The WAWLI Papers (Wrestling As We Liked It) No. 559
KING LEROY, THE FIRST
(Ring Magazine, May, 1934)
By Harry Benson
His first name sounds, maybe, just a bit sissified, but in the French, from which it is derived, it means "The King," and it is his by right.
The rest of his name is fighting Irish, and it, too, is his by right.
LeRoy Michael McGuirk . . . "King" Michael McGuirk.
He is the new king of the light-heavyweight wrestlers, this broth of a twenty-three-year-old boy from Tulsa, Okla.; king because he conquered the crafty veteran, Hugh Nichols of Mexia, Texas, in a great match in the Tulsa ring on the night of March 5, while seven thousand of his hysterical fellow townspeople raised the roof with their exultant cheers.
He is recognized as light-heavyweight champion of the world in at least thirty-one of these United States, because Col. Harry J. Landry, president of the National Wrestling Association, which more or less rules the mat game in the thirty-one states, was at the ringside, pausing to see the bout while on an inspection tour. When the end came and LeRoy pinned the great Nichols with the deadly rolling double wrist lock, which is the youthful title-holder's own specialty, Landry handed him the beautiful belt won by Nichols in the light-heavyweight tournament four years ago, in the finals of which the Mexia mat master defeated flashy Joe Banaski.
The wrestling experts say that no grappler is at his best until he passes thirty years of age, but let them not scoff at this twenty-three-year-old from Oklahoma, for he has been a brilliant prospect for seven years and was a national champion six years ago in interscholastic ranks.
Young McGuirk is no "facemaker" who depends on the use of his fists and teeth to win his matches and excite the crowds. He is a calculating, precociously cunning, scientific workman with a repertoire of sound, effective holds far greater than those of most men who have been in the professional game for fifteen or twenty years.
He was schooled in the best amateur mat school in the country, that of Oklahoma A & M, whose teams have lost only one dual meet since 1922, have won every national intercollegiate team trophy ever awarded, have dominated the national A.A.U. tournaments for a decade, and placed four men on the United States Olympic team in 1932, two of them winning world amateur championships. The Oklahoman's veteran coach, Ed C. Gallagher, keeps ahead of the pack by teaching his boys to condition themselves perfectly and by originating a couple of brand-new holds every season. McGuirk entered the Stillwater school in 1928 to study journalism, after winning the national 145-pound title his last year in high school. During his sophomore season, he "held out" too long in a gym workout with his 235-pound teammate, the giant Earl McCready, now a leading pro, and suffered a broken leg, but returned to the line-up in time to land second place at 160 pounds in the national A.A.U. tournament in New York City. Later he won the national collegiate championship at 160 pounds, second place at 175 pounds, and the Western A.A.U. heavyweight title.
After losing in the finals of the Olympic trials in 1932, he decided to turn professional, while two of his mates copped world amateur championships at Los Angeles. One of them, Bobby Pearce, now is a pro and a top contender for the welterweight crown held so long by Jack Reynolds.
Very few get ahead as fast in the rigorous, bruising pro game as did LeRoy McGuirk; none ever reached the very top as rapidly, for his first professional match was in July, 1932. Within a month, he was wrestling, and winning, main events. He took to it like the proverbial duck to water.
He admits now that he was becoming a bit conceited when he first ran into Nichols in 1933, believing that he already was good enough to become champion, but the rough Texan sobered his youthful ebullience by beating him in straight falls.
After that bitter lesson, he settled down to strenuous gymnasium work whenever he had time off from competition, under the guidance of his old coach, Gallagher, and a new one, Matt Berg of Tulsa. It was Berg who helped him devise the new wrist lock he used to land the title.
Late in the summer of 1933, he headed north and campaigned around Ohio for several months. It was at this time that The Ring magazine first touted him as a championship possibility, after his victories over John Kilonis and Ray Carpenter and a draw with Joe Banaski.
He returned to the Southwest with a long string of victories, got another match with Nichols, and surprised the champ by winning in two out of three falls. But he had been unable to make 175 pounds and the belt stayed with Hugh.
Then something happened which made a vast difference. He hadn't been feeling well, and a physical examination showed badly infected tonsils. Out they came. His weight dropped to 154 pounds during his convalescence, rose again to 164, stopped there. He found that his poor condition had kept him overweight despite his hard work to take off the unhealthy poundage.
Nichols was lured into a defense of his crown, and lost it.
It was a great duel. The veteran champ, drilling long hours in the gym, had whipped himself into his best condition of two years and was his usual wily, tigerish self. The youngster, however, was in equally good shape, had a smart plan of battle and stuck to it, harassing Nichols' left arm all the way with his bone-crushing wrist locks and arm locks until, at the finish, the wing dangled almost useless at Hugh's side.
The first fall went to McGuirk in twenty and one-half minutes with a wrist lock and head scissors. Nichols, wrestling carefully, evened it in eighteen minutes with a crab hold. McGuirk came back fresh after the intermission, weakened the champ with more wrist locks and a series of toe holds, shook himself free from Nichols' famous cradle split, and after eleven minutes, spinning the frantic title-holder around the ring with the rolling lock, stopped suddenly to clamp on a body bar for the pin.
That's the story thus far, and it may be a dramatic story which barely has started. LeRoy Michael McGuirk may not hold the title long. Nichols is far from through at thirty-five and swears he will regain the belt. The great Clarence Eklund, who retired as champion in 1928, has emerged from his Wyoming ranch and appears, at forty-seven, to be about as tough as ever. There are many other threats, but McGuirk, dazed at first when he realized he had scaled the heights, is filled with youthful ambition to stay there, and ambition has carried him far.
Of all the contenders, McGuirk declares he considers the fearful-looking Frank Wolff of New York the most dangerous, which is natural enough, since the German has beaten him twice and also has beaten Nichols. Among the top-notchers the new king has victimized are Jimmy Logas, George Sauer, Alvin Britt, Jimmy Lott, Elmer Guthrie, Ted Travis, Mustafa Pasha and Les Wolfe.
He should be a popular champion, much more popular than Nichols, who is inclined to be vicious and to take what the fans consider ulnfair advantages in the ring. The new titlist is handsome, has one of the most nearly perfect physiques in the light-heavy division, and dresses like a campus idol. He was president of his college fraternity and a high-graded student in journalism, starring on collegiate publications and working his way through school as sports correspondent for a big daily in the Southwest.
McGuirk was born at Garvin, Okla., December 13, 1910, so his twenty-fourth birthday still is months away. He was married three years ago, while in college, to his co-ed sweetheart, who attends all his matches wherever he goes. When he quits the ring, he intends to enter the newspaper business. But that is a long way off for LeRoy.
McGuirk was just beginning to enjoy the fruits of victory when "Tex" Austin, wrestling editor of The Ring, received a letter of protest from Clarence Eklund, which should not be overlooked and which should prove very informative to many mat fans, especially those who are sticklers for facts. Eklund goes on to say, "The wrestling profession automatically retired me from active competition. I had made two trips to Australia and New Zealand. In 1928, I won the tournament in Australia in which twenty-two of the leading wrestlers of the world were entered. From the United States came Ad Santel of West Coast fame, Ted Thye from Portland, Pink Gardner from Schenectady, N.Y., and Hugh Nichols, Kaufman and myself from the Middle Western States. An imposing list.
"The facts at present follow -- I have defeated every wrestler of note at my weight, with the exception of Charles 'Midget" Fischer of Butternut, Wisc. As near as Fischer or his manager, Max Bowman, ever came to a match with me was to state that I was too old to wrestle, or that I had retired.
"I have deposited $100 with the Missouri State Athletic Commission as a forfeit for a $500 side bet match to be held before any authorized promoter offering the highest purse or percentage.
"According to fourteen doctors representing commissions in various states, my age ranges from thirty-two to thirty-four years.
"According to wrestlers, I am younger than all my contemporaries, when youth is judged by ability. I am forty-six years old.
"When I am asked if I am as good as I once was, I reply that nothing except physical and mental test on the mat can answer that. I stand ready to meet any 175-pounder in the world."
MAT SPORT'S ACROBAT
(Ring Magazine, April, 1934)
By Mike Cohn
The world of sport is full of freaks, but in no branch will you find so many varieties as in wrestling. Take for example Fritz Kley, the human contortionist who can fold himself into a pretzel appearance; Sol Slagel, another of the Kley type whose antics in the ring bring forth rounds of laughter and keep the fans in good humor throughout his match; Singh, the latest Hindu importation whose offerings of prayers followed by a continuous slapping of his right thigh have become familiar to New York fans; Matros Kirilenko, whose stately, soldierly carriage and his leopard's skin robe have made him famous. Those are only a few of the many specimens in the mat world who have one or more peculiarities that have made a definite impression on the mat followers.
But of all the wrestling stars now before the public, there is none who is so acrobatically inclined as George Zarynoff, the short, stubbily built, bald-headed Ukrainian George, at one time a circus follower with an acrobatic troupe, who can do stunts that few of America's foremost gymnasts can perform. When it comes to leaping over ropes, balancing on the ring strands, playing leap frog with an opponent, and squirming out of holds, there is no one in the sport who is George's equal.
He is dubbed the "Count," although nothing displeases him more than to be referred to as a Russian member of nobility. "My parents were of the common herd, and their parents likewise came from the common Ukrainian stock and I'm proud that I also belong to the ordinary class. We Ukrainians have no love for the Russians. We were oppressed by the late Czar and his cohorts, and a Ukrainian regards it as an insult to be called a Russian Count. That's why I have repeatedly asked Jack Curley not to bill me as 'Count' because it gets under my skin, but the fans have already become accustomed to that nickname, and I suppose I'll have to carry it with me into retirement," said Zarynoff in my interview with him.
Zarynoff attributes his agility to exercises he had taken when a youth abroad. "We used to have peasants' games in our village that required considerable jumping. At first I found it most difficult to get the knack, but there were some of my playmates who could leap close to six feet over a rope without much trouble.
"I recently watched an athletic meet in the Madison Square Garden on one of my few nights off and saw a high jumper leap over the bar at a height of six feet seven inches. Of course, that's great -- a feat few persons can accomplish, but I know quite a few of my fellow countrymen who could come within a few inches of that. With a little extra training, I'm sure that I could leap over the bar in a high jump at five feet eight inches.
"When you consider that I often have leaped straight into the air from the ring over the ropes to the platform at a height of more than four feet, just imagine what I could do were I to learn the art of swinging my body sideways and leaping over the ropes at such an angle as do your high jumpers. I am an expert at what you term the Russian dances which require quick movement of the feet and often wind up in a leap into the air and that's how I first learned to do the jumps I now perform in my wrestling matches."
Zarynoff is one of the best defensive wrestlers in the mat sport. He also is one of the most spectacular. He has a variety of offensive weapons that, according to such a fine judge as George Bothner, make him one of the outstanding grappling stars of today. It took Zarynoff years of experience and hard struggling to get where he is, but now that he has arrived, he hopes soon to reach the position where he can command a title shot.
He has been competing in this country for a little more than three years. He came to America from Australia where he spent considerable time and brought back with him close to a quarter of a million dollars which he amassed by meeting all comers both in the Antipodes and in Europe. George has lost most of that since coming here.
Zarynoff got accustomed to the American investment system as practiced at the corner of Wall and Broad streets in New York City, and that cost him heavily. In addition to this, he married a Jewish belle of Boston, two years ago, and paid $80,000 for a large and beautiful estate in a suburb of the city of culture.
Of course one can get plenty of land for that amount of money and this is exactly what Zarynoff procured. He makes good use of it, too, for while his particular fancy is breeding beagles, he has a complete farm on his estate and takes much delight in raising products of the soil.
All this is the personal side of the Ukrainian. His wrestling prowess is too well known to delve into at length. His principal ambition is the same as any other grappler, that is, to win the championship.
Zarynoff's size is no obstacle. Standing only five feet eight inches, he can reach any of his opponents because of his bouncing faculties. He can apply a flying head scissors with the ease of any hold from a standing position. Weighing close to 200 pounds, he will match his strength with that of any man and doesn't know the word fear.
He got his biggest test of facing danger during the World War. Cooped up in a German prison camp, he lost his hair overnight going through the tortures of the captives because he failed to divulge valuable secrets he possessed.
YOUNG COAST STAR, VIC CHRISTY
(Ring Magazine, April, 1934)
By Alex Sullivan
If there is anything in environment, then Vic Christy, young sensation from the Coast, should go far in the wrestling world. Vic's home is but a stone's throw from the domiciles of two such mat celebrities as Ed (Strangler) Lewis, four times world's champion, and Ray Steele, who started out in life with the moniker Pete Sauer. Vic hails from Glendale, Calif., which seems to be a great stamping ground for star grapplers, and he hopes to go as far, if not farther, than either of his more illustrious townsmen.
As a matter of fact, at a corresponding period in the careers of either, the Strangler and Steele, neither of the two famous pachyderms was anywhere as near as far advanced as is Vic. Few wrestlers ever came to the front as rapidly as he. Already he is causing heaps of talk everywhere because of the surprising ability he has shown for one so new at the grappling industry.
It was only a comparatively short time ago that Vic was finishing his course up at the Glendale High School. He is only twenty-one now, and has not yet cast his first ballot. He says he will return home for the next elections, no matter where he is or what matches he has to cancel in order to get in his first vote. Vic takes keen interest in political doings and hopes some day, after he has retired from wrestling (providing he doesn't wait as long as the fifty-three-year-old Stanislaus Zbyszko is doing) to enter politics. He won first prize in political economy in high school.
Although he has just reached his majority, Christy probably has had more experience on the mat than anyone has ever had at his age. Imagine a lad of his age having held the mighty Strangler Lewis to a draw when he was last champion before Jim Browning took him into camp! Well, that's one among many things accomplished by the "baby face" from the Coast. He also held Sammy Stein to an hour's draw, which was no mean stunt considering the redoubtable record the clever Jewish performer has had in the three years he has wrestled.
Old Bill Shakespeare tried to claim there was nothing in a name, giving the old sales talk that a rose with any other name would smell as sweet, but Christy thinks the fact that his first name is Victor augurs well for his success in matdom.
Vic stands six feet two inches and weighs 208 pounds. He'd be the last person one would take for a wrestler, but in the ring he is a lion when once he sweeps into action, as Stein, Lewis, and a host of other stars will attest.
When a member of the Los Angeles A.C., Vic won the southern light-heavyweight amateur crown. He had many an offer to enter the movies but passed them all up so he could pursue his mat inclinations.
Vic specializes in the body and flying scissors, which are holds that only the most experienced wrestlers dare try to execute.
Take a glance at a bit of his record. Thus far, as this writing, he has defeated Karl Davis, Tiny Roebuck, Floyd Marshall, Frank Brunowicz, Doctor Sarpolis, whom he beat in straight falls inside of seven minutes; and has drawn with such stars as Ray Steele, Strangler Lewis, Gino Garibaldi, Hans Steinke, and Pat O'Shocker. Great, isn't it, for a lad not in the game more than a year?
Vic played basketball at high school and started wrestling when he was eighteen. He did most of his training outdoors, which fact, he thinks, has been a big help in his fast climb to the front ranks. He is fond of boating, swimming, and fishing.
One of the training stunts hit upon by Vic to strengthen his legs is the wrapping of them around a medicine ball.
"On to victory with Vic" should be his mat slogan.
Christy is one of a nucleus of speedy young fellows, which includes Cliff Olson, Sammy Stein, Sandor Szabo, Jim McMillen, Gino Garibaldi, Joe Savoldi, Sam Cordovano and Paul Boesch. They are the boys who supply the thrills when in there with the experienced veterans like Lewis, Londos, Browning, Steinke and Shikat.
Vic has no false illusions about the tugging and tossing racket. He fully realizes that it takes hours and hours of hard and strenuous training each day to put him in shape for the arduous task of tackling the big bruisers. He knows that he has to suffer torturous headlocks, toeholds, and all the other bone-breaking and breath-taking holds.
But, nevertheless, young Vic seems to stand up well under this vigorous routine. He likes to travel and meet people, and he certainly gets a good chance to satisfy this trait.
A big favorite wherever he wrestles, young Christy has many feminine fans among his rooters. And, why not? He's young, handsome and popular.
CHARLES CUTLER, THE 'KID' FIGHTER
(Ring Magazine, April, 1934
By The Chicago Referee
In a recent issue of The Ring, the story of the wrestling career of Charley Cutler referred only to his prowess as a mat artist, and, take it from me, he was a mighty good one. But few who follow the wrestling news know that Cutler was also a mighty good fighter, even though he found that he was better suited for the mat game than he was for fisticuffs.
The mighty Charles started out as a pugilist. It was Frank Hall, a gentleman who has been mixed up in a multitude of sporting adventures and promotional schemes of many sorts, who dug up Cutler out of the thin air and gave him his start as a boxer. And here is how it all happened:
Hall had a show on the road in which he was featuring a boxing bout between John L. Sullivan and Jake Kilrain. Of course John L. was too stout to do anything worth while and Jake was too old to mix matters with the young bucks who were part of the company. So, to make the show more attractive, Hall dug up several huskies to meet all comers in the various cities and towns where the troupe stopped, and among those who were accepted was Cutler, then a 200-pound husky lad with a fair knowledge of how to hook and swing a glove. And who do you think his partner was? None other than Jim
PRO WRITER VS. PRO WRESTLER
Louise Lione, Charlotte Observer, November 15, 1991
Lione, Observer fashion writer, interviews a professional wrestler. Hilarious, no? That's what my editor thought. What a hoot. Well listen smarty-pants, I'm not such a stranger to this stuff as you thought. When my son wrestled for Myers Park, I was so rabid I wore a T-shirt that said "Mamma Lione" in big letters across the back. I enjoyed my telephone interview with Arn Anderson, Charlotte resident and professional wrestler also known as "The Enforcer." Anderson - one of the stars of World Championship Wrestling - was on tour, in Los Angeles at that moment last week. Here are the highlights from our hourlong conversation:
Q. Why do you do this? Is it fun? Or work?
A. It's a healthy way of life. Plus the perks that go along with it. It's hard being away from your family. But we go to every major city in the country and it's kind of like a working vacation actually. Just the fact that you are a "celebrity" opens a lot of doors for you. And you make a lot of business contacts.
Q. Tell me a little bit about life on the road.
A. We're probably on the road 200 days a year. I was in Atlanta yesterday, L.A. today. San Jose tomorrow. Chicago the following day. Minneapolis following Chicago. Then all the way back to Atlanta Monday to do TV taping. It goes on from there. We go to Albany, Ga., for another day of TV taping. Then we have a day off Wednesday. Thursday I believe is Fayetteville. Charlotte is Friday. Charleston is Saturday. Greensboro Sunday. That's an easy schedule. That's all driving out of home, down and back. It's the flying that kills you. We probably fly 200,000 miles a year. Our driving has really been cut down. I probably drive 30,000 miles a year.
Q. What do you drive?
A. I have a Mercedes.
Q. I would think you'd be exhausted most of the time. How do you prepare for a match? How do you train? Do you "practice" anything?
A. As far as being in the ring and practicing wrestling - that doesn't exist. It's on-the-job training. We go to the gym for weight and cardiovascular workouts virtually five days a week, six days a week. I usually train for an hour and a half, two hours, a day.
Q. Professional wrestling seems so violent. I can't watch. Is it as violent as it seems?
A. It's very violent and it's very dangerous.
Q. Do you guys ever get hurt?
A. All the time. February a year ago I had a herniated disk in my neck. I was out four months. If you took any random five guys that have been in the business, say, 10 years and put them on an X-ray machine, any doctor in America would probably term them disabled. We're like any other athletes. Your pain threshold is so much higher than the average person's because being hurt is the norm rather than the exception.
Q. But isn't professional wrestling also fake? Do you guys take acting lessons?
A. This has been an ongoing struggle. ... Are we paid to lose? Let me put it this way -- I've never been asked to throw a match.
Q. But what about all the dramatics and stuff?
A. There are a lot of different characters in every personality and you're allowed to manifest whatever character you want to be. If you want to be a good guy, you can be a good guy. If you want to be bad guy, you can be a bad guy. That's each person's perception. I am viewed as a bad guy. But in any arena across this country I still get 50 percent of the cheers.
Q. How do you be a bad guy?
A. It's how you're perceived. Children and older people would perceive me as a bad guy because I wrestle a lot rougher than some of the other wrestlers. So they say, "Hey, the guy's got a mean streak." Then the guys my age and your athletes, truck drivers, construction workers that are at the matches - I'm more or less their favorite because they appreciate the rougher style.
Q. What's your win-lose record?
A. I have no idea. I win more than I lose. I'm currently one half of the world tag team champions, with my partner, Larry Zbyszko.
Q. What is tag-team wrestling?
A. This is two guys wrestling two guys. Rather than one-on-one it's two-on-two.
Q. For people like me who think this is all a put-on, what's the one thing we should watch for in these matches, but don't.
A. I don't defend our business. All I tell anyone is to watch my match and if they see anything in my match that's phony or put on. I more or less defy anyone to watch my match from ringside and tell me to my face that they saw anything that didn't look exactly what it was -- completely legitimate. I just defend myself. I don't try to defend everyone else. And I don't say guys haven't been paid to take a dive. I'm sure it happens, just like any other sport.
Q. Do you think people like me have misconceptions about professional wrestling?
A. There's always been that question ever since wrestling first started -- is it fake? Like I said, I don't defend the business. But you'll also never make me believe that the World Series wasn't fixed. How could they take a zillion fans to the last out of the last game and string us along -- where Atlanta won every game in Atlanta and Minneapolis won every game in Minneapolis? Seems cynical, but it seems like to me they were getting every marketing, every advertising dollar they could out of the series.
Q. Do you wear a costume?
A. I just wear a pair of wrestling trunks and a pair of wrestling boots. Plain and simple. What you see is what you get. No Hollywood here.
Q. How do you decide on your "look?"
A. To be honest with you, I don't have any idea how some of these guys arrive at what they actually want to portray to the public. My personal opinion is that there's a little too much of the hot-dogging or Hollywooding or whatever you want to call it. Because once they take off the flowers or lay down the snake or whatever they choose to be, it's just man against man and none of that stuff will help you once the bell rings.
Q. What made you decide to go plain and not fancy?
A. I saw this coming - the appeal to our audience now is primarily an appeal to kids. Because kids are the predominance of our TV viewing audience. Let's face it, on Saturday morning when our show plays, who's home? Kids. Kids like cartoon characters. So a young guy who's breaking in now, even if he's a good athlete, if he can further himself marketing-wise by developing some type of cartoon persona, whether it's through his outfit of costume or whatever -- that has a lot of appeal now. But once again, once you take off the costume, now you've gotta win the match. And there's winners and there's losers. I just decided that basically that's all I need. My performance speaks for itself. My credibility is based on my performance nightly over a long period of time.
Q. A lot of wrestlers have special holds they use. How special are they, really? What are yours?
A. They're called finishing maneuvers. I use a DDT and a Spinebuster.
Q. Is that with a capital S?
A. Yes. If it's ever put on you, you'll exclaim, "Capital S!" What you're going for is the jugular. It's the same thing as a long bomb in football. Quick touchdown. Quick win. Same scenario.
Q. So what is the DDT?
A. The only way I can describe it is, you grab someone by their head under your arm and just fall straight down, right into the mat.
Q. And the Spinebuster?
A. A variation of the belly-to-belly suplex.
Q. And what's that? Or should I just get Tom Sorensen to describe it to me?
A. Yeah, you better get Tom Sorensen to describe it to you. (Sports writer Sorensen: "I think that's when you drive somebody into the mat. Ask (Ken) Garfield. I'm more on the artistic side of wrestling." Staff writer Garfield: "I think suplex is when you pick somebody up and you drop 'em on their back. (Arts writer) Tony Brown might know." Never mind.)
Q. What would you like to be if you weren't a pro wrestler?
A. Probably a mattress-tester. (Big sigh.) I'm dying to lay down for a month. Arn Anderson says his main motivation in wrestling is his bank account.
Q. How is your bank account?
A. Very nice. I'll do over $250,000 this year.
Q. What would you like people to know about you or about wrestling that you think they might not know?
A. Wrestling is a business and I'm a businessman. And you either appreciate my work ethic - maybe not my methods sometimes - and I just want to be remembered as a guy who learned to do his trade as well as he possibly could. (Anderson would like to stay in the business once he's out of the ring - management, broadcasting, whatever. He talks about the things wrestling has enabled him to do - take a few, not many, nice vacations. Meet his wife. Meet a lot of great guys he might not have met otherwise.)
Q. You mention those things, but don't talk about material things.
A. You know, it's funny. You always dream about getting a Mercedes and you get one and you find out it's just a car. Basically, this is such a grind that you learn to appreciate the slower and more peaceful things in life.
Name: Arn Anderson
Real name: Off the record. "It's the only way to have any privacy."
Stats: Age: 33, height: 6-foot-1; weight: 245
Background: Originally from Minneapolis. Wrestled at the University of Minnesota, left college to turn pro. He has been wrestling for 10 years. He says he's related by marriage to wrestlers Gene Anderson, who died recently at 52, and Ole Anderson. He took their name when he got into the business.
"It was just a natural transition, with the other members of the family. I didn't know until they approached me with a contract and an offer. They said, The opening is here. If you're ready, there's a spot for you."
Residence: Has lived in Charlotte since 1985. Resides in Charlotte's Carmel Commons area.
Family: Married. Father of a 6-year-old son.
In his spare time: "When I'm home I more or
less just melt into my family and my home. I
don't like to go anywhere really - I go to a movie,
to dinner. Just much more low-key than anyone would believe. I don't
do the bar scene or any of that kind of stuff. I take my son to Celebration
The WAWLI Papers (Wrestling As We Liked It) No. 560
PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING, CIRCA 1909
(ED. NOTE -- The incomparable -- feel free to add any congratulatory adjective you can think of, because all fans of "Wrestling As We Liked It" owe a huge debt to the man -- Don Luce has been feasting on microfilm copies of the Milwaukee Sentinel and Chicago Tribune, circa 1909, and passes along the various tidbits. Luce, for more years than anyone can recall, has been plumbing through old newspapers to discover, firsthand, what was being done and said insofar as pro wrestling is concerned. This particular year, among other things, marked the initial foray of Stanislaus Zbyszko into North American rings.)
Peoria, Ill. -- January 1, 1909
Charles Olson beat Dr. Chris Pearson, 2 of 3 falls
Grand Rapids, Mich. -- January 1, 1909
Leo Pardello beat Al Kubiak, straight falls
Chicago -- January 2, 1909
Raoul de Rouen beat Dr. Chris Pearson, Prof. Mike Dwyer beat Hjalmar Lundin (no falls, handicap match), Eugene Tremblay (world lightweight title claimant) beat Ted Tonneman (later a referee in some notable matches), Mike Memsic beat Bobby Rogers, Charles Olson beat Harry Lindback, Fred Beell drew Tom Winkelhoefer (listed as an "exhibition") (I.A.C.)
Chicago -- January 4, 1909
Charles Olson beat Fred Beell (straight falls), Raoul de Rouen failed to throw Jesse Westergaard twice in 35 minutes (one fall, handicap match), Hjalmar Lundin beat Mike Dwyer, two of three falls, Eugene Tremblay beat Dick Sorenson, straight falls (Coliseum)
Kansas City, Mo. -- January 8, 1909
Raoul de Rouen beat Hjalmar Lundin, two of three falls (mixed styles) (Convention Hall)
Chicago -- January 8, 1909
Jesse Westergaard beat Roughhouse Anderson, straight falls; Adolph Ernst (later Ad Santel) beat Jack Osborne (Empire Theater)
New Orleans -- January 8, 1909
Fred Beell beat Dr. Chris Pearson, straight falls
Chicago -- January 9, 1909
Raoul de Rouen beat Roughhouse Anderson, straight falls; Adolph Ernst drew Jack Leon, Jesse Westergaard drew Hjalmar Lundin (A.C.C.)
Chicago -- January 11, 1909
Yussiff Mahmout beat Charles Olson, straight falls; Raoul de Rouen beat Alton Miner, Dick Sorenson beat Eddie Burke, Charles Cutler beat Jack Osborne (Coliseum)
Des Moines, Ia. -- January 11, 1909
Jess Reimer (aka Jesse Westergaard) beat Leo Pardello, straight falls
Chicago -- January 15, 1909
Yussiff Mahmout failed to throw Leo Pardello three times in 30 minutes (one fall, handicap match), Adolph Ernst beat Tommy White (Empire Theater)
Toledo, O. -- January 15, 1909
Charles Olson beat Mysterious Conductor
Des Moines, Ia. -- January 18, 1909
Yousiff Mahmout failed to throw Jess Reimer twice in 45 minutes (no falls, handicap match)
Kansas City, Mo. -- January 19, 1909
Yussiff Mahmout failed to throw Raoul de Rouen two times in one hour (one fall by foul, handicap match) (Convention Hall)
Grinnell, Ia. -- January 19, 1909
Jess Reimer beat Chief War Eagle, straight falls
Chicago -- January 22, 1909
Raoul de Rouen failed to throw (FTT) Charles Cutler three times (one fall, handicap match) (Empire Theater)
New Orleans -- January 22, 1909
Americus (Gus Schoenlein) beat John Parelli, two of three falls, mixed styles
Calumet, Mich. -- January 22, 1909
Fred Beell vs. Pearl Truman (aka Pearl T. Beeman)
Omaha, Neb. -- January 25, 1909
Raoul de Rouen FTT Jesse Westergaard twice in one hour (no falls, handicap match)
St. Paul, Minn. -- January 25, 1909
Young Miller beat Fred Bartle, two of three falls (won lightweight title claim)
Chicago -- January 29, 1909
Yussiff Mahmout FTT William Demetral three times in 30 minutes (one fall, handicap match), Leindach beat Doc Burns (Empire Theater)
Chicago -- January 30, 1909
Yussiff Mahmout beat Hjalmar Lundin cnc, Raoul de Rouen drew William Demetral, Charles Posti beat Jack Osborne, John Abraham drew Adolph Ernst (C.A.A.)
Chicago -- February 1, 1909
Yussiff Mahmout beat Raoul de Rouen, straight falls; William Demetral drew Charles Cutler, split falls (71st Regiment Armory)
Minneapolis -- February 1, 1909
Henry Ordeman beat Chief War Eagle
Rockford, Ill. -- February 3, 1909
Yussiff Mahmout beat Hjalmar Lundin, straight falls
Cairo, Ill. -- February 4, 1909
Wild Joe Collins beat William Demetral (split falls in 90 minutes, handicap match)
Omaha, Neb. -- February 5, 1909
Yussiff Mahmout beat Raoul de Rouen dq (straight falls, second on a foul)
Des Moines, Ia. -- February 8, 1909
Raoul de Rouen FTT Jesse Westergaard (two falls in an hour, no falls, handicap match)
Milwaukee -- February 10, 1909
Yussiff Mahmout beat Ed Carlson-Paul Martinson-Tom Connors (pinned all three within allotted time of handicap match) (Hippodrome, promoter Tom Andrews)
Minneapolis -- February 11, 1909
Yussiff Mahmout FTT Henry Ordemann (twice in 45 minutes, no falls, handicap match)
Milwaukee -- February 13, 1909
William Demetral beat Roughhouse Anderson, straight falls (Gayety Theater)
Indianapolis -- February 14, 1909
Yussiff Mahmout beat Leo Pardello, straight falls
Rockford, Ill. -- February 16, 1909
Yussiff Mahmout beat Emil Anderson, straight falls
Chicago -- February 26, 1909
Yussiff Mahmout FTT Fred Beell (30 minutes, handicap match)
Milwaukee -- February 27, 1909
Yussiff Mahmout FTT Charles Cutler (30 minutes, handicap match) (Star Theater)
Duluth, Minn. -- March 4, 1909
Yussiff Mahmout FTT Fred Beell (twice in one hour, no falls, handicap match)
Kansas City, Mo. -- March 5, 1909
Raoul de Rouen beat Leo Pardello, straight falls
Chicago -- March 5, 1909
Joe Rogers FTT Charles Olson (once in 30 minutes, handicap match)
Chicago -- March 6, 1909
Eugene Tremblay vs. Bill Schoeber, Joe Rogers vs. Hjalmar Lundin, Joe Rogers beat Jack McCormick, straight falls, Charles Cutler beat Mysterious Conductor, straight falls; Leo Pardello drew Jim Galvin, split falls; Charles Postl beat John Abrahams (Athletic Club)
Milwaukee -- March 6, 1909
Raoul de Rouen beat Chris Pearson, straight falls (Gayety Theater)
Minneapolis -- March 7, 1909
Yussiff Mahmout drew Fred Beell (30 minutes)
Chicago -- March 12 (or 19th), 1909
Yussiff Mahmout vs. Leo Pardello
Milwaukee -- March 13, 1909
Raoul de Rouen vs. Dan McBride (Gayety Theater)
Chicago -- March 15, 1909
Frank Gotch FTT Charles Cutler (15 minutes)
Minneapolis -- March 15, 1909
Yussiff Mahmout beat Henry Ordeman, straight falls
Anderson, Ind. -- March 17, 1909
Yussiff Mahmout vs. Sam Murbarger-Bob Managoff (handicap)
Kansas City, Mo. -- March 25, 1909
Frank Gotch beat Raoul de Rouen, straight falls (world title defense), Tommy Mowatt drew Dago Kid, Charley Blaker beat Nick Snider
Omaha, Neb. -- March 26, 1909
Frank Gotch beat John Parelli, straight falls (world title defense)
Des Moines, Ia. -- March 26, 1909
Jess Reimer beat Raoul de Rouen, straight falls, first on a foul
Kansas City, Mo. -- March 28, 1909
Raoul de Rouen FTT Emil Klank (twice in 30 minutes, one fall, handicap match)
Milwaukee -- March 28, 19090
Leo Pardello FTT Butch Miller (New Star Theater)
Milwaukee -- March 30, 1909
Leo Pardello vs. Athos (New Star Theater)
Milwaukee -- April 1, 1909
Leo Pardello FTT Jim Galvin (20 minutes, handicap match) (Star Theater)
Milwaukee -- April 2, 1909
Leo Pardello vs. Butch Miller (Star Theater)
Milwaukee -- April 3, 1909
Leo Pardello vs. Fred Beell
Chicago -- April 3, 1909
Eugene Tremblay claims lightweight title by virtue of his win over George Bothner, but others have defeated Bothner, Luttberg among them. Tremblay, Luttberg, Jordan and others are persistent title claimants.
Milwaukee -- April 12, 1909
Walter Willoughby is the world middleweight champion. He won the title from Ed Atherton.
Chicago -- April 14, 1909
Frank Gotch beat Yussiff Mahmout, straight falls (world title defense), Henry Ordeman drew Fred Beell, 20 minutes; Eugene Tremblay beat Ted Tonneman, straight falls (A -- 12,000, International Amphitheater)
Manawa, Wisc. -- April 16, 1909
Fred Beell beat Dan McBride, straight falls
Kansas City, Mo. -- April 27, 1909
Frank Gotch beat Dr. B.F. Roller, straight falls (world title defense) (Convention Hall)
Milwaukee -- May 1, 1909
Leo Pardello beat Jim Galvin, two of three falls; Gunner Moir vs. Johnny Miller
Des Moines, Ia. -- May 3, 1909
Frank Gotch beat Jess Reimer, straight falls (world title defense)
Milwaukee -- May 9, 1909
Dr. B.F. Roller vs. Leo Pardello
Omaha, Neb. -- May 24, 1909
Frank Gotch beat Charles Olson, straight falls (world title defense)
Des Moines, Ia. -- June 14, 1909
Frank Gotch beat Tom Jenkins, straight falls (world title defense)
Portland, Ore. -- August 4, 1909
Dr. B.F. Roller FTT Charles Olson-Big Yussif (Bob Managoff Sr.) in 75 minutes (Roller took one fall from Yussif in 54:20, handicap match)
Kansas City, Mo. -- October 1, 1909
Pat Connolly beat Giovanni Raicevich cnc
Milwaukee -- October 9, 1909
Giovanni Raicevich vs. Tony Franks, Johnny Hayslip vs. J.W. Light (New Star Theater)
Rochester, N.Y. -- October 9, 1909
Stanislaus Zbyszko beat five men in handicap match
Houghton, Mich. -- October 15, 1909
Dr. B.F. Roller vs. Mike Schreck
Kansas City, Mo. -- October 20, 1909
Stanislaus Zbyszko beat Karl Alberg, straight falls
Milwaukee -- October 25, 1909
(matinee) Stanislaus Zbyszko beat George Rick-Raoul Boulanger (handicap); (evening) Stanislaus Zbyszko beat Harry Faust, 4:35 (New Star Theater)
Milwaukee -- October 26, 1909
Stanislaus Zbyszko beat three unnamed wrestlers in 15 minutes (New Star Theater)
Milwaukee -- October 27, 1909
Stanislaus Zbyszko FTT Heinrich Weber in 15 minutes (lost $100 stake in handicap match) (New Star Theater)
Milwaukee -- October 28, 1909
Stanislaus Zbyszko beat Jack Furst, 1:35, but FTT Fred Beell in remainder of 15-minute handicap limit
Indianapolis -- October 29, 1909
Dr. B.F. Roller beat Frank Prindle, 19:00, but FTT Charles Olson in remainder of one-hour handicap limit
Milwaukee -- October 29, 1909
Stanislaus Zbyszko FTT Fred Beel (15 minutes, handicap match) (New Star Theater)
Milwaukee -- October 30, 1909
Stanislaus Zbyszko vs. Jack Burns-Heinrich Weber (handicap) (New Star Theater)
Chicago -- November 9, 1909
Frank Gotch beat Giovanni Raicevich, straight falls (world title defense)
Kansas City, Mo. -- November 15, 1909
Frank Gotch beat Dr. B.F. Roller, straight falls (world title defense)
Milwaukee -- November 18, 1909
Ernest Fenby FTT Leo Pardello (15 minutes, handicap match) (New Star Theater)
Chicago -- November 19, 1909
Stanislaus Zbyszko beat Tom Winkelhofer-John Eberly-Leo Dumont (handicap match)
Chicago -- November 19, 1909
Yussiff Mahmout beat William Demetral, 13:04
Milwaukee -- November 20, 1909
Ernest Fenby FTT Leo Pardello (15 minutes, handicap match) (New Star Theater)
Milwaukee -- November 22, 1909
Stanislaus Zbyszko beat Heinrich Weber, straight falls; Young Jordan beat Gus Ackerman, Walter Bauman drew Leon Barrett
New York City -- November 22, 1909
Pat Connolly drew Con O'Kelly nc (referee Tom Jenkins)
Buffalo, N.Y. -- November 25, 1909
Frank Gotch FTT Stanislaus Zbyszko (no falls in one hour)
Chicago -- November 25, 1909
Charles Cutler vs. Giovanni Raicevich
Holyoke, Mass. -- November 26, 1909
Eugene Tremblay beat Bob Somerville (world lightweight title defense)
Detroit -- November 29, 1909
Frank Gotch beat Jack Asman, FTT Dr. B.F. Roller in remainder of 15-minute handicap time limit
New York City -- Decembe 1, 1909
Frank Gotch FTT Dr. B.F. Roller (15 minutes, handicap time limit)
Kansas City, Mo. -- December 3, 1909
Stanislaus Zbyszko beat Raoul de Rouen, straight falls
Chicago -- December 4, 1909
Stanislaus Zbyszko vs. Paul Alvarez
Quincy, Ill. -- December 6, 1909
Stanislaus Zbyszko FTT George Turner twice (Zbyszko won one fall)
Milwaukee -- December 6, 1909
Jack Leon FTT William Demetral (15 minutes, handicap time limit) (New Star Theater)
Toledo, O. -- December 7, 1909
Yussiff Mahmout beat Leo Pardello, straight falls
Milwaukee -- December 9, 1909
Leo Pardello vs. Jack Leon (New Star Theater)
Buffalo, N.Y. -- December 10, 1909
Frank Gotch FTT John Lemm (handicap)
Milwaukee -- December 10, 1909
William Demetral vs. Jack Leon (New Star Theater)
Milwaukee -- December 11, 1909
Leo Pardello vs. Jim Galvin (New Star Theater)
Chicago -- December 14, 1909
Yussiff Mahmout beat Americus (Gus Schoenlein), straight falls
Minneapolis -- December 16, 1909
Stanislaus Zbyszko FTT Henry Ordeman twice in one hour (no falls)
Kansas City, Mo. -- December 21, 1909
Stanislaus Zbyszko FTT Dr. B.F. Roller twice in one hour (no falls)
St. Louis -- December 25, 1909
Frank Gotch FTT Con O'Kelly (15 minutes, handicap); Dr. B.F. Roller drew Raoul de Rouen (15 minutes)
Des Moines, Ia. -- December 27, 1909
Stanislaus Zbyszko beat James Corbin, 3:00, but failed to throw Jess Reimer in remainder of one-hour handicap time limit
Milwaukee -- December 31, 1909
Frank Gotch vs. Jack McCormick-Jim Abell (handicap), Dr. B.F. Roller vs. Con O'Kelly, (boxing) James J. Jeffries vs. Sam Berger (Auditorium)
CLEVELAND, OHIO, RESULTS -- 1955
(Promoter Jack Ganson, with bouts held either at Cleveland Arena or the Cloverleaf Theater in Valley View, Ohio. Research accomplished by the legendary Don Luce.)
Cleveland -- February 1, 1955
Wladek Kowalski drew Primo Carnera nc, Buddy Rogers beat Ruffy Silverstein, Oyama Kato beat Hardy Kruskamp, Len Montana beat Frankie Talaber, Great Scott drew Dick Hutton (A -- 3,461)
Cleveland -- February 15, 1955
Wilbur Snyder beat Buddy Rogers cnc (won Eastern States title), Wladek Kowalski beat Primo Carnera, Stan Holek beat Hardy Kruskamp, Dick Hutton beat Len Montana dq, Billy Varga drew Great Scott (A -- 2,105)
Cleveland -- February 22, 1955
Wilbur Snyder beat Wladek Kowalski (Eastern States title defense), Buddy Rogers-Great Scott beat Donn Lewin-Ruffy Silverstein, Len Montana beat John Swenski, Dick Beyer beat Fred Bozik (A - 1,921)
Cleveland -- March 1, 1955
Wilbur Snyder drew Buddy Rogers (Eastern States title defense), Carol Cook beat Mary Jane Mull, Dick Hutton-Stan Holek beat Fred Bozik-Oyama Kato, Edmund Von Albers (later Ed Miller) beat Donn Lewin (A - 2,234)
Cleveland -- March 15, 1955
Buddy Rogers beat Wilbur Snyder dq (Eastern States title defense), Great Scott beat Ray Stern, Dick Hutton-Stan Holek-Dick Beyer beat Tommy O'Toole-Sandor Fozo-George Macricostas, Edmund Von Albers beat Sonny Kurgis (A - 2,931)
Cleveland -- April 19, 1955
Lou Thesz drew Dick Hutton nc (stopped due to cuts over Hutton's right eye) (NWA world title defense), Wilbur Snyder drew Great Scott, Don Arnold beat Len Montana, Frankie Talaber beat Bill Zimm, Stan Holek beat Whitey Whittler (A - 1,839)
Cleveland -- May 10, 1955
Antonino Rocca beat Yukon Eric, Bobo Brazil beat Edmund Von Albers, Don Arnold beat Jack Vansky, Great Scott beat Chief Big Heart dq, Fred Bozik beat Jim Lewis (A - 2,117)
Valley View, O. -- June 2, 1955
Billy Varga drew Great Scott, Stan Holek beat Len Montana, Fred Bozik beat Sonny Kurgis (A - 1,127)
Valley View, O. -- June 9, 1955
Chief Big Heart beat George Macricostas (sub for Great Scott), Don Arnold beat Dick Hutton dq, Stan Holek beat George Macricostas dq
Valley View, O. -- June 16, 1955
Don Arnold beat Dick Hutton, Billy Varga beat Edmund Von Albers, Stan Holek beat Wild Bill Zimm
Valley View, O. -- June 23, 1955
Dick Hutton drew Fred Bozik nc, Don Arnold beat Fozo Malenko, Lana Lamar beat Mae Weston (A -- 1,459)
Valley View, O. -- June 30, 1955
Dick Hutton beat Fred Bozik (boxing, 3rd-round kayo), Tommy O'Toole beat Whitey Wahlberg, Frankie Talaber beat Jack Vansky, Wally Miezetis beat Herb Gerwig (later Killer Karl Kox)
Valley View, O. -- July 7, 1955
Len Montana beat Tex McKenzie, Brown Panther (Roger Butts)-Pee Wee James beat Irish Jackie-Otto Bowman, Carol Cook beat Mary Jane Mull (A - 1,749)
Valley View, O. -- July 14, 1955
Bobo Brazil beat Len Montana, Fred Bozik-Fred Weideman beat Sonny Kurgis-Bill Zimm, Prince Emir drew Leon Graham (A - 1,117)
Valley View, O. -- July 21, 1955
Dick Hutton beat Fred Bozik, Don Arnold beat Len Montana, Lou Klein beat Herb Gerwig
Valley View, O. -- July 28, 1955
June Byers beat Mae Weston (world title defense), (tournament) Dot Dotson beat China Mira, Carol Cook beat Mary Jane Mull dec, Dot Dotson beat Carol Cook (A - 2, 185)
Valley View, O. -- August 4, 1955
June Byers beat Dot Dotson (world title defense), Stan Holek beat Fred Bozik dq, Tex McKenzie beat Edmund Von Albers (A - 1,693)
Valley View, O. -- August 11, 1955
Brown Panther-Little Beaver beat Irish Jackie-Fuzzy Cupid, China Mira beat Kathy Branch, Olga Zepeda beat Dot Dotson dq (A -- 1,689)
Valley View, O. -- August 18, 1955
Don Arnold beat Jerry Graham dq (sub for Dick Hutton), Stan Holek beat Prince Emir, Lou Klein beat Leon Graham (A - 1,009)
Valley View, O. -- August 25, 1955
Bill Miller beat Tommy O'Toole, Leon Graham (sub for Billy Varga) beat Jack Vansky, Lou Klein beat Ed (Gardenia) Faietta
Valley View, O. -- September 1, 1955
Pat O'Connor drew Bill Miller, June Byers beat Bonnie Watson (world title defense), Dick Hutton drew Don Arnold nc
Valley View, O. -- September 8, 1955
Olga Zepeda beat Dot Dotson (battle royal finale), Vicki Lynn beat Patty Neff, Lana Lamar beat Belle Starr
Cleveland -- October 25, 1955
Pat O'Connor beat Dick Hutton, Fred Bozik beat Jack Vansky, Carol Cook beat Mary Jane Mull (battle royal finale)
Cleveland -- November 1, 1955
Pat O'Connor vs. Fred Bozik, Bobo Brazil vs. Bill McDaniels, Prince Emir vs. Son of Ali Baba, Roger Mackay vs. Billy Weidner
Cleveland -- November 8, 1955
Bobo Brazil drew Pat O'Connor nc, Bobby Ford beat
Jerry Graham dq, Joe Scarpello beat Frank Marconi, Ramon Torres beat Bill Zimm,
Angelo Spina beat Mike Ryan
The WAWLI Papers (Wrestling As We Liked It) No. 561
PROMOTER, WRESTLERS HURT IN CRASH
(Charlotte Observer, October 5, 1975)
By Mary Bishop Lacy & Roger Mikeal
Charlotte promoter David F. Crockett and three Charlotte-based professional wrestlers were among six persons injured Saturday evening when their plane crashed near Wilmington.
Crockett, 28, was reported in good condition late Saturday night at New Hanover Memorial Hospital in Wilmington. Also in good condition were wrestler Richard Fliehr, 24, known professionally as Ric Flair, and George Burrell Woodin, 41, listed by the New Hanover County Sheriff's Department as a promoter.
Wrestlers Robert Bruggers, 31, and Johnny Valentine, 47, were reported by a hospital spokesman to be in serious condition.
The pilot of the plane, Joseph Michael Farkas, 28, was listed in critical condition and was undergoing surgery for head injuries at the hospital late Saturday night. The hospital spokesman said Farkas's identification bore addresses in Monroe, Charlotte, and Connecticut.
Hospital officials refused to give details on the other men's injuries.
The six men reportedly left Charlotte in the yellow and white Cessna 310 at 5:30 p.m. for Saturday night wrestling matches at Wilmington's Legion Stadium. Who owned the plane and where it took off couldn't be learned immediately.
About 6:25 p.m. when the plane was about a mile west of the Wilmington airport and was approaching a runway, Farkas radioed the control tower that one of his engines had stopped, according to Deputy Sheriff E.D. Long.
Cutting across treetops and snagging a wing on a utility pole the plane crashed about half a mile from the airport along a railroad embankment and near a state prison camp, accoording to sheriff's and state highway patrol reports.
Several of the crash victims were thrown from the plane and one was pinned betweeen seats inside, according to a spokesman for the Ogden Rescue Squad, which carried the men to the hospital.
Crockett is an official of Jim Crockett Promotions, a Charlotte-based enterprise that specializes in sports promotions.
Valentine, considered one of the top professional wrestlers in the country, has wrestled in a number of foreign countries, including Japan and Australia. Known as a lover of opera and fine cuisine, Valentine has been a professional wrestler for 25 years.
Flair is a flamboyant blond wrestler, who has been wrestling in the Charlotte area about 2 1/2 years. He is a native of Minnesota and had been scheduled to meet Ken Patera in a wrestling match at Charlotte's Park Center Monday Night.
Bruggers, also from Minnesota, played with the Miami Dolphins football team as a linebacker for several years around 1970. He began wrestling in Charlotte about two years ago.
THREE WRESTLERS REMAIN IN HOSPITAL
(Greensboro News & Record, October 6, 1975)
WILMINGTON- Johnny Valentine, Ric Flair, and Bob Bruggers, three professional wrestlers familiar to Carolinas and Virginia-area fans, remain hospitalized at New Hanover County Hospital following a Saturday evening plane crash near the Wilmington airport.
Valentine, 47, the reigning United States Heavyweight champion of the National Wrestling Alliance, and Bruggers, 31, were in serious condition Sunday according to a hospital spokesman. Flair, 24, whose legal name is Richard Fliehr, was reported in satisfactory condition.
Also in the twin-engine Cessna 310, which reportedly ran out of gas while trying to land, were pilot Michael Farkas of Monroe, who was in critical condition after undergoing surgery for head injuries and David Crockett and George Woodin, both of Charlotte, who were released from the hospital Sunday. Crockett and Woodin both are promoters.
The athletes involved wrestle from Jim Crockett Promotions of Charlotte and they were en route to a performance in Wilmington Saturday night.
"We understand all but the pilot were doing well this morning," a member of Crockett's family told the Daily News Sunday. "We understand a series of tests will be performed to determine the extent of the injuries."
Valentine was scheduled to wrestle in the main event of a Greensboro Coliseum card Saturday night, Oct. 11. Dory Funk will sub for Valentine in the match against Jack Brisco.
FLAIR THE EPITOME OF WRESTLING
(Charleston Post & Courier, Feb. 20, 1997)
By Mike Mooneyham
There haven't been many 10-time world champions in professional sports - the Yankees, Celtics ... and "Nature Boy'' Ric Flair.
Pro wrestling is a uniquely American drama --
violence with good usually triumphing over evil. It's been called a soap opera
gone mad, with characters right out of a medieval passion play. No one has
mastered this peculiar blend of Flairsport
and theater like Ric Flair.
Flair, who has held the world heavyweight championship a record 13 times, has left an indelible mark on the wrestling business. He has been an ambassador for the sport like no one before him. He has been to wrestling what Muhammad Ali was to boxing.
Inside the ring Flair is arrogant, flashy and brash. He's a "stylin,' profilin,' limousine-ridin' son of a gun.'' And the fans love him. There's only one Nature Boy.
"To be the man, you gotta beat the man.'' A toss of the silver main.
Simple as that.
Perhaps what most sets Ric Flair apart from many of his contemporaries is his genuine love and respect for the business, its tradition and history.
"This is the greatest business in the world,'' said Flair, who was in Charleston last week to promote WCW's Uncensored pay-per-view event March 16 at the North Charleston Coliseum. "It's the greatest thing I've ever been involved in. I love it, and I always will.''
Unfortunately, says Flair, the sport's rich tradition is lost on many of today's stars.
"A lot of guys today have never even heard of Lou Thesz. They just don't think it matters.''
It does to Flair.
The legacy of Richard Morgan Fliehr (pronounced flair), born Feb. 25, 1949, is already etched in stone. He will be remembered as the greatest pro wrestler of the modern era. Although that statement will invite debate from some, he is regarded by the vast majority of wrestlers and insiders as the best wrestler of modern times and has had more classic matches than any champion in history. His greatness will not be measured in terms of wins and losses, but instead his ability to carry lesser opponents to quality matches.
Playing to an audience and incredible interviews have been Flair's strengths, along with an in-ring ability that has resulted in world title reigns and dozens of regional championships. Any discussion of Ric Flair, however, inevitably invites a comparison with Hulk Hogan. The two have been the dominant figures in the sport over the past two decades and have helped change the course of the business. Hogan has claimed on numerous occasions that he's bigger than the sport. He's parlayed his phenomenal wrestling success into television and movie ventures. He's by far the richest man in the business.
To Flair, pro wrestling means everything. He loves the sport with an undying passion and is quick to defend its integrity.
"They know who I am in St. Louis; they know who I am in Chicago,'' says Flair. "I've had a great career and made a fortune. My family's healthy. Politically, I won't say that it's always worked out for me the best, but in terms of what I feel that I've accomplished as opposed to what he (Hogan) has accomplished, I feel I've accomplished just as much.''
The baby-boom generation grew up with Ric Flair, and many were hooked on the sport at an early age with Flair as their star.
Flair, a native Minnesotan who moved to Charlotte 24 years ago, has a soft, mellow voice. He's articulate and combines his athletic prowess with a keen business savvy.
He has a three-story home in Charlotte, another in Myrtle Beach, several Mercedes and a truck. He owns six Gold's gyms. He even has his own private gym in the back of his house next to the pool. When he's home, he spends a couple hours a day working out. When he's on the road, he finds health clubs.
Although Flair had followed wrestling since he was a youngster, it wasn't until college that he seriously considered pursuing it as a career. He wrestled in junior high and high school and was all-state as well as an offensive guard and defensive tackle in football.
Flair's parents sent him to Wayland Academy in Wisconsin for his high school years.
"I was in boarding school from my freshman year on. I got in trouble.
"I had to either go to a military school or a boarding school. I wasn't a bad kid, just a little wild. No trouble with police or anything like that. My grades weren't very good. They knew that I was underachieving.''
Flair was recruited in football by Wisconsin, Illinois, Nebraska, Arizona State and Michigan, and signed a letter-of-intent with the Wolverines. But things fell through at the last minute when his academic counselor refused to write a letter clearing him to go to that school.
"I had already made three trips to Michigan and made up my mind,'' says Flair. "I loved it there. But he (the academic counselor) wouldn't do it. All he had to do was write a letter. And I haven't given a dime to the school ever since. They write me every year, asking for appearances. That was a major thing to me.''
Flair, with nowhere to go, returned home to Minnesota. Current University of South Carolina athletic director Mike McGee, who served as University of Minnesota offensive line coach and head recruiter from 1966-69, would later recruit him.
"In the summer I started training with a couple of guys who were playing for the Gophers, and they told me that coach McGee wanted to meet me,'' Flair recalls. "So I went over to Mike's house, and I ended up going to Minnesota. Freshmen weren't eligible back then, so I sat there and went to summer school.
"The next year Mike left. And that was it for me. I didn't like the new coach. So all that was for nothing. I never played a down. I played freshman football and all that, but you couldn't compete as a freshman back then. And I would have been a starting offensive guard for sure. I had built everything around Mike McGee. I thought he should have been the head coach. Mike was so energetic and you can see where his career has gone.''
"Ric's certainly made quite a name for himself and, like his name, he's got flair and a lot of style,'' McGee says of his former recruit.
"I'm sure he could have been successful in any sport he chose. I hope he's got some sons we can recruit at Carolina.''
Flair sold life insurance for a year and attended Verne Gagne's pro wrestling camp in 1972. He had gone to school with Verne's son, Greg, and was living with Olympic weightlifter Ken Patera, whose training program for the '72 Olympics was being subsidized by Verne, with the stipulation that Patera would later turn pro and work for Gagne.
Flair, who turns 48 Tuesday, smiles when he recalls his decision to become a pro wrestler. He didn't even tell his parents at first.
"I don't know what they thought. They knew that I liked it and that I watched it on TV, but they had no idea.
"But they respected my decision, and they knew Verne Gagne was a well-known and well-thought-of individual with just a huge reputation. Just being associated with Verne, I guess they thought it would be OK.''
Flair suffered an injury in training camp that laid him up for four months. His first pro match was in March '73 against the late "Scrap Iron'' George Gadaski.
In 1975 he was named NWA rookie of the year, and the legend had begun.
Flair's blossoming career, however, nearly took a literal nosedive in 1975. An airplane crash near Wilmington, N.C., seriously injured several wrestlers on board, including Flair.
Although Flair fully recovered from the crash, his partner at the time, Johnny Valentine, wasn't as fortunate. Valentine, one of the sports top performers at the time, was partially paralyzed and never returned to the ring.
"We just ran out of gas 4,000 feet in the air,'' Flair explains. "I broke my back in three places. But I was lucky -- very lucky.''
Doctors told Flair that by the time he was 30, the effects of the injury would be crippling.
Within a year of the accident, Flair was back in the squared circle claiming regional titles that would pave the way to his first world championship, which he won in 1981 from Dusty Rhodes.
Flair injured his shoulder last September during a match with Kensuke Sasaki in Japan. He's been sidelined ever since -- his longest layoff since the plane crash. Noted sports orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jim Andrews of Birmingham has given Flair the green light to return to in-ring competition on May 1, in time for WCW's Slamboree pay-per-view later that month in Flair's hometown of Charlotte.
He hopes to team with Carolina Panthers standout Kevin Greene on that show.
"He's really wired,'' Flair says of Greene, a Charlotte neighbor and close friend. "He's an All-Pro every day of the week. He's the most intense person I've ever been around. He's a class guy.''
HALL OF FAME WRESTLERS
(ED. NOTE -- How many professional
wrestlers have been inducted into sports or athletic halls of fame? The WAWLI
Papers editorial board hopes to put together a comprehensive list and will from,
time to time, list them in these reports.)
Arthur P. White, Alabama Sports Hall of Fame
Arthur P. White was born December 6, 1915 at Lockhart, Alabama. "Tarzan" was an all-state football player at Atmore High in 1929. He was All-American as a Crimson Tide guard in 1936, All-Pro with the New York Giants in 1938 and Chicago Cardinals in 1941. Dunng that time, he was Phi Beta Kappa and a mathematical wizard earning his B.S. and masters Degree in 4 years. He earned his doctorate at Columbia University in 1939 while with the Giants. He went into professional wrestling where he was world heavyweight champion twice. "Tarzan" makes his home in Gaylesville, Alabama.
THE READERS ALWAYS WRITE . . .
Subj: Death of Cavernario Galindo
Date: 7/26/99 12:34:47 AM PDT
Hi J Michael Kenyon!
Kurt Brown here! Hey, thanks for reprinting my story of the L.A. luchadores in WAWLI. I'm really tickled that you enjoyed it enough to include in the newsletter!
Speaking of which, I'm still immensely enjoying WAWLI. Thanks for including me on the e-mail list!
Reason for this e-mail: I received the following e-mail from Steve "Dr. Lucha" Sims about the passing of a lucha libre legend, recognized by many followers of the Mexican scene as the greatest rudo in the country's history!
COURTESY OF STEVE SIMS
Rodolfo Galindo Ramírez, who wrestled professionally as "El Cavernario Galindo," died on Monday, July 19, 1999, at 8:15 p.m. CDT in his house in Xochimilko, Distrito Federal, México, at the age of 75.
Galindo was by far the most famous heel (not the most famous "heel wrestler," that was El Santo, but the most famous heel) in the 66-year history of Mexican wrestling, due to his considerable rudo work in the ring and even more so as the all-time lead rudo in wrestling movies in Mexico's film history. He had been suffering from prostate cancer, but the cause of death was listed in La Afición as "un paro respiratorio," which means in essence he died from lung cancer (he was said in both papers to be a smoker of "cigarritos" of immense quantities).
If El Diablo Velasco is one of the 10 or 20 biggest names in lucha libre history forever, and I think he's about 10 or 11, then Galindo is in the top ten and probably about number five.
Galindo, in keeping with tradition in Mexico, was buried within 24 hours of his time of death. Funeral services were held Tuesday morning between 10:00 a.m. and noon at the funeral home "Funerales 'Las Torres'" and he (actually his ashes I believe) were laid to rest at a mausoleum named "El Panteón 'Jilotepec'" in a section of Mexico City itself entitled "La Noria" at about 1:00 that day. He is survived by his wife, Juana María Mireles López, and his only child, Rodolfo Galindo Mireles, age 36, as well as several grandchildren.
At the end of the 1:00 p.m. service, all present broke into a minute of applause, the standard remembrance of a recently-died wrestler in lucha tradition.
The same minute of applause was repeated Tuesday night at Arena Coliseo and Friday night at Arena Mexico.
Ovaciones, on a side note, bitterly and I mean bitterly ripped into wrestlers, promoters, office personnel, etc., for not attending the wake; in Wednesday's Ovaciones, they said: "Not one current wrestler, nor company officers of EMLL, PAPSA, or IWRG was present. Without doubt, in death and sickness (we) find out who are our true friends. The only wrestlers who visited the body at the funeral home were The Blue Demon, Alfonso Ramírez (a.k.a. EMLL referee "El Pompín"), Mil Máscaras, Juanito Díaz, and La Aguila Dorada." Surprising not to come was Galindo's long long-time best friend, Adolfo "El Padrón" Bonales, who was said to have been torn up at the sudden death.
Rodolfo (means "Rudolph") "El Cavernario" (means "The Caveman") Galindo Ramírez was born on September 27, 1923, in the State of Coahuila (near the city of Torreón). He wrestled for 16 years before an injury in the ring (the last of 17 major injuries over his career) to his spinal column (vertebrae broken) forced his retirement). He starred in more than 20 movies, opposing on screen The Blue Demon, El Santo, The Black Shadow, and others. In the ring, he also fought against El Huracán Ramírez, El Murcielago Velázquez, Emilio Charles senior, Dick Angelo senior, and Pedro Bolaños.
But it was all made possible by that face. That
face anyone who ever played an "Angel" in the U.S. in the '40s or '50s
would have died for.
The WAWLI Papers (Wrestling As We Liked It) No. 562
YES, FOLKS, JERRY LAWLER IS SERIOUS
(Memphis Flyer, July 22-28, 1999)
By Jackson Baker
Guaranteed: Here are two ideas that you won't hear from any other mayoral candidate.
(1) "If there was some kind of way that, if I wrestled Jesse Ventura at The Pyramid and all the money would go to help air-condition the schools, I would be a fool not to do that, and I would dare anybody to stand up and say, 'Oh, he's making the office of mayor look bad by doing that";
(2) On the current mayor's penthouse office in City Hall: "What I would like to do is turn that into a money-making situation, so the people could use it, maybe. I'd have a little satellite office out in Clark Tower, somewhere like that, closer to the majority of people, more accessible. $1.9 million is what it [the penthouse office] cost? How many air-conditioners would that have bought?"
Do not misunderstand: Jerry "the King" Lawler knows he is nearing "the end of my wrestling career" and, while not quite ready to sever all relations with the nationally televised World Wrestling Federation, of which he is both an administrative officer and chief attraction, he is prepared to hang up his famous caveman leotards in order to serve Memphis as its chief executive officer -- the fifth since the city adopted a strong-mayor government in 1967.
And, while the idea of turning the top floor of City Hall into some sort of popular attraction may be far-fetched, the same could be said for most of the other tourist schemes pursued by city governments over the last several years -- everything from the ill-defined "Rakapolis" theme park which huckster Sidney Shlenker once conceived for Mud Island to the lakefront-on-the-river envisioned by incumbent Mayor Willie Herenton to what mayoral candidate Jerry Lawler calls "the little trolley with nobody riding it" that currently loops around Main Street and Riverside Drive.
"Common sense" is the principle which the 49-year-old Lawler intends to apply to the problems of city government if elected by the people from among the full score of aspirants who filed by last week to run for mayor. Lawler has a "seven-point positive plan of action" which addresses some of the city's conventional problems -- ranging from "safe streets" to beautification to educational enhancement.
But when he left his house on Walnut Grove last Wednesday just before noon and, accompanied by two companions, came downtown to file his qualifying petitions at the Election Commission, Lawler was greeted not only by the kind of media horde a celebrity deserves but by the kind of John and Jane Does who, like Lawler, believe ordinary people are being short-circuited by "politics as usual."
There was Betty, for example, a young black woman who had been wearing a "Reelect Herenton" T-shirt the previous week when Lawler came down to pick up his qualifying petition but, she was quick to inform passersby, had now switched sides, attracted by Lawler's nonconformist persona.
There was Sharon, a young white woman who was downtown on jury duty, losing momentum and money from being off work, she said, and having to worry every day about where to find a paid parking place while she waited for a case to hear.
"You mean, they don't provide free parking for jurors?" Lawler asked, surprised. "What you need is a guy like me who you can come to and say, 'Hey look, we're on jury duty, and we don't even have a place to park. If nobody in City Hall is listening to you, nothing gets done."
The candidate still has some homework to do, of course.
The problem of parking for jurors may be more of a county-government problem than one for the city to resolve. And when Lawler later on resolves to deal with a common frustration -- that the original straight-on Interstate-40 leg (now called Sam Cooper Boulevard) peters out at the approach to Overton Park -- he seems unfamiliar with the facts of the long-drawn-out legal challenges of the '60s and '70s which halted construction of that planned east-west axis and with the fact that the federal government, not the city or even the state, is the prime mover in interstate-highway matters.
Reportedly, some prominent business supporters of Mayor Herenton urged Lawler not to get in the mayor's race and dangled before him the prospect of board memberships and financial help for a future race if he desisted this year and spent the intervening time booking up on the details of government.
Acknowledging as much, Lawler says, "But I didn't want to spend the next four years learning how to be a politician." A group representing suburban interests also called on the would-be candidate.
"People from Nashoba Bank," says Lawler. Their interest in him was more short-term. "They wanted me to run. But they just sounded so creepy. I just wondered, 'What am I getting into? This is scary.' These guys proposed that we go somewhere fancy to eat and talk. I just said, 'How about McDonald's?' and the idea just sort of got dropped."
Jackie Welch, a prominent Nashoba stockholder and a supporter of Joe Ford, said that, while he never personally contacted Lawler, "I'm sure somebody from the bank did, and I'm tickled to death he's in there." Added developer Welch, an avowed foe of Herenton during the 1997 "toy towns" battle and one who might welcome any potential split in the mayor's vote: "I think Lawler is smart enough to be a better mayor than Herenton, who doesn't even try to be one."
A supplicant of a different sort was Bill Boyd, the erstwhile county assessor who was a major figure in several mayoral campaigns, including all those run by former Mayor Dick Hackett (who was narrowly beaten by Herenton in his historic 1991 upset).
"The day I picked up my petition, this distinguished-looking guy came over and handed me a piece of paper with his name and number on it and told me he had handled Dick Hackett's campaign. I thought, Wow!" Lawler remembers. "But then I talked to Hackett when Boyd was on his way over to my house and Hackett said, 'He's with [former Shelby County Commissioner] Pete Sisson. He'll be coming to get you out of the race.'
"Really?' I said. I told him I didn't think anybody but Pete Sisson or his immediate family would be voting for him. 'You watch and see,' Hackett told me."
What actually transpired when Boyd made the pilgrimage to Lawler's expansive home on Walnut Grove (it has several theme rooms, including one devoted to Coca-Cola paraphernalia and another to artifacts from Gone With the Wind) was that Boyd laid before him a set of numbers predicting the outcome of a three-way race for mayor, Lawler says.
"There were three initials: H for Herenton, F for Ford, and L for me."
According to Lawler, Boyd's calculations showed black voters giving 76,170 votes to F, 38,000 to H, and only 2,380 to L. White voters were shown favoring L with 79,134 votes, while H and F were assigned 6,389 and 2,791 votes, respectively. The category listed by the Election Commission as "others" (Asians, Hispanics, and white and blacks who decline to identify themselves by race) were projected to give L 10,766 votes, H 4,504, and F 6,776.
The grand total of all that was that L -- Lawler -- would win with 91,680 votes as against Ford's 85,738 votes and Herenton's 48,958.
"He [Boyd] had the whole thing doped out on racial lines. He said they never would change. 'I'll tell you right now, the figures don't lie,' he told me. He never did actually come out and say he wanted me to drop out in favor of Sisson. When I confronted him with that, he said, 'I'll be honest with you. I don't care who wins. I just want somebody other than Ford or Herenton to win.' But, he told me, he did go to Pete Sisson's house. And if you substituted S for L, his numbers stayed the same."
Boyd remembers the conversation differently. "He's very imaginative, I'll say that. I never gave any figures to Jerry Lawler with his initial on them indicating he could win the mayor's race. I did suggest to him that I thought Pete Sisson, whom I do support, could do very well in a three-person race. But he's right; I didn't directly urge him to get out. I just wanted him to draw his own conclusions. By now, of course, the field of mayoral candidates has proliferated -- up to 21, pending this Thursday's official withdrawal deadline. But the number of truly viable candidates is still small enough -- maybe four: Lawler, Sisson, Ford, and Herenton -- for the racial arithmetic to have some meaning.
"'I know the blacks come to see you, love you to death, scream and holler their heads off. But I'm going to tell you, when you get inside that polling booth, they're not going to vote for you. Maybe 2 percent of them will,'" Lawler quotes Boyd as telling him. (Boyd remembers suggesting that Lawler might get as much as 5 percent of the black vote and says that Lawler told him he expected to get at least 15 percent.)
The wrestler-turned-candidate refused to believe he'd do as poorly with African Americans as Boyd suggested.
"I feel that I have a tremendous amount of popularity with the black community. They made me what I am today," he says. He thinks the rock-bottom estimate of black votes he could end up with is 10 percent.
"The first thing we've got to do is get somebody in City Hall who doesn't get power from polarization. Ford and Herenton both do. It's always been that way in the political arena. But I think the black population can see through it. They're smarter than that."
It is certainly true that, as Jerry Lawler moves about town on any given day, there would seem to be little or no racial discrimination in the way the crowds come on to him. Wherever he stops, whether at the Election Commission or in a parking lot or a park or shopping mall or at a place like the Cottage on Summer (where he ate lunch, with his two companions, on the day he filed), the volume of well-wishers and autograph-seekers -- for him, the categories are virtually synonymous -- is both nonstop and racially diverse.
"Go, Jerry!" hollers a passing motorist as Lawler pauses to sign autographs after filing at the Election Commission. "Get 'em, champ!" says another. And on his way to his white minivan -- parked on Third Street in a spot lined up for him in advance by a friendly policeman -- he deals with several more.
At the Cottage later on, he munches on a fried-chicken dinner and keeps up a steady stream of discourse amid constant interruptions -- from fellow diners, from waitresses, from the manager, from the kitchen help, from anybody and everybody who is in or near the place.
"This is an honor for me to meet you. I want you to know you have my full support," says a young black man as Jerry nods, smiles, signs one of his newly minted campaign photos showing himself with the World Wrestling Federation crown on, and says "Thank you."
"Who should I make this out to?" Lawler asks a lady on the kitchen staff. It is the third picture he has signed for various members of her family. "We're 100 percent with you, you know," says a businessman as he gets his picture signed. "Do you have enough pictures left?" one of Lawler's companions asks during a break in the signing.
The pack of picture cards at Lawler's elbow, once thick, is visibly dwindling. "I've got some more at home," Lawler replies. It becomes ever more apparent that, along with whatever else might differentiate Jerry "the King" Lawler from the other 20 mayoral candidates running this year (and, for that matter, from most other candidates running anywhere anytime), he owns, and will forever own, this one singular distinction. He -- and he alone -- will be asked to sign autographs.
Lawler makes no bones about it. Ex-wrestler Jesse Ventura's election last fall as Reform Party governor of Minnesota was important in his decision to run for mayor of Memphis. "I'd been thinking of running for mayor for a long time, actually, but without a doubt he was the stimulus. Of course, people have been coming up and talking to me. They approached me as far back as the early '80s, saying, 'Hey, you're the most popular person in Memphis. Why don't you run for mayor?' Well, I'm getting closer to the end of my wrestling career," said Lawler, who added he'd been "lucky" enough so far over his nearly three decades of wrestling (besides the WWF national feeds, Lawler does locally originated wrestling on Saturdays at WMC-TV Channel 5) not to have any major injuries other than a broken leg and some loose bone chips.
"As you mature, as you really start to look around you, you realize that you hold yourself responsible, you yourself need to do something about it all." The "respect level" for politicians is at an all-time low and "deservedly so," Lawler says. "But you go around the country and look at these sold-out arenas, and you realize that the respect level for wrestlers is far greater right now."
Lawler is aware that his calling is not a status profession in certain political circles. "But how dare somebody look down on somebody for how they make a living? I wouldn't be up there in some ivory tower, looking down my nose at the people who put me there."
Instead of a permanent campaign headquarters, Lawler last week unveiled his portable HQ, a Winnebago emblazoned with "Lawler for Mayor" signs. "Mine is a campaign of convenience. What I'm going to tell the people, is 'The campaign is in your neighborhood.' I'll use my Web site [Kinglawler.com] to tell people where the motor home will be."
Once in office, he might even go his Clark Tower idea one better, using the mobile-home idea to shift the mayor's official headquarters from neighborhood to neighborhood. Lawler has decided to do without some of the paraphernalia of campaigning. No yard signs, for example.
"All that's about is name recognition, and I've got all the name recognition I need already." No campaign manager. That would be too traditionally "political." If elected, Lawler promises to stay in touch. "I'd have regular town meetings. That would be one way to stay in touch with people. And I think we're on the verge of a tremendous opportunity with the Internet. How easy it is to e-mail somebody, to ask somebody to e-mail!"
Unlike the incumbent mayor, who has had several well-publicized tiffs with the press, Lawler vows to be a pussycat.
"I'd try not to have run-ins, because you'll never win. The pen is mightier than the sword, and that will always be true. I'd have regular press conferences. I love the media. I've dealt with the media all my life. Old Jackie Fargo [a vintage wrestling colleague] first taught me: 'Let me tell you one thing. That camera is your best friend.' I never forgot that."
Ventura has started a regular radio call-in show up in Minnesota, Lawler noted. "I'd like to do that, or even go it one better, have my own television show. It wouldn't have to be a boring, political show. It could be multifaceted, people coming out and talking about what they wanted to, like in the old Jerry Lawler Show."
A partner on that old Saturday-morning show was Lawler's previous wife Paula, who, during football season, revealed "Paula's picks" of the winners in important NFL games. (Lawler -- an inveterate fan of the once and future Cleveland Browns -- is a onetime resident of the Ohio city, where his father, a Ford Motor Company assembly-line worker, had to relocate temporarily when the Memphis Ford plant closed in the '50s.
"That was my first inkling that something was wrong with our leadership in Memphis," he says now.) Presumably, in a revived mayoral-based talk show, there would be a role for Lawler's current companion, Stacy Carter, who serves as a kind of all-purpose amanuensis for Lawler and a buffer and facilitator vis-a-vis his public.
She also became something of a cause celebre in her own right recently when the National Organization of Women raised a complaint about some cheesecake pictures of her that were featured on the King's Web site. Those were pulled two weeks ago and replaced by a message from Lawler which chastised N.O.W., championed equal rights for women in "show business," raised the standard of the First Amendment, but promised a redesign of the site. That redesign is now at hand, and Stacy's admirers need not fear. The bikini-clad shots featured are every bit as provocative as those they replaced. Stacy's pics share space on the Web site with some vintage wrestling shots and, these days, with Lawler's opening-round political manifesto.
Among other things, it recapitulates his "seven-point Plan of Positive Action": (1) "Safer Streets" (with a "well-paid police force with high morals and high morale"); (2) "Educational Excellence" (complete with an effort "to identify potentially violent students and provide a police presence in every school!" (3) "A Cleaner Community"; (4) "Attracting New Business"; (5) "Get Traffic Moving"; (6) "Lessen the Property Tax Burden"; and (7) "More Parks for Families."
The Lawler manifesto concludes with an appeal: "To my neighbors and friends I say listen to your hearts not to your professional politicians. The hidden strength of my candidacy is in your hands, and the simplicity of our message. I say it is time to run Memphis like a business, where the taxpayers are the customers and the customers are always right!"
These lines are novel, like the candidate who devised them. Customers, indeed! From now on, until October 7th, when the measure is finally taken of his unorthodox candidacy, Jerry Lawler has to be hoping that a new one is born every minute.
And his opponents -- the Herentons, Fords, and Sissons who see his unpredictable constituency cutting into their votes, have to be fearing the same thing.
'WE WERE FRIENDS'
(Memphis Flyer, July 22-28, 1999)
By Jackson Baker
In his two-plus decades of professional wrestling, Jerry "the King" Lawler has -- with flair and plausibility -- played both Bad Guy and Good Guy. As he launches what appears to be a serious bid for the mayoralty of Memphis in 1999, and as a movie chronicling his relationship with the late comedian Andy Kaufman heads for a fall release, candidate Lawler is emerging in his kindest and gentlest role yet.
This is nowhere more apparent than in his latest recitation of what happened between himself and Kaufman during their now-legendary wrestling and trash-talk encounters of 1982-83.
Back in 1989, when I interviewed Lawler for a cover-story profile in the then-fledgling Memphis Flyer, the King showed videotaped footage and gave an account -- his first detailed one -- of the celebrated 1982 Coliseum bout which resulted in Kaufman's being sent to the hospital, a circumstance followed up by an even more famous clash between the two on David Letterman's late-night talk show on NBC television later that year.
In that 1989 article, as well as in a 1997 Flyer article by Jim Hanas, Lawler attributed his rough treatment of Kaufman -- who, in challenging Lawler to a match, was embellishing on a shtick in which he had already wrestled several women -- to his resentment of the comedian's public mockery of professional wrestling.
"He wanted to ridicule my profession and gain notoriety for himself at the expense of how I make a living," Lawler told me in 1989 by way of explaining why he inflicted on Kaufman two "piledrivers" (the piledriver is an "illegal" hold in which the adversary's head is literally driven straight down into the mat).
That attitude was very much in the spirit of the Letterman show itself, on which -- just before he administered a hard slap which knocked Kaufman out of his chair -- Lawler said, "I couldn't warm up to this guy if we were being cremated together!"
But that's not the new gospel according to Lawler, 10 years later.
The King remains coy about the circumstances of the bout itself, but few if any professional wrestlers -- proud as they are of their athletic ability, ring repertoires, and general ruggedness -- would admit to any shamming inside the ring. Moreover, as Hanas noted, Saint Francis Hospital authorities affirmed that Kaufman's injuries -- which kept him in traction for days -- were real. But Lawler now suggests that the altercations on the Letterman show -- both his headslap and Kaufman's angry response, during which the comic cursed Lawler and emptied the contents of a coffee cup at him -- were the result of premeditation between the two.
The advance presumption by Letterman and his producers was that Lawler and Kaufman would, as they had been asked, exchange apologies -- after which Kaufman would sing a chorus of "What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love." That script "would have been kind of funny, but probably not very memorable," Lawler says. It was changed, but not unilaterally, he now insists.
"It was just sort of an impromptu thing. Andy had said to me earlier on the telephone, 'I just wish we could do more. I wish there was some kind of way we could keep this going.' He said, 'What would happen if you didn't apologize to me? What would happen if you were to slug me?'" Lawler said he responded that "I'd probably be arrested" and that Kaufman agreed, "Well, yeah, you're probably right."
But on the show itself, after Kaufman had made public amends for taking wrestling too lightly and the moment came for the wrestler to reciprocate with an apology for the piledrivers, Lawler experienced a reluctance that felt like "an out-of-body experience" to him.
"Andy picked up on it, and he started agitating me. I knew if we took a break then we were gone." So it was that, just before the show's final planned break, came the slap which sent the neckbrace-wearing Kaufman toppling. After much confusion on the set and a long delay, taping resumed with only Lawler seated beside Letterman.
An apparently agitated Kaufman burst in from the wings, however, and, after hurling a string of curses (bleeped on the air but unexpurgated on a videotape recently sent to Lawler by an Esquire writer), grabbed up an abashed Letterman's coffee cup and tossed the contents at Lawler.
"He waits until I make eye contact with him," noted Lawler last week while playing the tape for two visitors and providing a running commentary on it. "He didn't want to splash me until I knew what was going on."
Outward appearances notwithstanding, Lawler said, he and Kaufman were then -- and were to remain -- close. "We were friends," he insists, although one Lawler acquaintance suggests that this belated candor on the wrestler's part was dictated by the tell-all plotline of the movie script.
In any case, as Lawler noted, he and Kaufman would continue to wrestle each other in "grudge" matches several times in the year or two before Kaufman's premature death from lung cancer in 1984.
"He was still doing my Jerry Lawler Show [a talk show formerly seen on Saturdays on WMC-TV Channel 5] when he was sick and coughing so bad that he could hardly speak," Lawler says. He owned the master videotape of the piledriver match but gave it to Kaufman's girlfriend Lynn Margulies after the comedian's death. It has since turned up in a documentary, seen frequently on cable TV's The Comedy Channel.
"She said that one of the last things Andy ever told her was, 'If you ever make any money off the documentary, be sure to take care of Jerry.'" But, says Lawler, rights to the footage seem long since to have passed beyond Margulies' control.
The King will get more royal results, of course, from his prominent role in the forthcoming film biography of Kaufman, Man on the Moon, directed by Milos Forman and due for release in October. Lawler plays himself; Kaufman is played by Jim Carrey, and it was the latter's insistence on verisimilitude that resulted in a near recurrence of (in an odd variation on) the 1982 unpleasantness. Carrey was replaced by a stunt man during key moments of the film's wrestling scenes but kept insisting to Lawler that he wanted to do the rough stuff -- including a recreation of the two piledrivers.
"I want you to do the same thing to
me," Carrey insisted. And, when an alarmed Lawler confided Carrey's
obsession to Forman, Carrey learned of it and exploded. "He got real mad
and came over and spit on me," says Lawler. "I just grabbed him around
the neck." And that headlock move, made to restrain the frenzied comic,
ironically recreated the move -- put on Lawler by Kaufman in 1982 -- that had
begun the sequence leading to the piledrivers.
The WAWLI Papers (Wrestling As We Liked It) No. 565
SILVERSTONE REUNION GRAND, PER USUAL
The tenth annual Seattle reunion, as hosted by Dean and Ruth Silverstone at their palatial, Lake Sammamish estate near Issaquah, Wash., is history. As usual, the Silverstones outdid themselves in the hospitality department. "All we have to do is show up," remarked the voluble Red Bastien. "Dean and Ruth take care of everything else." Among those who accepted the gracious invitation for Friday and Saturday, July 30-31, 1999:
Red Bastien, Tough Tony Borne, Hugh (Tex) McKenzie, Tiger Conway Sr., Nick Bockwinkel, Jack Laskin, Yvon Roberre (Losier), Moose Morowski, Fritz Von Goering, Ox Anderson, Vic Short, Dick Cardinal, Johnny Buff, Howard (Pepper) Martin, Moe Smith, Lumberjack Luke (Don Morrison), Eddie Sullivan, Tito Montez, Shawn Mayne, Bill Crouch, Ella Waldek, Ida Mae Martinez, Bob Hannan, Rocky Hannan, Ed (Moondog) Moretti, Charlie Smith, Bobby Simmons, Kinji Shibuya, Freddie Baron, Tom Drake, Al Fridell, Lou (Shoulders) Newman, Tito Carreon, Logger Larsen (Ray Schilling), Mike Rodgers, Bob Oates, and J Michael Kenyon. The group also included the mates of nearly everyone on the above list.
Perfect summer weather marked the occasion. Special awards were presented to Conway, Roberre, Shawn Mayne (on behalf of his deceased brother, Lonnie "Moondog" Mayne), Waldek, Larsen, Martinez, Smith and Drake.
Over the years, the long list of visitors (alas, many of them now with the angels) to the Silverstones' home has included:
Ray Stevens, Wild Bill Savage, Johnny Mae Young, Fabulous Moolah (Lillian Ellison), Tex Porter, Danno O'Shocker, Jan Paul, Lou Thesz, Therese Theis, Karl Lauer, Rey Urbano, Dick Steinborn, Johnny Dupree, Dick Beyer (The Destroyer), Tuffy Truesdale, Don Leo Jonathan, Johnny Valentine, Ivan Koloff, Dean Higuchi, Nick Kozak, Billy Wicks, Red Kale, Art Score, Harry Elliott, Ray Eckert, Jay Clintstock, Bobby Nichols, Al Campbell, Kay Bell, Danno McDonald, Chief Lone Wolf, Don Manoukian, Don Moore, Danny O'Rourke, Doran O'Hara, Bud Cody, Scott Teal, Dr. Ken Ramey, Roland Alexander, Mike Modest, Art Lavanis, Bill Pappas, Jim Phillips, Jack O'Reilly, Jim Gillespie, Dr. Mike Lano, Pepper Gomez, Hard Boiled Haggerty (Don Stansauk), Paul Diamond, Neff Maivia, Boyd Pierce, Treach Phillips, Dr. John Bonica, Johnny Lawrence, Vince O'Keefe, Bob Regan, Dr. Mike Webster, Verne Siebert, Roy McClarity, Jerry Paquette, Al Watkins, John Howard, Greg Lake, Bobby Payne, Jerry Christy, Kurt Von Poppenheim, Pat Patterson, Art Abrams, Cowboy Lang, Frikkie Alberts, Red Donovan, Cal Roberts, Ted Allen, and Sal (Art) Dominguez.
This particular reunion, unlike, for instance, the annual Cauliflower Alley Club reunions, is not open to the public at large. Due largely to space limitations, only former wrestlers and people with close ties to the business receive invitations. And a grand time is had by all, year after year after year, with 1999 no exception to the rule.
RUSSO EYES WRESTLING TV SERIES
(Entertainment Wire, July 27, 1999)
LOS ANGELES -- The Greenblatt Janollari Studio has signed Vince Russo, the Head Writer of the creative team of the WWF (World Wrestling Federation), to develop a primetime series.
Born out of his many years working in and around the world of professional wrestling, Russo will give fans an insider's look at the professional wrestling world like they have never seen before.
"As the appetite for wrestling on network television continues to grow, we are thrilled to have the man who is largely responsible for the creative success of television's predominant wrestling attractions," said Theresa Edy, Executive Vice President of The Greenblatt Janollari Studio, who is responsible for bringing Russo to the studio.
Russo, who is known for creating many of WWF's most popular characters, has been with the WWF for more than five years and has contributed immensely to the WWF's incredible rise in success and popularity. He also writes two monthly columns called "The Bite" and "The Bite Uncensored" for the WWF Magazine and WWF Raw, respectively.
An avid wrestling fan who grew up recognizing wrestling more for its entertainment than its sport, Russo began his career with his own syndicated radio show "Vicious Vincent's World of Wrestling."
Russo's radio show caught the attention of the WWF who later hired him as a freelance writer for their official magazine. He later became the magazine's editor and editor in chief before they enlisted his talents for television.
Issue Date: .February 20, 1997]
Wilding with the WWF
By Randy Horick
It looked powerfully grim for Sycho Sid. There he was, all 313 rippling pounds of him, being savagely throttled, gouged, and pummeled by Bret "Hit Man" Hart. Thousands booed. Others screamed their exhortation: "Sid! Sid! Sid!"
It's safe to say, with a board-straight face, that the new arena had never witnessed an exhibition like this. The World Wrestling Federation doesn't come to town every night.
The arena had undergone an amazingly rapid metamorphosis. Barely 24 hours after the ice rink had melted, the figure skaters had packed up their blades, and the well-heeled audiences had gone home, the arena had been transformed into a place of lowbrow pageantry. Tonya Harding might have felt right at home, but Dick Button was nowhere in sight.
As one WWF ad used to say, "Wimbledon, it ain't."
On Monday night, with a gold-studded championship belt on the line and millions watching on cable TV, Hit Man would stop at nothing. NOTHING!
Hart cravenly went for Sycho's left knee. The same gimpy left knee that needs surgery--as an orthopedist had explained via the giant video monitor. The same knee that had been reinjured in a pre-rumble rumble, when "Stone Cold" Steve Austin sprang over the ropes and jumped Sycho, apparently to settle some old score. OH, THE HUMANITY!
The challenger was writhing and the crowd was roaring its disapproval. Then Hart fell on the knee, despite the referee's EARNEST protestations. Then he whipped Sid's knee against a post. More writhing, more boos.
Sid begged the Hit Man to stop. But Hart threw all of his sizable bulk on the knee again, then leeringly prepared to finish Sycho off. HOLY HALF NELSON!
Somehow, though, Sid summoned his strength and chopped the champion's neck. The crowd came to life.
Regaining his energy, Sid floored Hart with a powerful forearm. Then--EVEN MORE DRAMA!--Hart flipped Sid completely out of the ring. Out of nowhere, Stone Cold Steve was attacking Sid again, but this time Sid decked him with a single punch. Fans roared.
Next thing you knew, Hart had almost pinned Sid. But Austin, a bald, bearded deus ex machina, intervened again, whacking Hart with a folding chair. Sycho flung himself onto the dazed champ, the ref slapped his fist to the canvas three times, and the bell sounded.
The crowd erupted in a frenzy. The boys with ringside seats stood, jabbing their index fingers at Hart.
Sycho Sid, the wunderdog from West Memphis, had won the title! He paraded around the ring, brandishing his newly captured belt, his blond curls dripping with sweat. COULD THE CROWD WITHSTAND SUCH MELODRAMA?
Yes, friends, and more.
After two hours of body-slamming, head-pounding, leg-whipping action, the USA Network's coverage of Monday Night Raw was over. But the evening's card was barely half done. The arena crowd was just warming up.
The arena was full of fans like the five teenagers who drove down from Central City, Ky. "This is our third WWF event to see in person, but we all watch every Monday night on TV," said Matt Brannon, who, like his friends, had painted his face to resemble a Mexican wrestling mask. "Wrestling is big with us."
"Bigger than UK basketball?" someone asked.
"Oh yeah!" all five chimed in unison.
Chris Wilson jumped in to explain what they like the best: "The beatin'!"
"Stone Cold Steve Austin!" Shawn Michaels interjected. "He fights dirty!"
"The Undertaker," Kelly Young protested. "He's evil."
"Everybody says it's fake, but we don't like to hear it," Shawn said.
"It's like a soap opera," Matt explained, "for guys."
To prove his point, he only had to wait for the bout between bronzed Marc Mero (stunningly arrayed in black-and-silver trunks, fringed white boots, and matching wristbands) and a wrestler from the rappin', in-yo-face Nation of Domination. The match, inevitably, became a free-for-all when Mero's buxom corner-girl coldcocked a bow-tied Farrakhan look-alike. Another wrestler (in a magnificent pink warmup suit) took out the rest of the Nation with a 2-by-4.
Another bout broke up when a wrestler was chased into the crowd by Goldust, the WWF's resident drag queen.
To most of the regular fans, it doesn't matter whether or not the matches are fixed. "I can tell when they're real or not," claimed bank teller Janice White, who flashed a toothy smile as she watched Flash Funk taunt a fallen opponent. "As long as they put on a good show, they'll get my money. I wouldn't miss 'em for the world."
As much as anything, though, fans come to boo, in much the same way that the Italian hoi polloi once flocked to the opera house to fling insults at the tenor. For no apparent reason, the crowd at the arena was booing the winner of the first bout. They booed the entrance of announcer Jerry "The King" Lawler, who trotted in sporting a golden crown on his head. They enthusiastically booed the Honky-Tonk Man--a guitar-toting Elvis-impersonator- turned-wrestler. A smattering of boos even greeted Gary Chapman, who was there to sing our national anthem.
James Anderson had his own special reason for being in the crowd. On Sunday night, he had attended the Daytona 500; then he'd driven 12 hours (still wearing his Darrell Waltrip cap) to take his son Jim Bob to Monday Night Raw.
James, himself a 260-pound former professional wrestler, now works for the Metro Sanitation Department. But during his 15-year career, he says, he was known as "The Red Terror," because of the pocket fireballs he used to lob at his opponents. "They won't let you do that anymore," he says, sounding wistful.
The money, James remembers, was pretty good. "I averaged $150 a night. The top wrestlers can make up to $1,000." Even so, he says, "it gets boring to be on the road so much," and the work is demanding--four or five hours of daily workouts, plus an hour or two of watching tapes and choreographing moves with the opponent of the night.
"You do meet a lot of good people," James says. But he wanted to spend more time with his kid. Jim Bob, now 15, wants to become a professional wrestler like his dad.
Nothing wrong with that, James says. "People come here to get a lot of their anger out. It's good entertainment. You go home happy. You cheer and boo, get your aggression out here, and you don't feel like goin' home and beatin' your old lady."
No sooner had Sycho Sid strolled victoriously around the ring than funereal bells--AS IF SOMEHOW PREARRANGED!--heralded the entrance of The Undertaker. A wave of excitement rippled through the crowd. Sid tossed down his belt. He and The Undertaker stood nose to nose, glowering.
The challenge had gone out. The audience had something new to live for. In the WWF, it's the sort of thing that happens 225 nights a year.
On Tuesday, says Jay, the WWF PR guy, the tour
will go to Birmingham, then on to Knoxville. "It's a very good crowd
tonight," he notes. "Anywhere we go, it's a good crowd."
WRESTLING RUMBLES WITH WORLDLY WISDOM
(The Daily Cavalier, April 2, 1999)
By Rawley Vaughan
I'd like to say some words in defense of
Some parents say it's a violent influence, some patricians think it's pathetically rednecked and some patsies hate rasslin' because it's "fake."
Professional wrestling is actually quintessentially American, extremely entertaining and culturally indicative. Now, let's get ready to rumble!
To say that wrestling is merely on the margins of American culture would be wholly inaccurate. Twenty-one of the 25 top-rated programs on cable television involve professional wrestling.
Besides the industry's self-promotional merchandise, one finds Bill Goldberg testifying on Capitol Hill, Stone Cold Steve Austin acting on "Nash Bridges," Sable on the cover of Playboy and Jesse Ventura governing the state of Minnesota.
Many celebrities mimic wrestling lingo and gestures. In hopes of luring even more fans, there have been matches with the likes of Jay Leno, Karl Malone and Dennis Rodman. Malone and Rodman's involvement point to an underappreciated aspect of professional wrestling.
Although it is "just" sports entertainment, not a sport, wrestlers are, indeed, athletes. Goldberg and The Rock are former football players, Kevin Nash played college basketball, The Cat was a karate champion and many competed in freestyle, or "real," wrestling.
Sure, there might be some steroid use, but the wrestling industry's drug-testing standards actually are stricter than those of Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. But what exactly is sports entertainment?
Perhaps I can define it as an activity in an athletic setting that is irrelevant to the sporting contest that the setting suggests. The classic examples are professional wrestling, roller derby and now boxing. I'd say that sports entertainment also includes a fight during a hockey game, Dennis Rodman's hair color and post-score celebrations. Even dunking a basketball qualifies as sports entertainment, as it is unnecessary in order to score. But it sure is fun to watch.
Yes, fun to watch. The World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling, rival titans in the business, produce hours of programming that boast a massive and loyal fan base, so they must be doing something right. The WWF attracts fans with profanity, sex, beer and Satanism, and WCW uses conspiracy triangles, aging legends of wrestling, sex and Mexicans. But what wins and, more importantly, what keeps fans, are the wrestlers' characters and the creative plots. It's like a soap opera.
Okay, it is a soap opera. Spectacular characters befriend each other and then stab each other in the back. But you won't see someone get hit on the head with a steel chair inside a ring surrounded by barb wire on "Days of Our Lives."
Still, if you've seen one chair shot, you've seen them all, so the producers must feed the fans a story line mind-blowing enough to keep them hungry for more. The wrestlers who are the greatest thespians are the ones who keep me interested from week to week. It's both athletic wonder and performance art. It's also quite American.
When I was younger, there seemed to be a wrestler for each ethnicity. Also in those days, some wrestlers projected a patriotic image. For example, during the Hulkamania craze in the 1980s, Hulk Hogan was our David, doing battle with the Goliath-like Andre the Giant. He was the good guy, fighting a bad guy-simple as that. It was the '80s and professional wrestling reflected society's acceptance of a Zoroastrianistic duality between good and evil: The Hulkster told me to take my vitamins and Andre had a foreign accent that inflected an international communist conspiracy.
Professional wrestling in our post-Cold War world has scrapped such dualism, as a representation of the general will of its fan base. Hogan has been the worst bad guy in all of wrestling, leading the New World Order posse threatening to destroy WCW. And the fans cheer.
The popular favorite in the WWF is Stone Cold Steve Austin, a character who epitomizes disrespect and infamy. There is no "good," so there can be no good guy. There only are varying degrees of bad guys, as the wrestlers who have all the foibles, the hubris and the physiques of the Greek gods.
This is not a cultural force, but a cultural indicator. It's a low brow translation of high brow philosophy, as the moral relativism suggested by postmodernism is played out before us every Monday night. The only ethical constants are deceit, revenge and rebellion.
And I love it, brother, because it's just too sweet.
(Rawley Vaughan is a fourth-year College student. His column appears Fridays in The Cavalier Daily.)
ADVENTURES OF THE PSYCHOTIC SANDMAN
(Daily Kansan, April 30, 1999)
By Ezra Sykes
The Psychotic Sandman paces outside the ring.
"Get in there, you sorry sack," one audience member yells. "There ain' no timeouts in wrestling."
The Sandman takes notice of the ridicule, runs to the edge of the audience and responds with a thunderous "shut up!"
In a flash, he turns around and jumps into the ring to face his enemy. He grabs Big Daddy´s head and flips the massive foe over his shoulder onto the bouncy blue mat below. Several punches, a body slam and a vicious clothesline later, the Sandman prevails and the referee raises his hand to signal that the camouflage and combat boot-adorned Sandman has won.
Gloating in his victory, he points to the crowd and asks, "Got something to say now?"
Ahh, the drama.
Ahh, the violence.
Ahh, professional wrestling.
Wednesday night at Coyote' night club, 1003 E. 23rd, Lawrence got its first taste of live pro wrestling courtesy of the American Wrestling Federation. Highlights included the midget wrestling world championship, a cat fight and a match featuring wrestling legend Greg "The Hammer" Valentine.
As spectators emptied pitchers of beer and heckled their least favorite competitors, wrestlers stirred up the crowd and inflicted pain on their opponents via head butts and pile drivers.
But come on. That stuff is just acting, right? "Acting...what acting?" said R.J. Vonmerveldt, who watched the matches from the first row of folding chairs.
Vonmerveldt, Wichita junior, said he had been watching more and more pro wrestling on TV in the last year but said that you couldn´t beat old-school WWF -- he first golden age of pro wrestling in the 1980s that gave birth to names such as Hulk Hogan, "Hacksaw" Jim Dugan and Jake "The Snake" Roberts.
"Junk Yard Dog was my hero," he said. Vonmerveldt explained the resurgence of pro wrestling these days --a comeback marked by the ubiquitous "Stone Cold" Steve Austin T-shirts and success of shows such as TNT´s WCW Monday Night Nitro.
"It' a popular way for people to let out stress by seeing big guys beat up each other," he said. "I think that people who give this sport a lot of flak have never really experienced it. They'e never been down by the ring."
But regardless of whether or not a chop to the throat or a knee to the forehead really hurts, for some, wrestling is real as can be. "Little Kato" has been midget wrestling for the last 13 years of his life.
"I'e enjoyed it," he said, walking around before the matches began last night. "I make good money and I get to see the world, places I would have never been able to see otherwise."
Kato, who calls Oakland, Calif., home, explained his reasons for getting into the business.
"I was tired of working 40-hour weeks; I didn´t have the greatest education," said the 4-foot-6 Kato. "I always played sports in high school but realized I could never turn pro because of my size. But wrestling gave me chance."
Randy Cook, president of the American Wrestling Federation, said that pro wrestling had been especially popular recently in college towns such as Lawrence.
"They´ve done a really good job of marketing it," he said, explaining the sport´s popularity. "I mean what could be better than a soap opera with violence?"
And as for those who criticize the violence and absurdity of pro wrestling, Cook has a simple answer: "It's America. Who cares?"
KC WRESTLER INJURED IN BAR FIGHT
(Daily Kansan, April 30, 1999)
By Katie Buford
A Kansas City, Kan., resident needed 43 stitches in his head and face after a fight about a wrestling match with another man at about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday at Coyote´s night club, 1003 E. 23rd St., said Sgt. George Wheeler of the Lawrence Police Department.
Police took a report from the injured man while he was being treated at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
According to the 6-foot, 264-pound man, the fight happened after a professional wrestling exhibition at the club.
The men, who were both professional wrestlers, were arguing because one of them had canceled their scheduled match. A fist fight between the two ensued, Wheeler said.
"It was part of a personal grudge match," he said. Police went to the club but were unable to located the other man, who was described as 6-feet tall and 270 pounds.
A hospital representative said that the injured wrestler was released at 1:56 a.m. yesterday.
A CRITIQUE OF WRESTLING'S 'VIRTUE'
(Daily Kansan, May 5, 1999)
By Seth Jones
Last week, I did a column for my people. But this week my column is dedicated to the ladies.
Why? Because we´re talking about professional wrestling this week. The best soap opera on television.
A couple of weeks ago, my roommate Matt cooked up a Monday night Mexican feast to celebrate my birthday.
We, of course, invited our lady neighbors, and just about any other of our fairer-sex friends we could think of.
We figured, with a combination of dazzling cooking from Matt and my world-famous pina coladas, the ladies would be impressed.
But then, being the Romeos that we are not, we slipped up. Dinner was served, and we turned the TV to Raw is War, our wrestling program of choice. Immediately, we were mocked.
"You guys watch this stuff?" my friend Erin asked. "I'm embarrassed for you."
Not only is Erin as about as smart of a person I know, but she is also a sports nut, and here she was ridiculing the evening's "sport" of choice.
So then it got me thinking. Can I defend this program? Can I actually stand up for "The Undertaker," a seven-foot monster who acts like he´s possessed? Can I stand up for "The Big Show" Paul Wight, former Wichita State basketball center turned wrestling giant?
I may be stereotyping, but it seems to me that most women can't accept wrestling.
I was talking to my good friend T.J., and he was telling me how he and his roommates waited in line for several hours to get nose-bleed tickets to "Over the Edge," a pay-per-view wrestling event that will be broadcast live from Kemper Arena on Sunday May 23rd.
Now, T.J. is another one of these highly intelligent people, and he can't wait to scream his lungs out while watching "The Rock" flip "Mankind" into the third row of seats at Kemper.
My roommate Jeff told me that his little brother and his friends were considering skipping high school graduation so they could go to the "sporting" event.
Then Jeff started talking about how if he were world wrestling champion, he'd wear the belt around his waist rather than carrying it out to the ring because, darn it, it looks more tough.
Finally, I decided I couldn't defend professional wrestling because it needs no defense. It's just dumb fun, just like almost everything else on television.
The guys get it. Sure, it's fake. But every main event match provides the drama of a championship boxing match. And when you see "Mankind" get thrown off the top of a two-story steel cage, you've got to say "Oooh." You can't fake that.
Sure, at times it is dumb. Not every second of wrestling programming can involve award-winning writing.
And ladies, we didn't say anything when Marlena was possessed by the devil on Days of Our Lives. Or when Katie kidnapped Dawn and changed her appearance so she looked like Katie so that she could marry Victor. Or whatever crazy plot came up. We let it slide. And we haven't said a darn thing about Tae-Bo yet, have we?
So let us have our Royal Rumbles, our
Wrestlemania 32. It's called sports entertainment. And you know what else? I'd
wear the belt around my waist, too.
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