The WAWLI Papers #
TWENTY-SECOND COUNT DEBUTS IN LOS ANGELES
(New York Post, December 27, 1928)
By William Morris, "Around the Ring"
In a wrestling match between Strangler Lewis and Joe Malcewicz in Los Angeles last week, the timekeeper counted every time either of the principals went through the ropes. Under a recent ruling of the California State Athletic Commission, grapplers must return to the mat inside of twenty seconds, or a fall will be registered against them.
STRANGLER ARRIVES IN BOSTON FOR TITLE BOUT
(Associated Press, December 28, 1928)
BOSTON -- Ed "Strangler" Lewis, who is to defend his heavyweight wrestling title against Gus Sonnenberg at the Boston Garden on January 4, began training yesterday for the championship mat contest. Lewis has engaged Stanley Stasiak and Ned Maguire as wrestling partners.
UPON REVISITING WITH THE PACHYDERMS
(New York Herald Tribune, Sunday, January 2, 1949)
By Rud Rennie, "Another Viewpoint"
At breakfast, I casually mentioned that I was going to take an early train to the city to keep an appointment with a guy to try to get enough out of him to write a column about wrestling. My wife paused in the act of biting a muffin.
"What guy?" she asked. I said: "Toots Mondt," and she said: "Oh, no!" as if I had suggested we paint the ceiling pink.
"He's the one who made people so mad they always threw chairs at him, isn't he?" she asked, putting down the muffin and looking disturbed.
"Not always," I said. "Sometimes they threw chairs at the Duseks. Anyway, he hasn't been wrestling for a long time."
"I don't care," said my wife. "You know what happens when you mix with wrestlers. Listen," she pleaded, "I'll even let you fix the lamp if you'll promise not to do this thing."
the last time I fixed a lamp, I blew out a fuse and every light in the house went out, and the heat went off, and so did the stove on which dinner was cooking. I did not like this reference to a little mistake I had made. "Don't be silly," I said.
"I'm not being silly," my wife insisted. "Do you remember the time you went to interview George Bothner and you asked him to show you the best thing to do if ever you were in a jam, and he grabbed you by the coat lapels and butted you in the face and came up with his knee and you couldn't walk for three days?"
"And do you remember the time you got into an argument with young Zbyszko and you were going to show him how to break a headlock and you came home with one ear folded over?"
"And do you remember the time you went to interview Strangler Lewis?"
"Aw, wait a minute. I learned something..."
"Sure," retorted by wife, "and you also had the muscles pulled out of place in your chest. And that Armenian, or Turk, or whatever he was, in St. Louis, the one you didn't believe could hurt anybody by squeezing the lower lip. Do you remember the size of your lip?"
"I still don't think..."
"You can put a period right there," said my wife. "No.You just stay away from wrestlers, because you are always getting up to have them show you something and then I have you on my hands for a week, rubbing you with linment.
"I'm warning you," said my wife, as I caught the early train to interview Toots Mondt. "We've got a party we're going to and I have had my hair done and I don't want any trouble with you."
Toots, a lot heavier than when he was a rough and ready "villain" on the wrestling mats, got to talking about Farmer Burns and Frank Gotch and John Pesek and Earl Caddock and Joe Stecher and Jim Londos and the time Stanley, the elder Zybyszko, consented to wrestle Taro Miyaki, jui-jitsu style, wearing canvas jackets, in London.
Taro was no good at catch as catch can; but Zbyszko was no good at jui-jitsu.
"Zbyszko," said Mondt, "didn't have a chance."
"What did Taro do?" I asked.
"Well," said Mondt, getting up from his chair. "You know they were wearing those jackets and -- stand up a minute...."
Mondt grasped the left side of my coat collar with his left hand and the right side of the coat collar with his right hand and pulled, putting pressure on both sides of the neck.
"Presently," said Mondt, "you lose consciousness."
He released the hold, and continued: "You can't work close on those Jap wrestlers. You gotta stay away from them. they know too many ways of hurting you. Here -- grab me by the throat like you were going to choke me. That's it .. . . Now -- "
Toots reached out and quickly grasped the fingers of my right hand and twisted it backward.
And that is when it happened. It was just a sharp twinge at the time. the conversation ended pleasantly in mutual admiration of the terrific pressure the Strangler could apply with a headlock, and what Stecher could do to a man when he really went to work with a body scissors.
But -- I shall do my celebrating with my left hand and my wife is not speaking to me. It seems that she had her hair done and wanted to look cute; although, for the life of me, I can't see what that has got to do with it.
(ED. NOTE--the following is cribbed from Solie's Vintage Wrestling page, located at: http://members.aol.com/solie11/worldt.html)
THE WORLD TITLES: HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
By Matt Benaka
Part 1: Lineage
It is no secret that the two most widely recognized World titles are those of world championship Wrestling (WCW) and the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). My series will attempt to analyze the two titles and evaluate who has a truer claim to the world heavyweight title. In order to reach this end, I will evaluate the title's lineages, the former champions, the conduct and performance of former champions, an evaluation of both titles over the last year, and my conclusion.
The first in the series will be lineage of the titles. First, there is WCW.
The WCW world heavyweight title came into existence on 01/11/91 in East Rutherford, NJ. Ric Flair defeated Sting to win the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) world heavyweight title. With the NWA no longer operating as an organization, Flair was recognized as the first WCW world heavyweight champion. While six years is a brief amount of time to have existed, WCW does have deep roots. As was stated, WCW emerged from the NWA.
There are several important dates to remember in NWA history. the first NWA world heavyweight champion was crowned during October of 1948. His name was Orville Brown, and he was the reigning Kansas City based Midwest Wrestling Association (MWA) world heavyweight champion. When the MWA merged with the newly formed NWA, Brown was recognized as the first NWA world heavyweight champion. 11/01/49 was the day
that Brown's career was ended. He was in an automobile accident and was forced to forfeit his title to the National Wrestling Association (NWA) world heavyweight champion, Lou Thesz. the two were slated to face off on 11/25/49 in a unification match in St. Louis, MO. However, Thesz was awarded the NWA world heavyweight title on 11/27/49. This forced the National Wrestling Association world heavyweight title to become abandoned.
Let's not forget about the MWA. This was the Kansas City based version of the MWA World title. the first MWA world champion was crowned on 01/19/40 when Bobby Bruns defeated Orville Brown in Kansas City, KS. Unlike the NWA, the MWA had no parent organization. Its history began in 1940 and continued until
the two titles were merged in 1948.
So far, WCW can trace their roots as far as 1940 and the MWA. Can we go further? You bet. Let's look at the National Wrestling Association. the first NWA world champion was Dick Shikat. He won the title on 08/23/29 after defeating Jim Londos in Philadelphia, PA. This title would continue until 11/27/49 when Lou Thesz unified the NWA World title with the National Wrestling Alliance World title.
Now WCW can trace themselves back to 1929. Trust me, it goes much deeper than that. Those are the titles that it is easiest to link WCW to. Now, if one were to connect all the different World titles and the different unifications, it would be possible to trace the WCW history back to 01/19/1880. On that day, William Muldoon defeated Thiebaud Bauer in New York, NY for the first American Greco-Roman title. Muldoon would go on to retire as champion on 12/31/1891.
Ernest Roeber defeated Apollo to win the vacant title sometime during 1892. On 03/14/1887, Evan "Strangler" Lewis defeated Joe Acton in Chicago, IL to win the Catch-As-Catch-Can title. Joe Acton had been the first Catch-As-Catch-Can champion by defeating Tom Cannon on 12/09/1881 in London, England. In New Orleans, LA on 03/02/1893, Evan "Strangler" Lewis and Ernest Roeber would make wrestling history. the American Greco-Roman champion and the Catch-As-Catch-Can champion faced off in a best of five falls unification match in which both the greco-roman and catch-as-catch-can styles were used. Lewis came out on top and unified the two titles into the American Heavyweight title.
On 04/03/1908, the reigning American Heavyweight champion, Frank Gotch, defeated the world heavyweight champion, George Hackenschmidt, in Chicago, IL to unify the American title with the world heavyweight title.
the world heavyweight title was last held by Steve "Crusher" Casey on 02/11/38. Casey was also the Massachusetts based American Wrestling Association (AWA) world heavyweight champion. Thus, the World and AWA World titles merged together and the AWA version remained. This would not always be so. On 07/27/50, the AWA title was unified with National Wrestling Alliance title. Lou Thesz defeated Gorgeous George in Chicago, IL , and the AWA version was scrapped. then, of course, the NWA would merge into the WCW. So, we are able to trace the WCW world heavyweight title as far back as January 19, 1880.
You are probably thinking that the WWF could never match that. You may be surprised. the WWF has been around longer than WCW. they broke away from the NWA in 1963. While WCW merged from the NWA, WWF left on bad terms. Buddy Rogers had lost the NWA World title to Lou Thesz on 01/24/63. Several promoters contested that Rogers' loss had been in a one fall match, and the title could only change hands in a two out of three falls match. So, the disgruntled promoters broke from the NWA, formed the World Wide Wrestling
Federation (WWWF) and crowned Buddy Rogers as their first champion. In breaking from the NWA, the WWWF, later named the WWF, has the same history as the WCW. the only difference is that WCW can claim all the NWA champions, while the WWF can only claim the champions up until Rogers.
That brings me to the next issue, former champions of each federation. Let's look at the scorecard after issue one. the question is who has a longer lineage. the answer is that they have the same lineage. This issue is a tie. I hope you enjoyed this brief breakdown of the title's histories. See you next time.........
Part 2: the Personalities
Last time, I looked at the lineage of the WWF and WCW world heavyweight titles. This chapter is devoted to the former champions of each promotion. I will start from the first champion of each organization and work my way down the list. I will provide the length of each reign, and any oddities surrounding these reigns.
First we will look at WCW's former champions. the first champion was "the Nature Boy" Ric Flair. As was explained in issue 1, Flair defeated Sting for the NWA world heavyweight title on January 11, 1991 in East Rutherford, NJ. With the NWA no longer operating as an organization, Flair was recognized as the first WCW world heavyweight champion. He would be stripped of the title on July 01, 1991 when he was fired by WCW after signing a contract with the WWF. His reign lasted 5 months and 22 days.
WCW now had a vacant World title. Flair was supposed to defend the World title against the United States Heavyweight champion, Lex Luger, in a steel cage. With Flair gone, and the title vacant, WCW inserted the number one contender, Barry Windham, to face Luger in the cage and fill the vacancy. Thus, on July 14, 1991, Lex Luger, with help from his new manager, Harley Race, and his bodyguard, Mr. Hughes, defeated Barry Windham for the vacant world heavyweight title. An interesting fact about Luger's title win is that, while he did winthe WCW world heavyweight title, he did not win the WCW world heavyweight title Belt. the belt that had been used by Flair was the property of "the Nature Boy", and he took it with him to the WWF. Since WCW only had fourteen days between Flair's departure and Luger's win, they didn't have enough time to have the new belt created. In short, WCW had to pull a bait and switch.
While the usual scene after a World title win is that of celebration in the ring, Luger made a hasty retreat to the locker room. the reason for this was that the belt he was presented was the old NWA Florida Heavyweight title with a makeshift plate so that people wouldn't notice. Luger won a World title from a man that wasn't a champion and was awarded a belt that was formerly a regional title. A new belt was created during Lex's reign and was the first belt to say WCW world heavyweight title on it. Flair's title had merely said world heavyweight Wrestling champion. Well, Lex would continue this awkward reign for 7 months and 17 days.
Who better to take the title from Lex than his former best friend, Sting? On February 29, 1992, Sting defeated Lex Luger to win the WCW world heavyweight title. This is an important reign for WCW as it is the first time that the WCW world heavyweight title was lost by the reigning WCW champion in the middle of the ring. This simple fact helped to restore some much needed credibility to the title. Sting's reign lasted 4 months and 13 days.
On July 12, 1992 Sting would lose the World title to the overpowering Big Van Vader. While Vader would do much for the WCW World title, it wouldn't be during this reign which only lasted 22 days. August 02, 1992 was Ron Simmons' greatest day. Sting was supposed to have a rematch with Vader for the World title, but Jake "the Snake" Roberts injured Sting earlier in the evening. So, not wanting to disappoint the fans, WCW
Commissioner Bill Watts put the names of the top contenders into a hat. He drew Simmons' name and one match later, Simmons' was the first black WCW world heavyweight champion. Simmons' style was a lot like a black version of Lex Luger. Needless to say, he would be WCW world champion for an even 5 months.
Vader was given a late Christmas gift. A few days removed from Starrcade, Ron Simmons gave Vader a rematch. It would be on this day, December 30, 1992 that Vader would win his second WCW World title. Now, he had a manager in the form of Harley Race, and he seemed unstoppable. Vader ushered in an aura of brutality the likes of which had not been seen in WCW before. As all good things, his reign would have to come to an end. After being the man for two months and 13 days, he lost the World title.
On March 11, 1994 Sting would become the second two time WCW world heavyweight champion by defeating Vader in London, England. This was the first time that the WCW world heavyweight title would change hands overseas. He would never get to show his World title to his fans back home, as his reign only lasted 7 days.
On March 17, 1994 Vader would become the first three time WCW world heavyweight champion when he defeated Sting in Dublin, Ireland to reclaim the title. This was the second time that the World title would change hands overseas. With Harley Race still guiding his career, Vader saw nothing but good times ahead. At least for a while. His third and final reign as champion lasted 9 months and 12 days.
Who better to beat the big man than "the Nature Boy" Ric Flair? Flair had returned to WCW and worked his way to a World title match with Vader at Starrcade. Flair vowed that if he did not win the WCW World title, he would retire from wrestling. It was December 27, 1993 when Flair became the third man to have captured this title on two occasions. His reign lasted 3 months and 28 days.
Oddly enough, Flair would be the next champion as well. A match with Ricky Steamboat on April 23, 1994 ended in a double pin situation. Flair would vacate the title and face Steamboat in a rematch for the vacant title. Thus, on April 24, 1994, Flair became the second man in WCW history to have held the world heavyweight title on three occasions by defeating Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat. During this reign, he took on "Sensuous" Sherri as his manager. He also unified the WCW world heavyweight title with the WCW International World
Heavyweight title. WCW had bought Flair's old world heavyweight title Belt from him and turned it back into the NWA world heavyweight title. then, WCW withdrew from the NWA and claimed the NWA world heavyweight title was now the WCW International world heavyweight title. Sting would be the eventual
International world champion. He would drop his belt to Flair in a unification match on June 23, 1994 at the Clash of the champions. the International title was abandoned in favor of the WCW world heavyweight title, and the WCW world heavyweight Belt was replaced by the International World Belt (Flair's old
belt). This reign lasted 2 months and 24 days.
On July 17, 1994 the "dream match of the '80s" occurred. It was on this day that Hulk Hogan would meet and defeat Ric Flair for the WCW world heavyweight title. With Jimmy Hart as his manager, he would hold the title for 1 year 3 months and 14 days.
On October 29, 1995 the Giant would win the World title. the contract had been written up so that the title could change hands on a disqualification. So, Jimmy Hart got Hogan disqualified and the Giant won the title. the Giant was stripped of the title on November 06, 1995 due to the nature of his victory. Jimmy Hart and Kevin Sullivan managed the Giant during his 9 day reign as champion.
The WCW executive committee had decided that a new world heavyweight champion would be crowned in a sixty man, three ring battle royal. "the Macho Man" Randy Savage would win the battle royal by eliminating the One Man Gang on November 26, 1995. Savage's reign lasted 1 month and 22 days. On December 27, 1995 Ric Flair would win the world heavyweight title for an unprecedented fourth occasion. Flair had defeated Sting and Luger in a triangle match earlier in the evening to determine who would get the subsequent title shot at Savage. Flair's fourth reign would last a mere 27 days.
Savage would become the fourth man in WCW history to win the World title in two occasions on January 22, 1996. He was managed by Miss Elizabeth during this 21 day reign. On February 11, 1996 Ric Flair became a five time world heavyweight champion by defeating Savage in a steel cage. Miss Elizabeth left Savage for Flair. So, the Nature Boy was led by Elizabeth and Woman for 2 months and 11 days as champion.
the Giant became the fifth two time champion on April 22, 1996. With Jimmy Hart still as his manager, the Giant had a reign that could only be compared to that of Big Van Vader. He dominated the likes of Flair, Luger, and Sting. His second reign lasted 3 months and 19 days.
Hulk Hogan would become the sixth two time champion on August 10, 1996. He was handed the title on a silver platter by Scott Hall and Kevin Nash who helped in distracting the champion and the referee as Hogan cheated his way to the world heavyweight title. He would be managed by Elizabeth, Ted Dibiase, and Eric Bischoff during his reign. the NWO would lose it's top prize though. Hogan would have his second reign ended by Lex Luger. During his second reign, he defended his title only 3 or 4 times, spray painted NWO across the World
title Belt, and seriously devalued the title. Lex Luger became the seventh man to wear the WCW world heavyweight title twice on August 04, 1997. He hoisted Hogan into the Human Torture Rack and made him
submit. During his time as champ, he removed the spray paint from the title belt and regained some credibility for this title. His second reign would go down as the shortest ever of a WCW world heavyweight champion as he lost the title after a mere 6 days.
Hulk Hogan would become the fourth man in federation history to wear the title on three occasions. On August 09, 1997 he used outside interference to dethrone Luger and regain his title. As it stands, Hogan is the reigning world champion of WCW.
That brings us to the WWF champions. In the beginning there was "the Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers. He had been NWA world champion, but lost the title in a one fall match to Lou Thesz. Several promoters felt that the title could only change hands in a two out of three falls encounter. Thus, the World Wide Wrestling Federation world heavyweight title was born during April of 1963. His would be a short reign though. After, approximately, 1 month and 17 days, Rogers was no longer champion. He would enter the ring to face Bruno Sammartino after having a heart attack in the locker room and lose the title in 48 seconds via submission.
That brings us to Bruno Sammartino. On May 17, 1963 he began a domination of the WWWF/WWF world heavyweight title that has yet to be matched. For 7 years 8 months and 3 days he faced, and defeated, the top wrestlers of his era. January 18, 1971 would be the day that Bruno would lose his title to Ivan Koloff. Koloff would be managed by Lou Albano during his 22 day reign as champion.
On February 08, 1971 Pedro Morales would win the WWWF world heavyweight title. It wouldn't remain the WWWF world heavyweight title though. During Morales' reign the WWWF joined the NWA. This reduced the WWWF Heavyweight title to a regional title. None the less, it was the top prize of the WWWF. Pedro's run as WWWF champion would last 2 years 9 months and 22 days.
December 01, 1973 was the day that the Grand Wizard would lead Stan "the Man" Stasiak to the WWWF Heavyweight title. His reign was a brief 10 days, but he will be forever remembered as a champion. Stasiak would fall victim to Bruno Sammartino. On December 10, 1973 Sammartino would defeat Stasiak to become the first two time WWWF champion. He would stand as the only two time champion for approximately 6 years. Bruno's second reign marked the first time that Arnold Skoaland would manage a WWWF/WWF champion. His second reign lasted 3 years 4 months and 22 days. His combined reigns add up to 11 years 1 month and 25 days. That is a mark that no one is likely to challenge for a very long time.
Sammartino's days as champion ended when a young, muscular, superstar named "Superstar" Billy Graham took the title. Graham would be managed by the Grand Wizard during a reign that lasted 9 months and 21 days. Graham would lose the WWWF title to a much different wrestler. While Graham was the muscular wrestler who relied on sheer power, Bob Backlund was a small man who relied on technical ability and his wits to win, and keep, the title. Backlund's date with destiny was February 20, 1978. During March of 1979 the
WWWF Heavyweight title was renamed the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) Heavyweight title. On March 25, 1979 Backlund wrestled to a double count-out against the Minnesota based American Wrestling Association (AWA) world heavyweight champion, Nick Bockwinkel, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. His first
reign as champion would last 1 year 9 months and 9 days.
While it still has yet to be recognized in North America, the next WWF Heavyweight champion would be Antonio Inoki. On November 30, 1979 he defeated Backlund in Tokushima, Japan. This marked the first time in the title's
history that it had changed hands overseas. Backlund pinned Inoki in a rematch in Tokyo, JAPAN on December 06, 1979, but WWF President, Hisashi Shinma declared the match a no-contest because of outside interference from Tiger Jeet Singh. Shinma gave the title back to Inoki, but he would not accept the title after having been pinned. So, the title was declared vacant for the first time in its history. Inoki's reign was a brief 7 days.
On December 12, 1979 Backlund defeated Bobby Duncum for the vacant title. This made Backlund the second man to have won the WWWF/WWF title on two occasions. It was during this reign that Arnold Skoaland began managing Backlund. On September 22, 1980 Backlund defeated the NWA world heavyweight champion,
Harley Race in New York, NY by disqualification when Race struck the official.
the WWF Heavyweight title was held up on October 19, 1981 when Greg Valentine was mistakenly given the belt by a dazed referee after being pinned by Backlund. His second reign lasted 1 year 10 months and 9 days.
November 23, 1981 was the day that Bob Backlund became the first three time WWWF/WWF champion. With Arnold Skoaland at his side, he pinned Greg Valentine in a rematch to fill the vacancy. He wrestled to a double count-out with NWA world heavyweight champion, Ric Flair, on July 04, 1982 in Atlanta, Georgia.
During 1983, the WWF would leave the NWA and elevate their title back to World title status. Thus, during 1983, Backlund went from WWF Heavyweight champion to WWF world heavyweight champion. His third title reign lasted 2 years 1 month and 4 days. Backlund's dominance of the title would end after an amassed
5 years 8 months and 22 days. Bob Backlund's legacy would come crashing down on December 26, 1983. He was caught in the Iron Sheik's camel clutch, but he would not give up. So, Arnold Skoaland threw in the towel for his man. the Iron Sheik won the WWF world heavyweight title without pinning the former champion or making him submit. "Classie" Freddie Blassie managed the Iron Sheik's 29 days as world champion.
(To be continued in the WAWLI Papers # 249)
The WAWLI Papers # 249...
(ED. NOTE--the following is cribbed from
Solie's Vintage Wrestling page, located at: http://members.aol.com/solie11/worldt.html)
THE WORLD TITLES: HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
(Part II, continued from the WAWLI Papers No. 248)
The Iron Sheik was merely a transition champion. He is what led to Hulk Hogan. On January 23, 1984 Hogan would pin the Iron Sheik for the WWF world heavyweight title. He would usher in a new era of wrestling to the WWF. He brought professional wrestling into homes all across America and was the first wrestler to be a household name. Hogan had the muscular build of "Superstar" Billy Graham and the longevity of a Bruno Sammartino. His first reign lasted an impressive 4 years and 14 days.
Hogan's reign ended on February 05, 1988. Andre the Giant pinned Hogan to win the WWF world heavyweight title. Andre was under contract with Ted Dibiase, at the time, and Dibiase had paid the referee's twin brother to work the match. Thus, even though Hogan lifted his shoulder, the referee counted a three count and presented Andre with the title. Immediately after winning the title, Andre chose to award it to "the Million Dollar Man" Ted Dibiase. In doing so, he vacated the title. To make a long story short, Andre was champion for only a few minutes before he handed his dream away. WWF President, Jack Tunney, decided that the vacancy would be filled in a one night, sixteen man tournament to be held at Wrestlemania IV. On March 27, 1988
"the Macho Man" Randy Savage would go on to defeat Ted Dibiase to win the WWF world heavyweight title. With Miss Elizabeth guiding his career, Savage would remain champion for 1 year and 7 days.
On April 02, 1989 Hulk Hogan defeated Randy Savage at Wrestlemania V to become the third man in federation history to have held the title on two occasions. Hogan would enjoy his time at the top for 1 year and 1 day. the Ultimate Warrior was the next man to wear the WWF world heavyweight title. On April 01, 1990 the Warrior entered the ring as the Intercontinental champion. Both he and Hogan were putting their titles up in a first ever title vs. title match. At Wrestlemania VI, the Warrior would become the only man to simultaneously hold both the World and Intercontinental titles. the Ultimate Warrior would reign as champion for 9 months and 19 days.
January 19, 1991 was the Ultimate Warrior's worst day. After several sneak attacks by Randy Savage, Sergeant Slaughter was able to put the Warrior away and win the WWF World title. Slaughter's reign was focused around the Gulf War. Of course, Slaughter sided with Iraq and America needed a hero. Who better than Hulk Hogan? General Adnan was Slaughter's manager during his 2 months and 7 days at the top.
Hulk Hogan became the second man in federation history to win the title on three occasions when he defeated Slaughter on March 24, 1991 at Wrestlemania VII. This reign would last 8 months and 5 days.
Who could beat Hogan? the Undertaker. they met on November 27, 1991 and, after the smoke cleared, the Undertaker was WWF world champion. It took outside help from Ric Flair, but the man from the dark side had pinned Hogan in the middle of the ring. Paul Bearer would manage the Undertaker during his 7 days as champ.
Due to the manner in which the title changed hands, and instant rematch was called for. the two combatants faced off again on December 03, 1991. That was the day that Hogan would become the first man to have held the WWF World title on four occasions. the match ended when Hogan blinded the Undertaker with ashes from his urn. Needless to say, WWF President, Jack Tunney, didn't appreciate the conduct of either athlete. So, on December 04, 1991 the title was stripped from Hogan. the new champion would be decided in a thirty man
battle royal known as the Royal Rumble.
The WWF world heavyweight title would go to an unlikely candidate next. On January 19, 1992 "the Nature Boy" Ric Flair would enter the Royal Rumble as the third participant and would outlast everyone. In the end, he dumped Sid Justice over the top rope to become world champion. This was the first time that a world champion had been crowned by tossing his opponent over the top rope. Interestingly, Flair had been the dominant NWA world heavyweight champion of the 1980's and many thought that the WWF would use him as a punching bag for its superstars so as to prove the superiority of the WWF. Instead, Flair became the second "Nature Boy" in history to have held both the NWA and WWWF/WWF world heavyweight titles. For 2 months and 18 days Ric Flair was managed by Bobby "the Brain" Heenan and Mr. Perfect as WWF World
On April 05, 1992 Randy Savage would become the fourth man in WWWF/WWF history to win the title on two occasions as he defeated Flair at Wrestlemania VIII. Savage was, once again, managed by Miss Elizabeth as he spent 4 months and 28 days on top of the world. Ric Flair wanted the title back though, and he would get his wish. On September 01, 1992 Flair became the fifth man in federation history to win the title on two occasions. the title change was marred by outside interference from Razor Ramon and Mr. Perfect. Ramon injured Savage's leg, and Flair put him in the figure four leglock. Savage would not submit though. He passed out from pain and his shoulders were counted for the pin. Flair's second reign was shaky from the start. He was still managed by Heenan and Perfect for his last 1 month and 12 days as WWF champion.
Flair's successor would be Bret "the Hitman" Hart. On October 12, 1992, in front of a sold out crowd in Saskatoon, SK, Canada, the hometown hero would realize his destiny. Hart would defend his title against all comers and eventually lost his prize after 5 months and 24 days. Yokozuna would defeat Hart on April 04, 1993 at Wrestlemania IX. Yokozuna would claim the shortest reign in federation history. After the match, his manager, Mr. Fuji would challenge Hulk Hogan to face the champion for the title. Hogan accepted and won an impromptu match in under thirty seconds. Thus, Yokozuna's first reign lasted a matter of minutes.
Hogan's win made him the only man to have won the World title on five occasions. Jimmy Hart led him through 2 months and 10 days as champion. During that time, he never defended the title. Yokozuna would have his revenge. On June 13, 1993 he would end the last WWF title reign of Hulk Hogan's career and become the seventh two time champion. Still under the management of Mr. Fuji, he became one of the most imposing
champions in recent memory. Later in his reign, he would take on Jim Cornette as a second manager. He would be champion for an impressive 9 months and 8 days.
It was now Bret Hart's turn for revenge at Wrestlemania X. He won the title from Yokozuna on March 20, 1994 and became the eighth man to have held the title twice. the only thing worth noting about the title change is that
"Rowdy" Roddy Piper was the special guest referee. Bret would be champion, again, for 8 months and 5 days.
November 23, 1994 would shock the WWF title picture. Bob Backlund regained the World title for a fourth time. That would make him only the second man in history to have done so. His title win was in a towel match. Bret Hart was seconded by "the British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith and Backlund was seconded by Owen Hart. the only way to win was for Bulldog or Owen to throw in the towel for their respective wrestlers. Owen knocked out the Bulldog and convinced his mom to toss in the towel on Bret's behalf. Thus, Backlund began his four day
reign as champion.
Backlund was nothing more than a transition champion to get the title to "Big Daddy Cool" Diesel. Diesel disposed of Backlund in eight seconds for the fastest title win in history on November 26, 1994. He defended the title often. While his wrestling skills were limited, he was able to draw impressive heat from the fans and could work the microphone well. So, the WWF ran on Diesel power for 11 months and 24 days. Diesel's tank would run out on November 19, 1995. On that day, Bret Hart would defeat Big Daddy Cool in a no disqualification; no count-out match to become the third man in federation history to win the title on three occasions at the Survivor Series. For 4 months and 12 days Bret tried to prove that he was "the
Best there Is, the Best there Was, and the Best there Ever Will Be."
On March 31, 1996 a boyhood dream would defeat the Hitman. It was a Marathon Match that went into overtime, and "the Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels used two superkicks to secure his place in history at Wrestlemania XII. As his name suggests, Shawn would have his heart broken. His boyhood dream came to an end after 7 months and 18 days. Who would turn Shawn's dream into a nightmare? It would be "Sycho" Sid. On
November 17, 1996 Sid would become the WWF world heavyweight champion. He used everything he had, including a video camera, in order to reach this point in his career. Sid would reign supreme for 2 months and 3 days.
Sid couldn't last forever. On January 19, 1997 Shawn Michaels would use all his ability, and, for the sake of irony, a video camera to become the eighth two time world champion of the WWF. Michaels was not to be champion for long though. Injuries, that had been nagging him for quite a while, were the basis for his vacating the world heavyweight title on February 13, 1997. His second reign lasted only 26 days. the WWF now had a vacant world title. Fortunately, they had a quick way to fill it. there was going to be a four man match in which anyone could be eliminated by pinfall, submission, or being thrown over the top rope, at the next pay per view. This match was originally going to decide who would face the world champion at Wrestlemania XIII. Now, it was to fill the vacant title.
"Stonecold" Steve Austin would be the first man eliminated. Vader would go next. In the end, Bret Hart eliminated the Undertaker to become the third man to win the title on four occasions. This was the second time in history that this title changed hands by having the opponent thrown over the top rope. Bret's fourth reign would last only 2 days.
On February 17, 1997 Sycho Sid would become the ninth man to win the title on two occasions. It looked as though Bret would defend the title successfully until Steve Austin arrived at ringside and hit him over the head with a steel chair. the referee didn't see the blow, and Sid powerbombed his way to another World title. He would reign as champion for 1 month and 5 days. That brings us back to the Undertaker. On March 23, 1997 he would become the tenth man in history to wear the title on two occasions. the scene was Wrestlemania XIII. the match was no disqualification; no count-out. Bret Hart tried to interfere. Sid grabbed Bret and powerbombed him. the Undertaker took advantage of the distraction and delivered a tombstone piledriver to win the WWF world heavyweight title. While his performance is not that of a Shawn Michaels or Bret Hart, he defended his title often. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels would combine to end the Undertaker's reign. In the end, his second reign lasted 4 months and 12 days.
On August 03, 1997 Bret Hart became only the second man in WWF history to win the world heavyweight title on five occasions. Not without controversy though. Shawn Michaels, the special guest referee, accidentally struck the Undertaker with a steel chair. Bret covered the prone Undertaker and became champion for the fifth time. As of now, he is still enjoying his reign at the top. The question now looms as to which promotion boasts a better list. That is a decision of personal preference to be made be each and every reader. Personally, I think that the (W)WWF list is more impressive. Not only because of length, but because the title was around before wrestling focused around story lines. This is reflected in people like Backlund reigning for long periods of time. None the less, that is merely my opinion. I hope you each have one of your own and would like to hear them.
The WAWLI Papers
NUMBER OF (W)WWF WORLD TITLES HELD:
11.the Iron Sheik--1
11.Andre the Giant--1
11.the Ultimate Warrior--1
Length of Time as (W)WWF champion:
1.Bruno Sammartino--11 years 1 month 25 days
2.Hulk Hogan--5 years 11 months
3.Bob Backlund--5 years 8 months 26 days
4.Pedro Morales--2 years 9 months 22 days
5.Bret Hart--1 year 9 months 21 days
6.Randy Savage--1 year 4 months 24 days
7.Diesel--11 months 24 days
8.Billy Graham--9 months 21 days
9.the Ultimate Warrior--9 months 19 days
10.Yokozuna--9 months 9 days
11.Shawn Michaels--8 months 14 days
12.the Undertaker--4 months 19 days
13.Ric Flair--4 months
14.Sycho Sid--3 months 8 days
15.Sergeant Slaughter--2 months 7 days
16.Buddy Rogers--1 month 17 days
17.the Iron Sheik--29 days
18.Ivan Koloff--22 days
19.Stan Stasiak--10 days
20.Antonio Inoki--7 days
21.Andre the Giant--1 day
NUMBER OF WCW TITLES HELD:
2.Big Van Vader/Vader--3
Length of time as champion:
1.Hulk Hogan--2 years 5 months 2 days
2.Ric Flair--1 year 3 months 22 days
3.Big Van Vader--1 year 17 days
4.Lex Luger--7 months 23 days
5.Ron Simmons--5 months
6.Sting--4 months 20 days
7.the Giant--3 months 28 days
8.Randy Savage--1 month 23 days
Number of (W)WWF & WCW world heavyweight titles Held
1.Hulk Hogan--8 (5 WWF & 3 WCW)
2.Ric Flair--7 (2 WWF & 5 WCW)
3.Bret Hart--5 (5 WWF)
4.Bob Backlund--4 (4 (W)WWF)
4.Randy Savage--4 (2 WWF & 2 WCW)
6.Big Van Vader/Vader--3 (3 WCW)
6.Shawn Michaels--3 (3 WWF)
8.Bruno Sammartino--2 (2 (W)WWF)
8.Sting--2 (2 WCW)
8.Yokozuna--2 (2 WWF)
8.The Giant--2 (2 WCW)
7.Sycho Sid--2 (2 WWF)
7.the Undertaker--2 (2 WWF)
7.Lex Luger--2 (2 WCW)
15.Buddy Rogers--1 (W)WWF)
15.Ivan Koloff--1 (W)WWF)
15.Pedro Morales--1 (W)WWF)
15.Stan Stasiak--1 (W)WWF
15.Billy Graham--1 (W)WWF)
15.Antonio Inoki--1 (WWF)
15.the Iron Sheik--1 (WWF)
15.Andre the Giant--1 (WWF)
15.the Ultimate Warrior--1 (WWF)
15.Sergeant Slaughter--1 (WWF)
15.Ron Simmons--1 (WCW)
Length of time as (W)WWF & WCW champion:
1.Bruno Sammartino--11 years 1 month 25 days
2.Hulk Hogan--8 years 4 months 2 days
3.Bob Backlund--5 years 8 months 26 days
4.Pedro Morales--2 years 9 months 22 days
5.Bret Hart--1 year 9 months 21 days
6.Ric Flair--1 year 7 months 22 days
7.Randy Savage--1 year 6 months 17 days
8.Big Van Vader--1 year 17 days
9.Diesel--11 months 24 days
10.Billy Graham--9 months 21 days
11.the Ultimate Warrior--9 months 19 days
12.Yokozuna--9 months 9 days
13.Shawn Michaels--8 months 14 days
14.Lex Luger--7 months 23 days
15.Ron Simmons--5 months
16.Sting--4 months 20 days
17.the Undertaker--4 months 19 days
18.the Giant--3 months 28 days
19.Sycho Sid--3 months 8 days
20.Sergeant Slaughter--2 months 7 days
21.Buddy Rogers--1 month 17 days
22.the Iron Sheik--29 days
23.Ivan Koloff--22 days
24.Stan Stasiak--10 days
25.Antonio Inoki--7 days
26.Andre the Giant--1 day
Note: This series was inspired by an article written by Norman H. Kietzer from the October 1971 issue of Wrestling Monthly. To read his article, go to ~http://www.albany.net/~hit/puroresu/titles/puzzle.html
Most of the dates were provided by Royal Duncan and Gary Will's Wrestling Title Histories.
The WAWLI Papers
(Ed. Note--Over the past year, I've authored a couple of short pieces, one a preface for Scott Teal's reprint edition of "Fall Guys: the Barnums of Bounce" and the other a short biographical sketch of the legendary Lou Thesz for the Cauliflower Alley Club's 1998 West Coast Reunion & Roast program. the two articles are hereby reprinted.)
THE FIRST BOOK TO EXPLAIN PRO WRESTLING
By J Michael Kenyon
In 1937, when "Fall Guys: the Barnums of Bounce" was being prepared for publication, a surprising amount of "inside" information about the professional wrestling business was being circulated in the mainstream press.
For instance, on July 19 of that year, Jack Cuddy of the United Press authored a piece which ran in the Los Angeles Times under the headline: "Mondt Mentioned As New Pasha of Mat Pachyderms."
The gist of the article was that, since the recent death of long-time New York mat promoter Jack Curley, a group of pro wrestling bosses were preparing to select his "replacement." Remember, this was 11 years before the 1948 formation of the National Wrestling Alliance, the first openly publicized attempt by promoters to merge into a cohesive body designed to facilitate "block" booking and a single champion (as the NWA was primarily comprised of Midwest promoters, longtime area favorite Orville Brown was annointed the group's first champion).
Cuddy wrote of that impending, midsummer conference of 1937 that its purpose was threefold -- a) to appoint a head man who can organize and control a big-time national wrestling circuit; b) effect a strong combine for the somewhat disorganized mat game east of the Mississippi River, and c) arrange for installation of the head man in New York City so that he can conduct the national booking business out of the metropolis and, at the same time, co-operate in major promotions in Manhattan, the sport's "show window."
According to the writer's unnamed sources, this man would be chosen from among a group of major promoters that included Joe (Toots) Mondt, already controller of many of the major heavyweight wrestlers; Rudy Dusek, like Mondt a former wrestler and active in New York promotions; Paul Bowser, longtime Boston mat impresario; Ray Fabiani, likewise, a big-city promoter (Philadelphia); Tom Packs, of St. Louis, and Tony Stecher, brother of former champion Joe Stecher and by then manager (and promoter) of Minneapolis-based box office draw Bronko Nagurski. Cuddy pointed to Mondt as the likely choice.
He recounted some of Mondt's credentials -- his years as an active wrestler following early training from Farmer Burns, how he had hooked up with Ed (Strangler) Lewis and Billy Sandow to form "the gold dust trio" (a subject
covered at length in "Fall Guys") and the fact that, for some years, Mondt had been handling most of the booking for the aging Curley. Cuddy added a paragraph which could have served as a preface to "Fall Guys":
"It is extremely difficult to get a true reflection of the national wrestling picture at any time. Because it usually is split into various warring factions. Because it is hard to put your finger on facts. Because there is so
much skullduggery, manipulating and double-crossing. Because you do not know whom to believe. And because most of your information must come via the grapevine, which sometimes proves poison ivy in camouflage."
It is into this confusing world that Marcus Griffin endeavored to take readers in the late '30s with his landmark book. Much of what he wrote was based on supposition, hearsay and conflicting stories. But, until "Fall Guys," noone had ever written of the wrestling business at so much length, or with as much credibility and apparent knowledge of the subject displayed by Griffin.
In this day of "smart" fans, where a variety of printed newsletters and internet-based fan forums routinely swap "inside" info and speculate on the directions of the major promotions, it is hard to remember a time when "Kay
Fabe" was a code of silence almost universally maintained by everyone in the business. What Griffin did in "Fall Guys" was to begin laying open the secrets of the mat game, and to explain how a group of dedicated entrepeneurs had built it from a now-you-see-it, now-you-don't proposition popular only in
isolated sections of the land to a big-bucks proposition that --inspired by the imagination and skill of Ed Lewis, and supplemented by the entry of a horde of popular footballers like Gus Sonnenberg, Joe Savoldi and Nagurski into its upper echelons -- regularly began packing the largest arenas in North America with howling mobs of "rasslin'"-hungry customers.
Ironically, just as Griffin, Cuddy and others were starting to "spill the beans," the box office riches had begun to evaporate. And they would continue to dwindle, though "freaks" like the French Angel and Primo Carnera, and the advent of widespread girl wrestling, would occasionally kindle hopes of a resurgence throughout the early and mid-'40s. Not until television took full hold, and flashy new stars like Gorgeous George and Antonino Rocca began to captivate the public, did the boom times return.
Yet, despite the boom-or-bust cycles that have perennially plagued professional wrestling, it remains today essentially the same business that Griffin was tracking 60 years ago. "Fall Guys" is must reading for any serious
student of mat history.
A QUICK LOOK AT THE LIFE OF LOU THESZ
by J Michael Kenyon
For at least my generation of wrestling fans . . . and, for us, there was always just one heavyweight wrestling champion of the world . . . Lou Thesz was the personification of dignity, toughness, wrestling skill, professionalism, seriousness -- you name it. With an arsenal that included almost every possible maneuver within the ring, and every imaginable portion of aplomb outside it, Thesz was the embodiment of a champion -- and remains so to this day, now into his ninth decade on earth.
Catlike in the ring, blessed with rugged good looks, a charmer with people from all walks of life and -- most importantly -- the consummate wrestler in a hippodrome world full of "performers" and "freaks" and unscrupulous promoters, Thesz accomplished things never done before and not ever likely tobe achieved by others.
In an age when wrestling "champions" were a dime a dozen, Thesz was the ultimate barometer of a man who could literally wrestle his way out of any situation . . . and proved it often enough to earn the highest accolades of
all -- those from his colleagues on the mat and the promoters who created one of the more amazing chapters in the history of American culture: pro wrestling.
This lithe, six-foot-two, 225-pound master of the mat started as a professional at age 17 in and around his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri . . . and, miraculously, even with an artificial hip replacement, was able to take
part in a match in Japan at age 73. In other words, he wrestled in SEVEN different decades.
He was first acclaimed world champion at age 21 and was still winning such acclaim at age 50. In between, he held the undisputed championship of the world, as recognized by the National Wrestling Alliance, six times. On three occasions, he won the prestigious world title as recognized in Montreal and, in later years, held a variety of "international" championships that he defended from Europe to Japan and a host of global stopovers in between.
Most impressively, from the time he pinned "Wild Bill" Longson for the old National Wrestling Association belt in Indianapolis on July 20, 1948 until a severe ankle injury (incurred while skiing) caused him to surrender the title
to "Whipper" Billy Watson at Toronto on March 15, 1956 -- he was UNDEFEATED. Yes, for nearly eight years, he was not only champ, but the undefeated champion of the world. A hotly disputed disqualification loss to
footballer/wrestler Leo Nomellini in San Francisco in 1954 was the only blemish on his record over that long span, and he reversed that decision on two occasions.
The quality of the people he beat for all these titles is another measure of his acumen within the ropes and his clout at the boxoffice: Everett Marshall (twice, including the Dec. 29, 1937 match in St. Louis that made him a 21-year-old "wonder boy" champion); Whipper Watson (twice); Wild Bill Longson, and "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers. He twice toppled longtime foe Bobby Managoff for Montreal honors (plus an earlier win in the Quebec city over Leo Numa Anderson). Another important crown, that of the Texas heavyweight champion, came to him three times with wins over Hans Scnabel, Ernie Dusek and Rogers. And, though he generally disdained tag team wrestling, he did pair up with Managoff -- a respected foe and longtime friend -- to beat the famed "Omaha
Riot Squad" of Ernie and Emil Dusek and hold the Texas tag team title for a stretch in 1944.
Thesz attributes his skill in the ring to hard-won lesssons at the hands of two of wrestling's alltime greatest "hookers" -- George Tragos and Ad Santel. With the remarkable grips and tricks they taught him as a teenager, Thesz will go down in history as one of the more accomplished wrestlers of all times. And it was those special skills that -- whenever he was seriously challenged in the ring -- pulled him through, time and time again. Further testimony to his greatness is that today -- even 20 years after he entered semi-retirement -- almost everyone of a certain age will tell you, "Lou Thesz? Oh, sure, I've heard of him. the wrestling champ, right?"
In his prime years, Thesz was a celebrity of the first order. Had such a program as "Entertainment Tonight" existed in those times, Thesz would have been a regular subject, posing with movie stars like Alan Ladd and Yvonne DeCarlo, trading mock grips with former heavyweight boxing king Joe Louis and, in a veritable parade back and forth across the land, endless poses with his longtime friend and mentor, the inimitable wrestling champion of yore, Ed "Strangler" Lewis. Those two were roadmates during much of Thesz' long unbeaten skein, with Lewis serving as advance publicity man and road manager for the busy, busy champion, who regularly fulfilled between 200 and 250 wrestling dates per year.
Lewis himself had enjoyed a remarkable run at the top of the wrestling heap, as well as almost unprecedented popularity during sport's so-called "Golden Age." But the nearly 40 years he was an active professional, and the 50 or so he was an active figure in the vastly popular sport were to be dwarfed by Thesz' longevity figures. When Lewis died, at age 76, Thesz had only recently relinquished his hold on the NWA championship belt and would remain fairly active in the ring for yet another 15 years. (In 1979, Thesz wrestled a "retirement" match with Crazy Luke Graham in Atlanta, Georgia -- but he would still be making occasional appeareances 11 years later.)
Today, with his wife of 22 years, Charlie, and their dachsund "Schultz," Lou resides in Norfolk, Virginia, on the shores of Chesapeake Bay. From there, he remains active in a handful of charities, is president of the influential
oldtimers' Cauliflower Alley Club, and remains on call when anyone wants to involve him in serious projects and/or promotions with regard to what he prefers to call "the truer forms of wrestling." Even with all this, he
religiously finds time to visit the gymnasium several times a week to keep the physical edge he has maintained for a long and fruitful lifetime.
His biography, "Hooker," crafted in association with Kit Bauman, is available in manuscript form. Its 260 pages stand as still another testimony to Thesz' impact on the sport. Never before, in the more than 125 years that
professional wrestling has occupied the American public, has anyone authored a more knowledgable, more articulate and more revealing portrait of this remarkable form of human athleticism. It is, like the man, a classic.
PRO WRESTLING CHANGING, BUT STILL POPULAR
(Kansas City Star, May 11, 1998)
By Jason King
DES MOINES, Iowa -- the security guard was a burly fellow, about 6-foot-4. His biceps, much too big for his short-sleeved aqua shirt, hinted that he didn't need a barricade to divide him from the 7,500 spectators last week at Veterans Memorial Auditorium. the scowl on his face suggested he didn't want one.
But when the music started, even this guy looked nervous. Within seconds, hundreds of fans were running -- sprinting -- toward the metal bars that would separate them from Bill Goldberg, one of professional wrestling's biggest stars. A mother carrying her infant son. A middle-aged man with an earring and one front tooth. A soon-to-be pediatrician. An arena employee in charge of cleaning restrooms. All of them fought for a peek.
"Goldberg! Goldberg! Goldberg!" they chanted as former Atlanta Falcon Bill Goldberg, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound ox of a man, walked down the aisle and into the ring. "Goldberg! Goldberg! Goldberg!"
"Man," one of the security guards said after containing the stampede, "I had no idea wrestling had gotten this popular."
It has. And tonight, more than 15,000 fans at Kemper Arena will prove it. World Championship Wrestling's live television broadcast of Monday Nitro begins at 5:30 p.m. on TNT. Tickets for the event were gone in six days. the show, which is seen in 10.4 million households each week, will be complete with fireworks, smoke, strobe lights, mascots, music and dancing from the "Nitro Girls."
And, oh yeah, a little wrestling, too. Although opinions and attitudes toward today's industry vary, fans, promoters and the wrestlers themselves all agree with former ring announcer Bill Kersten:
"It sure isn't what it used to be," he said.
There's no question that professional wrestling attracted a large fan base since its inception in 1905 (sic). And in Kansas City, the craze was as strong as anywhere. By the 1960s, men like Bob Geigel, Mike George and Bulldog Bob Brown were drawing weekly Thursday night sellouts at Memorial Hall while Harley Race,
considered one of the biggest names in wrestling history, was bringing national credibility to Kansas City's All-Star Wrestling, which was part of the National Wrestling Alliance. Kersten's deep bellow still is well-known
around the area: "Helloooooo Wrestling Fans."
"Back then, it was more of a family atmosphere," said Kersten, a former Liberty mayor who now is 65. "Most of the people that went were blue collar workers who'd go straight from cashing their paychecks to buying tickets.
they'd get to Memorial Hall an hour early just to socialize."
While Memorial Hall held just 3,500 fans, some of wrestling's well-known names were drawing record crowds across the country. Race headlined an event in Michigan's Pontiac Silverdome that drew 107,000 and wrestled before 140,000 in New Zealand. And although exact figures were not available, Race's 1986 match against Ric Flair attracted about 19,000 to Kemper Arena.
While the National Wrestling Alliance quickly became one of the country's premier wrestling organizations, 27 others across the country were profiting as well. Race, who held the NWA world championship eight times, said the number of organizations gave the wrestlers a chance they no longer have.
"If you were someplace you didn't like, you had 27 other places you could go," said Race, known for being the first man to body slam 6-foot-10, 555-pound Andre the Giant. "Now you have two, the WWF and WCW. So if you don't like your job or where you are, tough."
According to Geigel, who shared ownership of All-Star Wrestling with Race and Pat O'Connor, the advancements in cable television led to the downfall of locally owned organizations in the mid-'80s. the Connecticut-based World Wrestling Federation began luring the country's top wrestlers with bigger
contracts and the promise of national television exposure, leaving the less popular wrestlers behind.
"TV had been around for a long time, but not on a national level," said Geigel, now 73 and a security guard at the Woodlands. "You could be popular with the fans in one part of the country but, in other parts, they hadn't
heard of you. Once the whole country was able to watch the same wrestlers -- the top wrestlers -- each week, they stopped going to the local shows."
Within a few years, attendance at Memorial Hall dropped to 200 fans a week. By 1988, Geigel, who had retired from wrestling and had been working as a promoter, was out of the business. Race left for the WWF in 1986. After his last match in 1993, he began managing wrestlers but was forced to retire two years ago because of injuries sustained in a car accident.
"It was a classic example of a big company taking over a mom-and-pop company," said Paul Orndorff, a former wrestler who now handles various administrative duties for the WCW. "I'll never forget how it used to be. But we have to move on."
Today, television's influence is even greater. According to the WCW, Monday Nitro is the leading prime-time series on basic cable. Combined with Thunder and WCW Saturday Night, two other wrestling programs, the three shows reach a combined 25 million viewers each week.
Such figures, promoters say, have pressured wrestlers to add muscle tone and definition and for promoters to use more creativity when creating characters and personalities for their wrestlers to follow. Ring attire has also become more flashy. Veteran wrestler Flair recently sported a robe that featured 7,200 rhinestones and weighed 45 pounds.
"It's like a soap opera -- `As the Ring Turns,' " said Sonny Onoo, who manages wrestlers in WCW.
For example, a current "controversy" in WCW has Hulk Hogan being accused of hitting "Macho Man" Randy Savage with his Corvette as Savage walked in the street. It never happened, of course, but the story line added drama to the shows for weeks.
"I can't understand what running over someone with a car has to do with professional wrestling," said Race, a Kansas City resident. "But we've brought that on ourselves. People today want to see something different, something unusual."
Scott "Flash" Norton, one of WCW's more well-known stars, said: "Wrestling was boring in the '60s and '70s. Now, people come to see a show. they come to see the unexpected. It's just like watching NASCAR. You don't watch it for the race. You watch it to see a crash."
Orndorff, 48, cited the changing values of society as a reason for wrestling's increasing drama.
"Just like anything these days, we need glitz and glitter to succeed," said Orndorff, who wrestled under the nickname, "Mr. Wonderful."
"That's what the new stream of fans was nurtured to growing up." The approach seems to be working. New York's Nassau Coliseum sold all its tickets for WCW's June 15 show in an hour. And merchandise sales numbers are just as phenomenal.
According to marketing director Mike Webber, the WCW grosses more than $30 million a year in sales. Each fan attending a match will spend an average of $10 on T-shirts and other items, meaning the 15,000 fans expected to attend tonight's show will spend about $150,000 at Kemper Arena. Also, the organization's two Internet sites attract 8 million hits a month.
As a result, top wrestlers are making more than $1 million a year. When Race, Geigel and Orndorff wrestled in the '60s, they made $15 a match. Although Race, now 55, and Geigel said they hope the industry continues to
grow, both added that the art and technique have become less and less important amid the fireworks and smoke.
"Wrestlers today have a shortcut," Race said. "If you can spend 15 minutes taking off your robe, whether or not you're a good wrestler doesn't matter as much."
Scott Armstrong, another WCW wrestler, said: "It's turning into a circus. Sometimes I wish it would go back to the way it was, with one droplight above the ring. Because with all that goes on now, the heart and soul of wrestling is pretty much gone."
ONE NIGHT LATER, THE SHOW MOVES TO KAYCEE
(Kansas City Star, May 12, 1998)
By Jason King
Don't get Scott Martin wrong. He's a wrestling fan, all right. Loves the stuff.
Still, with a sold-out Kemper Arena looking on, Martin, 26, an auto mechanic, thought it'd be funny to hold up the sign.
"This (stuff) is fake," the thick black letters read.
Five minutes later, the poster was confiscated by arena officials.
"That didn't bother me," said Martin, sipping a Bud Light from a paper cup. "Whether it's real or not, I'm still going to have a good time. Everyone is."
Call it fake. Call it ludicrous. Call it phony or foolish, one thing was glaringly evident Monday -- people, more than ever, are fanatic about professional wrestling.
World Championship Wrestling drew a crowd of 15,333 Monday night. Fans began arriving for the 6:30 p.m. show two hours in advance and, by the time the gates opened, had formed a line from the front door to Genesee Street.
Local radio stations did live broadcasts from the parking lot while television crews interviewed fans with painted faces and masks depicting Sting, one of WCW's most popular characters. Chiefs running back Donnell Bennett even sneaked in unnoticed.
"Some of these people don't even know who they're cheering for," said Frank Krysa, a printer. "they don't care, either. It's just one big party."
For some, it was a party that almost never happened. Nina Morris thought she had four tickets -- for her, her mother and her two children, Tiffany, 12, and Christopher, 10 -- reserved after ordering them on the phone two weeks ago. But when she called Monday morning, a Kemper operator told her she had no record of her request.
Luckily, the Morrises were accommodated when Kemper officials decided around 2 p.m. to make about 200 more seats available.
Monday's highlights included the crowning of a new world champion when "Macho Man" Randy Savage defeated Hulk Hogan by disqualification. Also, Bill Goldberg retained his U.S. championship belt and increased his career record to 83-0.
Other winners included Scott "Flash" Norton, Billy Kid Man, Hugh Morrus and Disco Inferno.
(ED. NOTE--Computer search programs are the best thing since the Xerox machine was invented. By employing one, and the search term "pro wrestling," it has been discovered that Kansas City Star sports columnist Joe Posnanski is a closet rasslin' fan. Witness these excerpts from four columns, over a 36-day span this spring: one about Secretariat, one perportedly about "nothing," one about the NBA and another on the day he got married. In each, Posnanski managed to make a reference to pro wrestling. See for yourself.)
SPORTS COLUMNIST OR CLOSET WRESTLING FAN?
Kansas City Star, May 1, 1998
Horse racing has lost so much of its charm, mostly because it's lousy on television. there's no way to capture the speed of the horses, their brute strength, the beauty of the thing. the sound of horses pounding down the
backstretch is enormous, a medley of wind and hooves and snorts and whips cracking. On television, it sounds like an old Lash LaRue movie. Cloppity-clop. It sounds like the little mechanical horse out front of the supermarket that vibrates for a quarter. Brrrrr.
No, they can't make horse racing exciting on television -- they can make pro wrestling exciting, though -- so horse racing falls a little bit more each year. People will watch the Kentucky Derby on Saturday because it's the
Kentucky Derby and all, and then most will ignore the sport again for another year. It's the way it goes.
Kansas City Star, May 14, 1998
Do you think pro wrestling referees ever try to renegotiate their contracts based on what they did not see? "Hey, last week I missed four guys getting hit in the head with metal chairs, got distracted long enough to overlook three eye gouges, and I had my back turned while a guy sprayed something in another guy's eyes. Where are you going to get someone else like that?"
Kansas City Star, May 29, 1998
Jim, a somewhat rational friend who doesn't believe in ghosts, vampires, earth-shattering meteors, Monica Lewinsky or even the Internet, honestly believes the NBA is fixed. the games are always close. there's usually a last-second shot. the best teams always win. To Jim, it's pro wrestling, complete with bungling referees and absurd fights where no punches land. Jim's nutso, of course, but let's face it, the league is predictable. It's as
if the games were scripted by some sports fan in a bar. Take game five between Chicago and Indiana.
Kansas City Star, June 5, 1998
There are lessons in these games, stuff to live by. Never throw a chest-high change-up to Cal Ripken. Never give Joe Montana the ball with too much time. Never taunt Michael Jordan. Judge a ballpark by its mustard. Never leave a beer too close to your feet. Don't ignore the guy who wants a dollar to watch your car outside of Yankee Stadium.
Pro boxers are usually nice. Pro tennis players are usually jerks. Pro wrestling masked men never get the girl.
Yes, there are lessons everywhere in sports, but that has nothing to do with love. there are few love lessons in sports. That's a problem because today I marry Margo Ann, my love, and though I've been living for 31 years, though I've muddled through Shakespeare's sonnets and tried to find meaning in Springsteen and "Casablanca," and Gatsby and the early episodes of "the Love Boat," (before Julie flipped out), truth is, I'm a sportswriter. I talk like one, eat like one, think like one, dress like one no matter what. Today, in a pressed, black Armani tuxedo, I will look like Don Zimmer.
The WAWLI Papers
CANADIAN PRO WRESTLING PAGE OF FAME PAGE
ANNOUNCERS AND WRITERS
Toronto ring announcer for many years under Frank Tunney. He continued to be the ring announcer when the WWF took over the area until they dropped the Brantford TV tapings in 1986.
Host of Vancouver's wrestling TV show for many years. Would always say hello to the shut-ins watching at home. Recipient of Gene Kiniski's trademark interview closer: "I'd like to thank everyone for allowing me into their homes via TV, and as usual Ron, you did a great job."
Host of Montreal's TV wrestling in the 1950s and the radio voice of Montreal Canadiens hockey on CBC.
Covered pro wrestling for the Toronto Star for many years. Was able to be humorous without crossing into condescension. "The late Joe Perlove used to cover the "rassles," as he used to call them, for the Star. What went on in the ring and what appeared in the paper the next day had very little in common. Perlove was one of the most entertaining writers ever to work in this town, and wrestling gave him the chance to let his imagination run wild." (By Jim Hunt, from the TORONTO SUN, February 6, 1990)
Ring announcer for Grand Prix Wrestling in Montreal and the son-in-law of Michel Normandin. Did bilingual introductions that ended with "C'est lui, that's him..." followed by the wrestler's name. Funny thing was, I immediately understood the "c'est lui" part, but it took years until I clued in that the end of that line was "that's him." All that time, I thought it was something in French I didn't understand!
Long-time host of Calgary's Stampede Wrestling. Did an awesome job of getting heels over through the '70s when Stampede Wrestling regularly drew more heat than any other TV show I've ever seen (the feud between the General's Army -- featuring King Curtis -- and Mark Lewin, Dan Kroffat, and Larry Lane was by far the hottest feud I saw growing up. It was so strong on TV that promoter Frank Tunney even brought in Curtis and Lewin to Toronto to do a cage match -- with no local build-up). People who only started watching Stampede Wrestling
in the 80s never understood that to regular viewers, he was as much a star of the show as any wrestler. Also did play-by-play for Calgary Flames hockey, but the strangest thing was hearing him do political commentary on a radio show in Calgary that I happened to catch in Toronto in the late 1980s.
(ED. NOTE--these profiles of Canadian pro wrestling figures were compiled and written by Gary Will)
WHAT'S WITH THIS WRESTLING STUFF?
By Gary Will
Hey ... go figure. I can't say I watch much wrestling anymore, but I was a big fan growing up. When the usenet newsgroup rec.sport.pro-wrestling formed in 1990, I became something like the resident historian for the next four years. My involvement with the newsgroup triggered a period of intense (some might say "insane") research into pro wrestling history, which peaked in 1994.
I've co-edited two wrestling books with Royal Duncan -- the president of Royal Publishing in Peoria, Illinois. In the last couple years, we've been known to shake our heads over the amount of time we devote to what Jerry Seinfeld called "big men in tiny bathing suits pretending to fight." Certainly an interest that's just about impossible to explain to anyone who doesn't share it.
Wrestling Title Histories
by Royal Duncan & Gary Will
306 pages, 8½" x 11", plastic-comb binding
U.S. price: $40.00
"The bible of the sport."
New York Times
Wrestling T itle Histories is the most complete record of professional wrestling titles and titleholders ever published. It is cited by wrestling publications around the world as the authority on wrestling's champions and
championships. Compiled from exhaustive searches through primary sources and the contributions of more than 50 top wrestling historians.
Contains information on over 1500 titles -- including all the old NWA territories: Florida, Mid-Atlantic, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Detroit, Toronto, Texas, and many more. Includes all the independent promotions you
know (for example, USWA, Smoky Mountain, Mid-South), and dozens of smaller promotions, along with all the major groups such as WCW, WWF, AWA, ECW, WWA, New Japan, All Japan, and EMLL.
This edition is complete to December 1994. A fourth edition is not expected to be published until late 1998.
Over one thousand copies sold around the world -- from Japan to the Netherlands and all across North America!
"The best pro wrestling reference book I've ever seen. A phenomenal publication and a great job of research."
-- Dave Meltzer, Editor, Wrestling Observer Newsletter
"A fabulous book. Great reading for the diehard fan." -- Bill Apter, Senior Editor, Pro Wrestling Illustrated
"My copy is dog-eared from daily use. A terrific resource." -- Vince Russo, Editor, WWF Magazine
"A superlative reference tool." -- 1997 PWI Wrestling Almanac
Wrestling Real Names & Aliases by Dominic Macika
Royal Duncan & Gary Will
130 pages, 8½" x 11", plastic-comb binding
U.S. price: $27.50
The former editor of the comprehensive rec.sport.pro-wrestling FAQ and the editors of the highly acclaimed Wrestling title Histories combined to bring you this guide to pro wrestling real names and aliases.
This new book catalogues the ring names and real names of 3,000 wrestlers, managers, promoters, and referees from throughout the 20th century. And where such information is available, you'll also get the years and territories where each alias was used, and personal data such as dates of birth & death, and year of wrestling debut.
You'll also find details of wrestling relations -- brothers & sisters, fathers & sons -- that outline the wrestling genealogies of some of the most prolific families in the business.
PLEASE NOTE: The book is sorted by real names only. they will offer an addendum sorted by alias in the future.
Already in its fifth printing!
In the U.S., just send a check or money order payable to Royal Duncan:
$40.00 for Wrestling title Histories
$27.50 for Wrestling Real Names & Aliases
7600 N Galena Rd
Peoria, IL 61615
In Canada, please send a money order for $45.00 U.S. for Wrestling title Histories or $30.00 U.S. for Wrestling Real Names & Aliases. Outside U.S./Canada, prices are $60.00 U.S. for Wrestling title Histories and $40 for Wrestling Real Names & Aliases.
All prices include postage -- by air mail outside of U.S./Canada. It may take 4-6 weeks for your book to arrive. It's not quite L.L. Bean speed, but we've never had a book lost in the mail yet. If you think yours is overdue, you can check on your order anytime by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and he will put in a call to find out the status and get back to you right away.
LONGTIME MONTREAL PROMOTER EDDIE QUINN
Long-time promoter in Montreal, credited with creating a hotbed of wrestling a town where its poplarity had waned. His top star for many years was Yvon Robert and he managed Edouard Carpentier in the late 1950s. Born in Massachusetts, and had ties to Boston promoter Paul Bowser.
Quinn was outraged in 1957 when NWA president Sam Muchnick met with long-time rival Jack Pfefer to see if he would join the association. Quinn's letter to Muchnick was leaked to Dan Parker, who printed it in his column in the New York Daily Mirror:
I would like to explain to you again, if it is possible to get the message thru, that for the past twenty years I have been fighting the Cancer of the Wrestling Business, Jack Pfefer. This is the same man that tried to kill the
Alliance, and he has loused up quite a few territories of NWA members, including New England, where I have a $25,000 investment. You, as President of the Alliance, know that everybody in it despises Pfefer, and what he stands for. You, as President of the Alliance, trying to play politics with everybody in it, must realize that sooner or later you have to face the barrier. At times you are much weaker than others. If you think it is good business for the Alliance to have Jack Pfefer consorting and in partnership, or in collusion, or working with certain members of said Alliance, I think it is your duty as a man to bring this to the attention of the rest of the members.
Remember, the first thing you asked me before the Alliance meeting is what did I think of the Alliance. I told you all, that business-wise it was no good, as the Government takes care of that. I did express my thoughts that it was a worthwhile social group, but that we should get together more often to become better acquainted on matters pertaining to business. But when you have the bold audacity to inflict Jack Pfefer on the members of the Alliance, socially, it is a little too much for me.
Yes, I did tell Larry Moquin that I was sick. In fact, I was nauseated by your conduct in allowing our common enemy to mingle with the members, thus causing them much embarrassment. I am sure when Lou Thesz hears about this incident, it will only convince him he did the right thing when he left you, and St. Louis and the meeting behind him.
The reason I wished to get out of the St. Louis promotions is firstly, the promoter or promoters have shown no ability to promote for the past two years. I know you spend your time knocking Thesz as a poor business man and Longson as a dope, but sooner or later you will have to take the blame on your own shoulders. Another thing I did not like at the meeting was when that loud-mouthed, blatant individual, Cliff Maupin, a garbage collector of the old school, kept knocking Thesz about his forthcoming trip. It struck several of us very funny that you did not stand up and defend Lou, who by the sweat of his brow has been paying your salary as long as he has been champion and was making you money when he was your partner in promotion.
Getting back to Carpentier you seem to overlook the fact that Carpentier is my personal property. He does not belong to you or the National Wrestling Alliance. He is not recognized by you and neither does he claim to be NWA champion. He met and defeated Lou Thesz June 14th in Chicago via disqualification. In a return match in Montreal he met and was defeated by Lou Thesz July 24th. You should be able to add two and two. I have consulted my attorney on the matter and they suggested that I write to you and have you return Edouard Carpentier's $10,000. What you are holding it for no one seems to know. If this money has not been returned within ten days from this date, I will have my attorneys turn this matter over to the U.S. Department of Justice and the St. Louis police, c/o the Bunco Squad. My attorneys seem to think this is a combination of blackmail, extortion or grand larceny. Hope this will clarify everything.
"What Quinn has done is play on the public's inherent desire to see right triumph over wrong. the master showmanship of Quinn has turned Canadian wrestling from a near dead spectacle into a million dollar industry."(From WRESTLING, February 1951)
"Dapper Eddie Quinn, Mr. Big in the province of Quebec and unquestionably one of the most powerful figures in the sport today. Cigar smoking Eddie is a clever businessman, who has really gone a long way in life and in doing so has elevated the status of Canadian wrestling and wrestlers immensely."(From WRESTLING AS YOU LIKE IT, Jan. 30, 1954)
LONGTIME B.C. PROMOTER SANDOR KOVACS
Wrestler and long-time promoter in B.C. Born in Hungary and wrestled from the '40s into the '60s. Described in 1947 as "a speedy youngster who knows his holds." Trained as an amateur wrestler by Cliff Chilcott and as a pro by Stu Hart.Broke into pro wrestling as a light heavyweight under Frank Tunney. Served in the Canadian Navy during WWII. Rated one of the top three wrestlers in Northern California in 1956.
Became a popular draw for promoter Ed Don George in Buffalo, and promoted in upstate New York with Pedro Martinez in the late '50s. Co-owned the NWA Vancouver office through the '60s to 1977 with Gene Kiniski. Came back to promote WWF shows in Vancouver in the mid-'80s.
"He has met all the top notchers with good success. He is as fast as a cat and knows all the holds and tricks of the trade -- requirements of a first-class matman." (From THE RING, April 1947)
"Several wrestlers who commenced their careers as clean type grapplers have performed an about face. Sandor Kovacs started out as a model mat man, clean, fast, and sincere. Now Sandor is a toughie with a tremendous amount of box office appeal." (From WRESTLING, May 1951)
Prominent titles: NWA Hawaiian tag champion, with Johnny Barend, 1955; NWA Pacific Coast tag champion, with Enrique Torres, 1956; NWA Canadian tag champion (Vancouver), with Dan Miller, 1962
BOXING BOSS TAKES ON PRO WRESTLING
(The Daily Oklahoman, July 7, 1997)
By David Zizzo
It was a professional wrestling reversal Psycho would be proud of. Pro wrestling, with all those pile drivers and body slams, is real. Well, it's real enough. At least it's dangerous, or potentially dangerous. This is what
the Oklahoma state director of boxing argued recently. No, pro wrestling is all fake. It's staged. It's rehearsed. It's harmless entertainment. This is what the wrestlers -- or entertainers -- argued. the whole thing had to do with a wrestling match that didn't happen last month. Boxing regulators shut down the scheduled match because promoters didn't get licenses and permits.
Regulators want to regulate wrestling -- and collect fees. they say the law says wrestling comes under the boxing commission's authority. Administrative hearing officer Jeff Lee said he would issue a ruling in about a week.
Lee spent the day watching video of Psycho, Bonecrusher and the Rock & Roll Cowboy tossing each other around and listening to participants debate mud wrestling and Shakespeare in the park. Mark Collum, attorney for boxing officials, also grilled wrestling promoters over gate receipts and the organization's claim it benefits charities and makes no profit.
Wrestlers affiliated with Upright Oklahoma Inc., doing business as Powerzone Wrestling, say pro wrestling shouldn't be regulated because it's not a sport. Roger Coil, attorney for Power zone, said pro wrestling is like a fight in a Shakespeare performance.
"They don't regulate 'Hamlet,"' he said.
Coil asked state Boxing Director Jim Gasso why boxing officials don't regulate female mud wrestling or midget wrestling.
"You know, I'm going to have to start regulating mud wrestling, midget wrestling, too," Gasso said.
Coil asked Gasso if pro wrestling is real. Gasso said, "It's both. It's fake and it's real." Gasso said the outcome is fake but the moves are real wrestling moves performed by real athletes. Coil noted the wrestlers had "gelatinous beer bellies. They don't look like any athletes I've ever seen," he said.
"Just because a guy has a beer belly doesn't mean he's not in shape," Gasso said.
Opponents at the hearing argued over language in the state law saying the boxing director had authority over sports in which blows are struck that a reasonable per son would think could inflict harm.
Tom Jones, who teaches pro wrestling, was asked if pro wrestling blows are dangerous.
"Couldn't break an egg," he said.
Charlie Polk, a former member of the state Boxing Advisory Committee and an official with Upright, was asked if pro wrestling involves body contact.
"No more than dancing," he said. Jones said that before matches, he discusses planned outcomes of the evening's events with performers.
"I will sit down and talk to them and say there's got to be winners and losers," he said. In his career, he has played both good-guy and bad-guy roles.
Wrestler Jim Compton said pro wrestling is always about good and evil. "Eventually, good triumphs over evil," he said. "It's basically like a soap opera."
Gasso argued the boxing law is intended to protect spectators and wrestlers. Opponents asked: From what?
"These guys are huge," Gasso said. "they could fall down and hurt themselves, and also the fans."
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.)
A&E CHRONICLES THE GRUNTS AND GROANS
(Fayetteville, N.C., Observer-Times, April 26, 1998)
By Chick Jacobs
Great, you mutter. Just what the world needs. Another two hours of professional wrestling on TV -- and on A&E at that.
But before you flip past those grunting, grappling men in tights who seem to be everywhere on TV, watch long enough to get a feel for "the Unreal Story of Professional Wrestling." You may never look at TV wrestling the same again -- that is, if you ever looked at it at all.
"Professional Wrestling" looks at the highs and lows of Americas century love-hate grudge match with professional wrestling. And if you think theres too much wrestling on TV now, snagging six of the top 10 spots in this weeks cable Nielsens, think about the fledgling days of TV a half-century ago -- when folks would crowd around shop windows long after dark just to watch grapplers like "Killer" Kowalski and Lou Thesz scuffle.
Narrated by Steve Allen, "Professional Wrestling" provides fodder for those who claim pro wrestling is fake. It also offers support for fans who claim the action is real. It also tries to answer the underlying mystery of wrestlings popularity -- if just about everyone agrees that pro wrestling is fake, why is it so popular?
The answer lies somewhere in the realm of Walter Mitty and soap opera. Once the average fan no longer had to worry about wrestling as athletic competition, he (and in growing numbers she) was able to look at it as mat-
slapping, tag-teaming entertainment.
For the wrestling fan, Chris Mortensens show is a fascinating look into how the sport -- and at one time it was a sport -- evolved into the combination Super Bowl-Vegas show it is today. More intriguing, it talks to some of the
legends of wrestling, including Gorilla Monsoon, Killer Kowalski, Classy Freddie Blassie and others, about how wrestling came off the mat after World War II to become a national obsession.
And if you ever wanted to know how Hulk Hogan managed to pin Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania III -- described as the greatest match in modern pro wrestling history -- youll get your chance. People who hate pro wrestling will probably flip right past the show, settling in on something more uplifting like "Baby Brokers" on Lifetime or "Porkys" on Comedy Central. And "Apollo 13," which also starts at 8 p.m. on ABC will no doubt cut the audience. Not to worry -- the show repeats at midnight.
You might want to tape it to watch later -- like the next time Stone Cold Steve Austin takes apart his opponent. Watch him and wonder if this guy really take on Ed "the Strangler" Lewis or Verne Gagne in their prime?
"Professional Wrestling" is a fun trip down memory lane with a little bit of sociological analysis thrown in.
You may not love wrestling when the show is over, but at least youll understand why your grandma does -- and why she keeps a brick in her handbag.
WELCOME TO 'FAMOUS PERSONAGES IN JAPAN'
(ED. NOTE -- These World Wide Web pages have been developed by the students of Kyoto Sangyo University for non-Japanese who would like to learn about famous personages in modern-day Japan.
(the URL: http://www.kyoto-su.ac.jp/information/famous/index.html)
Date of Birth: 23 January 1938
Place of Birth: Sanjyo-city, Niigata
Giant Baba is famous as a professional wrestler all over the world, but most people do not know that he has been a professional baseball player. He gave up high school and entered the Giants as a pitcher. But one day he fell down in a bathroom and injured his shoulder, so he couldn't play baseball anymore. After that, in 1960, he became a pupil of Rikidozan and became a professional wrestler. At the same time Antonio Inoki was initiated into Rikidozan, too. Baba and Inoki debuted in 1960 and they paired up from 1967 to 1971. the tag
name was called BI-Ho(BI cannon). they were a very strong tag team at that time. But Antonio Inoki established New Japan pro-wrestling and Giant Baba established All Japan pro-wrestling, so they couldn't pair up and fight
anymore. All professional wrestling fans want to watch Baba vs Inoki's fighting even now, but it is impossible, because between All Japan pro-wrestling and New Japan pro-wrestling have no exchange. It is a dream for all
professional wrestling fans forever.
Baba has been very strong since he debuted, because he is 209cm tall. He captured International Heavyweight championship in 1965 and defended it 21 times continuously. And in 1974 he captured the NWA Heavyweight championship a first for a Japanese.He is also active in TV programes, for example quiz show, variety show.
Date of Birth: 20 February 1943
Place of Birth: Yokohama-city, Kanagawa
Antonio Inoki is a politician as well as a very famous pro-wrestler. When he was fourteen, his family settled in Brazil. And when he was sixteen, he won the first prize in the discus throw and the shot put at All Brazil Athletics championships. In 1960, he was scouted by Rikidozan who was old wrestler, famous for his Karate chop. So he went back to Japan, and became a pro-wrestler. In 1966, he organized "Tokyo Pro-Wrestling," but it was unsuccessful. After that, he made a comeback with "Japan pro-wrestling." But in 1972, he became independent
again, and set up "New Japan pro-wrestling." there he held a battle event, which many different kinds of fighters participated in, for example, the king of judo, William Ruska, and the king of boxing, Muhammad Ali. He became a world-famous pro-wrestler at the tournament.
He had many brilliant records, for example, "International tag match title," "Asia tag title," "North-America tag," "NWF heavy class title," and so on. Antonio Inoki's deadly techniques are "the Manji Scissors," and "the Enzui-
gri." In 1971, he married Mitsuko Baisho who is a very famous actress at present, but in 1987 they were divorced. In 1989, he organized "Sports Peace Party" and won the election for the House of Councilors. And then, his party merged with the Democratic Socialist Party. In 1991, he decided to run for the Governor of Tokyo, but he stepped down before the election. In 1993, he was charged with tax evasion and election law violation by a former secretary, and resigned as the party leader.
RIC FLAIR'S TITLE REIGNS, 1981 TO PRESENT
Ric Flair's 14 title reigns as world heavyweight champion have spanned 15 years and two wrestling federations. He held the belt at least once every year from 1981 to 1996.
Flair defeats Dusty Rhodes on 9/17/81 in Kansas City
Harley Race defeats Flair on 6/10/83 in St. Louis, MO
Flair defeats Race on 11/24/83 in Greensboro, NC
Kerry Von Erich defeats Flair on 5/6/84 in Dallas, TX
Flair defeats Von Erich on 5/24/84 in Yokosuna, Japan
Rhodes defeats Flair on 7/26/86 in Greensboro, NC
Flair defeats Rhodes on 8/9/86 in St. Louis, MO
Ronnie Garvin defeats Flair on 9/25/87 in Detroit, IL
Flair defeats Garvin on 11/26/87 in Chicago, IL
Ricky Steamboat defeats Flair on 2/20/89 in Chicago, IL
Flair defeats Steamboat on 5/7/89 in Nashville, TN
Sting defeats Flair on 7/7/90 in Baltimore, MD
Flair defeats Sting 1/11/91 in East Rutherford, NJ
Flair signs with the WWF and is stripped of title. Lex Luger wins title in tournament final.
Flair wins WWF title in Royal Rumble on 1/19/92 in Albany, NY
Randy Savage defeats Flair on 4/5/92 in Indianapolis, IN
Flair defeats Savage on 9/1/92 in Hersey, PA
Bret Hart defeats Flair on 10/12/92 in Saskatoon, SK, Canada
Flair moves back to WCW
Flair defeats Barry Windham for NWA International title on 7/18/93 in Biloxi, MS
Rick Rude defeats Flair on 9/19/93 in Houston, TX
Flair defeats Vader for WCW title on 12/27/93 in Charlotte, NC
Flair defeats Sting to unify WCW/NWA title on 6/23/94 in Charleston, SC
Hulk Hogan defeats Flair on 7/17/94 in Orlando, FL
Flair defeats Randy Savage on 12/27/95 in Nashville, TN
Savage defeats Flair on 1/22/96 in Las Vagas, NV
Flair defeats Savage on 2/12/96 in St. Petersburg, FL
The Giant defeats Flair on 4/22/96 in Albany, GA
In addition to all the world heavyweight titles he's won, the Nature Boy has collected quite a few other straps in his long career: WCW US champion--1 Time; NWA World Tag Team champion--3 Times; NWA US champion--5 Times; NWA Mid-Atlantic champion--2 Times; NWA Mid-Atlantic Tag champion--3 Times; NWA Mid-Atlantic TV champion--2 Times;
COURT: PRO MAT REPORTING NOT JOURNALISM
(Associated Press, July 23, 1998)
PITTSBURGH --Make-believe reporting on pro wrestling doesnt qualify as real journalism. That judgment comes from a federal appeals court. The case involved a Turner Broadcastings 900 telephone line that carried fictional news accounts for pro wrestling fans. On it, former newspaper reporter Mark Madden reported a rumor and mentioned Kevin "Diesel" Nash and Scott "Razor Ramon" Hall. Both characters belong to Titan Sports World Wrestling Federation, so Titan sued for trademark violation. Madden refused to reveal his source, saying it was protected by the shield law in Pennsylvania, where hes based. the appeals panel says that law protects real journalists reporting news thats in the public interest. The court says just because Madden calls himself a journalist doesnt make him one.
The WAWLI Papers
(ED. NOTE--Before we return to days of yore, one last stop on the modern-day mat circuit -- the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Perhaps inspired by the 39,000-plus who squeezed into the Georgia Dome for last month's Nitro show that catapulted Goldberg to the WCW title, the AJ-C has become, at least for the time being, the foremost mainstream home of pro wrestling coverage in the world. Check it out yourself at: http://www.accessatlanta.com/sports)
FANS OF ALL RACES CATCH WRESTLING FEVER
(Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 30, 1998)
By Lori Wiechman, the Associated Press
Atlanta -- the noise is deafening as the crowd singsongs `'Gold-berg, Goldberg,'' praising the new heavyweight champion, who holds the shiny title belt from world championship Wrestling over his bald head and releases his
terrifying war cry.
Fans of all races wave signs screaming, "Will You Marry Me Goldberg?,'' "Goldberg Rules!,'' and "Goldberg, Nice Jewish Boy!''
Like phantom leg drops and well-choreographed body slams, racial stereotypes have always been a part of professional wrestling.
Dress up an Arab like a sheik and put him in the ring against a flag-waving patriot. Suit up a Russian-looking guy like a Soviet soldier and have him pummeled by an all-American hero. Use racist code-terms to describe black wrestlers: back-alley fighter, street-tough brawler.
The 1990s version of professional wrestling, undergoing a surge of popularity thanks to Ted Turner's marketing, is still a testosterone-driven soap opera with ridiculously fake violence, but the wrestlers are more diverse, and so is the crowd.
Each wrestling circuit has had token minorities for decades, but they were usually reinforcing racist stereotypes or playing second fiddle to the blue-eyed champs like Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. Now, some of the top wrestlers are black, Hispanic or Jewish, and they regularly get a chance to pummel the pretty boys. And wrestlers say the fans -- all but a handful -- love it.
"You get a few rednecks out there, they can't even pronounce Chavo,'' said Chavo Guerrero of Turner's world championship Wrestling. "I don't care. I get a rise out of them. I say, 'Thank you, call me anything that you want, but you just paid my house payment.'''
Atlanta-based WCW has been soaring in popularity after the company began signing the top talent away from its main competitor, the World Wrestling Federation, which made Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Randy "Macho Man'' Savage stars in the 1980s.
The competing Monday night shows have been battling to be cable's top-rated program for months, with both of them getting higher ratings than "real'' sports and the popular "South Park'' on Comedy Central. Both companies are doing it with a lineup that features star wrestlers of all creeds and colors.
Bill Goldberg, a football star at the University of Georgia whose pro career was ended by injury, has become one of WCW's most popular wrestlers. He says he hasn't heard many racist taunts, or felt pressure from organizers to change his name.
"It's nice to be taken in by the Jewish community, but that's not my goal,'' said Goldberg, who defeated Hogan to win the title. "My goal is to go out there and beat people up.'' The Goldberg-Hogan battle drew more than 39,000 fans to Atlanta's Georgia Dome, and millions more watch each month on cable or pay-per-view. And not all of the fans are beer-swilling, blue-collar white males. Families of all races, students wearing fraternity and sorority T-shirts and professionals are staying tuned each week -- and some bold ones are even talking about it around the watercooler.
"You pretty much have to watch it every time it's on TV or you'll miss something. It's like a soap opera,'' said Tim Cobb, 33, of Marietta. Attending a WCW show in the Georgia Dome for the second time in a year, 10-year-old Lance Browning proudly predicted that his man, Goldberg, would crush Hogan.
"He can beat anybody, everybody, anytime, anywhere,'' said Lance, one of the many black children screaming for Goldberg. And while the face of the audience is changing, so is the face of the wrestlers -- albeit slowly.
Booker T and Stevie Ray make up the brother tag-team combination called Harlem Heat. "I tell black people, don't be discouraged in wrestling, there's too few of us in there,'' said Booker T, WCW's Television champion. "Now they got Booker T out there and everybody's loving him and now they say, 'I want to do that.' Maybe 10 years from now, we'll see a whole lot more.''
And the WCW has been adding more Hispanics and Asians, who are known for their high-wire acrobatics in the ring in contrast to the sheer power of the larger wrestlers. But some critics say wrestling is a racist business.
Bobby "Hardwork'' Walker is suing WCW for racial discrimination, saying he was passed over for opportunities in favor of white performers. He claims he was told he was a token black and would never be scripted to win a belt. He complained about being told to lose matches to less-talented white wrestlers. "They treated him wrong because of his race. We think that's a pervasive problem throughout WCW,'' said Walker's attorney, Louis Cohan of Atlanta.
It wasn't until six years ago that a black man won a world heavyweight wrestling title, when Ron Simmons won the WCW title.
"I have not experienced hard-core racism. Everything that I got I got because I worked for it -- not because I'm black,'' said Simmons, now known as Faarooq in the WWF. "I wasn't brought in as a favorite for anyone.''
Booker T, whose real name is Booker T. Huffman, said he knows that black kids need role models of color -- and black wrestlers can do that by refusing to become stereotypes.
"I'm trying to give a different image to wrestling and to black wrestlers because I feel like we need to set standards,'' he said.
Abdullah the Butcher was a walking stereotype when he was a wrestler. Known as the Wild Man of Sudan, his head butt was one of the most feared weapons in wrestling in the '70s and early '80s. Blacks weren't the only group with a token stereotype wrestler.There was "Chief'' Jay Strongbow, who wore a big headdress; the Iron Sheik, particularly hated during the Iran hostage crisis; and Mr. Fugi, a sneaky Asian.
"I heard wrasslers call me names behind the back but I was Abdullah the Butcher. I was the top,'' said Abdullah, who actually is from Canada and now owns a rib joint south of Atlanta. "I would like to see more black wrestlers, more Mexican wrestlers, more Indian wrestlers, but it goes back to the same thing -- you have to draw
people. Green, black, purple, whatever, you've got to draw,'' said Abdullah, whose real name is Larry Shreeve.
Booker T and Stevie Ray (whose real name is Lane Huffman), told WCW organizers they were not going just to be token blacks. they were assured it wouldn't be that way, but when the organizers tried to get them to change their names to Kain and Kole, they fought it.
"I couldn't relate with it. It had nothing to do with being black,'' Booker T said. "I'm from Harlem, why would my name be Kain? My name's Booker T.''
Hogan said he's never thought about whether minority wrestlers were mistreated. "Minorities? I've never really noticed it,'' he said. "It doesn't matter if you're black, yellow, white or red. If you're good, you get a shot at it.''
'RASSLIN' IS NO EASY TASK FOR DOUGHBOYS
(Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 17, 1998)
By Mitch Sneed
Five minutes before the opening of a three-day tryout camp at the World Championship Wrestling Power Plant, director Joe Hamilton and longtime assistant Brenda Smith have predicted the washout order.
"Big Boy there will be the first; he'll be lucky to last 30 minutes," grumbled Hamilton, pointing to an Orlando man who came in at more than 300 pounds and less than Herculean shape. "These guys think this is a show; they think they can win a bar fight or coach a football team so they can be on TV. It's about being in shape and conditioned to go 30 minutes in the ring. We weed them out pretty quick in here."
Of the 12 aspiring professional wrestlers, who paid $250 each to try out, six didn't return after lunch the first day.
As Hamilton predicted, "Big Boy" -- who spent much of the first two hours of training being taunted by instructors with jelly doughnuts and verbal abuse -- was the first to leave. By the final day, only three -- about average for these tryouts, according to Hamilton -- still kept the dream of being the next Diamond Dallas Page or Bill
They are invited back to the downtown Atlanta facility's training camp, a three-month ordeal with a $3,000 price tag. Hamilton, who wrestled for more than 30 years as one of the masked Assassins, will turn 60 this month. Although the Power Plant may be a place for young wrestlers to start, it has been a way for the Brooks resident to give back to the combination of sport and entertainment that paid his bills for so many years.
His son, Joe Jr., who works under the name Nick Patrick, wrestled before a knee injury led him to become a referee. He is involved in some of the hottest story lines in WCW, and he learned the business from his father, who is passing it on to these other hopefuls now.
Hamilton, who wrestled his first competitive match in 1956, retired in 1988 and started a training facility in Lovejoy. He hooked up with the Turner organization and WCW eight years ago and has been turning out successful wrestlers ever since.
"There are no minor leagues in pro wrestling, no feeder programs and no college teams like with football," Hamilton said. "If a guy wants to get into it, for a long time there was no good way to do it. We get hundreds of calls from guys who sit in front of the TV and think they can do it, too. Most of them are just bull, but the ones who come to the tryout are at least serious enough to put their money where their mouths are.
"For a guy like me, this is just great. To see a kid that I took some interest in out there doing well is a thrill. It's been an extension of my career, something I love doing."
One Monday morning, Hamilton was in his office clearing 60 voice mail messages from those interested in getting in on the WCW act. He figures maybe two will actually follow through.
Shane Wright made a similar call a month ago. the 25-year-old from Bentonville, Ark., the town Wal-Mart made famous, was urged to try out by his sister, who can name every WCW star and their closing moves. The college graduate with a degree in recreation knew enough to be in shape when he got to Atlanta.
"I'm glad I did it," said Wright, who went the distance but was told to gain 15 pounds of muscle before coming back. "I'm a personal trainer, so I was in pretty good shape. But I was so sore I could hardly move that second day. I got into it because of my sister and thought, I can do that. I have a shot now; it's all up to me."
Instructors are a cast of WCW wrestlers, past, present and future, all dishing out their version of what it takes to make it big. they are rarely quiet and see to it that no one stops moving. Former Washington Redskins defensive lineman Charles Mann, who was at the Power Plant in his new role as a sportscaster for a Washington-area television station, said the intense physical training moved faster than an NFL training camp.
"Who you been watching on TV that makes you think you can do this, boy?" instructor Pez Whatley screamed at one of the participants. "There ain't nothing easy about it. You think you can eat doughnuts and drink beer all
night and do this, you're crazy. You have to be in shape, and this is the only way to find out, if you have it in here (pointing to his heart)."
Heart is a theme, especially with the boss. Hamilton is still an intimidating figure, although the constant abuse he gave his body while he barnstormed across the country has slowed him. He admits wrestling has changed over the years, especially recently, with NBA stars Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone dabbling in the act, but there is romance in his tone when he talks about someone new breaking into "the squared circle."
"No matter what you do in life, you have to be prepared, and you have to have heart to succeed," Hamilton said. "If I can instill that in a kid here, they'll make it big. It may not be in wrestling, but they'll make it. That's what it's all about.
"Wrestling is bigger than ever, and I'd like to think part of it's because of the guys we are putting out."
HIS DINNER WITH ABDULLAH THE BUTCHER
(Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 17, 1998)
By Bill Banks
Abdullah the Butcher shoves a plateful of ribs before a customer and says, "Eat."
He's sitting inside his Ben Hill restaurant, Abdullah the Butcher's House of Ribs and Chinese Food, all 6 feet, 450 pounds of him. Or 400 pounds, or 375. During a 34-year pro wrestling career, he publicly ingested raw fish, raw beef, raw liver, raw chicken and glossy 8-by-10 photos of opponents.
"Eat," the Butcher says, adopting his famous cold-blooded stare. "Put the fork down," he says. "Pick up the rib with your fingers and eat it like a man."
Lord knows, the Butcher has nothing against forks. He used them for years in the ring -- forks, knives, sticks, screwdrivers or whatever he could slip inside his waistband.
When he began in the early 1960s, professional wrestling was a grimy denizen of the small arenas. "In those days," Abdullah the Butcher said, "you learned how to rassle, how to be violent."
He puts a tape in the VCR, keeping one eye on the screen and one on the customers. The match, probably from the early 1980s, features Abdullah, or "the Mad Man from the Sudan," against Hulk Hogan. Clenched with Hogan in staggering embrace, the Butcher pulls out -- what? -- a fork, maybe, or a screwdriver.
"Watch closely," Abdullah says. then he turns to a customer and says, "Why, hello there, young lady. Have you tried 'Abdullah's veggie mix'?"
On screen, a younger Abdullah -- he doesn't give his age, but it could be roughly 58 -- seems to be gouging Hulk's eye. Hulk breaks free and blood ravages his face. then the Butcher drop-shoots his elbow directly to Hogan's throat: the famous "Sudanese meat cleaver."
With the Butcher, whether he's wrestling or talking, the line's always blurred between fact and put-on. He now admits he was the fourth of seven children, born in Windsor, Ontario, and not Sudan, or "parts unknown."
He still doesn't give his real name, nor does he explain his forehead markings, the deep-chiseled scars that resemble four ancient riverbeds.
He says little about his community work, including his donation of thousands of dollars to the Ben Hill Recreation Center next door to the restaurant. He's sponsored teams, catered banquets, spoken to kids and bought the center a pool table.
"I'm amazed by the depth of this man," said Robert Reese, the rec center's assistant director for 15 years. "He's an astute businessman. He can talk politics and world events. He's got a kind of humor that sneaks up on you. And he's a first-rate genuine person."
The Butcher says nothing about any of this. He says, "I don't like people to know my business. Just say I live down in Locust Grove, where I sit in my home and watch the pretty little deer run past." The Butcher relishes pastoral seclusion. "But maybe one day," he said, "I catch one of those little deer and eat it."
'MONDAY NIGHT RAW' HUGE FOR WWF, USA
(Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 17, 1998)
By Alex Marvez, Scripps Howard News Service
The World Wrestling Federation and USA Network have learned that sex, skin and violence sells. Ratings for Monday Night Raw telecasts have skyrocketed since April when the WWF made its product more risque. Raw has drawn higher television ratings than WCW Monday Nitro in nine of past 11 weeks in head-to-head competition, reversing 1 1/2 years of dominance by World Championship Wrestling.
''The show has changed,'' said Bonnie Hammer, the senior vice president of USA's original programming. ''Vince (McMahon, the WWF's owner) has put a lot of energy, time and probably dollars into renovating the show both in terms of its production, storyline and superstars. the show is a cooler, hotter product that is a bit more hip.''
There is no question the frequent appearances of ''Stone Cold'' Steve Austin, one of wrestling's two hottest stars (WCW's Bill Goldberg is the other), has helped improve television ratings. But the WWF also is pushing the envelope of good taste -- and getting great results.
Censorship bars have become commonplace on Raw in recent weeks. Among the most notable stunts:
Val Venis had his genitalia whacked by Yamaguchi-San with a kendo stick.The flogging was prompted by a video showing Venis and Yamaguchi-San's ''wife'' in bed together. Women raised their tops to salute Degeneration X. Female performers such as Sable and Chyna donned g-strings. USA also allows WWF performers to intentionally cut themselves with razor blades to draw blood. Unlike Nitro, Raw cameras do not move back if blood is drawn during a match or skit.
Hammer admits she is ''not going to let my four-4-year-old watch'' Raw. But she did say USA approves the content of every WWF telecast before it airs and has vetoed skits before.
''I think we get a bum rep,'' Hammer said. ''Take a look at prime-time drama series. We're not any more violent than NYPD Blue. In terms of the sexual innuendo, it's done for humor. the product also is far less violent than it
was a while ago. there is more fun and humor taking place.''
Hammer said USA recently signed a three-year contract extension for Raw, although the future of Sunday Night Heat is less certain. the one-hour program, which debuted two weeks ago, was originally going. to air only in
August. But Heat has done much better than expected. On Sunday, Heat drew an impressive 4.2 television rating (3.045 million homes) and provided such a strong lead-in that USA's Pacific Blue garnered a record 4.0 rating.
''We'd be silly not to take a serious look at what those numbers mean,'' Hammer said.
Wrestling is the highest rated form of programming on cable television and, as reflected by the proliferation of WWF and WCW merchandise in shopping malls and in-ring appearances of Jay Leno and Dennis Rodman, has gained acceptance as mainstream entertainment, Hammer said. Raw's teen-age audience (ages 12-17)
has increased 165 percent in the past year.
But will grappling reach a saturation point as it did in the late 1980s? USA and TNT already air a combined 12 hours of grappling weekly, not to mention monthly pay-per-view shows from WCW and the WWF.
''I would be lying if I say I don't. think about that every day,'' Hammer said. ''I don't know if there is a saturation point. Right now, it doesn't seem like the audience can get enough of this.
''If both groups are clever and keep their storylines fresh and unpredictable, why not? Why do soap operas keep their audiences for 20 years? There is no difference. This is the kind of soap opera geared for men and teens.''
The WAWLI Papers
QUESTIONS FOR LOU THESZ
(On-line Q&A Session, July 9, 1996)
Subj: Re:Rocca, Rogers, and Bruno
My short answer is: yes, yes, and yes, and I beat him, beat him, and beat him. The longer answer is this:
ROCCA -- We wrestled many, many times over the years, beginning in the Texas territory in the late '40s when he first came to the U.S., and later throughout his "home" territory in the Northeast. Tony was a sad character who embodied what I believe -- then and now -- was the death of credible wrestling. I refused to ever lay down for Tony, even in his own backyard, because I had such contempt for that style.
ROGERS -- The greatest performer of them all, but like Rocca, he couldn't wrestle a lick. Dr. Bill Miller, one of the great authentic wrestlers in our business, has a funny story about taking Rogers down to the gym and trying to teach him some basic wrestling (this was probably more than 15 years after Rogers broke into the business). Bill worked him out for less than 30 minutes before Rogers said, "F*** this, I don't need it! Let's go get a beer." He'd blown up five minutes into the workout and couldn't handle actual wrestling. Of course, I have to add, in fairness to Buddy, that very few people could handle "Big" Bill Miller.
(As long as I'm talking about Rogers, I should comment on something that one of the readers of my autobiography has pointed out. I say in my book that I never lost a match to Rogers -- for two reasons: I would almost never look at the lights for a performer, primarily to protect my own credibility, and he had said some things about my mentor, Ed Lewis, that were disrespectful. Buddy and I worked together many, many times during the late 1940s and through the '50s and into the early '60s, and all of our matches ended either in a draw or with me going over. As I said, I refused to lay down for Rogers. Recently, though, I received a message from a reader/fan who says that a history of the Texas Heavyweight title shows me winning that title from Buddy in Houston and then dropping it back to him a week later. Maybe so. the fact is, I don't remember it, and I'd be grateful if someone would visit the public library in Houston and get into the newspaper microfilm files to pull a copy of the story. Sorry, but I'm unsure of the date -- the reader said it was 1946, and anyone interested enough to research this for me could probably pin it down precisely by checking the record book of that particular title. If I'm indeed wrong, I'd like to correct the book. You have to remember that I wrestled more than 6,000 matches in my career, so it's no surprise that I might have forgotten a couple.)
(3) Bruno and I wrestled at least once -- in Toronto, in 1963, shortly after I won the NWA title for the last time (from Buddy Rogers), and a month or so before he won the WWWF title. We went 30 minutes, and I won by a pinfall. I say "at least once" because there are some fans who claim we wrestled again. As I said in the response about Rogers, it's possible that I've forgotten, but I really don't think so. Bruno's people and I had a serious talk about a title-vs.-title series in Madison Square Garden that would have been the first closed-circuit broadcast of a wrestling card, but we couldn't work it out...because of the money they offered.
(to be continued in WAWLI # 255)
THE AMAZING TV BUSINESS OF WWF AND WCW
(Broadcasting & Cable, August 8, 1998)
By Joe Schlosser
Diamond Dallas Page makes his way down the ramp and into the ring. the Giant, a seven-foot-four, 475-pound behemoth, and the well-traveled Hollywood (formerly Hulk) Hogan are not far behind. Rock music screams, fireworks explode and 10,000 fans packed into the Denver Coliseum go wild.
Another 3 or 4 million people across the country are watching at home, eagerly waiting to see whether former NFL player Bill Goldberg will find his way into the ring. A few thousand miles away, Stone Cold Steve Austin is marching down a similar ramp, with rock music and fireworks in the background. A sold-out crowd of more than 11,000 loyal fans is on hand at the San Diego Sports Arena -- and close to 4 million viewers are at home, tuned in to see if Austin and his tag team partner the Undertaker can take down Owen Hart and the Rock.
It is just another Monday night in the suddenly resurgent professional wrestling business, a business that is drawing fans -- and, more important, advertisers -- to the ring in eye-gouging numbers. Two different wrestling
organizations, two different cable outlets and two very different owner/promoters are running the show these days.
The World Wrestling Federation, which rose to national prominence in the early 1980s under the guidance and ownership of Vince McMahon, is back on top of the Nielsen ratings these days. With a whole new cast of characters, a new attitude and some Jerry Springer-like qualities, the WWF has scratched its way back from an early '90s funk.
The WWF's Monday night Raw Is War is carried on USA Network 52 weeks a year, half of the shows live from various arenas around the country. the WWF's popularity has helped to fuel USA Network's status as the country's top-rated cable channel. Over the past two months, Raw has overtaken WCW's Monday Nitro
in the weekly ratings battle. And last month, WWF introduced Sunday Night Heat, a five-week trial run that scored a 3.7 rating in its first outing and a 4.2 rating in its second effort, according to Nielsen Media Research.
WWF and USA executives say that they still are discussing whether or not to make Sunday Night Heat a weekly event. McMahon also says he is in negotiations to bring the WWF back to network television, where it last played on NBC in 1991. Saturday Night Main Events, a series of weekend specials, aired on NBC between 1985 and 1991, and two similar specials aired on Fox in the late '80s.
McMahon won't say which network the WWF is in negotiations with. On the cable side, the WWF recently signed a new three-year contract with USA Network that begins this fall and includes a mutual "out" for both sides after two years.
Meanwhile, world championship Wrestling, created by Time Warner Vice Chairman Ted Turner in the late 1980s, has been the hottest thing on cable TV for the past two and half years. Since it debuted on Labor Day weekend in 1995, WCW's Monday Nitro has topped WWF's Raw Is War for the majority of Mondays over that
Nitro is carried live on Turner's TNT Network for three hours every Monday from arenas across the country. For the year, Monday Nitro has averaged a 4.5 rating on TNT, while WWF's Raw Is War has averaged a 4.3 rating. WCW's Thursday Night Thunder, which debuted earlier this year on co-owned TBS, has averaged a strong 3.7 rating year-to-date.
The two wrestling organizations combined gross well over a billion dollars a year in licensing, ad revenue, pay per view, syndication and sold-out arena sales, both domestically and internationally. During the past year, ratings have increased over 50% for wrestling, and more than 40 million people have watched wrestling every week in one form or another.
Internationally, the WWF airs in more than 110 countries and in eight different languages. the WCW is carried internationally on Turner's various international channels. Many of the top wrestlers on each side have worked for the rival faction during their careers, and the high-stakes battle for ratings and dollars has developed into something of a grudge match between TV's wrestling powers.
Two years ago McMahon filed a lawsuit against the WCW for copyright infringement, and the WCW quickly countersued. Both cases are still pending in a Connecticut court. Neither organization claims that the actual wrestling inside the ropes is for real; both call it entertainment. But what is real is that professional wrestling is the dominant programming form on cable television. Outside the NBA, NFL or original episodes of Comedy Central's hit South Park, WCW and WWF claim the top five or six spots in the basic-cable Nielsen standings each week.
Wrestling also attracts the most advertiser-friendly demographics in cable; truckloads of male viewers in the coveted 18-49 and 12-24 categories tune in each week.
"I think we've reinvented cable TV," says Eric Bischoff, the president of World Championship Wrestling, who also plays himself in various WCW story lines on TNT and TBS. "It is really ironic that our competition spends as much time complaining about what we've done -- because they [WWF] were dead before we came along. the fact is we've created competition for them, which forced them to be better and also forces us to step it up."
McMahon, who purchased the WWF from his father, Vince Sr., in 1982, says wrestling is finally starting to overcome its long-standing image problem with the public -- and, more important, with advertisers. "There is and has been a stereotypical image of wrestling that was created by my predecessors, of Damon
Runyonesque, cigar-chomping characters running around in smoke-filled rooms," McMahon says.
"We're still dealing with a little bit of that stigma that we brought on ourselves. But it's starting to become more mainstream now, and some executives -- like [USA Networks Chairman] Barry Diller -- are starting to
understand populist television. the advertisers also see what a great platform wrestling is for their products."
Chris Geraci, senior vice president and director of national TV buying for BBDO in New York, says the secret to wrestling's newfound fame is in its far-reaching, daily presence. "What you are dealing with is a truly integrated
product, with live events, pay per view and what is on the air on commercial television," Geraci says. "they've got a lot of brand awareness going on, because they are reaching their target audience through so many different avenues. And if you can tolerate the content and you are selling a product to that audience, you have some of the best concentration in cable or television altogether."
In 1995, TNT President Bradley Siegel says he met with WCW executives and drew up a plan that would change the face of wrestling. Siegel says that for WCW to become a national force in the entertainment industry, the weekly matches had to be turned into "event programming."
"We needed to do something that people had not seen on a weekly basis with wrestling. It needed to be live, it needed to be live every week, and it had to become basically the Monday Night Football of wrestling,"
Siegel says. "And it had to be in major arenas, not in little podunk two thousand, three thousand-seat arenas." Siegel got his wish. With the addition of a number of former WWF stars -- the biggest being Hulk Hogan, whose moniker was quickly changed to Hollywood Hogan -- the WCW began to pick up momentum. Fans started turning out in droves, and the WCW was soon coming into millions of homes each week from top-named arenas like Madison Square Garden and Los Angeles's Great Western Forum.
TNT chose to go head-to-head with the WWF, putting its three-hour (it started out as a two-hour program) Nitro on Monday nights, the same night USA had been airing Raw Is War since 1993. A new, heated rivalry was born, and McMahon says he wasn't going to watch his family's long-standing franchise go down for the count without a fight.
Faced with the new challenge, McMahon teamed with USA executives and his own production staff to turn the WWF's fortunes around. Through a combination of new stars, edgy story lines and 26 live events a year, the WWF began to see increased ratings and was soon matching -- and, more recently, surpassing -- WCW
in some ratings categories.
After a year and half, Siegel says that TNT was seeing big results from WCW's live Monday night shows. the ratings were reaching levels that his network had seen only with professional sports like the National Basketball Association and the National Football League. the arenas were selling out in every city, and WCW merchandise was flying off the shelves. But Siegel says the biggest piece of the puzzle was still missing: advertisers.
"Last year I visited every single advertising agency in New York, I was so frustrated by the fact that I knew we had this event every Monday night that delivered the same kind of viewers that major sporting events and ESPN and MTV were delivering, but advertisers had this sort of snob attitude about it," he says. "It was as though [advertisers] thought it wasn't good for their product. It made no sense at all."
Siegel says he had to convince Madison Avenue executives that wrestling could be a safe, healthy platform to sell their products and that the stigma McMahon had talked about was no longer a reality. Siegel says he used Howard Stern's marketing pitch for the popular bottled drinks by Snapple as a prime example of how WCW could be used as a launching pad for new products.
"There is no passive listening to the Howard Stern [radio] show," he says. "It is the same thing with wrestling. the wrestling fan base is so actively involved with everything that is going on, including the commercials. A smart
marketer can really take advantage of WCW Monday Nitro and create a tremendous marketing and promotional platform."
TNT now has more than 50 national advertisers signed on to its weekly WCW matches, including the likes of Coca-Cola, H&R Block and MCI. Ad rates have jumped more than 70% in the past two years for WCW, and advertiser spending has tripled overall in that time, Turner executives say. From the 1995-96 TV season to the 1996-97 period, Turner executives say ad sales were up 238%.
Turner executives say a popular destination for Hollywood studio-type advertisers right now is TBS Superstation's new Thursday Night Thunder. TBS runs a weekly 90-second spot during Thunder called Ringside Release, which looks ahead to that weekend's new theatrical releases. Paramount, Warner Bros., DreamWorks and Universal are some of the Hollywood studios that use the platform.
Over at the WWF, ad sales have gone up 282% from a year ago, says Scott Rothschild, head of ad sales at Titan Sports Inc., WWF's parent company. Rothschild also says that ad rates are up about 190% from a year earlier. Advertisers with the WWF and USA Network now include Coca-Cola, Greyhound, Hasbro, Levi's, Mars and a number of Hollywood studios.
The advertising is so hot right now that Rothschild says he has had to double his sales force in the past year and that his staff in Manhattan will be moving into new offices next month. Titan Sports executives say they sell 90%
of the ad time on USA Network and leave the other 10% for USA sales teams. "We said to the [USA executives] that since we know what we are doing in this field, why don't we take the vast majority of the inventory and we will guarantee you X number of dollars," McMahon says.
"I'm happy to say, we are going to be cutting USA Network a nice fat check real soon, the biggest one we ever have."
Wall Street executives and top Madison Avenue types say that while wrestling may be pulling in good demographics and ratings, body slams are not for everybody. "One of the things with wrestling is the content. there are only certain advertisers that are going to take this stuff seriously, if you will," says BBDO's Geraci. "I think a lot of advertisers will tend to shy away from it because of the violence -- and, as good as the numbers may be, there will probably always be a certain number of advertisers that will not buy it."
Three weeks ago at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, Calif., McMahon climbed into the ring to set one of the WWF's female "managers" straight. McMahon, who also plays himself in the ongoing WWF soap opera story line, looked up at crowd favorite Sable and called her a "bitch."
Shortly before that, two of the WWF's most popular wrestlers, a tag team that calls itself D Generation X, began their match in usual form. the two wrestlers looked into the crowd, made a gesture to their midsection and gave
their now-patented line: "Suck This!"
McMahon says it is all part of the WWF's new attitude and a strategy to "push the envelope." He wants the WWF to be thought of as the Oakland Raiders of the wrestling world -- mean, tough and dirty, with wrestlers who are "bad-ass characters and renegades." McMahon acknowledges that he is going to have to defend his new approach to the media and to certain segments of viewers, but he says it is all good, clean fun. "Please say that we are out of control, please say that," he says.
"What we are trying to do is give people the perception that we just might be out of control. We are not, believe me, we are not. But what we are doing here is simply perceptions. the more our competitors talk about how aggressive we are, the bad language and all of that, the better off we'll be."
And the competition says the WWF is, well, out of control. "Out of desperation and in order to get bigger numbers, they are going with gratuitous T and A . . . and women mouthing the F-word," says WCW's Bischoff. "I have nothing against going for hard-core, adult themes, if indeed your network will allow you to do that, but I think it is irresponsible in the long term, and I think Vince is shooting himself in the foot."
Bonnie Hammer, senior vice president of Sci-Fi Channel programming and USA Networks original production, was assigned to the WWF cause two years ago by then USA Networks President Kay Koplovitz. Hammer and McMahon have worked together on the WWF's new strategy, and Hammer says what they are doing is no worse than ABC's NYPD Blue or Comedy Central's South Park.
"Do we push the envelope to a point that is fun? Yes, we do," Hammer says. "We stop when it's appropriate. It is not violent; there is an aggressiveness to it, but we're very careful with standards and practices about language that is bogus. Of course the competition is going to take shots at us, because we are now on top. the program is fun, and we know when to pull back." Hammer adds:
"Vince likes to be the bad guy, and he wants to be the one that is getting the little slap on the wrist, because he is just about going as far as he can go within the parameters. But there is always a wink there, always humor attached and always a cliffhanger." But Turner executives and Bischoff disagree.
They say the WWF's new tactics could end up hurting not only the WWF in the long run, but professional wrestling altogether. Bischoff says the WWF is using adult-themed content in their shows and selling the TV advertising time to companies that sell children's products. Bischoff says USA Networks Chairman Barry Diller is going to be held accountable in the end.
"I'd like Barry Diller to justify how he sells Super Soakers, M&Ms and video games on a program that has half-naked women saying fuck you," says Bischoff, who claims that his two cable outlets [TNT and TBS] censor profanity and punish any wrestlers who use bad language on air. Diller would not comment, but McMahon counters that 65% of the total WWF audience, including syndication and PPV viewers, are over 21 years old.
"Adults eat candy, as well," McMahon says.
"What they are trying to do is say that we are so edgy that our advertisers are going to leave us. That's not true; advertisers are knocking down the door and trying to get into what we are doing. ... Our advertisers understand what we are doing. (Reviewing WWF tapes, Broadcasting & Cable found women apparently mouthing "fuck," but never heard the word.)"
Many of the advertisers that have purchased time on the WWF and/or WCW would not comment on the record, claiming it was against policy. But a number spoke on background. Nearly every top movie producer said that they have no problem with the content of WCW or WWF. One advertising executive at 20th Century Fox said that wrestling is a perfect "buy" for a studio when it is launching a new film aimed at a young male audience.
"When we have spots for movies like "there's Something About Mary," which is pretty edgy anyway, we don't really have a problem with the content, and there has never really been any suggestion of that," the 20th Century Fox executive said. "Both WCW and WWF really deliver a strong core of moviegoers, and it is a great way to reach them."
Elizabeth Janneman, Turner Broadcasting executive vice president, entertainment sales, says a number of advertisers have recently told her that they were taking their ad dollars out of WWF because of the new edgy,
controversial story lines.
"They made the decision after watching the shows -- and that's really the biggest frustration we have, that a lot of people that are responsible for making the buys are not necessarily wrestling viewers -- but for the ones who
have invested the time and watch the difference between the two, feel WWF is just out-and-out raunchy," Janneman says. Broadcasting & Cable could not locate any advertisers who were pulling their ad dollars out of WWF. And Titan's Rothschild says that in the past three and a half years, no advertiser has failed to renew its contract with WWF.
McMahon claims that Time Warner Vice Chairman Ted Turner is out to get him and the WWF. He says the rivalry between the two dates from when Turner was airing WWF events on WTBS(TV) Atlanta in the early 1980s.
"We gave Turner the best numbers he ever had back in the early '80s," McMahon says. "then Turner began
to notice what we were doing. He invited me to a Braves game down in Atlanta and said 'Vince, you are too damned successful; you have to sell me some of your stock.' I told him the WWF was a private company, a family-owned company, and that he couldn't have any of our stock."
McMahon says that at the next conversation he had with Turner, Turner demanded the majority of Titan Sports Inc.'s stock. McMahon says he turned him down, and ever since, the Time Warner vice chairman has had it in for the WWF.
Turner would not comment. WCW President Eric Bischoff says that Turner "spits bigger than Vince McMahon" and that McMahon is an egomaniac who "loves to see his name in print with Ted's.
"I meet with Ted Turner probably for about five minutes a year; that's Ted's involvement in WCW," Bischoff says. "But Vince likes to portray to you and others in the media that there is a big grudge match going on between him and Ted. I kind of think if Vince were to walk into Ted Turner's office, someone would have to remind Ted who Vince is."
Even when it comes to the future, the WCW and WWF can't see eye to eye. the biggest question facing both organizations is oversaturation. McMahon says the more outlets, the more marketing deals and the more advertisers that the WWF can bring in, the merrier. TNT's Siegel says too much of the genre could kill
his idea of wrestling as "event programming" and damage wrestling's popularity.
McMahon is currently talking about new broadcast deals for WWF, more big pay-per-view matches and the use of WWF wrestlers on various TV shows, such as USA Network's Pacific Blue. "We are no longer in the wrestling business -- we're in the sports entertainment business -- and we're really an action-adventure program," McMahon says.
"When you are doing a really good action-adventure, as long as there is a need, and I would suggest there always will be, and as long as you can find the right time slots to reach a different demographic, why not do it?"
Turner executives claim that one of the reasons that the WWF's Raw Is War has topped WCW's Monday Nitro in recent months is the addition of WCW's new prime-time show, Thursday Thunder, on TBS Superstation.
"This is event programming, and I do worry about diluting it," Siegel says. "By having it on too much and in too many different places, you can do that. You are always tempted to use wrestling here and there to get a big number. I'm of the opinion that it's a one-night-a-week thing and that we should cultivate that audience and leave it there. But so far, having it on TBS has helped WCW, there is no doubt about that."
VINCE VS. KAY: McMAHON A LOT HAPPIER NOW
(Broadcasting & Cable, August 8, 1998)
By Joe Schlosser
World Wrestling Federation owner and producer Vince McMahon says he is a lot happier now that Kay Koplovitz is out and Steven Chao and Barry Diller are running USA Network.
McMahon, whose WWF events have been on USA in some form since the cable channel was launched 21 years ago, says he never got along with Koplovitz and that the former USA president didn't understand professional wrestling.
"The U.S. Open Tennis tournament was her thing, even though we were the number-one-rated program on the network all along," McMahon says. McMahon, who just signed a new three-year contract with USA Network, says the WWF's recent ratings surge and new edgy attitude would never have been possible under Koplovitz.
"She brought me in and raked me over the coals when we started to push the envelope a year ago," he says. "She said to me: 'How dare you. What happened to the good guys and the bad guys you used to give us? You created Hulk Hogan. He's a good guy; give me another one of those.'"
McMahon says that would have been too simplistic and that the WWF audience of today wants edgy story lines and a lot of action, not just "cops and robbers." McMahon says Koplovitz said that couldn't happen on USA.
"She forced us into a position where we could have produced what Kay wanted us to do, which would have been as boring as hell, and the ratings would have gone down, or we could have said the hell with this and gone with our gut instinct. That's what we did," McMahon says. "And thank God that during that transition period the network was purchased by someone [Diller] who understands populist TV."
Diller acquired USA Networks from Universal last February, and Koplovitz stepped down in April as the longtime president of USA Networks. Koplovitz, who founded USA Network in 1977, believes she and Vince had a "very good" working relationship.
"I think Vince had his show on our network for so long because he did get support from us. For 20 years he got support," Koplovitz says. "WWF wouldn't have been there from the very start if it weren't supported. I brought in
people to try and help the show when it had gone wrong, and I've always felt they were contributors to the network."
The WAWLI Papers
MORE QUESTIONS FOR MISTER LOU THESZ
(earlier installment appeared in WAWLI # 254)
Subj: Re:Thank you
I'm saddened to see what's become of my sport. Pro wrestling as we used to know it -- and practice it -- is finished. No matter what changes are made and how it evolves, we have lost the vital thread of authentic wrestling ability and credibility that made it what it was. You're lucky to have Harry White in St. Louis -- he knows his wrestling.
Subj: Re:It's our pleasure!
(1) I wrestled many times over the years at Madison Square Garden, especially in '50s. It's true that I didn't appear there during my last tour with the NWA title because the WWWF did not want to acknowledge my belt. (It's a long story and I'll post a more complete explanation once I catch up on the backlog of posts here. I promise.) I also wrestled many times in the Boston Garden and in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and other East Coast cities. Again, this was prior to the 1960s. I would have worked there during that era if we had ever been able to work out the title-vs.-title program with Bruno Sammartino, but it wasn't to be.
(2) No, I haven't given any thought to working as a commentator or analyst for the current promotions, because of their product. I do, however, continue to do promotional work in Japan.
(3) I know Dan Severn very well. He is very well-oriented in wrestling and would have been a star in any era. He's that good -- one of the best ever. (Last year, at the request of some fans, I was putting together a small book
of my personal Top 25 Pro Wrestlers, and I realized late in the process that I had simply overlooked Dan, probably because I had arbitrarily stopped considering anyone who was active in the '90s. Obviously I've changed my mind -- and the book -- to account for Dan. I repeat: He's that good.)
(4) Shoot fighting is a contest, and I love it. That's my background, in fact. If I were a young man and active in wrestling, that's what I'd be doing.
Subj: Re:Thank you
Thanks for the very kind words. When I started out in 1936 the mode of travel was primarily by car, because we were working territories; sometimes we made the longer trips by bus and train. On rare occasions, if we had a date in another territory we'd fly, but that didn't become common until many years later. You have to remember that some parts of the country -- mostly in the West and Southwest -- simply weren't easily accessible by air until the 1960s. In a normal year I traveled between 50,000 and 100,000 miles, wrestling two to five times a week. Weekend dates were a rare thing until the 1950s.
Normally, we had no guarantees, and money was scarce. I saw a lot of boys drop out of the business simply because they couldn't make it financially, and many of them were people who worked second jobs. the stars of today have a very easy time of it compared to the wrestlers who came before me and during my learning years.
Questions for Mr. Thesz
"Shooting" means a contest -- in other words, a straight-up match. "Hooking" is a bit more difficult to explain; essentially, it means having the knowledge and ability to hurt or cripple an opponent. (It's almost a lost art, too. A
lot of authentic wrestlers have a "hook" or two in their bag of tricks, but an authentic "hooker" had a library-full. You can count on the fingers of one hand the wrestlers still living who can claim the name . . . and none of them are active.) Finally, "stretching" is simply punishing an opponent.
Subj: Re:Hello Mr. Thesz & a Q.
A "zillion" questions? Guess we'll be on-line for a while, huh?
About the NWA, the name lost much of its authority after Sam Muchnick retired as president. It was used by a variety of promotions -- and still is today, I hear -- but not with the credibility of the original, which was built on the
premise of credible wrestling. I've promised myself that I will resist using this folder to promote my autobiography, so what I'll do in the next day or so is add the chapter about the demise of the NWA to the AOL wrestling library. I'll let you know when it's up.
A good question, and I could write a book in response. However, this will have to do: All pro wrestling will benefit by matchmaking. Clown suits and other gimmicks too numerous to mention are not related in any way to the noble sport of wrestling. I'm aware that ECW has a devoted audience, but I'm not one of its members.
Subj: Re: Madusa
I'm sorry if this sounds sexist (because it's not), but a woman cannot compete with a well-oriented male wrestler. the female upper extremities are just not designed for that sort of extreme stress. You didn't ask, but I have to add that during my career I never met an authentic woman wrestler. Many of them were very good athletes, but they weren't oriented in wrestling.
Subj: Re:Hello, Mr Thesz!
(1) Long before my retirement pro wrestling had been infiltrated by show business personalities who became the dominant faction, in large part because promoters decided to push them. Wrestling lost credibility as a result, because of that sort of matchmaking. If you're looking for a starting point, I'd suggest (and a lot of other oldtimers agree with me) Antonino Rocca's entry into the U.S. in the late 1940s.
(2) I do not have a favorite wrestling promotion at this time -- later perhaps. It's an evolving business and maybe things will get so bad that someone will try to present credible wrestling as an alternative.
(3) The term "worker" sticks in my throat -- it's an expression that we never used when I was active and I can't get used to it. I prefer the term "performer," which is the one we did use. the best one? No contest -- Buddy
Rogers. I've never seen anyone better. Today's best performer? I have to plead ignorance here; I will say, however, that it's got to be one of the Japanese boys. I'll think about this for a while and see if I can come up with a satisfactory answer.
Subj: Re:Greetings Mr. Thesz
The most promising wrestlers have to be the ones who are authentic wrestlers, and there are some out there. they are the future of pro wrestling.
Lucha Libre is fun, but it's not competitive or credible enough for my taste. It's more like choreographed tumbling...which is really all they know in Mexico. the country does not have the tradition of amateur wrestling that you see in Europe and the U.S. Did you know, for instance, that Mexico has never competed in Olympic wrestling? That's not to say that they haven't had some great performers -- Gory Guerrero, Mil Mascaras, and a few others.
Subj: Re:Welcome Mr. Thesz
Today's wrestling promotions are trying to out-do each other with gimmicks that are not related to wrestling. the key is the matchmaking; it should be made for the benefit of actual wrestling, not carnival rasslin' or clown acts.
there are some very good wrestlers on the scene -- Steve Williams, Dan Severn, Mike Rotundo, several of the Japanese boys -- and they are the ones I'd prefer to see pushed. they should be allowed to "wrestle"!
Subj: Re:Welcome Lou!
Fans of pro wrestling have been unkind to the AWA, for reasons I understand. What I remember about the AWA, though, is its early days -- it produced some great wrestling because it was oriented toward wrestling, not rasslin'. I wish the AWA the very best in its efforts . . . but they are faced with a long, uphill pull.
Subj: Re:Detroit Territories
(1) I worked the Detroit territory many times over the years, beginning in 1936, the year that I broke into the business. Nick Londes was the promoter then; later it was Bert Rubi, a Hungarian like myself. They and the people who followed them ran the territory pretty haphazardly, which was a shame, because there was a solid core of fans during all those years. My fondest memory of Detroit is the Greek restaurant on Monroe Street -- it was one of the best. (I should mention here that money, food/entertainment, and women were the three
most-important criteria that we applied when deciding which were good towns. Detroit was OK, but it was never an upper-tier city for me.
(2) I'm sorry, but I don't have the time or patience to follow rasslin', which is what both the WWF and WCW are pushing these days.
(3) A UFC-type promotion is the type of competition that I was trained for by the likes of George Tragos and Ad Santell (two of the greatest hookers in the business). I'm sorry that this type of promotion came along too late for me. In my "prime" I would have thrived on it...and I like to think that I would have been successful, too.
Subj: Re:Gotta ask
I like Taz. He's a young, strong wrestler who enjoys what he's doing, and that is a good start toward success in this business.
Subj: Re:Your thoughts on Malenko
I knew his father, of course -- a great performer who couldn't wrestle. Dean is both a great performer and wrestler. We worked on the same card in Mexico, and I was very impressed with his ability. I'm sure his attitude has matured since then and his ego has adjusted to make him even more valuable to the industry. Karl Gotch is obviously the one who's responsible for Dean's superior wrestling ability.
Subj: Re:Ric Flair
Ric Flair -- I consider him a good friend. He's obviously a good athlete and a great performer. He is also a credit to the industry, a term that I don't use lightly.
Terry Funk -- In the ring he's a great performer.
Abdullah -- Larry appeals to a specific market. He accompanied us on a tour of Kuwait that I staged a few years ago, and having him with us was a definite plus. As a friend he helped make the tour easier.
Subj: Re:Favorite cities . . .
Every town had its pluses. the very best ones, though, were the ones where the fans were devoted and responsive, and where the promoter could be trusted. After all, we did this to support our families, and the number of promoters who could NOT be trusted outnumbered the others by a wide margin. Here's my
list of "great" wrestling towns and a couple of comments about each: Montreal and Toronto -- Great promoters, great fans, and great cities. I had a lot of fun over the years in both of these places.
St. Louis -- My home, so you'd expect it to appear here. Sam Muchnick was one of the greatest promoters of the century. the fans were the best -- intelligent, informed, and devoted. San Francisco -- What a great town! Super food, lots of "entertainment" opportunities. It has a special place in my heart, too, because Joe Malcewicz, who began promoting there in the late '30s, was the first promoter to give me a push. He's was a great guy, too, and I always enjoyed working for him.
Buffalo -- A city with a long, strong tradition of wrestling. the credit goes to the promoter, Ed Don George, a former Olympian, who was a great friend of Ed Lewis'. We were always treated great in Buffalo.
Houston -- Like St. Louis, a heavy-duty wrestling town with great fans. I had my problems over the years with promoter Morris Sigel, but he was a good payoff man.
Boston -- Another good town for me, with lots of things to do away from the arena. One of my strongest memories is the Cardinal Cushing show that I did one year; I wrestled Primo Carnera in the main event, and it became a shoot.
New York -- What can I say about New York and the Garden? Just a great, great place with great fans. It's a shame that it was in the hands of Toots Mondt and the McMahons (I'm not referring to Jess McMahon, who was Vince Sr.'s father -- he was a fine man who always treated me square and was a gentleman to boot, which made him a rare commodity in the industry.)
Subj: Re:Shooting . . .
Jack Brisco could have taken Funk and Race simultaneously in a competitive match! He is one of the authentic greats of wrestling, while Funk and Race were performers. I know some of the behind-the-scenes history of that
particular title change (and many, many others), and the idea of Race "shooting" on Funk, or vice versa for that matter, is ludicrous.
Shooting was more prevalent in the early days of my career than it was later, primarily because pro wrestling drove out a lot of the authentic wrestlers when the promoters began pushing gimmick performers. It was something that remained in the back of everyone's mind always, however, especially in foreign countries when you were in there with someone else's referee.
Virtually all of the shooting was done during workouts, when a couple of boys would decide to test each other and see if they could determine who was the better man. It was a rare thing to see people shooting during a performance, but it happened. In my case, a lot of guys decided to test me, but I could usually tell when something was up and I handled it in a direct manner: I'd hook the guy or escape from his Sunday hold as a way of telling him to straighten up or get hurt. It always worked, too. I can't even remember the names of the guys who tried and fell on their faces. You have to understand that I wasn't just defending my reputation, I was defending my paycheck. About shoot-fighting, I would have been afraid of no one. the guys I wasn't sure I could outwrestle -- Ed Lewis, Ray Steele, George Tragos, Dick Hutton, Danny Hodge, and Verne Gagne, to name the most obvious ones -- were friends. I would like to think we had mutual respect. Shooting was equivalent to a gunfight, and you never want to shoot your friends . . .
Since my last match came when I was 74, I believe I'll reserve comment on this one. You have to understand that the spotlight is a great place to be, and it's hard to stay away from it . . .
Subj: Re:Malenko, Benoit, etc.
Since I don't follow what's happening today, I really don't have any thoughts. I do know that Dean has all the potential to become someone, and I've heard from people whom I respect that Chris has a very good track record . . .
Sabu and Konnan are both good athletes. If Konnan can duplicate Hogan's marketing success in Mexico...that'd be great for him.
Subj: Re:Wrestling Promotions
It would take many years to reverse what's happened in the last 20, and it would take even longer to re-educate fans. I haven't considered trying it because it would take millions of $$$, an incredible amount of patience, and a
large dose of luck. UWFI in Japan is an example of what can happen. It was, in my estimation, the best effort in Japan to present credible pro wrestling, but it collapsed because of the egos involved once it became successful. I agree with you about ECW -- it does appeal to a segment of the wrestling audience. I do wish ECW all the best, however, in the U.S.
Don't ask me to choose between WWF and WCW. I don't watch either one, and all I know about what they're doing is what I hear from people in the industry. the last time I checked, WCW and WWF were striving to out-flake each other. I'm too busy with interesting things in my life to devote any time to their product(s).
Subj: Re:Opinions on Wrestlers
Dean was coached by Karl Gotch, a superb wrestler and authentic hooker. Karl did not believe in what we in the industry call "color." Dean, on the other hand, has perhaps learned it too well. About Rick Steamboat, he's a very good athlete and has added a lot to pro wrestling . . .
Subj: About autographs . . .
I'm flattered by the requests for autographs, but being that I'm new to all this, I hate to start something I may not be able to finish. I hope those of you who've messaged me about this understand. Maybe later?
Subj: Re:Hello Mr. Thesz & a Q.
Bob Geigel was a good president and a better wrestler -- very good amateur credentials. I wrestled him a couple of times in St. Joseph, Missouri, and was impressed with his abilities. Sonny Myers was a handsome, bobby-sox idol in his early days who became a good entertainer. He was strictly a performer . . .
I know of nothing about ECW that I dislike -- I don't watch it. I do know, however, that it has a devoted group of fans, and that's fine. I sincerely hope they do well, because they do at least offer some variety to the other crap that's out there.
Luche Libre is great fun, for what it is -- choreographed tumbling. I enjoyed wrestling in Mexico very much, and the boys there were great!
I certainly do remember the old County Hall, with great affection, too. Henry Marcus was a good promoter, and Charleston had great fans. You have a good memory -- thanks for jogging mine. Seriously . . .
Subj: Re:Questions for Mr. Thesz.
I wrestled Stu Hart in Rochester, Minnesota, when we both were much younger men. Blading? I hate it -- it's very cheap heat. It became popular in the mid-'40s, early '50s when authentic wrestlers began to fade from the ring. What happened is that a lot of people whose skills had faded -- or who never had any real ability to begin with -- resorted to blood in order to get a reaction and stay in the industry.
I remember one promoter (in the South, where blood became more of a fixture than other parts of the country -- except, of course, Texas) who told me before a match that he wanted me to blade. I said, "Okay, where do you want me to blade you?" He looked at me like I was crazy. "No, not me -- you!" "I know what you meant," I replied, "and I'm telling you that the only way you'll get blood from me tonight is if I blade you -- because I'm certainly not cutting myself!" And I didn't. I could get away with that type of behavior, but most boys couldn't. I'm sorry to see that it became so widespread. It certainly prolonged some careers, though, didn't it? Dusty Rhodes, for instance . . .
Subj: Re:Hello Mr. Thesz & a Q.
Beat him at his "prime"? Prime what -- wrestling, marketing, rock 'n' roll? If it was wrestling -- MY game -- it would be over in a heartbeat. Marketing -- again, no contest...only he wins. That's one area where I'll never say a bad word about Hogan. Rock 'n' roll? That's when he was at his physical peak -- when he played guitar in a bar band . . .
Subj: Re:Big Orange Shooter
If Hogan did indeed injure Inoki, it HAD to be an accident. Actually, I remember seeing that match on tape, and it looks like an accident to me (Hogan and Inoki are outside the ring, and Hogan clotheslines Inoki from behind into a ringpost). Hogan stalked around the ring for several minutes, waiting for Inoki to continue, and it appeared to me that he was just as stunned when Inoki's people refused to let their boy crawl back in the ring. Inoki was a
very good athlete in his prime and not at all the sort of person you (meaning Hogan) would want to cross. That's why I don't believe that particular story. Of course, with pro wrestling, anything's possible . . .
"Could Hogan be a hooker?" Do I detect some irony here? I doubt he knows what the expression means! . . .
Subj: Re:Leo Nomellini
Leo Nomellini was the absolute best of the football players-turned-wrestlers, and that's a fairly long list -- Gene Kiniski, Wilbur Snyder, Verne Gagne (although he was a wrestler first and foremost, so I guess I shouldn't list
him here), etc. He was 260 to my 220, very mobile, and we had some great matches.
Leo got his start from San Francisco promoter Joe Malcewicz, who was close friends with Tony Stecher, the promoter in Minneapolis. It was Tony who broke Bronko Nagurski into wrestling in the 1930s, and Joe just followed Tony's lead in starting Leo. the major difference is that Leo had some amateur wrestling in his background while Bronk had none; also, Tony never took the time to get Bronk some training, so Bronk remained a pretty dull performer, while Leo became very credible. I enjoyed Leo as a wrestler and a man. Simply a great, great guy, loved by all San Franciscans (yes, he was a tackle with the 49ers). He always, against my insistence otherwise, called me "Mr. Thesz." He was one of the very, very few wrestlers that I actually studied on film before I first wrestled. Why did I do that? Because I'd been told that he was very good . . . and he was! He became a successful businessman after getting out of wrestling, selling spaghetti.
Subj: Re:Questions for Mr. Thesz
1) I was trained in Greco-Roman beginning at age 8 and later -- in my early teens -- changed to freestyle. My favorite moves were the double-wristlock (an authentic hooking move, for those of you who are interested in such trivia), the stepover toehold with a crossface (called the STF today, I believe), and the Greco-Roman backdrop. I've taken a lot of heat over the years from wrestlers who didn't like my backdrop and claimed that I used it to punish opponents. My response is that the backdrop wasn't harmful if my opponent knew how to take it -- on the shoulders and upper back. It's true, though, that I used it occasionally to punish an opponent who wasn't cooperating.
2) the best match I've ever seen? That's easy -- Ed "Strangler" Lewis vs. Joe Stecher, two of the giants of pro wrestling, during the mid-1920s. It was a one-hour, time-limit contest, and it went to a draw. It was one solid hour of nothing but pure wrestling. Best match I've seen recently? That would be Takada vs. Gary Albright, in Japan. Two great wrestlers, great pacing . . .
3) Jim Browning is the one giant of the industry that I would have loved to wrestle. He was from Missouri, like myself, and a legend in the gyms and locker rooms. I never met him -- he died at an early age in the 1930s. Ed
Lewis considered Browning one of the best ever, and that counts for a lot with me -- I can assure you that Ed was very sparing in complimenting other wrestlers, so his endorsement of Browning was enough for me.
Subj: Re:Questions for Mr. Thesz
Oops...I neglected to answer your question about moves that I enjoyed executing. It would be a long list, but here are some special favorites: the double-leg takedown, switches (I'm ambidextrous, which made my switches
ambidextrous too), the body scissor, and the reverse standing switch. (Someone sent me a tape recently of a TV match in Memphis between me and a very young Buzz Sawyer. We did the reverse standing switch, and it made this old wrestler's heart soar to see it. It's a great visual move . . . )
Subj: Re:About autographs....
I'm not clear what you mean by "really tough guys." Some of them were absolute dictators, but not all. Some were themselves former wrestlers and could handle themselves with "reluctant" employees. It would be an easier chore to list all of the upstanding honest ones than it would be to list those who were thieves . . .
The territories were "very" protected. This was before there were more legal recourses, so not many territorial disputes ever made it into a courtroom. The NWA pretty much mediated disputes between promoters; occasionally it would send me or another shooter into a territory for a business match against an outlaw promotion that was challenging the NWA member. (During one mediation session at an NWA convention, one promoter said about his rival, "If I had a gun I'd shoot the SOB!" My good friend Eddie Quinn, the promoter in Montreal, shouted, "Give him a gun so we can get out of here!" It was usually a funny scene when mediation sessions occurred -- two thieves quarreling over who was the bigger thief.)
The industry is actually a very simple one: the promoters push the performers who are the most popular (with the fans). It was and still is all about money . . .
Subj: Re:Eddie Graham and Mike
Personally, they both were very nice to me.
Professionally . . . well, maybe we should discuss this privately over a tall, cool one. Maybe in October at the CAC banquet?
(the above courtesy of Mike Rogers, email@example.com)
(to be continued in WAWLI # 256)
The WAWLI Papers
MORE QUESTIONS FOR MISTER LOU THESZ
(earlier installments appeared in WAWLI #s 254, 255)
Subj: Re:Shooting II...
Backlund is legit, all the way. His holds and reversals are authentic, too. His in-the-ring charisma has always been a little lacking, but it's a reflection of his athletic skills that he's succeeded without a strong personality. He's a great guy . . .
About moves like the piledriver, neckbreaker, and suplex...only the suplex is a wrestling move. the piledriver and neckbreaker are performance moves and have been around for years.
Subj: Re:Dream Six-Man Tag
Bruno "caught Flair in a bearhug" for the win? In Bruno's dreams!
Of course, that's what this "supercard" was supposed to be, right? I don't mean to be evasive, but this old German-Hungarian is too reality-based for this sort of thing. How would this match turn out? Well, if you mean as a "competitive" match, there are only two authentic wrestlers in this set of six, and they're both on the same team, so there you are.
I'm glad you're enjoying the folder. So am I, I think . . .
Subj: Re:Questions for Mr. Thesz
Yes, I used the head-and-arm hip throw on occasion. there are more spectacular-looking Greco-Roman moves, however, and that's what one was looking to use in a performance. In a workout or competitive match, it's a
good move . . .
Subj: Re:Questions for Mr. Thesz
The double-leg was also one of my favorite moves. You must be blessed with quick reflexes to do it, and that's one of the advantages I enjoyed in wrestling. I've got just as large an ego as some other people in this industry, but I'm not so full of myself to claim that I became what I became without some assistance. Excellent training, great workout partners -- those helped tremendously. So did having quick reflexes, and I was fortunate enough
to be born with them . . .
About amateur wrestling, we attend as much as we can, usually the Old Dominion University matches. I love amateur wrestling, and I'll be in front of the TV when the Olympic matches are televised . . .
Subj: Some thoughts about the NWA
As promised in an earlier post, I've condensed some of my thoughts about the NWA and why it died in a single file which I've shipped to the AOL wrestling library. It's name is "the Demise of the NWA." Hopefully, the contents will explain why I came to feel that the NWA gave away every advantage it once enjoyed . . .
Subj: Another open message
To AOL posters: My sincere thanks for all your welcomes and kind words, and thank you for your patience. This old dog is learning as he goes, and all I can tell you is -- it was much easier learning how to wrestle than learning
this computer lingo. (What in the world does ROTFLOL mean?) It is terrific to share old stories and opinions with interested people. No wonder this online stuff is catching on. You people are a pretty clever generation.
Hopefully, I'll get better at this. I'm trying to be diplomatic AND truthful...something else that's new to me.
Subj: Re:Mr. Thesz
Yes to Columbus, yes to Albany, and yes to Macon -- two or three times a year for quite awhile. And yes to Fred Ward, as a promoter -- he was before my time as a wrestler (believe it or not, some guys were indeed before my time).
Dothan was a good town. It was well-promoted and the matchmaking was good. It was booked out of the Mobile office. the fans were great, too. I remember that Dothan had very good local talent. (Good local talent meant that the champion had to work harder to look like a champion. Not all towns were so blessed.) Dothan worked the way a promotion was supposed to work anywhere . . .
Subj: Re:Questions for Mr. Thesz
My book goes into depth on this subject, but here's a condensed explanation.
I'd like to think that I was champion because I was good at it. Seriously, my long reign had more to do with "keeping" the title, because I had the ability to defend it in national and international situations if faced with a
competitive match. Not to sound boastful, but I was the one who made the decision in five of the six title changes that I was involved in. I would get enervated or "burned out" with the grind -- the schedule of a world champion
in those days was more an existence than a life. When the champion would wear out both physically and financially, the NWA would set up a title match for the "old workhorse Thesz." Like in any industry, those who give 100 percent are sought out. Giving 100 percent to something you love is a privilege, and that's my point: Sometimes my enthusiasm was in danger of falling below that level, and I knew things had to change.
Wrestling's "evolution" began when many wrestlers served their country during World War II. Promoters literally pulled guys with good bodies and good b.s. off the streets and made them "stars." Television accelerated the process with its ability to create "instant" stars. So now we have lots of stars and few wrestlers. the promoters would rather have "performers" than actual wrestlers because they cannot control wrestlers in the same way they can control performers . . .
Subj: Re:Questions for Mr. Thesz
Lance Russell, who was the announcer for the Memphis promotion's TV show, dubbed my flying body scissor the "Thesz press." It was part of my repertoire. Tommy borrowed it, but I did not have any hand in his training . . .
Subj: Re:Olympic Wrestling on NBC
Many thanks for the schedule. I would have hated to miss it. It seems wrestling gets the same respect (based on these time slots) from TV that it gets from the print media. What a loss....
Subj: autographs (again)
I continue to get requests for autographs, and I appreciate hearing from you. Let me refer to my earlier posting on the subject -- I can't do it, at least not right now. the odds are too overwhelming for an old wrestler; I'm simply
not set up to respond to a lot of requests. I don't want to open that door right now...but I am truly flattered that anyone would ask. Many thanks . . .
Subj: the AWA
Someone recently e-mailed me to ask if the AWA "really start(ed) over a strap dispute?" I'm aware that it's an old rumor, and all I can say is that I'm not aware of any dispute. Again, like any industry, one always thinks he can do someone else's job better. the same is true with wrestlers and promoters. I bought the St. Louis territory because I thought I could do the job better. Verne Gagne started the AWA from scratch for pretty much the same reason, I'm sure. Competitors -- and Verne is one of those -- need a challenge, and believe me, promoting is a challenge . . .
Subj: Re:UWA title
When I was in Mexico, all of my matches were title matches. I'm sorry, but I can't remember all of the guys I wrestled. And I don't mean just in Mexico either. You need to know that I had more than 6,000 professional matches during my career, and that's too many people and matches to remember . . .
Subj: Re:Several Questions...
Have you read my book? You sound like exactly the sort of person that I wrote it for. :) Announcers: Gordon Solie and Lance Russell were the best. They're great people as well as broadcasters.
Charlotte: Sad to say, I always judged a town by the promotion. Charlotte was not my favorite. No, I don't remember Big Bill Ward.
Johnny Valentine: John was a boxer turned wrestler who knew some wrestling. He was, however, a superior brawler, and I don't mean in the pro-wrestling sense, either. He was one of the toughest men I ever encountered -- that expression of today, "No fear," fits him perfectly. He had enough courage and strength to destroy a good shooter. An example (also in the book): the Houston wrestling office talked Johnny into riding a bull in the annual rodeo there, as a P.R. stunt. the bull through him and then came after him. Johnny could see that he wasn't going to make it to the fence in time, so he stopped dead in his tracks and turned around to face the bull. He hit the animal square in the face, full force, with his fist. It stunned the bull (as well as those of us in the stands) and gave him a split second in which he clear the fence . . . which he did with room to spare! Johnny has bottomless guts, and his inner strength is even more amazing. Johnny Valentine has all of my respect . . .
Mil Mascaras: Sounds like a great match (re. Flair vs. Mascaras). My money would be on Ric . . .
About masks: It is a matter of culture and translation. Some things get lost in the translation (I'm talking about Mexico here), while others get enhanced. It's a difficult role, but some boys did make their mark under a hood. Dick Beyer is the best example that I can think of . . .
They're both hard workers. Good talents . . .
Subj: Re:Bret Hart
Bret is not a hooker, and despite what I've seen intimated in other posts in the Grandstand, neither was Stu. That's not to say that Stu didn't know a few hooks, though; he was more of what I'd call a "demonstrater." He'd take a wrestler into the dungeon for a workout and, during the course of things, stop to demonstrate a hook; it was a way of demonstrating to the wrestler that he (Stu, that is) knew what he was doing. In all fairness to Bret, he didn't enter pro wrestling at a time when one needed to be a hooker . . .
Subj: Re:Greetings Mr. Thesz
Thanks for correcting me. About the U.S. Olympic teams: the Europeans had a long, head start on us, especially in Greco-Roman. We are just, in the past 30 years, evolving to a competitive state. Coaching is the key. Greco is my first love, but there were zero coaches around in my day -- meaning high-level, top-quality coaches. I learned by Greco from my father and later in ethnic clubs around St. Louis. That's not the level of competition or training that will get you to the Olympics . . .
Subj: Re:N. Royal
A great guy! He was very competitive as a wrestler (he's an authentic shooter), and he took a lot of good wrestlers by surprise. He has a lot of guts and is a terrific human being . . .
Subj: Tag team wrestling
Someone inquired in a recent post about tag team wrestling. I'm sorry that I overlooked the item when I was responding. Here, belatedly, are my thoughts on the subject:
Tag team wrestling defies the basic one-on-one benefits of the sport of wrestling . . . but then tag team isn't wrestling -- it's performing or telling a story. I did participate on occasion, but it was for money, not love. As best
I recall, it began with managers actually getting in the ring to assist their boys. the fans bought it, so some of the creative minds in the business began to tinker with it. It's another way of getting fans in the door, the old
something-for-everyone approach to business. In short, if I'm not being clear, I never liked it . . .
Subj: Re:More stupid questions. .
My "favorite" wrestler of today is Dan Severn. He is a cool, sophisticated competitor, a real world-beater. His is easily the top competitor in the professional world today -- and he is a super human being, too.
My "all-time favorite" is an even easier choice: Ed "Strangler" Lewis. He wasn't just the best competitor -- he was a gentleman in every sense of the word. He was attuned to the fans and the people around him, the perfect mix of brain and brawn. He is the "father" of pro wrestling as it existed for most of this century . . .
Subj: Re:A couple of questions . . .
In the case of AWA, WWF, NWA, whatever..."world title" is an oxymoron. The purpose of creating their own champions was to have exclusive rights within their territories, NOT all over the world. It became a matchmaking tool, another way to put people in the seats. It is true, though, as you said, that the AWA and WWF titles pretty much came into existence because those organizations wanted access to the "world" title whenever they wanted it and did not want to wait in line for the NWA champion to come through. It's a major point to remember, however, that these were "company" champions unlike the NWA titleholder, who was the representative of an alliance of companies.
I stopped keeping track when the world title count reached 31 in this country alone. the situation does, however, make the original world title, the one that I defended around the actual "world" for years in an effort to establish
an "undisputed" world title, more valuable. For my efforts I now possess the original belt that was worn by Joe Stecher, Ed Lewis, and subsequent champions . . .
Subj: Re:Nature Boy Buddy Rogers
Thanks for the kind words about the book. Seriously, it makes all of our hard work worthwhile . . . and it was certainly hard work, too.
About Buddy: He was all the things you mentioned, good and bad. He was the product of the professional wrestling evolution, the perfect person in the perfect place at the perfect time. As in any profession, the "overnight" success who never paid the same dues as the hardcore veteran was an easy target. I never respected Buddy as a wrestler because he wasn't one. However, as a performer, he was box-office magic, and I did respect that. the regard in which you hold him speaks to that magic. I, too, am glad we mended fences. Aging weakens eyesight, but maturity lets you see through the BS. It's a fair trade . . .
Subj: Re:Dick the Bruiser
Dick was never a wrestler -- he was a straight-ahead brawler. As a promoter he was an egomaniac; he wanted no one to achieve more, or even as much, popularity as he thought he already held. (True story: He once erased a tape for his TV show in Indianapolis because of an interview spot done by Dr. "Big" Bill Miller. Bill, an absolutely incredible athlete who stood 6-foot-5 and weighed around 280, was feuding with the Bruiser at the time, and in this particular interview he was talking about how he couldn't understand why the fans in Indianapolis had thrown their support behind "that 5-foot-9-inch dwarf" -- meaning the Bruiser -- when they had a real man like himself to cheer for. Dick erased the tape because he didn't want the fans to know his actual height.)
Many years ago, at the Schroeder Hotel in Milwaukee, there was what you might call a shoot before the matches. Verne Gagne and the Bruiser were in the main event, and they had a professional disagreement while still at the hotel. Dick, who believed his own publicity and fancied himself a brawler, decided to settle the dispute with his fists. Verne knocked him out cold. It's a credit to the Bruiser that he admitted to all of us in the dressing room what had happened. Of course, most of us already knew it -- and, I must add, those of us who knew Verne were not at all surprised at the outcome . . .
(the above courtesy of Mike Rogers, firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHIEF LITTLE WOLF: PRO WRESTLING IN AUSTRALIA
(Media Release, July 9, 1997)
Gouging, kicking, and throwing an opponent over the ring are allowed, but definitely no biting.
Therell be no holds barred at the National Library next Tuesday when Navajo Indian Big Chief Little Wolf and other stars from the glory days of Australian professional wrestling come out of the ring and into the domain of the public lecture.
In his lecture Big Chief Little Wolf: folklore, folkheroes and professional wrestling in Australia Dr Barry York will draw on aspects of popular culture from the pictorial, oral history and manuscript collections of the National
Dr York says professional wrestling is both theatre and sport, the public imagination captured in the age old battle between good versus evil, the hero versus the villain. Theres always the one that you hate, he says. This is professional wrestlings great attractiveness: the violence is not real.
He will focus on the life of one of the great heroes of Australian wrestling, Navajo Indian Big Chief Little Wolf. the world heavyweight champion first wrestled in Australia in 1937, returning to increasing popularity throughout the 1940s.
Big Chief Little Wolf settled in Australia in the early 1950s. His wrestling antics and extensive work for charity combined to make him an Australian folkhero, so much so that his return to America in 1980, twenty-two years after his last wrestling match, made front page news.
Dr York began his research into Big Chief Little Wolf in 1994. Over 700 letters from the public have since been received, a sure sign that the popularity of wrestling lives on today.
To arrange a great radio interview with Dr York call Annette Healy, Corporate Communications (06) 262 1279.
WRESTLERS MOVE IN ON REYNOLDS
(Las Vegas Review-Journal, Friday, Aug. 21, 1998)
A joint venture between the World Wrestling Federation and a group of Cleveland businessmen is expected to complete the purchase of the Debbie Reynolds Hotel as soon as today.
David Siegel, a Florida time-share developer, on Thursday agreed to withdraw his appeal of a bankruptcy court decision to let the WWF buy the hotel for $10.65 million, said Lenard Schwartzer, attorney for the bankrupt hotel.
Siegel's Fort Lauderdale, Fla., attorney filed the appeal earlier in the day.
In return, the WWF joint venture agreed to buy Siegel's $250,000 claim against the hotel company for $200,000, Schwartzer said.
Under the agreement, Siegel also gets the shell company for the publicly held corporation that formerly owned the hotel, Schwartzer said.
Stockholders in Debbie Reynolds Hotel get 2.5 percent of the stock and unsecured creditors will receive 5 percent, Schwartzer said. He didn't know how Siegel planned to use the shell company.
Siegel offered to buy the bankrupt hotel last year and spent $250,000 to keep it open for business in December.
Bankruptcy Judge Clive Jones, however, agreed to consider bids from others and Siegel withdrew his offer to buy it for $14 million.
Siegel didn't bid during the auction conducted by Eric Nelson at the hotel in early August.
At the bankruptcy court hearing later that day, Siegel complained that he wouldn't recover his $250,000 loan to the hotel. According to WWF attorneys, he threatened to interfere with the sale to the WWF if he wasn't repaid. The judge agreed to accept additional bids. Siegel topped the hgh bid at the auction, but Siegel let the last WWF bid of $10.65 million go unchallenged.
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