The WAWLI Papers #281...
(ED. NOTE--The genesis of my search for an accurate
history of professional wrestling came early in life, when in a
Ripley's Believe It Or Not cartoon I "learned" that Ed
"Strangler" Lewis lost only 33 matches in his long career.
The information has been picked up by countless sources
since, including the Guiness Book of World Records. It is, of
course, palpably false, a fact that is testified to by the
hundreds (yes, hundreds) of Lewis losses uncovered in
various local newspaper accounts over the entire span of his
career, running approximately from 1910 to 1948. I began
searching these out in my quest to discover who those 33
guys were who beat Lewis. In no time at all, I was up to 50,
then 100, then 150 losses, and so on, and the research
continues today, nearly 40 years later.)
STRANGLER LOSES TO MAT RIVAL
(Portland, Ore., Oregonian, Thursday, Mar. 27, 1947)
Ed (Strangler) Lewis, the former world heavyweight mat
champion, was upset at Civic Auditorium Wednesday night
by burly Fred Atkins, Australian title claimant, who tore into
the famed headlock artist from the opening bell.
Atkins, who has yet to taste defeat in the Auditorium, took
the nod over Lewis in just nine minutes, grabbing the lone
fall with a body press. Lewis, however, displayed fine form,
showing several features of his greatness.
In other bouts, Ken Kenneth of New Zealand downed Juan
Sepeda, Jim Spencer debuted with a win over Babe
Small(inski) and Bomber Singh defeated Lone Wolf (billed
as the brother of Chief Little Wolf).
MELODRAMA ON THE MATS
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Thursday, Oct. 12, 1989)
By Thom Gross
An hour before the first match, the South Broadway Athletic
Club is already teeming. But this looks less like a fight
crowd than a church social.
Adults outfitted in their Saturday night best sit at tables and
chat quietly. Some tend babies. Older children chase each
other around the well-scrubbed, brightly lit room. Most
people enter, greet friends and take their places with a
At 8 p.m. sharp, all rise and pay somber heed to a recorded
version of the national anthem.
Seconds later, as the night's first contestants make their
opening feints toward each other, the air is filled with some
of the vilest epithets you can expect to hear in public,
expressed with simultaneous rage and delight.
The kids come up with the pithiest and most printable
''Cheater!'' shout the younger ones. ''No fair!''
One boy, about 12, inspires others in the peanut section to
take up his taunt for an obese participant: ''Hey mister, get a
Fan interaction is the key to this entertainment called
professional wrestling. The wrestlers spend equal amounts
of time inside and outside the ring. Big Daddy, the
''manager'' for most of the villains, spends less time
counseling his clients than hissing at the crowd.
If professional wrestling is less than a sport, it's also more.
It's also a psychedelic melodrama with real-life comic-book
heroes, a morality play with a theme of a narchy.
Evil triumphs over good, and good is forced beyond the
rules to retaliate. Authority, in the form of the bumbling
referee, is incompetent and impotent.
The ring contains no middle ground. Every color is the
brightest, every sound the loudest, every feeling the
The appeal is undeniable. Professional wrestling keeps
ascending to new heights of popularity. According to the
World Wrestling Federation, 70 million Americans watch its
televised matches each month. Its superstars, Hulk Hogan
and Randy ''Macho Man'' Savage, are more widely known
than the principals of the national pastime.
When Hogan and Savage get together these days to vie for
the Beautiful Elizabeth - blending the comic-book motif with
another popular literary genre, gothic romance - they can
pack any arena in the country, as well as several satellite
auditoriums carrying the closed-circuit broadcast.
But here at the South Broadway Athletic Club, the bouts
constitute the minor leagues of pro wrestling. On this night,
about 200 people turn out to watch aspiring Hulks mix it up
with has-beens and never-wills. Contestants arriving in the
dressing rooms segregate themselves into
Don't let their names deceive you. The Freedom Team is
composed of bad guys. The Giant Assassin is a good guy.
The Assassin has dressed early and is hunched in a quiet
corner, looking dark and unapproachable. But downstairs,
the seats bearing his name make up the biggest reserved
This contrast of imagery and popularity is no mystery to
wrestling fans. The Assassin represents a well-established
wrestling hybrid, the anti-hero. His attraction is that he
apparently cares so little how we feel about him. So fiercely
independent is he that he adopts as a ring persona the thing
we most loath - the assassin, slayer of our real heroes.
''One day they like you, and one day they hate you,'' says
the Assassin, also known as Joseph Zakibe, 29. ''Right now
I'm kind of getting cheered, but for years - I mean, this is the
first time in my life I've been getting cheers. They can cheer
for me or boo me, it doesn't matter, it's all about winning
and making some money.''
The Giant Assassin, a St. Louis native, has wrestled in
bigger leagues and in locales as widespread as Hawaii and
New York. Asked whether it was possible to make a good
living at the local level, he responds, ''Hell, yes,'' but
declines to give figures.
''I invested in some property here awhile back. I like to stick
around and see that people pay their rents on time,'' he said.
The Assassin is 6 feet 5, 320 pounds. ''Raw speed, buddy''
he says. ''I started out the Assassin. The Giant part came
The Assassin is paired in a tag-team match tonight with Ron
Powers, a handsome young up-and-comer from St. Charles.
They will fight Bronk Larson and Pit Bull Pruett to a no-
decision, halted by the referee after 10 minutes 57 seconds,
when the bad guys pull out a 20-foot tow chain.
Powers, 23, has trained hard for this since he was 14. ''I
wanted to be a pro wrestler ever since I was old enough to
turn on the TV,'' he recalls. His goal? ''To be the youngest
world heavyweight champion,'' he says, earnestly.
Meanwhile, he makes ends meet with a job as a union
electrician's apprentice. He admits that he gets teased on
the job a bit, but his wrestling also helped him get the job.
''People say that to get in the union, you have to have a
relative in it or something. But I just went down to the union
hall, and they said, 'You're a big guy - you play football or
something?' I said, 'No, I'm a professional wrestler.' That
kind of broke the ice.''
Powers is 6 feet 1, 250 pounds, tanned, freshly barbered,
with a clean-shaven, boyish face and an easy smile. Besides
the musculature, the only menacing thing about him is the
diamond stud in his left earlobe.
''Why a good guy? I could go either way - I mean it's
money, now. But I guess I always wanted to be a good guy,
a crowd favorite, pick up the women, you know,'' he says.
''I mean, I could go bad guy real easy - just act cocky. But
right now I'm just being a good guy and acting confident,
and that's pretty much my gimmick, the all-American boy
kind of act.''
Powers turned pro at 18 and admits being slightly
disillusioned. ''I always took it for just a sport. Until you get
into it, then you find out it's an entertainment,'' he said.
''There's a real fine line between balancing entertainment
and sport. You have to be athletic, but you have to be a
favorite for the crowd, too.''
The big issue in pro wrestling is not whether it's an act -
everybody knows it's an act - but whether the results are
On that, the participants are adamant.
Tony Casta, promoter and matchmaker for the South
Broadway events, also wrestles on the side.
He is suiting up for a junior heavyweight title bout against
the Executioner. The title belt represents the championship
of the Mid-Missouri Wrestling Association and Southern
Illinois Champions hip Wrestling.
Is the result pre-arranged? ''No. You may have some
wrestlers who outside the ring talk to each other and
associate a little bit. But it's like boxing - once you get in the
ring, there's no friendships. You don't want your reputation
to go down the drain. You give it your all.
''The people out there who come to these matches month
after month or week after week can tell if you're trying to pull
something, so you've got to be at your best.''
As it turns out, Casta gets incapacitated for long stretches in
his match by a sleeper hold put on his neck by the
Executioner. The crowd grows restless because the sleeper,
while effective, is also boring. Perhaps in response to the
boos, the Executioner abandons the hold and begins
bouncing Casta back and forth off the ropes. As he flies by,
Casta tries to snare his opponent in a grapevine move,
misses, but recovers with a beautiful reverse roll-up cradle
and immediately gets the pin for the belt.
The sudden result, like a homer in the bottom of the ninth,
leaves the crowd breathless.
Pre-determination? The Assassin, of course, doesn't care
what critics think. ''If they don't watch it and don't get any
enjoyment out of it, leave it alone. But don't spoil it for
somebody else and don't try to ruin my livelihood.
''But I'll guarantee you, 99 percent of the people that are
saying it's fake and fixed and that, let them get in the ring,
and I'll kick the [stuffing] out of them.''
But he offers this: ''I won't tell you one way or the other. But
if the average person has a 100 IQ, a person with a 100 IQ
ought to be able to figure it out for themselves. You don't
have to ask me.''
Over in the Bad Guys dressing room, Big Daddy is pulling
his pink-checked tuxedo jacket over his pink, sleeveless,
spandex T-shirt. He stands about 6-4 and weighs close to
400 pounds. His red beard is neatly cropped, and his red,
heavily dressed hair trails to his shoulders.
He is as much a participant in the matches as any of the
wrestlers he manages, and the crowd keeps an eager eye
out for him until his entrance before the fourth match.
His role? ''A lot of people say I interfere with the matches
and cheat and stuff like that, but nothing could be further
from the truth. All's I'm out there for is to show my men, to
give them guidance. I don't want to say help them, but like if
there's something I see they're doing wrong, I can take them
outside the ring and tutor them and send them back into
the ring with a little bit more of Big Daddy's vast wrestling
But to a spectator, Big Daddy's guidance seems to consist
largely of dirty tricks, like pulling down the opponent's trunks
and poking him with a cane.
''These people down here, the phrase is that they love to
hate me. If they come down here because they hate me,
that's fine. If it sells tickets, that's fine, and I don't care,
because I hate them, too.
They're a bunch of pencil-headed geeks.''
''What I think of Big Daddy you could never print,'' says
Diane Baumgartner, 51, of south St. Louis. ''There wouldn't
be any cheating if it weren't for him.''
She was introduced to the local matches four years ago by
the Assassin, who was tending bar at her favorite bingo
parlor. ''He's neat; he's just the best,'' she says.
Now, she says, ''I live for wrestling.''
Baumgartner has left her ringside seat to get an autograph,
along with a big hug and kiss, from Jeff White. He is 21, a
women's favorite who dresses in an all-white, fringed
She admits favoring the young, clean-cut types. ''But they
wouldn't be any good without the bad ones,'' she says.
Future wrestling dates at the South Broadway Athletic Club,
2301 South Seventh Street, are this Saturday, Oct. 14, and
Dec. 1, Jan. 20, Feb. 17 and March 24. Bouts begin at 8
THE READERS ALWAYS WRITE
Subj: Akron-Buffalo-Cleveland promotion?
Date: 98-10-05 22:39:35 EDT
From: Jim47@prodigy.net (Jim Gabor)
The Buffalo based promotion of Pedro Martinez had weekly
shows in these cities in the late '50s and early-mid '60s.
They did not seem to be aligned with any other
organization's title, though national big names came for
several weeks at a time as I remember. The belt always
remained in the territory. TV was filmed in Cleveland
(WJW?} or Akron (WAKR) on Saturday afternoon prior to
the Akron Armory shows on Saturday night (local promoter
was Walter J. Moore). Ilio DiPaolo (Martinez' son-in-law?)
was a staple in singles as were Gallagher Bros in Tag Team
(they opened a health club in Akron in the '60s.) DiPaolo
had a great restaurant in Blasdel (sp.?) south of Buffalo with
quite a bit of old time memorabilia on the walls.
Question: Has anyone compiled more details on this
promotion and it's beginning and demise? Thanks for any
help and bringing back some memories.
Subj: Re: [NOSTALGIA] The WAWLI Papers No. 279
Date: 98-10-03 22:32:30 EDT
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (ZEKE TRWC)
OK..Since he got to respond, I feel I should have a response
>This is very interesting, but I have a few things to add in
>>Are you forgetting that Race d. Flair in New Zealand on
03/21/83?? and then Flair d. Race again on 03/23/83 in
>While I understand Zeke's point here, these are highly
obscure matches. Even some of the more knowledgeable
wrestling fans out there (of which I like to think I am) would
not know about two matches that occured in the Pacific Rim
15 years ago. And since the NWA probably didn't recognize
it, then I don't see why I should.
Thats OK, I wouldnt know about matches that happened 50
years ago...The NWA did recognize it in 1992. The reason
it wasn't recognized was because Steve Rickard didn't have
permission to switch the title. (It would be like if Jackie and
Luna are wrestling for PCW, in a match that is for the ladies
title, and PCW switches the title without WWF permission.)
So, upon return to the U.S., they ignored it because
basically back then, there was no internet to spread the
word around, and Rickard thought that it wouldn't get
back...He also did it with Peter Maivia and Race, althought
Maivia gave the belt back without a rematch....
>>Don't forget Tatsumi Fujinami d. Flair on 03/21/91 in
Tokyo and Flair d. Fuji on 05/19/98 in St. Petersburg, FA.
This is recognized by the NWA as a title change, so we
have to recognize it as well.....
>This was around the time when I wasn't watching much
wrestling. I thought the reason for the rematch was
because the title was held up.
Fuji was referred to as the NWA Champion in Japan, while
Flair was known as the WCW champ here. Fuji DID NOT
defend the title in Japan.
>>Flair is stripped of WCW version on 07/01/91. He
maintains NWA recognition until Sept.1, 1991
>That's all well and good, but he wasn't with the company
Yes, he wasn't with WCW anymore. He was still the NWA
champion, though. After Flair was stripped by WCW of the
World title, the other NWA members stated
"Notwithstanding WCW's action, Ric Flair is still the NWA
champion" in other words, WCW could not strip him of a
title it did not govern. This is why they created the physical
WCW title that was eventually given to Luger. Now we had
>>>Lex Luger wins title in tournament final.
>>What tournament? He beat Barry Windham for the
>Again, wasn't watching much wrestling. PWI refers to this
as a tournament final.
AHHH this explains alot..Ill get back to this one at the
>> After Sept.,1, 1993, the title was not the NWA World title
anymore and became the WCW International title
>This I have to contend. At the time, the powers that be
were making the NWA out to be an international governing
body, of which WCW was apart. This angle didn't last long,
but it did happen. The big gold belt which is currently the
WCW World Title and which was bought back from Flair
when he bolted to the WWF was referred to as the NWA
International Title. The WCW World Title belt, at that held
by Vader, was the crappy looking belt modeled after the
then WWF belt.
No, this I have to contend. WCW officially withdrew on
Sept. 1, 1993. WCW claimed after they left the NWA that
the title wasn't recognized by WCW US anymore, but it was
recognized as the World title by the WCW International
committee (a made up organization) which is why the title's
first name was 1) The Big Gold Belt 2) WCW International
World title 3) WCW International title. In Japan, the title
was always called number 3, so this is what knowledgeable
people like myself and historians will call the title in the
futture when they refer to this title. When WCW left the
NWA, they owned the physical title belt, which is why they
could keep the title and use it. Hell they couls have
named it anything they wanted to!!
>>>Rick Rude defeats Flair on 9/19/93 in Houston, TX
For the WCW International title...not a real world title...
>WCW considered the the International title a legitimate
world title. Watch Starrcade 93 if you dispute this.
Oh I don't dispute that WCW was trying to push this off to
the fans as a real world title, but c'mon...two world titles in
the same organization? If the one title was recognized by
"WCW International", wouldn't that make the "WCW US"
World title, a USA only recognized title? in other words, A
>OK, I can't verify whether or not they referred to the
International title as NWA or WCW at this time. The NWA
name was dropped around this time, becoming
completely seperate of WCW.
Remember, WCW was a part of the NWA, not the other
way around. WCW became seperate of the NWA. And, it
was dropped because NWA members like Denis
Corraluzzo (who was a member while WCW was, too;
quieting any disputes that he created a new NWA) were
calling on dates with the NWA champ, a WCW wrestler.
>The current WCW title belt was dropped in favor
of the "big gold belt" that is still seen today. Presumably, the
WCW belt that was dropped was thrown into the river
because it sucked badly.
I agree..that belt sucked..they just should have kept the
NWA Florida title they gave Luger after beating Windham.
>I would have to say that Zeke might have a little too much
time on his hands. The information I culled here was drawn
from sources that I deemed to be legitimate and accurate.
No...I don't have too much time on my hands, I am just
trying to give people accurate information..People need to
know all of the facts....And your informational sources?
PWI? PWI is about as legit as the Warrior puking over
Papa Shango's spell. They recognize what they want to,
whether its real or not. Do you think they really get all of
those interviews? The PWI almanac had the
balls to give Jonathan Holliday recognition as NWA
champion in 1998 just because he claimed Lou Thesz
decreed it to him !!
If you want a legit accurate source, see WAWLI #280. This
is what the NWA recognizes, so we should recognize what
they want to? Thats like saying Bret Hart never really lost
the WWF title. He may not have legitly, but should we
still call Hart the WWF champ when the WWF does not?
NO!!!!!!!! If I had a signature, This would be it...SO until I
get a good one..
"Space Mountain may be the oldest ride in the park, but it
still has the longest line."
ZEKE - The Real Worlds' Champion
Subject: Lost Wrestler
Date: Fri, 30 Jan 1998 11:09:00 -0500
'Dear Mr. Kenyon:
I had posted a notice on a genealogy board stating that I
was searching for my greatgrandfather's brother...my great
The only information that I have is that we were told that he
was a professional wrestler in the State of New
York...probably sometime in the early/mid 1900s.
I received word from a Mr. Gary Will <email@example.com>
that I should contact you as you are a wrestling historian
and you might be able to give me some idea as to whatever
contacts are available. I have checked the roster that I
found online, but had no luck.
My grandfather's name was Francis Archibald Gordon
(b:1863/d:1945) and his brother, the wrestler, was named
Louis/Lewis (I have no idea if he was younger/older than his
brother), the dates for Francis would provide an
approximate time span. We were told they came from the
Lake Placid, NY area. My grandfather migrated north to NH
and we had never had word of what became of the brother.
If you can provide a clue as to where I should start
searching next I will be very grateful...have been searching
for 35 years and have had more clues provided since I
became a computer 'freak' 6 months ago than I have found
in all those years past ... isn't this a remarkable medium!
Mrs. Linda T. Cloutier
The WAWLI Papers #282...
HULK IS A HECK OF AN ENTREPRENEUR
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Thursday, Sept. 28, 1989)
By Bob Greene
Lift me, Hulk,'' the businesswoman said.
Hulk Hogan complied. He wrapped his arms around the
woman - she appeared to be in her mid-30s and was
wearing a cocktail dress - and he lifted her into the air.
All around the room, other men and women were sipping on
drinks and eating hors d'oeuvres, and most of them
pretended not to be paying attention to what Hulk Hogan
But we are getting ahead of ourselves here. Let us explain
the context in which this was taking place, and then we shall
return to the party.
On a recent trip, quite by coincidence, I found myself
staying in a hotel that was headquarters of a convention of
the Video Software Dealers Association. I was not there to
be a part of the convention or to cover it, but it was virtually
impossible to avoid running into the celebrities who were on
hand to mingle with the video dealers.
One night, I ducked into a cocktail party, and there, among
the video executives, was Hulk Hogan. The men and
women from the video business were generally attired rather
conservatively; Hulk Hogan was attired in a sleeveless jersey
that displayed his massive arms, in wrestling tights, and in a
bandanna wrapped around the top of his head.
What was interesting was that Hogan was not regar ded by
the others as some sort of cultural freak, or even as a mere
pro wrestler. He was at the party as a drawing card; no
question about that. But the unspoken assumption - and it
was true - was that Hogan was a show business
entrepreneur just like the other men and women in the
room. They were all in the same enterprise.
Pro wrestling was once considered rather a lowlife sport,
and although it was highly theatrical, wrestlers and
promoters were constantly insisting that wrestling was pure
Today, pro wrestling is willingly promoted as just one more
part of the entertainment business spectrum - wrestling
matches are delivered to the public with a broad wink, as if
to let you in on the joke.
You might have thought that this would take away from the
allure of wrestling. Not hardly. Hulk Hogan is reportedly a
multimillionaire because he has avidly allowed himself to
become a cartoon character (both literally and figuratively -
there has been a Hulk Hogan children's cartoon series).
In today's culture, as we have noted before, a star almost
has to be a cartoon character - definable in an instant
image, with no shades of subtlety - to make it to the top.
Hulk Hogan, Michael Jackson, Mr. T, Madonna - they
sometimes seem as much marketing logos as they do
Which brings us back to the party, where a video executive
in a dark suit, accompanied by a friend carrying a camera,
introduced himself to Hogan and asked if they might be
''Of course,'' Hogan said. The voice was not the familiar
bragging shout heard on television; it was soft and
''I'm going to put my hands around your neck,'' Hogan told
the man. ''It won't be hard. I'll count to three, and you jump.''
Which is what happened. On the count of three the man in
the suit jumped. Hogan, his hands loose around the man's
neck, flashed a momentary ferocious expression. The
camera flashed. The man settled harmlessly to the carpet.
When the picture is developed, it will look as if Hulk Hogan
had throttled the man and yanked him angrily into the air.
Undoubtedly it will make a good sales tool when the man is
marketing Hulk Hogan videos.
''Thanks a lot,'' the man said, and extended his hand.
''Don't mention it,'' Hulk Hogan said, shaking hands back.
A GIANT LOSS
(Los Angeles Times, Sunday, Mar. 7, 1993)
By Chris Dufresne
In the modern fable, the giant is felled not by a slingshot or a
squadron of fighter planes, but by his heart.
Imagine that, a muscle taking Andre Rousimoff down.
He was Andre The Giant in life and thereafter, a wonder of
the world and sometimes an imposition on the rest of us
down below. When he laid his head down for the last time
Jan. 27 in Paris, 12 days after he buried his father, Andre
might have thought his burden over.
No more stooping through doorways, no more slack-jawed
gapes at the sight of his huge head and hands, no more
children running in fear.
No more business trips to undersized Japan, of all places, to
pick up his oversized tailor-made clothes.
No more shoes, size 26.
Yet, Andre would pose problems even in death. When they
finally busted down his hotel door in Paris to discover Andre
dead, at age 46 of an apparent heart attack, the next thought
was what to do with him.
The Giant instructed in his will that his body be cremated
within 48 hours, the ashes to be sprinkled over his 200-acre
ranch in Ellerbe, N.C.
Andre was born in Grenoble, France, spoke fluent French
and wolfed down seven-course gourmet meals as though
they were appetizers. He washed it all down with vats of
expensive Burgundy but, in the end, his own country could
not accommodate him.
The phone call, from France, rang at the Ellerbe ranch. The
voice insisted there was not a crematorium large enough to
handle The Giant, who was 6 feet 10 and 555 pounds when
Could someone please come get The Giant?
Jackie Bernard, a longtime friend who lived at the ranch with
her husband, Frenchy, flew overseas to arrange transport of
Andre's body back home to North Carolina.
There were no complications at the airport, although there
was a time when even the planes were afraid of Andre.
Frank Valois, Andre's caretaker during The Giant's
barnstorming days as the world's most famous professional
wrestler in the 1970s, remembers that chartered flights were
often grounded when Andre stepped on the Tarmac.
"Most of the time they didn't even want to take him," Valois
The plane took Andre this time. The last time.
Andre the Giant was cremated in North Carolina on Feb. 11,
more than two weeks after he had requested.
Lucky for us, Andre was always a patient man.
"It's a good thing he didn't have a temper," Valois says, "or
there would have been a lot of accidents."
In the final months, The Giant moved with great difficulty,
having buckled under his own weight. He suffered from
acromegaly, or "giantism," a disease in which the body
secretes large amounts of the growth hormone, causing
continual growth to the head, hands and feet. Andre the
Giant, who towered above most at nearly 7 feet, walked with
a stoop near the end. He had undergone surgery in 1986 to
relieve pressure to his weakened spine. To perform the
procedure, surgeons in England had to construct oversized
Terry Funk, a pro wrestling great, toured Japan with Andre
"He was in a great deal of pain by then," Funk remembered.
Andre had shown Funk the X-rays of his recent knee
"They had taken out huge chunks of bone," Funk said. "I
Andre, a man of moods, was at times a loner, especially
near the end. He never married. A 13-year old daughter he
fathered was never discussed. Because of his disease,
doctors estimated Andre would not live to age 50. To some,
it explained The Giant's unfathomable ability to consume
alcohol. His fate sealed, it was speculated, Andre drank to
numb the reality. Except that when Andre stepped to the
bar, reality never stood a chance.
Once, in the 1970s, Funk pulled up a bar-stool next to The
Giant. "I swear he drank 100 beers one night in Amarillo,
Texas," Funk said. Frenchy Bernard, Andre's closest friend
at the time of his death, testifies he saw The Giant drink 72
double shots of vodka at one sitting.
Then, he stood up.
"And walked straighter than hell," Bernard said.
Another time, Andre did not get up. It has been told that he
passed out in a hotel lobby after drinking 119 beers. Too big
to move, friends draped him with a piano cover and passed
him off as furniture while The Giant slept it off.
In his younger years, Andre seemed resigned to his fate.
"He had it on his mind all the time, that he was going to die
young," Valois contends.
The longer he survived, though, the more Andre had doubts
about his acromegaly.
"There were reports that said he did have it and reports that
said he didn't," Jackie Bernard said. "He chose to believe
that he didn't."
The Giant often spoke about what it would be like to be
normal. He could not play the piano because one of his
enormous fingers engaged three keys. His wrists, as thick
as some lowland gorillas, measured a foot in
It bothered The Giant that he scared children.
"Often when I go to home of people who have small
children, the children will run from me, even though they
have seen me on television," Andre once told a writer. "I
understand why they do this, but it is a sad feeling for me,
During his heyday in the 1970s, when he was the most
famous wrestler in the world, a label he would later
surrender only to Hulk Hogan, Andre was earning an
estimated $400,000 per year. He was an international
He was a good enough athlete to have received a tryout offer
from the Washington Redskins. Andre declined, apparently
unwilling to take a pay cut. Although he never lifted weights,
his strength was awesome.
"I would say he was the strongest man in the world," Valois
said. "You won't believe this, but one time a guy had a flat
tire and (Andre) just lifted the car up while he changed the
wheel. It wasn't a big car, but still, it was a car."
Andre transcended the sometimes strange world of pro
wrestling into the mainstream. He appeared on "The Tonight
Show," "The Six Million Dollar Man," and other shows.
Andre most cherished his performance as "Fezzik" the
kindly giant in Rob Reiner's 1987 film "The Princess Bride."
Andre carried a videotape of the movie when he traveled.
On his November trip to Japan, a country in which he was
worshiped, the Giant screened several showings of "The
"He loved that movie," Funk said. "We'd watch it every third
day. And everyone watched the movie. You didn't say no."
Andre was an anomaly in professional wrestling in that most
of the incredible stories about him were true.
Yes, he really could pass a silver dollar through his ring.
While other wrestlers changed their names and concocted
outlandish personal histories to hone their images, it was
enough for Andre to walk into a ring in his bikini wrestling
Andre's friends held a memorial service at the Ellerbe ranch
recently. Many of Andre's friends in this country were unable
to attend the original service for him, in France.
Had the service been open to the public, fans would have
mobbed the celebrity wrestlers, which included Hogan,
Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Brutus Beefcake, the
Fabulous Moolah, Ivan and Nikita Koloff, and World
Wrestling Federation czar Vince McMahon.
But this time, there would be no gawkers. The service was
by invitation only. A North Carolina Highway patrolman
stood guard on the dirt road that leads to the 200-acre
ranch. About 200 people came. Andre's life might have
seemed a circus.
But his death would not.
RAGUSA NOT WRESTLING WITH HIS FUTURE
(Tulsa World, October 21, 1997)
By Jimmie Tramel
University of Tulsa senior defensive tackle Nick Ragusa has
five more games before he turns professional.
Professional wrestling, that is.
Ragusa has dreamed of becoming a pro wrestler since he
was 9. He spent many childhood weekends staging fights
between his WWF action figures.
"I would have my little jam box on the side and play music
for them entering the ring," he said. "I would announce them
while I was wrestling them. I loved it. I still have the dolls
somewhere in storage. I wouldn't be surprised if I went
home and found them."
Ragusa hopes to inspire his own action figure someday.
Folks think he is kidding when he tells them he wants to be
a pro wrestler, but he's as serious as a 6-5, 332-pound guy
with eight tattoos can be.
He already has a stage name -- "Critical Mass" -- picked out
and has created a secret move for his repertoire.
"I'm not going to tell you what it is," he said. "It correlates
with the name. You would feel it. It hurts."
Ragusa, who plays primarily in goal-line situations for Tulsa,
will try to help the Golden Hurricane capitalize on a big
week. TU is coming off its first victory of the season and
gets a shot at Pacific Division favorite Colorado State on
And he will be seated at Convention Center Arena Tuesday
night when his WWF heroes are live on stage.
"I know I won't be able to sleep the night before," said
Ragusa. "I'm going to be that excited about it."
Ragusa figures he will be like a kid in a candy story. But
when he watches wrestling on television, he's like a pupil in
"It's almost like he's studying them," said defensive end
"He's concentrating and he's recording everything that's
going on. I think he's probably putting that in the back of his
mind so that when he's finished with college football, he'll be
ready to jump into that kind of atmosphere."
Actually, he was ready at age 17. A native of Springfield, Ill.,
he was asked by a representative of Chicago-based Windy
City Wrestling to skip college and go straight to the mat.
Mom nixed that idea.
"She said as soon as you get your master's degree, you can
do whatever your little heart desires," said Ragusa. "In a
year-and-a-half to two years, I'll be ready to go."
The WAWLI Papers #283...
CRIME AMONG THE WRESTLERS
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sunday, Mar. 21, 1993)
Liza Cody has built a strong following among mystery buffs
for her novels featuring British private detective Anna Lee.
Now she has outdone herself with the creation of another
leading female character in her new book, "Bucket Nut" (236
pages, Doubleday, $18.50).
The character's name is Eva Wylie, a professional wrestler
who calls herself "The London Lassassin" and who lives in a
junkyard where she works as a guard, along with two vicious
watchdogs. Wylie had a rough childhood, in a fatherless
home with a prostitute mother, and she has three big
ambitions: to become a champion wrestler, to make enough
money to get her bad teeth fixed and to find a younger sister
who vanished into the foster-home system as a child.
Cody lets Wylie tell the story herself, in a tour de force of
first-person prose reminiscent of J.D. Salinger's Holden
Caulfield. In spite of the London slang words that baffle an
American reader at times, Wylie spins a fascinating tale of
life in the British pro wrestling world and London's criminal
underworld as she pursues her dreams. Anna Lee makes a
cameo appearance in the book and signs up Wylie as a
future strongarm assistant in crime solving.
I predict Cody's fans will like Wylie as much as, or more
than, they liked Lee. I think she's terrific.
FIGURING OUT WHAT THEY SEE IN THAT STUFF
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sunday, Dec. 22, 1996)
By Philip Kennicott
I have finally seen the light. For years I dismissed it as an art
form peopled by overweight divas, dressed in garish
costumes, acting out flimsy, preposterous dramas. But then,
in a flash of insight, I found the beauty. And I can thank one
of the world's most promising young Wagnerian sopranos
for all of this.
Yes, Jane Eaglen has introduced me to heavy-weight
wrestling, the professional variety, the half-sport, half-circus
that seems always to be playing out somewhere in the
nether reaches of the vast wasteland. Late one night last
week, adrift in maddening insomnia, I found CNN airing a
brief profile of the 30-year-old British soprano. Although
still young for someone with her size of voice, she is already
an international presence, and the most promising
Wagnerian soprano in a generation.
The CNN piece was the usual television fare: She's down-to-
earth, she's funny, she likes rock music and heavy-weight
wrestling. Throughout much of it Eaglen sits in the hair-
dresser's chair, making droll remarks while an epicene
stylist teases out her red locks.
And then, in a brief, serendipitous blast such as only can be
found on late-night television, CNN showed a clip of a huge
mound of naked, airborne adipose, flying in slow motion
from the top of the third rope onto the prostrate body of
another wrestler. All the while, Eaglen's thrilling voice rang
out as accompaniment. It was an epiphany.
It's no mystery that the ears can make the eyes see more
vividly, and vice versa. Music we hear on a film soundtrack,
or listen to while driving, seems to penetrate the brain
somehow differently from music heard with the eyes
otherwise disengaged. It may simply be a question of
how the brain is hardwired.
And yet, I remember once "discovering" beauty, simply
because an organ started playing, in a visual style I
previously found repellent. In an Italian Baroque church,
overpopulated with marble angels encumbered by
endless folds of undulating stone garments, suddenly the
organist began playing Frescobaldi. And in a flash, all that
seemed static and contrived about the visual style
disappeared into a sea of motion; the billowing marble
dresses seemed very much animated by an invisible wind,
the angels seemed as if about to take flight.
The somewhat less elegant figure that took flight on CNN's
Eaglen profile is apparently known as The Undertaker, a
saturnine man with long, stringy black hair, and a cold, icy
"He's in touch with the dark side," Eaglen says in a grave
As a professional soprano, a woman who impersonates the
suicidal Brunnhilde on a regular basis, Eaglen must herself
be acquainted with the dark side. No surprise, then, that The
Undertaker is her particular favorite on the wrestling circuit.
Despite her world peregrinations, Eaglen supposedly keeps
up with all of The Undertaker's dark doings; e-mail , we're
told, can facilitate this close contact with the dark side.
The name is telling - The Undertaker. There's a certain
modesty in it. He's not The Eliminator or The Executioner or
The Grim Reaper. As an undertaker, he doesn't cause
death, he just makes it look more attractive. There you have
it, Aristotle's theory of the tragic catharsis, in a nutshell.
Well, maybe a corollary.
Undertakers are as close as one can possibly be to the dark
side without actually becoming a menace. They are, in fact,
quite harmless, despite the dread they raise in us.
So too, sopranos. Indeed, the affinities between sopranos
and heavy-weight wrestlers are almost endless. There are
superficial similarities - they're both performers in a highly
scripted art form, each with a finely honed sense of camp.
And there is some deeper sociological common ground:
Despite speaking to vastly different audiences, they both
appeal to the lowest common denominator.
But of all the possible metaphors for the mysterious power of
the soprano voice, that momentary leap of The Undertaker
has something in particular to recommend it. The leap over
the void, the illusion of great danger when none actually
exists. The ever-present frisson that something disastrous
could occur at any moment, and the sense of absurdity that
human beings train themselves to do such ridiculous
things. This is what makes a soprano's upper register so
With all this to connect them, it's odd that the marketing
whizzes haven't caught on yet. Listening to Eaglen sing
while The Undertaker took his profound plunge, I realized
that if heavy-weight professional wrestling is ever going to
expand its limited audience, it's going to have to reach out to
us opera lovers, who may find its customs at first off-putting
and arcane. But now, thanks to Eaglen's small efforts,
pro-wrestling is beginning to lose the snooty character
promulgated by its most ardent fans. Thanks to Eaglen, the
Grim Leaper can come for us all.
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Saturday, Oct. 4, 1997)
That Which We Call A Rose ...
Here's a real bunch of sweethearts, the guys who will be
slammin' it out at Badd Blood, this Sunday at the Kiel
WHAT: Badd Blood", the WWF's monthly pay-per-view
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
WHERE: Kiel Center.
1. Hell In A Cell steel cage match, featuring Undertaker vs.
2. USA vs. Canada flag match: Patriot and Vader vs. Bret
Hart and British Bulldog.
3. Six-man Tag Team Match: Legion of Doom and Ken
Shamrock vs. New Nation of Domination.
4. WWF Tag Team Championship Match: Headbangers vs.
5. Dude Love vs. Brian Pillman.
6. Intercontinental Championship Tournament Finals.
SPECIAL APPEARANCE: St. Louis wrestling legends Lou
Thesz, Harley Race, Dory Funk Jr., Terry Funk and Jack
Brisco will be on hand.
TICKETS: $10-$19, available at the Kiel Center box office
and all Capital Ticket locations. Or call Dialtix (314) 969-
PAY PER VIEW: $29.95.
Welcome To A World Ruled By Powerslams, Piledrivers
and Slop Drops
Home: Death Valley
Finishing Move: Tombstone Piledriver
Career Highlight: Two-time WWf Champion
Home: San Antonio, Texas
Signature Move: Breaking the hearts of female fans.
Career Highlight: One of only four grapplers to capture the
triple crown - Federation title, Intercontinental title and tag
Height: 6'2" Weight: 250
Home: Columbia, S.C.
Signature Move: His mask, which represents "the many
faces of America."
Career Highlight: Made first appearance during the "Raw is
War" broadcast this past July.
Home: Sacramento, Calif.
Signature Move: Submissions of any kind.
Career Highlight: Officiating a match between Stone Cold
Steve Austin and Hit Man Hart.
BRET "HIT MAN" HART
Home: Calgary, Alberta
Signature Move: The Sharpshooter Career Highlight: Five-
time and current WWF champion.
Home: Rocky Mountains of Colorado
Siganture Move: Vader Bomb
Career Highlight: Taken prisoner in Kuwait after an
altercation with a talk-show host.
"LOOSE CANNON" BRIAN PILLMAN
Height: 6' Weight: 230
Home: Cincinnati, Ohio
Signature Move: Ranting tirade
Career Highlight: Signing with the WWF after being named
an All-American in football at Miami of Ohio.
LEGION OF DOOM:
Signature Move: Spiked shoulder pads, face paint.
Career Highlight: Former WWF Tag Team champions.
Signature Move: Breaking bones by day, moshing by night.
Career Highlight: Winning four-team elimination match in
WrestleMania 13 (guess they ran out of Roman numerals).
Weight: 253 Home: Manchester, England
Signature Move: Powerslam
Career Highlight: Two-time former tag-team champion.
Home: A boiler room in parts unknown
Signature Move: The Mandible Claw
Career Highlight: Transformation from wrestling fan Mick
Foley to Cactus Jack to Mankind and, finally, Dude Love.
HENRY O. GODWINN
PHINEAS I. GODWINN
Weight: 285 Home: Bitters, Ark.
Signature Move: The Slop Drop
Career Highlight: Former WWF Tag Team champions
JUST THINK, RASSLIN' MADE HISTORY HERE
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sunday, Feb. 19, 1989)
By Kevin Horrigan, Sports Editor
Eight-fifteen Friday night and I am sitting in my car, trying to
get into The Arena parking lot, thinking that the solution to
St. Louis's arena problem should begin with a small tactical
I have never seen traffic like this at a St. Louis sporting
event. I sit in my car, creeping forward, and I am proud.
Just when you thought St. Louis was sliding into the
backwaters of American sports cities, along comes an event
like the one at The Arena Friday night to restore hope to
We may not have pro football any more. We may not have
pro basketball any more. We may not even have indoor
soccer any more. But, by golly, when the World Wrestling
Federation needed a place to continue the epic confrontation
between Hulk Hogan and Randy ''Macho Man'' Savage, the
WWF knew where to turn. Kind of brings a lump to your
Many thoughts come to your mind when you are stuck in
traffic outside The Arena with three boys in the back seat.
How much is tuition at those military schools? Why did
writing a rassling column seem like a good idea? Why is the
city so eager to turn The Arena site into a ''mini-Clayton?''
Isn't the real Clayton enough?
I am thinking, six years ago I met Vince McMahon when he
was just getting the World Wrestling Federation into the big
time. I should have quit my job and signed up, because
Vince McMahon is a genius. He turned pro wrestling from a
series of local jokes into a major national joke. He got it onto
prime-time television and cable TV pay-per-view. He
licensed toys and games and pre-ripped Hulk Hogan T-
shirts. Vince McMahon is the Pete Rozelle of the '80s.
Finally, at 8:45, we get into the building for the 8 o'clock
card for which I left my home, 10 minutes from The Arena,
at 7:30. Going in, we pass dozen of disappointed fans,
turned way from the sold-out building. I have never seen
such a crowd here, not for Missouri-Illinois, not for the Final
Four, not for the Stanley Cup playoffs. But then this is not
your ordinary sporting event.
This was Hulk Hogan, the symbol of rasslin's new era, the
former title holder, former celluloid sparring partner of Rocky
Balboa, star of stage, screen and little plastic action figures
littering the nation's family rooms, in the same building with
Randy Savage, his good friend and heir apparent, the only
man the Hulkster had deemed worthy to hold the
Championship Belt when he was cheated out of it by the
perfidy of Andre the Giant and Ted DiBiase.
The Hulk and Macho Man wouldn't exactly be wrestling each
other, but they would be breathing the same foul Arena air
for one of the first times (they've staged this act in other
towns) since their tragic falling out on NBC Prime Time two
weeks ago in Milwaukee. Surely, you've heard the sad
details. Hulk and Macho, wrestling as the tag-team ''The
Mega-Powers,'' were pitted against the Twin Towers,
Akeem and Big Boss Man. The Lovely Elizabeth, Macho's
constant companion and manager, was felled outside
the ring by a falling body. The Hulk rushed to her rescue,
carrying her in his arms to a first-aid room, leaving Macho to
be pummeled mercilessly by the Twin Towers.
Luckily, there was a TV cameraman who just happened to
be in the right place to capture every step of Hulk's frantic
rush to the first-aid room. We viewers at home got live
pictures of the sweating Hulkster holding Elizabeth's hand,
saying, ''Ohgodohgodohgodohgod'' for approximately 15
When Macho finally appeared, he was not very happy. Hey,
you wouldn't be happy either if you'd been left alone with the
Twin Towers. Amazingly, he didn't have a single bruise. But
Macho's real concern was that the Hulk had tried to steal his
woman. They don't call him Macho for nothing.
Well, ever since then the bad blood has been bubbling.
Elizabeth - miraculously, she survived her wounds - was at
ringside Friday night when Macho clobbered Bad News
Brown with a chair to successfully defend his championship.
And because she's Hulk's manager, too - her management
style seems to consist of wearing a revealing dress - she
was there when
Hulk climbed into a steel cage with Big Boss Man in the
main event. But lo, just as Hulk was about to climb out of
the cage and win the event, who should appear to claim his
woman but the Macho Man. Hulk, perplexed by his old pal's
jealous rage, climbed down from the cage and immediately
was clobbered by Big Boss Man.
Hulk recovered, handcuffed Big Boss Man to the ring ropes,
and won the bout. But his heart was broken. It's become
obvious to even the thickest wrestling fan that he and Macho
Man are going to have to duke it out.
Nobody knows exactly when, though April 2 on national pay-
cable for ''Wrestlemania V'' might be a good guess.
Just a guess. And, just think, St. Louis was part of it. My
eyes are getting misty.
The WAWLI Papers #284...
About the Author
It is impossible to fit Herman Hickman into a pigeonhole,
and not only because of his 300-plus pounds. An All-
American guard at Tennessee in 1931, he has been in
football for most of his forty-two years, yet he has always
defied typing as just a football man.
During the years when Hickman was making a reputation as
a line coach at Wake Forest, North Carolina State and West
Point, he was also becoming increasingly well known on the
banquet circuit, equally adept with droll stories about his
mountain "kinfolk" or stirring recitations of full-blooded
poetry. In 1948 Hickman moved to the job of head football
coach at Yale and it wasn't long before television producers
began using him on various programs. By 1952 the
entertainment industry was calling for so much of his time
that he gave up his ten-year contract at Yale.
Now the unclassifiable Mr. Hickman has broken into a new
field as a writer. He makes his Post debut with this account
of still another career -- his earliest venture into show
business as a professional wrestler.--The Editors
RASSLIN' WAS MY ACT
(Saturday Evening Post, February 6, 1954)
By Herman Hickman
My first knowledge of Dan Parker, the distinguished sports
columnist of the New York Daily Mirror, was in 1932. I had
just arrived in New York City to embark on a career as a
professional wrestler, and his column in those days was
"must reading" for the fraternity, just as Variety is for other
branches of the entertainment field. He must have had a
pipe line into our booking office, because his column kept
picking the wrestling winners on the nose. He even got so
brazen as to name the particular hold that would end a
match, and the time of the fall.
It became a guessing game for the powers that be to try and
cross him up on the results. Sometimes his information was
so late that it was impossible to switch the outcome. The
average wrestler didn't have to go by the office in Times
Square to get the script for the evening's show. He could
read it in Dan Parker's column. I can tell you that it was very
demoralizing for a young and ambitious professional.
I remember one night when we fooled him. It was during the
famous Jim Londos-Ray Steele series at Madison Square
Garden, which, I understand, drew gates of around $70,000
for each match. Dan Parker came out with the prediction
that Londos would win this particular match with his famous
"airplane spin" in fifty minutes, and thus retain the
heavyweight wrestling championship (Jack Curley Division).
But did Dan miss it! Londos won, but not until fifty-seven
minutes and thirty seconds, and then not with an airplane
spin at all but with a series of flying tackles.
I'll say this for Dan. He was a gentleman. The next day his
column came out all draped in black, and with the heading,
AN APOLOGY TO THE PUBLIC. He said that he was
deeply humiliated to have been off on the time of a
professional wrestling match by so much as seven minutes
and thirty seconds. As for his not getting the winning hold
right, there was just no excuse for that.
I felt pretty good about it all until I read his column a few
days later. It was a question-and-answer affair. Question:
What becomes of old broken-down wrestlers? Answer: They
are still wrestling.
The wrestling bug bit me while I was a student at the
University of Tennessee. Every Friday night I would go to
the Lyric Theater in Knoxville and watch the matches. Soon
the promoter, Sam Seigel, started giving me complimentary
tickets. It wasn't long before he began taking me backstage
to meet the wrestlers. To a big-eyed East Tennessean, it
was wonderful to hear their talk of faraway places -- St.
Louis, New Orleans, Memphis, Houston. They certainly
were glamorous figures to me. I even began to like the
"villains," who used such dirty tactics in the ring. I could not
understand how these men, perfect gentlemen in their
dressing rooms, could be such bullies when they wrestled.
None of the wrestlers ever showed any nervousness about
their coming matches, although I knew that they must be
really on edge, the way I was before a football game.
I met them all during the next few years. The big names
were all on the "gasoline circuit," as the Southern territory
was called, because the cities were so far apart that the
wrestlers had to jump into their cars after a match and head
for the next engagement. They could not make connections
by train, and airplane travel then was just a name. When I
became established on the circuit myself, driving from one
city to another after a hurried alcohol bath -- usually there
weren't any showers in the dressing rooms -- and three or
four silver-dollar-sized hamburgers, I would think about how
I once dreamed of the excitement of new cities and new
faces every night.
Here's a sample itinerary. Slip quietly out of Griffith Park in
Washington, where the matches have been held outdoors.
Grab something quick to eat the nearest lunch wagon. Walk
four blocks to an appointed rendezvous, where two of the
boys are waiting in an automobile. Drive a couple more
blocks and pick up your opponent. He was disqualified for
choking you just an hour ago. Now he is busily engaged
with ham sandwiches and a quart of milk as he flops
alongside you on the back seat.
It is midnight Thursday, and our next match is in Knoxville,
Tennessee, over 500 miles away, on Friday. We head out
toward Charlottesville, then Waynesboro. We'll pick up old
U.S. 11 between Staunton and Lexington. Then we will be
on the beam heading due south.
We play three-handed poker for hours by the flickering
overhead car light. The driver is ruled out, but we each take
turns at the wheel. We play a spelling game, which I usually
introduce. If a word of over three letters ends on an
individual, it costs him a dime, and he has to start a new
word. If we get a neophyte into the game with old hands
who know the "lock" words, it can be expensive spelling
We sing. We sleep a little. We stop at our regular all-night
filling station after we hit Route 11, have soft drinks and
more cold, slightly stale sandwiches, and are off again. We
arrive in Knoxville at noon, separate before we get
downtown, and go to our hotels. By driving all night we have
saved a one-night hotel bill. We will spend this night in
Knoxville, then drive all the following night en route to the
The same "villain" who strangled me in Washington does
the same thing to me in Knoxville, and is disqualified again.
It is more serious here because this is my home territory. It
takes three deputy sheriffs and two members of the fire
department to get him safely to his dressing room.
After the matches, this is a night for rest and relaxation. I go
by Weaver's Restaurant and order "the works." A crowd
gathers to talk to me, and among them are some of the
Tennessee football players. They look at me enviously as I
talk of the places and people I've seen.
"How does it feel to be in the big time, Herman?" they ask.
"There's nothing like it, nothing like it," I tell them
expansively, as I push the remains of a two-pound
porterhouse away from me. It's the first real meal I have had
in two days.
Saturday afternoon, we meet again. I have my friend,
French Harris, drive me ten miles out on the highway,
because I'm well known around here and must not be seen
fraternizing with my opponents. They pick me up, and we're
off to New Orleans for a Monday night match. Then comes
Birmingham on Tuesday, Atlanta on Wednesday, Nashville
on Thursday, and back to Knoxville on Friday. Meanwhile, I
keep asking myself why I didn't get a job coaching some
small-town-high-school football team or try to work my way
through law school, as I had planned.
But in 1932 money was a scarce item, and there weren't
many jobs floating around even if you did weigh 230
pounds, had made the All-American football team, and
could recite a conglomerate collection of verse. So, when
Rudy Dusek, the oldest and the mastermind of the Dusek
brothers, undertook to sell me on the idea of becoming a
professional wrestler, he did not find it difficult. He
mentioned something about the possibility of making $1,000
a week and becoming champion of the world. He could have
got me for less than half of that, and he did.
Up to then, I knew nothing about the inner workings of the
wrestling game. I was worried about my lack of experience,
but when I started asking about that, they passed it off with,
"You're big and you're strong, and you're an All-American
football player. We'll teach you everything you oughta
know." That was all I knew until I arrived in New York City.
I was really scared when I got off the train at Pennsylvania
Station. I decided to take a taxi to the Greystone Hotel at
91st and Broadway, where I was to meet Toots Mondt, who
would take charge of my training. I pictured a big
gymnasium with a lot of tough guys hanging around. I had
read about how there were gangsters all up and down
Broadway. This might be their hangout.
It was about eleven A.M. when I arrived at the Greystone. I
asked at the desk for Mr. Mondt. They said that he was
expecting me. I was getting more nervous all the time as I
stepped off the elevator. I had read hundreds of pages about
Joe (Toots) Mondt. He was Mr. Big in wrestling. I rang the
bell to his apartment.
A big voice boomed, "Come in!" I walked falteringly into the
living room, and I could see him through the open bedroom
door. Was I disillusioned! There he was in a big oversize
bed, having breakfast, and wearing pink silk pajamas. His
pleasantly round face was bordered with a big smile, and his
baby complexion matched his pajamas.
"How are you, kid?" was his greeting. "Rudy Dusek and
Sam Seigel have told me a lot about you. You should be
ready for your first match in a couple of weeks. We've got a
room all fitted out with a wrestling mat on the next floor.
That's your gym. I'll have two or three of the boys work out
with you each dya, and you'll be ready to go in no time."
He ordered a big breakfast sent up for me and asked,
"How's your cash, son?" I told him that I had some money,
but he pulled a fat roll of bills out of a pair of trousers
hanging across a chair. He flipped off five $100 bills and
said, "Well, you might need a little more to tide you over
until you get going good. You can pay me back then."
I want to digress for just one moment here and say that I've
been mixed up in many kinds of enterprises since my
wrestling days and have met many kinds of people, but
none can compare with the wrestlers for generosity,
friendliness and real straight shooting. This term may sound
a little incongruous when applied to participants in a "sport"
that was fixed every night. But they never thought of it that
way. They considered themselves performers attempting to
please a crowd every night, just as a tumbling act might do
on the vaudeville circuit. There have never been any
gambling scandals in wrestling, because there has never
been any betting mixed up in it. The athletic commissions in
the different states consider the matches exhibitions, and in
most places the referee gets in on the act with the wrestlers.
My training period progressed to the satisfaction of my
mentors, Toots Mondt and Rudy Dusek. I worked out in the
gymnasium room three or four hours each day. Men like Jim
McMillen, who was an All-American guard during the Red
Grange era at Illinois; Earl McCready, the Canadian who
was intercollegiate heavyweight wrestling champion at
Oklahoma A & M; Tiny Roebuck, the great Indian football
star at Haskell Institute, and Ernie Dusek, a younger brother
of Rudy, would work with me every day, after they had
wrestled the night before in Albany, Boston or Baltimore.
They taught me how to "work," which means putting on a
performance, instead of "shooting," which means straight
wrestling. They showed me how to "go" with a wristlock
without getting a dislocated shoulder, how to slam an
opponent without injuring him. This latter is done by making
his feet hit the mat first with a resounding thud, and not his
head. They taught me to work "loose." Some of the best, like
McMillen and the Duseks, could appear to be tearing a
man's head off with a headlock, all their muscles straining,
and yet their opponents could not even feel the pressure of
To get the proper dramatic effect, usually one wrestler in
each match was "clean" and the other was a villain.
Ordinarily you were typed in one role or the other, although
some of the wrestlers would play the villain in one town and
the hero in the next. I was presented as the clean-cut-
college-boy type and because of my football background, the
flying tackle was my key hold. Whenever I used that
offense, it was usually curtains for my opponent.
Later I became noted for my "belly bounce." I would beat my
opponent into submission by bouncing up and down on him
-- always remembering to break the bounce with my hands
hitting the mat first, so as not to start an epidemic of internal
hemorrhages -- after I had weakened him with the flying
But I get ahead of my story. My debut was one to
remember. I opened in Syracuse at the cavalry armory. My
opponent had been selected with care. In fact, I had worked
with him in my hotel gym many times. I was to work with
him in many places under many names. Bill Nelson was
quite a character. He must have had 3,000 matches. He
was semi-retired from active duty, being engaged in the
office with the bookings. Toots and Rudy figured that I
couldn't go wrong with him.
I remember that Ed (Strangler) Lewis, one of the great
"shooters" of all time and an equally outstanding "worker,"
was in the main event that first night at Syracuse. I was in
the second preliminary with Bill Nelson -- Wild Bill in that
town. I don't think that Lewis or Hickman either was much
of a draw in Syracuse. The crowd was thin, and the odor of
the horses was thick. Andy Kerr, the Colgate football coach,
who had coached me in the East-West game, brought John
Orsi, his great All-American end, and some other members
of the squad to see my debut. I was a little embarrassed
when they started inquiring about my strategy for the match,
and asked me if I weren't nervous. Sure, I was nervous --
even though I knew how it was coming out -- but I had
learned my lessons well.
Wild Bill refused to shake hands with me in the center of the
ring before the match. The crowd booed. He complained
about the oil on my ears and hair. The crowd booed. He had
an argument with the referee about what constituted a fall in
the state of New York, and threatened to leave the ring. The
crowd hated him already.
The bell rang. I put out my hands to start wrestling, and he
hit me with a left to the jaw. I staggered. He hit me with a
right to the body which sounded like a pistol shot. I reeled.
He started kneeing me in the groin and pulling my hair at
the same time. The referee broke his illegal hold and warned
him. He came right back and knocked me down with
another left hook to the jaw. He put a "punishing" Japanese
toe hold on me.
I suffered and suffered, but I would not give up, because I
had so much courage. I would not even try to crawl to
refuge outside the ropes because being an All-American boy
I would not resort to anything in the least dishonorable.
Then it happened, and it wasn't in the script. For some
reason, the referee broke the hold and had Wild Bill over in a
corner of the ring, lecturing him about his dirty tactics. I
didn't see them, because I was too busy suffering. I must
have lain there on my stomach for a full minute with my feet
bent over my back, not realizing that Bill was not still there.
Then I happened to glance back over my shoulder and saw
both of them.
I wanted to crawl under the ring and die, but instead I
recovered my composure and started launching my flying
tackles. He ran from me. He cried to the referee. He got
outside the ring and asked for mercy. But I was riled up
now, and nothing could stop me. The crowd was going wild.
The referee started counting him out. Wild Bill protestingly
came back in the ring. I hit him with one tackle, then
another. Each time he would sail into the air and hit the mat
with a thud -- the back of his heels. He couldn't get away
from my terrific onslaught. He was a helpless mass in the
middle of the ring, so I rushed over and pinned his shouldrs
to the canvas.
"Nice going, you old mountaineer hillbilly; you made it look
good," Bill whispered to me. These were pleasant words
from an old trouper to a neophyte during an out-of-town
tryout. I had busted one line, but the master had forgiven
me. I was ready for the big time.
The job of booking wrestlers in twenty or thirty cities all over
the United States each night of the week is a complex
operation. The Curley office in New York, which was really
run in the early '30s by Toots Mondt, Jack Pfeffer and Ed
White, Jim Londos' manager, was the center of all activities.
>From here went the instructions to the hinterlands as to the
line-up and outcome of the week's matches.
All the wrestlers had code names. For instance, Jim Londos
was Chris, Ray Steele was Glendale -- his hometown --
George Zaharias was Subway -- his first trip to New York,
he got mixed up and rode all day from one end of the line to
the other, so the story goes. Jim McMillen was Football,
Rudy Dusek was Mitch. I was Cannonball.
In those days the Postal Telegraph Company was still in
existence, in addition to Western Union. The New York
office would send out the instructions on one wire service
and have them confirmed on the other. This is a sample
message: "Cannonball moon Subway around thirty-five
confirm." It meant that I was to lose -- look up to the moon --
to George Zaharias in about thirty-five minutes.
To be a good attraction for a promoter, you had to be either
greatly liked or greatly hated. A mere scientific exhibition of
clean wrestling still won't draw at the gate. There must be a
hero and a villain. The hero doesn't always win, but when he
loses, the villain must always beat him by foul means.
I think that amateur wrestling, as conducted in high schools
and colleges, is a wonderful sport. I have coached college
wrestling, and I enjoyed it. The contestants must be in top
physical condition to go all out for nine minutes -- the length
of a regular college match. It would be physically impossible
to wrestle like this for an hour or more, the way the
professionals sometimes do.
But amateur wrestling has never been a big spectator sport
and never will be, because it is impossible to inject the thrills
and pathos in a shooting match that the professionals create
in their exhibitions. I have seen many shooting matches by
top professionals in the gymnasium, and they are just as dull
and uninteresting to the average spectator as the college
So wrestling, in order to draw crowds, must of necessity be
"rasslin'." It always has been and always will be an
exhibition. Taken in this light, I can see nothing harmful in it.
As entertainment it is usually better than a lot of movies, and
it should not have a bad influence on any member of the
family, because virtue is always supreme.
I get quite a kick out of some of the old-time sports fans who
say, "Wrestling today is just a hoax and a vaudeville act, but
I remember back in the days of Hackenschmidt and Gotch
and the Zbyszkos when it was really wrestling. Why, I've
seen them stay in one hold for fifty minutes, and wrestle
many a night for two hours, and none of this rough stuff
either. They were scientific."
They were scientific, all right, and maybe excellent shooters,
although myths can flourish with the passage of time. I can
tell you one thing, and that is that their so-called scientific
wrestling matches were exhibitions, and not very exciting
ones, either. I saw many of those early matches, which were
for the most part put on by foreign wrestlers, and I later
worked with some of them, such as Stanislaus and Wladek
The style of that time was a carryover from the old German
beer gardens, where the longer the performers wrestled, the
more beer they could sell the customers. Some of them told
me that they would "wrestle" five or six hours during the
course of the evening in the Graeco-Roman style, in which
no holds are allowed below the waist, and when anyone is
thrown to the mat, it constitutes a fall. They would lock in
each other's arms and stay in one position for an hour or so.
Then one would straighten up his arm slowly, flexing his
mucles mightily, and the customers sitting around the tables
would go wild and more beer would flow. Finally, when the
wrestlers got thirsty, one would be thrown to the mat with a
mighty thud, and they would rest for thirty minutes. And so
on through the night.
The only public shooting match I ever saw took place in
Madison Square Garden in 1933 between Strangler Lewis
and Ray Steele. Ed Lewis was representing what was then
the Paul Bowser branch of the industry, and Ray Steele was
the standard-bearer for the Curley wheel. They were both
excellent wrestlers. Lewis may have been the best of all time
-- on the basis of my personal observations in the
gymnasium. Both were most popular with their fellow
This match was supposed to decide the "real"
championship. I don't know yet how the powers that be ever
let the match happen, but I dod know that I have never seen
such tension around the Times Square office as there was
the week before the match. I was booked in the Broadway
Arena in Brooklyn for the same night, along with seven other
unfortunates. Ordinarily a wrestler never goes to a wrestling
match, but this was different. We made our plans. We knew
that in order to reach the Garden in time for the Lewis-
Steele event, we would have to get four matches over with
by nine-thirty. Never did the old Broadway Arena see such
fast and short matches.
The match had already begun when we got to our seats.
Lewis was fat, fifty and balding, with a big chest, big belly
and small legs. He was built like the great Babe Ruth.
Steele, approaching forty, had the body beautiful. He
weighed around 220 pounds to the Strangler's 250.
>From the very start it was no contest. Steele could do
nothing with the Strangler. Lewis was a big cat, darting in,
going behind, making Steele look like a boy on a man's
mission. The fans yawned and started stamping their feet for
action. The wrestlers, on the other hand, sat with their eyes
glued on the ring. They watched every movement intensely.
They were thrilled with the skill of Lewis. They were seeing
the master give a pupil the lesson of his life.
Lewis and Steele were personal friends. I have no doubt that
the Strangler could have pinned him at any time. Steele had
courage, but realized that he was hopelessly outmatched.
Some whispering probably occurred, and Steele started
punching Lewis with his closed fists. So it ended with the
referee disqualifying him after the match had gone about
We saw Ed next morning at Grand Central Station on his
way to another match in Buffalo.
"How was Ray?" we asked.
"Good little man, good little man," he replied, between puffs
of his cigar.
My first match for the heavyweight championship of the
world was held in the baseball park at Memphis in 1932. I
had not been defeated in about fifty matches, so a bout with
Jim Londos, the perennial champion, was a natural in my
home state of Tennessee. I was drawing big crowds
everywhere in the South, so the authorities did not want to
see me beaten, even by the champion, except under
extraordinary circumstances. I was told to go about fifty
minutes, and then, after Londos had narrowly escaped
defeat, to take a dive from the elevated ring platform out into
the infield and be counted out.
There is a mistaken idea that wrestlers rehearse every move
of their matches. Usually, the only orders you receive are as
to who is to "moon." Only if there is to be an unusual finish
is it discussed. A good match mut be extemporaneous. The
wrestlers must feel the reaction of the crowd. They must
attain the moment of the highest excitement, and then have
the finish come with dramatic suddenness.
Most wrestling fans know that the matches are pure
exhibitions, but they forget everything they know when an
exciting bout is in progress. I have seen more violent
reactions from fans at a wrestling match than I ever saw or
heard during a football game. Men and women alike wildly
cheer and boo -- the two reactions that the performers like to
Jim Londos looked and acted the part of a champion. He
trained hard, had no bad habits, and when he walked into
the ring he carried himself like the king. I understand that he
was an excellent shooter, and I know that he was a great
showman and worker. He had the lightest touch in the ring
of anyone I ever met.
His strategy against me was to keep away. He had decided
to be the "villain," or at least the cautious type who was
slightly afraid of me. The partisan crowd in Memphis was
overjoyed when I broke his wristlock with pure brute
strength. When he failed to get me above his head for his
famous finishing hold, the airplane spin, he looked at me
with amazement. Then, when I hit him with two flying
tackles, he crawled outside the ropes for a rest as the crowd
booed. Twice I had him pinned for a count of two -- a count
of three with both shoulder blades touching the mat
constitutes a fall -- but he managed to get away from me
before I could finish him.
After forty minutes the crowd excitement had reached its
crescendo. The moment had arrived. I hit him with a flying
tackle and knocked him all the way into the ropes with such
force that he bounced back, and I hit him again on the
rebound. He went down, and as he staggered to his feet I let
him have another shoulder block in his midsection. He
sailed high into the air.
This was the end of a champion. The crowd could sense
that just one more flying tackle and he would be done. I felt
the elation of the crowd myself -- once a ham, always a ham
-- as I prepared for the kill. I backed into the ropes to get
more spring for my final assault. As I dove through the air,
Londos fell flat to the mat. I sailed out of the ring, which was
six feet above the ground, going between the second and
I was aiming for some soft laps in the second row of the
ringside seats, but either my aim was poor or the soft laps
saw me coming, because I missed completely and landed
flat on my back in the infield on a lighted cigar butt. I was to
lie there unconscious while a count of twenty was being
tolled over my intert form. I have been through some tough
moments, but it took all my fortitude to withstand that
burning cigar butt. I thought of Barrymore, of the theater, of
"the show must go on," as the slow count of twenty was
When I heard the magic number of "twenty," I rolled over on
my face just as someone dumped a whole bucket of ice
water on me. Then three or four people dragged me off by
the heels as they would a dead bull. I had failed at my first
championship attempt, but had fought the good fight, and I
still have a big scar to show for it where that cigar burned a
hole in my back.
Many years have passed since my rasslin' days, and I look
back on them with pleasant memories. I know that there
have been few legitimate professional matches since Milo of
Croton was six times champion of Greece, and Theseus laid
down the wrestling rules in 900 B.C. I even have my doubts
about whether that historic match between Ulysses and Ajax
was a shoot. I do know that I met a lot of good guys who
were the straightest shooters I've ever known, and that I got
to see a lot of "faraway places." I still don't think you can get
a better night's entertainment than you will by seeing your
favorite "hero" tangle with a "villain." This plot has had the
longest run in show business, so it must have something.
The WAWLI Papers #285...
THE BIG HOAX OF THE WRESTLING MAT!
(HUSH-HUSH Magazine, January, 1960 issue)
By Russel B. Scott
Wrestling is a big business today. It is also one of the
phoniest and most disgraceful rackets masquerading under
the name of "sport."
In arenas all over the country, the ancient and skillful art has
become a farce in the hands of longhaired freaks and
muscular exhibitionists whose crowd pleasing antics should
be barred from the legitimate mat and restricted to circuses
and vaudeville shows.
But this burlesque of the sport has been recognized and
encouraged by athletic authorties -- to the point where it now
is piped into millions of homes over TV. And the shams and
freaks are built up to the unsuspecting public as heroic
Grunt-and-groaners such as Karl von Hess, the Sheik of
Araby, the Graham brothers, Tokyo Joe, the Zebra Kid and
Haystack Calhoun are among the highest paid stars of the
They make their money by deciving not only live audiences,
but millions of television viewers as well, into believing they
are fighting real rough wrestling bouts -- where anything
But the HUSH-HUSH truth is that these wrestlers are simply
putting on exhibitions of athletic agility -- slapstick comedy
capers -- and short of an unforeseen accident, none of them
is ever likely to even break a fingernail.
This is the secret that wrestling promoters take great care to
keep from the public. For fight fans dish out their hard-
earned dollars in the misguided belief that they will see their
favorite grappler lick the hide off his opponent. If they knew
how phoney the fights really are, they wouldn't part with a
nickel! And the poor promoters would starve.
The fans want plenty of action, speed, hard blows and rib-
cracking falls. But what they actually see is a farcical piece
of showmanship in which every punch is pulled and every
blow, kick and fall is crefully designed to look like the real
thing without damaging, or even bruising, the idiots involved.
The fact is that any man, if he is fairly brawny and
moderately healthy, can become a wrestling star today. All
he needs is a crowd-pleasing gimmick.
Far from being tough and dangerous, some of the most
ferocious looking mat battles seen on television are child's
play compared, say, with a college football match.
Antonino Rocca is a veteran of several thousand wrestling
bouts all over America -- but the only scar he has is a
cauliflower ear he received playing rugby in South America.
Rocca zoomed to stardom on the mat when he got the
gimmick of wrestling in his bare feet. It was a novelty. He
combined this with rugby tactics -- and his name was made.
Even though he knew nothing at first about the legitimate art
Other wrestlers resort to masks, sequin studded capes,
leotards, beards, long hair (dyed blond), and phoney
"foreign" caricatures to further their careers as mat
Let's take a look at some of the grunt-and-groaners who are
currently fooling the public.
Von Hess struts about the ring with a bristling beard and
crew-cut, posing as an arrogant Prussian who hates
everybody, including the fans who are his meal ticket. To
add insult to injury, he raises his right arm in the "Heil Hitler!"
salute. This quickly works the crowd into a hysterical rage.
But the HUSH-HUSH truth is that von Hess is an American
citizen who was born in the Middle West.
His real name is Frank Fackherty (sic).
Haystack Calhoun weighs over 600 pounds and, although he
is remarkably agile, considering his ponderous bulk, to
present him as a wrestler is strictly for laughs. He would be
more suitably situated in one of the freak shows on Coney
But since Calhoun's opponents are stooges -- he always
fights two at a time -- he doesn't have to worry about being
hurt. On one occasion when, out of sheer clumsiness, he
FELL through the ropes and was hanging upside down
because his feet were caught, ring officials were terrified. Not
that he was hurt, but that he might have a heart attack!
The Sheik of Araby -- a black-bearded "bedouin" in flowing
Arab robes -- is another phoney "foreigner" who had never
been near the Syrian deserts he claims as his birthplace. For
publicity reasons, the Sheik is not supposed to speak a word
of English, and in one press interview Washington wrestling
official Phil Zaccho (sic) tried to fool interviewers by
interpreting questions and answers with such mumbo-jumbo
as "og ugglemik stimtin tum globble," which he hyoped
would be mistaken for Arabic.
The truth is, the sheik is an American, a college graduate,
and he speaks better English than most of his fans --
including Zaccho. The veiled and obsequious Princess
Fatima, who waves incense around the ring before the
Sheik's bouts -- a gimmick calculated to incense the fans --
is also American.
The Sheik has no harem and has never ridden a camel. But
he rides the suckers who are profitably enranged by his
"foreign" antics and his snarling threats, which are all part of
his carefully rehearsed act.
Ricki Starr wanted to be an actor or a ballet dancer. When
he failed at both, he cashed in on his limited talents by
turning wrestler and wearing ballet shoes in the ring. It was
another novelty, and the crowd roars as he dances and
pirouettes gracefully around his bedazzled opponents.
But the fact is, Ricki could never have become a wrestler
had he depended upon skill and strength alone. He is small
for the grappling art -- 5 foot 9, and 185 pounds -- but by
pretending to be a sissy, he has built up a money minting act
that pays off for the promoters as it makes a joke of an
The Zebra Kid privately admits he was a total failure as a
wrestler until he thought up the gimmick of wearing a mask.
His "secret" identity is no secret in Akron, Ohio, his home
town -- where he is known as George Bollas.
But the mask that has made George famous on television
has its faults. He can't cash in on his fame in New York --
where the biggest money is made -- because the New York
Athletic Control Board won't let anybody wrestle in a mask.
The Great Scott started wrestling at the time when Gorgeous
George was the star attraction. Whether he could have
beaten George in a straight wrestling bout never concerned
the promoters. Before they would even consider him, he had
to outshine George as a showman -- not as a grappler.
So The Great Scott let his golden hair grow down his back
and entered the ring with an escort of bagpipers. This
spectacle made such a hit with the fans that the bigwigs
behind the scenes agreed to let the kilted character beat the
The Graham Brothers are also in the long, dyed hair set.
"Doc" Jerry Graham smokes big cigars and often sinks a
dozen bottles of bgeer before entering the wrestling ring --
because he knows that all he has to do is put on a show of
swaggering bravado and kid around. Graham, along with
other wrestlers, frequently uses capsules of chicken blood,
which he crushes against his head to stimulate severe cuts
and thus incite the blood-thirsty mob to greater rowdyism.
Like most modern grunt-and-groaners, none of these
wrestlers depended on skill or strength to make his name on
the mat. Their secret is to arouse the most primitive
emotions in the crowd and to foster an illusion of sadistic
rivalry between the various combatants.
The remarkable thing is that millions of fans actually believe
that what they see are real, hard-hitting, bone-crushing,
vicious battles between iron-muscled goliaths.
In any wrestling audience, at least 50 percent of the
screaming, jeering, stamping spectators are women.
Women, even more than men, seem to take a moronic
delight in urging the combatants to "moider" one another.
But the wrestlers are in far more danger of being injured by
the irate fans than by their mat opponents.
Karl von Hess has scars on his head and back, from knife
wounds and broken bottles -- all inflicted by his "fans." Von
Hess has made such a success of being hated that every
time he fights his way back to the dressing rooms, he
expects someone to knife him or conk him with a Coke
Mike Gallagher was stabbed by a woman with a six-inch
stiletto as he scrambled back to the dressing room after a
match in Minneapolis.
A spectator in Texas threw a knife that buried itself six
inches deep into the bald pate of Skull Murphy. And George
Bollas, the Zebra Kid, was nearly lynched in Columbus,
Ohio, after he defeated Bearcat Wright before 3,000
spectators who decided they wanted his blood and his mask.
As a New York Athletic Commission official commented,
when an elderly woman reached through the ropes at St.
Nicholas' Arena and stabbed a wrestler witha wicked-looking
"That's one of the hazards of the game. There's always some
crazy crank in the crowd who doesn't realize it's just an act
and who wants to see someone really hurt!"
Not long ago Rocca and Jerry Graham worked an audience
into such a fever pitch that a riot broke in New York's
Madison Square Garden. Rocca and Edouard Carpentier
were battling as a tag team against Graham and Dick "The
Bruiser" Afflis. The crowd howled with delight as Rocca
hurled himself around the ring in his spectacular barefoot
leaps. But when the referee awarded the decision to
Graham, Rocca pretended to be mad and suddenly started
to beat Graham's head against a corner post.
Since these posts are well padded and flexible, it wouldn't
have hurt too much had Rocca been in earnest. But Graham
crushed one of his chicken-blood capsules and a shower of
red stuff sprayed over the mat, the fans and the wrestlers. At
the sight of blood, frenzied spectators stormed the ring,
swinging chairs, fists and broken bottles. The referee had his
pants torn off. Three cops and eleven fans were injured
before the police broke up the riot and sent everybody home.
Among the people who were NOT injured that night were
Graham and Rocca -- the two expert showmen who started
Some of the biggest wrestling attractions are televised out of
the Capitol Arena in Washington, D.C. As an example of just
how phony this business is, let's go back to a night not long
ago when Rocca and Miguel "Little" Perez topped the bill in
a tag match against the Tolos Brothers. In his office behind
the arena, promoter Vince McMahon and a few guests were
watching the bout on TV. McMahon, a shrewd businessman,
suddenly said irritably:
"What the hell are these boys doing tonight? This is a terrible
show they're putting on! It's the same old act -- what we
need is something extra every time. Hell, I'd better go and
wake 'em up!"
He dashed out of the office to give the boys a pep talk
But the spectators were yelling as loudly as ever. They had
no idea that the four mastodons in the ring were putting on a
corny act and that the winners had been pre-arranged long
before the bout began. McMahon wa wasting his time
worrying about these suckers!
One of the reasons Washington is a television center for
piping out wrestling shows is that, in the nation's capital,
In many other states there are restrictions. In New York, for
instance, the Zebra Kid is not allowed to wear a mask, and
extreme displays of "rough stuff" are frowned upon.
In New Jersey wrestlers must not be thrown out of the ring --
and fans miss that spectacular crash through the ropes,
which is a big attraction at every wrestling match. It doesn't
hurt anybody, because most wrestlers know how to fall --
even if they don't know how to wrestle.
The whole art of slapstick wrestling is to know how to appear
ferocious -- without doing any damage. When Haystack
Calhoun heaves his 600 pounds on a prostrate opponent, he
breaks the impact with his knees and arms.
The mighty elbow jabs, forearm blows and punches are
pulled so as not to hurt -- while the wrestler slaps his own
thigh to make it sound as if the blows really hit home.
If fans only thought for a moment, they would realize that
blood and broken bones would be all over the ring if only half
the blows that appear to be struck were genuine. All that
actually happens is that the wrestler pretends to be groggy
for a moment -- then gets on with the act.
Occasionally, to add "reality" to the performance, a bruiser is
carried out of the ring on a stretcher. Fans would be amazed
-- if they could follow this procession through the formidable
cordon of guards -- to see the "injured" man jump off his
stretcher in the dressing room and duck into a shower before
The "ferocious enemies" in the ring usually play cards
together, or swap smutty stories, in the dressing rooms
before a match. This reporter was in St. Nick's in New York
one night when Cowboy Lee and Czaya Nandor seemed to
be trying, by every dirty method known, to murder one
another in the ring. After the bout, they came into the
dressing room, perspiration gleaming all over their thick
bodies, their arms around each other's shoulders.
"We sure got the crowd worked up that time," said Cowboy
Recently George Hackenschmidt, the old "Russian Lion,"
came to New York on a visit. When invited to attend a
wrestling promotion at Madison Square Garden,
Hackenschmidt, who was once the wrestling champion of
the world, said:
"No. Professional wrestling today is phony. It is a disgrace to
an ancient and honorable sport."
But there is plenty of loot in this ancient and no-longer-
honorable sport. One of the top paid stars is Antonino Rocca,
who has made as much as $150,000 a year during the past
eight years. Ricki Starr, the Graham Brothers and Argentina
Zuma can all make up to $100,000 in a good year.
Non-star wrestlers get from $100 to $200 for a supporting
performance -- and they have to pay their own traveling
expenses. They get no cut for appearing on television, but
most of them are glad to do these shows, regardless, since
TV builds up their names and gets them valuable personal
appearances throughout the country. Top stars draw the
biggest crowds at New York's Madison Square Garden, and
gates of up to $50,000 are shared by the wrestlers who can
pack that showplace.
One of the most successful gimmicks ever devised by
wrestling promoters was to classify their grunter-and-
groaners into "heroes" and "villains." The crowd always
supports the hero and vents its venom on the villain --
although, paradoxically, a villain often draws a bigger crowd
than a hero. This is because the fans want to see the hateful
s.o.b. beaten up.
Among the professional villains are von Hess, the Gallagher
brothers, Tokyo Joe, the Tolos brothers, the Zebra Kid, Skull
Murphy, the Miller brothers, and the Sheik of Araby.
The popular heroes are Ricki Starr, Johnny Valentine,
Rocca, Gene "Mr. America" Stanlee, Haystack Calhoun,
Paul Anderson and Argentina Zuma -- the last having an
enormous number of supporters among Puerto Ricans.
By shrewdly deciding who to let win a match tonight, the
promoters can ensure large crowds at a return match!
There is a stigma upon boxing today -- and occasionally
fights are suspected of being "fixed." But nobody will doubt
that before a boxer "lays down," he takes some kind of
beating. The blood he sheds is genuine -- it isn't chicken
But wrestling is a gigantic, money-making hoax in which the
public is the sucker. There is not a single good example set
by today's grunt-and-groaners, because those who are not
villains or fat freaks are long-haired exhibitionists -- and long
hair does not belong to the athlete, but to the effeminate.
It is time that state athletic boards decided to outlaw
slapstick wrestling -- or else put it in its proper place. Which
is among the sideshows at Coney Island, the carnival
midways, or some jet-age vaudeville shows.
RESURGENCE OF RASSLIN' -- NEW WORLD ORDER
(Memphis Dateline, July 1-15, 1998)
By Sarah Gregory
Okay, I'm sitting outside at a show the other night and all the
kids are discussing road trip destinations. Some of us need
to go see graduate schools, some of us are going to see
other bands, some of us just want a day at Six Flags. And
one guy plans to go wrestle.
Well, he starts talking about the match he's got set up which
leads to a chat about NWO and the secession of the
Wolfpack. So my friend Kaitlin innocently asks what NWO
is. Karol explains to her in a very this-should-be-common-
knowledge tone that NWO was Scott Hall and Kevin Nash's
scheme to overthrow WCW and recruit their wrestlers. She
continued that the Wolfpack split off from NWO because
Nash and "Macho Man" Randy Savage later got tired of
Hollywood Hogan's plot to run NWO himself.
This was just casual conversation, folks. It's gone that far.
WrestleMania has once again moved into a state of mind.
True wrestling fans will have dialogues much more heated
than that of NWO history. They'll watch rasslin' as many
times a week as possible. A few might even tape the USA
matches while they watch TNT or TBS . . . can't miss a
Monday Nitro or a Thursday Thunder.
And then, just when those in Memphis thought they couldn't
be any more deliriously happy . . . WMC Channel 5 brought
them PowerPro Wrestling for Saturdays. Live wrestling
where they could be (are you ready for this?) members of a
Corey Maclin, co-host and vice president of PowerPro, said
deciding to bring live wrestling back was not a difficult task.
"Well, the fans wanted it. They wanted 'rasslin'," he said. A
craze this big makes it that simple.
Maclin has a theory on the wrestling rage. "I think it's just
great entertainment -- with the smoke and fireworks, and all
of that. It's such a big production; something the whole
family can enjoy, like basketball or football."
And he feels it's here to stay. "I see big things for us. I think
we'll soon get a television syndication deal, and we'll be able
to have this show broadcast across the country," said
Maclin. "Wrestling is just real, real hot. And wrestling has
done well in Memphis over the past 50 years . . . but, of
course, the talent has a lot to do with it."
PowerPro primarily features "free-lance" wrestling talent --
those professionals known to be self-managed and available
to all the wrestling associations. Maclin says the talent
scouts also get videos of amateur wrestlers looking to get
their foot in the door through PowerPro. "It's pretty well
broken down for different talent each week. There are never
the same matches," said Maclin. But they will bring certain
wrestlers in time and time again. "A lot of people, when they
send off for the studio tickets, request certain dates to come
so they can see certain wrestlers," he said.
"All of the fans have been really supportive of the program,"
he said. So PowerPro decided that it was time to carry
Memphis wrestling to the next level -- live arena wrestling.
"All the fans can come see the live show instead of trying to
squeeze everybody into the studio," Maclin said.
PowerPro left the Channel 5 studio for its first event, "Blast
Off at the Dome," on June 23rd at the Mid-South Coliseum.
The matches were attended by over 4,000 fans, and Maclin
said that with the excitement, the talent, and the
pyrotechnics, "Blast Off" was "a real first-class deal." It left
those at PowerPro feeling confident in planning more arena
shows. "We're probably going to have seven or eight live
shows a year in Memphis. We're not going to do the weekly
deal like there has been, because there's so much of it on
television," said Maclin.
But PowerPro knows that wrestling isn't solely about smoke
and lights, and character wars. It's also about saluting our
forefathers and their crusade for independence, and raising
people's spirits on a truly American holiday. That's why
Channel 5 is going to set up a ring in Tom Lee Park for the
Star Spangled Celebration on the 4th of July. Their "Rumble
on the River" will be televised starting at 7 p.m. But for those
in the park, it will be (just like us proud Americans) FREE.
The WAWLI Papers #286...
ODDS & ENDS FROM A LONG, LONG TIME AGO
October 4, 1922 -- Pioneer Athletic Club, New York City,
promoter Billy Wellman -- scheduled main event: Wladek
Zbyszko vs. Cliff Binckley (Zbyszko claimed the "United
States championship" but the card did not take place)
New York City, Commonwealth Sporting Club, 1922-23
season, professional boxing and wrestling matches booked
by the brothers Jess and Ed McMahon (Jess was the father
of Vince McMahon Sr., in turn the father of Vince McMahon
Jr., present-day boss of Titan Sports Inc. and the World
November 1, 1922 -- Pioneer Athletic Club, New York City,
promoter Billy Wellman -- scheduled main event: Joe
Stecher vs. Charles Cutler, won by Stecher in straight falls
at 57 minutes, 30 seconds, and 13 minutes flat -- semi
main: Nat Pendleton vs. Yussif Hussane, won by Pendleton
via DQ -- opener: Ed Fields defeated Peter Jarvis (crowd
described as "small")
November 8, 1922 -- Columbus, Ohio -- Ed (Strangler)
Lewis, world heavyweight wrestling champion, defeated Cliff
Binckley of Columbus, two falls out of three, in a match here
tonight. Binckley took the first fall in 47:46 with a leg
scisssors, Lewis took the second in 17:35 and the third in
7:30. Lewis employed the headlock in securing both of his
November 23, 1922 -- Springfield, Mass. -- Stanislaus
Zbyszko defeated "Cyclops," billed as the "European
champion," two falls out of three
November 22, 1922 -- Pioneer Athletic Club, New York City,
promoter Billy Wellman -- Main Event: Joe Ginsberg, Utica,
N.Y., drew Charles Cutler, 2 hours, 5 minutes (Ginsberg
believed to be better known as Joe Malcewicz); Semi-main:
Nat Pendleton defeated Great Massimo; Opener: Ivan Linow
defeated Carl Vogel
November 26, 1922 -- Nashville, Tenn. -- "Strangler" Lewis,
world heavyweight wrestling champion, who appears in a
match here tomorrow night, declared tonight that he was
willing to wager $25,000 with the winner to take all gate
receipts that he can defeat Jack Dempsey in a mixed
match. The statement was made after Lewis had been
informed that Dempsey's acceptance of his challenge for
such a match was reported in Chicago. "Dempsey can go
into the ring either with gloves or without them, and is at
liberty to either box or wrestle, while I will confine myself to
wrestling alone," said Lewis.
December 1, 1922 -- Commonwealth Sporting Club, New
York City, promoter Jess McMahon -- Main Event: Wladek
Zbyszko defeated Frank Nelson in straight falls; Semi-main:
Mike Romano decisioned Joe Ginsberg, 30 minutes; Special
bout: Ivan Linow defeated Joe Rogaski; Opener: Ed Shields
vs. Peter Jarvis.
December 14, 1922 -- St. Louis -- Ed (Strangler) Lewis, 234
pounds, 30 years old, retains his world heavyweight
wrestling championship with a victory over ex-champion
Stanislaus Zbyszko, 224 pounds, 43 years old.
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Ed (Strangler) Lewis retained his title as
heavyweight wrestling champion of the world by defeating
Stanislaus Zbyszko, former champion, two falls out of three
here tonight. By the victory, Lewis won permanent
possession of the Rickard Belt, as he has been victorious in
three contests in which the trophy was at stake.
Lewis gained the second the third falls in 24m, 25s, and
14m, 50s, respectively, after Zbyszko won the first fall in
The challenger suffered a dislocation of the right shoulder at
the close of the second fall and the champion used several
arm and wristlocks on the right arm in the final tussle.
Zbyszko clearly showed the pain he suffered and his
manager on several occasions raised the towel to throw into
the ring in token of defeat, but the former champion
struggled out of the grips.
Zbyszko pinned the champion's shoulders to the mat with a
flying mare. Lewis won his first fall with a headlock and the
second with an arm bar. The champion wore down his
opponent with numerous head, arm and wrist locks and toe
It was the third defeat Zbyszko has suffered, all being at the
hands of Lewis. The receipts were said to be $16,400.
Lewis will get approximately $7,500 and Zbyszko $2,500, it
December 19, 1922 -- Topeka, Kan. -- Stanislaus Zbyszko
defeated Cliff Binckley when the latter, in losing the first fall,
suffered a broken rib and torn ligaments and was unable to
continue with the bout
December 20, 1922 -- Commonwealth Sporting Club, New
York City, promoter Jess McMahon -- Main Event: Wladek
Zbyszko defeated Justiana deSilva in straight falls; Semi-
main: Joe Rogaski defeated Andreas Castano; Opener: Joe
Ginsberg defeated Mike Romano in 48m, 12s
December 25, 1922 -- Boston, Mass. -- Main Event: Renato
Gardini defeated Andreas Castano in straight falls; Other
bouts: Wladek Zbyszko defeated Henri Lobmayer and Frank
Judson defeated John Prindles
December 26, 1922 -- San Jose, Calif. -- Ed (Strangler)
Lewis, world champion heavyweight wrestler, was operated
on by his wife, Dr. Ada Morton Lewis, for an infected growth
on his wrist, it became known today. Lewis is believed to
have infected the wrist when he rubbed it against a ring post
during a match in Kansas City. He came to his home here
to spend the holidays and the operation was deemed
December 30, 1922 -- San Francisco, Calif. -- Ed
(Strangler) Lewis, world champion heavyweight wrestler,
announced today that arrangements had been completed for
a mixed match between Jack Dempsey, heavyweight
pugilistic titleholder, and himself. Lewis produced signed
articles covering the match which were drawn at Wichita,
Kansas, and carried the signature of Jack Kearns, manager
for Dempsey. The articles, a sporting wit observed,
"contained one million rules as to how the two are to behave
"We have made this match," Lewis said. "There are only a
few details to be worked out. You can think what you want
of it, but when I meet the champion of the world in the fistic
line he will learn he is meeting the champion of the world in
a style of combat that doesn't call for putting on gloves.
"I do not want to boast but if I am thrown onto the firing line
with the world's champion pugilist the people who like sports
will get the same shock they received when Siki whipped
The date and place of the match were not announced.
December 30, 1922 -- Wichita, Kan. -- Tom Law, wrestling
promoter of Wichita, over whose signature a $300,000 offer
for a mixed bout to be held in Wichita between Ed
(Strangler) Lewis and Jack Dempsey was made to Jack
Kearns, knows nothing of signed articles drawn here for the
bout, he said today.
December 30, 1922 -- Los Angeles, Calif. -- Jack Dempsey
said today he had not been informed articles had been
signed for a mixed bout between himself and Ed (Strangler)
Lewis as announced in San Francisco, but declared he was
ready for the match.
(ED. NOTE -- All though long ballyhooed and discussed, the
mixed match between Lewis and Dempsey never occurred.)
February 8, 1923 -- 71st Regiment Armory, New York City -
- Main Event: Wladek Zbyszko defeated Ernst Siegfried, one
fall, 1 hour, 16 minutes; Semi-main: George Calza defeated
Henry Lobmayer, one fall; Other bouts: Mike Romano drew
Charles Disch, Vic Seeholm decisioned W. Ketonen, and
Jack Sherry drew Joe Ginsberg, one hour (the hall was
described as "packed" for the show)
February 26, 1923 -- 71st Regiment Armory, New York City
-- Main Event: Renato Gardini, 198 pounds, drew William
Demetral, 195 pounds, 90 minutes; Semi-main: Wladek
Zbyszko drew Henry Lobmayer, 30 minutes; Opener: Ernst
Siegfried defeated Joe Rogaski
THE BUSINESS OF WRESTLING
(Memphis Dateline, July 1-15, 1998)
By Kef Oliver
As part of my nightly relaxation ritual, I usually find myself
surfing the cable channels for some forms of entertainment.
After weeding through the infomercials, news, and home
shopping, the choices are pretty limited. On this particular
night, however, I noticed a trend in the broadcasting menu,
which engaged my curiousity.
Wrestling was everywhere! The Arts & Entertainment
channel, which is always good for a little intellectual viewing,
was showing a two-hour documentary on the history of
wrestling. Several other channels were actually presenting
wrestling matches complete with theme music, larger than
life characters, and fireworks displays. It was all just too
much. So, I retreated back to a friendly local station to watch
a little Jay Leno. this is when it got really scary. Sitting on
Jay's couch were professional basketball players Dennis
Rodman and Karl Malone, and professional wrestlers Hulk
Hogan and Diamond Dallas Page. Much to my dismay, they
were flinging insults like children on a playground and
challenging each other to a tag-team wrestling match
(Rodman & Hogan vs. Malone & Page) to prove who the
REAL champions are.
What in the hell is going on here?
Professional athletes selling out to the wrestling industry?
Have I missed something? Is the end of the world coming
and I just wasn't around for the announcement?
I had to find out more.
We all remember the old days of wrestling, those Saturday
mornings spent with Jerry Lawler, Dutch Mantell and Bill
Dundee, trying to emulate every wrestling move. My two
brothers put me in the scissors lock so many times, I'm sure
there was permanent damage. Well, times have changed
and the innocence is definitely gone.
Wrestling has become a multi-million-dollar business
complete with investors, nationally syndicated shows, and
copyrighted characters. Wrestlers have found themselves in
the mainstream, mingling with movie stars, talk-show hosts
and the aforementioned professional athletes.
But don't think that nobody's making a killing at the bank on
this entertainment dynasty. Rumor has it that Dennis
Rodman's recent visit to the ring cost wrestling promoters
$250,000. Not bad for a little walk around the ring. Who
knows, maybe Rodman and Malone will quit their day jobs.
The two main players in this new entertainment gold mine
are World Championship Wrestling (WCW) which is owned
by WTBS and Time-Warner of which Ted turner is a
majority stockholder, and the World Wrestling Federation
(WWF) owned by Titan Sports Inc. These two organizations
control the majority of all the action and they openly compete
with each other for the top dog spot.
WCW was originally known as Georgia Championship
Wreslting and Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, and
was controlled by Jim Crockett Promotions. In 1988 Jim
Crockett sold his company to WTBS, resulting in the change
of name to WCW.
The man currently in control of wrestling operations and the
final word as far as booking events for WTBS, is Eric
Bischoff. Bischoff is an officer and employee of TBS, and
serves as an announcer for WCW programming.
The WWF, aka Titan Sports Inc., is operated by Vince
McMahon. McMahon has been a constant face in
professional wrestling for several decades as a promoter and
WCW competes directly with WWF in televising
professional wrestling, associated merchandising, and
licensing programs. Generally, wrestlers work with one
respective company and do not cross over due to the threat
of trademark infringement.
In today's arena, unlike the past, each wrestler's persona is
created by the company they are contracted with. At WWF,
for example, two gentlemen by the names of Bruce Pritchard
and Pat Patterson design and develop the various characters
as well as scripting the interviews and story lines. The
Undertaker, one of the more famous characters, was created
by WWF. Therefore, all money made from his image goes to
the company, with a mere percentage going to the guy
who's actually standing in the ring. The wrestlers are just
actors, playing a role for the audience.
The training and recruiting of wrestlers has also becomea
much more organized and lucrative business. The WCW
owns and operates a facility in Atlanta known as the Power
Plant. All WCW wrestlers are trained there. The Power Plant
does offer walk-on tryouts for anyone who may be interested,
but rumor has it that the competition is steep. Many
professional athletes have been known to quit by the first
As lucrative as wrestling has become, it looks like it won't be
fading anytime soon. The audiences keep screaming for
more and the entertainment business is definitely willing to
give it to them -- for a price, of course.
WRESTLING TOPS CABLE RATINGS LIST
(Memphis Dateline, July 1-15, 1998)
By Associated Press
Rankings for the top programs on basic cable networks as
compiled by the Nielsen Media Research for the week of
June 1-7. Each rating point represents 980,000 households.
Day and start time (CDT) are included in parentheses.
1. WWF Wrestling (Monday, 9 p.m.), USA, 3.3, 3.25 million
2. WWF Wrestling (Monday, 7:57 p.m.), USA, 3.2, 3.16
3. Ghost (sunday, 8:03 p.m.), TBS, 3.1, 3 million homes
4. World Championship Wrestling (Monday, 7 p.m.), TNT,
3.0, 2.93 million homes
5. Thunder (Thursday, 8:03 p.m.), TBS, 3.0, 2.92 million
6. 1998 Movie Awards (Thursday, 8:03 p.m.), MTV, 2.8,
2.77 million homes
7. World Championship Wrestling (Monday, 9 p.m.), TNT,
2.8, 2.76 million homes
8. South Park (Wednesday, 9 p.m.), Comedy Central, 2.6,
2.57 million homes
9. NASCAR Winston Cup (Saturday, 6:30 p.m.), ESPN,
2.6, 2.52 million homes
10. Rugrats (Sunday, 9 a.m.), Nickelodeon, 2.6, 2.5 million
11. World Championship Wrestling (Monday, 8 p.m.), TNT,
2.5, 2.46 million homes
(Memphis Dateline, July 1-15, 1998)
The following wrestling personalities have appeared on
Baywatch: Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Nasty Boys, Shawn
Michaels, Vader, Randy Savage, Referee Randy Anderson,
Manager Jimmy Hart.
One of Ric Flair's entrance robes has over 7,000 rhinestones
and weighs 45 pounds.
Rocky Maivia played college football for the Miami
Randy Savage played minor league baseball for the St. Louis
Cardinals, Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs.
Vader was a college football All-American in 1977 and
played for the L.A. Rams. He was voted outstanding lineman
of the 1977 Hula Bowl, East-West Shrine Game and Japan
Bowl. He also has appeared on "Boy Meets World."
Steve Austin is an antique collector.
Justin (Hawk) Bradshaw played in the NFL for the Los
Ahmed Johnson played for the Dallas Cowboys.
Brian Pillman played for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Sable is a former Guess jeans model.
Mark Henry competed in the 1996 Olympics.
Ultimate Warrior has his own comic book series and owns
Warrior University, a wrestling school in Arizona.
Sunny is the most downloaded celebrity in AOL history. She
attended Wesley College, and majored in pre-law.
(ED. NOTE -- The clippings from the Memphis Dateline
paper were provided by Scott Teal, publisher of Whatever
Happened To . . . ? and the hardbound editions of The
WAWLI Papers. For information how to receive Teal's
excellent publications, contact him via e-mail at:
The WAWLI Papers #287...
SIGN OF THE CROSS-OVER TIMES . . .
As I sit down to prepare this edition of The WAWLI Papers,
it is 9 o'clock (PDT), Saturday morning, October 10, 1998,
and the television happens to be tuned to ESPN. It is time
for "Game Day," the college football kickoff program, and
who should I see in a big red jersey, with white numerals
"95" but -- Goldberg, the present WCW heavyweight
champion of the world. He, of course, is a former University
of Georgia football player and, after a few words about what
goes on "between the hedges" in Athens, Ga., and about this
day's Georgia-Tennessee game, he is about to answer,
again, the question "that fans all over the country ask me,
The camera closes in on a scowling Goldberg's face.
"Volunteers!" he shouts, a finger jabbing out toward the
viewers, "you're next!!"
Watching this, I wonder back to the days when I first
watched college football on television, in the early 1950s,
and wonder why the networks didn't employ people like
Bronko Nagurski (Minnesota), George Wilson (Washington),
Gene Kiniski (Arizona), or Bibber McCoy (Holy Cross) to
introduce their various intercollegiate squads. Just no sense
of show biz, I guess.
RASSLING WAR FLAMES IN SAN FRANCISCO
(Los Angeles Times, Friday, February 10, 1933)
SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 9 (Exclusive) -- San Francisco's
wrestling war has burst into flame and there's no telling what
Ed Lynch of Dreamland announced today definite split with
Lou Daro, the Los Angeles promoter whose wreswtlers have
been used by the local promoter.
The Londos-Christy match, which Lynch had previously
claimed, now goes to Frank Carroll, who announces he will
use the two as the main event at his opening card in the
Civic Auditorium next Thursday night.
Lynch, meantime, has allied himself with the Bowser
wrestling combination. Bowser is a Boston man and has a
string of grapplers who march up and down and across the
country in opposition to the Daro clique.
John Pesek, a member of the Bowser stable of matmen, has
been signed by Lynch to meet Walter Podolak in the main
event next Friday night at Dreamland.
Ad Santel, Dan Koloff and Jack Patterson are other wrestlers
Lynch plans to use in what he says will be his all-star cast
this coming Wednesday evening.
If Frank Schuler and the Disabled War Veterans decide to
open wrestling shows that will make two every week and
there'll be a merry time of it until the crash comes.
Lynch declares that Carroll sought a lease on Dreamland
Rink for his Thursday night shows, but late Wednesday night
telephoned he had decided to go into the Civic Auditorium
for his shows.
"I thought I had Londos and Christy," said Lynch. "Lou Daro
in the presence of Commissioner Kelley promised me the
match, but that was merely a verbal agreement. I have split
with Daro and I think it will be permanent. He didn't keep his
word with me."
Chaplain Kelley bemoans the wrestling war he thinks is
inevitable, but says he cannot see how it is to be avoided.
"If I could do anything to prevent the trouble that is coming,"
said Chaplain Kelley, "I would gladly offer my services. But I
cannot see there is any prospect of straightening out the
matters, and I suppose they'll all go to rack and ruin."
(ED. NOTE -- Kelley's assessment came pretty close to the
mark. All of the above-named San Francisco promoters were
out of busines within a couple of years.)
JIM BROWNING WINS WRESTLING TITLE
(New York Times, February 21, 1933)
By James P. Dawson
Jimmy Browning, husky Boston wrestler, gained recognition
by the New York State Athletic Commission as world's
heavyweight champion by pinning Ed (Strangler) Lewis,
Kentucky veteran who was defending the crown, in Madison
Square Garden last night. The end came after 57 minutes 50
seconds of a match scheduled to a finish, one fall to
Although Browning is now recognized here, there are other
claimants to the world's crown. Jim Londos is regarded as
champion in some parts of the country and Ed (Don) George
is another who has gained recognition in certain quarters.
While a crowd of 5,000 looked on, Browning, aggressor
throughout the match, the man on top the majority of times
they went to the mat and with a wider, more punishing and
effective repertoire of holds, conquered the champion who, in
a wrestling career extending over about twenty years, has
been thrown only about half a dozen times. A quick turnover
and his favorite body scissors won for Browning.
Conquerors of Lewis who come to mind are the two
Zbyszkos, Wladek and the elder Stanislaus, Joe Stecher,
Wayne (Big) Munn and one or two others.
When referee Jack Denning tapped the body of Browning in
signal of victory, creating a new champion, Browning was
astride an almost inert Lewis, his full weight of 230 pounds
pressing Lewis flat on his back near the defending
champion's own corner.
The finish was a surprise. Lewis has been winning so
consistently since he was recognized as champion here last
summer upon the failure of Londos to meet his challenge
that it was taken more or less for granted that the Kentuckian
would add to his conquests.
The cheers of the assembled to see a wrestling
championship bout and to assist the New York Press Club,
in whose interests the match was staged, echoed through
the partly filled arena for more than five minutes.
Browning was Lewis' master at all times. He manhandled
the defending champion in clearn wrestling, which had not
one single objectionable incident nor one moment of unfair
Only once did Lewis apply a real, punishing headlock. This
came when the men had been grappling thirty-six minutes,
and it lasted for only one minute before the powerful
Bostonian tore himself free and almost tossed Lewis into the
laps of the ringside spectators.
The sixth time Lewis tried for a headlock, his hold slipped.
The Kentuckian pitched face forward to the floor, landing on
all fours, unbelieving. Quick as a flash Browning turned and,
with the one motion pounced upon Lewis, who was an open
target for a body scissors.
Then he came up astride Lewis, putting all the pressure of
which he was capable into his powerful legs, until Lewis lay
prostrate and flat and referee Denning tapped Browning with
the signal that brought the Bostonian victory and the
championship. Lewis weighed 238 pounds.
Gus Sonnenberg, former Dartmouth athlete, and Dr. Fred
meyers, Chicagoan, wrestled a draw in the closing event of
the program, a thirty-minute struggle which was crowded
with excitement and some high and lofty tumbling.
Sonnenberg weighed 205 pounds and Meyers 207.
Joe Malcewicz, Utica heavyweight, pinned the shoulders of
Pat McClarey, Irish giant, in 7 minutes 26 seconds of their
scheduled twenty-minute bout with a crotch and body hold.
Malcewicz weighed 190 pounds and McClarey 244.
In another struggle scheduled to a twenty-minute limit,
Alphonse Getzewich, Polish grapopler, tossed Century
Milstead, former Yale athlete, in 12 minutes 21 seconds with
a double reversible arm lock. Getzewich weighed 210
pounds, and Milstead 208.
Henri Piers, Holland, defeated Jack Washburn, Boston, in
their bout, which was listed for twenty minutes, pinning
Washburn's shoulders in 8 minutes 58 seconds with a body
slam. Washburn weighed 238 pounds and Piers 208.
In the opening contest scheduled for twenty minutes Sid
Westrich, Hungarian 225-pounder, conquered Cy Williams,
Florida, in 8:17 with a flying tackle. Williams weighed 215
BONE-BREAKING JIU-JITSU OKI'S HOPE AGAINST JIM
(Los Angeles Times, Friday, February 17, 1933)
Jim Londos stepped far enough out of his class to put
himself in line for his first mat defeat in three and a half years
when he agreed to make his three-fall battle with Oki Shikina
a mixed catch-as-catch-can and jiu-jitsu event, wrestling
critics stated yesterday.
Jiu-jitsu wrestling, something new to the fans who have
attended the bouts at the Olympic in the past seven years, is
a scientific style of mat work that requires years of training to
The history of this style of wrestling dates back 400 years. It
had its origin in China and later was adopted by the
Japanese soldiers for fighting purposes. Before the advent of
firearms it was used by the Nipponese soldiers in their
attacks and at that time most of the grips were of the bone-
breaking, death-dealing variety.
Although many of the grips have been modified through the
years since then so that there would be less danger of its
exponents receiving severe injuries in bouts, exports like
Shikina are as adept with the grips used several hundred
years ago as they are with the revised holds.
One or more falls of the Londos-Shikina bout will be in the
Japanese style of wrestling. This means Londos will be
forced to wear the regulation jiu-jitsu jackets, and these are
used by the exponents of this style of mat work to strangle
their opponents by pulling the lapels of the garment across
the victim's neck.
The fact that Londos is not an expert in this style of wrestling
and the possibility that he will be either strangled into
submission or receive a broken arm in trying to resist the
numerous arm stretches applied with the jackets, are so
great that it was reported yesterday the Greek star will
probably refuse to place his title claims at stake when he
faces Shikina. He will claim the title is for the catch-as-catch-
can championship and, therefore, cannot be competed for in
a jiu-jitsu bout. Londos is scheduled to arrive from the north
today to start training on jiu-jitsu grips in preparation for this
Four other bouts complete this card.
JIM LONDOS MEETS DANGEROUS FOE
(Los Angeles Times, Sunday, February 19, 1933)
Oki Shikina's chances of breaking Jim Londos' three and a
half-year winning streak over the greatest heavyweigthts in
the country when they clash in a three-fall mat battle at the
Olympic Wednesday night are being rated very high as the
result of the title-holder's agreement to tangle with the
Japanese star in a mixed bout -- jiu-jitsu and catch-as-catch-
One or more of the falls of this battle will be competed for in
the jiu-jitsu style of wrestling, and Shikina is as much of an
expert in this type of mat work as Londos is in the American,
A toss of the coin will decide what style shall be used for the
first fall, and even should Londos win the toss, mat experts
figure Shikina smart enough to play a waiting game with the
titleholder and make his big bid for a win during the second
fall, when both grapplers would be required to don the jiu-
Although Londos has had some experience wrestling with
the Japanese jackets, he is far from being rated in the same
class with Shikina. The 23-year-old, 205-pound Nipponese
star is rated a No. 3 man by the National Judo Scoiety of
Japan. In getting this rating Shikina had to prove he was an
expert in the use of every trick and hold known to jiu-jitsu. He
had to prove he had the strength and ability to compete
against the best in the world in this style of wrestling.
When Londos faces Shikina with the jackets, he will face the
biggest risk he has taken on the mat since winning the
world's title. Strangling is done quicker and easier with the
jacket than any style of wrestling known to the game. Unless
one is a real expert at the Japanese style of wrestling,
defense against the strangle is impossible.
A strong supporting card will precede the feature event.
George Kotsonaros, the fiery Greek, faces Vic Christy in the
semi-wind-up. Wladek Zbyszko, former world's Graeco-
Roman champion, will tangle with Don De Laun in the
special; Henry Graber faces Rudy Skarda in the second
bout, while Walter La Core and Clyde (Wildcat) Miller meet
in the opener.
JIM LONDOS MIXES WITH OKI SHIKINA
(Los Angeles Times, Wednesday, February 22, 1933)
Jim Londos and Oki Shikina meet in a combination catch-
as-catch-can and jiu-jitsu bout, best two out of three falls to
decide the victor, at the Olympic tonight.
This is probably the most unusual battle between
topnotchers scheduled in years, as the American style
grapplers have always shied clear of jiu-jitsu experts because
of the entirely different principles of the two types of mat
In jiu-jitsu wrestling a grappler is not considered pinned
when both shoulders have been planted on the mat. To
score a fall in the Japanese style of mat work, an opponent
must quit when he is no longer able to withstand the
punishment, strangled into unconsciousness, or injured so
that he is not able to continue. Both Londos and Shikina will
wear the regulation jiu-jitsu jackets.
The possibility of injury ending the encounter was so great
that Ed White, who manages Londos, late last week decided
against the bout unless Shikina signed a new contract in
which he agreed to meet the Greek star in a return bout
within thirty days. The contract will be put into effect should
Londos be injured and lose through default. And to insure
Shikina's appearance in this section in that time, promoter
Lou Daro signed the Japanese star for two other bouts for
the next month.
A toss of the coin will decide whether the American or the
Japanese style of mat work will be used in competing for the
first fall. The grappler taking the least time to score in the
first two falls has the right to name the style of wrestling to
be used in competing for the deciding event.
In the Japanese style of wrestling Shikina should have little
trouble in disposing of Londos. According to his handlers
when the Nipponese star snaps a hold on Londos to score a
fall, it will be one of those that will put the Greek away for the
night. Shikina intends to take no chances on Londos being
able to return for more wrestling.
In the American style, Shikina, although outclassed, has
enough ability to force Londos to the limit. The Japanese
grappler uses more combination Japanese-American grips
and "nerve-pressure" holds than any heavyweight in the
George Kotsonaros, the fiery Hollywood Greek, will mix with
Vic Christy, Sunland flash, in the thirty-minute semi-windup.
Wladek Zbyszko, king of tournament grapplers, will tangle
with Don De Laun in the thirty-minute special event. Henry
Graber and Rudy Skarda, popular young heavyweights,
meet in the second event, while "Wildcat" Miller faces
Walter La Core in the opener.
(ED. NOTE -- Don De Laun, listed for the above card in Los
Angeles, later campaigned as "Brother Jonathan," and was
the father of the later-day mat star, Don Leo Jonathan.)
OKI SHIKINA BOWS TO LONDOS AT OLYMPIC
(Los Angeles Times, Thursday, February 23, 1933)
Oki (Chokey) Shikina was no match for Jimmy Londos last
night, the Greek titleholder stopping the Japanese grappler in
the second round of the tussle at the Olympic.
Londos used a backward body slam to beat Shikina and Oki
was knocked out by the fall, forcing three cops and an usher
to pack him away. The end came after 16m. 23s. of the
Starting the match, Oki won the toss and elected to wrestle
with the kimonos on in jiu-jitsu style.Shikina had the better of
the going, but failed to make Londos say Unlce Oki, which is
what one must do to win in jiu-jitsu grappling. This went on
for 20m. and then the catch-as-catch-can wrestling
commenced, which ended disastrously for Oki.
George Kotsonaros and Vic Christy grappled all over the
place in the semi-wind-up but got practically nowhere for the
match ended after thirty minutes in a draw. Kotsonaros
suffered a cut eye during the melee, while Christy contracted
a pretty shiner and with all the grunts, groans and grimaces
there wasn't a dry eye in the house.
Wladek Zbyszko inaugurated a new hold to beat Don De
Laun in the special event. After two minutes and thirty-seven
seconds of wrestling hither and thither around the gring, Don
tried a flying scissors. Just as Don started to fly Zibby turned
his back so De Laun landed plop on the broad Pole's rear.
Zibby got all excited and started coughing, falling backward
with Don on the bottom. Thus De Laun was knocked colder
than an Eskimo's hat and Zbyszko was awarded the victory
on a backward cough drop.
Rudy Skarda beat Henry Graber in 20m. 47s. with a sneaker
side body slam. This also was a new fall improvised for the
occasion. Skarda started to look for a nickel or something.
This drew Graber's attention and he also commenced gazing
at the canvas. Skarda then jumped on poor old Hank when
he wasn't looking and won the match.
In the opening bout Walter La Core beat Clyde Miller in 14m.
10s. with a body slam. This is sometimes known in the
wrestling world as a "buddy" slam, as it is only used between
"pals." La Core presented a striking color scheme, wearing
bright yellow tights, which were enhanced later in the bout
when La Core suffered a nose bleed.
The WAWLI Papers #288...
BAKERSFIELD MAT REFEREE CONCERNED
(Los Angeles Times, Friday, February 24, 1933)
BAKERSFIELD, Feb. 23 (AP) -- Fear for the safety of John
Pesek, professional wrestler, was expressed today by Col.
Ted Hopkins, who was to have refereed a bout here last
night between Pesek and Hardy Kruskamp, the bout being
postponed when Pesek failed to appear. Hopkins said Pesek
is wealthy and was believed to have been carrying a large
sum of money when he was last seen at San Bernardino,
where he wrestled Tuesday night.
MOVEMENTS OF JOHN PESEK ARE TRACED
(Los Angeles Times, Friday, February 24, 1933)
HOLLYWOOD, Feb. 23 (AP) -- John Pesek, Nebraska
wrestler who failed to appear for his bout with Harold
Kruskamp at Bakersfield last night, was in the offices of the
Hollywood American Legion Stadium promoters at noon
Officials said he left there shortly after noon and Pesek told
them at that time he was going to Bakersfield.
'TIGER' JOHN PESEK STILL MISSING
(Los Angeles Times, Saturday, February 25, 1933)
BAKERSFIELD, Feb. 24 (AP) -- Fear that "Tiger" John
Pesek, Nebraska millionaire and one of the greatest
heavyweight wrestlers in the world may have been slain by
bandits or may be lying dead or injured at the base of a
Ridge Route precipice was expressed by authorities of Kern
and Los Angeles counties today after more than forty-eight
hours had passed since he left for Bakersfield Wednesday
noon and dropped from sight.
Pesek was scheduled to wrestle Harold Kruskamp, former
Ohio State football star, here Wednesday night, but did not
appear. Press wires began clicking early Thursday in an
effort to learn the reason for the famous wrestler's failure to
show and before many hours had passed it became
apparent that Pesek actually had left for Bakersfield but had
The Nebraska "Tiger" is a wealthy man and always carried
large sums of money on his person, his friends and
acquaintances in Los Angeles declare, leading to the belief
that the wrestler was either slain or kidnapped by bandits.
WIFE OF PESEK HEARS NOT A THING FROM HIM
(Los Angeles Times, Saturday, February 25, 1933)
RAVENNA, Neb., Feb. 24 (AP) -- Mrs. John Pesek, wife of
the Nebraska wrestler, said tonight at her home here that
she had received no word from her husband since talking to
him by telephone from Los Angeles last Saturday night.
UNSIGNED LETTER SCARES PESEK OUT OF MATCH
(Los Angeles Times, Sunday, February 26, 1933)
RAVENNA, Neb., Feb. 25 (AP) -- John Pesek, Nebraska
wrestler who has been missing since he failed to appear for a
bout in Bakersfield, Cal., last Wednesday night, returned
safely to his home here at noon today. He said he received a
letter in Bakersfield last Tuesday warning him not to appear
in the bout there, and decided to come on home and pass up
Before coming home, he spent one day in Belmont, Cal.,
where his dogs are participating in a race meet.
Pesek recalled that in 1926 he defeated Joe Stecher and
since then "there has been considerable hard feeling."
He also said there was friction between wrestling promoters
at Bakersfield and he did not want to get into trouble.
The letter was unsigned and, he said, merely told him he
had "better not wrestle in Bakersfield." As he was carrying a
large sum of money with him, he said, he didn't feel exactly
safe in Bakersfield, so decided to leave there.
He did not know that a search was being made for him,
since he failed to appear for the bout and gave no reason for
not notifying the California promoter he would not be present
for the match with Harold Kruskamp.
Pesek arrived in Kearney, Neb., by train this morning, and
before coming home stopped at the farm of a relative for a
visit of several hours. This afternoon he again was training
his racing dogs.
JOHN PESEK HANDED LONG VACATION
(Los Angeles Times, Sunday, March 5, 1933)
SACRAMENTO, March 4 (AP) -- John Ryan, a boxer of Los
Angeles, and John Pesek, a wrestler of Los Angeles, were
suspended for sixty days by the State Athletic Commission
today. They failed to appear for their matches.
LEWIS SUBDUED IN SCRAP WITH JIM BROWNING
(Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, March 21, 1933)
By Walter Trumbull
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, New York, Mar. 20 -- Jim
Browning of Missouri ably defended his heavyweight
wrestling title against Ed (Strangler) Lewis of Kentucky here
tonight, subduing the Strangler in 59m. 58s. of strenuous
exercise. The final hold by which Browning triumphed was
the airplane scissors or leg pinwheel.
This means that the Missourian wrapped his stout legs
around the rotund figure of Mr. Lewis and flopped him
around like a rolling barrel until he finally bounced him on his
shoulder blades and held him there to the satisfaction of
Ernest Roeber, the referee, and a houseful of customers.
The two wrestlers hauled and tugged each other around for
six minutes before they really went to the mat, with Lewis
underneath and Browning doing a little execution with an
armlock. With the match ten minutes old, Lewis, having
broken a head scissors, was crawling under the ropes and
gazing fixedly at the members of the press who retired tot a
distance, as they did not know whether his 240 pounds was
coming over the end of the canvas.
At fifteen minutes, Lewis crashed Browning to the floor with
a headlock, but both men were up immediately. They then
showed some very fancy holds, demonstrating head and
wrist locks and the head, leg and arm scissors. At the
twenty-five-minute mark they decided that it was time for
something new, so here to the delight of the crowd the
match got very rough indeed. The contestants used their
elbows, fists, heads and everything but their teeth. Browning
probably did not wish to risk his teeth as several of them are
After wrestling for half an hour they walked around like a
couple of horn-locked moose. A minute later they were on
the floor and Lewis had a toe hold. Browning broke it and
again the men sparred like boxers.
Right about this time there was some very expert wrestling.
Lewis tossed Browning with a headlock and Browning
retaliated with a wristlock and arm scissors. They came to
their feet only to have Lewis twirl Browning too the floor three
times in succession with headlocks.
Just as it looked as if the Missourian was in a bad way, he
clamped his legs around Lewis' waist -- which indicates that
they are good long legs -- and proceeded to flop Lewis
around with the first airplane scissors of the match.
Lewis apparently was in need of a rest, as he laid peacefully
with his head out of the ropes while the referee counted
eight. He then pulled his head in, rose and went to work.
At the fifty-minute mark Browning was down and suffering
from an armlock which Lewis transferred to a head scissors.
Browning broke this by flopping around like a newly caught
salmon in the bottom of a boat. Action then grew fast and
furious. Lewis tossed Browning with a headlock. Browning
got a head scissors. Lewis broke it and Browning got
another. Lewis tore loose, and clamped a headlock on
Browning which the Missouri grappler writhing and kicking.
Browning wrenched himself free only to be thrown heavily
twice with headlocks. He retaliated by throwing Lewis almost
through the ropes. Lewis came back to get one more
headlock. This was the last stand of the old champion.
Immediately afterward Browning gripped him with a body
scissors and proceeded again to roll him like a barrel. Lewis
is naturally built for rolling. Then he came to rest with both
shoulders on the canvas and Browning held him there.
Roeber patted the Missourian on the back and he rose to his
feet, winner and still champion.
Browning weighed 230 and Lewis 240. Or, as (ring
announcer) Joe Humphreys said, a total of 470 pounds on
LOU DARO BURNED UP
(Los Angeles Times, Friday, March 24, 1933)
Lou Daro, local grappling impressario, is about to rush to his
own defense. After hearing that he had been referred to by
somebody named Hornblower in the California Legislature as
"the man who controls wrestling in California," Signor Daro
declared that he had been insulted and would seek
retraction, restitution and various other things.
He even threatened to make a personal appearance on the
floor of the Legislature and tell Mr. Hornblower a thing or two.
"Sure I controlled wrestling (Mr. Daro calls it rassling) in
California nine years ago. I was the only man in California
interested in it. I came out here with thirty-one suits of
clothes and lost so much money trying to promote wrestling
(see above pronunciation) here that before I knew it, eleven
of my suits were in hock.
"Say. What does this fellow Hornblower know about
wrestling? (still pronounced rassling). Or about boxing? Did
he ever pay $151,000 into the State fund for the veterans like
There was a slight pause.
"No," said Mr. Daro, answering himself.
"I'm entitled to defend myself and I'm going to do it. I'm
going to get the secretary of the State Athletic Commission
on the phone and see if I have to stand for that sort of stuff.
"Me control wrestling? (No change in the pronunciation.)
That's silly. Say, they've got forty-eight clubs putting on
shows in California and the only one I'm running is the
Olympic. I've got a right to defend myself. I'll show that feller
a thing or two."
CHARLEY SANTEN DOWNS DEAN DETTON
(Los Angeles Times, Friday, March 31, 1933)
In one of those dramatic finishes in which the hero not only
crawls off the track in the nick of time, but throws the engine
into the villain's face, Charley Santen, rosy-cheeked Missouri
bone-bender, took two out of three falls from Dean Detton,
invading mat menace, to win last night's main event at the
Hollywood Legion Stadium.
Detton, a rough, tough young man, won the first fall in 18m.
41s. with a body scissors after punishing Santen with
numerous enthusiastic flying tackles. Santen took the
second fall in 9m. 15s. with a body slam.
Detton had Santen groggy from two flying tackles and was
all ready to unleash a third one when Charley suddenly came
to life, leaped high in the air and wrapped his shapely limbs
about Dean's lowered head. The resultant head scissors and
accompanying disappointment so lowered Mr. Detton's
resistance that he succumbed to the deciding fall in 10m.
Less than 2,000 fans saw the match, so the rasslers got the
show over in record early time for Hollywood.
Hal Rumberg tossed Lavosca (Billy) Severe twice within the
brief space of nine minutes, each time with a flying body
hold. The first fall came in 6 minutes and 13 seconds, the
second in 2 minutes and 29 seconds.
Dan Koloff, the Bulgarian Lion, or something, trussed up the
toe of Prince Chewchki (Chewacki) and made the red man
say "Uncle" or whatever it is Indians say when they are ready
to give up the ghost. It all happened after 13 minutes and 31
Sailor Jack Lewis made the mistake of getting too brutal with
Count Harkowski (the gob should have known better than to
monkey with one of the mat game's noblemen) and was
disqualified after 6 minutes and 12 seconds of so-called
"rasslin." The navy man then took on the gallery for an
unadvertised bout and was said to have won this decision.
Myron Cox threw Buddy O'Brien in the opener, using what
was referred to as a spread-eagle hold. The end came after
11 minutes and 15 seconds.
JIM LONDOS AND JOE SAVOLDI MEET TONIGHT
(Chicago Tribune, Friday, April 7, 1933)
Jim Londos and Joe Savoldi will wrestle tonight at the
Stadium in the main bout of a five-match program. The
encounter is to be decided by one fall, with a time limit of an
hour and a half.
In one of the other bouts, Jim McMillen will meet George
Zaharias. Matchmaker Coffey has promised McMillen that he
will get a chance at the winner of the main bout at a later
date if he is victorious tonight.
The program will be completed by matches between Joe
Stecher and Blue Sun Jennings; Gino Garibaldi and Tom
Marvin, and Abie Coleman and John Katan.
Two one fall, one-hour time limit matches feature tonight's
wrestling card at the Marigold Gardens, Grace Street at
Broadway, with Jack Smith wrestling Jack Zaravich, and
Chief Yellow Deer, Oklahoma Indian, taking on Frank
In the semi-windup, Lou Talaber, former world's
welterweight champion, meets George Kogut, light
heavyweight champion from Poland. This bout is limited to
Pete Holtz wrestles Lou Tucker in one of the preliminaries,
while Gus Klem, American Legion welterweight champion,
meets Tony Hadjick in the other.
Len Macaluso, former football player at Colgate, has been
signed by Promoter Doc Krone to appear on the Jim
Browning-Ed (Strangler) Lewis wrestling card at the
Coliseum Tuesday night. Macaluso will meet Matros
Kirilenko in the third feature of the card. Len is an all around
athlete, having starred on the track before taking up football.
There will be six matches on the card when completed. Only
one other has been arranged so far. This will bring together
Gus Sonnenberg and Leon Pinetzki.
SAVOLDI'S WIFE IS GRANTED DIVORCE
(Chicago Tribune, Friday, April 14, 1933)
LOS ANGELES, Calif., Apr. 13 (Special) -- Daisy Florence
Savoldi, wife of Joe Savoldi, the wrestler, won a divorce
today after testifying that the newspaper sport pages
constitute her only source of information on her husband's
whereabouts. Joe tolder that their marriage had been a
mistake, she stated.
The wedding occurred on Aug. 4, 1931, and they separated
Oct. 10, 1932. Lawyers announced that they had agreed
upon a settlement whereby Savoldi is to pay alimony of $25
a week for two years.
While a student at Notre Dame university in 1930 Savoldi
married Audrey Koehler of South Bend, Ind. This marriage
The WAWLI Papers #289...
ON THE SQUARE OR NOT? 6,000 FANS WONDER
(Chicago Tribune, Saturday, April 8, 1933)
By George Strickler
The wrestling industry, which for years has not been
regarded seriously by the sports public, developed a new
mystery before 6,800 at Chicago Stadium last night when
Joe Savoldi, former Notre Dame football player, threw Jim
Londos, claimant of the world's championship and popularly
recognized as the greatest of present day wrestlers, in 26
minutes and 20 seconds.
The surprising outcome brought forth a variety of confusing
and conflicting opinions from regular patrons. Many felt that
Savoldif had double crossed his opponent. Others felt it was
a gambling coup. Not a few predicted there now would be
rematch at Soldiers' field before a larger gate. A few loyal
Savoldi supporters claimed he was a better wrestler than
Londos. There was no evidence to prove any of these
assertions. Wrestling is that way.
The climax of the match started in the 25th minute when
they went to the mat and Londos applied the Japanese
jackknife. This hold is a recognized wrestling grip and can be
gotten only when the victim is on the floor, although, as
Londos explains it, one must get a wrist lock first, flipping the
opponent on his back. As the men hit the floor the aggressor
grabs the arm inside the elbow, and locks his legs over the
bent arm, putting it in a vise. He pulls on the elbow to
prevent the opponent from jerking the arm out of the vise
formed by the leg scissors.
Writhing in the grasp of the jackknife hold, Savoldi rose up,
taking Londos with him, and while the Greek heavyweight
clung to his hold, Savoldi stood over him, standing Londos
on his head and rolling his shoulders to the mat.
Referee Bob Managoff, once a heavyweight wrestler, tapped
Savoldi on the shoulders, the official signal to stop. The men
were near the ropes and Savoldi stepped back into a corner,
apparently ready to continue, when Londos got up. When
Managoff walked over to him to lift his hand in victory,
Savoldi appeared to be the most surprised man in the
Stadium, unless it was Londos.
Londos got to his feet, stared around the ring to where his
manager, Ed White, was mounting the steps to protest, and
walked to his corner.
Immediately after referee Managoff and Savoldi had posed
for pictures the referee hurried from the Stadium and rushed
away in a taxi. He seemed anxious to get as far away from
the scene of combat as possible. Members of the state
athletic commission likewise left immediately and were not
available for questioning after the sudden and unexpected
termination of what was regarded a certain Londos victory.
Later Chairman Joe triner, reached at his home in Oak Park,
said the commission would make a thorough investigation
and would have a statement to make Monday.
Referee Managoff was a heavyweight wrestler ten years ago.
Since then he has refereed windup wrestling bouts here,
alternating with Emil Thiry and Walter Evans. When not
refereeing Managoff tends his variety store in the vicinity of
Milwaukee and Grand avenues. He is an Armenian and is
married. He has three children. He is about 36 years old
The spectators, who paid $11,850, cheered long and loud for
Savoldi when it finally dawned on them that he had thrown
Jim Londos, the unconquerable.
Londos and his manager, Ed White, stated after the match
that Londos' title was not at stake. The Illinois athletic
commission recognizes no heavyweight title claimants, but
the National Wrestling Association, the sport's controlling
group in 18 states, concedes the title to Londos. The match
was billed in the Stadium's advance publicity as for the
Londos claimed that he was not on his shoulders, and there
was no count, as required by the rules. According to the
rules, one must be held down for three seconds.
White will present a protest to the commission tomorrow.
It was the first time in four years that Londos had been
beaten. In the last three years only three men -- Jim
McMillen, Ray Steele and George Zaharias -- had thrown
him. In each case, however, it occurred in a two out of three
fall match and Londos always won the match.
It seemed to have been no secret among the sporting crowd
that Londos was going to be thrown, but the wise ones were
silent until after Savoldi actually achieved his victory. All who
professed to have had advance information said they had
ignored the tip because such rumors are always prevalent
before a Londos match.
Results of the preliminary matches:
Jim McMillen, 220, Chicago, threw George Zaharias, 235,
Pueblo, Colo., with a crotch hold in 20:28.
Joe Stecher, 226, Dodge, Neb., threw Lou (Blue Sun)
Jennings, 212, Seattle, Wash., with a body scissors in
Gino Garibaldi, 215, Italy, threw Tom Marvin, 202,
Oklahoma, with a cross body hold in 16:40.
Abie Coleman, 205, Los Angeles, threw John Katan, 240,
Toronto, with a flying tackle in 13:55.
REFEREE DEFENDS ACTION IN AWARDING FALL
(Chicago Tribune, Sunday, April 9, 1933)
By George Strickler
Bob Manogoff, who wrestled a one-hour draw with Jim
Londos "somewhere in Iowa" twenty years ago and who as a
referee on Friday night declared Londos the loser to Joe
Savoldi by a fall in their match at the Chicago Stadium,
yesterday designated Savoldi as the heavyweight champion
of the world.
Manogoff, billed as the Terrible Turk during his wrestling
days, was the only source of authentic information available
in an all-day search for evidence calculated to clear up the
surprising finish of the match, which left wrestling fans
enmeshed in a maze of rumors alleging collusion.
"Londos' shoulders were pinned to the mat," Manogoff said.
"He was down, and I called it as I saw it. As far as I am
concerned, Savoldi threw him and is the champion. I made
my decision without fear of partisan reprisals, so-called
'combination' interference, or personal gain. The rules say
mine is the final word, and I say Savoldi was the better man.
Manogoff's statement came in the wake of Londos' reiteration
that he had not been thrown, Savoldi's challenge to all
comers, the state athletic commission's promise to make a
thorough investigation tomorrow at its regular meeting, and
the National Wrestling Association's refusal to recognize
Savoldi's claim to the championship.
Among the Greeks, Londos apparently had lost standing by
being thrown by Savoldi, comparatively a newcomer to big
time wrestling. The Greeks are said to have pooled their
money to cover the wagers of Savoldi's Italian followers,
offering 5 to 1 that Londos would win. No large individual
bets were made, but a considerable sum of money changed
One loser, a restaurant man, expressed the general
sentiment of his countrymen when he said: "If Londos lose to
Stecher, O.K. Stecher is good man, smart wrestler. But
Savoldi -- TERRIBLE! Londos can throw him twice every
Greek leaders in the neighborhood of Halsted street and
Milwaukee avenue, where Manogoff had an ice cream cone
manufacturing plant ten years ago, were convinced there
had been some "double crossing," presumably, they thought,
to build up a return match. The "double cross" explanation
also was advanced by loop sport followers, who claim
Savoldi, who has not been on the best of terms with the
Londos-Ed White faction, will now jump to the Billy Sandow
group, which includes Strangler Lewis, Jim Browning and
Don George (sic).
Savoldi, in a statement yesterday, expressed a desire to
wrestle these men after he had taken a short rest at his
Three Oaks, Mich., home. He would give Londos a return
match, he said, but not until he had wrestled some of the
better men he had not been able to meet up until now,
naming especially Lewis, Browning, George and Gus
"They advertised this match for the championship," Savoldi
said. "I pinned Londos and that makes me champion. I'll
meet all comers and I won't ask any $250,000 guarantee,
either, like some of those so-called champions."
Londos asked $250,000 to wrestle Lewis in a charity bout for
the Illinois Emergency Welfare Relief commission last year.
Many close followers of wrestling expressed the opinion that
Savoldi's victory was a bit of strategy to reestablish Londos'
drawing power by interrupting his four year record of
consecutive victories. His winning had become too much of
a foregone conclusion, they argued, and it was beginning to
affect the gates throughout the country.
Londos' claim that Savoldi's feet were tangled in the ropes
and that he thought the referee was calling them back to the
center of the ring, as provided for in the rules when one
competitor touches the ropes, was denied by Savoldi and
Manogoff. At the time the fall was declared, Savoldi was
standing on both feet, holding Londos between himself and
the ropes. It is on this point, however, that White, Londos'
manager, will make his protest to the commission tomorrow.
Manogoff, located in his apartment over a grocery store at
2557 West Division street, recalled that charges of
dishonesty are not new to him. He said he was criticized for
rendering a decision against Lewis in a 30-minute time limit
match with Kola Kwariani at the Broadway armory three
"They said I got $500 for that one," he said. "but, if it was as
easy as that, I wouldn't be living like this, drawing $17.50 a
week as an assistant manager of the Division theater and
picking up what I can acting as interpreter for Armenians in
the courts downtown." His fee for working on Friday's card,
on which he officiated in three bouts, was $50.
While his wife and daughter, Armen, the oldest of the four
Manogoff children, plied the interviwers with refreshments,
Manogoff recited bits of his career to substantiate his
declaration that he was well qualified, technically and
morally, to referee. In 1915 he broke Frank Gotch's leg at
Kenosha, Wis., in a bout.
"And the people booed," he mused. "They said Frank was
He gave Strangler Lewis his ring name, he said. His right
name is Bob Fredericks. Fredericks failed to show up at a
match down south, and Manogoff, who had prepared to
challenge the winner, took his place.
"The next week Fredericks came in to wrestle and we
couldn't call him by his right name because I had used it a
week before," Manogoff explained. "So I named him
Strangler Lewis, because the original Strangler was dead. A
short time later, in Lexington, Ky., I wrestled Fredericks. He
was billed as Strangler Lewis and I as Bob Fredericks. I beat
him. Have some more cake?
"Oh, Friday night's match? Well, you can say for me
Savoldi threw him and Savoldi is champion as far as I am
concerned. And another thing: I didn't run away from the
Stadium. When reporters were looking for me I was in the
boiler room. They made me dress down there."
Manogoff exhibited a cut on the leg he received when
Savoldi's foot struck him in Friday's bout and he will exhibit it
to the commission if he is called when the investigation is
opened tomorrow, he said.
Manogoff also read aloud the rule governing falls, in which
the state code says a fall occurs when both shoulders are
momentarily pinned to the mat. Rolling falls shall not count.
By momentarily is meant, pinned for the referee's silent
count of three.
"That's what I did. Counted silently for three seconds," he
It was expected tomorrow's investigation will result in a
wrestling vacation in Illinois, with the commission taking no
formal action to ban the sport, but merely withholding
sanction of shows for an indefinite period.
(ED. NOTE--Bob Manogoff -- correct spelling of the family
name, although he and his son Bobby both used the slightly
modified "Managoff" while pursuing careers that spanned the
first seven decades of the 20th Century -- also was the father
of noted singer Kay Armen, the "Armen" referred to in the
above story. WAWLI records show the senior
Manogoff/Managoff appearing in major wrestling bouts as
early as 1909 and it is quite likely he was performing prior to
that. The stories about Strangler Lewis and Frank Gotch are
essentially true, insofar as WAWLI researches have
WRESTLING BANNED BY COMMISSION
(Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, April 11, 1933)
By Charles Dunkley, Associated Press
CHICAGO, April 10 (AP) -- A strangle hold was clamped on
professional wrestling in Illinois today.
Aroused by rumors of "double-crossing," the Illinois State
Athletic Commission issued an order indefinitely suspending
the sport in the state as the result of the surprising finish of
the Jim Londos-Joe Savoldi match at the Chicago Stadium
last Friday night which saw the former Notre Dame gridiron
The verdict automatically cancels the match between Ed
(Strangler) Lewis and Jim Browning tomorrow night.
The commission refused to recognize Savoldi, who was
awarded a victory over Londos, recognized as champion in
some states, as the new titleholder, because the commission
ruled it did not recognize any champion or championship
matches, and had also refused permission to have Londos
announced as champion just before his match with Savoldi
started. The commission said that sanction for all wrestling
bouts had been issued with the understanding that they were
not for any championship but were only exhibitions.
In the presence of the victor and the vanquished, attorneys
and managers, Joseph Triner, chairman of the commission,
rendered its decision, which upheld the verdict of Bob
Managoff in awarding a fall to Savoldi after twenty minutes
and twenty-six seconds. Both Londos and Savoldi gave their
version of just what had happened. Managoff, the referee,
however, was examined privately and was not present when
the principals testified.
Londos declared the referee's decision was unjust, that no
fall had been accomplished, and that at no time was he ever
on his shoulders, even for one second, let alone for three
seconds, as required by the rules.
Londos said they were entangled in the ropes when referee
Managoff tapped each on the shoulder and that he
understood he was merely to release his hold and return to
the center of the ring.
"I had him helpless at the time I felt Managoff's slap on the
back and released him voluntarily, only to be amazed when I
learned the decision had been given to Savoldi."
The investigation was conducted in an atmosphere of
scandal with the impression prevailing that there had been
double-crossing. Savoldi had refused to go through with
matches previously scheduled for him on the plea that he
needed a rest. He canceled two or three matches in Indiana
cities, also on in Detroit scheduled for the 15th.
There were reports that Savoldi had affiliated himself with a
group of wrestlers working in opposition to the combination
of which Londos is reported to be a member.
(RETURN TO WAWLI PAPERS INDEX PAGE)