loyalist to the sport. The show. He said he never heard of "storylines" until two years ago and is reluctant to answer whether they extend to the outcomes of matches.

Though others have pulled the curtain back on his changing world of wrestling, Flair just winked and smiled: "I would never be able to sleep at night if I admitted that to you."
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IT’S WEIRD, BUT RASSLIN’ WON’T HURT MAILMAN

(Salt Lake City Deseret News, Sunday, July 5, 1998)

By Brad Rock

It was the dead of a Detroit winter, the wind chill factor holding steady at minus-35, as I got on the Jazz team bus. Karl Malone had an amused look as he tapped me on the shoulder.

"I heard some weird things about you today," he said. "I heard you went out jogging."

He glanced at the frozen landscape in mock horror.

"Well, yeah, I did," I said.

"Out there?" he said. "In that?" Then he shook his head. "I always thought there was some weird stuff goin’ on inside that head of yours, and now I know."

Which brings me to my point: Five years later, I have company.

Malone took a major step in the direction of weird three weeks ago when he announced he will wrestle July 12 with Diamond Dallas Page in a tag-team affair against

Dennis Rodman and Hulk Hogan.

And so from sea to shining sea, Malone fans are asking the obvious question: What is he THINKING? How could a man who has been a ferocious but dignified performer

in the NBA sink so low? Pro wrestling? Why doesn’t he just become a carnival barker?

For someone who is all business in basketball — no trash-talking, no rim-hanging, no multicolored hair — to step into the ring is as strange as it gets.

Still, as one who has done a few weird things myself, for no apparent reason, I can only reiterate what I said that day in Detroit: Why not?

What’s wrong with Malone goofing around in the off-season? What’s wrong with carving out a second career? If I could get, say, $1 million for a side job I’d mud wrestle a porcupine. I’d mud wrestle Dennis Rodman.

Make that $2 million.

This is a man who has repeatedly said he looks forward to the day his basketball career ends. A man who is clearly tiring of the grinding 100-game seasons. Why not

change gears?

The most common remark I hear is that Malone will hurt his image by participating in an obviously bogus sporting event. But Muhammad Ali ended his boxing career

fighting a Japanese kick-boxer and it didn’t change his status as a fighter. He still lit the torch at the Atlanta Games, is still regarded as "The Greatest." Michael Jordan didn’t diminish his basketball status by taking two years off to try baseball. Failing at baseball won’t keep him out of the Basketball Hall of Fame, I promise. Joe Louis embarrassed himself doing exhibition fights at the end of his boxing career, but that was because he

continued doing something long past his prime. Even so, he’s still considered one of the greatest fighters ever.

The only way Malone can truly embarrass himself is if he stays in basketball long after his skills have failed, or if he gets in trouble with the law.

The final concern I keep hearing is: "What if he gets hurt?" So when was the last time you saw someone actually get hurt in pro wrestling? I’m not talking about that silly, punch-drunk look they all give after being slammed into one of the ring posts. I’m talking about actually being hurt. Malone’s in more danger wrestling his kids.

Malone has always been underpaid by superstar standards. Hehas lived in a smaller market and missed some of the endorsement deals he would otherwise have received. Why not cash in on wrestling? He isn’t carrying guns, dealing drugs, driving drunk or beating up his wife. He’s doing it for the same reasons people appear on "Family Feud" — money, attention and fun.

People have done silly things for much less than what Malone’s getting. I once let Thurl Bailey talk me into demonstrating how to shoot free throws at his camp. Not only was it embarrassing, I didn’t even get paid. I almost sang a few bars of "New York, New York" for the Cougar Club on a dare.

Malone has done little if any self-promoting over the years. Why not promote himself as a wrestler? This isn’t a broken-down basketball player, hanging on to the game long after his prime. It’s the second-best player in the sport taking advantage of his notoriety. It’s no less dignified than Michael Jordan starring in a cartoon or Grant Hill hawking French fries. And it’s more dignified than throwing people through bar windows like Charles Barkley.

I’m all in favor of the Mailman getting in the ring. I want to see him smash a chair over Rodman’s head and twist his neck in the ropes. I want to see Hulk Hogan toss Malone out of the ring.

So go ahead, Mailman, do your job. Threaten Rodzilla with a tire iron. Tear your shirt off in mock rage. Flop on the mat like a fish out of water while the Hulkster twists

your leg. The worst that can happen is a case of cauliflower ear. From one slightly strange guy to another, I say start the match.

(ED. NOTE: One wonders if Mr. Rock, the author of the above piece, had any idea of how Joe Louis spent the bulk of 1956 as he attempted, rather unsuccessfully and to the chagrin of countless millions of his fans, to work as a professional wrestler and pay off a large debt to the Internal Revenue Service. The end of that story was that Louis ultimately was barred, for reasons of health, from performing in most states.)
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The WAWLI Papers #237...

STEVE AUSTIN NOW FACING HEAT FROM THREE

(Chicago Sun-Times, Sunday, July 5, 1998)

By Blackjack Brown

Thanks to the Undertaker, and a well-placed chair shot, Stone Cold Steve Austin dropped the WWF title to Kane this past Sunday night, but it didn’t take him long to get it back.

Earlier that afternoon, Austin had exercised an option on his contract to demand a return match the following night for his title. And he went out and made the best of it.

Now that leaves three men—the Undertaker, Kane and Mankind—who feel they are the No. 1 contender for the WWF strap. Vince McMahon needs to come up with a solution before SummerSlam, and it could all come to a head this Monday night.

Rumors have it that McMahon could be signing a three-way dance on Raw to decide who will get the shot at Austin. To make matters even more confusing, Austin will go for surgery on his right elbow this week to take care of that staph infection that landed him in the hospital just days before losing to Kane at the King of the Ring, and all four of these man will face off in a tag match at the next In Your House. And we now hear rumors that Paul Bearer may have yet another brother to shake things up even further.

Prediction for the rest of the summer: Look for the Undertaker and Kane to join forces right after Austin vs. Undertaker at SummerSlam.

RETURN TO GLORY? Longtime manager of the Legion of Doom Paul Ellering made his return to the WWF Monday night and promptly turned on the former champs, becoming the manager of the DOA. We hear that the LOD turned aside Sunny to take on Ellering and are without

a manager. There’s a good possibility that Ellering is going against the LOD because of the way they left him out to dry a few years back, but there’s also a possibility he’s doing this just to get the fire back into Animal and Hawk and another reunion is on the horizon.

RATINGS: It has come to the point where a live Nitro has no shot at beating a live Raw. This week the live Raw received a 5.2 first hour and a 5.6 second for a 5.4 far above the (4.4, 4.0, 3.8) 4.1 total for the WCW offering in the national Nielsen ratings.

HEARD AROUND THE RING: Bret Hart will be getting a shot at Booker T and the WCW TV title at the Bash at the Beach show in hopes that wearing a belt will get him a shot at Hogan a little quicker. ... The bad idea award goes to Eric Bischoff for all but dropping the WCW tag-team

division. It will be coming back, and the biggest players could be the new team of Hart and the Giant.

I will have more shocking surprises for this week’s Raw and Nitro shows today on the hotline 1-900-454-SLAM, $2.00 per minute.
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KARL’S HEROES WEREN’T NAMED WILT OR OSCAR

(San Diego Union-Tribune, Saturday, July 11, 1998)

By Ross Forman

There were countless Saturdays during Karl Malone’s childhood in Summerfield, La., when his mom would pack the kids in the car, bound for the Sportatorium in Dallas.

They’d spend a few hours watching, cheering and

jeering "Cowboy" Bill Watts, Dr. X, Fritz Von Erich and others, then head home.

This was pro wrestling—or rasslin’ as he puts it—at its finest, well worth the four-hour journey along Interstate 20.

"I remember watching those guys back then and saying to myself, ‘Gosh, that’s what I want to do,’" Malone said recently.

Flash forward to January 1998, at the Compaq Center in

Houston. As Malone’s Utah Jazz was blowing away the host Rockets, teammates Chris Morris and Bryon Russell

elbowed Malone as he relaxed on the bench about a mysterious fan sitting four rows behind the Utah bench.

It was none other than Diamond Dallas Page, of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) fame, sporting a rockerlike mop of sandy blond hair and skin-tight black shirt and pants and, of course, alligator-skin cowboy boots.

"At first, I was surprised he was there. Then, to show my appreciation for him, for what he’s done in his profession, I flashed him his Diamond Cutter sign," during a timeout, said Malone. The friendship was born. It was solidified a month later, when DDP was Malone’s special guest at the NBA All-Star Game in New York.

"The tie between me and DDP is that we just have so much in common," Malone said. "At the All-Star Game, we just talked about stuff in general, not his profession or mine. It’s pretty awesome when you know a person, and

know that their work habits and what they believe in, are the same as yours."

Flash forward once more, to the NBA Finals. Chicago’s bad boy, Dennis Rodman, skipped practice one day to attend—and participate in—WCW’s "Monday Nitro," live on TNT. Rodman, with his partner "Hollywood" Hulk

Hogan, repeatedly "chaired" DDP from behind.

Then, in Game 6 of the Finals, Malone celebrated a joyous Jazz moment with DDP’s Diamond Cutter sign.

Certainly you can see the battle lines forming. Sure enough, even before the Finals ended, Malone formally entered his dream world. Malone has joined forces with DDP to battle Rodman and Hogan in the main event of "The Bash at the Beach" pay-per-view, set for tomorrow at San Diego State’s Cox Arena.

"This has been a dream, having been a wrestling fan since way back," Malone said. "You’ve got to realize, I’ve watched DDP and wrestling in general forever, so getting to team up with him is awesome.

"I have always wanted to be in the entertainment business and, if I’m looking to do movies or entertainment (in the future), what greater opportunity to start off than at this extreme?

"To me, this (wrestling match) is just like I tried out for the lead role in my first action-packed movie—and got it.

"You know, it’s OK for people to do things that they want to do. So many times in life you’re concerned about what other people will say, but I think the most important thing is, what do you want? What will make you happy?"

Malone, who just completed his 13th NBA season, has one year remaining on his contract. Then what? Wrestling full time?

Sounds good to him.

"I figure I can play, at this level, another four years. But, if I work something out with WCW, I definitely, definitely" would pursue wrestling full time post-NBA, Malone said.

Malone’s road to the San Diego match stopped several times in WCW’s hometown, Atlanta, for lessons at the WCW Power Plant, the training center for future Hulkamaniacs.

Malone spent the last weekend in June at the Power Plant, then a few days last week practicing his moves, starting with the simple lock-up. Malone figures he crammed three months of training into about three days.

DDP guided the sessions, with help from fellow wrestlers Billy Kidman, Chris Kanyon and "Wrath." Malone practiced clotheslines, body-slamming foes and simply running the ropes.

"Before I started practicing the moves, I had no idea what to expect, not a clue," Malone said. "Well, my appreciation is so much different because I have now been inside a ring. I didn’t just show up at the pay-per-view and say, ‘OK, here I am, world.’

"I’m not trying to come into wrestling and take something away from the regular wrestlers, because I respect what they do; they are incredible athletes."

Malone admitted he was eager to meet many of the WCW and New World Order (NWO) superstars, such as The Giant, Bill Goldberg, Sting, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, among others. If only to

express his admiration toward them, just as they offer to him. And, of course, snag a personalized autographed photo from each.

"I’ll tell you what woke me up to what these guys go through," Malone said. "When I was just starting my training, Dallas said, ‘I want you to appreciate this sport, so stand right here and kick your feet out and land flat on the mat.’

When I did that, it woke me up. "What I’m doing now, wrestling, for me, is like being a kid in a candy store,

for real. By being involved in pro wrestling, I want the world to know that, yes, it is OK to be a superstar in another profession, and still pursue another love.

"These wrestlers are incredible athletes who work their butts off in the weight room. If you don’t believe it, I challenge anyone to go to and make it through the Power Plant training center. I guarantee you that, after that, you’ll leave with a different attitude."

But can Malone—known as "The Mauler" in wrestling circles—handle the evil ways of Rodzilla and Hollywood?
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WHAT’S THAT STENCH? OH, THE WCW IS IN TOWN

(San Diego Union-Tribune, Saturday, July 11, 1998)

By Tom Shanahan

World Championship Wrestling oozes a stench in any city it visits, but now Karl Malone and Dennis Rodman have been added to the foul mix. Our city’s environment has been polluted even before the circus arrives at San Diego

State’s Cox Arena tomorrow afternoon at 4.

San Diego, after all, is the hometown of the reigning NCAA wrestling heavyweight champion, Stephen Neal.

Malone and Rodman you know about. They’re multimillionaire NBA players raking in even more riches to act out their scripted material. Neal is a name many of you probably don’t know. The San Diego High grad, who was 39-0 en route to his NCAA title in March as a Cal State

Bakersfield junior, competes in a sport not only underappreciated by the sporting public, but under attack by Title IX cutbacks that force colleges to balance their men’s and women’s programs.

And that is the sad irony of the WCW’s popularity and profitability in this day and age.

College wrestling is struggling to survive, with the number of schools funding programs dropping from 788 in 1982 to 247 last year. One of those 541 schools to cut wrestling is San Diego State, in whose campus arena Malone and Rodman will stage their pay-per-view TV event.

San Diego State axed wrestling in 1993 because of Title IX. This move came shortly after Quincey Clark—a Lincoln High grad and now a member of the U.S. Greco-Roman World Championships team that competes next month in Sweden—had earned All-America honors for the Aztecs at the 1992 NCAA meet.

At Bakersfield, Neal and his teammates were forced to file a lawsuit to prevent their university from cutting the sport because of Title IX. The battle is still working its way through the federal court system.

That Malone and Rodman—athletes who worked hard and now reap financial rewards beyond comprehension in the NBA—would participate in this farce adds to the indignity heaped upon college wrestlers in an Olympic

sport that dates back to the Greeks.

And for some perverse reason, pro wrestling—a carnival sideshow until TV generated its current popularity—is more popular and profitable than ever.

Hulk Hogan is better known and deposits bigger paychecks than Bruce Baumgartner, a four-time Olympic medalist who works as wrestling coach at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.

We can’t expect the public to know better. P.T. Barnum said, "There’s a sucker born every minute." H.L. Mencken said, "No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public."

But Malone and Rodman not only should know better, they should care.

Well, at least we should be able to expect such reasonable thought from Malone.

This smells worse than a 96-54 basketball game, Karl. Remember Game 3 of the NBA Finals?

We won’t ask Neal to make a case for himself. That would be like asking Malone and Rodman to sit on the sidelines while they watch players from a 6-foot-and-under league profit from basketball games played on 8-foot baskets.

But Poway High wrestling coach Wayne Branstetter, a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla., has an opinion. He has no doubts about how the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Neal—son of a former

college basketball player—would fare against Malone and Rodman.

"If Neal were to get into a real wrestling match with those guys, they wouldn’t stand a chance," Branstetter said. "They’d get crunched. I’ll tell you what, if Neal played Malone and Rodman one-on-one in basketball, he’d stand a better chance in basketball against them than they would against him in wrestling."

There have been Olympic wrestlers who have thrown down the gauntlet at pro wrestlers. One is Jeff Blatnick, the 1984 Olympic Greco-Roman heavyweight gold medalist.

Blatnick cried in a TV interview after his gold medal match, saying, "I’m a happy dude!"

"Rowdy Roddy Piper mocked me and said he wouldn’t cry if he won a gold medal," said Blatnick, now an ESPN wrestling commentator. "I challenged both him and Hulk Hogan, but I never heard from them."

Blatnick, who says he has had 5-year-olds ask him if he could beat Hulk Hogan, recognizes that many in the public will never come to understand the difference between his noble sport and the TV circus.

"I’d rather build bridges now than burn them like I would in my brazen youth,"

Blatnick said. "I wish they would do something for our sport instead of just stealing our name. I think they could really help our sport if they’d give something back, but that might mean educating the public. I’m not sure they want the public to be educated."
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The WAWLI Papers #238...

ECW GIVES JERRY LYNN NEW LEAP ON LIFE

(Miami Herald, Tuesday, July 7, 1998)

By Jim Varsallone

Extreme Championship Wrestling saved Jerry Lynn’s wrestling career.

After having his desire deflated in World Championship Wrestling, he came close to hanging up the boots.

"Of course, you get frustrated with injuries," Lynn said, "but the politics are really what put a damper on the business for me. It doesn’t matter how good you are. It’s

who you know."

Out of WCW, Lynn received a tryout with the World Wrestling Federation in September, wrestling Taka Michinoku. He thought about becoming a stunt man,

working in the Orlando area for Universal Studios and any other TV or movie productions.

Then ECW entered the picture. A strong independent group based in Philly, ECW, the trendsetters for American pro wrestling in the 90s, breathed new life into Lynn.

Like so many others buried by organizations, ECW has allowed Lynn to display his skills and talents.

"It’s not so political in ECW, not politically controlled," Lynn said. "You have more freedom. You can get away with a lot more during your matches and stuff."

Lynn’s idea to wear a mask and outfit, resembling the Power Rangers, caught the attention of WCW officials a couple of years ago.

"At the time, the Power Rangers were so popular that I thought it could be marketed for the kids," said Lynn, then known as Mr. J.L. "They (WCW) liked it.

They said it was what they were looking for."

Unfortunately, two injuries sidelined Lynn before he could really start marketing himself in WCW. He broke his arm against Dean Malenko, one of the best technical wrestlers in the biz, and missed three months of action.

A month after his return, Lynn broke his foot on a WCW tour in conjunction with New Japan. Earlier in his career, in 1990, Lynn started feuding with the Lightning Kid (a.k.a. X-Pac of Degeneration-X in the WWF). It turned into an epic 2-year battle which started the ball rolling for both.

Lynn then wrestled a few months in Memphis for the late great Eddie Gilbert, before making the move to Global in Dallas for Joe Pedicino. Lynn rekindled his feud with the Lightning Kid, but this time they received national exposure on a weekly basis on cable sports channel ESPN.

Both sparked interest from Universal in Japan. Pro wrestling is front page news in Japan. Lynn and the Lightning Kid buried the hatchet and became a successful tag team at Universal, winning the PWA tag team belts.

Lynn is 5-foot-8, 190 pounds, and you can catch every inch and pound flying through the halls of ECW, creating one outstanding aerial attack.

After spending three years in track and gymnastics at Koon Rapids High School, Lynn made a move to Woodcrest Baptist Academy High, in the suburbs of Minneapolis. Koon Rapids did not offer wrestling, but Woodcrest did, and Lynn decided to give it a shot.

A fast learner, he capped off an unbelievable debut, his senior season, by winning state and national titles at 132 pounds in 1981.

"My coach couldn’t figure it out," Lynn said. "It was only my first year of wrestling, and he was kind of shocked I won state. Then, at nationals, I beat the guy in the semifinal round, and he said, ‘I just don’t get it. It looks like they’re about to put you down, and you somehow end up on top of them.""

Lynn attributes his gymnast background to his success on the mat.

"I would use everyone’s balance against them," Lynn said. "They would push so far, and I would squirm out of it.

Through his father, Lynn grew up watching roller derby and pro wrestling in Minneapolis, the old AWA, spearheaded by the legendary Verne Gagne.

A bad shoulder injury during his community college days ended his amateur wrestling career. Lynn married young and joined a men’s rec soccer league.

A friend of Lynn’s ex-wife dated a wrestler, Zolov Ustonov, working for Gagne. He introduced Lynn to Ed Sharkey, a pro wrestling trainer, in 1986.

"At the time, I knew I was too small," said Lynn, who currently stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 190 pounds. "I hadn’t worked out since high school. I knew I wasn’t ready for it, so I started working out at the gym."

Lynn installed telephone cable before turning his attention to pro wrestling. He began training under the direction of former Olympic and pro wrestler Brad Rheingans, three hours a day, four days a week for three straight months in

Minneapolis.

"When you first go to camp and you actually start learning the holds, hitting the ropes and doing arm drags and stuff, it’s a lot harder than it looks," Lynn said.

"The true professionals make it look like it’s so easy, but it is unbelievably difficult." He continued: "To me, wrestling takes anything every other sport takes put together. You’ve got to have good conditioning, strength, balance, coordination, timing, everything."

Lynn has come a long way from his first match, a tag match against the dreaded Terminators, with Jim Cook’s independent IWA, just outside the city lines of

Minneapolis.

Lynn has faced the best during his career. His list of top wrestlers include Brad Armstrong, Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Shane Douglas, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Chris Candido and Al Snow.

Extreme Championship Wrestling returns 8 p.m., July 24 to the War Memorial Auditorium, 701 NE 12th Ave. in Fort Lauderdale. See Bam Bam Bigelow, Chris Candido, Beulah, Sabu, the Dudley Boys, Taz, Justin Credible, Tommy Dreamer, New Jack, Rob Van Dam, Francine, Little Guido and Jerry Lynn. Ticket prices are $20 and $10.

For ticket information, call TicketMaster 954-523-3309, 305-358-5885, 561-966-3309 or the War Memorial Auditorium at 954-761-5380.

ECW will also invade Expo Park, July 25 in Tampa and the Agricultural Center, July 26 in Kissimmee.

Jerry Lynn will face Rob Van Dam in the co-main event of a NWA All Star Wrestling card, Aug. 5 at the Sanford Civic Center, 401 E. Seminole Blvd. in Sanford. Sabu also battles Hack Myers.

The cost is $10 for children under 12; $15 for adults; $25 for Golden Circle seating (first two rows). An autograph party is 7 to 8 p.m., with wrestling action to follow. For information, call 407-330-5600.
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TIME TO SEND IN THE CLOWNS, HE SAYS

(Salt Lake City Tribune, Sunday, July 12, 1998)

By Gordon Monson

Before reading this column, check your brain cells at the door.

Because, from here in San Diego, America’s Finest City and, today, the core of pro wrestling’s universe, playing host to the WCW’s latest pay-per-spew extravaganza, "Bash At The Beach," starring Hollywood Hogan, Diamond Dallas Page, Dennis Rodman and . . . uh-huh . . .

K-Ka-Kar M-Ma-Mal . . . well, you know who, along with an undercard loaded with a bunch of circuit regs, most of whom look like steroided-up members of outdated rock bands such as 38 Special, Twisted Sister and KISS, we find ourselves badly in search of, badly in need of, open minds.

Actually, closed minds might be better.

Utter ignorance wouldn’t hurt.

It is not an easy thing, opening your mind to scripted stupidity, to absolute moronic behavior, to complete idiocy.

Let us try. Karl Malone wants us to try. He likes pro wrestling, he thinks it’s cool.

And, when you don’t think about it, is it really so awful that the best power forward ever, the cornerstone of the Utah Jazz for more than a decade, now is placing himself and his reputation on the same level as guys named "Big Sexy" and "Psychosis"?

Anybody really see a problem with Malone bashing chairs over the necks of crazed lunatics decked out in black bandanas, face paint and spandex pants, with him throwing headlocks on goons in pay-per-view promos, with him participating in and collecting million-dollar paychecks for pseudo-wrestling matches that have as much truth in them as an episode of "The Young and The Restless"?

C’mon and dumb down.

Lower.

How low can you go?

Anybody really concerned over the fact that Malone appeared with today’s tag-team partner DDP at a WCW event two weeks ago, sneaking up on Hogan, today’s opponent (along with Rodman), while the veteran

wrestler spouted off in the ring until Malone suddenly dropped Hogan with a couple of quick forearms to the face and, then, during a bogus interview promoting today’s event actually attempted to . . . act?

Said Malone: "Rodman, I’m going to whip you like . . . like Madonna should have! I’m serious!"

Said DDP: "Sounds like you’re going to be a killer at the "Bash At The Beach."

Said Malone: ‘No. I’m gonna be a Rodzilla killer."

True, the exchange was pathetic and embarrassing, especially coming from a man who constantly cries out for respect as, like he always puts it, "a true professional athlete." Still, if bad acting were criminal, the entire cast

of Baywatch would be at San Quentin.

Right?

Malone has loved pro wrestling for years, he even claims his feelings for it are "on par" with his devotion to basketball. What exactly does that say? To him, it does not matter that the whole of it is a lie, that those who call

themselves fans must shut down their reasonable thought processes to enjoy the buffoonery and mindless hype, to sacrifice $30 for pay-per-view or $50 for seats at the arena, to check their brain cells at the door, to laugh at the

clowns in the ring.

So, go ahead, open your minds, Jazz fans. Laugh.

It’s OK. It’s fun.

Even when the greatest power forward is one of the clowns.
_________________________________________

NBA HITS ITS ALL-TIME LOW, HE SAYS

(The Arizona Republic, Sunday, July 12, 1998)

By David Casstevens

Maybe you’ve noticed the trend.

Sports are beginning to resemble pro wrestling.

Mike Tyson bites off a man’s ear. Didn’t George "The Animal" Steele do that to Randy Savage, or was it vice versa?

Roberto Alomar and Bill Romanowski. Their spitting incidents call to mind Nikolai Volkoff and the "Iron Sheik." In their hey-day, the tag-team partners would rooster-strut around the ring and conclude every interview by grabbing the microphone and boasting, "Russia Number 1! Iran Number 1!. . .USA?" They spat—ptoooey—enraging every red-blooded American.

P.J. Carlesimo was lucky. According to witnesses, Latrell Sprewell only choked his coach. Sprewell was restrained before he could deliver a leg dropand grab a folding chair.

Pro wrestling is the theater of the absurd. I’ll never forget attending one of those mat extravaganzas staged in a football stadium. The featured villain was Kamala, the Ugandan Giant.

Kamala stood 6 feet 6 and weighed more than Oliver Miller, at least 400 pounds. The actor was faithful to the offensive stereotype of an African chieftan in an old Tarzan movie.

Kamala wore a leopard-skin loin cloth and a witch-doctor’s mask, probably purchased at Pier 1. A yellow half moon was painted on his giant belly. Of course, he carried a spear.

According to Kamala’s manager, Skandor Akbar, who identified himself as an Arab from a family of unlimited wealth, the Ugandan Giant was largely untamed, which explained Akbar’s riding crop. "He’s a savage," Akbar warned, "and I want to keep him that way."

In the ring, the glowering giant had his way with his opponent. Kamala repeatedly grabbed Terry Gordy by his underarm and squeezed mightly, causing Gordy to drop to his knees and whimper for mercy. As the crowd booed, Kamala grinned a toothless grin. He patted his enormous belly. Gordy retaliated, biting Kamala on the forehead.

Wrestling is a farce, but at least one could separate the actors from the athletes in professional sports. Not anymore. Today, in San Diego, two NBA stars will battle one another in a tag-team event billed as the "Bash at the Beach." The pay-per-view event sounds like a Don King production. (Today the line between boxing and wrestling is blurred).

In the main event, Hulk Hogan and Dennis Rodman will take on "Diamond" Dallas Page and Karl Malone.

Rodman’s involvement isn’t surprising. But why is Malone party to this low comedy? The Utah Jazz wonders. Surely, he doesn’t need the money.

It just gets worse

Rodman has adopted a stage name. Rodzilla. Malone is the Mauler.The men who battled each other in the NBA Finals dutifully promoted the event on TV, with the soft-spoken Malone trying out his new persona before the cameras.

Malone said of Rodman, "Him and his little coward friend (Hogan) will get beat in the ring."

Worse, Malone promoted the match during the NBA championship, forming the "Diamond Cutter" sign with his hands. The Diamond Cutter is Diamond Dallas Page’s signature hold. By all accounts, when properly executed, the hold renders a man defenseless. It’s deadlier than the Siberian spleen clamp.

You sigh and wonder. Is this where sports are headed? Star athletes behaving like wrestlers, and in some cases, pretending to be wrestlers themselves? If NBA players are shameless enough to share the stage that has given us Mr. Moto, the Undertakerand "Nature Boy" Rick Flair, how about the league whose first-year marketing campaign was "We Got Next"? Will WNBA players follow suit?

I won’t climb into the ring with Cheryl Miller. Don’t know if she can wrestle, but when it comes to microphone technique and working a crowd, she’s got Hulk Hogan beat.
______________________________________________________

The WAWLI Papers #239...

‘UNIDENTIFIED’ BODYGUARD SAVES DENNIS & HULK

(Associated Press, Sunday, July 12, 1998)

By Paula Story

SAN DIEGO—"Hollywood" Hulk Hogan and Dennis "Rodzilla" Rodman took out rival body slammers Karl "The Mailman" Malone and "Diamond" Dallas Page during their tag-team wrestling match Sunday night thanks to a

last-minute, dirty entrance from their bodyguard.

After the Utah Jazz’s Malone delivered a series of head butts to the Chicago Bulls’ Rodman and Hogan, the sellout crowd of 12,000 began screaming "Hogan sucks!" That’s when the team’s beefy bodyguard entered the ring.

After Page entered the ring for Malone, the unidentified bodyguard quickly slammed Page into the canvas. Hogan pounded Page with finishing blows to a referee’s count.

Hogan and Rodman were declared winners of World Championship Wrestling’s "Bash at the Beach."

But a defiant Malone disagreed with the result. He grabbed the referee around his neck and slammed him into the canvas. He then spit at a crowd that had gathered around Hogan and Rodman and left the ring at San Diego

State University’s Cox Arena while flashing Page’s trademark diamond symbol with his hands.

Lisa Padgett, 26, said her husband, John, 26, begged her to come to the match with him.

"I got talked into it, that’s how come I’m here," she said as fireworks launched from the beach clouded the air with smoke, sand and sparks. "He watches it like four times a week on television. I don’t watch it at home, but it’s awesome here."

The Padgetts paid $125 each for ringside seats one day before the match.

Malone and Page were wearing purple latex pants. Rodman sauntered into the ring with a bandana on his head to hide his latest hair color—or perhaps lack of hair. The bandana stayed in place throughout the tussle.

"Dennis dances to a different tune," said Hogan, who worked out daily with Rodman in preparation for the match. "This is a forum where he can achieve and perform to his utmost. Dennis can get into the ring and do what he does best."

It isn’t the first time Rodman has teamed up with Hogan for a chance to thump on grown men and not get booted or fined for it. But this time he brought Malone, his NBA rival, into the fray.

Representatives for World Championship Wrestling, a subsidiary of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., planned to pay Malone and Rodman for the pay-per-view cable TV match, but they wouldn’t say how much.

As for Rodman and Hogan, they tag teamed last July in Florida for Rodman’s wrestling debut, and after Game 3 of the NBA Finals this year, the two paired for a World Championship Wrestling event in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Rodman skipped practice, was fined, and the Bulls went on to beat Malone and the Jazz for their sixth title.

"Malone," Hogan snarled, "the guy that already is a loser on and off the court."

However, Malone vowed to hand-cancel Rodman with the help of Page. For Malone, it’s living out his boyhood dream to "wrassle" with the big guys.

"Him and his little coward friend will get beat in the ring," Malone predicted earlier in the week of his rumble with Rodman.

Hogan said the only plan of attack he and Rodman had for Malone and Page was to "romp and stomp them."

"We’re going to go ahead and embarrass Mr. Clean Cut," Hogan said. Malone, who weighs 254 pounds to

Rodman’s 248, said he wasn’t worried about an injury jeopardizing his hoops career.

He said the Jazz didn’t agree with many of the things he likes to do, like riding motorcycles, but he has to live his own life. Besides, he didn’t plan on getting hurt.

As for Rodman, he said he does whatever he wants.

And Hogan said wrestling allows Rodman to be as bad as the crowd wants him to be.

"I think he likes it a lot better," Hogan said, noting that if Rodman tires of criticism in the NBA, he always has a place in professional wrestling and could probably make more money doing it.

"It’s not rocket science," Hogan said. "The wilder he is, the more T-shirts we sell."
_______________________________________

KARL A ‘BAD ACTOR’—BUT GETS PAID 900 GRAND

(Salt Lake Tribune, Monday, July 13, 1998)

By Gordon Monson

SAN DIEGO—Under bright pay-per-view spotlights and against the heavy thump of head-banging rock music Sunday night, the greatest power forward of all time found himself tumbling and body-slamming down the sports food chain, combining bad acting with a bare chest, performing less in an athletic venue and more in a circus ring.

It was bizarre.

"Bash at the Beach," the World Championship Wrestling event that lured Karl Malone from the hardwood into the buffoonery of professional wrestling, teamed him with Diamond Dallas Page against Hollywood Hogan and Chicago Bulls forward Dennis Rodman, for a paycheck of $900,000. It turned into what everyone presumed it would be—a bogus, scripted embarrassment for the Jazz’s marquee player, long on melodrama, short on truth.

Ultimately, the bad guys—Rodman and Hogan—won, by cheating, naturally. A wrestling friend of Hogan’s, known as "The Disciple," sneaked into the ring to interfere, allowing Hogan to pin Page. Then, Malone went berserk, throwing everyone in sight, including the referee—no, not Dick Bavetta—to the floor. He made like Moe, conking Larry’s (Hogan’s) and Curly’s (Rodman’s) heads together. Alas, his team finished second—again, amid a din of smoke and controversy.

What else could be expected for a WCW extravaganza, featuring participants who snorted at each other . . . who wore black bandanas and face paint . . . who climbed out of the ring midmatch to pull out tire irons and chain saws to aid their cause . . . who plied their trade in front of fans who carried signs that read: "I’ve got chunks of guys like Rodman in my stool."

No wonder spectacle replaced sport at a sold-out Cox Arena at San Diego State. Fiction overran fact. Soap opera invaded SportsCenter. Humor pile-drove honor.

And lunacy reigned.

During numerous undercard matches, the performers, many of whom looked like mutant leftovers from the post-nuclear-war age, bit each other in the butt, shaved their opponent’s head, punched each other in the nether regions, slammed chairs over one another’s necks, all to the blaring sounds of exploding fireworks and disco music and the constant, incessant booing from fans, most

of whom seemed to be enjoying the happenings all the more thanks in large part to the excess of their cold beverages.

The crowd tolerated the goofiness of wrestler Chavo Guerrero, who showed up in the ring with inflatable water toys, and got whipped by opponent Eddy Guerrero, but they seemed to truly relish the violence, no matter how stupid or simulated. They cheered every headlock, every choke hold, every hair yank. The place went into delirium when a humongous wrestler known simply as "Giant," crushed part-time NFL defensive lineman/part-time wrestler Kevin Greene across his knee and into the bouncing mat, winning a lopsided match.

The crowd also engaged in a shouting match with Utah Jazz forward Antoine Carr, who sat ringside in support of his teammate enduring chants of "Utah sucks, Utah sucks." Big Dawg, who at one point had to be restrained, woofed back at all of them, including a man holding a sign that trumpeted: "Wrestling is fake."

Said Carr: "I love this scene."

Jazz teammate Bryon Russell lurked more anonymously.

When so-called world champion Bill Goldberg, a hulking mass of humanity who flunked out of the NFL, tossed Curt Hennig around like a bag of dry cement, working the crowd into a frothing, drooling frenzy, it was time for the

main event. It was into such unfettered insanity at Cox Arena, 11,000 people yelling "Goldberg, Goldberg," that Malone, Page, Hogan and Rodman strode.

Their match consisted mostly of Malone and Rodman proving that they cannot wrestle, cannot even pretend to wrestle. Malone got in some nice body slams, taking down Hogan repeatedly. But the man formerly known as "The

Hulkster" got his phony shots in on Malone, too. Rodman landed a few fake elbows. Malone flailed around. All four performers spat at each other, then, the end came.

Not before boos broke out and the crowd chanted: "Boring . . . Boring . . . Boring."

Many of the maniacal fans on hand were not thrilled to see Malone trespassing in their odd realm. In fact, some consider big-name mainstream athletes, despite the attention they bring pro wrestling, impure interlopers who

have intruded into their closed world.

"These guys show up for one night and, just because they play basketball, they think they can steal the glory from the guys who work hard to get to this level, the real wrestlers," said Dave Brooks, 16, of Yuma, Ariz., who traveled to San Diego with his brother, Daniel, and his father, Jim Norton, a conductor for the Union-Pacific Railroad. "I’m a Hogan guy. I hope Karl gets leg-dropped five times. And never comes back to wrestling. Never. He should stay on the basketball court and try to win an NBA title instead of a WCW championship."

Although Malone was at times barraged by the aforementioned "Utah sucks" chants from the crowd, some applauded the Jazz forward’s involvement.

Matt Jacobs, a 22-year-old Marine corporal stationed at San Diego’s Miramar Air Station, was happy to have the Mailman aboard. In fact, he saw the NBA Finals as merely an orchestrated run-up to Sunday’s match, especially the

Game 6 scrum performed—and scripted, according to Jacobs—by Rodman and Malone.

"That makes it that much better that they took time out from their jobs to help promote this show tonight. It was a good idea. Everybody saw how they were at each other all series, and, now, we get to see what happens next."

We saw what happened next.

A contrived, clownish, choreographed wrestling event that seemed more like synchronized swimming on steroids than anything remotely resembling competitive sport.

"At least Malone outperformed Rodman tonight," said Andy Leetham, 18, of Sandy, who came with friends to San Diego to watch the Bash. "But maybe Karl should stick to basketball. He probably regrets wrestling here. Basketball is his thing.

"Not this."
_______________________________________

HOLLYWOOD, RODZILLA GET THE NOD IN END

(Miami Herald, Monday, July 13, 1998)

By Jim Varsallone

Hollywood Hulk Hogan and Rodzilla Dennis Rodman, representing the New World Order, beat Diamond Dallas Page and Karl Malone in the main event of the WCW/NWO Bash at the Beach pay-per-view extravaganza, July 12 in San Diego.

Hogan pinned Page, with the assist to the Disciple, formerly the wrestler known as Brutus the Barber Beefcake.

Hogan felt the "Bang" when Page hit the Diamond cutter. Rodman tried to save Hogan, but Malone then caught Rodman with the Diamond cutter. As idiot referee

Charles Robinson checked Malone and Rodman instead of counting Hogan down, the Disciple jumped into the ring and gave Page a Diamond cutter. Disciple quickly

rolled Hogan atop Page for the victory.

Following the match, Malone delivered a Diamond cutter on the ref. That makes Hogan and Rodman 1-1. Last year at Bash at the Beach in Daytona Beach, Lex Luger and the Giant beat Hogan and Rodman.

Other results: Raven pinned Saturn. Kanyon interfered, setting up a possible triple threat match.

Juventud Guerrera pinned Kidman.

Stevie Ray beat Chavo Guerrero Jr. by submission. Chavo had to face Ray before battling uncle Eddie Guerrero in a hair vs. hair match. With Eddie waiting near

ringside holding scissors and a huge advantage, Guerrero Jr. out-smarted his uncle once again.

When the bell rang, Chavo offered his hand to Ray in a show of sportsmanship. Chavo quickly grabbed the hand of a confused Ray. Chavo began withering in pain

from the impromptu handshake and quit. Chavo saved himself for Eddie. He called Eddie to the ring for their hair vs. hair match. Eddie had the last laugh, pinning his wacky nephew. Chavo made the most of the situation, shaving his own head. He enjoyed it—much to the chagrin of uncle Eddie.

Konan pinned Disco Inferno. Lex Luger racked Alex Wright, and Nash sent Disco hard to the mat with a power bomb.

The Giant pinned Kevin Greene.

Rey Misterio Jr. pinned Chris Jericho to become the new WCW Cruiserweight champion. Jericho wore his top hat, carried a cane and prepared for some soft shoe and song, before Jo Jo Dillon informed him of his opponent. After the match, Dean Malenko chased Jericho to the back. Behind the curtain, Arn Anderson blocked Jericho until Malenko caught up.

Booker T. beat Bret Hart by DQ to retain the WCW TV title. Hart nailed Booker T. with a chair and wrapped his legs around the pole with a figure four.

WCW champ Bill Goldberg is still undefeated, pinning Curt Hennig.
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The WAWLI Papers #240...

WASHINGTON, D.C., CARDS, RESULTS, SUMMER ‘39

Wednesday, May 31, 1939 Turner’s Arena

(Golden Terror, Roy Graham and Hank Metheny pose for newspaper photos during workout)

Thursday, June 1, 1939 Griffith Stadium (rained out)

Friday, June 2, 1939 Griffith Stadium (rained out)

Saturday, June 3, 1939 Griffith Stadium 1,200

Jim Londos beat Golden Terror 37:30 (world title defense), Clara Mortensen beat Betty Bowman, Pete Managoff beat Nanjo Singh DQ, Dropkick Murphy drew Jack Hader, Jules Strongbow beat Hank Metheny, Jim Clinstock beat Roy Graham

Thursday, June 8, 1939 Turner’s Arena

Laverne Baxter beat Jim Clinstock 28:00, Jules Strongbow beat King Kong Kazimirz Symkowski, Jack Hader beat Dropkick Murphy, Nanjo Singh beat Gene Bowman, Ernie Powers drew Hank Metheny

Thursday, June 15, 1939 Griffith Stadium 700

Laverne Baxter beat Jim Clinstock 31:00 (referee Casey Berger worked this card and most of the others throughout the summer), Chief Chewacki drew Jules Strongbow, Tiger Joe Marsh beat Tex Hammer, Pete Managoff beat Ernie Powers, Jack Hader beat Hank Metheny

Thursday, June 22, 1939 Turner’s Arena

Laverne Baxter beat Jack Hader DQ, Jules Strongbow beat Chief Chewacki, Nanjo Singh beat Tiger Joe Marsh, Jim Clinstock beat Ed White, Pete Managoff beat King Kong DQ

Thursday, June 29, 1939 Turner’s Arena

Nanjo Singh beat Laverne Baxter, Bibber McCoy beat Hank Metheny, Jack Hader beat King Kong, Jim Clinstock beat Jules Strongbow, Pete Managoff beat George Tragos

Thursday, July 6, 1939 Turner’s Arena 1,400

Jack Hader beat Nanjo Singh, Laverne Baxter beat Hank Metheny, Bibber McCoy beat Jim Clinstock, Red Ryan beat Angelo Leone, Tom Mahoney beat Pete Managoff

Thursday, July 13, 1939

Nanjo Singh beat Laverne Baxter, Jim Clinstock beat Red Ryan, Pete Managoff drew Bibber McCoy (sub for Leone), Jack Hader beat Bibber McCoy, Rudy Strongberg beat Ernie Powers

Thursday, July 20, 1939

Nanjo Singh beat Jack Hader, Jim Clinstock beat Red Ryan, Bibber McCoy drew Pete Managoff, Rudy Strongberg beat Ernie Powers, Raoul Lopez beat Angelo Leone

Thursday, July 27, 1939

Nanjo Singh beat Jim Clinstock 17:00, Bibber McCoy beat Raoul Lopez, Rudy Strongberg beat Hank Metheny, Red Ryan beat Chief Chewacki, Pete Managoff drew Maurice LaChappelle

Thursday, August 3, 1939

Nanjo Singh beat Red Ryan 22:00, Bibber McCoy beat Hank Metheny, Rudy Strongberg beat Tom Mahoney, Chief Chewacki beat George Kondylis, Jack Hader beat Pete Managoff

Thursday, August 10, 1939

Golden Terror beat Nanjo Singh 18:00 DQ, Jack Hader beat Chief Chewacki, Red Ryan beat Ernie Powers, Rudy Strongberg drew Raoul Lopez, Bibber McCoy beat Juan Olaquivel

Thursday, August 17, 1939

Golden Terror beat Nanjo Singh 20:00 DQ, Jack Hader beat Juan Olaquivel, Bibber McCoy beat Pete Managoff, Rudy Strongberg beat Roy Haldeman, Red Ryan beat George Kondylis

Thursday, August 24, 1939

Nanjo Singh beat Red Ryan, Jack Hader beat Rudy Strongberg, Ralph Garibaldi beat Jack Kennedy, Eddie Newman vs. Stanley Pinto

Thursday, August 31, 1939 Griffith Stadium 2,500

Ernie Dusek beat Nanjo Singh, Jack Hader beat Pete Baltran, Tommy Rae beat Bob Wagner, Rudy Dusek beat Abe Yourist, Joe Cox beat Stanley Pinto

Monday, September 4, 1939 Griffith Stadium 15,000

Jack Hader drew Bob Wagner (Police field day benefit)

Thursday, September 7, 1939 Turner’s Arena

Rudy Dusek beat Jack Hader, Ralph Garibaldi drew Abe Coleman, Nanjo Singh beat Emil Dusek, Alan Eustace beat Eddie Newman, Bob Wagner beat Red Ryan

Thursday, September 14, 1939 Griffith Stadium

Nanjo Singh beat Rudy Dusek, Bob Wagner drew Gino Vagnone, Jack Hader beat Bad Boy Brown, Alan Eustace drew Tommy Rae, Stanley Pinto beat Juan Olaquivel

Thursday, September 21, 1939 Turner’s Arena

Ernie Dusek beat Nanjo Singh 23:00, Ralph Garibaldi beat Bob Wagner DQ, Bibber McCoy beat Rudy Strongberg, Jack Hader beat Joe Campbell, John Katan beat Ernie Powers

ERNIE DUSEK FLOPS NANJO SINGH AMID DISPUTE

(Washington Post, Friday, September 22, 1939)

Ernie Dusek became undisputed champion of Nanjo Singh last night at Turner’s Arena, winning in 23 minutes after a hectic bout which saw first one and then the other contestant tossed out of the ring. Referee Casey Berger was thrown out on one occasion.

The decision, the second for Ernie in as many meetings with Nanjo, was loudly protested by some of the 1,500 spectators who claimed Dusek’s winning hold was the illegal strangle grip. Referee Berger defended himself by saying he couldn’t see just what kind of a grip Dusek was using because at the same time Dusek was encircled by Singh’s lethal Cobra Clutch.

Berger encountered some difficulty in pushing his way through a crowd of dissenters on his way to the dressing room. Otherwise, the evening was comparably tame.

Ralph Garibaldi won the semifinal by disqualification over Bob Wagner in 12 minutes. In other bouts, Bibber McCoy pinned Rudy Strongberg in 16 minutes with a body press; Jack Hader threw Joe Campbell in 12 minutes with the crab hold taught him by Promoter Joe Turner, and John Katan beat Ernie Powers in 23 minutes with a figure four leg lock.
_______________________________________________________________

The WAWLI Papers #241...

EXCERPTS FROM WHT...? DESTROYER INTERVIEW

(http://www.geocities.com/Colosseum/Field/9099)

By Scott Teal

The following is an excerpt from ‘Part Two’ of an interview with Dick Beyer, who wrestled as the "Intelligent, Sensational Destroyer" and "Dr. X" during the ‘60s through the ‘80s.

BEYER—So I talked to Don (Owens) and I promised, "When I finish in LA, I’ll come in for you."So when I went into LA, I went in there on a Thursday.I talked to the office and said, "You guys must not want me to come in here.I’m down here at the commission office and my name isn’t even in here to get a license."Jules Strongbow says, "Well, you’re not in here as Dick Beyer.""What the hell have you got me wrestling under?"He says, "We’re going to put a mask on you and call you The Destroyer."I said, "I don’t even have a mask."

When I went in there, I went in under the impression that I was going to be ‘Dick Beyer.’Now, while I was still in Honolulu, I had gotten heel pictures made.Five hundred

copies of five different pictures.I had one with the figure four leg lock on Lord Blears, because he taught me how to do it.Buddy Rogers had just retired, so I thought,

"Good, then I’ll use the figure four leg lock."So, I used the figure four leg lock in one, and had four other heel pictures.I shaved my head and went the whole nine

yards.I’ve still got them in a box downstairs.The first night that I wrestled with my hood on was a Friday night in San Diego.I don’t even remember my opponent. (pause)Don Duffy ... Don Duffy might have been the guy.

WHT—We checked our records and found that you worked with Seymour Koenig (aka Sid Freeman) on April 27, 1962.

BEYER—That might be right.Anyway, Hardy Kruskamp was the promoter.After the match, I went back to the dressing room and said, "All right, Hardy.You guys have had your rib.You go back and tell the office that I’m through as The Destroyer.That was the first and last match of The Destroyer."He looks panicked and says, ‘No, you’ve got to work for at least four weeks.We’ve booked you that far ahead.’"Well, after four weeks, I’m taking it off."

WHT—Was that because it was hard to work in?

BEYER—It was several things.First of all, I had no masks.The first mask I used was given to me

by Vic Christy and it was a joke.Vic was the biggest ribber in the business.It was full of moth holes and was a full body outfit.It slipped down over my head.It had two eye holes, no nose, and no mouth.I said, "I ain’t wearin’ this."I couldn’t breath.I couldn’t see.I couldn’t do anything with it, and I had never worked under a hood.

WHT—What changed your mind?

BEYER—Ox Anderson was in the dressing room that night.He says, ‘Dick, try this on,’ and he threw me a mask.It was very similar to the one I wear now.I put it on and said, "Hey, this isn’t bad.I can breathe with it ... I can eat with it ... I can see ... I have peripheral vision.

What’s this made out of?"Ox says, ‘It’s made out of a woman’s girdle.’I said, "Can I use this tomorrow night in San Bernardino," because that’s where I was wrestling the next night.He said, ‘Yeah.’So I used it and, on Sunday, my wife and I went shopping for girdles.

That’s a true story.I tell people that when I speak at banquets. My wife made them from then on.We bought what was called a panty-hose garter belt.They were kind of like a girdle and a garter belt.Women used to wear silk stockings, so they had these garters that hung down to hold the stockings up.We went into a Woolworth’s department store and I put these on upside down.Here I am, standing in the lingerie department with my wife, putting girdles on my head.Large ones ... long, narrow ones.They had them small, medium, large ... short, medium, tall ... so I took a dozen of the small-tall.Before I was through, there was about twenty people standing around, looking at me trying on these girdles.My wife’s pulling the garter belts up around my head, trying to see if she could finish off the top.She bought some bias binding ... red, blue, green.

That was the start of the Destroyer. After four weeks, though, I had tripled the best income I ever made.I thought, "Well, I’ll try it for awhile." A year and a half later, Jules came into the dressing room and said, ‘We’re going to take the mask off tonight.’I said, "Uh-uh.Uh-uh.That’s why I know how to wrestle.Nobody’s taking this off."They said, ‘We have to.’"You don’t have to ... and you’re not going to.There isn’t anybody in this dressing room that’s strong enough or mean enough to take this mask off."They said, ‘We told the people we were going to take the mask off of you.’I said, "Well ... not tonight."

I didn’t take it off.They had about six people at ringside to keep me from getting out, but in the middle of the match, I left the ring, up the aisle, and didn’t come

back. I left the (Los Angeles) territory and went to work for Don Owen, since I had promised him to come in there when I left Honolulu.

The story behind that is that Don had loaned Ed Francis the money to get the promotion started in Honolulu.Don came to Honolulu and was sitting at ringside for the first live studio wrestling program.It was the first time that I had started to work heel.I didn’t just go into the ring and start kicking, stomping, and booting.I talked like I was a very educated person from the East.I said, "I went to Syracuse University, not some ‘Mickey Mouse’ University here in Hawaii.The Ivy League schools are the educated ones."I used that kind of an angle to build my heat.Don Owen pulled me aside and asked, "How about coming to Oregon?"I said, "I’d love to.Could I start at the end of April?"So, I got a date booked and planned to go to Oregon from Honolulu, then back to Syracuse.As I mentioned before (WHT #4), Blassie got me booked in LA, so I had to postpone my Oregon trip.

(The complete interview with Dick Beyer can be found in issues #4 and #22 of Whatever Happened to ...? In addition to the first part of the interview with Dick Beyer, issue #4 also includes features on Lou Thesz, Dave Levin, Penny Banner, Danno O’Shocker, Kay Bell, Red Bastien, and Ace Freeman.Finishes takes a look at J.C. Dykes and Rufus R. Jones. In issue #22, Dick reminisces about—working for Don Owens in Portland, Oregon; his first trip to Japan, where he wrestled Rikidozan in a televised bout that was viewed by seventy million people; Killer Kowalski being unable to tear a telephone book in half on television; the reasons why he changed his name from The Destroyer to Dr. X when he began wrestling for the A.W.A. in Minneapolis; wrestling a young Giant Baba in California and Japan; the story behind the famous match in the Los Angeles Olympic Auditorium when Gorgeous George had his head shaved.An additional interview with Dutch Savage is also featured.Dutch talks about: his introduction to pro wrestling by his brother, who had already made his name in the sport; getting his start and being roughed up by the old-timers; buying into the promotion in Washington and Oregon; turning his life over to Jesus Christ and his life afterwards.In The Way I Remember It, Dick Steinborn talks about a funny incident that occurred during a match he had with former World Heavyweight champion Lou Thesz inHouston, Texas ... plus, a report on the 80th birthday of former NWA World Heavyweight champ Lou Thesz.)
_______________________________________________

MALONE VENTS FRUSTRATIONS AT ‘THE BASH’

(Chicago Tribune, Monday, July 13, 1998)

By Michael Hirsley

Karl "the Mailman" Malone didn’t deliver on Sunday again. And he lost again to a team with Dennis Rodman on it. But unlike the NBA Finals, Malone got to take out his aggression on everyone, including the referee, at World Championship Wrestling’s "Bash at the Beach."

After Malone and partner "Diamond" Dallas Page lost their headlining tag-team match to Rodman and "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan, Malone slammed the referee into a theatrical snooze.

The ref, some guy named Charles, deserved it, of course.

Like pro wrestling’s typically inept third guy in the ring (or the fourth, fifth or sometimes sixth, depending on which illegal ally jumps in—as some guy named Disciple, I think, did at the end of this match), Charles was in a different time zone from the fight.

And of course, he let Hogan and Rodman win unfairly. That was "the Bash’s" lesson to good guys everywhere.

But no one seemed the worse for wear. And because Malone got paid again, allegedly handsomely for less than an hour’s work, the real losers were any in the $29.95 pay-per-view audience who really wanted to see Malone and Rodman go hold-for-hold very long in the ring.

But at least Malone got to kick Rodman around a little and slam him into the canvas with some lift-and-drop thing called a "diamond cutter"—apparently named for Malone’s tag-team partner in defeat—sandwiched around Rodman getting a headlock on Malone and hitting him in the back.

Probably folks who paid to see this "Bash" in person in San Diego’s Cox Arena, and those who’d regularly buy these pro wrestling pay-per-views even without the Malone-Rodman hype, knew what was coming.

But for the uninitiated, like yours truly, this was the equivalent of a bad concert. You know, where the headliners play a short set after a couple of hours of warmup acts. The wrestler who shaved his own head after losing was pretty funny, and it was mildly amusing to see NFL linebacker Kevin Greene get creamed by some guy taller than Malone and chunkier than Hogan.

But for the most part, I kept trying to lead catcalls to give the undercard the hook and get the headliners on. I guess they didn’t hear me, or agree, in San Diego.

Sign of Armageddon? Isn’t it one of those end-time indicators when a world power pokes fun at soccer and takes wrestling basketball players seriously? Maybe Jerry Springer should cut back to once a month and go pay-per-view.
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WHEN PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING IMITATES LIFE

(San Diego Union-Tribune, Monday, July 13, 1998)

By Fritz Quindt

She wore a Chicago Bulls road jersey, No. 91. Half of her usually blonde locks were green—pigtail included—and the rest of her hair was painted red. Describing herself as a "devout Dennis Rodman fan," she carried a homemade sign that said simply Rodzilla, the edges of which were smudged by her sweating fingers while waiting in line to enter Cox Arena.

Did it matter to her if yesterday’s Bash at the Beach show was fake?

"I don’t care," said 13-year-old Marie Wallace of Lawton, Okla. "It’s like a soap opera. You watch it, and you really get into it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s real."

Her ride—a silver-haired grandmother from Santee who paid $27.50 for tickets—shrugged.

That’s how it is when professional wrestling imitates life.

What, a near-capacity crowd of 10,000ish worry if the Battle of the NBA Stars and friends was on the up-and-up? Or the audience watching on pay-per-view (suggested retail: $29.95)? Naw.

However, suspension of disbelief on the realm of a "Home Alone" movie was helpful to fully enjoy one of the year’s biggest events on the World Championship Wrestling/New World Order tour, maybe the biggest show of its ilk ever to hit San Diego.

In the main tag-team event, "bigger than any world title match or championship event" (the words of ring announcer Michael Buffer), Rodman and "Hollywood" Hogan rumbled with Rodman’s rival, Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz, and Diamond Dallas Page.

After about 15 minutes of acting—er, action—Rodman and Hogan were declared winners. Alas, this was a controversial victory, coming moments after Hogan’s bodyguard leaped into the ring, cold-cocked Page, aka DDP, and let Hogan pin him.

It appeared that Malone, aka The Mailman and a pro wrestling aficionado making his debut, thought he and DDP got jobbed, because he grabbed the referee and body-slammed him.

Who knows if this was just part of the script? Neither he nor any of the other contestants nor even Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, analyzing on TV, were made available for interviews afterward.

But Rodman divulged to a friendly Chicago Tribune reporter, "We practiced some moves for a day, and I was all for it because we were putting on a show and people were paying good money. We did it."

Yup. Rodman made a reported $1.5 million for his appearance, Malone $900,000.

Rodman said he injured his back, and compared the bash to an NBA Finals vs. Malone thusly: "This is a lot worse. A lot worse. A lot worse. You’re getting slammed and elbowed and kicked. You really feel it. I’m going to be sore as hell."

The paying customers weren’t sore, even if some broke out into sheer giggles watching Rodzilla and Mailman flopping and seeing how much less believable the sport is in person.

They started arriving at 1 o’clock, three hours before the event was to start. They stood in line for hours, biding time by buying WCW/NWO souvenirs, including a commemorative Bash at the Beach ‘98 T-shirt ($15), and cheering when limousines and, finally, Rodman’s Hummer arrived in the parking lot.

Said Rex Stevens, who said he made the trip from Lancaster and was delighting in the $57.50 ringside seats because he got to touch Rodman after DDP threw him out over the ropes: "This was good, clean fun for the whole family."

The show itself, all 2-1/2 hours, was tacky. As desired.

There was a faux "Gilligan’s Island" beach backdrop. Participants entered through smoke and indoor fireworks.

The throng was predominantly young males, many dressed in black, and could’ve passed for a well-behaved Metallica crowd aware of the red light of the TV cameras and brandishing signs of relevancy:

"Wrestling Is Fake."

"Jericho Is Cartman’s Mother."

"The Guy Behind Me Can’t See."

It wasn’t a partisan, Dodgers vs. Giants crowd, though. Fans often cheered and booed both, or all four, wrestlers. Those earning standing O’s were Giant, a 7-foot-4 specimen who quickly pinned Carolina Panthers pass-rusher Kevin Greene; and Bill Goldberg, aka Goldberg, who dominated the muscular but unfortunate Curt Hennig for the "WCW heavyweight title."

The biggest roars were saved for Buffer’s introduction (they say he made $8,000 to do his thing) of Rodman, who wore a bandana that concealed his hair color, and a special, not-for-sale Rodzilla T-shirt and jeans that covered up his tattoos. Malone went topless with purple pants, like his partner.

Mostly the hoop stars paled in comparison to their veteran tag-teamers.

Rodman pretended to be scared when Malone entered the ring and jumped through the ropes. Malone delivered the fewest body slams, and his acting in particular seemed to be C-movie caliber.

But he did have a key co-starring role late in the match.

Malone grabbed the head of a seemingly tiring Hogan and slammed it into a turnbuckle as the crowd counted, flawlessly, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11!

On the count of 10, Malone let go of the head.

On the count of 11, Hogan somehow slammed his own head into the turnbuckle one last time, on his own.
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ALL OF US OWE PRO WRESTLING A BIG APOLOGY

(Salt Lake Tribune, Tuesday, July 14, 1998)

By Robert Kirby

If I live to be a million years old, I will never understand professional wrestling. I do, however, understand the public’s attraction to it. That’s easy. People are morons.

It’s the wrestling itself that baffles this particular moron. When Hollywood Hulk Hogan is getting spun around in a Shoulder Holder Death Throw by Stone Cold Steve Austin, why does Hulk just lay there like a carp and take it?

Conversely, when Hulk spin-tosses Stone Cold into the ropes to clothesline him on the rebound, why does Stone Cold come off the ropes with all the reflexes of a driverless forklift?

Now that professional wrestling has eclipsed AIDS, feminism, and Civil Rights as the No. 1 attention-getter in America, these and many other questions about the sport of dings will no doubt be debated for many years to come.

I know what you are thinking. Doesn’t this idiot know that professional wrestling is staged? That it’s simply marginal theater, or what marginal theater would be if Shakespeare had dosed himself against writer’s block with steroids and animal tranquilizers?

I used to think like that, but then professional wrestling got big and started luring serious names like Karl Malone. When that happened, it was time to give wrestling some respect. Perhaps it wasn’t as fake as it seemed.

Actually, the time came when the World Wrestling Federation called me. You didn’t hear about it because Karl and the "Bash at the Beach" got all the media attention, but it’s true. In an effort to capitalize on the competitive nature of our livelihoods, the WWF was putting together an all-star lineup of wrestling newspaper columnists.

Cable refused to carry the match, so I will simply give you the highlights here. On Saturday, syndicated columnist Pat "The Goose Stepper" Buchanan and I tag-wrestled Dear Abby and Hillary Rodham Clinton, at the Mash ‘N’ Kill in Nashville.

As expected, my trademark sneaky spine kick proved very effective against elderly women. Scratch Van Buren. We would have won except that when Buchanan was swinging Rodhamzilla around by her ears, preparatory to a launch in the direction of the concession stand, the Secret Service shot him in the leg.

Outraged by this clear (but scripted) violation of WWF rules, I jumped up and down on a small referee until I split the seat in my purple sparkle tights.

If you still have doubts, there is the issue of money. Though officially the losers, Buchanan and I split a small fortune in two-for-one burrito coupons.

Take it from me, professional wrestling doesn’t get more realistic than this. So, those who believe that the sport is the first thing for which human beings will have to apologize profusely upon encountering intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, you owe the entire wrestling industry an apology.

Gone are the days when the state of professional wrestling made reasonable people long for the dignity and nobility of Roller Derby. Wrestling just may save civilization.

Seriously, life on this planet would be much more tolerable if real differences like those that exist between Karl Malone and Dennis Rodman, or even Hillary and Pat, were settled on a canvas mat.

By a show of hands, how many people would object if the scrap between Microsoft and the federal government had been settled in the ring by Bill Gates and Janet Reno? See? Except for the guy who doesn’t want to see Reno in sparkle tights, it’s unanimous.

Think about it. Despite its flaws, professional wrestling makes a lot more sense than our current infatuation with stuff like the democratic process, nuclear-weapons testing and litigation.
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The WAWLI Papers #242...

ED LEWIS THROWS STANISLAUS ZBYSZKO

(New York Herald, May 22, 1923)

MINNEAPOLIS, May 22 (AP) -- Ed "Strangler" Lewis, world’s heavyweight wrestling champion, retained his title here tonight, throwing Stanislaus Zbyszko, former champion, for the only fall of the contest. Lewis’ famous headlock threw Zbyszko in 1 hour and 39 minutes.

It was agreed before the contest that should there be no fall within ninety minutes, one fall would decide the winner. The match was a gruelling struggle, with Lewis employing his headlock repeatedly, but the former champ broke about a dozen such holds before he gave way to it.

Zbyszko followed up each break from the headlock with a toe hold, from which the champion was able to wrestle himself free each time.

(Ed. Note—The following may serve as a reminder of an extraordinarily fascinating World Wide Web page devoted to professional wrestling, including an exhaustive study of 20th Century title histories. Check it out, starting at the title history page index:

http://www.albany.net/~hit/puroresu/titles/world/world-h/index.html

There follows the initial stages of the World Title history.)

George Hackenschmidt

1901/11

Vienna, AUSTRIA

Wins world championship tournament; wins tournaments in Paris, Hamburg, St. Petersburg, Elberfield, and Berlin in the same year; wins European Greco-Roman title from Tom Cannon on 1902/09/04 in Liverpool, ENGLAND; wins recognition as World champion on 1904/01/30 in London, ENGLAND, defeating Ahmed Madrali; defeats American champion Tom Jenkins on 1905/05/04 in New York, NY to become recognized champion in North America.

Frank Gotch

1908/04/03

Chicago, IL

Retires as champion in 1913.

Henry Ordemann

13

Omaha, NE

Said to defeat Jess Westegaard for the title (no verification has been found for this match).

Charlie Cutler

14/02

Cutler has been American Heavyweight champion in Illinois and is billed as World Heavyweight Champion after 14/02; said to defeat Ordemann in 14/07 in Minneapolis, MN for the title (no verification has been found for this match).

Joe Stecher

15/07/05

Omaha, NE

Defeats Cutler with Frank Gotch in attendance.

Earl Caddock

17/04/09

Omaha, NE

Joe Stecher [2]

20/01/30

New York, NY

Ed "Strangler" Lewis

20/12/13

New York, NY

Stanislaus Zbyszko

21/05/06

New York, NY

Ed "Strangler" Lewis [2]

22/03/03

Wichita, KS

Wayne Munn

25/01/08

Kansas City, MO

Stanislaus Zbyszko [2]

25/04/15

Philadelphia, PA

Munn continues to be recognized as champion in Michigan and Illinois.

Joe Stecher [3]

25/05/30

St. Louis, MO

Ed "Strangler" Lewis [3]

28/02/21

St. Louis, MO

Has defeated Wayne Munn on 28/02/02 in Michigan City, IN to win the Michigan/Illinois version of the title; unified with the main line on 28/02/21.

Gus Sonnenberg

29/01/04

Boston, MA

Recognition withdrawn by the wrestling section of National Boxing Association in 29 for failing to meet "real" contenders.

(Ed. Note—The parallels between Gus Sonnenberg, and how he transformed professional wrestling as an ex-footballer literally tackling the title away from Strangler Lewis, and what Goldberg has done to Hulk Hogan are worth studying.)
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JUNE BYERS DEAD, SAYS MIKE LANO NEWSLETTER

(Wrestling Wreality)

By Dr. Michael Lano

After hearing about Alan Shepard and Robert Young, bad news really did come in threes when Georgie called to say the AP wire service was listing the death of June Byers under her real name (June Byers). I called Terese Thies and she said Johnny Mae Young had just called her and told her that Byers had passed away. Terese (formerly Mrs. Ray Stevens who trained & got Ray into the biz for his first gig in Tennessee) is taking daily chemo/radiation for cancer. She’s the real trooper.

Byers spent most of her life in the Houston area, where she acted as a real estate agent and fitness trainer long after her retirement from the ring, sadly from a car accident of some sort. I believe she helped train champion Penny Banner and several other top top lady wrestlers. Indeed the legends legend. Byers came into the Billy Wolfe camp of women wrestlers quite awhile after Mildred Burke; and "all the great girl wrestlers came thru Billy Wolfe," Ms. Thies said. Terese should know—she was one of the all-time great lady wrestlers herself. Burke and Byers are generally regarded as the Lou Thesz, alltime shoot-hooker greats of women’s pro wrestling. To correct a misconception, Fabulous Moolah had only a few days training with Wolfe; and really was with the separate Jack Pfeffer group. Billy was a genius in terms of promoting out the girls to all the circuit promoters, and making all the big money which he withheld in large part from the athletes. He was married to several of his stars (Pfeffer called them "my freaks" and even aggressively interrupted the start of many rival shows by getting on the p.a. and saying "come see MY freaks, come to my wrestling show") including obviously Mildred Burke and later Nell Stewart who was left penniless and distraught after he dumped her for yet another lady wrestler. Nell had been billed as the Betty Grable & Marilyn Monroe of her time and former ladies champion Ida Mae Martinez constantly looks after her and helps her financially even tho she’s several states away.

"June was also one of the prettiest lady wrestlers, altho Billy Wolfe said the opposite. Mae Young was, too," Ms. Thies told me last night. Nel and June ran the two separate camps of traveling lady wrestlers for Wolfe—that were constantly traveling. At one time, they were like the Haystack and Andre show of their time—in constant demand by all promoters in all circuits. On occasion, there were all lady shows and yes, there were several matches (still debate on whether they were shoots) between Burke and Byers. Altho it’s claimed Moolah at one time defeated Byers somewhere for a piece of the women’s title, Ms. Thies said "that never occurred and Byers retired, undefeated. She was one of the greatest wrestlers ever. She was never taken in a shoot by anyone," Thies said.

I just turned on Howard Stern and missed most of whatever was being discussed about Fred Blassie—but he was mentioned on the radio today. Stern said "he’s one of those old guys who has a philosophy on everything."

So many great legends in Seattle last weekend including promoter Tex Porter, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Ted Allen who was not only a fine wrestler for the NWA for many years, but also trained Arn Anderson, Ray Traylor, Riggs, Randy Anderson and other greats. Ted still wrestles, has a moving company and trains people on occasion—and if anyone deserves to work behind the office or as a road agent—it’s Ted. Ox Anderson was on the road so much in the ‘60s and early ‘70s that his kids went to schools in CA, TX, Utah where he lives now, NY, Jersey, Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver and more. Ox and many others at Dean’s Reunion said what a character Sandor Szabo was, how much they loved Charlie Moto (L.A. booker Mr. Moto) and Jules Strongbow, who ran L.A., and Hardy Kruskamp. Ox has many stories—including several with a spatula on Stu Hart. Bill Crouch told the story of how Flair, when he first started for Verne, was driving really fast and hit a deer, not knowing the antlers had punctured his gas tank (somewhere outside of Springfield, IL). Once he got to the AWA show where he was going he said he couldn’t understand why he kept running out of gas every few miles! Bill is a net person, gets this newsletter and wants to know if anyone’s heard of what Tony Charles and Vic Rossitani are up to.
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GOLDBERG: TRUE STORY OF THE MAT’S NEW STAR

(Athens Daily News, July, 1998)

By Thomas O’Toole, Scripps Howard News Service

Okay, I’ll admit it, though the memory still pains me.

I have seen Goldberg naked.

And I’ve seen him with tears in his eyes.

I’ve seen him hug another man. I’ve seen him smile and laugh and I’ve even seen what he admitted to recently when asked if he had a feminine side: "Well, I shave my body and I like to shop."

Yes, the truth can finally be told, the no-holds-barred truth. Goldberg is human. He can actually be nice to children and puppy dogs.

Just don’t tell him I said so.

But I know it’s true. See, I knew Goldberg, the nation’s hottest professional wrestler, undefeated champion of the world, vanquisher of Hollywood Hulk Hogan!!!!!! ... I knew him when he was Bill Goldberg, Georgia football player, and I was the Georgia beat reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I interviewed him in the locker room,

watched him share joy and sorrow with teammates, saw him commit acts of kindness.

Don’t tell me you don’t know Goldberg. Everybody does. To millions of wrestling fans (admit it, you’ve watched), Goldberg is the gruntingest, meanest, toughest bad boy this side of Godzilla. And he’s Goldberg, just Goldberg.

Actually, "GOLD...BERG!!!!!!"

And gold is exactly what he’s bringing to World Championship Wrestling through ticket sales, souvenirs and pay-per-view shows. He’s come a long way.

When I first met Bill, he was a little lost freshman who couldn’t find his way to Athens, Ga. He showed up late for his first day as one of Vince Dooley’s Dawgs.

You couldn’t help but like him, mostly because of his impish smile. He wasn’t the best defensive lineman ever at Georgia, but he had good numbers (348 tackles, eighth-best in school history) and was plenty tough. Former Ole Miss coach Billy Brewer called him "a warlord ... a gun-toting, knife-toting bad guy." Goldberg couldn’t have heard a better compliment if he had thought it up himself.

He loved to talk, the self-proclaimed Mouth of the South, a lifelong Oakland Raiders fan who didn’t mind challenging opponents verbally before pounding them physically (which is ironic because his wrestling handlers don’t let him talk on TV, just grunt). He was, as sportswriters say, my "go-to guy," the first player I approached after a game because he would have the best quotes. I quoted Goldberg so much that when I left the paper some friends gave me a Georgia jersey with the number 95 -- Goldberg’s number.

As a talker, Goldberg never disappointed. And he always had a story.

On being scouted for the first time in high school by Georgia: "I went out before the game and ate a 38-ounce T-bone steak. On the second or third play of the game, I chased the quarterback out of bounds. I fell on my stomach and there went the 38-ounce T-bone. I didn’t play the rest of the game. I felt like I had a pound of lead in my stomach."

On being recruited: "I went to one school that I’m not going to name. The first night there, they introduced me to a girl who was really nice. Then it started snowing, and I got snowed in there five or six days. It was the most fun I’ve ever had."

On being a bouncer: "I was 17 years old, and on my first night, the owner pulled a handful of hair out of some guy’s head. ... The sickest thing I ever saw was a guy taking a bite out of another guy’s cheek."

He partied with Jimmy Buffett, raced sailboats and piloted the Goodyear blimp—all before leaving college. "You know," he said at the time, "I tell these stories and nobody believes me. But they are all true."

I’ve seen Goldberg just once since he left Georgia after the 1989 season, and that for only a minute during his brief NFL career. The last time we talked at length was during the days leading up to the Peach Bowl his senior season. Like any good reporter, I went out to find the

players. I found Goldberg in a strip joint. I bought him a beer. Next thing I know he’s sitting in a chair on the stage. Five of the "ladies" are peeling off his shirt and singing Happy Birthday.

As his father once told me, "He’s just a normal American boy ... but bigger than most."

Now, at least when it comes to professional wrestling, he’s the biggest of them all.
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The WAWLI Papers #243...

PRO WRESTLING’S ADKISSON FAMILY: A SUMMARY

(From Kevin Von Erich’s web page: www.vonerich.com)

Jack Adkisson, an imposing 6 feet 4 inches at 260 pounds, was a former collegiate football star at Southern Methodist University and played professionally with the Dallas Texans. He began his wrestling career in 1954 under the name Fritz VonErich, a villain working under the premise of being a Nazi sympathizer, with the accompanying goose step march and Iron Cross. In Japan, it is believed that Jack was born in Berlin, Germany and immigrated to Dallas, Texas when he was 13. He had his first match in Japan in November, 1966, where his nickname was "Tetsu no Tsume" (Nails of the Iron). Jack received a double scholarship from SMU—for music and football. He still holds the Dallas record for high jump.

As a promoter, he worked with the governing bodies of the NWA in promoting the sport in his native Texas. When a dispute arose among the NWA members, Fritz formed World Class Championship Wrestling, headquartered in Dallas, Texas. His dream was to build an entertainment empire—his plan was to use his sons as the foundation upon which to build that empire.

Jack and his wife Doris, had six sons. Jack, Jr. died of electrocution in 1959 at age 7. As his remaining five sons grew, they were all trained as wrestlers, and he built an international TV wrestling empire around their prowess. They were considered a wrestling dynasty. At its height, from 1980 to 1985, the WCCW television show was syndicated in 66 U.S. markets, and in Japan, Latin America, and the Middle East. The Von Erichs once wrestled in front of 40,000 people at Texas Stadium, and they nearly always filled the arenas where they competed. The brothers were known and admired world-wide and competed in and won championships in several of the existing wrestling promotions in the US. With five young gifted brothers in the ring and a father with years of promotional experience, the future for the VonErich family could not have seemed any brighter—but that bright light of optimism would evolve into a brief flicker symbolizing the fading dreams of a family and the most tragic paths that the sport has ever known.

Fritz is best known for his "Iron Claw" .... the paralyzing grip on their opponents. No other wrestler in the world could match this vicious hold.

His last match was May 6, 1984 in Irving, Texas, where he teamed with sons Kevin & Mike to defeat The Fabulous Freebirds.

Fritz died on September 10, 1997 of brain cancer.
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FRITZ VON ERICH, 68, OF WRESTLING DYNASTY

(Fort Worth Star-Telegram, September 11, 1997)

By Stephen Kaye

Fritz Von Erich, immensely popular in his heyday as a professional wrestler and immensely pained later in life because of the deaths of four wrestling sons, died of cancer yesterday at his home in Shady Shores in Denton County.

Mr. Von Erich, whose real name was Jack Adkisson, was found to have brain cancer six weeks ago. The cancer was found after Mr. Adkisson, 68, was admitted to Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas for treatment after a mild stroke.

A memorial service for Mr. Adkisson will be at noon Saturday at First Baptist Church in Dallas. Burial will be in Grove Hill Cemetery in Dallas. Schmitz-Floyd- Andersen Funeral Home in Denton is handling the arrangements.

Mr. Adkisson, who retired from wrestling in the 1980s, was the father of the beloved Von Erichs, who reigned over World Class Championship Wrestling for years. From his trademark "Iron Claw" paralyzing grip on opponents, to the popularity of his five wrestling sons, Mr. Adkisson built the Von Erich family as icons.

Mr. Adkisson’s only surviving son, Kevin, 40, thanked wrestling fans for their years of support.

"We would like to express thanks to the fans and community for their prayers, love and support," Kevin Adkisson said. "Dad loved them very much."

In the 1980s, misfortune mounted, and bit by bit the Von Erich story became less about wrestling and more about destruction. Three of Mr. Adkisson’s five wrestling sons—Kerry, Mike and Chris—committed suicide. David died in 1984 after suffering from an intestinal infection while wrestling in Japan.

In 1959, Mr. Adkisson’s first son, Jack Jr., died from an accidental electrical shock at age 7.

Mr. Adkisson was part entertainer, part athlete, part businessman.

His wrestling career took off in the 1950s, with World War II still a fresh memory. His stage name was invented for its appeal on wrestling marquees. He took Fritz from a family name and Erich from his mother’s maiden name. If he was going to play the bad guy, Mr. Adkisson figured, he was going to be very bad.

"The German gimmick was a natural," said a longtime friend, William "Cowboy Bill" Watts Jr., 58, of Tulsa, Okla., who wrestled against Mr. Adkisson. "With that scowl of his, he was an easy guy to hate."

Mr. Adkisson, once a lineman for Southern Methodist University and the American Football League’s Dallas Texans, was an imposing 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 260 pounds.

In arenas across the state and nation, his wrestling led to boos and jeers from the crowd. But at home in Dallas, he was every fan’s hero.

Bill Mercer, a longtime friend of Mr. Adkisson’s, is a retired baseball broadcaster who announced World Class Championship Wrestling. Mr. Adkisson was one of the good guys, Mercer said, but Von Erich was one of the bad ones.

"He was one of the baddest," Mercer said. "Wrestlers told me that he put everything he could into every bout. These guys loved hitting each other. People think this stuff is all fake. Guys like Fritz, no. I’ve seen him beaten to a pulp."

Johnny Valentine, 69, a Fort Worth resident, wrestled for almost 30 years and had many bouts against Mr. Adkisson.

"He was the people’s bad guy," Valentine said. "They adopted him. If you’re mean enough and tough enough, they get to where they respect you for that.

"I really loved to pound on him. One week, we would wrestle Fort Worth on Monday, Dallas on Tuesday, San Antonio on Wednesday and sell out all three places. People would be turned away. I don’t remember who won or lost. It didn’t make much difference. Even the winner was hurt."

World Class Championship Wrestling, the Von Erich family’s show, was immensely popular during the golden age of professional wrestling. It was syndicated at one time in 66 U.S. television markets, Japan, Argentina and the Middle East.

The Von Erichs once wrestled in front of 40,000 people at Texas Stadium, and they nearly always filled the arenas where they competed.

Mr. Adkisson’s business acumen helped build the dynasty.

"He knew what he was doing when it came not only to promoting, but to marketing and investing," said Bill Colville, a family friend who worked as a bodyguard for Mr. Adkisson’s sons. "He knew where every penny was going, who was doing what or was supposed to be doing what."

But their triumph became a tragic story in the 1980s.

David, probably the best wrestler of the sons, died at age 25 in 1984. Suicide claimed the lives of Mike, 23, in 1987; Chris, 21, in 1991; and Kerry, 33, in 1993.

Their deaths, Watts said, eventually wrecked Mr. Adkisson’s marriage to his wife, Doris. "That was one thing. Family was above everything. They were a wonderful couple for a long time until tragedy overtook everything," he said.

Watts, a friend and onetime business partner of Mr. Adkisson’s, said the wrestler’s sons "were everything to him."

Arlington attorney Grey Pierson represented two of Mr. Adkisson’s sons in the late 1980s and had become a family friend. He remembers traveling to Dallas from his home in Eastland as a child to watch Mr. Adkisson perform.

"As a person, one of the things I felt like he got a bum rap on was . . . so many blamed his sons’ deaths on Fritz," Pierson said. "He didn’t strike me as the bad guy. I didn’t feel like Fritz forced anyone into anything."

The Rev. Marc Lowrance, minister of First Methodist Church in Watauga, met Mr. Adkisson in 1980 when Lowrance became a ring announcer. He called Mr. Adkisson "inspiring."

"He definitely became a compassionate person because of his pain," Lowrance said. "Fritz had a gruff edge to him, until you really saw through him. He was a deeply troubled man. He wanted to know why" his sons died.

"Fritz hoped that someday the mystery would be solved. That may have been today."

Mr. Adkisson is survived by his son, Kevin; a daughter-in-law, Pam; and six grandchildren.

Staff writers Rick Herrin, Chris Vaughn and Michael S. Lee contributed to this report.
____________________________________________

PRO WRESTLING TITLES WON BY FRITZ VON ERICH

Fritz Von Erich won the following titles in his career:

N.W.A. World Tag Team (Minneapolis) 1958 w/ Hans Hermann

N.W.A. U.S. Heavyweight (Detroit) 1961, 1963

World Heavyweight (Omaha) 1962, 1963

A.W.A. World Heavyweight 1963

N.W.A. Texas Heavyweight 1965, 1967

N.W.A. World Tag Team (Texas) 1965 w/ Killer Karl Kox, 1966 w/ Duke Keomuka

N.W.A.American Heavyweight 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1982

N.W.A. American Tag Team 1967 w/ Waldo von Erich,1968 w/ Billy Red Lyons, 1968 w/ Grizzly Smith, 1969 w/ Dan Miller, 1969 w/ Fred Curry, 1972 w/ Dean Ho

N.W.A. International Tag Team 1973 w/ Killer Karl Krupp

Texas Brass Knucks Title 1958

World Six Man Tag Team 1984 w/ Kevin & Mike Von Erich
___________________________________________

The WAWLI Papers #244...

WRESTLING WITH TRAGEDY

(Dallas Observer, November 20-26, 1997)

By Robert Wilonsky

His hands are those of his father—enormous, fleshy, strong. They are calloused, almost faded, worn from years of wrapping them around men’s faces and using them as weapons. These are the hands that wrestled a decade’s worth of opponents, men with such names as Ric "Nature Boy" Flair and "Gorgeous" Gino Hernandez. He made a small fortune with his hands, as his father did before him, and as his brothers did during their shortened stays in the ring. His hands carried on the family business even after Dad retired and his brothers died. He inherited The Iron Claw, the grip that made the old man a legend and the family a wrestling dynasty.

Yet when he shakes hands standing in the atrium of a Lewisville Mexican restaurant, the man once and forever known as Kevin Von Erich is soft, gentle, almost consciously so. He looks slightly worn down, tired—you can see that much in his sleepy eyes. His gut seems a little more ample, a touch softer than it did a decade ago, when he seemed to be made of granite.

Kevin Von Erich can still intimidate you simply by being, yet it’s almost as though he is hiding the strength in his body and in those hands.

His is now the yielding handshake of a father who plays catch with his sons; who holds his four children and caresses his wife of 18 years; who moves boxes into the office he is setting up to deal with his father’s estate. His is the handshake of a gentle man known to his family and closest friends only as Kevin Adkisson.

Kevin Von Erich doesn’t really exist anymore. He disappeared two years ago, when Adkisson stepped into the wrestling ring for the final time. His body had been wrecked by injuries to his knees and to his head, having endured seven knee surgeries and at least five serious concussions. Even now, he walks with a slight shuffle, like a man who has been on a horse too long.

Kevin—dressed this cool November afternoon in a plaid flannel shirt, faded jeans, and a pair of flip-flops—says he is not in any pain, physical or emotional. He claims he has put behind him the injuries that wrecked his once-promising football career, the wounds suffered in the ring—and the deaths that have made the Von Erich name synonymous with tragedy.

Just 15 years ago, the Adkisson family was enormous—five brothers and a happy mother and father who were married when they were almost children. They lived, for a moment, a storybook life on 137 acres in Denton County, in a house Doris Adkisson designed and her husband, Jack, built. They owned, for a moment, the world of professional wrestling.

Then, in 1984, the brothers began dying, succumbing to accidents, illnesses, drugs, and self-inflicted gunshot wounds. The family had already lost one son -- 7-year-old Jackie, to an accident in 1959 -- then David fell. Then Mike, then Chris, then Kerry. The loving couple divorced. The empire collapsed—ravaged first from the outside by cutthroat competition, then from the inside by death. By 1995, there were simply no more Von Erichs left to wrestle. Kevin was the last brother alive, and he wanted no more of it.

Long ago Kevin had his fill of professional wrestling that had become more spectacle than sport. "To tell the truth," Adkisson says now, "wrestling was just a job to me."

If he ever loved it at all, it was because wrestling gave him a chance to be with his brothers and father—but they’re all gone now, and they have left Kevin to take care of the estate, to keep the Von Erich name from becoming a footnote in wrestling’s scant history books. Even now, he and his late brother Mike’s ex-wife have begun putting the family history on a Website. It’s a sort of "virtual museum," as Kevin calls it, a cybershrine to the glory days.

"I never really wanted to wrestle. I kinda figured I’d enjoyed it and would do it one day when I retired from football."

Kevin is 40 years old now, the lone survivor of the Von Erich legend. He has outlived his five brothers and just buried his father, who died of cancer two months ago. Kevin rarely goes public with his grief, acting as if his personal loss belongs to someone else. He speaks about his father and brothers almost as though they were out of town for a while, gone on a trip and due to return at any moment.

"I don’t know what some kind of psychologist would say," he explains, emitting a quick grunt you might mistake for a chuckle. "I do just pretend it never happened, and it works fine for me."

But then why build a monument to your memories? Why attempt to preserve the very pain that has stalked you your entire life? His tragedy isn’t virtual; it’s remarkably real. Kevin claims the Website is all about making money, but get him talking about the past, chronicling his losses, and it becomes obvious: Kevin Von Erich is still wrestling—only this time with his demons.

The Von Erichs were once this town’s ubiquitous heroes, authentic good guys in a sport filled with cartoon evil. Even patriarch Jack Adkisson, better known as the goose-stepping, Nazi-sympathizing Fritz Von Erich, became a hero—a good businessman who helped turn wrestling into a million-dollar enterprise, a good Christian who spoke in front of church groups, a good father who had no answers for why his boys died before he did.

"Fritz Von Erich" became the creation of a boy from a small Texas town who moved to Dallas when he was in his teens. Jack was a track star at Crozier Tech, then a football hero at SMU, where he shared the field with Kyle Rote—until he married his wife, Doris, and lost his scholarship. He took all sorts of jobs after college—working as a loan collector, a fireman, anything to make money. In 1952, when he heard there was going to be a pro football team in Dallas, the Texans of the old AFL, Jack signed up. He didn’t last more than a couple of preseason games—his knees were too bad for football.

At the suggestion of an acquaintance, Jack then hopped on the pro-wrestling circuit. And he was awful, losing every one of his early bouts during a time when wrestlers were coming out of college; it was, for a moment in the 1950s, still a sport. It was hard to imagine that Jack Adkisson, who was once a golden, handsome man, would wind up becoming Fritz Von Erich—the German Bomber, the man whose Iron Claw grip could dead-stop any comer.

By the 1970s, Jack had become one of the pioneers in modern wrestling. He leased out the Sportatorium, formed World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW), brought multiple cameras into the arena, and launched a televised wrestling revolution. During the early to mid-‘80s on Saturday mornings, young boys and their fathers and grandfathers around Dallas would turn on Channel 39 to watch the Von Erich brothers tangle with the Freebirds or Ric Flair. Young women filled the Sportatorium, which even then was a decaying venue, and screamed in delight. They adored the boys’ good looks, their athleticism, the way they destroyed the bad guys with such grace and charm.

And this was just in Dallas. Around the world, the Von Erichs were even bigger. By 1983, long before Vince McMahon took control of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and Hulk Hogan had become a household name, the Adkissons were millionaires, owning homes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and parcels of land all over North and East Texas. They drew 40,000 to Texas Stadium for wrestling matches. They met presidents of foreign countries. They often couldn’t go out in public without causing scenes.

Kerry, his hair feathered and flowing, was like a comic-book rock star; he was all locks and muscle. David, a walking grin, was the cowboy of the lot, as hard as the Texas ground upon which he and his brothers were raised. Kevin, his feet always bare, came off as the brother whose gimmick was that he didn’t have one. In the world of pro wrestling, where ugly men passed themselves off as pretty boys in wigs and makeup and skin-tight leather, the Von Erich boys emerged as clean-cut warriors. They never fought dirty. They loved family, God, and their fans.

Jack Adkisson didn’t necessarily want his boys to follow him into the ring—and they, in turn, were determined not to become wrestlers—if they could help it.

Kevin received a scholarship at North Texas State University, where he showed great promise at fullback and defensive end. While playing under legendary coach Hayden Fry, he injured his knee during a game. It took him four months to recuperate, but then he ruined the other knee while trying to catch a pass thrown too far behind him. Like his father, Kevin was relegated to the sidelines.

"It was so natural to me to watch my dad get in the ring and wrestle and want to do the same thing," Kevin says. "We all did. Of course, I never really wanted to wrestle. I kinda figured I’d enjoy it and would do it one day when I retired from football...But then I had two big knee surgeries... After that, I had to play football in these braces, and it took the fun out of it. Just firing out of my stance was a bitch. That was the beginning of the end."

David was a two-sport athlete at NTSU, where he too received a scholarship. He played basketball and football. According to Kirk Dooley, who in 1987 wrote The Von Erich Family Album: Tragedies and Triumphs of America’s First Family of Wrestling, Kevin liked to give David a hard time about playing basketball, telling his younger brother it was "a sissy sport."

But it was Kerry, who was born 11 months after Jack and Doris Adkisson lost their first child, who seemed destined to make his mark in the athletic world. Like his father, who was a record-holder in the discus at Southern Methodist University, Kerry was one hell of a hurler. Jack, acting as his son’s coach, made Kerry study films of Kerry’s workouts and dragged his kid down to the ring they erected on the family property. While at the University of Houston, Kerry broke the junior world record—and shattered a longstanding Southwest Conference record held by his father.

Kerry was primed to attend the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, but then Jimmy Carter got political and boycotted the games. There was nothing for Kerry to do except go into wrestling.

Contrary to myth, Jack didn’t push his boys into wrestling. It merely became their best option. Like so many young men who try to escape their father’s shadow, the Adkisson boys fell backward into the family business.

And Jack, especially in his later years—after David died of an intestinal infection in Japan, after Mike overdosed on painkillers, after Chris and Kerry shot themselves—often spoke as though he wished they hadn’t gotten into the sport.

"Some people say I pushed those boys into wrestling, and wrestling killed them—like I killed them," Jack said in 1993. "Killed them? I loved those boys. I didn’t force them to be wrestlers. I wanted something good for them, and I’d rather they had gone into one of the professions, but when they wanted to be wrestlers, I helped them. But wrestling didn’t kill them. Different things killed them."

Still, had David not been wrestling in Japan when he fell gravely ill in 1984, perhaps he would have lived.

Had Mike not been wrestling, he might not have injured his arm in 1985, had surgery, then contracted the toxic-shock syndrome that ruined his body and drove him to suicide two years later.

Had Chris not wanted to wrestle so badly, he might not have shot himself in 1991 for being so much smaller, so much weaker, than his brothers.

Had Kerry not been wrestling, he might not have become addicted to the painkillers he took to ease the pain in an ankle he wrecked in a motorcycle accident in 1986. He might not have become despondent over the prosthetic foot he had to wear, one that made him limp horribly as he walked into the ring. He might not have gone to his parents’ ranch in 1993 and shot himself in the heart.

Then there was little Jackie. Jack often blamed himself for his first-born’s death. He was convinced that if he had been home and not out on the road, wrestling in Ohio, then he could have prevented the child’s horrific death by electrocution and drowning.

Oh, yes. Wrestling made the Von Erichs famous. It made them rich. It provided them with great expanses of land. It made them household names from the U.S. to Israel to Africa to South America.

But if wrestling didn’t kill Jack’s boys, it sure as hell didn’t help them stay alive.

"Some people say I pushed those boys into wrestling, and wrestling killed them—like I killed them. Killed them? I loved those boys."

Kevin believes the Von Erich family story would make one hell of a movie. "You put wrestling as the backdrop, but the human story is unbelievable...It’s funny, and it’s sad, and it’s an emotional roller coaster. I would think it’s what a movie producer would be looking for. Why the heck aren’t they knocking on my door?" He says this as though forgetting for the moment that it is his story he’s retelling, his loss.

He already has the opening scenes of a film sketched out in his head. Before the opening credits roll, there’s nothing but absolute darkness; the setting is the moment when nighttime black turns to early-morning dawn. The only thing you can hear is the sound of duck wings flapping and whistling in the distance.

Then, a gruff, booming voice explodes in the foreground: Let’s get ‘em!. In an instant, the whistling of wings and the pitch black gives way to the thunder and flash of shotgun blasts.

"There’s gunfire all over," Kevin says, his voice rising in excitement. "Then The Von Erich Story pops up. I thought that sounded like a cool opening. The movie would start off with us as little kids—we had some funny stories—and then go on with our lives."

It’s odd to hear Adkisson use that phrase—and then go on with our lives—if only because his brothers really never had a chance to go on with their lives. They were all dead well before the age of 35, most dying while in their 20s.

The deaths began as accidental tragedies. Jack might have said they were the acts of God, if he truly believed in such things. He became born-again only after his sons began dying. Jack needed to believe the deaths had meaning, that his boys weren’t disappearing pointlessly.

Jackie Adkisson, born September 21, 1952, at Baylor University Hospital, was the first to be born—and the first to die. His death occurred when he was just seven years old, when his father was on his way back from a wrestling match in Cleveland. Jack and Doris were living in Niagara Falls at the time. Their place of residence was a mobile home, a sign of how transient their lives had been while Fritz Von Erich looked for his legend.

A man in the mobile-home park had been rewiring his trailer, and he left some wire exposed that night—wire still full of juice. Jackie had been playing at a friend’s when, on his way home, he put his hand on the trailer. He was electrocuted—then fell to the ground unconscious. There, he drowned in a puddle of melting snow.

Jack blamed himself—blamed his long trips on the road, the lifestyle of the professional wrestler always looking for a better show in a bigger town. He was convinced that had he been there that night, his son would have lived. He tried to find God, but only found that he, too, wanted to die.

"I can’t imagine what it’d be like to lose a baby at that age," says Kevin, who was two when his older brother died. "Any radical behavior on my parents’ part would have to be excused after that kind of grief."

Jack, by his own admission, became "pretty mean." He turned into a strict disciplinarian, quick to take the switch to the boys when they misbehaved, broke windows, didn’t do their work around the house. Jackie’s death nearly destroyed him until he took the family back to Texas in 1960; it was time to settle down, to give up the nomadic life. He still traveled, but his family now had a proper home in Dallas—the town where Fritz Von Erich would become, finally, a star.

Jackie’s death also changed the way his father approached his career. Fritz Von Erich suddenly became a dangerous wrestler. The man who had lost his first 18 matches—not all were staged back then, especially for some guy who was just slumming it to pay the rent—became a nightmare in the squared circle.

"He didn’t fear anything. He was just ferocious, and it showed," says Kevin. "He projected it because it was there."

Jack began appearing on a Channel 4 Saturday wrestling show, then at the Sportatorium, a low-rent operation that Jack transformed on the strength of his reputation as a local hero. Fritz was still a young man, in fighting form and killer shape, and he had learned much from his eight years spent bouncing from one hellhole to another in search of a few hundred bucks. He formed the WCCW and brought in name wrestlers from all over the country, long-standing favorites such as Verne Gagne, Wladek "Killer" Kowalski, Antonio Rocca, Bruno Sammartino. He then televised their performances from Texas up to Chicago, Minnesota, New York, and dozens of other Northern and Midwestern markets.

(to be concluded in The WAWLI Papers No. 245)
____________________________________________


The WAWLI Papers #245...

WRESTLING WITH TRAGEDY (CONCLUSION)

(Dallas Observer, November 20-26, 1997)

By Robert Wilonsky

(Ed. Note—At this stage in the story, just as "Fritz Von Erich begins to change the manner in which professional wrestling is promoted, he has lost but one son, Jackie, then an infant. Kevin is the oldest of five other boys. Now, after a remarkable series of events, Kevin is the lone survivor of wrestling’s most star-crossed family. This is the concluding portion of the story which began in The WAWLI Papers No. 244.)

Back then, in the early 1960s, wrestling was for adults and still something of a sport, the outcome not always scripted in advance. It had yet to become populated by fat men sporting costumes and freaks who weighed nearly 500 pounds. The days of Hulk Hogan making children’s movies and Captain Lou Albano appearing in music videos was still a long way off. Ted Turner did not yet own World Class Wrestling (WCW).

Yet as much as Jack revered the traditions of wrestling, he helped end the era as well. When his boys began wrestling on Channel 39, young kids began showing up to the Sportatorium. Beer sales turned to soft drinks; the children wanted autographed pictures of their heroes, wanted to jump in the ring and have the Von Erich boys feel how strong their muscles were.

Almost in an instant, the grown-up world of wrestling became children’s TV—and a huge business. Television created thousands of markets, where before there had only been hundreds. Promoters no longer cared about making money through ticket sales; they had to put on productions, gaudy spectacles, in order to attract ratings and advertisers. The new breed of promoters needed superheroes and supervillains, Batman and the Joker duking it out in front of the cameras.

When television became big, Kevin says, "wrestling didn’t depend on the gate anymore. We got in there and just rocked. We gave it all we had, so that in the mornings after the match, we were sore and felt like we had done our jobs. So we would get in the ring and break teeth and bones."

The boys began paying the price for their hard work. Kevin started shooting up with painkillers while in his late teens; his knees, ruined by football, throbbed almost non-stop. David and Kerry also began using drugs to numb the aching.

"We were taking shots of deadener in our knees every Monday night before wrestling, and that would last a few days," Kevin says. "It was just a fact of life. If you make athletics your business, it’s a tough business, and you have to have your body as your vehicle. You have to have it in good working order, and if it doesn’t work, you’ve got to put deadener in there and make it work. We abused our bodies."

Whenever the phone rings early in the morning, Kevin will, in an instant, wake from a deep sleep and answer the phone. He will, as he says, simply "freak out," so sure someone is calling to deliver the worst of news.

At dawn on February 10, 1984, Kevin received the call that his brother David had died in Japan. The family knew he was sick when he left to wrestle in Tokyo, but Jack and Doris never imagined a small flu would evolve so quickly into an intestinal inflammation that would, in a painful instant, take their 25-year-old son’s life.

Just like that, another son was dead—and part of the business was now gone, the Von Erich who was perhaps the best wrestler in the family. The 6-foot-7 David—who had cultivated the image of the cowboy, never appearing without his black hat and leather vest—was the son who had turned out most like his old man. David, who was at once goofy-looking with his mangy red hair and imposing, had mastered Fritz’s Iron Claw...and delivered it with a smile.

Most thought David would become the Von Erich franchise while his other brothers came into their own. In May of 1984, David was scheduled to beat Ric Flair in the National Wrestling Alliance heavyweight championship. He never got the chance to take the title from Flair; instead, Kerry won the belt in front of more than 40,000 at Texas Stadium.

"All the other deaths were terrible; they were bad, but nothing was like that first one."

"I’m still not over Dave’s death yet," Kevin says, the first signs of emotion peeking through the curtain. "That was the worst one. In 1984, when I got that phone call in the morning..."

He pauses, then looks down at the table. He reaches for a tortilla chip. "All the other deaths were terrible; they were bad, but nothing was like that first one. It was like something in me, like...I don’t know."

Kevin looks up and flashes a sad sort of smile. "It hurt to the point where it couldn’t hurt anymore. I didn’t shut down or anything. It’s not like I lost my ability to love or be soft or enjoy music or art or anything. But something in there just...like...I don’t know how to put it. Maybe it was a protective defense mechanism or something."

David’s death was, in one sense, bad for business. But it did allow Mike—an average-looking kid who didn’t have his brothers’ rough good looks or fiery, athletic style—a chance to step up, to fill the void as the third brother in the act. But in 1985, during a match in Israel, he dislocated his shoulder. During surgery to correct the injury, he contracted toxic-shock syndrome, which sent his temperature soaring to 107.

Somehow Mike survived—his parents referred to his recovery as a miracle—but he struggled for months to regain his strength. His body, once so resilient, rejected the workouts. He was in constant pain—and shamed by his failure. His falling apart became public: He stumbled when in the ring and turned against his family, once attacking his own father. Later, he was arrested in Fort Worth when he got into a fight with another driver at a stop light.

Addicted to painkillers and tranquilizers, he was arrested for driving while under the influence of drugs on April 12, 1987. He was released on bond, then disappeared two days later.

On April 17, his family found the 23-year-old in a sleeping bag near Lake Dallas. He had killed himself with Placidyl, tranquilizers prescribed to him by a Fort Worth doctor who had been treating Mike. Beside the corpse was a note in which Mike said he was going to meet David in a better place. In the note, Mike also wrote that he was "a fuck-up."

At the funeral, Kerry issued a statement. "I am so glad Mike is with David now. Mike never really liked to be alone." Not long after Mike died, Kerry left the family business and went under contract to the WWF—much against the wishes of the family. The Adkissons abhorred the WWF’s "style," as Kevin calls it, the all-spectacle-no-sport wrestling practiced by Vince McMahon’s stable of cartoon characters. Kerry became The Texas Tornado, another silly trademarked name. It wasn’t good enough just to be a Von Erich.

Kevin, exhausted now by the toll the sport had taken on his family, began looking for a way out. "After Mike had died, we pretty much—well, I especially—had lost my zest for wrestling," he says. "It just wasn’t fun. It was bad memories."

Of course, they would only get worse.

Of all the brothers, only Chris truly loved wrestling—and yet he was the one who would never make a career in the family business. Chris was too small too wrestle—a mere 5-foot-5 and 175 pounds—too frail from asthma and the medication that stunted his growth and made his bones fragile.

To the rest of the brothers, all of whom had athletic aspirations outside the ring—wrestling was just a business, a way to kill time during off-seasons. They were forced into the ring only after circumstances conspired against them. But Chris wanted to wrestle—if only, Kevin says, because he could not.

"He had so much pressure, but not from us," Kevin says. "He had pressure from himself and maybe from the fans, too. Sometimes fans can be cruel. They don’t know what they’re doing, but they can say things like, ‘Hey, are you gonna be a wrestler when you grow up?’ and things like that. They would just crush Chris, because he never got tall and healthy."

Kevin recalls one night in Little Rock, during one of Chris’ rare appearances in the ring, how he taught his younger brother to perform a drop kick—a Von Erich specialty. The brothers would leap into the air, get horizontal with the mat, wrap their legs around an opponent’s neck and send him crashing to the canvas. Somehow, in the middle of violence real or staged, the Von Erichs always seemed to fall with grace.

During a match in Texas shortly after that lesson, Chris and Kevin were a tag team, and Chris was in the ring. Kevin recalls how Chris hit his opponent, then raised his arm to block the man’s retaliatory shot. When the wrestler hit him, Chris’ arm snapped—it was broken, the bone so brittle from the prednisone he was taking for his asthma.

"I heard a pop, and I said, ‘Chris, tag me,’ and he goes, ‘No, wait, I’m gonna do my drop kick,’" Kevin recalls. "I said, ‘No, Chris, no!’ Well, a drop kick would have been perfect, but he couldn’t do it. I could tell his arm was broken. But he threw his drop kick anyway, and he fell and broke his other bone, too—the radius and the ulna. Broke ‘em both. It was too bad that it just wasn’t to be for Chris. He had heart, though."

Chris became too weak and too injured to wrestle. In September 1991, after loading up on cocaine and Valium, the 21-year-old took his own life with a 9mm pistol. He killed himself on the family’s farm, a mere 300 feet from the dream home Jack had built for his wife. Kevin found his brother lying near a pile of old Indian relics that Chris and Mike had once collected.

There was also a suicide note, which read: "It’s nobody’s fault. I’ll be with my brothers."

In 1993, his mother told The Dallas Morning News that Chris’ death was, in all likelihood, almost an accident. She believed he was "toying with the idea when the gun went off," and she didn’t believe "the note he left was written with conviction."

Kevin also never thought Chris meant to kill himself. To believe that a second brother had died by his own hand was just too difficult for him to accept.

By the early 1990s, Kevin Von Erich was almost wiped out by wrestling. The business had changed dramatically since the birth of Jack’s WCCW. Now he had the mighty WWF and WCW to contend with, each with their cushy cable-TV deals and marketing gimmicks. The regional promoters were dying in the hinterlands, losing their audiences and their wrestlers—to the Vince McMahons and Ted Turners of the wrestling world.

Jack had enough of wrestling after Mike’s death. He no longer wanted to book his sons, and his business sense began to fail him. Fed up, he turned the Sportatorium over to Kevin and Kerry—who then teamed up with a Tennessee-based promoter named Jerry Jarrett. The brothers ended up suing Jarrett, claiming he had swindled money from the WCCW and cut the brothers out of bookings in the very organization they had helped build. Jarrett contended that he had rescued the WCCW, that the brothers weren’t showing up for bookings, and that when they did, "they were not in a physical or mental condition to wrestle."

The suit was eventually dropped, but Jarrett likely had a point. Kerry was off in the WWF, and Kevin had exhausted himself trying to keep up the bookings in his brothers’ absence. Sometimes he would wrestle three times a day in three different small towns; he became the franchise, the sole paycheck. Either Kevin fulfilled the obligations, or the family went broke.

Kevin found himself shooting up more and more with painkiller. He limped through the day and faked his way to victory in the ring. He took matches he shouldn’t have, risking more concussions and injuries.

"Money was the only thing I got out of it," Kevin says. "But money was enough, because it was money for the family. The family was hurtin’. With the brothers going down, the family needed me. So you just dig down and get it, pull it out."

A bad concussion caused Kevin to be banned from wrestling in Texas, so he decided he’d just fight in Japan instead. "Over there, there are all those kickboxers," recalls Kevin, "and they like to kick you in the ribs and in the head. Well, the first night, the first match, my back was to the referee...and I got kicked right in the ear, and it was a terrible concussion. And so I had headaches, I was throwing up all the time, so the injuries are what made me get out of it."

Kerry was also in no shape to wrestle, much less walk. The motorcycle accident he suffered in 1986 had cost him his foot—and, in the process, turned him into a drug addict. By 1991, his wife of a decade, Cathy, left him and took their two daughters. She demanded he pay $2,500 a month in child support—which was nowhere near what he was spending on cocaine.

He was arrested in 1992 in Richardson for forging prescriptions for Vicodin and Valium. After a stint in the Betty Ford Clinic, he received a 10-year probated sentence. Four months later, on January 13, 1993, the cops pulled him over and found cocaine and a syringe in his car.

On February 18, 33-year-old Kerry went out to his father’s house, secretly took a pistol he had given to Jack as a Christmas present, borrowed his Jeep, and drove out into the mesquite. He put a single .44-caliber bullet into his heart.

Kerry had warned Kevin he was going to kill himself—though Kevin couldn’t bring himself to warn his father. Why upset the old man if Kerry was just bluffing? But it wasn’t as though Kerry hid his suicidal longings: He dropped hints, left notes, and whispered to those around him that he was thinking of ending his life. But no one believed someone as strong as Kerry, who was the closest of all the sons to Jack, would actually become the third Adkisson boy to kill himself. Such things just don’t—can’t—happen. Only they did.

The last time Kevin wrestled in Dallas was shortly after Kerry’s death. Promoters at the Sportatorium scheduled a Kerry Von Erich memorial match and asked Kevin to attend, though he wanted no part of it. He was sick of wrestling, sick to death of it. His family had disappeared in just a few short years—no way in hell he was going near the Sportatorium, a place packed with memories that were beginning to rot.

"I sure hated that, but I did come back and wrestle," Kevin says. "It was hard to get into that ring. I can’t explain it. It was hard to do it...It just brought up those memories of the brothers and all that."

After his career ended, Kevin spent much of his time with his family and his father, watching the legend fade into shadow. Doris and Jack were divorced in July 1992, a year before Kerry’s death, and Kevin could never figure out how Jack had withstood losing his family. Although Jack had lost so much, he had still held onto his home in Denton County and a net worth estimated at more than $600,000.

On July 25 of this year, Jack suffered a stroke and was diagnosed with brain cancer. He knew he didn’t have long to live, and he welcomed death, said he was anxious for the chance to see his sons again.

As always, Kevin was there for his father, even though Jack, though never in any pain, was "hard to be around," fluctuating between being moody and distant. Jack and Kevin rarely spoke about the many tragedies they had both suffered—they didn’t have to.

On September 8, Kevin and Jack were at Jack’s house watching Monday Night Football when, during the fourth quarter, Jack began suffering enough for Kevin to call the nurse to administer morphine. Jack slept throughout the following day, then died quietly and quickly on Wednesday.

"He got out with no pain at all, and you have to think that’s a good thing," Kevin says. "I’ve visited people that were suffering so bad it would take me weeks to get over it. But see, like, I’m telling you all this sad stuff. I guarantee you’ve got sad stuff too."

Now Kevin begins the task of collecting that sad stuff and showing it to the world. He and Mike’s ex-wife are now assembling the family history and posting it on the Website, which is located, appropriately enough, at www.vonerich.com. There, Kevin will provide pictures and bios of his brothers and father, celebrating their place in pro-wrestling history—not as tragedies, he hopes, but as heroes. He will sell old videotapes of the brothers and Fritz; Jack had left behind hundreds of black-and-white reels of old wrestling films, which Kevin one day hopes to market on the Website.

"Someone asked me if I wanted to do the Website as a way to keep my brothers alive," Kevin says. "I said, ‘No, not necessarily.’ I just think it was a hell of a wrestling show, and I’d like people to see it."

Kevin often says that when people first meet him these days, they treat him as though he is "a ghost." There are those who wonder why he is not dead or how he kept from becoming another dead Von Erich. That is why he is willing, not necessarily happy, to rehash the past one more time. If nothing else, he shrugs, maybe someone can learn something from his tragic story. Meanwhile, he is still trying to figure it out for himself.

"I’m from the country, and last winter, there were persimmons growing on the tree," Kevin recalls. "Well, persimmons drop off during the winter. They fall to the ground and rot. The wind was blowing hard on this one persimmon, and it hadn’t fallen off—and it was the dead of winter. I was thinking, ‘I’m like that persimmon. I’m not going to let go of the vine. The wind’s blowing, it’s killing me, but I’m not going to let go.’

"I didn’t have a choice. What was I supposed to do? Lay down and die? I’m a family man. I have kids. There were times when I thought, ‘I can’t stand any more of this.’ But I think God strengthened me, and I can take it. It’s great now. I have everything a man could want. I have children, I have a beautiful wife who takes care of my kids so I’m free to do the dad things—like play catch and things like that. I think things couldn’t be better for me."

Minutes later, as if on cue, the cellular phone next to him rings. It’s his son. He has been sick in bed all day with a cold. He wants his dad to come home.

(Ed. note—This story can be accessed, in its entirety, at the Von Erich family wrestling web site, located at: http://www.vonerich.com -- It is worth the visit. Be sure to read the career histories of brothers Kevin, David, Kerry, Mike and Chris.)
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