The WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.  437


(ED. NOTE—Raphael "Ray" Tennenbaum wrote the following back in 1985. It is believed to be archived on a web site devoted to a wide variety of his eclectic writings. An opinion, as regards his wrestling scholarship, will follow the issues devoted to this entertaining piece, which winds up with an entertaining chat involving the game’s all-time top performer, Buddy (Nature Boy) Rogers, aka Herman Rohde. In other words, if you like this, you might love the rest of his cyberspace archive, said to be at:

By Ray Tennenbaum

A few jogged through the crowd to get to the scalpers in front of Madison Square Garden, but most of the wrestling fans streaming down Thirty-second Street were walking at a patient, unzippered pace, lingering in the unusual April-like warmth of the evening. An Hispanic teenager, anxious and calm, walked his girlfriend across Seventh Avenue, past a wary, huddled, sixtyish couple; a crew of postal workers exited a bar, tickets in hand; a group of observant Jewish men, black-suited and bearded, kidded one another as they crossed the concrete plaza.

Inside the Garden, leaning on one of the blue sawhorses that funneled traffic down the corridor, a red-eyed uniformed security guard was getting yelled at from behind by a supervisor wearing a business suit and wielding a walkie-talkie: "See? He’s doin’ his job, that’s why I’m not yellin’ at him!," said the supervisor as he indicated the guard’s partner, who was just then calling out, "Step this way!" But the first guard protested mildly, without turning back, "I’m doin’ my job," through a bleary, oblivious smile.

Ahead, in front of an entry to the adjoining Felt Forum, which had sold out all 2,000 seats for a simultaneous closed-circuit telecast, a red-jacketed usher eyed one better-heeled customer and said, "There’s no seats left close to the screen, but if you want to work something out with this guy," he indicates another usher, "maybe another seat could be set up."

Soon after the start of the first match in the three-hour-long card, the T.V cameras feeding the screens at the Felt Forum picked out a few of the recognizable faces dotting ringside: Andy Warhol, television actors Danny DeVito and Joe Piscopo (Mr. T, star of a popular NBC show, would make a surprise appearance later on), and NBC Sports announcer Bob Costas, who was on hand to handle the ring introductions for the "main event" (which is going to be featured on an hour-long broadcast "special," called "The War to Settle the Score," on the Music Television Channel, a national cable television network). The match is between Hulk

Hogan, the World Wrestling Federation’s six-foot, eight-inch defending heavyweight champion (seen at the top of the MTV show screaming frantically: "I am out of control! I am not responsible anymore!") and challenger "Rowdy" Roddy Piper.

MTV’s presentation was a giddy climax to the months-long "Rock and Wrestling" campaign. "The War to Settle the Score" showed Gloria Steinem, Geraldine Ferraro, and many pop-music stars unanimously voicing their desire that Hogan win. Tonight’s MTV extravaganza also aired some broadsides Piper had delivered before against women and rock and roll on the WWF’s syndicated television programs.

Over the next few weeks, features and reports proclaiming wrestling’s burgeoning popularity appeared almost everywhere, thanks largely to the WWF’s aggressive (and unprecedented, for wrestling) publicity campaign. Frank Haller, of the New York-based public relations firm of Bozell & Jacobs, who directed the campaign for the WWF, boasted: "I’m talking about thousands and thousands of stories—and I’m not talking about one-paragraph filler—I’m talking about major feature treatment, all over the country."

Many of the stories focused on the World Wrestling Federation, and credited Vince McMahon, Jr., its lone promoter and one of its featured announcers, with having expanded wrestling’s audience by coupling promotions such as "Rock and Wrestling" with an aggressive, spendthrift expansion of the WWF outward from the Northeast. Newsweek wrote in its story that "Madison Square Garden regularly sells out its 26,000 seats for each monthly show." (This is false, however, according to Dave Meltzer, who says that from March through November, 1984, only two cards sold out Madison Square Garden; a crowd of 14,513 in August, ‘84 was "the lowest in years" for wrestling at the Garden.) Sports Illustrated ran a lengthy story on wrestling, featuring Hulk Hogan on the cover of what turned out to be the second-biggest seller of the year.

Some coverage noted that McMahon’s initiative had begun in earnest late in 1983, when, having bought several regional promotions outright, and culled others’ talent, he negotiated with many television stations — offering, on occasion, a percentage of local houses—in order to replace the established promotional telecast with his own. McMahon’s expanded "network" of independents, in concert with the proliferation of his shows on cable-television, gave him "87% coverage" of American television homes, according to information supplied the media by Frank Tomeo, Titan’s national television ad sales representative.

Articles about pro wrestling’s popularity had appeared earlier: James P. Forkan’s "Sports Marketing" column in the Advertising Age dated July 30, 1984 had detailed the WWF’s enormous broadcast popularity, while noting that "the one thing wrestling doesn’t yet have a hold on is the interest of national advertisers." Based on figures supplied by Tomeo, Forkan wrote that attendance at live wrestling events "rose last year by 32% to 9.5 million, a percentage topped only by the National Football League." (These tallies, however, are open to question. Tomeo’s authority was, apparently, The Daily Racing Form, which keeps track of annual attendance figures in each sport: Since 1982, the source for the Form’s wrestling figures has been Bert Randolph Sugar, a sportswriter and the author of several glossy picture books about professional wrestling, one of which has sold over five hundred thousand copies, according to Sugar. From 9.5 million in 1983, attendance rose to 12.91 million in ‘84, according to the Sugar/Form numbers. Sugar says that he got his figures from state athletic commissions; but Meltzer—"Not every state has an athletic commission, and the records aren’t kept very well in most of the ones that do"—estimated that attendance in 1983 was actually 12.6 million, and had dropped to around 10 million in 1984.)

In December, the Philadelphia Daily News ran an exhaustive, four-part investigation of professional wrestling by sports columnist Ray Didinger. Didinger talked with fans, athletic commissioners, legislators, and performers, including former wrestlers Eddy Mansfield and Jim Wilson, who in October had testified before a committee of the Georgia House of Representatives investigating wrestling practices.

Mansfield and Wilson each contended that a blacklist had prevented him from wrestling; Wilson (a former professional football player) said that his career had suffered after he had declined the advances of a homosexual promoter, and, citing his own abortive effort at promoting in Atlanta’s Omni Arena, contended that promoters commonly secure exclusive arrangements with arenas, in violation of antitrust laws.

But the wrestling story that got the most attention was aired on ABC-TV’s weekly newsmagazine, "20/20," just three days after the WWF’s Washington’s Birthday card at the Garden. ABC consumer reporter John Stossel began the show by identifying himself as a former high school wrestler, and spoke with both Mansfield and Wilson—who affirmed that promoters arrange the outcome of each matches with the wrestlers beforehand, and that the holds, throws, and punches used by each wrestler are performed with the victim’s cooperation.

Midway through the report, Stossel was shown playing a tape of a bout for Eddy Mansfield, asking, "Is this real wrestling?"

"No, it’s not real," said Mansfield, who is an engaging, charming talker. "I mean, if somebody believed that, they’d be stupid." (Mansfield, who during his career was known as the "Continental Lover," seems to have many of the attributes of a successful wrestler: He has blue eyes and a cute spoiled-child’s face, with dirty-blonde curls that make him look like a well-muscled Harpo Marx.)

Then Mansfield took Stossel into the ring for a remarkable demonstration of wrestling’s Kama Sutra. After giving a brief lesson in stagefighting, Mansfield debunked several of the commonest throws, including the "body slam" (in which a standing wrestler appears to pick up another in order to throw him on his back), by allowing the diminutive reporter to perform them on himself. ("He did half the work," said Stossel in a voice-over.) Mansfield also drew a razor blade across his forehead, saying that wrestlers are paid extra for drawing their blood during matches.

Finally, the feature closed by showing an encounter between Stossel and wrestler Dave "Dr. D" Schults (a former tag-team partner of Mansfield’s) taped after Schults had stepped out of the ring during a Garden card late in December. Stossel, microphone in hand, was seen talking with an angry-looking, six- and-a-half foot tall, somewhat blonde-bearded wrestler. (The segment’s producer, Bernie Cohen, recalled later, "I had started the interview with Schults. And Schults was acting very nasty to me, but then John walked over to me, and I said, ‘John, you finish this.’ John still accuses me of deliberately handing him the mike. But I’d figured it was an act—these guys do an act all the time.")

A wrestler like David Schults is more accustomed to being interviewed on-camera by a wrestling promoter or an announcer paid by one—not a network television reporter asking hostile questions. Schults was flushed and sweaty with exertion, having just emerged a loser from a ring encounter against Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki:

STOSSEL: Is this a good business?

SCHULTS: Yeah, it’s a good business. I wouldn’t be in it if it wasn’t.

STOSSEL: Why is it a good business?

SCHULTS: Because only the tough survive, that’s the reason you ain’t in it. And this punk holding the camera, the reason he ain’t in it. The reason these rednecks out here ain’t in it, because it’s a tough business.

STOSSEL: That’s terrific.

SCHULTS: Why, is that all you got?

STOSSEL: I’ll ask you the standard questions, you know.

SCHULTS: The standard question.

STOSSEL: I think this is fake.

SCHULTS: You think this is fake? [hits Stossel on ear, Stossel falls down] What’s that, is that fake? Huh? What the hell’s wrong with you? That’s an open-handed slap, huh? You think it’s fake, you -- [hits Stossel on other ear].

MAN: Easy, easy.

SCHULTS: Huh, what do you mean? Fake. What the hell is the matter with you?

In a mock-"personal story" segment aired on a WWF telecast six months before, Schults had been depicted behaving like a mean s.o.b. to his "wife" and "children." Weeks before the confrontation, one wrestler had told Ray Didinger, "Some guys know when to let the ring go. Schults doesn’t. We let him be."

But a month later in the Village Voice, freelance writer Dan Bischoff concluded his wrestling story (and a somewhat distorted account of the incident) by writing, "But he [Stossel] deserved it." Bischoff continued by posing a worthy question, one which seemed to be on many people’s minds: "In a post-McMahon world, the real question about wrestling isn’t ‘Is it fake?’ but ‘Is it art?’"

The reaction of David Wolff, who, as the manager of pop singer Cyndi Lauper, was perhaps the man most responsible for Rock N’ Wrestling, was quite mild. Wolff said, "If you’re gonna do that—but you’ve got to show the other side, you’ve got to show really the meaningful side. And I don’t think 20/20 did that. I think they were very narrowminded in their approach. In my dealings with the World Wrestling Federation, they’ve been up- front, professional, gentlemanly, and very positive about everything. And we never talked about fixing matches or doing any of that nonsense. We just talked about how can we, together, turn on the public." (Wolff also said, "I love wrestling, I love Rock and Roll, and I love the hybrid form of entertainment that we’re creating, marrying the two industries. What I love the most is the fact that the people love it. And that’s why I do it.")

Shortly after NBC launched "Saturday Night’s Main Event" in partnership with McMahon, some nine months after the 20/20 report, an NBC television executive said, ". . . the 20/20 report was, A) totally aimed at the fact that it aired during a sweeps period—‘let’s get people to the T.V., period, no matter what,’—and B) to do a story on ‘Is professional wrestling fixed?’ to me is about as interesting as ‘Are women who are seen walking on Sunset Boulevard, at 3:30 in the morning, hookers?’"

20/20’s report didn’t hurt WWF attendance. Oddly, since late in 1984, Vince McMahon and several Titan spokesmen had been downplaying wrestling’s pretense at authenticity in low-key fashion. "We don’t ballyhoo the fact that it’s not a sport," Frank Tomeo had told Advertising Age, "but the people vote with their bucks." Vince McMahon was quoted in the Los Angeles Times: "It really doesn’t matter to me whether someone believes that wrestling is fake or not." Five weeks after the report aired, a publicist hired by Titan commented: "You’d have to be brain-damaged to think this stuff is real." Said the NBC executive: "Anybody who’s dumb enough to look at wrestling as sport deserves major brain surgery."

The degree to which wrestling matches are choreographed is a trade secret as celebrated as the recipe for Coca-Cola. Wrestling has always been more secretive than any other sport or entertainment industry. Wrote Didinger, who exhausted every possible means to interview McMahon: "Newsmen are treated like KGB agents."

If he does get to talk with an insider, a journalist is liable to get himself hooked by some sort of rumor: Some thirty years ago, columnist Dan Parker of the New York Daily Mirror broke a story that two wrestlers, Buddy Rogers and Billy Darnell, were actually brothers—a fact which, in a business as nepotitic as wrestling, would not have been terribly remarkable; in 1985, a story was released by at least one WWF publicist to the effect that Hulk Hogan and another WWF wrestler named Brutus Beefcake were also kin. In fact Rogers and Darnell were merely friends, and Hogan and Beefcake are also thought to be unrelated by a promoter for whom both performed.

"I’d ask a promoter a question," recalled Didinger, "and he’d go on and on about something that didn’t really have anything to do with what I’d asked. And I began wondering, ‘Why don’t I get any straight answers?,’ and then I realized, ‘I’m dealing with a whole business that’s a lie.’"

"Everyone lies to you," said Bruce Newman, who wrote Sports Illustrated’s wrestling story. "After a while, you start to get the feeling that it’s all a joke, and you’re the butt of it."

No one knows how many fans think that the fights they watch in the arenas are genuine. Based on his conversation with wrestling fans, Didinger estimated that about one-fifth of all fans "know it’s all bull, they like it because it’s like watching the Three Stooges on steroids." A similar proportion are "fanatical believers in all of it," said Didinger, while the remainder concede, "’Yeah, I know most of it’s fake, but once in a while, when the championship is on the line, they really go at it’."

Asking this last sort of fan if the contests are "faked" is like questioning a small child about the existence of Santa Claus. As the child might take his questioner by the hand and point out photographs and other likenesses of St. Nick, the wrestling fan will recall brutal episodes from the ring: "I’m a true wrestling fan, and I know fact from theory," said Norman Dicks of the Bronx, a few days after the 20/20 feature. "They’ve got grudge matches, it’s only human nature, you know?

A guy hits you with a foreign object, or tries to defeat you by breaking the rules—the other guy’ll keep the grudge." Dicks, who is also a boxing fan, allowed that some of the matches seem excessively flashy, "but the promoter has to sell tickets. Some of it is showmanship, some of it is for real, some of it is not so real." Fans who have a narrower notion of "fixed" may have seen a wrestler lose a match thanks to a spuriously incompetent referee—that match was fixed.

Many have pointed out that the proportion of "sophisticated" fans is probably relatively high in New York. This type of sports fan may take wrestling’s authenticity as seriously he might, say, a prostitute’s sincerity; a group of friends, young men a few years out of college, laughed at the question as we stood outside the Garden: "But it’s not fake. It’s not fake at all!" said one. "These are highly trained athletes! It’s real, man, if it wasn’t would we be here now?" Another declaimed, "Anyone who thinks that wrestling is fake is the same kind of person who thinks that the N.F.L. isn’t fixed."

Another sports fan standing in front of the Garden said in a soft West Indian accent: "No, I don’t think that the matches are fake. It’s just like in any other sport—at times there’s not the kind of enthusiasm that you find at other times."

Roy Shire, a retired wrestling promoter who now raises livestock in California, said: "When I wrestled in New York, people used to come right up to me and say to me, ‘You know I saw you in the match in the Garden on Monday night,’ and I’d say, ‘Yeah? Are you a wrestling fan?’

"They’d say, ‘Yeah, but I don’t believe in wrestling, it’s all phony.’

"And I’d say, ‘Well, why do you go?’

"They’d say: ‘Well, it’s a great show. I just like to see what’s gonna happen. It’s a great show, but it’s a bunch of bullshit, it’s phony as hell.’

"I would say if you walked down the street, and met a hundred people, and you interviewed a hundred people, I would say that ninety out of the hundred would say that wrestling was fake. Ten out of the hundred would say that it’s real.

"See, a lot of times fans would come to San Francisco, and they’d come up to me and they’d say, ‘Roy—hey, that main event was great.’ I’d say, ‘Glad you liked it,’ you know, cause now I’ve got to be a nice guy.

"So they say, you know, ‘Those preliminary matches, I didn’t believe them, I didn’t believe anything about those preliminary matches, but that main event, that was for real.’

"Because, you see, in the main event, you always had the best boys in the main event. That’s not true anymore. Years ago it was true. Your main-event guys were more convincing, and everything they did, they convinced the people. Like they throw a punch at the guy, it would convince the people that the punch really hurt the guy."

Just when wrestling began to be taken at less than face value by knowledgeable sports fans is difficult to judge. In fact, since cinching the outcomes of wagered contests may itself be the world’s fifth or sixth oldest profession, professional wrestling’s historical authenticity is nearly impossible to document. The development of the sport of competitive wrestling—the use of strength, balance, quickness, and coordination to overwhelm an opponent and keep him down is ancient and universal; but in an even-looking match, a skillfully cooperative loser would have always been able to conceal his acquiescence without arousing suspicion.

Wrestling shares with boxing not only the "squared circle," but a long, tainted past (although as boxing overshadowed wrestling, so did its controversies). Promoters of one will often venture into the other, and "mixed matches" have been around at least since 1876, when John L. Sullivan fought wrestler William Muldoon (known as "The Greatest Roman," Muldoon later acted in a touring production of As You Like It, and eventually became a New York State Athletic Commissioner). According to one account, the match was ended when fans rushed the ring, "fearing for the safety of both athletes." (Unfortunately they weren’t as solicitous at a 1975 mixed match between Muhammed Ali and Japanese wrestler Inoko Aoki (sic), an exhibition which even the wrestling magazines found repellent, though it ended in a decision for Aoki; Meltzer blamed this bout for a subsequent slump in attendance at wrestling events in Japan.)

(To be continued in WAWLI Papers No. 438)

The WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.  438


While corruption in boxing led to severe restrictions that by 1900 had made prizefighting in New York virtually unpromotable, wrestling enjoyed some excellent years before anyone thought to question it. Newspaper accounts of these big-time matches in cities in the U.S. and Europe are often as inconclusive as the fights themselves seem to have been. There is a trail of standoffs throughout these old stories—an inordinate number of the contests seem to end in disqualifications, or with gory, dramatic windups (a gravely injured wrestler is rushed to the hospital, for example) that are still common.

Myths about old-time wrestling survive today. For instance, an article in a recent issue of The Sporting News paid tribute to Chicago’s Comiskey Park, by way of citing the 1911 match held there between Frank Gotch and "The Russian Bear (sic)," George Hackenschmidt, describing the wrestlers as "perhaps the finest athletes who ever graced the sport, long before it degenerated into theatrics." The record differs—a day before the match, the New York Times reported scant wagering in Chicago; the following day the Times described the Russian’s showing as "pitiful," noting, "The crowd decreed that he had ‘quit,’ but the defeated challenger, through copious tears, averred that he had entered the arena with a wrenched knee."

And a 1937 book about wrestling, Fall Guys, written by a man named Marcus Griffin, gives yet another perspective. (The book’s full title is "Fall Guys: The Barnums of Bounce—The inside story of the Wrestling Business, America’s most profitable and best organized professional sport.") Frank Gotch was promoted by a man named Jack Curley, and together they were largely responsible for wrestling’s heyday in the early years of this century. In Griffin’s description, Gotch was a cowardly bully: "Gotch did ‘business’ with the more capable bonecrushers whom he met, and dominated the lesser lights through a fiendish delight in breaking bones and maiming less fortunate and skilled adversaries."

The first contest between then-European champion George Hackenschmidt and the Iowa-born Gotch had taken place in Chicago a few years earlier at a pavilion near the Stock Yards. "The olfactory odor from the Yards has never since equalled that left by the contest’s aftermath," Griffin writes. "It was one of the most disgraceful exhibitions ever witnessed by a capacity audience of enthusiastic mat devotees, and it started the ball rolling toward the general discrediting of wrestlers and grapplers."

The rematch was even worse. Three weeks before the bout, one of Hackenschmidt’s training partners—a former Gotch second—stepped on the Russian’s knee. "I lay like a log for six hours," Hackenschmidt later wrote. Hackenschmidt wanted to back out, but Jack Curley prevailed upon him to continue, and went so far as to arrange for a double to perform the roadwork for the Russian late at night, at a site far enough from the street to prevent newspapermen from detecting the switch. By the day of the match, Hackenschmidt’s knee had not yet healed; he bitterly recalled that he wrestled on one leg, and that Gotch (who is today listed as the first World Heavyweight Titleholder by the National

Wrestling Alliance ) deserved credit for neither of his falls, since he had put himself down. Griffin writes that the public outcry about the presence of legions of pickpockets and gamblers outside the park gave rise to a scandal in the city’s police department, and that the match itself was bad enough to have virtually destroyed wrestling in Chicago for years.

There was often a trace of legitimate competition behind wrestling back then. A champion might duck a qualified opponent—unless the challenger had the backing of a powerful enough promoter, in which case he might be granted a chance to "shoot"—to wrestle for real—against the champion privately. If he won, or made a good showing, the challenger might get to wrestle him in a big arena, setting up a hot rivalry. But there was another danger for the champ, especially if the wrestlers were backed by two different managers or promoters, for a challenger would often agree to lose beforehand, and then start shooting in the match, and take a chance on his ability—known as "hooking."

Because a victory would give his promoter his own new star, there was a good deal of physical intimidation to the game.

Though few promoters were really pure, the newspapers provided an occasional forum for whistle-blowing by those who found themselves shut out. As a result, several states implemented commissions to oversee the ring sports, though they frequently did everything but.

Thus in 1915, the New York Times reported: "in the hope that wrestling can be freed from the ‘hippodromes’ and ‘fakes’ which have been perpetrated upon the public, a movement has been started to have a State commission appointed to govern the game," and six years later, the New York State Athletic Commission was born. In 1920, then-State Senator Jimmy Walker succeeded in passing legislation creating the New York

State Boxing Commission. Before the Walker bill, which paved the way for entrepeneur Tex Rickard to stage many of Jack Dempsey’s bouts at Madison Square Garden (sic), prizefight promoters had been restricted to "private clubs" and prohibited from selling tickets; decisions were outlawed, and contests limited to ten rounds in duration. A year later, another bill was passed replacing the boxing commission with an Athletic Commission to assume jurisdiction over wrestling, as well as boxing. (One might think that any man who took on a task as weighty as insuring "fair, sportsmanlike, and scientific wrestling contests" in New York State in 1921 would have deserved a pay raise, but the new slate of Commissioners was to be the first to serve without salary.)

In December, 1923, the Commission denied Rickard a license to promote wrestling in the Garden, apparently because a competing promotion run by Jack Curley and Matty Zimmerman at the 71st Regiment Armory had failed to stir up business. "The License Committee does not think it would be fair to Curley and Zimmerman, under the circumstances, to grant a rival club a permit," said Commissioner William J. McCormick; Rickard did not protest. (Actually, Curley’s permit to promote wrestling had been revoked a year or so before; but late in January, 1924, the Commission granted him a new license. Two months later, a man named J.B. Feinberg sent a letter to the Commission alleging that Curley was acting unethically by serving as both manager and promoter for wrestlers. Feinberg listed "shooters" who, he insisted, could beat any of the wrestlers in Curley’s stable, and would neither "lay down" nor "talk business." The charges, however, were dismissed.) Griffin noted Curley’s shrewdness in staging numerous cards in charitable association with Mrs. William Randolph Hearst’s Milk Fund—which also gave him leverage over his partners, since he pretended to his associates that this connection gave him some pull with the Hearst newspapers.

In the late ‘20s (sic) a man named Billy Sandow (Griffin refers to him sarcastically as "The Brain") united with a younger wrestler and promoter named Joe "Toots" Mondt, and together they promoted a wrestler named Ed "Strangler" Lewis into a nationwide attraction. Lewis was by all accounts one of the most capable shooters that the wrestling game has ever seen.

Mondt had a notion that the wrestling promotion could become a touring operation, something like a vaudeville company. (For his part, Sandow perfected the ever-popular interracial matchup: "’The Brain’ paired Germans and Frenchmen, Greeks and Russians, Chinamen and Americans, Japs and Chinamen, Englishman and Irish, Indians and Cowboys, westerners and easterners, and one town favorite against another," wrote Griffin.)

"He had a very brilliant mind as far as matchmaking was concerned," former NWA president Sam Muchnick said of Mondt, who remained a force in wrestling until late into the 1950s. Inspired, according to Griffin, by James Figg, an English bareknuckled fighter of the eighteenth century who often defeated wrestlers "by the simple process of first knocking them out and then pinning their shoulders," Mondt decided to add fisticuffs: "We’ll take the best features of boxing and the holds from Greco-Roman, combine these with the old time lumber camp style of fighting, and call it ‘Slam Bang Western-Style Wrestling.’"

But Mondt’s most important contribution to professional wrestling was probably his perfection of the "finish"—the scripted conclusion of matches. Many of the finishes Mondt invented are still used today—Griffin describes one that appears in about every other card: two contestants "bump their heads together, fall to the mat, are unable to continue, and are counted out by the referee, with the bout called a draw. The variation of this finish is for one wrestler to recover consciousness in sufficient time to be declared the victor."

Sandow, Lewis, and Mondt ("the Gold Dust Trio") pushed aside Curley—as well as Rudy and Ernie Dusek, a pair of Southern wrestler-promoters (sic), and a host of others—and came to wield enormous influence throughout the large Northern cities. They were the first to bring football players into the ring. (Both Wayne "Big" Munn, a Nebraska player, champion in 1925, and Gus Sonnenberg, a Dartmouth star, champ in 1928 (sic), were poor wrestlers, but solid gate attractions.) Lewis seems to have been a formidable enough shooter to ward off challenges to his supremacy, and Mondt and Sandow were quite skillful at dodging not only hooks, but antitrust allegations.

The twenties—the "Golden Age of Sports"—were when "good- versus-evil" scenarios first began to tell. Actually, fan favorites and villains had been played off one another for decades, if not for centuries; it was certainly common in the mid-nineteenth century for a barnstorming wrestler’s "front man" to swing into a small town with a carnival, show off his star’s muscular talent against a good-looking stooge or two, take bets on a match against a local favorite, and then take steps to guarantee the most desirable outcome. (True to wrestling’s carnival heritage, arena dressing facilities for professional wrestlers still divide "heroes" from "villains," just as separate locker rooms are provided for the home and visiting teams of conventional sports.)

When big-city promoters started soliciting tickets instead of wagers (presumably, bettors turned to other sports, such as boxing) they nurtured a different following: Fans who would regularly stake the price of a seat in the arena merely to enjoy the events, or to see if a score would be settled. The favorite’s loss to a hated villain no longer cinched bets, but sold-out rematches, in all probability—hence, "scientific wrestling."

The most popular script is still used: first, the "good guy" ("babyface" in wrestlers’ argot; or "fan favorite" to the magazines) begins the match by trying "scientific" tactics against his opponent; but the "bad guy" ("heel," or "rulebreaker") gains advantage by cheating; good guy becomes enraged at his disadvantage, finally turning cheating tactics against bad guy. (It should be noted, however, that the distinction between "scientific wrestler" and "rulebreaker" today is a virtual anachronism in many promotions.)

One figure in the New York wrestling scene was a diminutive Jewish immigrant from Lithuania named Jack Pfefer. At a time when promoters’ sole means of advertisement were posters and handbills, Pfefer made himself a pet of newspaper writers. "He represented the best and the worst things about wrestling," recalled veteran promoter Paul Boesch. In 1931 A.J. Liebling wrote quaintly about Pfefer in the New York World-Telegram; complete with Pfefer’s fanciful account of his periodic expeditions to faraway Russia, which he made "equipped with a derby and a picture of Mae West . . . . Once Mr. Pfefer gets the derby over the wrestler’s ears, preventing a belated development of the embryo brain, he holds the picture in front of the captive’s nose, and walks rapidly until he gets to the boat, and the wrestler follows him with docility."

Pfefer made many enemies in his unsuccessful efforts to dominate New York wrestling. On one wall in his New York office hung photographs of deceased wrestlers, some with malicious remarks written on them. One of them was a wrestler who, convinced Pfefer had cheated him, hung him from a window of a New York hotel by his ankles and held him there until he extracted payment. "It depends, sometimes it’s the Piccadilly Hotel; sometimes it’s the office that used to be in the Times building," said Boesch, chuckling.

A celebrated gimmick of the ‘thirties—pitting opponents in a ring filled with fish—now seems a sly acknowledgement of professional wrestling’s telltale aroma. Though the statute that denoted wrestling matches as "exhibitions" rather than "contests," did not go onto the books for another twenty-two years, in 1930 the Athletic Commission announced that it had sent out a bulletin requiring promoters to list their events as "shows" unless the Commission had approved otherwise. This did not seem to disappoint many fans, who were listening to radio broadcasts in such numbers that in 1935 the Athletic Commission recommended that New York levy a tax on the profits garnered by radio broadcasts.

The mid-thirties were the era of Jim Londos, "The Golden Greek," one of the worst wrestlers of his era, but quite good-looking. Londos began in wrestling as the designated loser in a scam he ran in a few southern states: His associates would begin a contest, and then Londos—splattered with plaster and debris, like a laborer just off the job—approached the ring, and boasted of his superiority. After Londos (Griffin refers to him as "The Wrestling Plasterer") had deked the gilpins into betting against the incumbent, he would, of course, lose.

Between 1948 and 1955, each of the three major television networks broadcast wrestling programs at one time or another (the first and longest-running show was aired by the old DuMont network, originally from the Marigold Arena in Chicago). Wrestling and boxing are both nocturnal, relatively brief, and confined to a small area, making them the most handily producible of sporting events for television. While the league sports were concerned that broadcasting live events would damage gate attendance, television paid off for wrestling.

"No one knew much about television in those days," said Verne Gagne. "I remember the first match I had in the East was in Troy, New York in the early ‘fifties. We drove in from Buffalo that night, and we couldn’t get near the arena, it was so crowded. We didn’t know what else was playing in town; we didn’t realize that all those people were there for us. When I got out of the cab, I was just mobbed—it was like Elvis Presley would be a few years later."

Gorgeous George’s success gave "camp" its modern meaning and brought forth a host of playful characters. The interview had come to stay: Wrestlers named Golden Superman, Dracula, and Ali Baba compensated for a lack of athletic ability or personality by successfully projecting a tailor-made television character "on the mike" (or "on the stick") as wrestlers say. (An exception was one "Mute Mike," a "deaf-and-dumb" wrestler of the early-T.V. era who relayed protests to the referee in sign language, miming cries of distress by pointing a finger at his open mouth.) Antonino Rocca’s leaping, whirling maneuvers eventually helped to begin the transformation of the wrestling exhibition from relatively slowly-paced displays of strength into a much faster, acrobatically sensational show.

In 1950, St. Louis promoter Sam Muchnick became president of the National Wrestling Alliance, a trade association which had been formed in 1949 by six Midwestern promoters at a meeting in Waterloo, Iowa, who ostensibly sought only to exchange talent between regions and to facilitate the naming of a national champion, booked out of the office of the president. During his twenty-five years as NWA president, Muchnick, a former sportswriter for the St. Louis Times, became known as something of a statesman. Within a few years of its founding, the NWA counted 38 members from all parts of the country. (After a Justice Department antitrust investigation, in 1956 the NWA’s leading members signed a consent decree enjoining them from arranging exclusive contracts with arenas or "blacklisting" wrestlers or promoters; many intramural territorial disputes were resolved within the Alliance itself.)

In New York, the Johnston brothers, Walter and Charlie, helped bring wrestling back to Madison Square Garden after an 11-year absence, with the help of Toots Mondt. (In 1949, one writer described Mondt as looking "like a mountainous cherub. His face is serene and angelic and he gives the appearance of always being seated on some fleecy cloud somewhere.") Mondt, whose stable included Antonino Rocca, was described by Muchnick as having "a very brilliant mind as far as matchmaking was concerned."

Different reasons are given for wrestling’s precipitous loss of popularity around the country in the mid-fifties. Gagne feels that T.V. overexposure did in wrestling; Sam Muchnick said, "People just started going to other pursuits, doing other things"; the phenomenon of a babyface named Elvis Presley in 1955 doubtless drew younger fans away.

It’s likely that wrestling had exhausted its fans’ patience and curiosity along with its inventory of gimmicks—acts like Gorgeous George’s had sputtered by 1953. To turn up the "heat," some promotions occasionally featured main event "extras"—rewarding the winner with, for example, the right to shear the loser in the middle of the ring. (After losing one such "hair match" in Toronto in 1958, Gorgeous George put up his wife’s hair in the following week’s rematch.)

Wrestling did not suffer in New York as it did elsewhere. In the words of former wrestler Ted Lewin, "it just went underground." Lewin recalled a riot that broke out in St. Nicholas Arena during a main event between a pair of wrestlers named "Mr. Israel" and "Hans Schmidt"—"a real Holocaust scenario . . . There were Hasidic Jews in there throwing stuff at them, too."

Much of this "heat" (fan emotion) was raised because of the promotional war raging over New York City, a war which was won by Vincent McMahon, son of one of the boxing matchmakers for the first Madison Square Garden. McMahon eventually won the war, and took over the Garden in the late ‘fifties, leaving the smaller arenas around the city—St. Nicholas Arena in East Harlem, Ridgewood Grove in Brooklyn, and Jamaica Arena—to Mondt’s organization.

Main-events in New York during the ‘fifties often targeted Hispanic audiences. "By the time I left New York, I hated Puerto Ricans—and it wasn’t just me, it was every bad guy," said Roy Shire, now a cattle rancher in Northern California. Shire recalled several fights after events, including one in which he and another heel were forced to hide in a garbage can. "Most of the people who came to the Garden just came to see the finish . . . Nobody believed it except the Puerto Ricans."

On one November evening in 1957, a wrestling match in Madison Square Garden erupted into a riot after a violent finish to a tag-team match between Rocca and Edouard Carpentier against Dick "The Bruiser" Afflis and "Doctor" Jerry Graham. The incident made a vivid impression on sportswriter Gordon S. White, Jr., who now writes about golf and college basketball for the New York Times, and was covering the event that night:

"Rocca got hurt, I believe, to the point where it wasn’t part of the act. Blood began to flow, and they immediately began to hit a little harder than they were supposed to, or something. And Rocca got, obviously, a little pissed off . . . And he grabbed Graham—and this just couldn’t be in an act. (Things were beginning to be thrown by then, I believe.)

"Rocca just put his right arm around Graham’s head, and from the middle of the ring, ran him right into a ringpost. Head-first, the top of his head. And the blood was now pouring down Graham’s face. The people started coming down the aisle towards the ring, and that’s when you’re in trouble. And it got totally out of hand.

"I’ve covered riots in other sporting events other than that. That was the worst riot situation I was ever in, because—had we not gotten the hell out of there, we could have been very seriously hurt. Those big wooden chairs were flying towards the ring.

Verne Gagne, who was also in the audience that evening, remembered that "it was like watching the lemmings go over." A few days later, State Athletic Commissioner Julius Helfand levied fines totaling $2,600 on the four wrestlers. (Oddly, current Deputy Commissioner Marvin Kohn was with the Athletic Commission then, but does not remember the incident at all, although it made the back cover of the next day’s New York Daily News, as well as Life Magazine).

Perhaps news of this incident elicited this reaction from the Soviet Union (as reported by the Associated Press a month later):

MOSCOW, Dec. 22 -- The Russians don’t think professional wrestling is a sport. They look upon it as just another evil of capitalism.

"We associate the word ‘sports’ with youth, strength, beauty, friendship, and smiles," the newspaper Soviet Sports said today.

"But the wolfish laws of capitalism, where strength is determined by a checkbook, turns honest competitions into distorted ones in America.

"These laws cripple men and breed base instincts . . . . There are no hold barred in this struggle—bribery, blackmail, and even murder."

(To be continued in The WAWLI Papers No. 439)

The WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.  439


(ED. NOTE—The Ray Tennenbaum piece, with a number of corrections stemming largely from spelling errors, continues. At the end of the series, The WAWLI editorial board will offer a critical review of the article.)

Roy Shire recalled wrestling in Yonkers back in the mid-1950s as part of a tag team: "We were wrestling Perez and Rocca, and Jerry Graham starts the match. (Jerry Graham was another one of those guys who didn’t know anything much about wrestling, he was just a big show guy, big mouth.) So he goes out there, and he tries to get Perez to ‘sell’—which means register to the people that you’re hurt. But no matter what Graham does to Perez, he won’t show them that he’s hurt.

"So he comes over and tags me and he says, ‘Ah, shit, I’m gettin’ the hell out of here, you go in and wrestle.’ I say, ‘What’s the matter?’

"He says, ‘Ah, that son of a bitch, no matter what I do, the guy won’t sell. I punch him, he won’t register.’

"I said, ‘Oh, give me that son of a bitch.’

"So I went in there, and he tried it on me. I leg-dived him, I bar-armed that bastard," said Shire, a one-time high school state champion, then later, while he served in the Coast Guard an all-Service champion. "And so I rode him all over like a piece of paper, and then I said, ‘All right, you little son of a bitch, you better sell, or I’m going to kick your brains out’—he didn’t know how to wrestle, they brought him in because he was a Puerto Rican. And they beat us, just like they did every night.

"A couple of days later I walked into the office, and Kola Kwariani got a hold of me, he was a Russian guy." (Kwariani, described in one magazine article as a "Slavic Buddha," also owned a cat named Pushkin.)

"’What you try do to Perez?,’ he tells me.

"And so I tried to explain to him, you know? I said, ‘Hey, to make the show look a little better—when he made that big comeback, and he sold for us, it would have been greater!’

"Kwariani says, ‘I don’t care, you make him look like piece shit! From now on, if you ever do that again, you’re done! In fact, you got one week off, with no goddamn money!’

"I said, ‘Aw come on, Kola,’ and he said, ‘Two weeks off for you! You bastard!’

"I said, ‘You mean you’re gonna give me two weeks off ‘cause I made that asshole look crazy?’ He said, ‘That’s right! He brings the Puerto Ricans. You don’t bring the Puerto Ricans!’

"Of course, all the other guys in the territory are sayin’, ‘Boy, we’d better make Perez look good, or we’ll be in the same fucking’ boat.’"

"Wrestling always had that reputation of being run out of a cigar-box," recalled Ted Lewin, "although it may just have been that the box was a little bigger than the wrestlers thought it was." Lewin also remembered that "some of the wrestlers didn’t like that wrestling took the heat for being rigged, given the way boxing was in the ‘fifties."

The loss of network prime-time television programming sent promoters scampering to barter for local time slots, and presaged the splintering of the NWA: The independent television station got a cost-free hour of programming in which to air its own commercials, while the promoter could advertise his own product. Verne Gagne recalled that the only air time he could get was on Sunday mornings, and he had to sell vitamins to finance the program. Gagne (who, the story goes, had been demanding a shot at the NWA title) split off and banded together with several other promoters to form the American Wrestling Association, which eventually came to include a few Far Western promotions, along with its original base in the northern Midwest.

In the East, after the DuMont network broke up in the late fifties, McMahon held onto several T.V. outlets. In 1963 he founded the World Wide Wrestling Federation by naming Buddy "Nature Boy" Rogers as his champion. In May of the same year, Bruno Sammartino began an uninterrupted eight-year reign as WWWF champion by beating Rogers.

Finding that their weekend-morning telecasts were competing with cartoon programs, some promoters began designing shows that appealed to children. (At one time, unaccompanied youngsters under the age of 16 were prohibited from attending wrestling matches in New York State; the minimum age was subsequently changed to 14, and finally to eight, some seven years ago.) And so, many of the fans under thirty-five who are said to be regularly watching wrestling on television in such impressive numbers have been watching T.V. wrestling since they were young children; if, perhaps, only occasionally, on rainy weekend mornings.

Television wrestling’s kiddie-show angle also explains why so many of wrestling’s villains look and sound more like scary uncles or cartoon bullies—blustering, deranged, or neurotic—than barroom brawlers. The delight with which many wrestlers play contemptible heels in interviews makes for a great deal of energetic comedy: "Rowdy" Roddy Piper had been effective switching between roles as a heel and as a babyface in the Carolinas and the West Coast before joining the WWF, but he is the most effective as a jeering blatherskite: by turns a Russian sympathizer, and a racist xenophobe. When he first came to the WWF,

Piper was used exclusively as an interviewer—evidently it was felt that at six-foot-one, he was too short to wrestle in main events—on his own talk-show, "Piper’s Pit," playing a sycophant for guest villains, or lashing out at fan favorites. (Piper has a few competitors for best actor, including Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin, a vain, whining heel who brings his girlfriend to the ring with him.) A good performer can enliven even an ancient routine: when bad-guy Bobby "The Weasel" Heenan became a manager, he tried to change his epithet to "The Brain"; when arena fans start chanting "Weasel!" at him, Heenan, poised at ringside like a pompous small-time hood, eggs them on with gestures of vexation.

The choice of a wrestler to be a promotion’s flagship babyface is often as much a matter of fashion as of personality or ability; thus the arrival of pro football late in the 1920s carried a few former football stars to wrestling championships. (Until fairly recently, scores of professional football players moonlighted as wrestlers in the off-season.) Bruno Sammartino’s massive popularity during the 1960s—Sammartino is still greeted enthusiastically by fans in many cities—attests equally to his own charisma and to Vince McMahon, Sr.’s television packaging. Sammartino successfully projected a sturdy, blameless virility and in New York, especially, benefited from the momentary absence of a stellar Italian athlete—a DiMaggio or a Marciano—from the national scene. (In lean times, New York promotions have tended to name Hispanic champions like Pedro Morales or Mil Mascaras.)

Current WWF champ Hulk Hogan presents an unusual case; whether his current popularity is due to the break he got playing a fearsome wrestler in the third of Sylvester Stallone’s "Rocky" movies (where Mr. T co-starred, also as a villain), or to a national weightlifting fad (though steroids are so popular that Hogan’s musclebound physique would not be very remarkable without his height), or to the heartfelt garrulity of his interviews, or the music that is played over arena loudspeakers immediately before he enters and tears off his shirt (for a long time it was a song from "Rocky III"), he has never drawn well in a city where he appears with too much regularity. Hogan seems to function best as a kind of instant memory—he sparks a flash of excitement as soon as fans find themselves in the same arena with him.

Dave Meltzer thinks his charm doesn’t run as deep as Sammartino’s: "The fans loved Bruno in a different way than Hulk. I mean, the fans go bananas when Hulk comes in the door, but they don’t live and die with him. I don’t know if you’ve heard about the night Bruno lost the title in 1971, but everyone sat and cried. They said you could hear a pin drop in the Garden. If Hulk Hogan lost the title, I don’t think people would be crying."

Once a passably competent ring worker, Hogan appears nowadays to be very limited as an athlete: His matches do not last longer than fifteen minutes, and his repertoire is limited to a couple of throws, including the now-famous "leg drop" in which he jumps several feet in the air and lands sitting on the canvas, with the crook of his knee falling across his opponent’s neck.

Shire complains, "How can Hogan be in shape, when all he does is go around the goddamned ring, raisin’ his fists up—what we call ‘beating the people.’ You know, when I wrestled, and I worked for Al Haft, if you did that with Al Haft, boy, you wouldn’t wrestle more than a week. He’d say, ‘Wait a minute, the people are seeing you to wrestle, great moves, flying around the ring, taking bumps, et cetera, -- you don’t have any time to be beating the goddamn public out there.’ That’s a cheap way of getting heat, of getting response.

"You know, Hogan—he does something, he turns to the crowd, right? And he raises his hands up, and his fists, and he’s shaking ‘em, and the crowd goes nuts. Cheap way of getting a reaction. You couldn’t do that years ago, most promoters wouldn’t go for it. So consequently, he wrestles about two minutes, then he spends about three minutes doin’ that while he’s relaxing. So he’s not in shape." (Sam Muchnick said of wrestlers today, "A lot of the guys—they can’t wrestle, but they start pestering the audience in order to get a reaction.")

One wrestler said: "Actually the music is what goes over, the rock song is what really got the people going. The song was over and the shirt was off, there wasn’t a lot left to watch."

Many of the WWF’s shenanigans were inspired by the antics of the late comedian Andy Kaufman, who frequently appeared on television talk shows in order to bait a professional wrestler into a convincing fracas, and then entered the ring for a few dozen matches around Tennessee in 1977. "T.N.T," the WWF’s mock talk show, which was borrowed from Kaufman, was at least partially responsible for getting WWF wrestling over with many "sophisticated" fans. According to one story, Andy Kaufman initially approached Vince McMahon Jr. about getting into the ring, but McMahon declined his offer, saying that it had no place in professional wrestling.

The appearance of a popular television actor (who is very popular with children as the result of one of NBC’s most successful prime-time T.V. shows) in several highly-touted bouts only helped the WWF’s popularity.

Mr. T has been a professional wrestling fan since he was a child, and several promoters have reported that they had rejected out of hand his entreaties to allow him to perform in the ring.

In December of 1984, Mr. T began showing up near the ring at WWF events, and a few months later, he was seen on WWF promotional telecasts. Few wrestlers welcomed him—while Mr. T was seated at ringside during a December card in Los Angeles, David Schults challenged him to come into the ring, and not as part of the act. Mr. T declined. Backstage at a subsequent card there, a WWF agent was forced to have Schults arrested to prevent an incident after Schults began telling other wrestlers that he was going to go after him. When the television star finally made his professional wrestling debut in a main event at Madison Square Garden as Hulk Hogan’s babyface partner, and reportedly was paid more for his single round of wrestling than others on the card now make in half a year, the reactions of wrestlers—who generally spend years playing smaller circuits before they hit a big- time promotion like the WWF—ranged from chagrin to disgust. (Of course, Hollywood comedians such as Chaplin, W.C. Fields, and Abbott and Costello used to incorporate wrestling gags in their films. And many wrestlers would undoubtedly rather act in Hollywood—as did former pro grapplers Nat Pendleton and Mike Mazurki—but the only other actor ever to jump into the ring was Andy Kaufman, who played a petty heel who got thrashed in every match.)

The commonest gripe about the WWF is that its matches rely more on flashy, recognizable personalities than on skillful, acrobatic athletes. One wrestler may be more willing than another to risk his body for sensational effect—somersaulting over the top rope and landing on the floor outside the ring, for example. The work rate in the WWF is quite low—perhaps as a consequence of the hectic schedule.

Wrestling’s profitablity has generally relied exclusively upon gate receipts and concession sales of souvenirs. Except for revenues gained from television in the ‘fifties (and from radio, earlier) the media had served mostly to advertise wrestling’s live product, especially after the demise of network T.V. wrestling programs. Since then most promotions have forsworn televising main events, preferring to entice viewers into the arena with modest "free sample" matches, taped in studios, that show off main-event talent beating more or less anonymous wrestlers.

As a new generation of promoters replaced the old NWA powers, promotional formulas became more sophisticated, and so wrestling changed somewhat in many territories, particularly in the East and the South.

But the first angle that Roy Shire broadcast on television to build up fan interest in the Bay Area two and a half decades ago does not differ in kind from modern "campaigns" and "marketing concepts."

Shire detailed how he got started: "I went in, and with a friend of mine who was in promotion, flew out west here. We got a television out here—Channel 2, which was the big independent—and we got on at nine o’clock on Friday nights—how much better can you get? Gateway Chevrolet sponsored us, and though they’d had tape on before then, we started doing the live show.

"And I brought Bill Welch out, gave him a piece of the action—I don’t know if you ever heard of Bill Welch or not, he used to be the commentator for the Divorce Court on T.V. years ago, so he had the credibility. Fantastic announcer—he was kind of a celebrity, and at that time, he did all the West Coast football games, like UCLA, you know, or USC, on games that were going around the country. See? So the guy was known. He said, ‘I’ll do it if you give me a piece of the action, plus a salary.’ I says, ‘Man, you got it.’ So he started in with me.

"And with all that going, coming into a town that had no television—I wrote the script for my wrestlers, tellin’ ‘em what to say on television.

"Nobody had ever come to San Francisco and said they didn’t like San Francisco. Everyone just came out here and fell in love with the city.

"Well, I got Ray Stevens—him and I had wrestled together for a while, up until I started promoting—I brought him out. And I wrote his script, and I had him call San Francisco "Fogsville." Said all the girls were ugly as hell, and just knocked and lambasted San Francisco like you couldn’t believe—in those days you could get by with a lot of stuff you couldn’t get by with today.

"So then I worked an angle on television, and I walked into the Cow Palace, and everybody says, ‘Aw, shit, he ain’t gonna draw.’ Even the management says, ‘What you gonna draw here, Roy?’

"I said, ‘What’s the place seat?’ He says, ‘16,000.’ I says, ‘We’ll fill it.’ He laughed at me, says: ‘Not wrestling.’

"We came in, we didn’t draw sixteen—we drew something like 17,000. We turned six, seven thousand away from the doors. They were scalping tickets for 50 dollars outside—this is back in ‘60, friend.

"I ran television for six weeks before I opened in town. See, I was working an angle on them. What I did was, I took a guy out of retirement: Bill Melby, who had won third in Mr. America, and ‘Best Legs.’ A bodybuilder and a wrestler—good-looking S.O.B., from Salt Lake, a friend of mine from wrestling, but he’d quit and was building apartment buildings. And he was close—I said, ‘Melby, you know you’ve gotta come back.’ I said, ‘I’ll feature you, and you’ll make some money. You know, I’m only gonna be running the T.V. on Friday nights, and the Cow Palace every couple of weeks, ‘till I open the whole territory, so why don’t you come out and give it a try?’

"So I convinced him to do it. Meantime, I’m bringing a guy in from the Indianapolis territory, which was Jim Barnett’s at the time, and he was a Japanese guy named Mitsu Arakawa. He beat everybody with a stomach claw.

"Well every week we would would carry the guy out—Arakawa would give him the stomach claw, and he’d give up. And Arakawa’d run back, and give the guy the stomach claw two, three times after the guy’d give up, and they’d carry him out on the stretcher.

"Now Melby, with this beautiful body, abdominal section—anybody’d get him in the stomach, he’d never sell it. I’d make guys keep hittin’ him in the stomach, and he’d flex his muscles, and he wouldn’t sell it to him. So everybody knows now that he’s got a tough abdominal section, right? So I get Melby on television, two weeks before the fourth week.

"The fourth week he comes on the television, after Arakawa wrestles, and Melby says, ‘You know, I have been watching this now for one month.’ And he says, ‘This guy is making me sick.’ (I’ve got Arakawa with Cowboy Ellis, and I’ve got Melby with someone else, I don’t remember who it was. This is two main events.) And he said, ‘One of these days, he’s goin’ to keep doin’ this, and I’m gonna run into this ring and just kick the living heck out of him.’

"And Bill Welch says, ‘Now you can’t do that, you just can’t do that.’

"He says, ‘If he does that next week, I’m gonna do it to him!’ See, well, this is the buildup. Next week, sure enough, Arakawa puts the stomach claw on the guy, and the guy’s in pain, screamin’ and hollerin’, and after takin’ him off, Arakawa jumps out of the ring, puts the stomach claw on him—on the floor, the cameras are on him, boy. And out of the dressing room, here comes Melby! Comes running in and—pow, pow! he beats the shit out of him, and Arakawa runs in the ring. We want to capture it on the T.V. and make it look better. Melby jumps on the ring, and hits him, pow, pow!, -- down Arakawa goes. Then, Arakawa chops him in the stomach, puts the stomach claw on him—and everybody says, ‘Oh boy, he’s got Melby!’ Everybody’s groaning now, you know? Melby’s straining, you can see his abdominal section coming out—we zoom in on it, ‘cause I’m standing there telling the camera guys exactly what to do. And Melby’s just standing there, nothin’s happenin’—Arakawa gets up, looks, you know that surprised look that Japanese have, you see ‘em in the comic deals—and he puts a stomach claw on him, and again, Melby stiffens up his muscles again, and nothin’ happens.

"Arakawa looks at him, that funny expression again, puts it on him again, nothing happens. And then Melby comes back, starts kickin’ the shit out of him, and Arakawa runs right out of the ring, with Melby right after him.

"So I come running behind the camera, I jump on the television, I say, ‘You know, in all my days of wrestling’—I was still wrestling—‘I have never seen Arakawa run from nobody, I mean from nobody. I mean nobody can do this to this guy.’ And I said, ‘You know what? I’m gonna go back into the dressing room, and I’m gonna try to change this match, for March 4, and see if Melby and Arakawa will wrestle one another in a main event.’

"So I run off, now we have a match, I come back at the intermission, and we come back out, and I say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen—I did it, I did it! I got the match changed!’

"Arakawa says, ‘Nobody can do this to me! I lose face! I lose face! I can’t afford to lose face, my ancestors’ and all this bullshit. He says, ‘Give me contract, I sign!’ He signs the contract. And then rushes off, and Melby comes on, and he signs the contract.

"Now, I got—cause tickets aren’t moving too good—I got about ten days to sell the tickets. You know, I went in to the match that afternoon at twelve o’clock—we had served $32,000 in the kill. And those tickets were two, three, and four dollar tickets. We sold out—we had $53,500. That was a sellout, and I mean, we had, something like two thousand standin’ in the aisles. That gimmick did it.

"Well, you see, the reason that Vince McMahon is doing so great is not because of his manipulation or his expertise of promoting, or anything else, of knowing the business, it’s strictly that he has got the T.V. that goes national. Over everyplace, and he has the next prestigious thing coming, that it’s coming from the Garden, you know, or affiliated with the Garden, which is probably the most prestigious arena in the United States.

"Not because he is a great promoter. He’s not that great a promoter. But if you’ve got T.V., and you go national, you know, and people are seeing those wrestlers, week in and week out, then you come along—that’s the scenario of our business—you put a guy on T.V. and you get people to like him or hate him, then you put him in a town, and the people that have seen him on T.V. for seven, eight, ten weeks or months or ten weeks or whatever, long enough to either you really like him, or really hate him, you bring him in the people’ll pay their money at the box office to see him. That is the essence of our business. Has been. Like I’d go when I was promoting—take Las Vegas, say.

"I went in, I would make the tape here in San Francisco. I put it on, I run it for about ten weeks. And I got the people liking and disliking guys. And then I took a good match, and I put it on in the Convention Center down there, you know? I made nothing but money.

"And I used to always run anywhere from every two to four weeks, in all my big towns. I didn’t want to overdo it—it’s like cake, if you eat too much of it, you lose the taste of it. So I’d work a angle, bring the thing back, and draw money again. I’d do this all over—I did it in Anchorage, Alaska, did it in Honolulu, you know, and I did it in Phoenix, Las Vegas, you know, to name a few towns that I did this.

"I’d just take that tape and run it, and I’d cut from the tape for that market—it’s very simple. You take a master tape: If I’m making a tape for the Cow Palace, which is my master tape, I’d have the wrestlers come in, and interview the ones that are in the main event at the Cow Palace. And then, when I go and make the tape for say Las Vegas, I had the spot in there, say three minutes, that was blank. Where the interview had been done for the Cow Palace by, say, Pat Patterson. Well then—but Pat is not in the main event in Las Vegas—say, Joe Blow’s in it. Well, I put Joe Blow in his place, talking about the match in Las Vegas . . . .

"So you make custom tapes for everything, you know? And the guy’s there sayin’ ‘I’ll kill that sonofabitch!,’ and the other guy sayin’ ‘He ain’t gonna kill me!’

"The essence of the whole deal: ‘You kill me, and I kill you.’"

(To be continued in The WAWLI Papers No. 440)

The WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.  440


The wrestling "season" begins roughly in November and lasts through mid-April; in many areas, the biggest night of the year for wrestling comes on a family holiday such as Thanksgiving, or Christmas.

The advertised main event is what brings in the fans. Quite a few promotions will on occasion "main-event" two good guys in the ring against one another, or likewise feature two heels—more often than not, in both cases one wrestler is actually hated more than the other—but the WWF always advertises main events which feature a battle between personifications of "good" and "evil": a pair of contestants fighting for, say, the pride of the free world.

Or the main event might be a "Battle Royal": all the wrestlers from the undercards meet en masse in the ring (looking like a Muscle Beach party moved out of the rain), until the one who jettisons his last remaining rival is declared the winner. Shire, who is said to have had the best Battle Royals in the country, explained the buildup: "Well, you bring in the best guys, you give ‘em a lot of money, and they talk about it—and the biggest thing is that everyone’s scared to go into it. Which is not true, but—you know, and the guys go out, and say, ‘Well, I don’t know if I want to go out or not,’—they’re hesitant about goin’, ‘cause of gettin’ hurt. With all that hyping before, everyone thought, ‘Well, geez, a guy’s gonna get killed in there.’ I always got somebody hurt—you know, hospital deal or whatever. Consequently it had that atmosphere of brutality, and that kind of thing, that the fans love."

Promoters embellish rivalries any number of ways: if, say, the last sellout main-event matchup of Dreadnaught versus Flaming Tommy ended with both wrestlers disqualified for leaving the ring, the promoter might announce that next month’s rematch will be held inside a steel cage to prevent either wrestler from escaping. New York promotions generally draw the line at steel cages; but elsewhere there are "no stopping for blood" matches and "loser-leave-town" matches. Matches in which contestants are strapped together invariably lead to a bloody finish; there are bouts held on platforms high above the ring, or with purse money at the top of a pole. Promotions that are more wholesome enhance their main events with harmless penalties, such as as forcing the loser to wear a costume (a diaper, for instance), but Meltzer recalls a series of "hangman’s noose" matches held in Florida during the summer of 1984, in which the object was to hang the loser: "They did draw—the fans who were out there were either so sick that they believed it, or maybe they considered it campy to watch someone kill himself . . . Normally what would happen is the good guy would win, and then all the bad guys would jump in, and they’d still try to hang the guy who won, until his good-guy friends would save him, and he’d say something like, ‘Thank you, Dusty, for saving my life.’"

Ordinarily, however, having filled the arena on the strength of a main event, the promoter’s next objective is to get the fans to come back for the next card. As in any business, indifference, laziness, complacency, or cynicism may not necessarily be hazardous; but generally, if the talent and the booker click, and the area has a dedicated, steady following, things don’t go badly for a promotion until it runs out of angles or "finishes."

The booking process is at the heart of wrestling’s secrecy. Jay West, a ring announcer for Georgia Championship Wrestling, commented: "The people behind the scenes, the big folks, they’ve always been very, very protective of how they do what they do. And they have always thought that the fans were incredibly stupid, and this is why it was so silly for them to be so protective around somebody like me—you know, for a long, long time I was never allowed to see how matches were made, or anything, even though I worked for them for almost eight years."

Arranging the array of matches and selecting the winners and the "finishes" is the job of the booker. He is also responsible for devising the rivalries which are promoted on television interviews, which set the stage for the arena. The biggest promotions might have more than one booker, but the scripts for shows in large arenas are the responsibility of its number-one booker. (The lesser cards that big-time promotions stage in armories, or high school or college gyms are usually booked by one of the wrestlers, or a representative of the office—a "sub-booker," as it were, who may handle other duties, such as making sure the boys show up sober. These "spot shows" are usually modest, reprising one or two matches with a name or two from the last big-city show, or rehearsing for the next big one. The WWF seems to shuttle the same two or three road shows—changing them once every one or two months—into different cities around the country.)

Vince McMahon, Jr. is said to "do the finishes" for WWF events in the larger arenas. It’s likely that he dreams up the bigger angles, like "Rock and Wrestling," while others help put them into action—dressing the undercards, for example, and perhaps even the main events—then submitting them for McMahon’s approval.

Some fans prefer promotions that put together "logical" cards, fashioned with a regard for common sense and a concern for continuity. Shire, who was titled "The Professor" during his wrestling career, has often said that he "preached logic" as a promoter. Meltzer commented on Shire’s ability: "It was a real well-run promotion. And it consistently drew well, the Cow Palace was a real great—for the size of the city they drew real great crowds, always. I mean, a crowd of 5,000 at the Cow Palace, that never happened. Always consistent, 8 to12 thousand.

"All of the matches on the card always made sense. If a guy won a match, he’d be moved up on the card; if a guy lost, he wouldn’t. Every match was important, because the guy on the preliminary match, if he won two straight preliminary matches, he’d be moving up to a main event, and then if he won that, he might get a title shot. No one came in and was in the main event the first time.

"Every match on the card was important, the title matches were always long, and they always had good endings. He was really sharp at endings, and the rematch always made sense. (Promoters now—I’ll give you an example—cage matches: Of all the gimmick matches, the number-one draw is the cage match. Sometimes they’ll just throw in a cage match, to draw. If Shire had a cage match, it was because the two guys were fighting in the stands the week before, and that’s why he had the cage match, to keep ‘em in the ring. If he had a match where there was no stopping for blood, it was because the guys were bleeding all over the place the card before. His gimmicks always made sense.)"

Wrestlers have always had an idea of their opponents’ repertoire of throws, and after touring a circuit for a few months, improvising a series of lumps becomes quite simple. WWF bouts seemed more rehearsed and less improvised than before; there were perhaps other reasons for the dissatisfaction of longtime fans, but in many WWF matches, "advantage time" seems to be fully scripted out. With less emphasis on athleticism, the role of the WWF’s bookers has apparently become more important.

Another complaint about WWF cards concerns the preliminary bouts, which by and large feature freaky, flashy, or unathletic characters. A preliminary which creates too much excitement too soon might upstage the main event, bringing the crowd’s enthusiasm ("heat") to a premature climax. If the main event that night features Hulk Hogan, who is a notoriously unathletic performer (but, of course, a heavy "fan favorite," thanks to his notoriety) the chances are good that an acrobatic good guy on the undercard will diminish Hogan’s impact on the crowd. And so in many of the undercards, often the most dramatic moment comes when a wrestler steps through the ring ropes and walks around the perimeter of the platform, because he’ll be disqualified if he stays out for longer than the referee’s count.

"All I’m doing," Vince McMahon, Jr. told Newsweek in March, "is filling a marketing niche for a wholesome show at a reasonable cost." People have been describing wrestling cards as "morality plays" for some forty years. The WWF’s Washington’s Birthday card would be more accurately described as a serial spectacle, or a variation on the theme of humiliation. Events and matches patch together elements appropriate to soap operas or snuff films.

To a degree, hostility animates the crowd at every sporting event. Unfortunately for franchise owners of perpetual also-rans in baseball, basketball, football, and hockey, ordinary sporting events cannot guarantee that a great competitive performance or a favorable outcome for the home team will mitigate fans’ discontent at not having their way.

Much of cardmaking consists of experimenting with old formulas. Even when a promoter chanced upon an innovation, it might have taken him a while to discern what it was that he had found, develop it into something that might not be perceptible as a gimmick, as such, and tailor its use to a given region.

The fun seems to derive from creating and shifting various opposing forces in the audience—here, between confusion and resolution; there, boredom and fascination; yonder, isolation and reassurance. This kind of pairing-game pits wrestlers (or their reputations) off one another only in a secondary way—the fans who are used to good guy/bad guy look for these roles in every encounter, and not much deeper. Thus a card may parade two dozen wrestlers in an evening, but often there seem to be really only two wrestlers on the fans’ minds.

Nor is it essential that every fan in the arena hate the villains. A heel whose sullen or arrogant plight evokes sympathy among certain of its fans can be used to great advantage—to introduce new angles, for instance. (Fans who thought that "Rock and Wrestling" was a reprehensible notion were gratified to hear the WWF’s evildoers saying "rock has no place in wrestling.")

The fans entering the Felt Forum this evening to watch "The War To Settle the Score" were handed a sheet listing the night’s events; a simple souvenir providing the simple pleasure of recognition. Unfortunately, a disclaimer printed at the bottom asserting a promoter’s "right to make suitable substitutions" when "scheduled talent is unable to appear" makes the WWF’s handbill almost useless. Cast and order of matches often fail to appear as advertised; some promotions go so far as to advertise main-event talent which is long gone. (And the thoroughly distorted account of the results of the Washington’s Birthday card given by a Titan booker over the phone a few weeks later suggests that "circumstances beyond the control of the promoter" include his memory.)

Likely the cardmaker decides the order as the night progresses—in the WWF, a wrestler himself often won’t find out who he is matched against until a few minutes before he goes on—keeping the crowd in suspense as he watches to guess what it will want next.

At eight o’clock in the Felt Forum, not a straggler was to be seen. The house seemed to have quieted itself by the time the anthem came on, but after the lights darkened to allow the pair of screens in front to come alive with an aspect of the ring inside the Garden, the first match was a few seconds in progress before several fans realized that the sound wasn’t working. There was patient muttering for half a minute before the yelling started, until finally the voices of play-by-play announcers Gene Okerlund and Gorilla Monsoon could be heard over the background noises of the Garden crowd.

The biggest difference between arena wrestling bouts and the ones shown on the syndicated television shows of most promotions are the matchups themselves. There are few "good guy-bad guy" pairings on T.V. shows; instead, a T.V. bout will usually feature a top name—whether hero or villain—paired against a "T.V. loser," one of an assortment of wrestlers who are hired to perform in the taping sessions once every few weeks. (Most every wrestling star seems to have gotten his start this way, so some of these lesser-known wrestlers probably nurture hopes of moving up in the promotional ladder.) In the WWF’s T.V. matches, the better-known wrestler invariably wins. Members of the audience in the arena or studio where a T.V. show is taped often like to yell "Chickenshit!" or "Loser!" at the entrance of one of the more familiar scrubs, -- "job boys" to wrestlers, who also refer to them by names such as "Gibronis" or "Joe Blows."

These lower-echelon performers—who are never interviewed on television, never get written about in the magazines, and are paid much less than the "top boys"—are often featured in the first few matches of wrestling cards. Unfortunately, perhaps, for these wrestlers, a crowd anticipating the talent that has been promoted more aggressively tends to get impatient after a while, especially if the matches are slow, confusing, or inconclusive.

The first match, unmentioned in the program, was between Rick "Quick Draw" McGraw and a much taller, blonde-haired, bearded veteran named Moondog Spot, brother of Moondog Rex. A murmuring passed through the crowd as it recognized McGraw, a babyface of rather modest renown, who has been out of action for several months with a broken neck. Sure enough, when the rulebreaking Spot begins to get the better of McGraw with a few lackadaisical forearm smashes to the latter’s chest, commentator Monsoon ascribes McGraw’s weak defense to "ring rust." Eventually McGraw lost his temper, except too late; he got a few shots back against Spot, but before he could gain an advantage the bell signaled the end of the twenty-minute time limit, and so the match ended in a draw.

Up next was a veteran "scrub" named "The Unpredictable" Johnny Rodz, whose nickname refers as much the status of his role (which shifts beween minor good guy, when he is facing an overpowering heel, and minor heel, when he is battling a fan favorite) as to his ring demeanor, and another Hispanic scrub named Jose Luis Rivera. The match is of some interest for pitting two wrestlers whose reputations are slightly tarnished: each is more often seen as fodder for a bigger name, but each, when left to his own devices—that is, if wrestling another wrestler who is only as recognizable or less so than himself—will become a moderately strong rulebreaker. His seniority makes Rodz something of a favorite; moreover as an arrogant, petty scoundrel he is a competent performer, pounding his opponent with bent elbows. For his part, Rivera suffers his licks with admirable patience until at one point, after Rodz had succeeded in tossing him out of the ring and proceeded to strut around the ring—grinning and lifting his arms triumphantly—Rivera climbed back onto the top turnbuckle (the padded collar covering the point at which each of the three ropes is lashed to the four ringposts) and jumps him from behind. Rodz, miffed, redoubled his own effort and appeared to bite Rivera at one point. Eventually Rodz won.

A screen graphic introduced a match between David Sammartino and Moondog Rex. Sammartino, the son of "Wrestling’s Living Legend," does not seem to have emerged from his father’s shadow, and he seems rather self-conscious in the ring; sadly, he is sometimes booed (but never when appearing in a tag-team with Bruno). His contract with the WWF was said to have been the result of the out-of-court settlement negotiated between Bruno and Vince McMahon, Jr. after the former filed a nonpayment suit against the WWF. Tonight he earned a victory over Rex, but not without being thrown out of the ring at one point ("I think he might have a nosebleed," commented Monsoon.)

According to Shire and others, the heel "leads" the match—that is, he tells the "babyface" what to do. Shire, discussing "high spots" and "ring psychology," elaborated on how this works: "Say the guy’s got a headlock on the guy, and he’s punishing the guy. And he’s punishing him, and the fans now react—how can the fans get out of a headlock? I mean, there’s not much action to it.

"So now the fans are quieted down—that’s when you do it, when the fans are nice and quiet, and their throats are rested, ‘cause if they keep hollerin’ all night they get hoarse, and they can’t holler anymore. (This is what I call psychology; you bring ‘em up, you set ‘em down, bring ‘em up, set ‘em down.) So now, here comes the high spot. Everybody’s settled, no screaming.

"I’m the bad guy, you’re the good guy. So I got the headlock on you. You throw me into the ropes. I come off, I give you one tackle. I give you two tackles. And then, I go to give you the third tackle, you drop down,

I jump over you. I hit the rope, I come off, I’m gonna give you the next tackle, but you dropkick me. And when I go down, you snatch the headlock on me, take me over. That’s what we call a high spot. The people just rise to it. You see, that’s all action. . . .

"I’d go into a match and have a good match-up. And the crowd—when I’d say, ‘Okay, let’s settle down, let’s settle down now,’ that meant I didn’t want any noise, so I’d tell the wrestler, ‘Get a hold on me. Get a leglock,’ an armlock, a headlock, whatever. ‘Let’s settle the people down.’ Now they would be settled down for two or three or four minutes. And you could drop a pin in the place and there’s no noise going—a little bit, not much.

"And I’d say, ‘Okay, let’s bring ‘em to their feet.’

"And then I would make my move—maybe chop meat. People’d start yelling, and then we’d go into high spots, and I’d go flying all over the ring, you know—lyin’ upside down on the top ropes, you name it. And boy, we’d have them screaming, the whole goddamned arena’d be screaming.

"And then, when I figured they’d screamed long enough, I’d say, ‘Okay, so I’m gonna get a hold on you now. We’re gonna settle it down’—so that next time we do this, they’ll be rested, they’ll be able to react.

"See, if you keep doing this constantly, cutting meat, and the high spots, pretty soon the people have yelled so much that they can’t yell anymore and they’re going hoarse. No matter what you do, you can’t get a reaction. So then when you get finally to the finish, which is the high spot of the whole match, and the people don’t react to it because they’re hoarse and tired or whatever, at the end of match, the people say, ‘Oh that was a lousy match.’ All because they didn’t react to the finish."

(To be continued in The WAWLI Papers No. 441)

The WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.  441


The prospect of a sequence of unannounced bouts involving wrestlers as forgettable as Rodz and Rivera has quieted the fans. Vince McMahon boasted to Newsweek that "you won’t sit there feeling bored," but so far tonight, the first hour has been taken up with three rather hopeless matches. At this point, the main event seemed far, far away, and the crowd started getting restless; one distracted fan in back at the Felt

Forum began to entertain himself by experimenting with the beam of his pocket flashlight to see if it will reach the floor, the backs of other specators, the ceiling of the auditorium. Another fan seemed intent upon securing the armrest to the left of his seat, at the expense of another customer—who, however, yielded his elbow to the pressure.

Everyone in the Felt Forum perked up noticeably as soon as Hillbilly Jim’s name flashed on the television screen. Jim is a youthful, strapping, big-shouldered character who wears a furry beard, overalls, a worn leather hat, and a rather overbearing grin. The fans have taken to the Southerner because he has been cast as one of their own—for months he had been seen seated at ringside rooting for good guys during WWF telecasts, and then during one of Hulk Hogan’s matches, when the champ was suffering at the hands of one villain or another, big Jim rushed through the ropes to help his hero. (Meltzer said that before coming to the WWF, Jim—whose real name is Harley Daniel—had wrestled both in Memphis and Calgary; since he had also made his Canadian entrance as a face in the crowd, Calgary’s television fans who watch the WWF show had been subjected to his debut twice.)

Jim’s opponent was not Rene Goulet, as both the program and Titan’s spokesman claimed, but a morose-looking heel named Charlie Fulton. Fulton has been around for a long time, so when Jim (who got a big laugh when he had to be reminded by the referee to remove his hat) extended his paw for a friendly handshake, he declined; whether out of miscreance or prudence was unclear—Jim appeared to be around eight inches taller—but Jim’s friendliness persisted for another minute or so, until Fulton charged across the ring into the ropes and bounced off of them back towards his opponent in order to hit him, but to no avail. After trying the same move again, unsuccessfully, Fulton attempted to pick Jim up for a bodyslam three times in succession. This made Jim chortle mightily, whereupon he picked up Fulton and tossed him onto his back a few times.

After a few minutes of this, Fulton decided to slip under the bottom rope to take an apparent "breather." Fulton, evidently deciding that an equalizer might bring this jolly hayseed with a sixty-pound advantage down to size, slipped a hand down the front of his wrestling trunks to get at something he seemed to have hidden there. It was a strange moment—the audience recognized the "foreign object" ploy immediately, and they gasped as one to see the pathetic desperation to which a career of losing scrub matches to bigger, unflappable musclemen had driven Fulton. Yet Jim wasn’t bothered; he just threw Fulton down a few more times and finally picked him up in a bear hug.

The next match was dreary, but the crowd’s disappointment evaporated as soon as rock singer Cyndi Lauper’s theme song piped over the loudspeakers to herald her appearance, along with her charge, WWF Ladies’ Champion Wendi Richter. Opposing her is challenger Lelani Kai, whose career is supervised by the Fabulous Moolah—and from this point on in, no contestant who appeared could not have been instantly identifiable to every paying customer.

It has been said that The Fabulous Moolah, who owned the Ladies’ Belt for about 25 years, virtually destroyed women’s wrestling in her capacity as a handler of women wrestlers for promotions around the country. But thanks to Lauper, girl-wrestling underwent something of a renaissance.

Ladies’ matches, once prohibited in New York, generally turn into catfights, with much scratching and hairpulling. Lady wrestlers often prove to be more acrobatic performers, taking more risks; where men lift and fall in a slow, pronounced rhythm, the ladies’ bodies whip around rapidly in a flurry of tossing curls. (It is said that some of the girl wrestlers of Japan are among the best athletes, male or female, in wrestling today.) Yet the suspicion remains that the point of ladies’ matches is to display as much moving flesh as possible, and even perhaps to suggest that each contestants’ tight-fitting suit is on the verge of giving way. Which didn’t happen that night. Instead, Richter lost her title, because Moolah cheated, and Lauper seemed very upset.

Then Paul "Mr. Wonderful" Orndorff, who’d been heard making derogatory comments about blacks on WWF telecasts, dispensed with black wrestler Tony Atlas without much trouble, to the fans’ chagrin. The high point of Atlas’ career came in 1982, when he emerged victorious from a "battle royale" and thereby earned the right to face then-WWF champ Bob Backlund in a title match. What was unusual about their match was perhaps not that Atlas was the only good-guy that Backlund (who is white) had ever wrestled in the WWF—rather that it virtually coincided with a highly publicized boxing match on June 11, 1982, between heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, who is black, and contender Gerry Cooney, who is white. Boxing fans will recall that Cooney had been regarded as a "comer" until he was knocked out by Holmes in the thirteenth round; wrestling fans remember that Backlund appeared to thrash Atlas rather soundly.

Another later preliminary pitted bad-guy contender Don "The Magnificent" Muraco against a less familiar Italian import with a face as sweet as his name, Salvatore Bellomo. A few weeks afterward, Hogan—who is frequently photographed wearing a silver cross on a chain around his neck—referred to Muraco as "that Prince of Darkness," but his chances tonight against Bellomo looked pretty good to the fans in the back of the Felt Forum; during the ring introduction, one commented, "Muraco loves to eat Italian!"

Escorting The Magnificent One to the ring, in full dress, is his newfound manager, Mr. Fuji, the WWF’s perennial Japanese villain (who explained in a WWF Magazine interview that "to avenge Japanese honor" for the loss of World War II, he dresses formally as Emperor Hirohito did for the signing of the surrender in 1945). Mr. Fuji also wears a seemingly benign smile that invariably is described as a "sadistic grin" by broadcast announcers, who now credit him with schooling Muraco in the finer points of brutality, though Muraco has long been a villain, or "rulebreaker" in the argot.

Middle-aged wrestlers frequently become managers. Generally it is a younger performer whose prosperity is placed in the hands of some rulebreaker emeritus, and so when the rising star’s face becomes glazed over with arrogance and he begins baiting referees in the ring, and kicking, the wrestling magazines blame his downfall on the wicked manager’s skill in brainwashing and "mind control." (Nevertheless, advertisements in many of the magazines encourage the ambitious reader to purchase books that will help develop his own talent for "controlling minds"; other full-page ads in the magazines sell good-luck charms, wrestling-trivia games, and scents said to have aphrodisiac qualities.)

Ordinary rulebreakers merely scowl, gouge, punch, and elbow, but when a big, quick athlete as strong as the linebacker-like Muraco (a former surfer from Hawaii) is cast as a top-ranked cheat, he can be maneuvered into an enormous attraction before he wins a title. In the WWF, a skilled rulebreaker like Muraco is almost never matched against another rulebreaker; however by winning a given match against a good guy ("fan favorite") he may serve to ease another wrestler, whose popularity is waning, or who has fallen into the promoter’s disfavor, down a rung—or, since fan favorites seldom wrestle one another, either, he might dethrone a champion to facilitate a title change: in 1983 a skilled rulebreaker called The Iron Sheik (a former wrestler on the Iranian Olympic team) beat Bob Backlund for the WWF title a few weeks before he surrendered the crown to Hulk Hogan. In due time, a rulebreaker can even become a fan favorite, once he feuds with his manager or renounces his cynical past (or if he moves into another territory, or if the fans stop hating him; many fans like heroes with tainted pasts—like Hogan, or Dusty Rhodes—the best).

The skilled rulebreaker is frequently called upon to put the crowd into fearful awe by handling an overmatched nobody with casual sadism. Muraco and Bellomo join battle by trading forearm smashes, with Muraco gaining a quick advantage, soon tossing Bellomo around like a salad. A few arm-twists later, Muraco, with a toothy sneer of indifference for the fans (who taunt him with cries of "Beach bum!") circles to one side of his fallen enemy and hoists him by the hips over one shoulder in preparation for a reverse "piledriver."

The piledriver is a maneuver which involves turning your opponent upside-down and dropping him on his head. First Muraco let Bellomo down a notch from his shoulder, suspending him so that the feckless Italian hangs suspended, legs sticking up in the air: chest against Muraco’s stomach, head between Magnificent thighs. But before dropping his knees to bring the crown of Bellomo’s head crashing beneath a combined body-weight of 490 pounds, Muraco paused grinning, and, placing his free hand behind the scalp of the dangling victim, pushed Bellomo’s face into the crotch of his trunks. Finally the drop: Muraco fell kneeling, astride Bellomo’s head, Bellomo bounced limply away, and then Muraco walked over to braid their legs together in a "figure-four leglock." Muraco unflexed his calves, cuing Bellomo to grimace and quickly hold palms aloft to signal his submission.

Then it was hero Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka’s turn, against "Cowboy" Bob Orton. Snuka, a dark-skinned South Sea Islander whom Verne Gagne brought from Hawaii, used to be incredibly popular in New York, and has now been embroiled in a feud with Piper, though for some reason Orton has become the object of his anger.

At its best, Snuka’s performance of the move that gave him his nickname—in which he climbed to the top rope and leapt perhaps fifteen feet above the ring—used to be one of wrestling’s most exciting moves and helped make him one of New York’s most popular wrestlers. But Snuka’s ability seems to have suffered since the death of a woman named Nancy Argintino after she was found injured in his motel room in Whitehall, Pa. in May, 1983. (Two months before, it had taken nine deputies to arrest Snuka at a motel near Syracuse, New York, when police answered a report of a woman screaming; after Snuka was charged with four counts of assault and resisting arrest, police identified the woman as Ms. Argintino, according to the New York Post.) Nevertheless, New York fans still greet him with spontaneous enthusiasm. Snuka beat Orton in a frenzied match in which the latter appeared to hurt his arm (when Orton, who plays Piper’s "bodyguard" came back down the runway later that evening, he wore a cast on his arm). When a crowd, which jumped and shouted when Snuka pinned Orton, is as worked up as the one in the Felt Forum, it is nearly impossible not to get caught up in the excitement.

Riding the crest of the enthusiasm will be the youthful tag-team duo of Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo, who are managed by a WWF veteran named Captain Lou Albano. Albano is a gravelly-voiced, slobbish character who used to be one of a "dark triumvirate" of heel-managers in the WWF—the other two were Fred Blassie, who still manages, and the late Grand Wizard, who wore sunglasses and a lame turban, and in real life was a partner of Vince McMahon, Sr. named Ernie Roth. For some wrestling fans who had enjoyed his performances as a heel, the WWF’s rehabilitation of Albano’s character after various forays into film and television acting was the last straw. Tonight, he, too carries a "grudge" against Piper.

Both Windham (the son of a wrestler) and Rotundo are big, All- American gridstar types. In the ring, Rotundo is cast as a younger brother who tends to get himself into scrapes from which Rotundo must save him. Windham seems to appeal to young girls. He is probably not championship material; not because of his athletic ability (he has only demonstrated a few ordinary throws in the WWF, but he is said to have put on some good shows while wrestling for Jim Crockett in the Carolinas), but because his radiant features—he wears long bangs of genuine-looking blonde hair—simply make him so good-looking that with sufficient individual exposure he might upstage all the other babyfaces in a WWF card. "Never a great wrestler—never a main-event boy, always a semi-windup guy, strictly for a top-of-the-preliminary match," is how one former wrestler described the wrestling career of a handsome, blonde-haired fellow named George Scott, the booker for the WWF (Scott is described as Vince McMahon’s best friend), who used to wrestle in a tag-team with his real-life brother Sandy. The description also fits Windham—a typical Windham-Rotundo win is so rapid that the crowd scarcely sees more than a flash of blonde hair grabbing his opponent and yanking him around the ring. In the WWF, Windham and Rotundo seldom wrestle as good as they look.

Their opponents tonight are a pair of masked villains named "The Assassin" and "The Spoiler." Thanks to grim associations with executioners and criminals, the mask has always been a great gimmick for heels at least as far back as nineteenth-century France. Rookie wrestlers breaking into the big time often wear the mask; or an established wrestler might wear one if he had been kicked out of town in last week’s match. Skilled good-guys who have worn the mask recently are Mil Mascaras, Mr. Wrestling, and Mr. Wrestling II; and, way back when, the angel who tested "Biblical" Jacob—who of course also gained a "title" in the match, preliminary to an anxiously-awaited reunion with his disenfranchised brother. But like most everything in wrestling, the mask serves manifold purposes: fans naturally wonder what it is about his past that would force this man to cover his face, since nowadays the masked guys don’t do anything that other wrestlers don’t.

But whether the wrestler who hides his face is good or evil, for every fan watching him, the masked performer signifies an individual whose face is invisible, and so the cipher becomes a token of the fan himself: And here is why the masked wrestler is so useful in a card—the notface is yours, since yours is the only face in the arena which cannot be seen.

Assassin and Spoiler didn’t seem to struggle so much as concede to Windham and Rotundo, who beat them in less than three minutes. It wasn’t clear if this was the reason for the crowd’s hysteria, or whether the imminent approach of the long-awaited main event had done the trick. Enthusiasm and occasional riots notwithstanding, wrestling crowds are by and large relatively placid; in part because more children are in attendance than at, for instance, a hockey game. Moreover, speaking of beer sales at the Garden, an employee of concessioneer Harry M. Stevens, Inc. described adult wrestling fans as "basically sober; they don’t come to drink."

No, they were there—along with a nationwide television audience for the MTV special, which cut from its taped segments and joined the Garden card at this point—to see the challenger, Piper, enter first, splendidly: dressed in a kilt and a "Hulkamania" t-shirt (which he tore to bits, in the manner made famous by Hogan) and an electric guitar. When he wrestled in the Mid-Atlantic circuit for Jim Crockett Promotions, Piper’s "gimmick" was a set of bagpipes, which he carried to the ring to underscore the Scottish heritage of his character; tonight, for the benefit of the national MTV audience, he took the guitar—the hidden gimmick all along—and smashed it against a ringpost. Following Piper was his "bodyguard," "Cowboy" Bob Orton, whose leather vest and cowboy hat seem to help make him look about as friendly as a gas jockey working the lobster shift again. In the Felt Forum, fewer booed than watched quietly as Orton and Piper hung around the ring, chuckling, perhaps anxious.

If all goes right at the end of the night, the crowd’s excitement, which has been stoked with these queerly compelling, violent pas-de-deux—each wrestler trading supremacy, each taking turns submitting his body to the other’s violent whim, like longtime lovers playing a risky bedroom game—will turn into fascination when it sees the babyface borrow the heel’s tactics, losing his innocence. Here is where all of wrestling’s sexual angles converge—ordinary ones, such as exposed, sweaty flesh; forced ones, like long, bleached hair, or kilts. ("See," explained Shire, "your main event is like having sex with a girl, okay? A lot of it is because wrestlers could always understand sex when I told ‘em, ‘It’s like having an orgasm in sex.’ That’s the epitome of the night as far as the fan is concerned.") The memory of humiliation and anonymity is still fresh in the fans’ minds; the ultimate stakes are oblivion and catastrophe.

Who will submit? Why? Suddenly the Felt Forum screen yielded a closeup of Hogan stalking down the runway towards the ring, and the sound system burst into Hogan’s theme song, borrowed from Rocky III (about Hogan, one wrestler said, "actually the music is what goes over, the rock song is what gets the people going") and the crowd finally boiled. Flanking the champ was a sternfaced Albano (who had gotten mad at Piper after the last card) and Cyndi Lauper, also indignant, along with her boyfriend.

Perhaps few of even the most sophisticated fans understand why they might have found the WWF’s finishes so appealing. Maybe it’s because, dressed punkishly, with her hair dyed red, Lauper might look like someone’s sister; a little nutty, but probably nice. Albano seemed like your uncle who finally has quit drinking and straightened himself out. Dwarfing them, at six-eight, Hogan (who stopped to say hello to his famous friend, NBC television star Mr. T, seated at ringside) looks like an eight- year-old child’s ideal Pop, late from work, who has come home to find that someone has been picking on his children, and trying to confuse them.

Meantime, bad-daddy Piper and his drinking buddy have been leering in self-congratulation, and certainly not doing a thing to undo everyone’s conviction that they had orchestrated every note of injustice that had been sounded in the match.

It might not have taken much to stir the crowd, which was so worked up that the match had scarcely begun before Hogan had quickly undergone the babyface’s obligatory loss of temper: he and Piper began dispensing frenzied armwhips against each other—and so here, finally, was the climax.

Among the booker’s considerations in working out a finish for a big card seem to be what the fans’ mood has been in the past, and what it might be in the next few months. The outcome that seems to bring the most fans back for the next installment is when the favorite loses the main event "by disqualification," because, as every wrestling fan knows, you can’t lose the title by "dq."

("The big finishes are very, very intricate; even a minor change in it can cause a change in something that’s three or four weeks away," said Jay West. "This is part of the skills of the guys, being able to make that finish come off exactly as it’s supposed to. I saw several thousand matches while I was working for them, and you know, mistakes are gonna be made; say a guy’s gonna to come off the rope, and he’s supposed to power-slam the guy, and that’s supposed to be it—but you’ll get your foot caught in the rope, or somethin’ll happen, and you can’t make the finish come off that way.

"Well, rather than technically tryin’ to come up with somethin’ in their head, they’ll go right back and do the exact same thing again, which is very, very obvious to the fans that have been comin’ for years. Even to the hard-cores, it is going to seem very, very unusual for a guy to do the exact same finish again."

Hogan took the advantage initially, even slamming Piper once. Piper came back and took Hogan down, and a minute later, wrapped an arm around the champion’s neck: the notorious "sleeper-hold," favorite of millions. Hogan drooped, and seemed about to lose until the camera zoomed in on his arm, which slowly raised itself, one finger held aloft. Hogan—roused, furious—began trembling with rage.

Naturally, once the babyface makes his comeback, the fans must be primed for the rematch. This night, after the referee got "knocked out" (or "bumped," in the trade) in order to prevent anything from actually being decided, a bunch of the performers from the undercards (including Hulk Hogan’s famous friend, NBC television star Mr. T) jumped back into the ring. Finally, what looked like a coterie of Garden security guards and a bunch of Titan personnel, including George Scott—broke into the ring to wrap things up.

It was 10:58 when the fans began filing out of the Felt Forum.

(To be continued in The WAWLI Papers No. 442)

The WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.  442


The figure-four leglock (used by many wrestlers, most notably Ric Flair these days) was popularized in the ‘forties by "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers, the postwar era’s greatest skilled rulebreaker. "Buddy Rogers wasn’t vicious," recalls Al Wrobel of Wrestling’s Main Event Magazine, "but he could mix it up, and if a wrestler started in with dirty tricks, he could give it right back to him. He was a very strong, athletic wrestler." Bill Apter, of T.V. Sports Magazines: "Buddy Rogers kept himself in perfect physical condition, knew how to handle each opponent, and probably was one of the most intelligent wrestlers in the ring. He was very colorful, with his golden blonde hair, and the ‘Strut.’"

Said Roy Shire: "Buddy Rogers. There’s another guy I don’t like. He’s a no-good ass. He couldn’t beat my wife. He was lucky, though, in wrestling. He had a great body. He really had a nice, pleasing body. He was no Mr. America, but a damn good body, probably one of the best workers in the ring. I don’t mean a good wrestler, I mean he couldn’t beat my wife. But in the ring he was so convincing. He did great things in the ring."

"Oh, hey—I’m gonna tell you somethin’ about Rogers, he ain’t got a gut in his fuckin’ body, he couldn’t—he didn’t know a hammerlock from a padlock; he was a connivin’, cutthroat sonofabitch when he was in the business. As a person he was a no-good bastard. Around him—aw, greatest guy in the fuckin’ world, you know, ‘Ho, hey man!’—anything you’d say he’d go for. But he’d stab you behind your fuckin’ back.

"But the thing that he had—in the fuckin’ ring, he was the greatest in the fuckin’ business in the ring. A great performer."

"I invented the book of the rulebreaker," confesses Buddy Rogers today. "But—as life went on, I seen the light, and sort of went the other way. I will admit, it’s easier getting along this way, yes it is."

Rogers was born "Herman Rhode" in Camden, New Jersey (he is fluent in the German he learned from his immigrant parents) and says he began wrestling at the local YMCA when he was 8. Ten years later in 1939 he won his professional debut at the Garden Pier in Atlantic City, and proceeded through victories in his first 47 matches before losing to Ed "Strangler" Lewis in Philadelphia in 1941. Rogers captured scores of sectional titles in his 24-year career before he won the NWA heavyweight title before a packed Comiskey Park on June 30, 1961. Two years later he captured the first championship of Vince McMahon, Sr.’s fledgling World-Wide Wrestling Federation, only to relinquish it shortly after, losing to Bruno Sammartino at Madison Square Garden in a match that lasted only forty-seven seconds. Rogers retired back to his home in

Cherry Hill, New Jersey, a few miles from Camden, where he has lived since, with occasional stints at the mike: his WWF interview show, called "Rogers’ Corner," only lasted a few weeks in 1983 before Vince McMahon, Jr. pulled it for a WWF Magazine show. Rogers has since appeared on Verne Gagne’s telecasts.

Two days after the card at the Garden, I drove down to meet Rogers at a diner near the newly-rebuilt Garden State Racetrack, agreeing to call him from a pay phone. A few minutes later he rolled into the parking lot, smoking a cigar at the helm of a spotless black Lincoln Continental. He’s conceded an inch or two to his waistline—today is his 64th birthday, he says—but his face shows rosy, indefatigable health under a backswept, full mane of whitening gold. Rogers’s six-foot, four-inch body is still massively well-proportioned, and seems too big even for the luxury car; but his dictionary-sized hands are graced with a manicure—as well as, on one pinky, a huge gold ring, scattered with diamonds, like chocolate chips in a cookie. A minute later he pulled up beside a second Lincoln in his driveway, and was soon relighting his cigar as we talked in his living room.

"This particular war will end up with—you see, there’s three big Caesars in Rome," said Rogers warily, turning his sentences slowly in his rolling southern-New Jersey accent. "There’s too many Caesars in Rome, and Rome has to fall apart," said Rogers warily, turning his sentences slowly in his rolling southern-New Jersey accent. "Or the Caesars have to eat each other up in order to accomplish what they set out to do.

"See, Crockett won’t let Gagne get any bigger than Crockett is, and Gagne won’t let Crockett get any bigger than Gagne is. They both want to devour McMahon, but instead of uniting—saying, ‘Hey man, the hell with this personality struggle, let’s eat that son of a bitch up’—which they’re very capable of doing—well, daddy, you take it from me: Gagne and Crockett will be at each other’s throats the moment one gets bigger than the other.

"Yeah, I got leaks all over the place, all over Vince McMahon Jr.’s territory, down South. I just got a call this morning from Wally Karbo [a Minneapolis promoter associated with Gagne]. He’ll just call me up and I relinquish my thoughts to them, they’ll relinquish their thoughts to me.

"McMahon just about now realizes what he took on. He thought he was going to roughshod over everyone and anyone. Now, his dad wouldn’t have done this.

"McMahon, Jr. is the modern-day Hitler of professional wrestling, and if you told him that to his face, he’d take you out and buy you the biggest steak you could eat. He thrives on the people around him hating his guts. He loves it—but he doesn’t realize that in the final analysis he’ll get torched and he’ll burn."

But doesn’t McMahon use television well? "He’s just overexposed, he doesn’t use television well. Let me tell you something, the way he has handled T.V., it hasn’t done wrestling any good. Where does rock-and-roll fit in with wrestling? Wouldn’t you have to be pretty stupid to inhale what he’s putting across—and have a love for wrestling? How long do you think what he’s doing is going to resemble wrestling?

"What does it say on the canopy over the Garden, ‘Wrestling,’ or ‘Rock and Roll’? The two don’t mix. Can you imagine if Cyndi Lauper managed Muhammad Ali? How long would it last before the public would say, ‘Bullshit, what are they doing?’

"What’s he creating? You’re never going to get me—and I’ve got as much ability in wrestling as anybody living—to believe that rock-and-roll is the salvation of wrestling. They’re thriving on bullshit. How long do you think Cyndi Lauper is going to jump in the ring and take a punch at a 280-pound wrestler, and he flies eight rows out into the seats?

"You know, there’s such a thing as insulting even an idiot’s ability to think. If you’re trying to educate suckers, you’d better make sure you have an answer for them when they wake up and find out."

After World War Two, Rogers emerged as one of wrestling’s top attractions while the nascent beam of television magnified the squared circle. "I was the first performer in the history of television, on the first thirteen-week deal out of the old Rainbow Arena in Chicago. Television was so weak back then that when it hit the Continental Divide it couldn’t get over the Rockies into the West Coast. Later on, we televised out of the Olympic Auditorium in L.A., and though it came east to Salt Lake City, it couldn’t get over to Denver.

"None of the wrestlers had any idea that T.V. was going to make wrestling so big. All of us were very anti-television at the start, because we thought we were giving away our livelihood. We all thought that people would not come to the arena to watch the matches when they could get it for free at home. And a lot of us were reluctant to—I was reluctant to sign up for the next 13 weeks. But after I got going about six or seven weeks, I’d walk into towns, and everyone would know me, whereas before only a wrestler would know me. And the longer it went on, the stronger it got."

Soon television begat the celebrated, epochal "Gorgeous George"—the vainest of them all, since, of course, he wasn’t more gorgeous than anyone. George was either a joke, or his cheapshot wins were spit in your eye. (He also launched an arsenal of alliterative names, as well as other costumed weirdos; his legacy endures today in the peroxide hairdos of countless wrestlers, like "Gorgeous Jim" Garvin, valeted by his girlfriend Precious, who sprays room deodorizer.) George’s act was not, however, popular with other wrestlers: "Gorgeous George came out with the flash," said Rogers. "And we were all ticked off at him, but see, he’d never wrestle guys like myself, or Lou Thesz, or Bobby Managoff—you know.

"George had a big fantasy world around him for around three years. Every promoter wanted him, because he could pack the house. But, see, when you put bullshit into the house, remember what’s comin’ out—it ain’t gonna be wine and roses. After three years, the bullshit waned away, and there wasn’t anything left—and guess what? They had to resort to that good old word called—‘Wrestling.’

"In the early ‘fifties the bottom fell out—the houses weren’t there. He was managed by a guy on the West Coast named Johnny Doyle, and when Doyle—see, when you got flesh-peddlers like McMahon, Crockett, guys like that, they only utilize you when you’re hot. Look at Bob Backlund—greatest example in the world. [Backlund lost the WWF title in December of 1983 when his manager, Arnold Skaaland, threw a towel into the ring in the middle of the match.] When he was hot, boy, they were for him. The minute that sucker couldn’t draw, they couldn’t grind him up fast enough. But, thank God, Bob was too smart, he didn’t go for being ground up, he walked away, said ‘I don’t need you.’ It’s good to save your recess money.

"When George went, he went altogether. His name was George Wagner, he came out of Columbus, Ohio, a little farm area. Died on the Coast. The day that he died, the next day we wrestled in Dallas, and they passed a hat around to the guys that could afford it, and we all contributed to bury him. He passed away at a bar that he once owned—he’d owned a bar, a motel, everything in this whole complex—bumming drinks from the bartender that he had once hired. True story. He died insolvent. A very sad, sad ending.

"You see, they leave out the real meaty things that the public should know about. Here’s a guy, when times were tough to make a buck, he made millions—I watched him light cigars with hundred-dollar bills—not once, several times—and I thought to myself, ‘Boy, there’ll come a day when he’ll wish he had that hundred.’ And that day came, and I lived to watch when that day came.

"We never got along. I basically admired George for the chutzpah that he had, to create what he did, but I couldn’t admire him because he was invoking this bullshit into my business, that I made a livelihood out of. In other words, ‘You build a stew, and I’m going to piss in it.’ He was pissing in my stew. I knew it couldn’t last long, in fact I was highly surprised that it lasted as long as it did."

A slender, pretty, blonde-haired woman came in to ask us if we’d like coffee. Buddy introduced his wife Debbie, whom he met twenty years ago when she was playing trumpet and trombone and leading a band he hired for his nightclub in nearby Lindenwold. "It’s hard, it’s very hard having a family. You have to be very dedicated, and well, naturally your family has to give a lot in order to make you successful. They have to relinquish a lot. By not having you around, it’s a hard situation—that’s why so many marriages don’t make it.

"You know the old saying—‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder for somebody new.’ My wife was an entertainer, she knows that the road is the road, and there’s a lot of evil on the road. But we’re at the stage of life where we—you know, I’m retired now, and I live good, Debbie lives good, my son David lives good. We’ve been through it."

I asked if he’d ever used a personal manager or business agent. "Later on, around 1947, I locked up with a guy that’s one of the most popular, or unpopular guys in wrestling, Jack Pfefer. Jack Pfefer—when he fought for you, boy he was all blood and guts. I had everyone and his brother come up to me and say, ‘Buddy, why don’t you leave that son of a bitch, he’s no good.’ My answer to them was, ‘Hey, he’s working for me, and I know he’s a son of a bitch, but remember he’s my son of a bitch.’

"He came to me. We never signed a contract, never had an ounce of ink. We shook hands. And we both lived by the sword, and we did what was right.

"See, you don’t have fidelity in this business today. And it stems from the promoters on down. The promoters are flesh-peddlers, overrated whores. You can’t go by what somebody promises, you’re only going to be utilized, and used when you’re hot. And the moment you’re not, you’d better say a prayer, and hope for something new, because they don’t warn you, they just knock it out from under you."

Rogers has a low opinion of today’s wrestlers. "Well, wrestling has changed. Like a 360-degree turn from my day. The holds that were great in my day—especially the two that I invented, the figure-four leglock and the ‘Atomic Knee Drop’—are still the most famous holds today.

"The style? It’s changed a lot—outside of the original style that I invented, like the Strut, which is used by the best in the business today, such as Ric Flair [the platinum-haired current NWA champion] and Brutus Beefcake, who stumbles through it, he looks like he has shackles on his feet when he walks." (As Rogers notes, the haughty Strut is his customary gait—straightening his knee at the top of each stride, he steps, bouncing, off the balls of each foot, like a slow-marching giant daring the ground to give way.)

I asked Rogers if he’s had any exceptionally heated encounters in the ring. "Well, yeah, Killer Kowalski and I wrestled one time in Montreal, and I had a broken leg, and I remember one time I had a broken elbow with Johnny Valentine in Washington, D.C. Oh, you don’t forget them things.

"In due time I got back to Valentine. Well, it took considerable months after, but in the rematch, he knew he had made a mistake. We were both a little scared going back into it, we respected one another—I respected the fact that he broke my arm, and I wasn’t going to let it happen again. I did feel that the first mistake he makes, I’m gonna inhale him, and he made a mistake. I put the figure-four on him, nearly broke his leg. So that was it. Now today, his son Greg Valentine uses that figure-four.

"With Kowalski—he broke my leg. The match never started. The referee gave his instructions, and I was walking to my corner, he came from behind me, kicked me in the back of the leg. I went down, he kicked me some more, and my leg was broke. I couldn’t stand, they had to take me right to the hospital. Had to refund about 15,000 seats.

"The next time—oh, I think it was a little more emphatic with him I think, yeah. When it came to that match, I think I did him in more that I did Valentine."

I asked Rogers about the Rocca-Graham riot at the Garden. "Graham? To me, he was a very highly overrated wrestler. He didn’t stand a ghost of a chance with Rocca." Rogers said he was the first in the U.S. to beat Rocca. "Rocca was the most agile, tremendously-conditioned athlete—never got tired. I would sit back and admire this guy, really I would. I’d never tell him that, but hey, you know, I’m human, but God darn, I believe in one thing, and I’ll give credit where it’s due.

"What this business lacks today is a Rocca. Agile, acrobatic—he could fly and head-scissors you from all angles, dropkick you, catch you in airplane spins. He’d just dazzle you with footwork.

"I had more riots that any one wrestler in the ‘fifties. Right here in Washington, D.C., I got knifed in the back. Remember Bobby Davis?" [For a while loudmouthed manager Bobby Davis was the "Elvis Presley of Wrestling," thanks to a faint resemblance.] "He was my road manager, Bobby Davis. I said, ‘Bobby, get that hot cigar off my back!’ He said, ‘What do you mean?’, and so he came around the other side of me, and there’s a big knife, just a wooden handle sticking out," said Rogers, pulling down the collar on his velours sweater to show the scar on his back. "I got stabbed in Mexico, St. Louis—in fact it goofed up my ulnar nerve. Well, hey, I didn’t mind fighting and riots, just so I didn’t get stabbed in the eyes and get blinded. . . . It was a lot of fun. I wouldn’t trade my life for any other athlete, for a lot of people I knew from day one. And I knew that I’d be the best at what I did, and even till this day I know that I was the best at what I did. I feel that, and no one can ever erase that thought.

"You get many acquaintances, you get few friends. You take it from Buddy, as long as you live, you’ll be able to count on one hand your friends. And all the hair you have on your head, you’ll get that many acquaintances, but on one hand, you can point out friends. You think of Buddy Rogers when you say that."

After we chatted about the Super Bowl, Rogers said that wrestling had once been as talked-about as football. "You know, a man’ll come up to me and say, ‘Buddy, how much of this wrestling’s a fake?’ Well, rather than get disturbed with him, or what the hell—I’ll admit, their intelligence is being played with every time you watch some of this garbage—I’ll tell him, ‘Wrestling isn’t a fake today, it’s a lost art.’"

How did he get the nickname "Nature Boy"?

"I’d just come from Texas this particular time. This was 1949, and they wanted me to wrestle on the Coast, and I was living on Galveston Beach, fifty miles south of Houston. And any time you’d see me, I was dark brown; I always wore a white chenille robe, you know, and when I opened up my robe—it was right about this time that Nat King Cole brought out the song, ‘Nature Boy’—everybody in the audience started to scream, ‘Nature Boy!’ And that little friend of mine, Jack Pfefer, says, when we got back to the dressing room, ‘Did you hear what them people were calling you?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ He says, ‘We got a new name, we’re gonna keep it.’"

We talked about the growth of wrestling in the ‘fifties, and Rogers told of how Rocca came to the U.S. Now, according to "Antonino the Great," a profile of Rocca written for Esquire in 1959 by Robert O’Brien, Rocca was discovered in Europe by a wrestler named Kola Kwariani, who took the Argentinian to South America, where he impressed Toots Mondt and Primo Carnera one night in Rio De Janeiro. Then, "Mondt and Kwariani arranged a co-managership deal," writes O’Brien. "Two months later Rocca and Kwariani came to New York and Antonino made his North American debut at Ridgewood Grove in Brooklyn."

But Rogers remembers that "the guy that brought Rocca to the United States was Nick Elitch. And he brought him into Dallas, Texas his very first match. I was in the main event that night, and Karl Sarpolis, the promoter there, tells me, ‘Buddy, I want you to watch this guy. Nick Elitch tells me he’s the eighth wonder of the world.’ I said, ‘Good, man, maybe I’ll learn something from him.’

"Well, that night he wrestled the third match, with a guy named Al Lovelock. When he climbed into the ring—well, right to this day, I must admit I’ve never seen anything like it, since, or now, or then, or what have you. He was phenomenal, and Sarpolis said, ‘I oughta sign this guy up for a contract, but you know, Nick’s got him, and I don’t want to sign him away from Nick.’

"So finally Nick gets a booking to bring Rocca out to Los Angeles. The word that night had spread like wildfire about this guy. And Johnny Doyle, who was Gorgeous George’s manager, booked him out there, and as luck would have it, Doyle calls up Toots Mondt and tells him about Rocca.

"I guess Elitch died in the corner somewhere. They should have taken Nick and said, ‘Look, we’ll keep you as road manager.’ But instead, they brought him to New York and they made Kola Kwariani his road manager.

"I’ve never seen anything like him. Never seen a guy leap up, give you a flying kick—ride you through the air, do a handstand in front of you, click his feet together, and kick you. Man, he did some ungodly things—dropkick a guy, and you went down, and as you were getting up, he’d go around behind you, leap up on your shoulders, head-scissors you front-face, dive and throw his body out, and then wheel you through the air. That Al Lovelock thought his ass was in some kind of boxing-glove factory or something. He was just one big windmill."

(To be concluded in The WAWLI Papers No. 443)

The WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.  443


Buddy Rogers remembers two fatal incidents in the ring: "One was Ala Pasha, I don’t know if you ever heard of him, he got killed in Pittsburgh, and the other guy was Johnny Hajak, in Columbus, Ohio. . . . Well, with Hajak, there I know he was trying his best and missed a drop-kick. Went over the top rope, landed on his neck on the outside, on the cement floor. That ten-foot drop did it.

"I don’t know if he died instantly, but he was dead on arrival in the dressing room. That’s where I was. I tell you, it dampened the whole night. It killed the night, that was the second match. Everyone on the card—no one could get enthused, couldn’t care less. There were people in there getting sick, to where they’d throw up just thinking about it. It just killed the whole night."

A few minutes later, I thanked Buddy and wished him a happy birthday. Walking across the driveway, we spotted a furry little caterpillar, roused by the premature thaw, creeping over the asphalt. "There’s a sure sign of spring. But he won’t get very far," said Rogers, lifting his foot and squashing the worm beneath the sole of his patent-leather ankle-boot.

"I guess I’ll always be a wrestler," chuckled Rogers, as he scraped the slime off his shoe. "If I ever write a book, that’s what I’ll call it—‘I’ll Always Be A Wrestler.’"


By J Michael Kenyon

As promised when this serialized article began appearing in The WAWLI Papers, we now turn our attention to a critical analysis of the lengthy piece, entitled ‘Sleeper Hold,’ by Raphael (Ray) Tennenbaum, which you may locate for yourself on the World Wide Web at the author’s page. It is said to include a variety of other work by him (unluckily, I have had difficulty accessing the site).

First of all, he gets a big "A" for an outstanding effort. To attempt to meld contemporary wrestling description, as Tennenbaum did in this 1985 narrative, with a reasonably comprehensive study of pro wrestling history, is no easy task, for the simple fact that the game’s history is not easily revealed, save for first-person accounts—and then accuracy is often sacrificed to subjective memory.

The interviews with Roy Shire and Buddy Rogers, two of the great performers of the early television days, serve as solid anchors to "Sleeper Hold." Both were arrogant inside—and outside—the ring, but knew their stuff with regard to what it took to stoke the passions of mat fans. Rogers’ comments about what Vince McMahon—then just unleashing his WWF vision of global domination—was doing, and where it was heading, are particularly interesting today as the cable TV-inspired boom shows no signs of relenting in ratings and fan appeal.

The author takes most of what Marcus Griffin said in "Fall Guys" as gospel, and thus errs. To characterize Jim Londos as a lousy wrestler, as Griffin did in no uncertain terms, is a disservice to the Londos memory. Londos may have been ego-driven, and not eager in his halcyon days to share the limelight, but contemporary accounts generally credit him with being a more-than-pretty fair hand on the mat. He certainly earned his spurs in early-career bouts with all the legendary figures, from Stecher to Lewis to the Zbyszkos to Pesek, etc. He did, as Griffin related and Tennenbaum re-asserted, participate in a lot of tank-town shenanigans that resulted in several dices with local authorities. But the practice of cross-roading, at which he was apparently fairly adept, was fairly commonplace in the early days of the century. The legendary Frank Gotch himself was a practiced master at the art.

The anti-WWF bias of David Meltzer, another major source for the article, echoes through the narrative. But Meltzer was, and is, the primary source for writers trying to get a cram course in what the wrestling business is all about. Meltzer, like so many of us when McMahon "Junior" began turning the game into some sort of cartoon repertory theater, was aghast at what was happening to the oldtime, weekly promotions all over North America as they were ground under by the television blitz of Titan Sports.

But Rogers’ prediction of where it would lead has not—at least yet—come to pass. The prevailing view these days was voiced to WAWLI a few weeks ago when Red Bastien, who gained fame working for the senior Vince McMahon and in later years did a few road manager stints for the 1980s version of WWF, said:

"He was right. We were wrong. It’s all about the money. And nobody has ever made money in this business like Titan has."

Hard as it is to argue with financial success, and the jammed-to-capacity arenas from coast to coast, we WAWLI advocates still can fondly remember the way crowds used to be generated. Shire’s recapitulation of how he launched his Bay Area promotion, built around huge houses at San Francisco’s Cow Palace, is an important testimony to those times, now nearly 40 years distant.

Tennenbaum, in his crash course, had difficulty getting the names and their spellings straight. David Shults was "Schultz" throughout the original piece, and Mitsu Arakawa was "Arikawa." Those were corrected for reprint in WAWLI, as was the oft-confused "Rhode" for "Rohde," as in Buddy Rogers’ given name. Karl Sarpolis, the oldtime wrestler-booker-promoter, was "Carl Scarpolis" in the original, also changed.

How he turned Antonio Inoki into "Inoko Aoki" is, well, one for the dyslectics to ponder.

Ivan Koloff (Red McNulty) was the "Russian Bear." George Hackenschmidt was the "Russian Lion."

Tex Rickard promoted precious few, if any, dates for Jack Dempsey in Madison Square Garden (Dempsey’s blockbuster title fights in the early ‘20s were outdoors, generally in a ballpark). And Billy Sandow, Ed Lewis and Joe Mondt did not wait until the "late ‘20s" to begin working their promotional magic. They were in full swing nearer to the beginning of the decade. Gus Sonnenberg became champion in 1929, not 1928, and Jess McMahon was a Madison Square Garden matchmaker at the second, not the first, MSG. But those, of course, are niggling matters, as is dating the National Wrestling Alliance from 1949, instead of the correct date, 1948.

Dating the John L. Sullivan-William Muldoon clash in 1876 may just be a typo. The historic "mixed match" took place a decade later.

Thanks to Rogers’ memory, we get further perspective on the genius and perspicacity of the relentless Jack Pfefer, and how "Nature Boy" came to be part of wrestling history, and the seldom-mentioned role of Nick Elitch in luring Antonino Rocca to the States, even though Tennenbaum also repeats the widely believed story that Rocca first went to New York. His initial success was in the Morris Sigel-operated Houston-East Texas territory, a full year or more before his ring magic revived the wrestling game in the Eastern mat centers.

Rogers’ dislike of Gorgeous George is evident, but it is silly to assert that GG "refused" to wrestle top names like Rogers, Thesz, etc. He had countless bouts with Thesz, in fact, and some very good ones. Rogers, who could not wrestle his way out of a phone booth, might have been jealous of George’s ring talent. And George Wagner did not come from Columbus, Ohio—it was Columbus, all right, but the one in Nebraska, before he grew to his maturity in Houston.

The other source materials for the article were the fanzines, which are mentioned in passing, and any number of old New York Times clippings and magazine articles, which the author likely tracked down during his research. Commendably, he found a good many of the more interesting pieces devoted to the game back in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s.

Other, minor and mostly just annoying errors detract from the piece. For instance, to state that, in 1985, wrestling "season" runs from November to mid-April is foolishness. From the 1930s on, pro wrestling promotions were almost all run on a year-round basis.

To parrot Rogers’ claim that he won his "first 47 matches" is silly, at best, and noone—so far as I know—has ever yet tracked down the so-called meeting between the young Herman Rohde and the aging Ed (Strangler) Lewis that is mentioned. The paths of the two did, of course, cross during the WWII years, when the roly-poly Lewis, half-blind, was helping keep the game alive after coming back from his 1937 "retirement." And Rogers’ critical words about Lewis, voiced to Thesz—a protege of Lewis—led to a Thesz-Rogers coolness that lasted some 40 years.

Tennenbaum’s analysis of promotional strategies is flawed in spots, but fairly interesting for a novice opinion. Shire and Rogers, again, give considerable credence and authority to those sections of the story.

Perhaps the most astounding nugget in the entire article, to this reader, was Vince McMahon’s alleged spurning of Andy Kaufman’s early 1980s entreaties. He may even have said it, at the time, but to hear that McMahon thought what Kaufman was doing "had no place in professional wrestling" is irony at its most explosive. McMahon is a man who, obviously, thinks EVERYTHING has a place in professional wrestling.

A regret: As long as he went to the trouble of mentioning the two incidents, Tennenbaum might have elaborated on the strange, strange goings-on between Jimmy Snuka and Nancy Argintino (most contemporary accounts, including the wire services, spelled her name "Argentina"). Those, and the preposterous incident where Ken Patera and Mr. Saito flung a boulder through the window of a McDonald’s restaurant, are two of my favorite examples of wrestlers’ excessive, "real life" behavior.

In fact, from his description of David Shults’ slapping of John Stossel (effectively ending the career of the former and enhancing that of the latter) to the observations of Buddy Rogers strutting through a New Jersey restaurant parking lot at age 64, Tennenbaum is all around the fascinating subject of how wrestlers, from the time the business became a full hippodrome, have often been unable to separate their ring personas from their "real" identities. But he—and no one else within my knowledge—has not written at any length on what easily could provide a valuable addition to the scholarship of wrestling history.

The important thing, with regard to ‘Sleeper Hold,’ is that it is a good read—and, mostly, on target. I trust that WAWLI members enjoyed it as much as I did.

(The Tennenbaum web site URL:


(Sacramento Bee, Monday, March 1, 1999)

By J. Freedom du Lac

Where there’s smoke, there’s ire. "(Expletive) you, Goldberg," an outraged onlooker screams as a mountainous man marches across the Arco Arena floor, his taut, titanic, tights-clad frame becoming shrouded by flashpot-produced smoke. "Why don’t you just go to (expletive) hell? I (expletive) hate you!"

But the anonymous agent of anger appears to be in the minority:

As Bill Goldberg enters the 20-by-20-foot wrestling ring, he’s greeted by a roof-rattling ovation. No surprise, given Goldberg is among the most popular players in the newly revived arena of professional wrestling, that soap opera-as-sport that has America in a cultural chokehold.

Though these days you won’t find any wrestlers as large, literally, as Andre the Giant—the late, great grappler whose extra-extra-wide shoulders helped carry pro wrestling to great heights in the ‘80s—the semi-sport is now bigger and definitely badder than ever.

Nearly 40 million cable TV viewers tune in weekly to see menacing, muscular men trade high-volume trash talk and smack, kick and throw each other around; usually, these athletic, animated, agitated lords of the ring are engaged in ongoing melodramatic disputes that seem inspired by "Jerry Springer" or "Melrose Place."

To add further intrigue to this conflict-centered, mega-monied world, the two rival organizations—the World Wrestling Federation and the upstart World Championship Wrestling—do weekly battle themselves, going head to head on Monday nights with their premiere programs, WWF’s "Raw Is War" on the USA Network and "WCW Monday Nitro Live!" on TNT.

Each show is generally seen in between 2.5 and 5 million households. Hardly "E.R."-like numbers, for sure, yet six of the top seven shows in the weekly cable ratings are typically wrestling programs, with the WWF and WCW regularly trading places on the top ratings rope.

The sport is hot on other fronts, too.

The third volume of "WWF: The Music" wound up at No. 10 on this week’s Billboard album chart, having sold more than the latest LPs from Shania Twain, Will Smith and the Backstreet Boys.

Some 17,000 fans also packed Arco for last week’s standing-room-only installment of "WCW Monday Nitro Live!" And they didn’t just pay for tickets, which cost between $15 and $50 each; they also spent an average of $10 on merchandise during the show—despite the fact that most arrived already sporting league-licensed T-shirts and hats.

"You do the math," says Alan Sharp, the director of public relations for WCW. "It’s quite a bit of money."

In the usually over-the-top world of wrestling, this might actually qualify as an understatement, because between all the merchandising, advertising revenue, ticket sales, pay-per-view profits and the like, wrestling is now a booming business worth well over $1 billion annually.

Of course, critics say it’s also a business whose recent success is either a sign that the societal apocalypse is now upon us, or that we should at least be very, very afraid about the well-being of America’s future.

Child psychologists, for instance—noting that as much as one-third of the sport’s audience is under the age of 18 -- have voiced repeated concerns that all the profanity, vulgarity, overt sexuality and violence found between the two leading leagues is having a harmful effect on adolescents.

To Leon Lee, though, it’s all entertainment—and, he says, "all good."

Lee is standing outside Arco with his four adolescent sons, smoking a cigarette before making the post-"Nitro" drive home to the Pocket. He is wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Goldberg’s growling likeness and the winning wrestler’s famous phrase, "Who’s Next?"

One of his boys is wearing a mask that mimics the face paint of the mysterious WCW wrestler Sting. Another is sporting a Sting shirt that’s so big it looks like a nightgown. A third son is wearing a Goldberg shirt, just like dad’s.

"It’s all in fun," says Lee, who is 41 and a fan of both WCW and the WWF. "I like the characters and the drama—their stories. And these guys are all talented athletes. It’s fun to watch them fly around."

But what of his children, who are between the ages of 6 and 16? Should they also be watching all the furious flying, middle-finger flipping, crotch grabbing and tasteless trash talking?

"It’s nothing they wouldn’t see anywhere else on TV or in video games," Lee says. "And they know they shouldn’t act like that. My boys know it’s all acting. They know it’s not real. We all know it’s not real."

Which is exactly what the wrestling community now says, too.

During the mid-80s—when the WWF enjoyed a surge in popularity thanks to the advent of cable, the marketing savvy of second-generation league owner Vince McMahon, and the larger-than-life personas created by and for Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan—the wrestling world generally insisted their sport was real.

But after having seen wrestling’s popularity plummet in the first half of this decade amid steroid and sexual harassment scandals, and with the reality angle having been pile-driven to oblivion by various television and magazine exposes, promoters and athletes alike readily admit now the story lines are scripted, the victors predetermined—in part so they can pass off their product as viable family entertainment rather than sinister sport.

Just don’t call it "fake." Otherwise, you may find yourself on the receiving end of a Jackhammer, Stone Cold Stunner, Diamond Cutter, Scorpion Death Lock or some other fantastically named finishing move, the individualistic likes of which winning wrestlers apply to their hapless opponents at the end of their matches.

"I’m here to tell you that there’s nothing about this sport that is fake," Goldberg says. "Predetermined, yes. Fake, no."

Goldberg’s famous, fresh-shaven forehead features a nasty scar, acquired during a January pay-per-view match when he had his head bashed into a set of metal stairs by Scott Hall. The injury required a dozen stitches.

"We’re not fake sports; we’re real entertainment," says Eric Bischoff, who runs WCW. "It’s a very, very physical business, but it is entertainment."

The WWF’s McMahon even goes so far as to say his organization "is not about wrestling," instead referring to the popular product as "action-adventure." It is, he says, "a hybrid of just about everything there is on television today," with "elements of sitcom," "a little dash of "Springer,’" "some spare parts from the "Roadrunner’ cartoon" and "a plot line stolen—or borrowed, if you would—from "One Life To Live.’"

And as if we hadn’t noticed, he adds: "Everything we do is so over the top."

This actually differentiates the WWF from WCW.

Though the rival leagues likely seem strikingly similar to outsiders—like a bunch of large men with even larger mouths mauling each other both verbally and physically—each is distinct.

They’re defined by their story lines, which revolve around wrestler-to-wrestler relationships that dissolve amid Caesar- and Brutus-like brouhahas and league-threatening rebel factions, including the nWo (New World Order) and D-Generation X.

Increasingly, they’re also defined by the invisible boundaries of taste that they will (WWF) or won’t (WCW) cross.

If WCW is Playboy, then the WWF is Hustler—the raunchier, crasser-than-thou take on what surely seems like an inherently tasteless, tawdry product to begin with.

The WWF is, after all, the organization whose stable of characters includes a pimp (The Godfather) and a former porn star (Val Venis). Its stories have featured racist plot twists, a simulated castration and even a mock crucifixion of its top star, Stone Cold Steve Austin.

No wonder, then, that Jerry Falwell has observed that the anti-Christ is running wild in the WWF, the same league that gave us Minnesota’s governor.

But as Bob Ryder points out, WCW is hardly beyond reproach. Case in point: The lascivious lyrics recited by Big Poppa Pump Scott Steiner during the "Nitro" proceedings at Arco.

"I don’t like a lot of the WWF’s adult-oriented stuff," says Ryder, whose popular Web site covers both companies. "I don’t see the point in the bondage scenes and sexual stuff; I don’t see where it stimulates interest in wrestling. But there’s some stuff in WCW I don’t like, either."

What Ryder does like about WCW is its greater emphasis on actual wrestling, as evidenced during the action-packed Arco event, which features an atypically happy ending.

Good guys may no longer regularly rule the wrestling roost as they did in the ‘80s, when Hulk Hogan rode the role of Golden Boy to the top of the grappling world, but on this particular night, good (Goldberg) actually prevails over bad (Steiner).

This delights the devotees of Goldberg, the hulking hero of the people—and riles his hate-filled heckler.

"(Expletive) you, Goldberg," the infuriated fan in black seethes.

Suddenly, another onlooker gets in the mad man’s face.

"Goldberg is God," he says, wearing a serious look. "Who’s next? Who’s next? You?"

Instead of taking it to the ring, though, the two fans give each other high fives.

It seems almost ... unreal.

The WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.  444


(Ring Magazine, January, 1930)

By Bill Brown

Wrestling has had many quaint characters, among its stars, but it is doubtful if ever there appeared a mat artist in the public eye who was more picturesque and colorful than the giant Yousouf, known as the Terrible Turk. Of all the great athletes whose names have been carved in the Hall of Fame, there never was a fellow who stood out so prominently in his chosen field and did less training than did Yousouf. A physical giant, six feet 1-2 inch tall and weighing 250 pounds, he had an obtrusive paunch and his muscular development was hidden by several layers of fat. Yet he stood forth as one of the toughest of modern grapplers.

Many stories are told of the amount of food this Turk consumed at each meal. In his case, particularly, if these stories are taken at their face value, the term pachyderm fitted the subject. His appetite was terrifying. Jack Curley, wrestling impressario who has lived in the midst of these foreign matmen for more than thirty years, once had Yousouf as his guest, and Jack often tells how this wrestler who lived on an elephant’s meal, on the morning of his arrival, devoured four loaves of bread, nine eggs, three portions of oatmeal, and topped this with five cups of strong, black Turkish coffee.

Curley then and there decided it would be far safer to place Yousouf at a hotel and he accordingly put him up in a Twenty-ninth street rooming house in New York City and there the Turk almost wrecked the culinary department at his very first dinner.

As for training, well, that wasn’t in the Turk’s daily routine. He trained on food. Eating, drinking the finest wines and smoking the strongest of Turkish tobacco, were his three hobbies.

Yousouf came to America in 1898, and on his return trip, went to death on the ill-fated French liner La Bourgogne, which foundered in mid-ocean in Septembger of that same year. One story as to his death was that he changed all his American notes into gold coin which he put into a belt and fastened it about his waist. Also that but for the weight of the coins, he might have survived the wreck.

This is very unlikely as no passengers were saved. In any event a few pounds about the waist of so powerful an athlete as Yousouf would not have endangered him if he had any chance to escape a watery grave.

As to his championship satus, he unquestionably held the Turkish title, and he made a gallant effort to annex the American Graeco-Roman honors, held at the time by Ernest Roeber but failed. The Turk and Roeber met twice, once in Old Madison Square Garden and once in the Metropolitan Opera House, the home of classical music. Roeber at that time was one of Bob Fitzsimmons’ staff of trainers, and had more than a passing knowledge of hit, stop and get away tactics.

In his preliminary matches in America, the Turk exhibited such wonderful strength and aggressiveness as to scare off nearly all the grapplers except Roeber. Nevertheless Roeber showed when he faced Yousouf in Madison Square Garden that he had the greatest respect for the Constantinople athlete who also was the Sultan’s favorite.

Therefore in the opening skirmishes in the Garden ring, Roeber was extremely cautious and was inclined to try out his opponent before going to grips with him. Incidentally Roeber playfully sent over a few jabs that he used in Fitz’s training camp, which had the effect of maddening the Turk.

Finally, after failing to get a clutch on Roeber, Yousouf stopped in the center of the ring and motioned with his hand for Roeber to step forward and be more sociable. This put the American champion on the defensive and he advanced towards the Turk.

Yousouf had a hand about the size of sugar cured ham, and when Roeber got close enough, the Turk shot his right with open palm against the American’s breast bone. The impact sent Roeber careening through the ring ropes and to the floor six feet below. Roeber’s back was sprained and he was carted away in an ambulance. His only consolation was that he got the decision of the referee on a foul.

The second match, which took place in the Manhattan Opera House where De Reszke, and other song birds were wont to warble, was even more unsatisfactory than the first, and broke up in a battle royal. As a plain matter of fact, there was no wrestling at all, both men resorting to pugilistic methods. Roeber had the better of the exchanges and the Turk became furious.

The match had become a rough and tumble fight, when Fitz, Martin Julian, Bill Brady, the Turk’s manager, and a dozen others jumped into the ring and stopped the battle. That was the Turk’s final appearance in America, as he sailed on the Bourgogne shortly afterward.

However, the most interesting contest engaged in by Yousouf was his meeting with Evan Lewis, known and feared for his use of the strange hold. He was known as the Original Strangler. This bout took place in Chicago, previous to the New York contests, and the followers of wrestling were on tip toe as to what the Turk would do in the event Lewis got his famous strangle hold at work. Fortunately for Yousouf, he had no observable neck, his head being so close to his chest there was no apparent chance for a throat hold.

This baffled the Strangler, who was soon on the defensive. But the Turk had no intention of trying for a strangle hold. He knew a much better one, that he had used in his dear Constantinople. It was the ankle hold, and he managed to get a clutch on Lewis’ ankle quite early in the fray. Lewis feared the Sultan[s favorite was about to twist the ankle, but that was far from the fact.

Jack Curley, the promoter, witnessed the Chicago battle, and said:

"As soon as Yousouf got a good clutch on Lewis’ ankle he began to swing about in a circle and gradually the Strangler’s body was free of the floor and swinging like a windmill. Faster and faster whirled the Turk, until Lewis’ body was performing a merry-go-round. When Yousouf decided that Lewis had had sufficient swinging, he was dropped to the floor and lay there in a daze. Lewis was not fit for any more wrestling then, and was dizzy for two weeks afterward.

It has always been a puzzle how Yousouf retained his terrible physical powers in view of his health destroying eating habits. Prof. Sargent, Harvard’s physical education professor, tried to solve the mystery, but failed. There never was a wrestler, boxer or any other athlete who could have succeeded in the Turk’s footsteps, and maintained his strength under similar conditions.

Yousouf while in America was managed by Bill Brady, the theatrical producer. It was shortly after his arrival that Brady obtained a match for the Terrible One in Buffalo and before he left with the Turk and his trainer Brady issued orders that Yousouf’s baggage should not be brought along. When Yousouf arrived at Buffalo the day after Brady reached the city as advance agent, one of the trainers emerged from the car with a big bag on his back.

Brady took one look at the trainer, scowled and then, advancing threateningly towards him, shouted:

"Didn’t I tell you not to bring his baggage with you?"

"Sure," replied the trainer. "And I obeyed your orders."

"You did, eh?" snapped back Brady. "Well, what’s that on your back?"

"Oh," answered the trainer with a broad grin decorating his features, "that, Mr. Brady, is the Turk’s food."

A few days after his match, Brady sent the Turk to Staten Island to train for a bout with the Horrible Greek in Madison Square Garden. Tom Sharkey and Tim McGrath, famous Western trainer and fight manager, were on the spot at the time, and Brady asked Tom to help put the Turk in trim. Tom, it will be remembered, was not only a powerful figthter, who at one time was good enough to go 25 rounds with champion Jim Jeffries, but was quite skillful as a wrestler.

Having heard so much about the Terrible Turk, Sharkey asked McGrath and Brady to let him take the Turk on in a mixed bout but Yousouf would have none of that. Sharkey, still confident he could whip the Turk, then decided to take him on in a friendly wrestling bout in which, he informed his pals, he would cross Yousouf and knock him cold.

They got on the mat and Sharkey maneuvered for a position. The Turk followed him like a cat after a mouse and suddenly leaped from the center of the ring, grabbed Sharkey about the neck and with his powerful hand, squeezed it so that Sailor Tom was almost choked. Tim McGrath leaped forward, tackled the Turk, and pushed him off the almost prostrate form of Sharkey. Tom was blue in the face and might have been seriously hurt had not McGrath come to his rescue.

For strength, there probably never was a wrestler to equal Mohammed Yousouf, the Terrible Turk.


(Chicago Tribune, Monday, March 16, 1931)

Jim Londos, holder of one of the myriad world’s heavyweight wrestling championships, is really going to risk his particularly championship when he meets Kola Kwariani, the hairless Russian, in a finish match at the Coliseum on Wednesday night.

Doc Krone, himself, is authority for the statement. In fact, Doc goes farther and admits that not only is the champion’s crown in peril but also his "beautiful $10,000 diamond-studded belt, presented to him by the Madison Square Garden and 600 Millionaires Club of New York after he had defeated Jim McMillen at the Madison Square Garden at a gate which totaled over $60,000, Jan. 24, 1931, which has to be won three times in order to be retained."

And Doc Krone ought to know if anybody does, because Doc, as is doubtless known, is the impresario who directs the histrionic exhibition in which Mr. Londos and Mr. Kwariani will engage. Of course, you understand, the doctor does not intend to imply that the outcome of the match is preordained.

In fact, he was very indignant when such a possibility was even hinted at in an interview last evening. The doctor, whose chief claim to fame is a remarkable dietary achievement in which he removed an inordinate number of pounds from his well cushioned person in an inordinately short space of time, waddled into the sports department of The Tribune—as he not infrequently does on the eve of one of his athletic masterpieces—to let the world know what was impending.

His rubicund face was beaming above the sympathetically sombre vestments of the well-to-do mortician which he affects and with his bowler hat perched jauntily over one eyebrow, he seemed to have stepped out of a page of Dickens.

"Well, I"ve got a bunch of my boys going to drop in on me next Wednesday night," he started. "You’ve no idea -----"

"Who’s going to win, Doc?" some one inquired. "Whose turn is it?"

A cloud of ineffable sorrow drove the perennial sunshine from the doctor’s countenance and he turned a pityingly sad eye upon the iconoclast.

"I wish you wouldn’t talk that way," he said. "It’s fellows like you who in the past have cast suspicion over one of the noblest and most ancient of all sports. Why do you suppose for a moment that if there were the least thing wrong with wrestling that Jim Londos could draw the crowds that he does?

"Why, Jim Londos is the greatest drawing card of sportdom of all time. Night after night he draws gates of $50,000 or more. Not even Jack Dempsey could do that. Dempsey drew million-dollar gates, yes. But how often? How often, I repeat. Five times in seven years! Think of that, only five times in seven years, and Londos wrestles several times a week to capacity houses.

"Now, about who’s going to win," he returned to his subject, having disposed of the scoffer. "Kola Doroshenko Kwariani is a colorful Russian and is the finest looking athlete ever to have invaded this country from Europe. Fine looking from the tips of his toes to his classic brow, but his head is bald and is as smooth as a proverbial billard ball. This terrible condition was his heritage from the world war, in which he, like the other young men of Russia, participated in."

The "heritage from the world war," it seemed from Doc’s exposition, will go a long way toward transplanting the heavyweight crown from Londos’ noble brow to Kwariani’s glistening pate, but he neglected to make clear just what part this difference in hirsute adornment will play in Wednesday’s match.

"However, don’t think that Lonndos won’t be at his best," the doctor hastened to add. "He will. He will be struggling at his utmost to retain the beautiful $10,000 diamond-studded belt presented to him by the Madison Square Garden and the 600 Millionaires Club of New York after he had defeated Jim McMillen at the Madison Square Garden at a gate which totaled -------

"But I believe I mentioned that before, and I am not here to ballyhoo. It is only in the interest of developing America’s manhood that I come. I only want to let the public know that it can see the perfect athlete, the Greek Adonis, at the Coliseum Wednesday night—and don’t neglect to mention the supporting card.

"And," he shouted back as he took himself out the door, "be sure and make it ‘Greek Adonis.’"

The doctor’s solicitude about the Hellenic appelation arises, not as one might suspect, out of a desire to impress upon Londos’ fellow countrymen the fact that he is a native of Greece, but merely to prevent the public from confusing him with that Roman Adonis whose celebrated affair with Venus might give rise to scandalous gossip, involving Mr. Londos in an affair, with which, it is needless to say, he had not even a remote connection.


(Chicago Tribune, Thursday, March 19, 1931)

Jimmy Londos last night successfully defended his world’s heavyweight wrestling championship at the Coliseum before a crowd of 6,500 by defeating Kola Kwariani, Russian, who retired from the match after one fall with a fractured shoulder. The finish came after 1 hour 24 minutes and 54 seconds.

Londos, attempting an airplane spin, tossed his rival over the ropes and Kola landed on his head and shoulders on the cement floor. He was badly dazed, but his seconds shoved him back into the ring. Jim rushed him to the ropes, picked him up for another whirl, and dashed him to the mat for the fall.

Kwariani was almost unconscious and lay on the canvas for several minutes, while the crowd stormed around the ring hotting at Londos. An examination by a commission physician disclosed that Kwarian’s left shoulder was fractured.

In the semi-windup Frank Brunovicz, Polish star, tossed Hans Bauer of Germany in 21:46 after eight headlocks and a body slam. Rudy Dusek, a rough and tumble heavyweight from Omaha, strained his best, but was held to a 30-minute draw by Mike Romano, Italian grappler.

Karl Pojello, Chicago Lithuanian, disposed of Marshall Blackstock, Atlanta, Ga., in 8:32 with a series of headlocks and a body slam. The match was rough all the way. In the opening match, Jack Smith, Chicago heavyweight, made his professional debut by defeating Rudy LaDitzi, Hungarian strong man, in 6:57. Smith used a series of headlocks to turn the trick.


(Los Angeles Times, Thursday, December 9, 1943)

Jim Londos, in a scientific struggle, and Wild Red Berry, in a bloody brawl, both clung to their world wrestling championships in a charity show before 8,500 last night at the Olympic Auditorium.

Londos and Frank Sexton, California champ, battled to a one-hour draw for the heavyweight crown. Neither scored a fall. Old Jim was too smart for his foe.

Quite contrary to the final bout, Berry and Danny McShain fought bitterly for the light-heavyweight title in a struggle of flying fists. McShain, former champ of this division, was flowing blood as the bout ended.

Berry took the first and third falls, both with key locks, and McShain snatched the second with a step-over toe hold.

El Diablo, subbing for K.O. Koverly, defeated Vic Christy with a step-over toe hold in 13m. 17s.

Tony Morelli applied a body press to pin Ted Tourtas, taking Kenny Ackles’ place, in 12m. 25s.

The two opening bouts were dead heats. Rube Wright drew in 30 minutes with Sandor Szabo and Tiger Tasakoff grappled to a 20-minute deadlock with Billy Weidner.

The WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.  445


(Chicago Tribune, Thursday, February 19, 1931)

By Charles Barlett

Jim Londos, the It man of wrestling, underwent several embarrassing moments at the Coliseum last night, but physical culture and personal magnetism finally won out, and he subdued George Zaharias, a rambunctious youth from Pueblo, Colo., in two straight falls of the feature act of Dr. John Krone’s production.

Londos’ victory gave him a two-thirds claim on the $7,500 diamond championship belt which the Millionaires’ club of Madison Square Garden, overcome by his defeat of Jim McMillen, recently presented to him. Another victory and it’s all his.

Pat O’Shocker, Kola Kwariani, and Hans Steinke also won their matches, but the box office, as Dr. Krone predicted, scored the most sweeping victory of the evening. A crowd of 9,000, a majority of them countrymen of the two Greeks in the principal match, paid $15,000 to witness the performance.

The Zaharias boy, wearing an adult scowl for one so young, revealed hitherto unadvertised talents as a boxer and football player. Within the 49 minutes and 3 seconds required to attain the first fall, he displayed a left hook which seemed to irritate Londos considerably and caused referee Emil Thiry to wag a reproachful finger at George several times.

He sprawled Londos on his back with an efficient headlock in that first fall, but his main contribution to the evening’s entertainment was a flying lunge similar to that used by a football tackle taking out an opposing end. It took Londos and referee Thiry about fifteen minutes to solve this maneuver, but both managed to stay out of his way.

The two boys appeared to be exchanging words in Greek throughout the match, but since Dr. Krone’s interpreting staff was absent, it will be impossible to set down the nature or temperature of their remarks. At one time George seemed to be laboring under the delusion that Jim hadn’t become acquainted with the Illinois boxing commission and twice attempted to complete the introduction by spinning Londos out of the ring. Only the ropes prevented Jim from landing in the respective laps of Gen. John Clinnin, George Getz and Fred Gardner.

Londos tried several times to dispose of George via his airplane spin, but George refused to go along, springing up from a series of those flying headlocks with the football lunge and confusing Jim no end. Londos finally persuaded the stubborn young man to hold still with a reverse body hold.

George was very meek after the intermission, however, and a headlock preceded by the airplane spin sufficed to eliminate him in 59 seconds.

The younger element in the audience who wish to grow up and be wrestlers given thirty minutes’ instruction on how to be a wrestler, with gestures, by Profs. Karl Pojello and Frank Brunovicz. Both displayed a very comprehensive repertoire of holds, grimaces, and whinnyings, but couldn’t come to a decision, so referee Thiry called it a draw.

Pat O’Shocker, a redheaded party from Salt Lake City, defeated Jack Roller of St. Louis with a headlock in 10 minutes and 40 seconds.

Kola Kwariani, the baldish Russian, caused Rudy LaDitzi of Hungary to register agony with a headlock in 13 minutes and 11 seconds.

Hans Steinke, the German edition of Carnera, received a pleasant surprise after he had attended to Billy Evans of Oklahoma with a reverse body hold in 2 minutes and 39 seconds. Hans had made his little bow and was preparing to leave the ring when announcer Al Smith thrust a bundle of posies into his big paws. Hans fingered them somewhat gingerly until Smith informed him they were from his friends in the Schwaben club.


(Chicago Tribune, Thursday, March 19, 1931)

By Westbrook Pegler

NEW YORK, March 18 (Special) -- Amid so many depressing reports of financial mishaps in the prize fight trade, including the double flop in Miami and the unhappy results of Max Schmeling’s exhibition tour, it is refreshing to hear from Mr. Jack Curley that the wrestlers of his herd and his little group of serious tennis players have drawn more than $400,000 during the winter.

Mr. Curley produced 14 contests or exhibitions in New York, pairing and cross-pairing the members of his own herd without once going outside the fold for talent, and the winter has been for him a season of successive happy surprises. Jim Londos, the champion of his firm, in his first appearance in the Garden, established a new high for a championship wrestling bout indoors -- $37,000 -- and continued to establish new highs at each of four subsequent appearances, finally reaching the resounding figure of $61,000, at which point the Garden turnstiles, no longer accustomed to such pressure, had to be packed in ice.

The recent foolishness between Jim McMillen, the former Illinois football player, who ranks at first vice champion of the Curley herd, and Sandor Szabo, a conscientious underling in the firm, drew $26,000, and Mr. Curley, who would not misrepresent things, states that this figure also constituted a new high, being the record for a nonchampionship bout indoors.

The gross takings from six shows at the Garden were $268,000 and beyond this there were the receipts of eight comparatively modest operas at the (71st Regiment) Armory, in town, and the house royalty on the other appearances of Mr. Curley’s wrestlers under lease to promoters in other cities.

The proprietors of the Sandow-Bowser herd, offering Ed Don George, the former Michigan football player, as champion, and Gus Sonnenberg, the Dartmouth-Detroit football player, as first vice champion, were taken somewhat by surprise by this unexampled business in New York. It is only fair to add that Mr. Curley was so taken by surprise, too, with this difference, however, that he was well prepared to clamp a combination three-quarters Nelson and one-quarter Samson hold on the opportunity, shake well and serve.

Mr. Curley’s herd was based in New York, whereas the Sandow-Bowser herd was based in Boston and Chicago. Before these boys could establish the necessary political contacts and move into New York to take advantage of the situation, the situation had taken disadvantage of them. The customers had become Londos-minded.

The customers are not very studious. Max Schmeling is the heavyweight champion prizefighter to them merely because the New York prizefight commission so voted by the narrow margin of 2 to 1, and notwithstanding that he won from Jack Sharkey by a foul 24 hours after he had said he would refuse to win by a foul as only a coward would do that. Similarly, the customers in a very short time had come to regard Londos as the heavyweight champion wrestler because he was appearing before them as such.

So, when the Sandow-Bowser establishment finally did move in, with a state armory as their theater, and presenting a lot of circus stock who looked like the all-star cast of a very bad dream, preparatory to the introduction of their champion, their plight was somewhat like that of Clarence Chamberlain when he followed Lindbergh across the Atlantic. Their champion, Mr. George, may be a very good wrestler and better than Londos, but if so, the customers apparently don’t want to hear anything about it. So my advice is that up to the present, the Sandow-Bowser herd has drawn no gate of more than $2,700.

While all this was going on, Mr. Curley happened to be talking to a hotel man one evening, and the hotel man happened to say that he thought William T. Tilden III was about ready to turn frankly professional. Mr. Tilden had often been a client or inmate of the hotel man’s hotel, so presently Mr. Curley was introduced and more presently Mr. Tilden did turn pro under the management of an ex-dishwasher, freight handler, preliminary fighter and free-style promoter who knew of Forest Hills only as a local stop on the Long Island railroad, and of love only as a pleasant ailment of the young.

Mr. Curley recruited a small supporting cast for Mr. Tilden and with a blunt candor which Mr. Tilden never had experienced in the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association, said to him, "If you expect me to make money for you, you have got to make money for me." So they compromised by making money for one another, drawing $80,000 in eight quick shows before Mr. Tilden withdrew to California to record his genius on the films for posterity and pay.

And, also in the meantime, Max Schmeling was railroading from town to town over a most unpromising route in the south, appealing to a public with an elephantine memory which hasn’t quite forgotten the Civil War in sixty-odd years, and he, a German, and a champion only by a 2 to 1 vote of a board of politicians sitting in perfidious New York.

Mr. Curley is a man who sat down by the roadside, knowing the circus passed that way every so often, and waited patiently for the parade to come by again. For years he supported his herd in New York, waiting for the customers to become disgusted with the prize fighters, and knowing that when they did they would turn to the wrestlers, because the customer doesn’t cease to be a customer, but only transfers his patronage. Even so, he wasn’t quite prepared for the change when it came, and one night when he ventured to present his champion in the Garden with his third vice champion, Ferenc Holuban, the customers almost pulled the front off the building trying to get in.

Wrestling is what the carnival branch of the amusement trade would call a grind show. For all the apparent torture and mighty effort the boys endure in the course of a bout they are able and willing to wrestle two or three times a week, whereas the heavyweight champion prize fighter and the runner up generally plan to fight no more than once a year.

There would be great profit in an out of door showdown between the respective champions of the Curley and the Sandow-Bowser herds in New York in summer, but Mr. Curley is ignoring the opposition herd at present. He never invaded the territory which they regarded as their own when business was bad in his territory and he does not wish to share his own prosperity with them now.

"I am doing very well as things are," Mr. Curley states. "I don’t see how those other boys can claim to be wrestlers anyway when they haven’t any wrestlers to wrestle. How can a man become a wrestler unless he wrestles somebody?"

(ED. NOTE—There is a web site, URL listed below, which contains information about an old grappler, now in his mid-‘80s and apparently living in Windsor, Ont. He is said to have wrestled under the name Otto Lugger, or Luger (depends upon who is doing the spelling), and is not to be confused with the famed entymologist Otto Lugger, who did so much fine work tracing the vital statistics of the yucca moth. Some notes from the web site, including a few captions for pictorial displays on same, are hereby presented. Lobsinger, apparently, was an early version of Jake "The Snake" Roberts, once again proving that there is nothing new under the sun—or in the wrestling ring.)


If you were a professional wrestling fan in the late ‘30s or ‘40s, you might remember seeing a wrestler hop in the ring with a boa constrictor wrapped around his neck. With full beard and tousled hair pushed back from his forehead, he was known as the fearsome "Otto Lugger." The highlight of his career was his match in Mexico City as advertised in the poster below.

This clipping from a Mexico City newspaper in 1939 shows Barney Lobsinger (a.k.a. Otto Lugger) before his big match with Bobby Arreola for the middleweight championship.

Otto Lugger was born Barney Lobsinger, son of Francis Lobsinger, grandson of Louis Lobsinger, and great grandson of Count Joseph Lobsinger. He is one of five children, two boys and two girls (?), born in Hanover, Ontario, Canada. They were raised in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. Barney was a professional wrestler for over 25 years. He started at the age of 16, and won the Milwaukee, Wisconsin wrestling tournament for the 158 pound class. He traveled endlessly throughout Canada, the U.S.A. and Mexico. It was during the depression when money was so scarce, that at times it cost him more in traveling expenses than what he would make at a fair or carnival. Back then they were paid on a commission basis. At the carnivals and fairs they would draw crowds in and offer $10.00 to the person who could last more than 10 minutes with one of the wrestlers. He would often box to make extra money and got beat up more than once.

Barney also met Gorgeous George in the ring. But GG did not last long in the ring with Barney. Barney has repeated this story many times, and always brings a chuckle to his family. The day of the match, Barney brought along his partner in the ring (his boa constrictor). Gorgeous George saw the box in the ring and warned Barney not to get the snake anywhere near him as he was petrified of snakes. Well, with a glint in his eye, Barney proceeded to his corner took out his snake, walked behind Gorgeous George and wrapped the snake around his neck. Gorgeous George leaped so high out of the ring, he cleared the first two rows.

(Barney grabbed the snake back just in time). Well, this little escapade cost him dearly. He was banned from Eugene, Oregon, for life.

Fight against George Hackenschmidt.

The column read:

Rassler Hackenschmidt had a hair-line edge at this stage of his match with the bearded Luger at Riverview roller rink last night—which seems to prove that "straight" wrestling isn’t coming back as fast as was expected. Hackenschmidt had started to give Luger an airplane spin, but Otto’s chin adornment proved too tempting to resist. Wouldn’t it a been funny if someone had thrown Otto a fish about this time? International News photo by Wisconsin News sports photographer.

Barney also spent some time as a referee, meeting such greats as Jack Dempsey and Tom Sharkey. He wrestled regularily at the "Old Windsor Market," in Windsor, Ontario (which was demolished this year to make room for the new Casino) This photo was taken in 1939 during the time he fought under the name of "Otto Lugger."

An article written in the "Hanover Post" newspaper of February 27th, 1939 proudly bragging about their two famous ring men from the Hanover area (former world heavyweight boxing champion Tommy Burns was the other).

Barney was featured on a CBC Radio Interview on November 28th, 1997. He will also be seen on Shaw Cable in January,1998, where he will talk about his career, his interests with computers and how he has benefitted from "In-Home" Computer Training.

Barney is a very interesting gentleman. He has led a very interesting life. As well as going for the world championship (in) wrestling, he taught himself how to build, and went on to build his own house, chicken farm, and dog kennels. He also fought off some "would be" chicken thieves and the story hit the local news. He loves to play checkers, and can be found down by the Detroit River in the summer, looking for a challenging player.

He tells stories of his family, of which he is very proud. He had an uncle that could spell as fast backwards as he could forward. He also talks about the famous Lobsingers who invented the LOBSINGER THRESHING MACHINE, which is now housed in a museum in Midland, Ontario. He spoke of the time that he was bedridden for seven months, unable to move because of back problems. And of the time that he bought a peach orchard with over 500 trees, and the day he went to harvest them, a huge hail storm came along and destroyed every tree. Trucks came in and shovelled them up, and people from all over came with baskets and picked them up. He was very happily married for over 50 years to his first wife Marion. He married his second wife Florence, five years ago and lives in Windsor, Ontario.


The WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.  447

(ED. NOTE -- Ring Around the Northwest, published by Mike Rodgers for most of the past two decades, is one of the nation's longest-lived newsletters devoted to pro wrestling on a regional basis. Back issues, as well as Portland, Ore., results -- $1 a year from 1948 to the present -- are among the many things available from Rodgers, a congenial fellow who may be reached via e-mail at <> Mike has an extensive list of results covering manyW cities and territories from the late 1930s to the present day. He may be contacted via snail mail at: 2740 SE Lewellyn, Troutdale OR 97060. RATNW is $1 a copy.)


RATNW: I know your father (Brother Jonathan) was a wrestler; tell a little about him and his career.

DLJ: He wrestled the same of years I did, 32. He started in '27 and wrestled into the '50s and wrestled all the old great ones.

RATNW: Did you ever get a chance to travel with him when you were a boy?

DLJ: Yeah, I traveled quite a bit when I was a little boy.

RATNW: Were there any wrestlers who made an impression with you?

DLJ: Not really an impression. They were just friends.

RATNW: Did your father want you to go into the business and was he the one who trained you?

DLJ: He trained me some. Just before I turned pro I was with him some and we wrestled tag teams together. The first father-son tag team match there ever was that anyone could ever find about about was us versus the Garibaldis, Gino and Leo. That was in the Winter Gardens in San Francisco in 1950.

RATNW: Did your dad ever work in the Northwest and, if so, when?

DLJ: Yes, in the late 1930s. He was around Portland quite a bit, as well as Vancouver. That is when Chief Thunderbird was on the tour. I was with him when he was up there, about 1935 or '36.

RATNW: Was Portland using lightheavies, or heavyweights?

DLJ: Well, there were some heavyweights in there. Dad was a heavyweight, and Thunderbird wasn't a lightweight.

RATNW: Do you remember your first match, where and against who?

DLJ: My first pro match was in Marysville, California, on August 3, 1950. I wrestled LaVerne Baxter. I started for Joe Malcewicz (the promoter for Northern California in those days).too. I remember (starts to laugh) one time I elbow-smashed him and four front teeth came out through his bottom lip. But his big 14s, he worked me over pretty good with them. He was a good athlete. Gene was one of those guys when you wanted to go, he could stay with you.

RATNW: I saw Gene a few years at the Cauliflower Alley Club and he looked like he was still in great shape.

DLJ: He always stayed in great shape. In those days if you weren't in good shape you were pretty much left by the wayside. I'm talking about the guys that were good. Talking about the guys who drew the money and who could go.

RATNW: Thinking about the wrestlers that I grew up watching, well, nowadays I have an understanding of what a good worker is. Obviously, you were a fantastic draw -- do you think you were a good worker, too? I hear the guys tease Tex McKenzie that he was a great draw but couldn't work a lick.

DLJ: I think I got the job done, that's what they paid me for. Although Tex was a great draw, there was something about Tex: He could lose every night and people would still come to see him. Tex had an aura about him, a charisma, and it didn't matter what he did. He could got the arena and lose every night and the people would still come to see him, come to see Tex, bopping around the ring like he did. But Tex was the first guy that would tell you that he wished he knew more about wrestling. He was always nice to work with on the card because you always knew there was going to be people in the house. Didn't matter if he was in the first match, or on top, he just had the charisma that people came to see.

RATNW: Talk about the finishers you used, like the Mormon Cross and the Airplane Spin. Both were unique finishers.

DLJ: I used them because I was big enough to use them. A lot of guys weren't big enough to really use them. They looked pretty good, some guys it was hard to get on them. But we had something else for them. Most of the holds I used were pretty basic wrestling. The only thing with me was that I was big but I could still move with the light guys. I could do a flying head scissors and I could drop kick. During the years that I was in martial arts, I practiced hard on the jump and kick. I could kick at nine feet. That was when I was in the Navy. There, I was in charge of the mats on the ships. Every time we hauled Marines I would get those Marines down and find out how good they were.

RATNW: I have some results from Vancouver where you and Roy McClarty had a series of matches with the Kangaroos (Al Costello and Roy Heffernan). One was a ninety-minute draw, the next was a two-hour draw. Do you have any memories from those matches?

DLJ: I remember they were hard.

RATNW: How did the crowd react and was it hard to keep the heat for that length of time?

DLJ: Well, when you got guys like McClarty and guys like the Kangaroos, everything just went, they had so many different holds. Al was an amateur wrestler with a very extensive background. A lot of people don't know that. He was Olympic quality. Heffernan was good but he wasn't as good as Al. When you get guys like that in a match, you can get carried away with it.

RATNW: Did the crowd stay with it or did they get burned out?

DLJ: Nope, one thing about it -- they talk about guys keeping their heat, we just went out and wrestled and you did your thing and if you were serious about wrestling the people enjoyed it. It was a different sort of crowd back then.

RATNW: Whose idea was it to go two hours and how was it received by everyone in the match?

What they did was they put a two-hour time limit on it. When you put a two-hour time limit on it you have to pace yourself for two hours. Two hours is a long match. A tag match is not so bad. Kiniski and I had a two-hour match in Seattle. The first move the people stood up and two hours later they stood up and when the commission stopped the match because of the blue law on Sunday they tore the box office down, they tore the ring down, smashed up the chairs. They still wanted more.

RATNW: Whoever's idea it was to go two hours was okay with everyone? You were excited about it?

DLJ: Well, you have to understand one thing: When we wrestled it was not like the guys that wrestle now, or the guys who wrestled in the '80s. If you were in the main event, if you couldn't go two hours, hands down, you didn't deserve to be there. I realize there were guys that couldn't go two hours. But you take any of the top men that were on the cards in those days, two hours wasn't a long time. When I used to work out with Gotch and those guys, two hours was just a training session. You get a few more breathers, of course, and maybe stop and a hold was explained and you would try it a few times and you would go out and try to take it. And it was hard. A lot of people just don't realize that the guys during the '40s, '50s and '60s, the guys that were on top then, for the most part were athletes. There were a few guys that were slackers, that couldn't go that long, but those guys weren't really in the main events. They weren't the guys who consistently drew the money. The guys that could go, go the dough!

RATNW: Who was your favorite promoter to work for?

DLJ: My favorite? That is really hard to say. I got along well with quite a few promoters. Rod Fenton was very good. Cliff Parker (also in Vancouver) was a good promoter. Joe Dusek (Omaha) was a good promoter. Don Owen was a good promoter. There were other good promoters who didn't treat you right or really live up to their end of the bargain. But when we talk about a guy being a good promoter, that doesn't mean a guy I liked and paid me well. Being a good promoter is a guy that can get a bunch of guys together and then doesn't worry about what is going on in the ring so much as he worries about getting the publicity out, the newspaper stories, creating the interest with the fans and getting new fans in. The older promoters, I was wrestling when TV came in. I was in the first TV match that went coast to coast. I wrestled Nick Roberts in a little town in New Jersey. There was a lot of promoters who expected the wrestlers to draw all the money and they didn't do their job. Being a promoter is not an easy job. You have to know a lot of people. Good promoters, like Jim Barnett, he was a great promoter. He didn't always treat the guys the way they wanted to be treated. But if you're going to take a man's money you had better give the man some work.

RATNW: Was there any territory you didn't work in that you would have liked to?

DLJ: I would have liked to have gone down there and had a look at Nick Gulas. All those stories I heard about Nick Gulas and I was never in his territory. I always drove right through.

RATNW: Most people would probably think that was the best thing to do!

DLJ: His reputation preceded himself!! He must have been a pretty good promoter, though, to keep those territories together like he did. He must have had something on the ball but I understand he wanted to take his profit off the boys' end. Whether that is true or not, I don't know, I never worked for him, but I heard stories like that. You don't really want to waste your time and take the chances with your body because back during that time wrestling was very hard on a person's body and you know yourself, when you go to these reunions, how many guys do you see with sticks? How many guys do you see with new hips? Most all of those guys who were wrestling up until the '70s, they are not too much under their own locomotion. They got ambulatory problems. The one guy that really surprises me is Al Fridell. Now, Al is a guy that went through the carnivals and the gyms. I don't know whether he was lucky or he was just awful good. And he was good, he was a good hand. But how he escaped being injured all those years with the matches he had and the guys he wrestled in the carnivals and taking on all comers -- that can get dangerous. Those suckers can pull an eye out of you. I just don't know how he did it.


(Wrestling Observer, March 20, 1989)

The following are a list of the new NWA rules and regulations as handed down by Jim Herd and George Scott:

1. All wrestlers, managers, referees and other officials must be in the building one hour before the start of the card;

2. Babyfaces and heels can't be seen mixing in public together;

3. No profanity on the mike at house shows or on TV, including using of the words butt, ass or whatever; also, no off-color gestures either on television or in the ring;

4. Wrestlers or managers are not allowed to use the house mike before intermission;

5. No low blows;

6. No using chairs, tables or the guard railing (those are Abdullah the Butcher's only three moves);

7. No more than one man on the floor at a time before intermission (in other words, no fighting outside the ring before intermission);

8. No touching referees;

9. Wrestlers must dress in collared shirts while entering and laving the arena (in fact, they even want reporters covering matches to wear suits and ties if they go backstage);

10. No spitting (Iron Sheik's only move) at any time on either TV or house shows;

11. No pulling down tights (Dick Murdoch's best move when he's not in Japan);

12. Wives, girlfriends, children and pets aren't allowed backstage;

13. No long distance phone calls from the WCW office phones in Atlanta by wrestlers.

By Dave Meltzer

"No Holds Barred" is the name of the long-awaited Hulk Hogan big screen action flick that will be released this summer. Judging from the reviews of those who saw the thing, to borrow an overused joke, the movie won't be released. And whomever lets it escape may face criminal charges. No major distributor would even bid on the film, although a B-movie company called New Vista will release it to 1,000 theaters. Everyone is saying it's a sure bomb, but there is one variable which Hollywood doesn't about the power of, if there is any power here. Nobody who puts out a movie has six hours weekly in every major market of the country, between localized TV and cable, to promote whatever it feels like promoting, and this movie will be what it feels like promoting. I'm not saying it'll be successful, just that using traditional criteria to judge if it can interest people may not be germane in judging if people will buy the flick. Most of the distributors thought the movie was terrible, and some who saw it felt this could be the worst movie released over the last four or five years. Hogan's work wasn't complimented by anyone, and in fact all but one person who talked wikth me said he was terrible. The other said Hogan was the best thing about the movie, and that half the time he was awful and the other half he was passable, and that his performance was better than his work on the Friday Night Special. Most of the distributors were at a loss for words after viewing it. In fact, at one screening, Jesse Ventura (whose movie "Thunderground" was also being previewed by distributors) appeared and after the Hogan movie aired, Ventura (who has a small part in it) wouldn't even talk with anyone about it. In the movie, Hogan plays the part of a world-champion wrestler of a fictitious pro wrestling promotion called the World Wrestling Federation. The movie opens with Hogan wrestling someone (I believe the foe is played by Bill Eadie, or Axe Demolition minus his distinctive markings and with a different hairstyle) in a pretty bad match. The announcers these two fictitious characters who go by the stage names of Jesse "The Body" Ventura and "Mean" Gene Okerlund. Anyway, this character called Rip Rorem (Hogan) is the most popular wrestler in the world, although in an attempt to differentiate Rorem from Hogan, they don't allow him to use any moves that Hogan uses (no eye rakes, poorly-timed clotheslines or legdrops), and since he doesn't know any other, he mainly uses a double sledge rabbit punch type move. Anyway, this WWF has a rival promotion run by the head of the largest cable TV company in the country. The head of the cable company is played by an unknown actor who I'm told is a worse actor than the Anabolic Warrior is at doing interviews (in fact, I'm told the Warrior would be as good if he played the part). He has a meeting with Rorem to steal him from the WWF, which is kicking his promotion and TV network's butt. Rorem refuses and the head of the company gets 12 thugs to try and beat him up, but Rorem makes a superman comeback after not selling anything and legdrops all 12. The head of the cable company then starts promoting "Battle of the Tough Guys," in these barroom wrestling matches with fans who play the worst stereotype of Southern NWA fans that you've ever seen. Hogan has a brother in the movie, but he's not played by Brutus Beefcake. I'm told the flick was too long, will have no general public appeal, that there is only brief glimpses of wrestling action so it won't satisfy wrestling fans and the faction scenes are bad. The good news is it won't be released until June or July. The bad news is, the movie is so bad that nobody will be able to do another wrestling movie until 1995. Hogan's wardrobe for his screen debut as a star consisted of Billy Graham hand-me-downs. Some feel the film is so bad it actually will be damaging to future wrestlers' acting aspirations.

(ED. NOTE -- The original "No Holds Barred," a 1952 Bowery Boys comedy, but not mentioned here, included a few wrestlers, too. Hombre Montana was Terrible Tova, Henry Kulky (Kulkovich) was The Mauler, Brother Frank Jares was Crusher Martin and Pat Fraley was an unnamed wrestling title "challenger." Contrary to Meltzer's "review," Hogan in the 1989 version played a character called Rip Thomas, with Joan Severance as the love interest. Tom "Tiny" Lister Jr. was in it as "Zeus," and Bill Eadie -- as mentioned -- is "Jake Bullet." Howard Finkel has a familiar role, that of the ring announcer. We're not sure, but "Thunderground" may have been finally released a couple years later as "Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe," which is held by many to rank among the great bad movies of all time.)

The WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.  448

(ED. NOTE -- One of the names that gained prominence during the 1920s and continued his career right up to World War II was Dick Daviscourt, a longtime member of the Ed "Strangler" Lewis troupe and an accomplished professional of the pre-television era. Daviscourt and Lewis are said to have wrestled scores of times in Wichita, Kansas, alone, and for a number of years this Ellensburg, Wash., native was booked from coast to coast, either in headline or semi-windup bouts against the top drawing cards of the day. Robert Lowery, sports information director at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, dug up the following and sent it along to The WAWLI Papers. Our appreciation is hereby extended to Mr. Lowery.)


(Ellensburg, Wash., Capital, October 8, 1914)

About 500 men gathered in the fair tent Saturday night to see the wrestling contest between Nick Dewiscourt and William Dillman. Naturally, the local man was the favorite, but the crowd soon realized that his opponent was a good man and he was accorded fair treatment by the audience. Jack Kelleher was referee and his work was very satisfactory. Dewiscourt clearly outclassed the stranger, but the latter did some very clever work and took care of himself with credit. Dewiscourt was heavier than his opponent and quicker than his friends had credited him with being and close observers never considered the final issue in doubt. Dewiscourt's victory was most gratifying to his friends here, who now believe he is on the wrestling "map" permanently, and they have ever confidence in his ability to render a good report.

(ED. NOTE -- Burt Ray, who did as much as anyone to fill in the blanks in pro wrestling's past, was the ringleader of an "Allsies" group during the 1960s and '70s. As such, he regularly distributed old wrestling results to members. The following bulletin was dated March 25, 1976 and gives historians a glimpse at some of the earliest matches of Bronko Nagurski, Jack Claybourne and Joe Dusek.)


January 3 (Des Moines) -- Buck Olson beat Chief Chewacki dq, Bruce Noland drew Jack Vincent, Bearcat Wright beat Ralph Adams, Rollie Anderson beat Young Farmer Burns

January 9 (Kansas City, Mo.) -- Everett Marshall beat John Katan, Johnny Plummer beat Steve Hanley, Jack Hader drew Frankie French

January 10 (Des Moines) -- Buck Olson beat Joe Hubka, Jack Vincent drew Frankie Buresch, Bearcat Wright drew Tag Tagerson, Rollie Anderson beat Clarence Johnson

January 12 (Davenport) -- Bearcat Wright vs. Bruce Noland, Skinny Grooms vs. Frank Burns, Charles Pappas vs. Billy Welsh, Charles Krantz vs. Eddie Linsko

January 16 (Mason City) -- Bruce Noland beat Ralph Adams, Frank Bauer drew Earl Turner, Martin Thien beat Dick Truison

January 17 (Des Moines) -- Joe Stecher beat Buck Olson, Frankie Buresch drew Earl Wampler, Allan Eustace beat Jack Rodgers, Rollie Anderson drew Tag Tagerson

January 24 (Des Moines) -- Earl Wampler beat Frank Buresch, Allan Eustace beat Buck Olson, Bruce Noland beat Tag Tagerson, Joe Hubka drew Rollie Anderson

January 31 (Des Moines) -- Allan Eustace beat Bearcat Wright, Ray Richards beat Jack Edwards, Joe Dusek beat Vic Muhl, Emil Dusek drew Rollie Anderson

January 31 (Atlantic, Ia.) -- Masked Marvel beat George Kinney, Jack Spurgeon beat Jack Nelson, Sailor Lemaster drew Larry Richards

February 3 (Des Moines) -- Earl Wampler beat Bruce Noland, Ralph Adams drew Rollie Anderson, Tag Tagerson beat Allen Hulzler, Arnold Smith drew Butch Jones

February 6 (Davenport) -- Bruce Noland vs. Buck Olson, Tag Tagerson vs. Butch Jones, Skinny Grooms vs. Charles Pappas, John Denholm vs. Frank Nelson

February 6 (Council Bluffs) -- Charles Peterson beat Jack Rodge, Masked Marvel beat Jack Nelson, Al Newman drew Jack Spurgeon, Swede Pederson drew George Kinney

February 13 (Council Bluffs) -- Joe Hubka beat Bob McFarland, Swede Pederson drew Jack Spurgeon, Silent Banks drew Tom Tobin, Mickey Novak drew Phil Jordan

February 13 (Des Moines) -- Allan Eustace beat Mike Nazarian, Jack Hader drew Earl Wampler, Ray Richards beat Bruce Noland, Tag Tagerson beat Frenchy LaRue

February 15 (Atlantic) -- Sailor Lemaster drew Larry Richards, Masked Marvel beat Ace Judkins, Al Newman drew Jack Nelson

February 20 (Des Moines) -- Charles Peterson beat Bob McFarland, Buck Olson beat Jack Nelson, Buck Lavin beat Al Newman, Swede Pederson drew Francis Stull

February 20 (Mason City) -- Jim Demetral beat Bob Jenson, Bruce Noland beat Rollie Anderson, Bill Schober beat Lee Jones

February 22 (Atlantic) -- Larry Richards beat Tom Tobin, Swede Pederson drew Ace Judkins

February 22 (Des Moines) -- Earl Wampler beat Mike Nazarian, Joe Dusek drew Jack Hader, Jessie Joy drew Otto Matulka, Rollie Anderson beat Allen Hulzler

February 23 (Stuart, Ia.) -- Earl Wampler beat Young Gotch, Swede Pederson beat Tony Wassell

February 24 (Cedar Rapids) -- Jack Hackenschmidt beat George Mack, Gus Leskinovich beat Bob Jackson

February 27 (Des Moines) -- Midget Fischer drew Charles Peterson, Dutch Hefner drew buck Olson, Bud Levin beat Ace Judkins, Francis Stull beat Jimmy Londos

February 28 (Council Bluffs) -- Midget Fischer beat Jack Spurgeon, Dutch Hefner beat Jack Nelson, Bud Levin beat Ace Judkins, Francis Stull drew Tom Tobin

March 2 (Stuart, Ia.) -- Earl Wampler beat Swede Pederson, Tony Wassell beat Paul Edwards, Young Gotch drew Ralph Adams

March 2 (Mason City) -- Tag Tagerson beat Bob Jesson, Ernie Thompson drew Griz Grey, Billy Schober beat Ernie Trulson

March 6 (Des Moines) -- Charles Peterson beat John Gatewood, Buck Olson beat Al Newman, Jack Nelson drew Swede Pederson, Bud Levin beat Jack Spurgeon

March 8 (Atlantic) -- Buck Olson beat Jack Longs, Jack Nelson beat Swede Madsen

March 10 (Marshalltown) -- Young Lewis beat Jim Demetral, Griz Grey beat Lee Jones, Joe Turner beat Ernie Barker

March 10 (Des Moines) -- Joe Stecher beat Allan Eustace, Nick Velkoff beat Joe Hubka, Jack Hader drew Adam Krieger, Earl Wampler beat Frenchy LaRue

March 14 (Council Bluffs) -- Charles Peterson beat Buck Olson, Jack Nelson beat Swede Pederson, Jack Claybourne drew Alex Kaffner, Jack Spurgeon beat Ace Judkins

March 15 (Atlantic) -- Jack Claybourne beat Ace Judkins, Jack Nelson beat Alex Kaffner

March 17 (Marshalltown) -- Griz Grey vs. Young Lewis, Pete Schu vs. Tony Catalino

March 17 (Des Moines) -- John Richtoff beat Abe Kashey, Willie Davis beat Bill Leon, Bronko Nagurski beat Ralph Adams, Earl Wampler drew Joe Dusek

March 21 (Council Bluffs) -- Jack Nelson beat Alex Keffner, Jack Claybourne drew Swede Pederson, Ace Judkins beat Art Madison, Tom Tobin drew Francis Stull

March 22 (Atlantic) -- Alex Kaffner beat Swede Pederson, Jack Claybourne drew Jack Nelson

March 23 (Mason City) -- Jim Demetral beat Jack Rollins, Tag Tagerson drew Pete Schu

March 23 (Cedar Rapids) -- Karl Zbyszko beat Jack Hackenschmidt, Steve Savage beat Vic Soldat

March 24 (Marshalltown) -- Pete Schu drew Steve Savage, Jack Roller beat Griz Grey, Don Cortez beat Irish Kennedy

March 24 (Des Moines) -- John Richtoff beat Carl Schultz, Nick Velkoff beat Joe Dusek, Bronko Nagurski beat Joe Hubka, Abe Kashey beat Frank Lurich

March 28 (Council Bluffs) -- Billy Schober beat Adam Krieger, Jack Nelson drew John Lahl, Alex Keffner beat John Reigers, Jack Claybourne drew Ace Judkins

March 29 (Atlantic) -- Jack Nelson beat Alex Keffner, Jack Claybourne beat Swede Pederson

March 30 (Stuart, Ia.) -- Earl Wampler beat Masked Marvel, Mike Nazarian beat Jim Morris

March 31 (Marshalltown) -- Jack Roller beat Buck Olson-John Heldberg (handicap), Griz Grey beat Jack Keller

March 31 (Des Moines) -- Allan Eustace beat Nick Velkoff, Ray Richards beat Jim Schaffer, Bronko Nagurski beat Frankie Buresch, Bill Demetral beat Joe Rogaski

April 4 (Council Bluffs) -- John Lahl beat Jack Nelson dq, Cliff White beat Jack Claybourne, Jack Spurgeon drew Harold Wade, Ace Judkins drew Earl Wade

April 5 (Atlantic) -- Jack nelson beat Cliff White, Alex Keffner drew Ace Judkins

April 6 (Stuart) -- Earl Wampler beat Mike Nazarian, Ralph Adams beat Masked Marvel

April 6 (Cedar Rapids) -- Jim Browning beat Glen Munn, Steve Savage drew Tony Catalino

April 7 (Des Moines) -- Bronko Nagurski beat Earl Wampler, Jack Vincent beat Jack Hader, Frankie French drew Bearcat Wright, Ray Richards drew Joe Dusek

April 10 (Marshalltown) -- Steve Savage beat Mike Romano, Jack Roller drew Bruce Noland

April 13 (Mason City) -- Adam Krieger beat Charles Derbenderson, Billy Schober beat Pat Conway, Jack Spurgeon beat Jack Claybourne

April 13 (Jefferson, Ia.) -- Earl Wampler beat Roy Turner, Bruce Noland beat Mike Nazarian

April 18 (Des Moines) -- Jim McMillen beat Allan Eustace, Frankie French drew Jack Vincent, Joe Dusek beat Bearcat Wright, Tag Tagerson beat Rollie Anderson

May 2 (Council Bluffs) -- John Lahl beat Tag Tagerson, Earl Wade beat Joe Turner, Swede Pederson beat Tony Tomacek, Ace Judkins drew Pete Spinner

May 4 (Cedar Rapids) -- Bronko Nagurski beat Frankie Buresch, John Richtoff drew Jack Vincent

May 5 (Des Moines) -- John Richtoff beat Chief Chewacki dq, Jack Vincent drew Bronko Nagurski, Frankie Buresch drew Frankie French, Earl Wampler beat Andy Moen

May 5 (Marshalltown) -- Jack Roller vs. Abe Kashey, Bruce Noland vs. Buck Olson, Griz Grey vs. Fred Bloudell

May 9 (Council Bluffs) -- Jack Nelson beat Joe Taylor, Jack Rodgers beat Jack Spurgeon, Frenchy LaRue beat Dave Adkins

May 10 (Topeka, Kans.) -- Midget Fischer beat Wayne Long, Jack Purdin beat Billy Olson

May 12 (Des Moines) -- Frankie French beat Earl Wampler dq, Allan Eustace beat Bob Jesson, Ray Richards beat Bill Leon, Pat Murphy beat Speedy Lawrence

May 15 (Mason City) -- Bronko Nagurski beat Frank Topaz, Andy Moen drew Earl Wampler, George Vassell beat Pat Murphy

May 16 (Council Bluffs) -- Adam Krieger beat Frenchy LaRue dq, John Lahl beat Jack Rodgers, Tom Tobin beat Francis Stull

May 19 (Marshalltown) -- Bronko Nagurski beat Bruce Noland, George Deck beat Jack spurgeon, Buck Olson drew Jack Nelson

May 19 (Des Moines) -- Joe Stecher beat George Vassell, Joe Cox drew Jack Vincent, Frankie French beat Bearcat Wright, Ray Richards drew Earl Wampler

May 23 (Council Bluffs) -- Frenchy LaRue beat Bob Castle, Jack Nelson beat Jack Rodgers, Jack Knocke beat Frank Mallott, Francis Stull beat Tom Tobin

May 24 (Des Moines) -- Earl Wampler beat Frankie French, Bob Jesson drew Joe Cox, Bronko Nagurski drew Joe Dusek, Ray Richards beat Pat Murphy

May 25 (Des Moines) -- Gus Sonnenberg beat Pat McGill, Karl Zbyszko beat Charles Peterson, Steve Savage beat Benny Ginsberg, Bobby Burns drew Buckets Goldenberg

May 26 (Dubuque) -- Gus Sonnenberg beat George Mack, Karl Zbyszko drew Heinie Engel, Dick Hermes beat Vic Soldat


January 6 -- Jack O'Reilly beat Pepper Gomez, Buddy Knox beat Doc Gallagher, Clair Robinson (Cal Roberts) beat John Paul Henning, Frank Schneider drew Al Fridell

January 13 -- Morris Shapiro (Mighty Atlas) beat Pepper Gomez, Luigi Macera-Clair Robinson beat Buddy Knox-Jack O'Reilly, John Paul Henning beat Doc Gallagher

January 20 -- Soldat Gorky-Ivan Gorky (John Smith-Al Smith) beat Luigi Macera-Clair Robinson, Carl Engstrom drew Jack O'Reilly, Buddy Knox beat Paul Lebouef

January 27 -- Soldat Gorky-Ivan Gorky drew Buddy Knox-Jack O'Reilly nc, Carl Engstrom beat Doc Gallagher, Clair Robinson beat Al Fridell, Luigi Macera drew Bud Rattal

February 3 -- Buddy Knox-Jack O'Reilly beat Soldat Gorky-Ivan Gorky, Carl Engstrom beat Clair Robinson, Bud Rattal beat Luigi Macera

February 10 -- Carl Engstrom beat Buddy Knox (Pacific Coast title defense), Luigi Macera-Clair Robinson beat Jack O'Reilly-Bud Rattal, Pepper Gomez drew Dave Jons

February 17 -- Frank Stojack beat Carl Engstrom, Buddy Knox-Jack O'Reilly beat Luigi Macera-Clair Robinson, Pepper Gomez drew Bud Rattal, Frank Schneider beat Paul Lebouef

February 24 -- Carl Engstrom beat Frank Stojack (Pacific Coast title defense), Clair Robinson beat Jack O'Reilly, Buddy Knox beat Danno MacDonald, Luther Lindsey beat Dave Jons

March 3 -- Buddy Knox-Jack O'Reilly beat Danno MacDonald-Clair Robinson, Carl Engstrom beat Lou Sjoberg, Dave Jons beat Bud Rattal dq, Lionel Hankin drew Harry Levin

March 10 -- Buddy Knox beat Danno MacDonald, Luigi Macera beat Jack O'Reilly dq, Carl Engstrom beat Clair Robinson, Bud Rattal beat Tommy Nilan

March 17 -- Jack O'Reilly beat Luigi Macera, Carl Engstrom beat Buddy Knox dq, Sky Low Low-Tiger Jackson beat Pee Wee James-Tuffy McRae, Danno MacDonald beat Clair Robinson, Lou Klein drew Bud Rattal

March 24 -- Buddy Knox beat Carl Engstrom (won Pacific Coast title), Danno MacDonald beat Lou Klein, Sky Low Low beat Tuffy McRae, Jack O'Reilly beat Tommy Nilan, Lou Sjoberg beat Logger Larson

March 31 -- Lou Thesz beat Earl McCready (NWA title defense), Danno MacDonald beat Jack O'Reilly, Buddy Knox beat Lou Sjoberg, Bud Rattal beat Tommy Nilan, Harry Levin beat Benny Blake

April 7 -- Frank Stojack beat Danno MacDonald, Buddy Knox beat Lou Klein, Luigi Macera drew Bud Rattal, Sky Low Low-Tiger Jackson beat Pee Wee James-Tuffy McRae, Dave Jons beat Clair Robinson

April 14 -- Roger Mackay won battle royal, Roger Mackay drew Buddy Knox, Danno MacDonald beat Bud Rattal, Eddie Williams beat Luigi Macera

April 21 -- Gorgeous George beat Buddy Knox dq, Roger Mackay-Danno MacDonald beat Luigi Macera-Bud Rattal, Eddie Williams drew Clair Robinson, Lionel Hankin beat Harry Levin

April 28 -- Roger Mackay-Danno MacDonald beat Buddy Knox-Bud Rattal, Eddie Williams beat Frank Stojack, Luigi Macera drew Clair Robinson, Lionel Hankin beat Harry Levin

May 5 -- Greg Jarque-Pedro Escobar beat Roger Mackay-Danno MacDonald dq, Eddie Williams beat Cliff Parker, Luigi Macera beat Chico Gracia dq, Lionel Hankin beat Sherman Grosney

May 12 -- Greg Jarque-Pedro Escobar-Chico Gracia beat Roger Mackay-Luigi Macera-Danno MacDonald, Eddie Williams beat Frank Schneider, Lionel Hankin beat Harry Levin

May 19 -- Roger Mackay-Luigi Macera-Danno MacDonald beat Greg Jarque-Pedro Escobar-Chico Gracia, Eddie Williams beat Bud Rattal, Lionel Hankin beat Johnny DeLalla

May 26 -- Roger Mackay beat Pedro Escobar, Eddie Williams-Danno MacDonald beat Greg Jarque-Chico Gracia, Luigi Macera beat Bud Rattal dq, Clair Robinson drew Frank Schneider

June 2 -- Frank Stojack beat Eddie Williams (Pacific Coast title), Luigi Macera beat Clair Robinson, Danno MacDonald beat Chico Gracia, Buddy Knox beat Bronko Lubich

June 9 -- Roger Mackay drew Buddy Knox nc, Eddie Williams drew Luigi Macera, Danno MacDonald beat Bud Rattal, Clair Robinson beat Chico Gracia

June 16 -- Frank Stojack beat Eddie Williams (Pacific Coast title), Roger Mackay beat Buddy Knox dq, Danno MacDonald beat Bud Rattal dq, Clair Robinson drew Bronko Lubich

June 23 -- Eddie Williams won battle royal, Danno MacDonald beat Bronko Lubich, Gust Johnson beat Clair Robinson, Eddie Williams drew Bud Rattal

June 30 -- Roger Mackay beat Buddy Knox dq, Eddie Williams beat Bud Rattal, Danno MacDonald beat Luigi Macera, Clair Robinson beat Torchy Smith dq

July 7 -- Roger Mackay-Danno MacDonald beat Buddy Knox-Buck Weaver, Eddie Williams beat Bronko Lubich, Danny O'Rourke drew Bud Rattal, Clair Robinson beat Torchy Smith

July 14 -- Roger Mackay beat Buck Weaver, Buddy Knox beat Eddie Williams, Danno MacDonald beat Clair Robinson, Bud Rattal beat Danny O'Rourke

July 21 -- Buddy Knox won battle royal, Roger Mackay beat Bronko Lubich, Ben Sharpe beat Henry Lenz, Eddie Williams drew Clair Robinson, Danno MacDonald beat Buddy Knox

July 28 -- Lou Thesz beat Ben Sharpe (NWA title defense), Roger Mackay beat Bud Rattal, Buddy Knox beat Bronko Lubich, Eddie Williams drew Henry Lenz

August 11 -- Red Berry beat Eddie Williams, Roger Mackay-Danno MacDonald beat Buddy Knox-Bob Cummings, Ivan Kameroff beat Matt Murphy, Jack Gilbert beat Harry Levin

August 18 -- Frank Stojack beat Red Berry (Pacific Coast title defense), Roger Mackay-Danno MacDonald beat Buddy Knox-Bob Cummings, Lee Grable beat Ivan Kameroff, Bud Rattal beat Tarzan Potvin

August 25 -- Buddy Knox-Bob Cummings beat Roger Mackay-Danno MacDonald, Johnny Demchuk beat Bud Rattal, Lee Grable drew Matt Murphy, Benny Blake beat Harry Levin

September 8 -- (tournament, winner to meet Frank Stojack) Danno MacDonald beat Johnny Demchuk, Lee Grable beat Frank Schneider, Buddy Knox beat Bud Rattal, Roger Mackay beat Bob Cummings, Lee Grable beat Danno MacDonald, Buddy Knox beat Roger Mackay, Buddy Knox beat Lee Grable

September 15 -- Frank Stojack beat Buddy Knox (Pacific Coast title defense), Roger Mackay-Lee Grable beat Kurt Von Poppenheim-Matt Murphy, Buck Weaver beat Johnny Demchuk, Flash Gordon drew Bud Rattal

September 22 -- Kurt Von Poppenheim beat Lee Grable, Maurice LaChappelle beat Buddy Knox, Buck Weaver beat Roger Mackay, Johnny Demchuk beat Bud Rattal

September 29 -- Buddy Knox-Buck Weaver beat Roger Mackay-Maurice LaChappelle (Northwest tag title defense), Johnny Demchuk beat George O'Hara, Kurt Von Poppenheim beat Joe Campbell, Angelo Poffo beat Buddy Jackson dq

October 6 -- Kurt Von Poppenheim drew Roger Mackay nc, Clair Robinson beat Buck Weaver, Johnny Demchuk beat Blackie Miller dq, George O'Hara drew Buddy Jackson

October 13 -- Roger Mackay beat Kurt Von Poppenheim, Clair Robinson beat Blackie Miller dq, Jack Kiser beat Frank Faketty, Buddy Knox beat George O'Hara

October 20 -- Buddy Knox beat Roger Mackay, Jack Kiser beat Clair Robinson, Jim LaRock drew Gino Angelo, George O'Hara beat Frank Faketty

October 27 -- Roger Mackay beat Buddy Knox dq, Jack Kiser-Jim LaRock beat Gino Angelo-Tarzan Potvin, Clair Robinson begat George O'Hara, Frank Faketty drew Bud Rattal

November 3 -- Ivan Kameroff-Boris Kameroff beat Jack Kiser-Jim LaRock (won Northwest tag title), Buddy Knox beat John Cretoria, Bud Rattal beat Gino Angelo dq, Angus Scott beat Clair Robinson

November 10 -- Ivan Kameroff-Boris Kameroff beat Jack Kiser-Jim LaRock, Buddy Knox beat John Cretoria, Bud Rattal beat Gino Angelo dq, Angus Scott beat Clair Robinson

November 17 -- Buddy Knox-Masked Wrestler beat Ivan Kameroff-Boris Kameroff dq, Jack Kiser beat Gino Angelo, John Cretoria beat Jim LaRock, Clair Robinson beat Angelo DeMeo

November 24 -- Buddy Knox beat Jack Kiser, Little Beaver-Haile Selassie beat Irish Jackie-Fuzzy Cupid, Masked Wrestler beat Jim LaRock, John Cretoria beat Al Warshawksi, Clair Robinson drew Tarzan Potvin

December 1 -- Buddy Knox-Masked Wrestler beat Jack Kiser-Jim LaRock, Clair Robinson beat Gino Angelo, Gino Angelo beat Angus Scott, Bud Rattal beat Flash Gordon

December 8 -- Jack Kiser-Jim LaRock beat Buddy Knox-Masked Wrestler dq, Gino Angelo beat Clair Robinson, Angus Scott drew Bud Rattal nc

December 15 -- Dick Torio won battle royal, Dick Torio beat Buddy Knox, Ivan Kameroff drew Lou Martinez, Jack Kiser beat Gino Angelo dq, Jim LaRock beat Bud Rattal

December 22 -- Dick Torio beat Buddy Knox, Jim LaRock beat Ivan Kameroff dq, Masked Wrestler beat Jack Kiser, Gino Angelo beat Angus Scott

December 29 -- Frank Stojack drew Ivan Kameroff, Dick Torio beat Steve Gob, Buddy Knox beat Clair Robinson, Jim LaRock beat Gino Angelo

(ED. NOTE -- The above results were part of a series researched by Neil Drummond. Frank Faketty, who made a couple of appearances in the early fall, later gained wrestling renown as Karl Von Hess.)

The WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.  449


(Associated Press, February 22, 1935)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Jack Russell, American wrestler, today was under arrest as the result of injuries suffered by his opponent, Carlos Stringari of Italy, in their match last night.

Stringari missed Russell in attempting a flying tackle and dived out of the ring. As he attempted to climb back in Russell allegedly kicked him, causing Stringari to fall to the floor and strike his head. The Italian was unconscious for 45 minutes and was removed to a hospital, where it was said he was suffering from a brain concussion, although his condition was not serious.


(Associated Press, Friday, January 3, 1936)

AMARILLO, Texas -- A near-riot of 1,500 wrestling fans, precipitated by a match in which tobacco juice or some other fluid was the deciding factor, reached the grand jury stage here today.

Spectators were incensed when Danny McShain, villain-type mat artist from Seattle, squirted what they thought was tobacco juice into the eyes of Bob Castle, the people's choice, to take the third and deciding fall of their mat battle last night.

McShain insisted he was too much of a gentleman to resort to expectorating anything, much less tobacco juice, in order to triumph. Referee Jack Van Bebber said he saw no spitting. But two members of the grand jury who witnessed the match were of the opinion that 1,500 spectators couldn't be wrong.

The grand jury heard testimony from McShain, Van Bebber and promoter Dutch Mantell, then issued a subpoena for Castle, but the alleged tobacco juice victim had not been found late today.

An investigator for the district attorney's office hinted that whatever Mcshain might have done was for revenge. Castle, serving as referee, sent a chair chasing down on McShain's head during a match last week.

Castle, apparently blinded for the moment, was tossed easily after the squirting episode. McShain dashed to his dressing room amid boos and catcalls. Angry fans yelled loud and long and refused to leave the building for more than 10 minutes.


(Associated Press, Tuesday, January 14, 1936)

OAKLAND, Cal. -- Ad Santel and Ernest Fedderon, co-promoters of wrestling here, announced today they had called off their Friday night program and had severed connections with "the wrestling trust."

The two, who have promoted the sport here for many years, said they had been forced to take this action because the booking agency through which they obtain their wrestlers had raised their percentage "take" of the weekly receipts from 5 per cent to 12 1/2 per cent.

Santel and Fedderson said they would operate independently hereafter. Santel, old-time grappler and once claimant of the world's lightheavyweight crown, said he "would post $2,000 as side money" that he can defeat Vincent Lopez, recognized as heavyweight champion of the world in California.


(Spokane Spokesman-Review, Feb. 5, 1936)

Tiger Daula, Indian wrestler who hails from Bombay, won from Brother Jonathan Heaton, Mormon grappler from Salt Lake City, after gaining the second fall, when Heaton apparently dislocated his shoulder in the fourth round.

Both mat artists sport whiskers, and at every opportunity they engaged in a little tugging. The Indian, however, had the best of that angle as Heaton flaunts a whole face full while he maintains only a mustache. The hair on Heaton's chest also proved an attraction to Daula, and he plucked a few out during the times he had the Mormon helpless.

Heaton added a new page to mat history when he tore the shirt off referee Charley Mason and applied a tourniquet to the neck of the Indian. Mason apparently didn't like having his shirt torn off and gave Heaton a roughing up before making them break.

Daula was given a hand by the crowd when he returned to the ring after his victory and picked up his apparently suffering foe and carried him back to the dressing room.

In the first bout of the card Dan Wagner was given the match after Reb Russell was disqualified on two counts, once for fouling and again for attacking the referee. All through the match the spectators demanded that a strip of tape encircling the wrist of Russell be removed by the referee. Russell took time out on one occasion during the third round to hurl a little profanity to the crowd in general.

"Legs" Leathers and Casey Kazanjian went five six-minute rounds to a draw in the second exhibition of the evening and proved to be popular with the fans. Kazanjian, former Stanford athlete, was the first of the evening to tap his opponent on the shoulder and break loose when it was mistaken for the referee's signal. But he wasn't the last, as Leathers did the same twice and it again bobbed up during the Daula-Heaton match.

Kazanjian and Dale Raines, his opponent of last week, gave an interesting exhibit of the various holds used by the modern wrestler. They were first shown in slow motion and then as they were applied during a real contest. Among the holds shown was Kazanjian's specialty, the hammer throw, O'Mahoney's Irish whip, Sonnenberg's celebrated flying tackle and headlock.

Police were on hand last night to see that Brother Heaton didn't suffer at the hands of the spectators if he aroused them by trying to choke his adversary into unconsciousness as he was apparently doing a few weeks ago when spectators entered the ring and attempted to bring the match to a free-for-all finish. The announcer at the start of the card warned all there was a ruling that prohibited any, other than wrestlers or officials, from entering the ring at any time during the performance.


(Spokane Spokesman-Review, Feb. 12, 1936)

In one of the best wrestling matches seen here this season, Casey Kazanjian, 216, Stanford, took two out of three falls from Paul Boesch, 215, Brooklyn, N.Y., in the main event of the mat card staged before about 600 fans in the Masonic Temple arena last night. The pair turned in a clean performance, and although some of the fans thought there ought to be a little blood flowing, the majority applauded the bout vigorously. It went the full eight rounds.

Tiger Daula, originally slated to meet the Stanford star, missed train connections, according to announcer Joe Albi, so the card was rearranged.

Boesch tossed his feet against Kazanjian's chin for the first fall in the fourth round, but Kazanjian came back in the sixth round to toss Boesch heavily to the floor twice. Boesch then took a flying kick and missed and Kazanjian applied his famous hammer throw hold to even the match.

In the eighth round both were on the verge of falls. Boesch got a full hammerlock on Kazanjian but in the tussle the Stanford star fell on top and was awarded the fall. Boesch protested, but to no avail.

In the semi-final the crowd got plenty in the way of rough stuff as "Brother" Jonathan Heaton, 235, Salt Lake, and Rebel Russell, 220, Northwestern, each grabbed a fall in a five-round slam-bang fray in which Referee Louis Taylor spent as much time on the mat as the grapplers.

This pair went at it even before they were both fully in the ring and the crowd enjoyed the show. Heaton choked and slammed his way to the first fall in the third round, but Russell knocked his larger opponent about to even the falls in the fourth round. Heaton took the punishment and headed for the ropes. He crawled through only to have Russell haul him in again over the top by the head. The act was repeated on the other side of the ring and Russell climbed on top for the fall.

In the opener Sam Leathers, 216, Tulsa, Okla., took two falls from Paul Henning, 212, Spokane, in a desultory sort of a struggle.

Hat Freeman refereed the first event; Louis Taylor the second, and Charles Mason the final.


(Associated Press, January 9, 1937)

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa -- The body of Martin (Farmer) Burns -- the 170-pounder who wrestled his way to the world's championship -- lay in state at a mortuary here today.

Friends and fans, sorrowed by his death last night at the age of 75, filed by the bier of the man they came to know as the "dean of American wrestlers."

The funeral will be held at the Catholic church at Toronto, Iowa, next Monday with burial in the family lot there.

"The Farmer" won his first grappling bout -- and a side bet of 15 cents -- at the age of 8. He went on to engage in 6,000 matches, losing only seven.

In 1895 he reached the top by defeating Evan Lewis (the original "Strangler" Lewis) for the world's title. He held the championship until 1898, when Tom Jenkins took it from him.

About a year later, Burns met a young Iowa farm youth named Frank Gotch in the ring at Fort Dodge, Iowa. "The Farmer" threw Gotch, then motioned to the crowd for silence and said:

"I never have met an amateur wrestler the like of this fellow in my life. If he will come with me I'll make him champion."

Burns made good his promise. Gotch eventually retired -- undefeated.

Burns, who at no time during his career weighed more than 170 pounds for his important matches, said his success resulted from his clean method of living and the great strength of his shoulders and neck. To demonstrate the strength of his neck muscles, he once was "hanged" at Rockford, Ill.

Burns hated modern wrestling, saying:

"It's a shame to degrade such a fine sport."


(Associated Press, January 28, 1937)

NEW YORK -- Robert Bruns of Chicago tossed Fred Grubmeier of Germany in the windup wrestling bout at the Hippodrome tonight and then hurried to a Brooklyn hospital to give his blood in a transfusion for the man he defeated last week -- Dave Levin.

Levin was reported in a critical condition from an infection resulting from an injury in last week's bout.


(Tri-City, Wash., Herald, Friday, January 7, 1955)

Seven grapplers will compete in a tournament Monday night at the Richland Rollarena to see which one will get the opportunity of facing Tacoma city councilman Frank Stojack in the following week's bouts.

Walla Walla promoter Dale Haddock also announced Thursday that the unpopular, but crowd-drawing Tony Borne is returning to the Tri-City ring as one of the seven.

The others are Thor Hagen, Bill Curry, Bill Fletcher, Frank Faketty, Don Moore and Demitri Kontros.

Under the tourney rules, opponents for the first round will be determined by lot. Then the winner of the first match will grapple the one drawing a bye. The winners of the second and third matches will compete, and the final winner will be determined by a match between the winners of the semi-final.

The bouts will start at 8:30 p.m.

Haddock also said that Sugy Hayamaka, popular "sleeper hold" specialist, will be out of action for some time with a shoulder separation.


(Tri-City, Wash., Herald, Tuesday, January 11, 1955)

Hairy-jowled badman Tony Borne emerged top dog in a seven-man elimination wrestling classic in Richland Monday night by downing Demitri Kontros and Billy Fletcher concurrently, then throttling Thor Hagen with a hangman's hold for crowning victory.

The three-opponent upset earned for Tony a $150 bonus purse offered by Promoter Dale Haddock and a chance to square off against champion Frank Stojack in the Richland arena Jan. 17.

In seven, 15-minute, one-fall bouts, Borne steadily worked his way to supremacy by brutal footwork, cleverly concealed hairpulling, and gouging while his more refined opponents fell to his fury.

First-bout winner Don Moore tossed Bill Curry from the arena to capture the judges' decision. Next out, Demitri Kontros lost out to Tony's cannonball stomp.

In the third set-to, Billy Fletcher, Boise, Idaho, humbled Frank Faketty and later lost to Borne and was eliminated. The seventh man, blonde Thor Hagen of Spokane, staged a terrific ruckus with Tony to lose the purse and the match by a hangman's hold.


(Tri-City, Wash., Herald, Tuesday, January 18, 1955)

By Charles Lamb

Tough boy Tony Borne came apart like a jolted jigsaw puzzle Monday night when Tacoma politician Frank Stojack hoisted him to shoulder height and finalized the feature bout at Richland's Rollarena with a centrifugal airplane spin and body slam.

Dishrag limp and locoed, the battered bad man forfeited the mainline non-title bout with world lightheavyweight champion Stojack when the bell for fall three found him still paralyzed from the second-fall brain churning. He floundered helplessly through the ropes, thrashed about on the floor and had to be carried bodily to the showers.

Earlier the Tacoma city councilman punished Borne in fall one with a floor-level abdominal stretch and scissors vise, then spanked him roundly with a preacher's seat after the Pendleton toughie slugged the champion on the ropes and nibbled his fingers in an arm nelson.

Tony survived a painful groin stretch and was catapulted through the ropes, only to take fall one with a hangman's hold he executed when a carom body block of Stojack's backfired.

Leading up to the airplane finale, Stojack suavely escaped a headlock attempt by Borne to lead him to slaughter, and survived a belly punch barrage before lifting the baddie for the windup.

Semi-final bout honors went to Bill Fletcher of Boise, Idaho, in 42:06 after his opponent Frank Faketty of Omaha attempted to throttle him with the ring ropes and was disqualified by referee Demitri Kontros.

First fall victory fell to Faketty, however, when he softened the Boise man with knee uppercuts and "rope magic," floored him with a knee nelson and executed a shoulder press in 15 minutes. The second fall was Fletcher's when his Omaha antagonist suckered for a pair of whip snappers and succumbed to a jackknife body bender in 11 minutes.

The 30-minute or one-fall mat warmer was won by George Dusette, Montreal's strong man, when he trounced Kenny Mayne into submission with orthodox arm and leg leverage, then pressed him like a butterfly in 16 minutes.


(Tri-City, Wash., Herald, Tuesday, January 25, 1955)

By Charles Lamb

Strongman George Dusette of Montreal, Canada, hung a full nelson on Count Kurt Von Poppenheim of Bavaria Monday night to win the climactic main event, one-hour wrestling match at Richland Rollarena.

Dusette, a slow starter, fed the "Proud Prussian's" ego in opening minutes when he allowed the count to clamp an arm vice lock on his head, then suckered for a Boston crab back bender to lose the first stanza in 15:40.

Rallying with second win, the mighty George pummeled the Prussian with an arm whiplock, rode him around the ring like a surfboard, then stopped him flat-footed in seven minutes with his double half-nelson. Absorbing sledgehammer blows from the outraged Bavarian, Dusette latched onto another nelson and took bout honors in a fast, three-minute third fall.

In the 45-minute semi, Doug (Anything Goes) Donnan came back from Canada to punish Jim LaRock, Ithaca, N.Y., wrestler, with an abdominal stretch to take fall one, then fell prey to a butterfly roll by LaRock in the second comeout in nine minutes.

A rotating arm nelson by LaRock caused Donnan to throw caution to the tradewinds and flee to the bleacher section. He returned to throw fall three to the easterner by a disqualification when he failed to break on the three-count from a knee-stomping orgy that all but crippled his opponent.

Spectators saw blood fly off from Demitri Kontros in the curtainraiser when Nebraskan Frank Faketty whaled away at him with fists, then cooled off and went the full time for a congenial draw.


(Tri-City, Wash., Herald, Tuesday, February 1, 1955)

By Charles Lamb

The Daltons and Donnans "rode" Monday night -- out of the Richland Rollarena ring on their canvas-scarred backs, after George Dusette, Don Moore and Solid Jim LaRock decked them with everything but the bleacher chairs to emerge victorious in Dale Haddock's six-man tag team extravaganza.

Dusette, the Montreal strong man, had to coax Big Doug Donnan out of his corner to start the show on the road, but found he had upset a hornet's next of Donnans and red-headed hellions.

Dusette had no sooner handed the elder Donnan to Don Moore, his Walla Walla ring buddy, when brother Red Donnan reached through the ropes and pushed his brother's opponent over while the latter was setting his sibling up for a shoulder stand.

Grabbing the initiative, Doug throat-stomped the hapless Walla Wallan, then slipped him to Red Dalton, the third man in the Donnan corner. Dalton wished he was an onlooker a second later when Strongman George charged back into the melee and sent him sailing like a salt sack.

At this point Jim LaRock of Ithaca, N.Y., entered the picture and promptly fell prey to a three-man kicking and kneestomping orgy in the Donnan corner. Plucky young Moore re-entered to rescue LaRock and ran into real trouble.

Massive Doug played razzle-dazzle pool with Moore's head on the corner post until his eyes started to glaze, then fell with full weight on his throat and pressed him like a Gypsy moth for the three-count in 16 minutes.

Moore tasted revenge, however, as opening seconds of fall two saw him side-hand chop the bigger man to the canvas and stomp his Adams apple vigorously, making Donnan gurgle perceptively. Unorthodox tactics by Doug again brought Dusette raging back into the fray with such fury that the Donnan-Dalton faction scattered like quail before buckshot.

Seconds later, the big Canadian snared Dalton, cut him into stove-length kindling with side-hand judo, then turned off his blinker light with a sustained full nelson that left him limp as a washcloth. Dalton was still answering "sick call" when the bell chimed for the third stanza, so the Donnan boys had to go it alone.

The third set-to saw LaRock execute a surfboard hold on Doug, walk him over to friendly territory and let Moore have him for a knee uppercut that sent the big bruiser rolling. Brother Red Donnan held a step-over toe hold on the Ithaca athlete momentarily, before LaRock treated him to a low altitude airplane spin and returned him to Moore.

Already convinced he shoulda stood in bed, Little Brother Donnan absorbed a couple of cannonball body bouncers and a brutal esophagus stomp before accepting the "hors de combat" triple count that ended the bloody old battle.