The WAWLI Papers #579...


(Sports Pictorial Review, Jan. 29, 1951)

Argentina Rocca’s greatest booster, in this country, is the world-renowned track and field coach, Dean Cromwell, "Maker of Champions," former head man at the University of Southern California. He won twelve NCAA titles in eighteen years.

Among the mighty men he discovered and developed: Charley Paddock, Howard Drew, Frank Wykoff, Earle Meadows, Ken Carpenter, Jesse Hill, Dick Barber, Jess Mortensen—all these, and scores of others.

For 31 years, Cromwell coached at USC. Cromwell-coached men have been on every United States Olympic Games team since 1912; many of them hold world records to this day.

Cromwell attended a wrestling show at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles recently and was tremendously impressed by the agility of the 220-pound Buenos Aires superman. He went down to the dressing room, had a chat with Rocca, and learned that Argentina at one time had aspirations to be a hurdler and high jumper.

Cromwell invited Rocca to come out to USC for a workout. And here’s what Dean said, after watching Argentina in action:

"This is one of the most amazing athletes I have ever seen. He’s a great champion; he has perfect coordination. I think Rocca would have been a tremendous success in any line of athletic endeavor; what a pugilistic champ he’d have made! He’d have knocked out any boxer in the world.

"I attribute his remarkable success in wrestling to his wonderful timing, coordination and agility. Of these, I stress his coordination: he has that, to the Nth degree.

"When the athletic history of this century is written, I predict that Argentina Rocca will be one of the big names therein."


(Associated Press, July 28, 1951)

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio—Eighteen-year-old Jeanette Wolfe, adopted daughter of the world champion wrestler who hoped to win the same crown for herself, died today of a mat injury.

Miss Wolfe was adopted five months ago by Mildred Burke, top woman grappler, and her husband, Billie Wolfe, Columbus, Ohio, wrestling promoter.

The adopted father said as far as he knows Jeannette was the first girl wrestler to die of an injury received in the ring. After talking to witnesses, he said a body slam probably caused a cerebral (brain) hemorrhage.

Jeanette was in two bouts last night. Ella Waldek pinned her in the first match at Patterson Field Stadium. At one time in that bout Ella flung Jeanette to the floor with a body slam.

In between bouts Jeanette complained of a bursting headache. But she left the dressing room for the tag match in which she was paired with Eva Lee. She tagged Eva, a signal she wanted to be relieved. Eva jumped into the ring and Jeanette started to walk away. Then she collapsed on the ring apron, clutching one of the ropes. Their opponents were Mae Young and Ella Waldek.

She never regained consciousness. Jeanette died in Osteopathic Hospital in East Liverpool today.

Dr. Roy Costello performed an autopsy in the absence of Coroner Dr. Ernest R. Sturgis. He said the girl had suffered a traumatic rupture of the stomach and a subdural hematoma, or a blood clot between the brain and its lining.

Either injury, he said, could cause death.

Jeanette had never lost a match in her short mat career, her adopted father said. She was booked for her first match but six weeks ago. Because of her string of nearly a score of victories, she was scheduled for her first match in the international girls’ wrestling tournament in Columbus next Thursday.

Jeanette was a native of northern Minnesota. She has a sister, Mrs. Emmett Cotlet of Minneapolis, and at one time she worked in a Minneapolis stocking factory.

She met Wolfe in Columbus, telling him she wanted to become a woman wrestler because she liked wrestling and "never have met a boy who could beat me."

Wolfe liked the girl from the start. "You need a daddy, and I need a daughter," she quoted him. Later on he adopted her.

THE WISE OWL (sports column)

(St. Joseph News-Press, Dec. 5, 1954)

By Bill Scott

Wrestling fan or not, it would be difficult not to admire a fellow who enticed more than 5,000 St. Joseph and area persons to leave their homes for a sports program. So we take off our hat to Argentina Rocca, the man who got that job done. About the only other single promotion that can match Rocca’s drawing power is the appearance of the Harlem Globetrotters.

The 227-pound Rocca is interesting to watch in the ring, especially for the way he uses his feet to advantage. He practically flies around the ring, often slamming two size 13 feet into his opponent’s face. Suffice it to say he is a master at his craft, which might have been any of several things, but happens to be wrestling because he loves it and the pay is good.

Actually, Rocca’s background is just as interesting as his spectacular wrestling career and that’s what we’d like to call to attention of those mat faithful who enjoyed Argentina’s performance here Friday night and the many others who have watched him on television.

Argentina, his real surname is Antonino, was born in Treviso, near Venice, Italy, 29 years ago. At 16 he drifted to the Argentine, where he went to high school and later to the university. In Argentina he became one of the country’s top rugby players. Rugby is a game similar to American football, but the players wear no padding. Rigid training for the sport and his almost fanatic dieting helped Rocca develop a powerful body; so powerful, in fact, that he found rugby mild compared to pro wrestling.

He broke into wrestling, at 18, almost by accident. The champion rugby team with which he had been playing was invited to a "world" tournament of wrestling champions in Buenos Aires. Rocca watched many of wrestling’s greatest names perform and was impressed. He sought out the promoter and begged for an opportunity to get in the tournament before it ended. His wish was granted and, because he was so powerful, he managed to finish second. For the next five years in a row he won the highest number of points in the international event. Because of the appeal of the event Rocca was able to make some big money and that helped convince him wrestling was a lucrative field.

Argentina toured several countries and South America, wrestling nearly everywhere two or three times a week, but his one big dream kept eluding him. He wanted to come to America in the worst way. It wasn’t until March of 1950 that he got the chance (sic). A New York wrestling scout was in Argentina looking for new talent and sought out Rocca, a man he’d heard a great deal about. After seeing him work, the scout made arrangements for Rocca to appear on a New York program. It is anti-climatic to state that he was a hit from the start.

Rocca likes to earn money, as who doesn’t, but he has a greater reason for loving this country, of which he hopes someday to become a citizen. "A U.S. citizen is politically free," says the top attraction of wrestling today. "It is hard to describe what that means unless you have been in a country where there is not always freedom. Here, an honest man can live where he pleases, move about without question, work for fair wages and follow his religion without interference. Americans sometimes take all that for granted."

The massive wrestler will be eligible to apply for his papers next year. he no longer has to have visas because he is considered a resident of this country. Rocca is married to an Argentine girl of French-Canadian parents. The couple’s only daughter was born in New York, automatically becoming a citizen of the U.S.

Rocca is a confident man, but not boastful despite his national fame. His secret for success—condition, relaxation and diet. He is a "bug" on the latter. One of his favorite stories involves Phil Rizzuto, New York Yankee great shortstop in his prime. Rocca ran into his friend Rizzuto in Nashville, Tenn., where the Yanks were playing an exhibition game and Argentina was wrestling.

Rizzuto complained of not feeling well. Rocca found out that Phil was eating only a meager breakfast and saving his appetite for an after-game mealtime splurge. "A man can’t get along on just toast and coffee or juice for four hours or more and do a good job," Rocca said.

So Rocca changed Phil’s eating habits. The Yank shortstop began eating steaks, lamb chops and anything he wanted for breakfast. After a week Rizzuto looked up Argentina and told him he was feeling great. He probably still is eating steak for breakfast.

Rocca also has caused many Americans to change their ways in shoe tieing. He crosses the laces in such a fashion that there is no pressure on the vein on top of the foot. We were skeptical on that score Friday night, but the grinning wrestler brought us around. He changed our laces and actually there is a difference.

Rocca still maintains a three-a-week wrestling schedule and packs them in everywhere he goes. Why? As he says, "I’m a different type, I can do many things with my feet and fans like to see something other than the ordinary. As long as my feet are strong and I can keep my speed I’ll stay in wrestling. I figure I have ten more good years left. After that maybe I’ll open a gym and teach health and physical fitness."

Rocca has a good many talents, so should have no trouble after he quits the wrestling game. he is an electrical engineer and can speak fluently in Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French and English. If nothing else, he could get a job as an interpreter.


(Buffalo Express News, Nov. 22, 1957)

Fritz Von Eric won his sixth straight bout by defeating Whipper Watson on a penalty fall at 11:02 in the feature of the Buffalo Wrestling Club show witnessed by 3,277 in Memorial Auditorium.

Watson, who had trouble with referee Joe Muscato throughout the bout, was disqualified when he used the arm stretch and pull to hurl Von Eric into Muscato and send both sprawling to the floor.

Muscato and Watson had words after the loser jumped on Von Eric before the starting bell. After that, Watson seemed to use Von Eric as a missile to hurl in Muscato’s direction at each opportunity.

In the tag team semifinal, the Australian Kangaroos, Al Costello and Roy Heffernan, and Russians Ivan and Karol Kalmikoff battled to an interesting stalemate in 30 minute.

Roy McLarty found the sleeper hold most effective as he beat Pierre LaSalle at 21:49, and Joe Blanchard used the drop kick to set up a body press and beat Frank Hurley at 16:03. Fred Atkins won over Waldo Von Sieber in the opener.


(Los Angeles Times, February 12, 1958)

The Los Angeles Rams’ Frank Fuller brushed off Dutch Schultz with a series of well-placed dropkicks in 1:54 and the team of Pepper Gomez and Sandor Szabo was awarded a referee’s decision over Hans Hermann and Lord Blears last night at the Olympic Auditorium.

Referee Hank Metheny halted the non-televised team match at 9:21 of the third fall, charging Hermann and Blears with interference after they had overpowered Gomez and Szabo in 28:10 to balance the latter duo’s 1:04 first-fall quickie.

Wild Red Berry and Al Kashey drew; The Great Kato defeated Charro Azteca, winning two of three falls; Frank Jares and Hardy Kruskamp drew; Big Bob Orton and Reggie Parks drew, and Pat Fraley defeated Vic Christy.


(New York Daily News, Feb. 29, 1958)

By Joe O’Day

It was a return to normalcy last night at the Garden. A crowd of 18,150, stuffing $54,169.37 into the promoter’s coffers, was a paragon of propriety as Antonino Rocca and Miguel Perez trimmed the brothers Tolos — Chris and John — in two out of three falls in the featured Australian tag-team match.

The usual rowdyism which marked recent shows in the Eighth Avenue arena was all but lacking as only two patrons of the grunt and groan game were ejected from the building. Still, the management was taking no chances on a repetition of last November’s flash riot and had the area well policed, resorting to the playing of the National Anthem as the Tolos brothers were ushered to their dressing room to avoid any possible incident.

The Latin tandem of Rocca-Perez, billed as world champs of tag-team bouts, had little trouble with the Tolos duo as they continued unbeaten. Rocca and Perez took the opening fall in 12:11, dropped the middle contest in three minutes, and rallied for the final fall as Rocca scored effectively with his patented dropkick to cop the match at 10:18.

Another boxoffice attraction—Ricki Starr—made his first appearance of the year at the Garden, and the supple ex-Purdue wrestler charmed all the balletomanes among the throng with his assorted arabesques and entrechats.

Throwing miniature ballet slippers to his admirers, Ricki goaded his opponent, the Sheik of Araby, with a bouqet of flowers before he turned to this task and pinned the bearded Sheik at 6:30 of a 20-minute time limit match.

Wearing a burnoose, reminiscent of the original Sheik—Rudolph Valentino—he rolled out a carpet and turned to Mecca before the match started.

In prelims, Edouard Carpentier, Paris, pinned Dick (The Bruiser) Afflis, Reno, Nev., in 6:30; Bolo Hakawa, Honolulu, defeated Paul Berger, Germany, in 5:45; Prof. Roy Shire, Chicago, whipped Eduardo Castillo, Barcelona, at 11:22; Ludwig Von Krupp, Germany, pinned Felix Lamban, Spain, in 5:38; Skull Murphy, Ireland, bested Les Langevin, Montreal, in 4:55; Pat O’Connor, New Zealand, drew with Wladek (Killer) Kowalski, Detroit.


(Reno Evening Gazette, Oct. 14, 1958)

By Rollan Melton

Professional wrestling returned to Reno last night in a cloud of dust. And when the dust had cleared, everybody, and by the way there weren’t many there, left in a rather happy mood.

It was a grand variety show, a Louie Miller production. Poor Louie. There were "bugs" in his first 1958 show. The ring ropes collapsed under the weight of six beefy wrestlers. Mid-ring was sagging dangeously when the card ended.

Dust rose in clouds from the antique ring floor, choking combatants more thoroughly than they choked each other.

If fans came for variety, then they were satisfied. There was nose tweaking, anguished cries, bleach hair, wonderful muscles, colorful garments, villains, a distraught mother, stitch pulling, a battle on the lower floor of the State Auditorium, profanity.

It was our first look at professional wrestling and we came with the understanding there was to be a certain amount of theatrics. A certain amount, that is.

Reno’s own Don Manoukian—that’s the way he was introduced—was first on the card. "Newk" won the bout in 19 minutes, 10 seconds with a flying tackle and body press. The vanquished was bald, belly-ish Clyde Steeves, 250 pounds.

It was an interesting match. Steeves apparently hadn’t been told this was Manoukian’s home town. Or maybe he had. Anyway, Steeves promptly dumped Don on his can and began tweaking his nose. This nosehold persisted throughout the match, until Manoukian got tired of being mistreated. First he tried a body scissor but his legs were too short and Steeves was too round. then "Newk" came off the ropes, hit Steeves with a flying tackle and pressed while referee Moe Smith counted "three."

Throughout the bout, mother Rose Manoukian (who had never seen Don wrestle) clutched seats, shrieked, groaned and worried. She was glad when it ended.

In the dressing room Manoukian climbed out of his trunks. We were going to ask if he had studied Shakespeare at Stanford, but noticed a nasty gash on his face, a bruise on his shoulder and a gleam in his eye. No further questions.

Steeves had a nasty cut above his left ear at the start. One thoughtful lady fan suggested during the bout that Don "pull the jerk’s stitches out."

Handsome, youthful, and quick Ramon Torres came on next. After shedding his aqua-blouse, Ramon found himself facing one of wrestling’s best known villains, elderly Hans Schnabel. Hans creaked out in long black tights, reinforced at the knees.

They grappled around, avoiding a large dent in mid-ring. Hans fell prey to ring dust and while his vision was gone (as he explained afterwards) Torres got his first fall at 13 minutes, 50 seconds with a knee lift and body press.

Hans came back again, leering like a man with distressing gastric pains. He rushed Torres into the ropes and fans on that side cringed away. Hans fondled Torres’ ears with his knuckles, then flattened him for the fall. But Schnabel continued kicking his felled foe after the bell and referee Smith disqualified the old pro.

Best wrestler on the card was Buddy "Nature Boy" Rogers, who holds a win over Lou Thesz. Rogers doesn’t fool around although he, too, hams it up at times. Rogers forgot the ham act after he lost the first fall to black-haired, broad-shouldered Gene Dubuque. The latter had Rogers on the deck at four minutes, 15 seconds.

Rogers came out fast for the second, knocked Dubuque through the ropes, chased him through the crowd, got him back in the ring and pinned him in 55 seconds.

Out for a third try and Dubuque’s plea: "No more eyes, no more hair, everything fair," drew Rogers’ reply: "Go take a walk, you so-and-so."

Dubuque didn’t walk, he ran, back into the crowd. Rogers pursued and gave Dubuque a body slam at the feet of the crowd. While curiousity seekers crowed forward to review Dubuque’s remains, Rogers left quietly, to collect his money and beat it out of town.

Another card is scheduled in Reno Oct. 27, when the dust clears.

The WAWLI Papers #580...


(Minneapolis Tribune, July 18, 1956)

Ivan and Karol Kalmikoff battled a throng of chair-throwing spectators as well as Leo Nomellini and Ilio DiPaolo to score another wrestling victory at the Armory Tuesday night.

The final decisive pin came at nine minutes when Ilio missed a flying tackle and flew into the third row. He staggered back into the ring with the aid of spectators. One spectator attempted to hit Ivan with a chair, missed and banged Ilio across the eyes. The pain-racked Ilio then gave up.

While all this was going on, Nomellini was pummeling Karol in the other corner of the ring.

The first fall was credited to Nomellini at 8:43. Leo first threw Ivan intot he ropes with a whip and then caught him coming off the ropes with a shoulder block. From then it was an easy matter to make the pin.

Karol pinned Ilio at 2:57 to even the count. After Ilio spun Ivan outside the ropes and followed him outside, Karol caught Ilio in the ribs and then used a knee stomp for the win.

Other results:

Hans Schmidt, 248, Munich, Germany, pinned Karl Gray, 257, Milwaukee, Wis., 2:28

Roy McClarty, 237, Winnipeg, pinned Johnny Moochy, 256, Centuria, Wis., 28:44.

Jim Bernard, 250, and Red Bastien drew in 30 minutes.


(Austin American-Statesman, Sept. 16, 1999)

By Leigh-Ann Jackson

Double-crosses, menacing alliances, the sudden, bitter severing of once-solid ties—no, it’s not business as usual on Capitol Hill; we’re talking professional wrestling here.

Once again, the World Wrestling Federation is kicking down the doors of Austin’s Erwin Center, this time with the JVC Kaboom Box Tour, which is sure to offer more melodrama than daytime television ("The Jerry Springer Show" included). Thousands of anxious WWF fans will eagerly check any and all slivers of good taste at the turnstiles and ready themselves for a dose of sweaty mayhem.

The landscape of pro wrestling has undergone some significant changes in the 17 years since the federation’s creation. Representatives from the Erwin Center report that the events’ demographics have shifted from being primarily teen-age males to entire families. It’s now quite common to see a gleeful 5-year-old teetering around the halls of the center with a homemade placard in support of his/her pick for a given match. Pro-wrestling has now relentlessly captured the attention of people from all generations, races, educational backgrounds and tax brackets.

Veterans like Hulk Hogan, Sergeant Slaughter and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan have mellowed into a lifestyle of semi-sanity. They’re now best recognized for their cartoon characterizations, sitcom guest spots and snack food commercials. And do we even have to mention the man who now feels more comfortable in the governor’s mansion than in the ring?

Pre-millennial wrestlers aim more toward pure shock tactics. The mere mention of such passe wrestling terms as full Nelsons and headlocks is sure to arouse a chuckle from today’s discriminating wrestling fans. The wrestlers these fans favor will settle for nothing short of personalized techniques that are sure to give them the element of surprise against their opponents.

Anyone tuning into such popular cable shows as "Raw is War" or "Byte This" to witness such feats of physical cruelty as the "meat grinder" or the "Impaler," involving acts that are seemingly gruesome, yet purely hilarious in spirit.

Such spontaneously audacious antics as these have made wrestling the sensation it is. The WWF has inspired fledgling women’s, regional and grassroots leagues across the country. Merchandising for the federation has grown to encompass everything from WWF Eau de Toilette for Women to jewelry and accessories worn by the wrestling champ of the moment. The federation’s website is as impressive as that of any major corporation. There are two official WWF magazines and countless knock-offs. And, of course, no trip to the mall is complete without spotting at least 10 adolescent males—or full-grown ones, depending upon which malls you frequent—draped with Austin 3:16 tees, honoring one of the federation’s biggest superstars, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Despite the ongoing cynicism surrounding the reality of wrestling, the sales figures for touring shows and the endless commercial tie-ins prove just how grounded in reality wrestling truly is.

The Kaboom Box tour’s matches will feature San Diego’s Ken Shamrock, whose patented Ankle Lock Submission move has earned him ABC-TV’s vote for "The World’s Most Dangerous Man." Stepping into Hogan’s Great American hero-style footsteps are Toronto’s Test and proud son of Austin, Billy "Badd Ass" Gunn. And the tour has its share of "villains," including the womanizing Godfather and his partner-in-crime, former adult film star Val Venis. They’ll serve as worthy adversaries for the wrestlers with more pristine records and will doubtless receive the majority of the evening’s boos.

And then, there are the very scariest of elements, such as Mankind, who, with his three split personalities and psycho sock puppet side-kick is, according to the WWF official website, one of the most deranged superstars in the company’s history. The roster also features its share of social anomalies, such as D’Lo, a graduate of the University of Maine, who, when not wrestling, works as a CPA. Aerial stunts will abound, trumped-up threats will be thrown down and the Erwin Center will be spinning on its heels for at least a week afterward.

Face it, it’s no longer an issue of authenticity. Everybody knows, deep down, that the whole affair is heavily scripted. There’s just something so compelling about the wristbands, tattoos, bulging muscles, stomachs and just about every other body part. If you want reality, go to a City Council meeting. If you’re craving modern-day warriors with fear-inspiring grimaces, jutting veins and bad attitudes, grab a piece of hand-decorated poster board and head on down.

(ED. NOTE—The following is posted at Women’s Wrestling Illustrated — — and the proprietor of the page may be contacted at The site contains a good deal of historical material regarding the distaff grapplers, as well trying to keep up with the modern-day version of the women’s game.)


Women’s wrestling in the United States can trace its roots to the great American burlesque theatre at the turn of the century. Acts where women would box or wrestle other women, or men, could be seen in burlesque theatre’s across the country. According to Nat Fleischer from Ring Magazine dated 1966; "Going over a list of old-timers I find Nellie Reville, Sis Howard, Kitty Ammerman, May Edwards, Texas Mamie, the Cleve sisters, Lyde Sheeron, Babe Kelly, Cora Williams, Elsie Burns and Helen Hildreth standing out."

Many acts featured both wrestling and boxing. Helen Hildreth and her partner Jack Atkinson had an act where Hildreth mainly boxed while Texas Mamie’s act included both wrestling and boxing.

The first really capable wrestler to emerge from the burlesque circuit was Josie Wahlford from Elizabeth New Jersey, according to Fleischer. Wahlford stood 5 feet 8 inches and weighed 165. "Josie was powerful. She placed herself in the hands of Charley Blatt, who came from Hoboken and was a strong-man more than a wrestler. The Professor taught Josie all the tricks and she became invincible. I would say that Josie Wahlford was the first generally accepted champion among the fair wrestlers of the USA." Wahlford soon carved her way through the limited opposition available in those days and at age 24 began touring the vaudeville circuit as a strong-woman act. She called herself Minerva and would lift 700 pounds a foot off the floor and toy with 100 pound dumb bells.

From 1907 to 1909, a girl named Mary Harris laid claim to the women’s title. "She maintained her supremacy for two years and then had the ill luck to accept the challenge of Laura Bennett who pinned Mary in a long and vehement battle. Laura, who stood 5 feet 9 in height and weighed 190 pounds, was all muscle and all fight."

Cora Livingstone was born in Buffalo, New York in 1893. Livingstone, who exhibited considerable abilities as a teenager, was a natural athlete. She stood 5 feet 5 inches and weighed 138 pounds. At the age of 20, Livingstone began her wrestling career in earnest after marrying ring promoter Paul Bowser and settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Professionally trained, Livingstone would meet up with Laura Bennett in St. Louis. Smaller and outweighed by 50 pounds, "The Livingstone girl tore into the Bennett girl right from the start and pinned her in 12 minutes. Miss Bennett’s morale was shot to pieces by that fall. The second part of the match was no contest. Cora threw Laura in three minutes. When I say "threw" I mean it. A half Nelson and crotch hold proved to be the Livingstone media for victory. Cora was recognized everywhere as the greatest female wrestler in the world."

Professional wrestling, as we know it, was established with the birth of the numerous circuit promotions that sprung up during the great depression. Venues gradually moved from the carnival sideshows to auditoriums where promoters would stage shows on a regular basis. The concept of presenting a series of matches ("the card") was conceived and the ranking of wrestlers from champion to leading contenders (as determined by the promoters) was begun.

Clara Marie Mortensen started wrestling in the early ‘30s performing with the Crafts Big Shows, a travelling carnival out of California. According to a Ring Magazine report from 1933, "Mortensen, age 19, looks good". She was the daughter of a wrestler named Mortensen, who campaigned as the Masked Marvel. By 1934 she was recognized as ladies champion by those few promoters presenting women’s matches. With the transition of professional wrestling from its vaudeville roots, the California native could be considered the first champion of the modern era.

Mortensen would lose the title and fade into history. Here we read about the new champion who would go on to pioneer the women’s game for the next 20 years.


By Bill Foley, Florida Times Union (Jacksonville, Fla.)

Steker was the name, pilgrim. Airplane spin was her game.

Out of the West Stella Steker came the fall of 1937 to the Main and Beaver arena, to settle questions long nettling the mind of man. Could a good brunette whip a good blonde? Could a grapplerette whomp a grunt and groaner? Lived there a woman in this whole great land who could best Mildred Burke, women’s wrestling champeen of the entire meaningful world?

Stella Steker was a bit of a mystery. George Romanoff wanted it that way. Romanoff was commencing a legend when he brought Stella Steker to town. He announced wrestling henceforth would be held at the arena each Tuesday and Friday, "with good performers gracing both programs." Romanoff, himself, was somewhat a man of mystery. He, too, was an erstwhile grappler but, more, was said to be of the Russian royal family. Either that or the original Tarzan, depending on what saloon you heard it in.

Women had wrestled in Jacksonville before, but it had been more than a year since the mat-gals clashed at the local sport emporium. And Stella would not be dumped on the undercard, where female wrestlers usually were billed, down there with the midgets and the battle royal. This November it would be the Texas Dobie Osbornes and Red Devil Guthries in the prelims. The mysterious Stella Steker would head the card.

"Miss Steker, mythical holder of the women’s championship of Arizona, is a shapely miss," said The Florida Times-Union. "Her specialty, the spectacular airplane spin, went over big in Mexico, where she proved too much for the Senoritas of that territory." Nor would the airplane-spinning Arizonan be going against chopped liver. Popular Dora Dean was coming to town. Dora Dean, the favorite blonde of the wrestling world, was said in polite terms to be the protege of Man Mountain Dean, Georgia’s contribution to wrestling legend. Man Mountain taught Dora the flying scissors, which she used to great advantage.

Between Stella Steker’s airplane spin and Dora Dean’s flying scissors a tremendous aerial clash. The flower of local Sporting Life packed the arena. Stella pinned the Dixie darling in 13 minutes.

She fought lean, mean, down and dirty and got booed and hissed. "The dark-haired Arizonan, who portrayed the role of villain that would have done credit to other ‘rough’ artists like Machine Gun Jack Evko, clamped on an airplane spin to end the festivities," the Times-Union said. "Miss Dean displayed by far a larger number of holds, including Irish whips, back-body drops and an assortment of arm locks but could not cope with the hair-pulling tactics of her opponent."

Next stop for the dark-haired, hair-pulling, crowd-taunting, blonde-whipping, Man Mountain-tweaking shapely grapplerette: A man.

Romanoff announced Stella Steker’s next assault on Southern wrestledom would be the next week against local wrestler George Cowart. "Miss Steker promises to give her male opponent plenty of trouble," said the Jacksonville Journal. "Bob holds an edge in the weights but is not expecting to have an easy time of it in the one-hour time limit," said the Times-Union.

Eleven minutes. In two minutes less than it took her to launch Dora Dean Stella Steker whapped an airplane spin on wrestler George and dusted him off amid the boos and catcalls of the multitude, with nary a vicious hair-pull.

What next for the Arizona stranger? Deep, deep water. Mildred Burke had had enough with the Western upstart. Romanoff stilled the local sporting crowd into hushed apprehension: Mildred Burke would fight Stella Steker, right here in the Main and Beaver street arena. Burke came into the ring with a gold championship belt the papers said was worth $2,500, back when that was real money. She had recently won it from Clara Mortensen in New York City. Tension was thick as the smoke over the ring as Steker and Burke climbed through the ropes. The jam-packed crowd already had seen Cowboy Dobie, Machine-Gun Jack and Florida state champ Allen Eustace win their matches. Fourteen minutes.

"The champ did not have an easy time of it," the Times-Union said. "Miss Steker unleashed all her holds, but to no avail. Both of the tusslerettes landed in the aisle on one occasion and delighted the audience further by ripping off referee Gus Pappas’s undershirt." Mildred ended it with a "neatly executed body slam."

Three weeks, three bouts, 38 minutes; three matches that each drew more people to see wrestling in Jacksonville than any bout that did not involve Jack Dempsey, and the undisputed winner by a unanimous decision, with a nice assist from shapely brunette Arizona grapplerette Stella Steker, was promoter George Romanoff, a member of the Russian royal family or the original Tarzan, depending on which saloon you heard it in.

By the early 1930’s, professional wrestling had begun its transition from vaudeville stages to the auditoriums of circuit promoters, and a young lady was about to arrive on the scene who would change the face of women’s wrestling.

Mildred Burke was born in Coffeyville, Kansas in 1915. She, along with future husband Billy Wolfe, would introduce women’s pro wrestling to the American public and eventually, the rest of the world.

Burke’s wrestling career began at the age of 19 when she saw her first pro wrestling match in Kansas City. "I loved it," she said. "It (women wrestling) was something that had never been done. As a kid, I had the same dream over and over. I’d be at the head of the steps, and there’d be a crowd of people applauding me at the bottom. And I’d take off . . . like an angel."

Billy Wolfe, the Missouri State Wresting Champion, was one of the wrestlers Burke saw that evening in 1934. Burke managed an introduction to Wolfe and expressed her desire to become a wrestler. Needless to say, Wolfe was incredulous. In those days women wrestlers were still a novelty mainly seen in vaudeville or burlesque. However, Burke persevered and Wolfe finally relented, inviting her in for a tryout where he paid a 160-pound male wrestler to "slam her so hard that she’ll quit bothering me". By every account, Burke pinned the guy twice and Wolfe became convinced.

Wolfe began to train the young girl, who was a natural, and she picked up the moves and techniques right away. Soon, she was ready to make her debut, but there was a problem that would pester her for the first few years of her career. Women wrestlers were still few and far between. Of the few in wrestling, most had only wrestled on burlesque stages and knew little of what to do on the mat. Because of this, Burke came to the conclusion she’d have to wrestle men. Wolfe wasn’t initially sold on this idea, but finally agreed after being pestered by Burke, and for the next two summers (1935 & ‘36) she wrestled men while touring with a carnival in the Midwest. Wolfe put up 20 or 25 bucks as a purse to any man (or woman) who could pin Burke in 10 minutes. The rule was the man couldn’t out-weigh her by more than 20 pounds, although this wasn’t always enforced. However, much to their consternation and surprise, every man who accepted the challenge went down to defeat over those two summers in the 1930s.

By the end of the summer of 1936, both Burke and Wolfe realized the next step would mean cracking the arena circuit. An agreement was reached with an arena promoter in Bethany Missouri, provided an opponent could be found. Wolfe managed to find a 140-pound male wrestler who agreed to the bout and the Bethany promoter began selling tickets for the show. Within 6 hours, the show was sold-out. The night of the show saw a large crowd gathered, but when Burke’s match didn’t begin on time people started to get restless. It seems at the last moment her opponent got cold-feet, and when the crowd was informed the match had been cancelled, a minor riot ensued. The local constabulary had become involved by this time, and after finding the young man gave him the choice of facing Burke or spending the night in jail. The young man reconsidered his options, and 8 minutes after the match began Burke’s arm was raised in victory.

The sold-out crowd and standing ovation that greeted Burke’s Bethany performance convinced area promoters that the young lady was indeed a drawing card. Consequently, she began appearing in arenas throughout the Midwest wrestling men before sold-out crowds. As she made more appearances, women started to take notice and some became interested in pro wrestling as a career. They would come to Burke for advise, and she not only encouraged them, but introduced them to Billy Wolfe her trainer and promoter. Thus began a career that would see Wolfe become the biggest promoter of women’s wrestling ever in the United States. Soon, Midwestern crowds were seeing women wrestle women, and as time went by, what became "Wolfe’s troupe of girl wrestlers" grew.

By 1937, Burke and the ever present Wolfe had moved on to the South where Burke would finally meet up with another woman who would test her resolve in the ring. Clara Mortensen was generally recognized as the women’s world champion. She had been trained by her father, who was also a professional wrestler, and had been performing since the early ‘30s. Mortensen was considerably taller and out-weighed Burke by more than 30 pounds. The two girls had swapped victories and met up for a third and final time in Chattanooga Tennessee. The match was a donnybrook and developed into a brawl with both girls trading punches and savage kicks. On more than one occasion, the scuffle spilled out of the ring and into the crowd. In the end, Burke emerged the winner, and began a reign of 20 years as the recognized world champion.

For the next two decades, Burke would wrestle six days a week, 50 weeks a year in every State of the Union (except New York where women’s wrestling was prohibited), Canada, Cuba, Mexico and Japan. Under Wolfe’s guidance and promotional genius, Burke would be recognized as lady’s champion in every circuit they appeared.

The WAWLI Papers #581...



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(San Antonio Express-News, July 24, 1999)

By Ihosvani Rodriguez

On the corner sits a somber two-story building with faded paint and dilapidated shingles. An outside wall bears a vintage painting of a wrestler striking a "flex ‘em if you got ‘em" pose.

Just below it is a washed-out sign. If you squint, it whispers "Texas Arena, Lucha Libre" - perhaps the only hint that this joint once vibrated with something that was once spectacular.

What’s left are distant flickers of grand wrestling memories.

The only movement comes from behind the building. There, two men are using brooms to scoot out all of the irksome bees that have made their digs on the building’s balcony.

Inside, great aspirations are taking concrete form.

About a dozen young men have shown up, to be professional wrestlers. Faux killers.

Modern-day gladiators who feed the country’s hunger for violent theatrics.

They’ve left jobs, school and homes. Some may wonder if they’ve also left their common sense.

They come to this makeshift school - some from long distances - to learn from a ruggedly handsome man, a Playgirl centerfold and an international star who less than a year ago was at the top of his game.

Shawn Michaels, former pro wrestler and the school’s proprietor, remains a big star months into his early retirement from the ring. He is now the owner of the wrestling school that bears his name - Shawn Michaels’ Wrestling Academy, on San Antonio’s West Side.

This afternoon, he’s swatting bees, spitting his chew into a cup and waiting for his students to show up and learn the proper way to rip someone’s head off.

"The school is my baby now," Michaels says. "It’s a school like none other."

When Michaels opened his school in early April, a platoon of television journalists showed up, did their obligatory "day as a wrestling student" piece, and left to pursue other stories. Wrestling made for great ratings.

Even media giants like the New York Times, "20/20" and Newsweek took turns explaining the wrestling phenomenon - the show that transforms otherwise normal Americans into disciples of Stone Cold Steve Austin and Goldberg.

Interest from the media and casual fans is waning, but the undertow of this phenomenal wave has left behind a corps of people obsessed with the idea of becoming wrestling superstars.

So they’ve stopped the clock on their lives and enrolled in wrestling schools throughout the nation.

Nobody keeps statistics on how many Institutions of Higher Grappling there are across the country, but one Internet directory listed nearly 50, four in Texas alone.

Students say they’re willing to endure the real bumps and bruises for a chance at fame.

They’re even willing to put up with the potential embarrassment of being viewed as fakes. Jesse "The Body" Ventura’s accomplishments aside, no major university on record has ever asked a pro wrestler to give a commencement speech.

And they’re doing this for what? To live out a dream?

"Everyone has a dream to chase, but most don’t get that opportunity," says 22-year-old wrestling student Ruben Estrello. "This is a dream I am going to catch."

It seems that for those like Estrello, there’s no drug like a dream.

On his left shoulder, mohawked Paul Diamond has the most grisly scar anyone could ever hope to have. It is a byproduct of his years of "pretending" to hurt people.

Rudy Gonzalez also has been maimed during his long career as a pro wrestler. In addition to the real physical injuries one gets when making a living bouncing off elbows, fists and an unforgiving wrestling mat, Gonzalez has had to endure the emotional stress of years of endless travel between two-bit towns and shady promoters.

Social life? Normalcy? Virtually nonexistent.

Ring veteran Ken Johnson is one of the current local champions of Michaels’ wrestling shows (Texas Wrestling Alliance) held every Friday night in north San Antonio. He might as well be the world champion for remaining intact after nearly two decades.

These three wrestling war horses make up the staff of Shawn Michaels’ Wrestling Academy. Two evenings a week, they pound lessons into young men set on becoming top names in the business.

"We’ve made it very clear to our students from the very beginning that there’s a very credible chance they won’t become rich and famous - but that they will indeed become wrestlers once they’ve graduated from here," says Gonzalez. "They have to know that being a wrestler isn’t something they occasionally do on the side. It’s not a hobby. It’s a lifestyle."

But it is the school’s shepherd and his hands-on involvement that’s the true drawing power.

Michaels is credited with breaking the old-school wrestler mold. His prototype was edgier. Sexier. Acrobatic. A cocky peacock. Michaels, after all, wore spandex pants with hearts over his crotch and rear. He brought a hint of Hollywood glitter that is now the sport’s hallmark.

Most of the students at the school were surprised to find out Michaels isn’t just a figurehead or opportunist cashing in on his fame.

One recent afternoon, students appeared fatigued after a "swinging-off-the-ropes" drill. Sweating it out with them was the man so big in the business that he had to have more than one nickname: The Showstopper. The Boy Toy. The Heartbreak Kid.

"Sure, at first many are curious and awed that I am here with them every day," says Michaels. "But once they see that I am just one of them, they forget I am even here."

And while Michaels himself is certainly a spectacle, a celebrity who can’t walk 20 steps without going unrecognized, he looks out of place inside a shotgun building like this—like Michael Jordan playing pickup in someone’s driveway.

But Michaels has a history inside this crusty old space. And he has scars of his own.

Getting body-slammed onto the edge of a coffin by a 6-foot-10-inch, 328-pound refrigerator of a man named the Undertaker in not something they teach in wrestling school.

Yet it’s imperative if you want the foam-mouthed fans to continue buying your T-shirts, chanting your name and chipping in on the average $600,000 that each Pay-Per-View wrestling generates.

And so the morbid coffin it is.

More ghoulish, however, is to think that for all practical purposes, Shawn Michaels’ storied career ended on that coffin. It was an end to a 13-year pursuit that took off when the future megastar was only a child with dreams.

Michael Hickenbottom, aka Shawn Michaels, was the type of guy who wasn’t satisfied with playing just one position in high school football. No. He had to play both offense and defense. He graduated in 1983, captain for the Randolph Ro-Hawks.

But by then Michaels was already bedeviled by the dramatics of wrestling leviathans Wahoo McDaniel and Tully Blanchard, stars of the then locally based Southwest Championship Wrestling.

The SCW was a violent, often bloody, local wrestling promotion, as Michaels discovered at age 12 when his parents let him stay up late to watch the ring wars on TV. It was one of those things that immediately tied into his childhood hankerings: elbowing and rabbit-punching friends and his two older brothers while emulating both "good guys" and "bad guys." He started collecting wrestling magazines and videos by the truckload. He had a regular seat at all the SCW shows.

"I was, for the most part," Michaels concedes, "obsessed."

So it surprised nobody that he was determined to become a pro wrestler after high school. As expected, his father—a retired full-bird Air Force colonel and Vietnam vet—would have none of that at first.

After some earnest nagging, however, his father reluctantly talked about his son’s aspirations with an SCW promoter. But college, the two men concluded, would have to come first for the wannabe brawler.

At Southwest Texas State University, however, it was one continuous party in the off-campus trailer his dad bought for him.

Midway through the semester, during one of those rowdy parties, Michaels purposely gashed his forehead with a razor. With blood streaming down his face, he chased partygoers, yelling, "I am a wrestler! I am a wrestler!"

"You’ve got to come home," he said his unglued mother told him.

"You can forget about that school stuff because he’s wasting my money," Michaels said he heard his father tell the SCW promoter.

It is then that the Michael Hickenbottom story becomes the Shawn Michaels story, a tale thousands of dedicated fans can recite by heart:

How as a 17-year-old he met legendary local wrestler José Lothario, who trained him for a couple of months in the old building where Michaels now runs his academy.

How his mentor got him his first wrestling job with out-of-state promoters Mid-South Wrestling.

How he came back to San Antonio in 1985 and did battle for Texas All-Star Wrestling.

How he made it into the American Wrestling Association, a big name in the industry, with lots of cable television exposure, and paired up with fellow wrestler Marty Jannety.

Together, they became the Midnight Rockers, one of the most eminent tag-team duos in wrestling history.

How, although thousands cheered him, Michaels went back every night to dingy apartments and motel rooms in small towns in Alabama, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri and Tennessee, and traveled hundreds of miles in rickety cars between those towns for a few dollars more.

How the Midnight Rockers got a chance to break into the big leagues, then got fired by the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) after only one night on the job for partying too much at a local nightclub.

How it was back down to the minor leagues for another year as practically a nobody, wrestling for very little cash, wondering if the heartache and meager existence was worth it - paying the dues you have to pay before you become a wrestling god.

And, man, did he become big.

But it took just one slam against a casket to put an end to a career that thousands of wrestlers only wish they could get a taste of.

On January 1998, Michaels was still holding the top-of-the-world championship title that you earn for stirring the emotions of millions of fans, rather than for clobbering someone.

That night in that coffin match, Michaels severely hurt his back. They said it was a herniated disk. Shattered disk. Surgery. Plenty of skeptical doctors.

Still gimpy, Michaels returned one last time to the ring a couple months later and handed the belt to his successor, San Antonio-area resident Stone Cold Steve Austin.

And so tonight, a year after the coffin incident, Michaels is in this rickety ring in a musty building with no air conditioning. He’s teaching the next generation how to wrestle.

On some mornings, Ruben Estrello believes he should stick to physical therapy.

He’s stocky, not too tall—a pit bull. He’s tough; the former Baylor University rugby player has had his nose smashed in a couple of times. And this morning, Shawn Michaels’ wrestling apprentice is in some serious pain.

"The training is brutal. There are nights that I leave and I think that there is no way I am making it back tomorrow," says the physical therapy student. He transferred to the University of Texas at San Antonio, mostly to be here.

When he showed up at the academy in April, this is what he got: Squats. Push-ups. Laps. More squats. More push-ups. More laps. Sweltering students surrounded by four instructors barking orders. Shiny weight machines. A giant wrestling dummy. Airplane-size fans that move lots of air around, most of it hot. Mats. Folding chairs. Jump ropes. Locker room.

And a ring.

Twice a week the students endure an inhuman routine of exercise and in-the-ring drills. If you’ve never tried a headlock takedown, you’d never believe how intricate it is. Here at the academy, students try it on fellow students a couple hundred times in one evening. Think it’s easy to run across the ring, bounce off the ropes and leap-frog over an opponent? Forgedaboutit.

"All your life you avoid landing on your back," says 22-year-old student C.J. Odam. "Here they’re teaching us how to land on our back so you don’t get killed."

Many don’t make it. The class has shrunk over the past couple of months. Left behind are those who have big eyes for the business. They’re all too busy slamming, kicking, punching and screaming at each other to even recognize that the concept of training for a fight that takes place only in the imaginations of wrestling fans is fundamentally absurd.

"This is not what my family was thinking when they threw me a graduation party," says Odam. "They’re mostly worried about me because they don’t understand the business. They think it’s a bit crazy."

It’s what Odam and Estrello always wanted to do. It’s what Shawn Michaels always wanted to do and made big money at.

And this is the center of that attraction: being in the ring, pretending to be someone larger than life, embracing showmanship, being able to manipulate the emotions of a crowd with theatrics, athletics and persona.

It’s all about the prospect of being a household name, a childhood hero, pulling in six figures a year.

Persevering students like Estrello and Odam know that it will be years before they even get a shot at Michaels’ splendors. They’ll be lucky enough to be celebrated at high schools and American Legion halls.

"Look, I’ve already set my goal of being the next Shawn Michaels," says Odam. "As far as I am concerned it’s going to happen. And if it doesn’t happen, that’s fine. I’ll be humble. At least I tried and can really call myself a wrestler."

Michaels has a personal stake in his students’ success, as does his employer, the World Wrestling Federation. The WWF is a partner in the school, financially and spiritually, using Michaels’ academy as a farm team. Churn out nothing but failures, and the school will shut down quicker than you can send someone crashing through a wooden table.

If his students fail, Michaels fails - a washed-up giant instead of the lionized mentor he’s striving to be.

That’s why the Heartbreak Kid is the first to arrive and last to leave the building on a corner deep in the West Side, both torn and majestic.

The WAWLI Papers #582...

(ED. NOTE—Once again, New WAWLI Papers readers are in debt to superb, Los Angeles-area mat historian Steve Yohe for the following accounts and many others which appear regularly in these pages.)


(Los Angeles Herald, January 11, 1928)

The 1928 wrestling season will get away to a spectacular start at the Olympic tonight when Jim Londos, the handsome Grecian muscle-twister, clashes with Pete Sauer, young local heavyweight, in the feature event of Lou Daro’s mat show.

Although there have been some great bouts held here in the past year or so, the one tonight between these two fast, clever heavyweights is expected to eclipse anything seen at the Olympic in a long time if their match is a criterion of what may be expected.

Londos should be the favorite, and probably is with a great many fans. He is one of the smartest and strongest little heavyweights ever to step inside of the ring. He has only one hold, and that is all he needs apparently, for in its execution it is as spectacular as it is effective. It is the reverse headlock, the hold he gets by leaping at the head of his opponent. Once Londos gets his arms around his opponent’s head, it is usually the beginning of the end.

The Greek has that hold down to perfection. It is of his own investion, and there have been very few, if any, heavyweights who have been able to keep out of its way through an entire bout. Sauer did fairly well in this respect in their first battle. As a matter of fact, Londos evidently does not expect to be as successful with it this time as he was last, as he was reported to be brushing up some of the better known catch-as-catch-can holds to catch Sauer as he could.

Despite appearances to the contrary, Sauer can be the roughest wrestler of any seen in the local ring. He outroughed Dick Daviscourt, who is supposed to be a champion along that line, and he hammered Londos to a pulp in their first bout. He is faster and has as much endurance as the Greek. He has a hold that can compare with the best—the cradle lock—a hold that is unbreakable once it is applied correctly.

During the past two weeks Sauer has worked on that grip until he has perfected himself in applying it in three different ways, one of them more effective than the other two. In addition to this finishing hold, the local youngster has almost as good a reverse headlock as the Greek. Sauer won all of his first bouts with the headlock, and it was not until recently when he began to take on tougher opposition that he devised a stronger hold.

If Don McDonald, the new referee who will officiate at the forthcoming mat shows, can keep Londos away from the ropes, Sauer should give the Greek one of the worst maulings the latter has ever had. The bout is expected to be tough and wild, one that will have the spectators hoarse from yelling before it is half over.

Y. Fujita, the Japanese jiu-jitsu expert, will make his second professional appearance when he takes on Marian Zilkovich in the special. Fujita is the fastest and cleverest Japanese grappler seen in action in the ring, and he has expectations of landing a bout with Ad Santel, world’s jiu jitsu champion, before long.

Chris Michaels and Leo Papiano will furnish the fireworks in the opener.


(Los Angeles Herald, January 12, 1928)

Jimmy Londos and his favorite headlock were too much for Pete Sauer in the Olympic wrestling show last night and the Greek champion took the second fall of the match after clamping on seven consecutive cranium crushers, the last of which left Sauer unconscious and unable to continue. Londos took the match when Sauer could not be revived for the third fall.

Sauer had an edge on the going till Londos cut loose with his headlocks. Pete gained the first fall after one hour and eight minutes of jousting with a series of headlocks which dazed his adversary and made him an easy victim.

In the semi-windup, a jiu-jitsu affair, Y. Fujita made Marian Zikovitch quit in 18 seconds. The latter claimed a badly injured wrist. Chris Michaels and Leo Papiano wrestled 30 minutes to a draw in the curtain raiser.


(Associated Press, January 19, 1928)

COLUMBUS, Ohio—Jack Reynolds of Cedar Rapids, Ia., defeated Russell Vis of Los Angeles last night to defend his world’s welterweight championship in a best-two-fall bout.

Reynolds won the first fall with a leg split hold after eight minutes of wrestling. Vis took the second fall in three minutes with a hook scissors, and the champion came back for the third tumble in three minutes and fifty-four seconds with a flying crotch hold.


(Los Angeles Examiner, August 9, 1929)

Scientific wrestling featured two hours of closely contested mat combat last night at the Olympic Auditorium between Nick Lutze and Joe Malcewicz. Each secured a fall. Malcewicz won the first in one hour five minutes after a well-executed bit of trickery gave him the opening for a back body slam.

Lutze won the second in thirty-eight minutes with a jackknife scissors. The third session was bitterly contested, but neither gained a pin.

Marin Plestina won the semi-final bout from Jim Browning in straight falls. The famed "trust buster" gained the first in thirty minutes and fifteen seconds with a body slam and reverse hammerlock. The hammer injured Browning’s right arm and that member troubled him as they came back for the second fall, which saw another crotch hold converted into a slam that won for the huge Plestina in five minutes and ten seconds.

One of the largest wrestling crowds in weeks witnessed the card.

(ED. NOTE—The following is posted at Women’s Wrestling Illustrated — — and the proprietor of the page may be contacted at The site contains a good deal of historical material regarding the distaff grapplers, as well trying to keep up with the modern-day version of the women’s game.)


For the remainder of the 1930s and into the ‘40s, Burke along with the promotional genius of Wolfe would spearhead women’s pro wrestling. Burke, who was a physically gifted athlete at 5-2 and 138 pounds (all muscle), was the heartthrob of thousands and her fans included Al Jolson and Cesar Romero. In the ‘40s Wolfe, who was now married to Burke, began to assemble and train a troupe of girl wrestlers. Ever the shrewd promoter, Wolfe recognized that he would need more than Burke to develop the angles necessary to sustain fan, and more importantly circuit promotion interest.

Throughout the 1940s and into the ‘50s, Billy’s "Harem" would tour the continental U.S. putting on shows featuring Burke as the champ. A clipping from an outraged Sports-Week columnist in Texas illustrates the grind of these tours.


(Sports Week, late summer, early fall 1947)

By H.A. Deaton

Just so Texas won’t be overlooked in this series of revelations of the wrestling racket operating in the United States at a profit of millions of dollars via the fraudulent matches staged, I thought I’d give SPORTS-WEEK readers some dope on what a lush hunting ground the great Lone Star State happens to be.

The gals on Billy Wolfe’s monopolistic harem are especially popular down in Texas, where men are men, and women wear chaps. Wolfe’s racket with his wife, Mildred Burke, "defending" her "title," really takes these judges of good horseflesh over the hurdles.

Here’s how the fakers pulled their stuff in three cities on the major circuit, for instance. On July 30, Mae Young won from Evelyn Wahl. One week later, Madame Queen went in against Mae, and safely "defended" her crown. The Young-Wahl match, of course, was billed as one to find out who’d meet Mildred. But, on July 31, in Corpus Christi, the night after Mae won from Evelyn, Evelyn won from Mae! And, don’t let this surprise you, one week later, on August 7, Miss Burke "defended" her "title" (safely, of course) by pinning Evelyn.

Mae had another crack (one of the hundreds she’s had) at Mildred’s diadem. On August 1, in Houston, where Seigel’s (a major promoter in Texas) the boss, Miss Young defeated Dot Dotson. A week later, on August 8, she blew the duke to Mildred again! In other words, in case the dates confuse you, Miss Young met—and lost—to Mildred Burke in "title" matches on August 6 and 8, losing to another "contender" so that the August 7 date in Corpus Christi could be filled. A further idea of how phony the gals are (leaving the males go for another article) is glimpsed by the old you-beat-me-one-night, I’ll-beat-you-another- night gimmick at work. In Houston, on July 25, Mae Young defeated Ann Laverne. Four nights later, in Dallas, Ann defeated Mae. In San Antonio on July 23, Ann Laverne defeated aforementioned stooge Evelyn Wahl, but Evelyn had her revenge in Houston, on August 1, when she pinned Ann’s broad shoulders to the mat!

Mr. Wolfe, of course, is an honest booker of lady talent. His gals go into the ring without a single instruction. Natch! The same goes for his wife—in spades! If this isn’t reasonably conclusive evidence of how the boys (promoters) have made a racket of the sport, wait until I unload the dope on the brave, bold, male matmen! They really do the phony business up brown!

(ED. NOTE -- One wonders what this reporter would make of today’s pro wrestling!!)

The 1950s, with the advent of television, would issue in the so-called "Golden Age of Wrestling." Pro wrestling and boxing were made for ‘50s TV. The primitive equipment used in those days could cover the action, and promoters with a viable product would make a killing. Gorgeous George and Antonio Rocca became household names. In fact, it’s claimed that Antonino "Argentina" Rocca was the highest paid athlete of the era, making more money in a year than baseball great Mickey Mantle or football’s Jim Brown.

Billy Wolfe, who knew a good thing when he saw it, would settle down in of all places, Columbus Ohio. By this time, Wolfe had assembled and trained enough girls where he was able send out two touring troupes at a time. In addition, he began to promote what amounted to the first all-girl shows in the United States. The cards included a few men’s bouts, but the real stars of the show were the girls. Wolfe secured a TV contract and was off and running. The success of the show attracted new recruits and Wolfe’s stable of wrestlers grew. Dot Dotson, Mae Young, Nell Stewart, Millie Stafford and June Byers, got their start wrestling for Billy Wolfe in the ‘40s and ‘50s. However, there’s a darker side to this story.

Burke who was still the recognized champion when the Wolfe promotion moved to Ohio, would soon become the ex-champion, as well as the ex-Mrs. Wolfe. Burke had made hundreds of thousands of dollars, as much as $300,000 a year in her prime, but in 1955 she retired. She left wrestling with little more than she started, Wolfe, as her promoter, got it all.

"That was the stupid part of me," Burke said. "Twenty-two years. All the bleeding I went through, to wind up with nothing. Someone would say ‘wrestling’ to me and tears would come to my eyes." Unfortunately, this became a recurring theme with Wolfe and many of the girls who worked for him and his promotion. Billy loved his girls, some more than others, and he always had his favorites. But he always made sure to keep tight control of the purse-strings, and many of the girls who worked for Wolfe would leave him with little more than they started.

After leaving wrestling almost penniless in 1955, Burke staged a comeback. In 1961 she opened a wrestling school in California and began to train girls for a career in the ring. She also established a promotional and business relationship with the Takashi Matsunaga and his newly formed All-Japan Women’s Professional Wrestling Association. Many of the girls who trained under Burke would go on to star in the Japanese promotion.

Hollywood beckoned with advisory roles on two motion pictures about professional women’s wrestling, "All The Marbles" and "Below The Belt".

Burke began selling video tapes of wrestling’s "Golden Age" featuring many of the girls who wrestled for Billy Wolfe in the 1950s. She also sold video’s of women’s pro wrestling from Japan featuring the girls trained at her school and the up and coming Japanese women, as well as bouts taped from her gym in California.

All in all, life turned out well for the girl from Kansas, "and I owe it all to pro rasslin", as she liked to call it.

On Valentine’s Day, 1989, Mildred Burke died of a stroke. She was 73.

The WAWLI Papers #583...

(ED. NOTE—The following is posted at Women’s Wrestling Illustrated — — and the proprietor of the page may be contacted at The site contains a good deal of historical material regarding the distaff grapplers, as well trying to keep up with the modern-day version of the women’s game.)


With the retirement of Mildred Burke in 1955, a new champion would be crowned. Billy Wolfe’s Columbus based promotion had many capable performers, but none more so than June Byers. "The greatest wrestler I ever faced", is how Penny Banner described her.

Byers assumed the role as standard bearer, and took the women’s game into the turbulent 60’s. Her story follows.

As a young tomboy, little DeAlva Snyder never missed "Friday Night Wrestling" in Houston. Her uncle, Ottoway "Shorty" Roberts, worked for Morris Siegel the major promoter of professional wrestling in Houston. At the age of 7, Shorty had started DeAlva on a conditioning and body-building program, and by 13, the young girl could lick any kid in the neighborhood. DeAlva was a favorite of many of the grapplers that worked for Siegel and she took more than a passing interest in pro wrestling. As she grew older, she would pester the wrestlers with a constant barrage of questions and ask them to teach her wrestling moves. They were only to willing to oblige.

During one of his promotional swings through Texas, Billy Wolfe saw DeAlva cutting up in the ring. Always on the lookout, Wolfe knew talent when he saw it, and he liked what he saw in the young girl. Introduced by Shorty Roberts, Wolfe asked DeAlva if she’d ever considered a career in pro wrestling. Recently married and divorced at a very young age, it didn’t take her long to consider Wolfe’s offer, and she was soon on her way to Columbus Ohio to begin training for a career as a professional wrestler.

Because of her background and physical training, DeAlva quickly developed and was soon ready to make her debut. However, she needed a ring name. "I always wrestled as June Byer. You see, my name was DeAlva Eyvonnie Sibly. No one could pronounce Eyvonnie and they wanted to call me Dee or Alva. I was born on May 25th, but my parents couldn’t agree on a name for me until almost the middle of June, so they started calling me June. Then I married a man named Byers and June Byers was the name that I held onto." So it was, as June Byers, that the young lady was introduced in 1944 at a Ladies’ Battle Royal in Norfolk, Virginia that included Wolfe regulars Mae Young and Elvira Snodgrass.

Byers was a natural, and over the next few years became one the mainstays of Wolfe’s travelling promotion. She would wrestle other Wolfe regulars in preliminaries and occasionally would go up against Mildred Burke for the ladies title. However, as always in the wrestling business, champions stay champions particularly when they’re close to the promoter.

Although the singles title was out of reach, the tag team title was certainly up for grabs. Byers won the tag title when she and Millie Stafford took the belts from Ella Waldek and Mae Young in Mexico City in a match she vividly remembered.

The consummate performer, Byers always gave the fans their money’s worth. "I took every match and every opponent very seriously. Every time I climbed into the ring it was my goal to make that match the best I could. That may sound silly, but I was always nervous before wrestling, but I always gave each match my best. I always wrestled to win, and I always tried to give the fans the best possible ring action that I was capable of."

Byers rose through the ranks and became one of the stars of the promotion. Like Millie Burke, she was an accomplished athlete, developing a wrestling maneuver called the "Byers’ Bridge" that she used as a finishing hold in her matches. "I actually developed the hold accidentally", she said. "During a match I grabbed an opponent’s hands, they fell back with my legs in between, hooking them, I bridged back in a suplex for a winning pin, and that is how the hold was developed. Actually my opponent’s momentum carried me backwards, so although I found a new hold and won a match, it happened in such a manner that I almost knocked my brains out doing it."

Like most, Byers had her share of injuries over the years. In her first nine years alone she fractured ribs, broke both collarbones, her left arm and suffered numerous concussions. "After some bouts I was so black a blue that I looked like a leopard. One time in El Paso, Texas I was impaled on a chair, and as a result I had to have my gall bladder and appendix removed."

With Mildred Burke’s departure from the Billy Wolfe promotion in 1953, Byers would lay claim to the women’s title by virtue of winning a 13-girl tournament in June, that took place Baltimore Maryland. The fact that she and Wolfe were extremely close may have had something to do with this. Nevertheless, she was popular with the fans and a talented performer in the ring.

However, many fans, and more importantly promoters, still considered Burke the women’s champ as Byers had not won the laurels in the ring. Wolfe knew he’d have to arrange a title match, and after much negotiation an agreement was reached. Mildred Burke would wrestle June Byers for the women’s world championship on the night of August 20th, 1954 in Atlanta Georgia.

"It took Billy (Wolfe) one year to convince Mildred to wrestle me, and it was a shoot. Sam Muchnick sent a referee that we both agreed on. Mildred claims she wasn’t defeated, but I pinned her in the first fall. During the second fall, she left the ring and refused to come back. Regardless of what she told people, it was a shoot. The Atlanta Athletic Commission awarded me the match, and my claim to the title, by default," said Byers years later recounting the August 20th title match.

Burke’s version of the event is different, although they both agreed the match took place and that Byers won the only fall.

For years Burke denied the match ever took place and that she retired undefeated. What really happened on that night lies somewhere in between. Byers entered the match with an advantage in both height and weight. She had been training particularly hard for the bout and was in tip-top shape. On the other hand, Burke entered the contest with a damaged knee that would become dislocated during the fight. In the match, which was scheduled for 2 out of 3 falls, Byers took the first fall.

Between falls, Burke popped her ailing knee back into joint and came out determined to win the second fall. The two battled for another 47 minutes when Burke finally had to withdraw because of her injury. It was an inconclusive end to one of the greatest women’s bout’s of all time, but didn’t answer the question of who was champion. At least, not at the time.

After the Atlanta bout, Burke and several other girls went to Japan in what was the first appearance of American women wrestlers in that country. In the meantime, Billy Wolfe, who had promoted the match, maneuvered the Atlanta Athletic Commission into awarding the title to Byers by virtue of winning the only fall. Upon her return from Japan, Burke was outraged by Wolfe’s scheming, but the decision had been rendered and Byers would be recognized as the lady’s champion from 1955 until she retired in 1964.

With the death of Billy Wolfe in 1961 and the demise of his promotion, Byers would move on to St. Louis. There she worked for promoter/announcer Sam Menecker whom she would marry. Unlike Billy Wolfe’s, the St. Louis promotion was centered on the men and its great champion, Lou Thesz. Nevertheless, Byers was the recognized champion albeit of a much smaller group of girls that now included Penny Banner, Cora Coombs, Verne Bottoms and Karen Kellog.

In 1963, Byers was in an automobile accident that broke her right knee cap and almost crushed her leg. When doctors advised against resuming her career and risking a more serious break, she decided to retire. It was January 1st, 1964.

June Byers eventually returned to Houston where she became a licensed real estate agent. She had four grandchildren and five great grandchildren. On July 20, 1998 June Byers passed away at her home in Houston.

In 1970, promoter Takashi Matsunaga entered into an agreement with Mildred Burke that would greatly benefit both the longtime mentor of women’s wrestling in Japan and the former women’s world champion.

Burke had recently opened a school for women wrestlers in Reseda, California and had a number of exciting young prospects. However, she was having trouble finding enough promoters who were willing to provide venues to showcase her girl’s talents. Burke had made several attempts to promote all-girl cards on her own but had only been able to attract meager gates for these events. Mike LaBell, the major promoter in Southern California, was sympathetic and used Burke’s wrestlers on many of his cards, but this wasn’t enough to support the number of girls Burke was training.

Takashi Matsunaga had a different problem. For a year and a half he had been in a marketing and promotional race with Morie Nakamura and his Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling Association. Matsunaga had been able to attract a few of the best female performers to his group, augmenting this by recruiting and training relatives including the wives of two brothers, two of his sisters, two nieces and his own wife who wrestled under the ring name of Keiko Endo. Nevertheless, he had been effectively shut-out from booking foreign wrestlers as his rival had already established business relations with Lillian Ellison’s Girl Wrestling Enterprises, the major women’s booking office at that time in the US. He had managed to introduce a few gaijins on his cards, including American Kay Noble, but the real prize was out of reach for now, or so he thought.

When Millie Burke had quit wrestling in 1955, she had moved to Southern California living a quite life after 20 years on the road. However, in 1966 the wrestling bug bit her again and she began to have thoughts of training and promoting. She opened a gym and began recruiting girls for a new promotion which she called the World Women’s Wrestling Association (WWWA), and quite naturally she had bestowed the promotion’s world title on herself. It’s not clear who introduced Burke and Matsunaga to one another, although many of Burke’s wrestlers had appeared at the Olympic Auditorium for promoter Mike LaBell. Nevertheless, in September 1970, Burke’s star pupil Marie Vagnone became the first of Mildred’s wrestlers to debut for Matsunaga’s All-Japan Women, starting an association that would last for the better part of the decade.

The addition of Burke’s "gaijins" to All-Japan Women proved to be the element that would push the promotion "over the top". Mildred’s name still carried considerable status in Japan and over time her wrestlers became extremely popular with the Japanese fans. Matsunaga began to create rivalries between AJW’s dojo trained wrestlers and the ever growing list of girls being trained and promoted by Burke. Soon, Mildred had more business than she could handle and Matsunaga was having to turn away applications by young school girls who dreamt of becoming wrestling stars, a totally unexpected phenomenon.

Towards the late 70’s, with the enormous success of AJW in Japan, Burke and Matsunaga decided it was time to crack the American market, and they began to make plans for an all-girl league in the US. By now, some of the Japanese girls were training at Burke’s school and appearing on wrestling cards in California. Hawaii was chosen as the venue for the first all-girl card outside of Japan because of the native Japanese population. The shows used the same formula that had been so successful in Japan but fan response wasn’t as good as expected.

In 1979, Burke was taken ill and plans for an all-girl league in the US were put on the back-burner. As thing turned out, the plan was never revived and Matsunaga would eventually begin an association with Lillian Ellison and her booking office in South Carolina that saw Moolah and her wrestlers become the foreign ingredient for AJW’s success in the 1980’s.

Mildred Burke retired for a second time, although a few of her girls would continue to perform for All-Japan Women into the early 1980’s. In 1989, Mildred Burke died of a stroke on February 14th, Valentines Day.

One of the most popular wrestlers in Japan is El Sicodelico, brother of the famous Mil Mascaras. Sicodelico was in the audience during a recent girls card and noted some interesting comparisons.

"I’m amazed at how much the Japanese girls have improved just during the time I’ve been here," the masked man observed "But they still have a long way to go to catch the American girls. However, one place where I think they’ve already caught them is in brutality. These girls go all out to win and they’ll stop at nothing. But I think they’d be in trouble if they ran up against a quick, scientific American girl like Ann Casey."

One major reason for Japan’s failure to develop good quality girl wrestlers was the absence of schools in which the girls could learn the sport. Invariably the girls had to pick up their knowledge from watching male wrestlers and from unsanctioned matches against each other. Not since the famous Pan Ikari began his wrestling clubs (like the All Japan Women’s Club) did young girls have a place to go to learn the trade.

"And it’s still pretty restricted," said Miko Sarazawa, known as the "Dragon Lady." "None of the newspapers or magazines ever cover girl wrestling and the only time new girls hear about us is if they happen to come to one of the matches or if they see a sign for one of the clubs. If you took a street poll among 100 girls you picked at random I bet not more than 10 know that there is such a thing as girl wrestling. They know all about the men because it’s one of the biggest sports we have. But the girls are being hushed up.

"Just about the only place we can work is Tokyo because Tokyo is a wide open city where you can do anything. But if you go into the countryside or into the smaller cities you won’t find girl wrestling. Many places have banned us. That’s where the traditionalists live and they think girl wrestling is terrible.

"You know Japanese women have this tradition of being fragile and gentle and sweet. Largely it’s true. But we’re not all like that. Some people think we’re still living in the 18th century. They refuse to accept the possibility of women wrestling as a career."

The best thing that could happen to Japanese girl wrestling would be for a group of American girls to tour Japan. Since the Japanese are so quick to pick up on most American habits, having American girls here would really give the Japanese girls a shot in the arm. People have this feeling that if the Americans do it—it’s all right.

But meanwhile Japanese girl wrestling is at the stage where American girl wrestling was about 20 to 25 years ago. The girls in the ring today are the pioneers. Years from now when girl wrestling is as well accepted as male wrestling these girls will probably be looked upon as heroines. But until then they labor in relative obscurity (compared to their American cousins) for paltry salaries, being refused publicity in newspapers and magazines. That is the status of girl wrestling in Japan today.

The WAWLI Papers #584...


(Orange County Register, May 15, 1998)

By Stephen Lynch

Professional wrestling is derided by many as white-trash entertainment, a serialized "Jerry Springer Show" with bigger guests. But consider two facts: First, wrestling is the longest-running feature on television, dating to the dawn of the medium 50 years ago.

Second, now—during one of the pastime’s periodic peaks in popularity—some 10 million Americans watch wrestling every week. Only "Rugrats," the children’s show on Nickelodeon, consistently scores higher in cable ratings.

That is to say - no matter the critics - wrestling is integral to American entertainment, as influential as "Ed Sullivan," more popular than "Seinfeld."

It’s a reflection of our country: big, out of control, ridiculous, violent, a family favorite. And something few admit to watching.

"Yeah, it’s like ‘Baywatch,’ " Tom Brewer says. "There’s a stigma attached."

It’s Monday night at the National Sports Grill in Fullerton. Only after calling two dozen Orange County bars (Do you show wrestling? "No, we only show sports, thank goodness") was this hangout discovered.

And even though National shows the World Wrestling Federation’s "Raw" and the World Championship Wrestling’s "Nitro" every week, only a half-dozen fans are here tonight.

It’s odd, considering Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim expects 15,000 people when the WWF rolls in Saturday.

Brewer shrugs. The 32-year-old restaurant manager, a guy who likes to drink with friends who wear goatees and appreciate body-slams, realizes a lot of Southern California fans are still in the closet. "It’s the kind of thing you watch in your home." He pauses. "With the shades drawn."

The WWF is the elder of the two organizations, a Stamford, Conn., company that consolidated regional wrestling matches for TV in the late 1940s. Its ratings and stature hit zenith in the mid-1980s, when stars such as Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper became household names.

Ratings dipped a few years later, at the same time rock bands like Winger and Slaughter started going broke. Americans just soured on Spandex and long blond curls on men. The WWF was dropped from network television, drifting to the USA cable network.

Though ratings dipped to fewer than 2 million households, fans were incredibly loyal, buying merchandise and magazines. In 1988, media mogul Ted Turner founded a competing wrestling organization to capitalize on that core group and build a larger audience.

The WCW quickly lured Hogan, Piper and others, then enlivened things by reversing their roles. Hogan dyed his beard black and became a "heel," or bad guy. Piper was a "face," or good guy.

Now, instead of having comic book heroes and stereotypical heavies, fans latched on to double-crossers who not only changed sides, sometimes they changed companies.

"Like you would change your underwear," Brewer says.

On the television above the bar, Hollywood (his new nickname) Hogan dishes out an unbroken string of cliched threats. "This is your last chance. ... If you think you’re gonna beat me, you have another think comin’. ... We’re gonna crush you like a walnut. ..."

"It’s outrageous," Brewer says of wrestling’s appeal. "A few months ago this guy ripped off an older guy’s artificial leg and beat up another guy with it."

Robert "Woody" Wooding, seated next to Brewer at the bar, calls it "a male soap opera." He’s been watching 10 of his 29 years and swaps stories of particularly strange matches when fans (or were they actors?) rushed into the ring. Woody laughs almost defensively after each anecdote, a little guilty at the joy he takes from such silliness. He hushes up as Hogan introduces his "special, secret guest."

"What the hell is this?!" Woody yells, nearly jumping off his stool. "He’s in, he’s out, he’s back ..."

Yes, it’s the Giant, once a Hogan ally, then a Hogan enemy, now, apparently, back in the fold. Dirigible-shaped and demented, Giant flips an opponent, then spray-paints the man’s back. "This is the most incredible moment in the history of the WCW!" the announcer cries with the usual hyperbole.

"Yeah," Woody says sarcastically. "At least ‘til next week."

Wrestling may be a soap opera, but it’s one that forgoes all those unnecessary emotional confrontations. When Marc Mero, a wrestler with the WWF, was jealous of his manager, the curvaceous Sable, they didn’t visit any therapists. Instead, he nearly bodyslammed her in the ring, and she took a cheap shot below the belt.

The question for fans is not only will Mero capture the WWF title, but will Sable dump him and go out with another wrestler?

Officials say these "Melrose Place"-meets-Mike Tyson plotlines have helped ratings. "We’re just going along with society," says Jay Andronaco, spokesman for the WWF.

One WWF intrigue, for instance, involves Kane, who’s convinced that his half-brother Undertaker killed their parents, so he’s out for revenge. Sounds like something Jerry Springer might feature. "If that’s what entertains fans, that’s what we’ll do," Andronaco says.

It is when wrestling reflects society at large—and particularly political realities—that it does best. During the height of the Cold War, the virtuous Hogan battled villainous Russians, Arabians and Asians. It perfectly mirrored the "Rambo" mentality.

After the Berlin Wall fell, Andronaco admits, wrestling sort of drifted, an instant relic of the ‘80s. Like any fad, it was bound to experience some drop in popularity - but its outdated black-and-white outlook (in a world of grunge and grays) didn’t help.

The split between the WCW and WWF, however, set the tone for the format’s resurgence. In the past few years, officials have divided their own organizations into a number of sects, sort of like militia groups or fragmented nation-states. Fans cheered their favorite sect, and "good" and "bad" labels faded away.

The WWF has the Legion of Doom, D-Generation X and the New Age Outlaws, to name a few. It’s a post-Cold War landscape, full of small skirmishes, changing loyalties and, especially, an anti-authoritarian undertone. The WWF champion, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, draws cheers every time he fights Vince McMahon, the showboat WWF chairman who often steps into the ring himself.

"In this day and age, there are no good guys or bad guys," Andronaco says. "It’s a gray area. People go both ways."

All these changes added up to new viewers. The surge began after a WWF pay-per-view event last fall where Austin took the championship (and humiliated McMahon), various sects beat up on each other (in a giant, the-way-the-United-Nations-should-be rumble) and guest stars Mike Tyson and Pete Rose officiated and announced (straight out of late-night talk shows).

Now every Monday night, the WCW and WWF pull down about 6 million households each.

Hardly anyone, Brewer and Woody say with assurance, believes wrestling is real anymore. If there were any doubts, they were erased when the WCW sued wrestler Ric "the Nature Boy" Flair for failing to show up for certain bouts, thus ruining the "story lines" planned for his character.

(The lawsuit revealed other notable secrets. Flair is 49, a not uncommon age for wrestlers. This is an elder sport, where Hogan has stayed into his 40s because of the benefits it provides. What sort of benefits? Flair had a three-year, $2 million contract with the WCW.)

Besides the story lines that always end in zingers, and the punches that rarely seem to connect, Monday-night wrestling has become formulaic, with certain characters and sideshows recycling every week.

First, there are the announcers. This particular night, Michael Cole is doing the play-by-play, with Jim Ross on color. As is customary, they act completely stunned by every twist.

"Do you have any clue what’s going on here?" Cole yells.

"No—but I shudder to think what could happen," Ross screams.

"You have to hear the shock across America tonight," Cole cries.

Then they cut to Kevin Kelly, the Doug Llewellyn man in the back hallway, who lives to get his microphone ripped from his hands by passing wrestlers. And here’s "Stone Cold" Steve Austin doing just that, "I don’t need you to ask me any questions!" he growls, storming off. (No one, by the way, speaks in a normal tone of voice.)

Though female wrestling didn’t turn into the boom officials thought it would be in the early ‘90s ("Fans didn’t buy it," Andronaco says), Playboy models now often serve as "managers." There’s also the occasional "evening gown match" on pay-per-view, where the last one clothed wins. This provides a bit of sex appeal, without the week-in, week-out cat fight that may be too pornographic for genteel Southern family entertainment.

There are many families in these audiences, fathers and sons holding up homemade signs quoting Bible verses and cheering their heroes. Is it troubling that where once Hogan was cheered for following the rules and triumphing, now Austin is cheered for hitting someone from behind with a chair?

Even those Bible verses are a little suspect. After beating a Bible-quoting opponent, Austin cried, "Austin 3:16 says I just kicked your #$@!"

Woody scoffs. Sometimes guys just like watching other guys fight. It’s satisfying. A release. The same reason wrestling and boxing were popular in ancient Greece.

"It’s just entertainment," he says. "Who cares who wins?"

Adds Brewer: "It’s definitely not realistic." Then, after a moment, "but then again, neither is ‘Days of Our Lives.’ "


(Albany Times Union, January 9, 1999)

By Mark McGuire

Wrestling was huge in the late 1980s, until bad story lines, reports of steroid abuse and defections of wrestlers from the once-dominant World Wrestling Federation to now-rival World Championship Wrestling (a television creation from the mind of Ted Turner) severely crippled the business.

But both rival "leagues" survived, and this year have become dominant television monsters.

The blueprint was simple, but effective:

Add sexual innuendo, sexual suggestion and, depending on your definition, sex. Take last Monday’s "Raw Is War." In one tag-team, two-man match, a wrestler was forced to go it alone against two bad guys. Why? His partner, Sexual Chocolate (yes, that is wrestler Mark Henry’s common nickname), was back in the dressing room, handcuffed to a table with a ball gag in his mouth. He was smothered in whipped cream as two lingerie- clad women whipped him.

Ah, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Anybody care for a little holiday entertainment for the kids? Remember, the profanity bleeped out for television will be heard in the arena. Once cartoonish, wrestling has purposely taken on a more serious, sinister veneer.

But at its heart the - what? Sport? Exhibition? Contest? You decide - remains true to its ultimate formula that has remained unchanged since its earliest days: Present simple and succinct morality tales. Good vs. evil. Bad guys vs. good guys. And make them switch sides once in a while.

What makes wrestling different today is how fans have taken to once-supposed bad guys like The Undertaker and Austin (conversely, ultimate good guy Hulk Hogan of WWF became bad guy Hollywood Hogan of the WCW -- yet is still liked by fans). Bad is good, badder is better.

Remember, it is a show, but not all fantasy: When you see someone fly off the top turnbuckle, he really is jumping 12 feet in the air, and really does have to land on someone or thing.

You can’t fake that.


Here are some highlights from This Week In Wrestling, a regular feature in the Museum. For the complete feature, go to and click Museum. From there, click This Week In Wrestling.

Jan. 10 1973 Jerry Jarrett and Tojo Yamamoto win the Southern tag-team championship in Memphis, beating the Sherman Tanks (Phil Hickerson & Don Greene). This match is available on Tennessee Tape 1 in the Tennessee Collection of the Video Store.

Jan. 11 1966 Antonio Inoki is a legend in Japan, but things don’t go well this date in Nashville, Tenn. Wrestling under the name Kanji Inoki, he teams with another Japanese superstar Hiro Matsuda in a tournament for the Tennessee version of the Southern tag-team championship. However, it’s the combo of Len Rossi and Mario Milano that take the belts.

Jan. 11 1981 After several months of hype, Gary Hart debuts the Great Kabuki in Dallas and Kabuki destroys Don Diamond. Part of the intrigue over Kabuki was because of a Mark Lewin television interview. Lewin, who had main evented in Dallas for three years, announced he was leaving the area because Kabuki was too dangerous to try and deal with. He begged Diamond not to take the match.

Jan. 11 1981 One of the most underrated teams in Texas history was Kerry Von Erich and Bruiser Brody. Brody had taken Kerry under his wing when Kerry left college to become a full-time pro in 1979. On this date, they win the American tag-team championship from the Gary Hart combination of Gino Hernandez and Gary Young. Kerry Von Erich had won the American heavyweight championship two weeks earlier.

Jan. 11 1991 Nature Boy Ric Flair rules the NWA/WCW again. Flair regains the WCW World heavyweight championship from Sting at the Meadowlands.

Jan. 12 1987 A result that’s hard to imagine today. Journeyman Bob Bradley beats the Ultimate Warrior in Fort Worth in the finals of a tournament for the Texas State heavyweight championship.

Jan. 13 1973 These two may have had more matches against each other than any two wrestlers in modern history. Bobo Brazil beats the Sheik for the Detroit version of the United States heavyweight championship in Detroit.

Jan. 15 1977 Before you called him Governor and before you called him "The Mind," you called Jesse "The Body" Ventura "Champ." Jesse teams with Buddy Rose in Portland to beat Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka and Dutch Savage for the Pacific Northwest tag-team championship.

Jan. 15 1983 Two of the top stars in Florida history square off for the Florida State heavyweight title. Mike Graham wins the title from Kevin Sullivan in Miami.

Jan. 15 1998 Rey Misterio Jr. wins his third WCW World cruiserweight championship, beating Juventud Guerrera in Lakeland, Fla.

Jan. 16 1985 Ted DiBiase stops Brad Armstrong’s hot streak, beating Armstrong for the Mid-South version of the North American heavyweight championship in Shreveport, La.

Jan. 16 1992 Two of the greatest tag-team wrestlers of all time combine. Arn Anderson teams with Beautiful Bobby Eaton to beat Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat and Dustin Rhodes for the WCW World tag-team championship in Jacksonville, Fla.


(Variety, September 13, 1999)

By Chris Pursell

One of cable’s top-rated programming staples is getting a shakeup as World Championship Wrestling president Eric Bischoff has been relieved of his day-to-day duties at the Turner-owned grappling org.WCW this year has seen a sharp decline in TV ratings and PPV buyrates, while those of arch-rival WWF skyrocketed.

Bill Busch has now been upped to exec VP of WCW and will immediately assume complete oversight of the day-to-day business and creative operations.

Although the WCW program "Nitro" on TNT still pulls between a 3 and 4 rating as the org’s star program, insiders indicated that the ratings didn’t justify the amount of money the company was spending - such as booking rock groups like Kiss and Megadeth to perform on the show. WCW kept losing eyeballs to WWF on the USA Network, which has lately pulled a 6 or 7 rating.

Busch has served as VP of strategic planning at WCW for seven years and had been known as a finance specialist within the organization who can bring projects under budget. With Busch at the helm, other changes in the organizational structure are expected to be announced this year.

Before this year, WCW had soared under Bischoff, including a year-long undefeated Monday-night ratings streak in cable two years ago, as "Nitro" regularly broke a 5.0 rating.

Bischoff brought in one-time WWF pillars such as Hulk Hogan, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall as instant ratings boosters. But success was fleeting for the grappling federation, as "Nitro" now pulls in half as many viewers as its rival on Monday nights. WCW program "Thunder" on sister network TBS has suffered declines as well.

Although Bischoff will officially stay a part of Turner sports in an unnamed capacity, sources said that Bischoff had been considering a move west from Atlanta to explore television and film projects.

He took producer credits recently for last year’s indie pic "The Real Reason (Men Commit Crimes)" and the 1997 TNT telepic "Assault on Devil’s Island."

The WAWLI Papers #585...


(Associated Press, September 11, 1997)

By Chris Newton

DALLAS—Jack Adkisson, patriarch of the famed Texas wrestling family the Von Erichs, died at his Denton County home Wednesday about two months after he was diagnosed with cancer. He was 68.

Adkisson, who went by the name Fritz Von Erich during a 35-year wrestling career, was diagnosed in July with lung cancer that had spread to his brain and adrenal glands.

A statement from the family said he died of a brain tumor at his home in Lake Dallas, about 20 miles north of Dallas.

Adkisson and his five sons were long associated with wrestling triumph in Texas. Five sons—Kevin, David, Kerry, Mike and Chris—also wrestled under the Von Erich name.

Jack Adkisson for years produced a syndicated wrestling show, World Class Championship Wrestling, that was seen in 66 U.S. television markets, Japan, Argentina and the Middle East.

But in recent years, there has mostly been pain. Five of Jack Adkisson’s sons preceded him in death. One died as a child in the 1950s, three committed suicide since 1987 and the fifth died of an apparent drug overdose in 1984.

The only surviving son is the oldest, Kevin, 40.

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

David, probably the best wrestler of the sons, died at the age of 25 in 1984 from an apparent overdose while on a wrestling tour of Japan. Suicide claimed the lives of Mike, 23, in 1987; Chris, 21, in 1991; and Kerry, 33, in 1993. Another son, Jack Jr., died at the age of 7 in 1959 from electrical shock.

"It hurt him desparately," said Tom Pulley, a longtime friend of the Von Erichs. "It’s hard for any of us to imagine losing one son, much less five sons. It changed his life and it definitely took the wind out of his sails."

Until Fritz Von Erich retired in 1980, he was one of the stars of professional wrestling. The former Southern Methodist and Dallas Texans lineman stood 6-foot-4 and weighed 260 pounds. He turned to wrestling in the 1950s after being injured.

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

In their heyday, the Von Erichs were the good guys of the wrestling world, vanquishing trash-talking, loudmouthed wrestlers in black garb. Ironically, the continuing family tragedies brought them—and their sport—even more fame.

Pulley said Fritz Von Erich had a vision for what wrestling could be on television.

"What he did back in the 80s really started wrestling on television," Pulley said. "There’s no question that the brains behind what you see today was Fritz Von Erich ... It took wrestling from being a small regional sport to being international in scope, and I give him the credit for that."

Jack Adkisson is survived by his son Kevin, daughter-in-law Pam, their four children and two other grandchildren. He and his wife, Doris, divorced several years ago.

Family members said they would receive friends of Jack Adkisson at a memorial service on Saturday at First Baptist Church in Dallas. No funeral or graveside services were planned.


(Orlando Sentinel, Feb. 19, 1999)

By Jim Abbott

It’s the kind of predicament you might expect to encounter when you call yourself Sexual Chocolate.

Mark Henry — the World Wrestling Federation star who goes by that nickname — was, umm, detained from a tag-team match on a recent Monday edition of WWF Raw is War on cable’s USA Network.

Seems he was back in the dressing room, handcuffed to a table with a gag in his mouth. While his tag-team partner was being thrashed in the ring, Henry also was on camera. He was being garnished with dessert topping for another type of whipping—at the hands of two lingerie-clad women.

And so ends the "Sport-or-Spectacle?" debate about professional wrestling. After all, this kind of thing never happened to Muhammad Ali.

Although wrestling has been a cable TV fixture since the early 1980s, it has surged ahead in ratings since reinventing its image in themid-1990s. Outlandish plots involving cartoonish characters get as much attention as the matches themselves.

The WWF and its cable rival, Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling on TNT and TBS, no longer bother defending the reality of what happens in the ring.

How can you explain a character, such as the WWF’s leather-masked Mankind, who becomes unbeatable when he slips a woolen puppet named Mr. Socko over his hand?

Or the Undertaker, who plants opponents on their heads with his Tombstone Piledriver? Or the mass appeal of Bill Goldberg, a former Atlanta Falcons football player whose name looks as if it should be on the door of an accounting firm?

"It’s become a very strong male soap opera," said Bonnie Hammer, senior vice president of USA Network Original Programming. "It’s very well-written in a twisted sort of nutsy way."

And it’s being very well received by viewers.

WCW Monday Nitro Live! was the highest-rated show on basic cable for 1998, attracting an average weekly audience of 3.4 million households. Although Nitro! managed to stay ahead of USA Network’s War is Raw most of the year, the USA Network show saw its ratings increase by a staggering 63 percent in 1998.

Together, the shows are taking a bite out of ABC’s Monday Night Football, which finished its 1998 season with the lowest ratings in its 29-year history.

Despite an earlier start time and a revamped on-air announcing team, Monday Night Football averaged a relatively disappointing 13.8 million households, according to Nielsen Media Research.

That’s an 8 percent decline from last year’s average, which until now had been the show’s lowest-rated season.

"That’s partly because ABC is up against two wrestling programs on two cable networks," said Steve Sternberg, an analyst with TN Media in New York. "The cable networks have been very good at marketing it."

Unlike a football game, wrestling matches don’t have to be closely fought to attract TV viewers. The audience generally doesn’t care who wins.

"It’s the whole atmosphere and environment," Sternberg said. "It’s all the histrionics between the matches that draws in all the people."

That means trash talk and sexual innuendo. Orlandoresident Tom DiPaolo, 27, sums up the appeal in one word: sex.

"The sex is definitely the biggest thing," said DiPaolo, manager at the Sonic Boom record store near the University of Central Florida. "It’s also the punk attitude about it."

Today’s wrestlers don’t think twice about using vulgarity to put an opponent in line. DiPaolo said that’s a big difference from when he first watched TV matches as a teen.

"In the old days, that type of stuff wasn’t being said and it sure as heck wasn’t being put on T-shirts," DiPaolo said. "With somebody like Stone Cold Steve Austin, people love him, but he’s not necessarily a good guy. He defies his boss, he flips everybody the bird."

Although such content still causes some advertisers to avoid wrestling, high ratings are keeping many others on board, Sternberg said. Turner executives, which promote their product as more family-friendly, report advertising rates have increased by more than 70 percent over the past two years.

"High ratings will do a lot to erase stigmas," Sternberg said. "You get more young men and, surprisingly, more young women watching wrestling than other things on the air."

Not surprisingly, wrestling’s outrageous behavior has made it a frequent topic on The Russ & Bo Show, the highly rated midday talk show on Real Radio 104.1 FM (WTKS).

Numerous wrestling stars have been on-air guests and a wrestling event featuring sidekick Bubba Wilson attracted 3,500 fans last year.

Host Russ Rollins says that he originally envisioned the show’s target audience as TV wrestling fans, an idea that raised the eyebrows of a former station manager.

"He looked at me like, ‘You’ve got to be crazy,’ " Rollins recalls. "He didn’t want me talking about it. But I could tell there were a lot of guys out there who watched."

The sport has gained so much momentum that WTKS’ sister station, sports radio 540 AM (WQTM), now airs a locally produced professional wrestling talk show. Between the Ropes, Tuesdays at 10 p.m., features interviews with marquee wrestlers and a steady stream of callers, ranging from youngsters to retirees.

"Everybody’s so educated about it," said Brian Fritz, one of the show’s three hosts. "It’s so weird because it used to be just a thing for kids. I didn’t want to admit that I watched it, but now it’s the cool thing to do."


(New York Post, Feb. 21, 1999)

By Brian Blomquist

WASHINGTON - Wrestlemania is looking to put a full Nelson on politics as pro wrestlers rush to follow newly elected Minnesota Gov. Jesse "The Body" Ventura’s lead and start fighting for political crowns.

In Connecticut, Bob Backlund, who twice won the World Wrestling Federation title with his famous "cross-face chicken wing" move, says he’s running for Congress against Democratic incumbent John Larson.

"I’m not running as a politician. I’m running as an American," Backlund, a Republican, said in wrestler blunt-speak.

In Tennessee, Jerry "The King" Lawler, best known for his scrap with the late comedian Andy Kaufman, is considering a run for mayor of Memphis.

In Pennsylvania, John "Jumping Johnny" DeFazio, a WWF star in the ‘60s and ‘70s, announced last month he’s running for the Allegheny County Council.

And in Florida, wrestler "Dirty Harry" Venis, now mayor of Davie, told The Post he might run for statewide office, but not right away.

John Ryder, a Republican operative in Memphis who’s been watching Lawler as he contemplates a mayoral campaign, said voters are increasingly turning to wrestlers, athletes and actors because they are looking for "star quality" in their candidates.

"Hillary Clinton is the same kind of phenomenon. She has celebrity status by virtue of being the First Lady," Ryder said.

Venis said his wrestling matches show voters in southeast Florida that he’s a regular guy, noting that his bouts around the state raise thousands of dollars for local charities.

"I try not to take myself too seriously," said the 5-foot-11, 220-pound mayor. "I like it when they call me Harry, not Mayor Venis."

Backlund, who grew up in Minnesota and still has an accent that most people know from the movie "Fargo," said Ventura’s success isn’t behind his run for Congress, "but he did help me a lot."

"He probably is the one person who opened the door for me. He opened a lot of eyes as far as people thinking that a wrestler could possibly win an election."

Backlund said he faced Ventura about 10 times and never lost, but sketchy WWF records show a 1981 loss to "The Body" by disqualification.

Lawler’s bizarre ‘80s feud with Kaufman began when the 245-pound wrestler challenged Andy, who had been wrestling women as part of his act, to a scrap.

At the match, he brutally pile-drove the comic’s head into the mat, injuring his neck.

When the two appeared later on David Letterman’s show, Kaufman threw water in Lawler’s face and was rewarded with a slug from "The King."


(Scripps Howard News Service, Sept. 9, 1999)

By Alex Marvez

The World Wrestling Federation obviously isn’t concerned what children and teen-agers in the western United States are watching.

With this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw airing from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. (EST) on the USA Network because of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, the WWF decided to become a bit more risque by holding a ladies hardcore "match" between Ivory and Tori. Suffice it to say, there were enough panty shots to fill a soft-core porn movie.

While the WWF can justify such a spectacle by claiming that younger viewers are asleep at 12:30 a.m., that match aired during prime time in the Mountain and Pacific Time Zones. But don’t worry parents: WWF owner Vince McMahon says his show isn’t aimed at your youth, even though they comprise a large portion of his weekly audience.

After only two weeks of mediocre ratings, the WWF is already panicking about its Smackdown telecasts Thursday nights on UPN. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, who was slated to remain off television until mid-October, was brought back this week to goose ratings, which slipped by 10 percent one week after the show’s debut.

The bad news for UPN - which is banking on the WWF for its survival - is that Smackdown isn’t even competing yet against first-run television programming on the other networks. Plus, the WWF is killing itself in the long haul by having to rush storylines to fill both Raw and Smackdown telecasts.

The WWF can take solace in the fact that ratings for World Championship Wrestling’s Thunder telecasts on Thursdays (8:05 p.m. EST, TBS) have dropped by more than a full point since Smackdown’s debut.

Interest in this week’s WCW Monday Nitro at the Miami Arena was as depressing as the show itself, with 4,805 of the 8,623 fans attending via complimentary tickets. The paid attendance of 3,818 fans (which generated a live gate of $107,134) is believed to be the lowest for a Nitro taping in a major arena in several years.

Adding to WCW’s misery, merchandise sales of $18,504 also were brutal (sorry, but those yellow Hulkamania shirts aren’t going to sell like the NWO shirts of 1997). About the only positive for WCW is that Miami Arena looked crowded because the top tier of seats was blacked out on television.

The Nitro attendance figures were surprising considering WCW’s Bash at the Beach pay-per-view show in July drew a sellout crowd of 13,624 fans (11,397 paid) for a live gate of $444,737 at the National Car Rental Center in nearby Sunrise, Fla. Merchandise sales for that show were $71,115.

Why the major drop-off? Labor Day is a convenient excuse, but the fact is WCW is feeling the effects of the terrible match-making and stale headliners that have plagued the promotion for more than a year.

Ticket sales are even worse for Sunday’s Fall Brawl pay-per-view show in Winston-Salem, N.C. That card is headlined by Hulk Hogan vs. Sting -- a match whose suspense was taken away when Lex Luger turned on the Stinger in the waning seconds of Nitro.

FLYING THE NEST: Raven’s return to Extreme Championship Wrestling couldn’t have come at a better time as the group attempts to gain a niche on The Nashville Network (8 p.m. EST Fridays). Days after being granted his release from WCW, Raven captured the ECW tag-team titles with long-time rival Tommy Dreamer in one of the promotion’s most memorable moments.

As part of his WCW release, Raven (aka, West Palm Beach native Scott Levy) isn’t allowed to join the WWF for one year. That means he has plenty of time to wreak havoc in ECW before bolting to work for McMahon.


(Seattle Times, Sept. 21, 1999)

By Emmett Watson

"The renaissance of wrestling is too obvious to ignore and you are just the person not to ignore it," states a message on my e-mail. "One exults at wrestling’s recent great strides on cable TV and in the Minnesota governor’s office."

One does exult. The aforementioned governor, Jesse Ventura -- "The Body," no less -- is Minnesota’s executive ruler. Some think his choke hold on politics is permanent. He will run for president in 2004.

A wrestler in the White House? Don’t grimace. That we can do worse is already proven.

You’ve all noticed, I’m sure, that there is a professional kinship between wrestling and politics.

To begin, both are fixed. Politics, like wrestling, is a battle between good and evil. In politics, as in wrestling, evil frequently wins. Money usually determines the outcome.

Both are lathered with propaganda, fibs, slogans, boasts and sound bites. Both are theatrical by definition.

Don’t panic. If this gives you a headache, there is no need to consult a brain surgeon. Let us turn, instead, to that eminent wrestling historian J Michael Kenyon, known in e-mail circles as "Oldfallguy."

Like many historians, he pines for the old days, good or not. That was when he went to the old Civic Ice Arena or Eagles Auditorium, "when you see an honest-to-goodness Texas Death Match between authentic representatives of Good and Evil."

He adds: "In those days, you could light up a cigarette at ringside and get a belly laugh when the local version of Hat Pin Mary jabbed the caboose of the nearest performer."

This department has its own heroic performers. As a mere child, I worshipped the great Ed "Strangler" Lewis, who won and lost the world’s heavyweight grappling title at least 97 times.

"Yes, the Strangler," mused Oldfallguy. "What he lacked in muscle he made up for in good, solid fat. Stayed on top of his class for 45 years, despite two handicaps larger than his stomach.

"He went almost blind from canvas ring resin and groped and grappled for 17 years. Also, he was mostly sloshed for 10 solid years, during which period he managed to win the world’s heavyweight championship three more times."

Another famous steroid bumpkin, Hulk Hogan, says he’ll reach the White House before Ventura. Wrestlers, it seems, always have yearned for high office.

There was Gorgeous George, for example.

"The same marcelled dandy who used to get knocked out of the floating ring at Green Lake’s old Aqua Theatre," Kenyon says. "After being submerged in Green Lake, his expensive coiffure was a soggy mop of wet spaghetti."

Kenyon, the traditionalist, regards many modern wrestlers as "so many steroid-enhanced sociopaths masquerading as wrestlers."

"Just ‘sports entertainers,’ " he says, dripping contempt. "You could plug any of them into a chair on ‘Meet the Press’ and they’ll do just fine."

Politics and wrestling share an affinity for fakery that is downright touching. When politicians shed tears, as they often do in affirming their fakery, one is constantly reminded of George Zaharias, who was the celebrated "Crying Greek from Cripple Creek."

Cripple Creek is in Colorado. No matter.

Explains Kenyon: "The Greek was famous for losing lots of matches. After he lost, he would plop his bulging 275 pounds in the middle of the ring and bawl like a baby."

Not even Dan Quayle can equal that. Another candidate for president, George W. Shrub, takes a beating for what Kenyon calls "going around the maypole on whether he might have snorted a little Colombian Anti-God Powder."

It is Kenyon’s position that Ventura gets off too easy. He argues that Ventura has taken enough steroids to make a Percheron out of a Shetland pony.

"If it weren’t for steroids," says Kenyon, "Ventura would be just another shaven-pate skinhead carrying a lunch bucket."

Some guy down in Texas, with a slightly too-vivid vocabulary, may well have summed up wrestling’s drift into our cathedral of democracy.

Says he: "American politics is becoming more and more a simulacrum of the squared circle: a battleground on which liberally oiled, steroid-enhanced mutants lay waste to each other with suplexes, headlocks, hammerlocks and Stone Cold Stunners."

So take an even strain. And remember that Alexander Hamilton once blew a duel to Aaron Burr.

The WAWLI Papers #586...

(ED. NOTE—On loan from Richard Longson, son of the late, great world champion "Wild Bill" Longson, is a volume of Sports Pointers, the treasured St. Louis program of the Packs-Thesz promotional era, 1948-51. This and subsequent issues of The New WAWLI Papers will feature materials from this approximately 50-year-old collection of absorbing programs.)


(Sports Pointers, Friday, January 16, 1948)

Six and a half feet tall, and proportioned to perfection, Mike Sharpe of Hamilton, Ontario, will pit his youth and speed against the cunning and power of Wild Bill Longson in the main event of Tom Packs’ Kiel Auditorium wrestling card Friday night, January 16, with the heavyweight championship of the world at stake.

For Mike it won’t be the first time that he has had a chance at the National Wrestling Association belt, since he quickly reached the top of the contenders group last year only to faiol against Longson in a pair of thrilling clashes. On this occasion, however, the young Scots-Canadian feels that he is better prepared than ever before to pin Longson’s shoulders.

"I don’t have to tell you how much this bout means to me," grinned Mike the other day, "but I think my brother Ben is even more worked up over it than I am. Ben is my trainer, you know, and he has had me working out every day since the first of the year. We have both made a study of Longson’s tricks in the ring and hope that we have the necessary attack and defense worked out to counter them."

From Longson’s corner, there was nothing but silence concerning this Friday night’s one fall to a finish event, but observation shows that Wild Bill has been active in gymnasium workouts at the Downtown YMCA since his last bout here with Ray Villmer. There was a general feeling after the last Longson-Sharpe bout that Mike suffered more from bad luck than anything else, and had been ahead in the action of the bout until his head was injured. Certainly, it was a close contest, and Longson apparently is taking no chances.

For Mike Sharpe, should he win over Longson, the prospect of 1948 reaches ahead of him as the pinnacle of his young life, but for Wild Bill, if he successfully defends his title in this bout, there is only the prospect of more and more challengers to test his skill. The supporting program of this January 16 card is an indication of how tough this future will be, since Promoter Packs has signed an array of the finest heavyweights in the world to appear on the show, with each one of them trying to earn a championship bout in the near future.


(Sports Pointers, Friday, Jan. 16, 1948)

You may get a good man down—but he is never out. Proof positive of that old statement is the fact that Lou Thesz, former heavyweight champion, and one of the greatest wrestlers every to be developed in this part of the country, or anywhere else, is set to make a comeback in the semi-windup of Promoter Tom Packs’ January 16 wrestling card.

Forced to give up under the terrific pressure of a knee hold in his last bout here with Wild Bill Longson, Lou was faced not only with the loss of the NWA title, but with the prospect that he might be unable to continue his ring career. Instead of bemoaning his fate, Lou immediately started in a series of conditioning exercises, designed to strengthen the injured knee and test its staying power.

As soon as he was convinced that the leg would stand the strain, Thesz took two or three tune-up bouts out of town, working against strong opponents and giving himself no breaks. These matches went to his satisfaction and now he signed to meet Pat Fraley in a half-hour battle this coming card.

Hailing from Oakland, California, Fraley is a lightning fast and tricky grappler, who will match wits and strength against Lou or any other heavyweight and show to good advantage. His choice, as an opponent for Lou’s first return home since losing the title, is particularly good since Fraley is known as a worthy match for the ex-titlist and a win for Lou would be convincing evidence that he is not hampered by the damaged knee.

Naturally, the incentive to win this one is tremendous for both men, since Pat would have something to crow about should he pin Lou to the rug, while Thesz needs a victory to prove the wisdom of his attempted comeback. As the semi-windup of an outstanding program, the Thesz-Fraley battle should be a sure-fire hit with wrestling fans.

(ED. NOTE—Just how much action did Thesz miss after dropping his title to Longson in St. Louis before a crowd of 9,800 at Kiel Auditorium on Friday night, November 21, 1947? The editor’s career record for Thesz shows a five-day lapse, before Thesz went to Canada and dropped his Montreal version of the world title to Yvon Robert on Wednesday, Nov. 28. Two nights later, Thesz went over Cliff Gustafson in St. Paul. The following week, over a three-night stretch, Thesz lost a return bout to Robert in Montreal, was tripped up by Whipper Billy Watson in Toronto and went over Sid Nabors in Buffalo. Then he lost two title challenges to Longson in three nights, Dec. 10 in Evansville and Dec. 12 in Houston, the latter via disqualification. The next week, continuing his Texas tour for promoter Morris Sigel, Thesz rattled off wins over Jack Kennedy, Lou Plummer, Gorilla Macias and Leo Daniel Boone Savage in Dallas, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Houston, respectively. Then, indeed, came a nearly three-week holiday from the mat, if our records are complete, before Thesz launched the 1948 campaign in Wichita Falls, downing Ellis Bashara on Wednesday, January 7. Two nights later. On Friday and Saturday of the same week, he scored over Miguel "Blackie" Guzman by foul in Houston and Pat Fraley, the man he was to meet in this St. Louis bout, at Kansas City, Missouri. Given that our Thesz record is doubtless incomplete, you might safely add in another four or five bouts over this eight-week span between St. Louis title bouts with Longson. In other words, the extent of Thesz’ "knee injury" was somewhat exaggerated, given that he participated in some 20 bouts, all against top-flight opposition in featured bouts at several major mat venues across North America. But, then again, remember that this was the age of "kayfabe," not that of when pro wrestling was acknowledged as "sports entertainment.")


(Sports Pointers, January 16, 1948)

Col. Harry J. Landry, president of the National Wrestling Association, has just released the official ratings for the New Year of 1948 which is promptly published herewith.

Recognition is given to Wild Bill Longson as the World’s Heavyweight Wrestling Champion, with Lou Thesz, Whipper Billy Watson, Bobby Managoff, Mike Mazurki, Buddy Rogers, Yvon Robert, Mike Sharpe, Ray Villmer and Ernie Dusek rated among the top ten.

Honorable mention goes to Dave Levin, Orville Brown, Gino and Ralph Garibaldi, Vic Christy, Felix Miquet, Warren Bockwinkel, Ray Eckert, Ed Meske, Bobby Bruns and Paul Boesch.


Wild Bill Longson beat Mike Sharpe (NWA world title defense), Lou Thesz beat Pat Fraley, Bobby Managoff beat Sky Hi Lee, Joe Dusek and Dan O’Connor beat Ray Villmer and Henry Piers, Warren Bockwinkel drew Tommy O’Toole.


(Abilene Reporter, February 25, 1998)

By Greg Jaklewicz

I never really bought into this boast of ours that Abilene is a cultural mecca second only to Houston in this state.

I know we have a symphony and art exhibited in galleries, museums and hair salons. OK, so live theater is performed on six local stages, sometimes on the same weekend. I’m aware of our world-class opera productions, chamber music and choral presentations.

I know we’ve made the national news for targeting culture as our means of downtown revitalization.

Still, I haven’t been comfortable grouping Abilene with New York City, Paris, Branson, Mo., and Florence as art capitals.

But last weekend, as Abilene achieved a new level of culture prominence, I changed my mind. We had World of Wheels AND World Championship Wrestling here on the same night. A double helping of deep-fried culture, dipped in a extra thick batter.

Just under 7,200 people went out to the wrestling at the Taylor County Coliseum. Which explains why business was light at Cypress Street Station.

Let me tell you, these folks had fun. The event went off so big the WCW likely will return to town next year.

Money was spent like there was no tomorrow.

Ticket prices ranged from $12 for upper atmosphere seats to $25 ringside, and all those seats were filled. I’ve never seen better souvenir sales; WCW concessioneers sold out of many items, particularly items for wrestler (not pop singer) Sting. His replica masks and posters were gone before intermission. And Sting wasn’t even here.

It was impossible getting filmed developed Sunday. H-E-B, for example, was swamped with rolls taken at the wrestling and World of Wheels events.

I’m not a wrestling fan. And don’t try to convert me, either. I gave in to auto racing last and spend enough time keeping up with my boy Ricky Rudd. I watched wrestling a few times on TNT to prepare myself for the Abilene event. I learned enough to wear a black T-shirt Saturday night, though

I chose to roll up the sleeves and not cut them off. And then there was Justice of the Peace Sam Matta who arrived in a suit. Several people thought he was the WCW president, but he was there only in case he was called to duty.

The only other person dressed up that much was the ring announcer (in a tux). I’m not positive, but I think I saw Matta go home with a New World Order tank top and a replica championship belt. Another celebrity in the crowd was Cooper High School all-state football player Everett Fraser, who recently inked a scholarship deal with Baylor. From his seat near the ring he jawed with wrestler Ric

Flair, to the point Flair shouted at him, "Sit down, fat boy."

There was a lot of that going on, but if ne guy could hold his own in the ring it was 6-foot-6, 270-pound Cougar.

I left impressed in some ways. The choreography of the wrestlers at times was amazing. I really don’t know how some of the hits and falls were pulled off without injury. But if you watched carefully, you could see the guys helping out or protecting each other.

There were large doses of humor. During an early tag-team bout, all four wrestlers collided and appeared to be collectively knocked unconscious. But when the ref almost reached his final count of 3, they popped back up.

Time and again a pinned wrestler raised just enough off the mat to escape the defeat. Whew! That was close.

I also was impressed that the event was pretty much PG-13. The language was kept in check ("Texas ... kicking" was the strongest expression of the night). Unfortunately, Expo Center official Rochelle Johnson took her seat just when Flair had the back of his briefs pulled down. Yessir, the moon was full.

It occurred to me that perhaps this escalating U.S.-Iraq thing should be settled in the wrestling ring. Big Bad Bill vs. the Ultimate Idiot. The Cheeseburger Avenger vs. Sad Sack Saddam. Clinton’s advantage would be his quick hands (oops, I promised no scandal comments); Saddam’s, of course, is his sneakiness.

No piledrivers, no chemical weapons. Winner take oil.

We can put it on TV and make tons of money. Sell tickets and souvenirs over the Internet.

And have it right here in Abilene. Judge Matta will referee.

As Ric Flair would say, "Whooooooo!"


(Cincinnati Post, December 14, 1998)

By David Wecker

Sean Casey’s budding career as a big-time professional wrestler—BTPW, for short—has risen to a new plateau, now that he’s achieved his first World Wrestling Federation victory.

Ever since he was a squirt growing up in Batavia, Sean has wanted to be a BTPW. He was maybe 6 years old when he talked his mom, Sharon, into taking him to see his first BTPW bill at Cincinnati Gardens. There, he got to see guys like Nature Boy Ric Flair, Magnum T.A. and the Road Warriors administer atomic pile drivers to one another.

Six years ago, Sean graduated from a school of professional wrestling higher education, an institution called the Monster Factory in Northern Ohio, and began climbing into makeshift rings in high-school gyms, county fairs and civic centers from Michigan to Mississippi.

When I met Sean, the September before last, he was recovering from his first defeat in the bigs (the bigs being the WWF) at a match in Chicago. A guy named Scott Putski put him down but good with a brutal move known as the "Polish hammer," which rang his bell and stopped his clock. Turn out the lights, put the kids to bed, the party’s over.

It’s been a hard road since then, but Sean has persevered. It’s what one does when one has a dream. Sure, he’s not the biggest guy in the world - but he’s built like a TV set: short and wiry. Five-foot-seven, 205 pounds, with a 20-inch neck and 17 ˝-inch biceps. Which makes him sufficiently sizeable for WWF’s light-heavyweight division.

The thing about wrestling in the bigs is, Sean never knows when he shows up for a WWF match if he’s going to be a good guy or a bad guy. It depends on which opponent the promoters pit him against. He prefers being a bad guy, however.

"I guess my overall persona is the pretty boy—I’ve got the long blond hair, I’m in decent shape," he says.

"Being the bad guy is more fun because it’s like, a lot of wrestling fans aren’t in very good shape. So as the bad guy, you get to strut around the ring and taunt the fans, like, ‘Don’t you wish you looked like me?’ "

Six months ago in Cleveland, he was in a tag match with a guy against Kai and Tai, two Japanese wrestlers who were bad guys.

"They put a double-team maneuver on me," Sean says.

"Gave me a DDT with a face lock, which is, like, where they take you vertical and drop you head first into the mat. My partner was nowhere to be found, which was upsetting. The upshot was, we lost. But more dates came out of it."

Sean’s next WWF invitation gig was in Detroit three months ago.

"They stuck me with a kid from Canada, and we wrestled a team called Too Much," he says.

"We had them reeling for a little while. Then they double-teamed my partner. They guillotined him is what they did. One held him on his back while the other jumped off the top rope and dropped a leg across his throat. He was delirious for some time after that.

"The next night, we had another WWF gig in East Lansing. Same guys. The outcome was very similar."

The biggest event of Sean’s BTPW career to date occurred a few weeks back, at a WWF match at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus. It was a sold-out crowd of 20,000. The promoters pitted him against a wrestler from Cleveland, a guy who at some point in his life decided his real name lacked pizazz, so he changed it to Johnny Paradise.

"Johnny Paradise was bigger than me—about 6-2, 260 pounds," Sean says.

"He plays an arrogant guy, which I thought was ironic because he’s didn’t have that much to be arrogant about, since he’s really not in good shape."

It was on a Monday night. Sean and Johnny Paradise locked up right away. Johnny Paradise was bigger and stronger, but Sean was quicker.

"I got the advantage on him a few times," Sean says.

"Then he raked his fingers across my eyes, which temporarily blinded me. He put some moves on me while I was gathering my thoughts, then he charged me. Only I put my foot in the air, and he ran into it with his face, which forced him to gather his thoughts."

The match ended with Sean climbing to the top rope, launching himself in a high cross body block and dropping Johnny Paradise to the mat like a bag of hammers.

"It was a big moment, me standing there with my arms in the air, all those people cheering me," Sean says.

"Finally, it was like I was the guy they’d all come to see."

The WAWLI Papers #587...


(Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Aug. 20, 1999)

By Steve Beverly

The saga of Ric Flair’s relationship with World Championship Wrestling continues to take uncertain detours. However, as of midweek, reports of Flair’s being given a release from WCW were untrue.

Last September, when the 14-time world champion returned after a five-month bitter legal dispute with WCW chief executive Eric Bischoff, a standing ovation and a tearful Flair in response set off one of the most emotional moments in live-television wrestling history. A four-month scripted storyline to bring the real-life war between Flair and Bischoff into the weekly "Monday Nitro Live" soap opera led to what many consider the ultimate humiliation in Flair’s career: the 50-year-old veteran was forced to lose to Bischoff at last December’s "Starrcade."

The next night, Flair gained his revenge by destroying Bischoff on "Nitro," and—as called for in the script—gained the "presidency" of WCW. A month later, Flair gained what had long been the dream of his fans—a victory over Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea) to regain the WCW world belt.

But in the process Flair was forced to revert to a villain (since 1985, Flair has switched between a fan favorite and villain no less than 11 times). His storyline took a direction of further humiliation as his character evolved into a mentally ill, behaviorally irrational persona.

A column by Charleston, S.C., mat writer Mike Mooneyham stirred the pot two weeks ago when he suggested Bischoff was bringing in Shane Douglas (Troy Martin) to add the final embarrassment to Flair. For four years, Douglas has been a vocal, sometimes profane, critic of Flair on the Extreme Championship Wrestling shows. Two weeks ago, Flair made a trip to Japan to watch his younger son in an international amateur wrestling competition. Mooneyham hinted Flair may decide to hang it up with WCW rather than face an almost certain coup de grace in a program against Douglas.

Now 50, Flair faces a decision that has been almost inevitable since his longtime behind-the-scenes rival Hogan has been in the organization. Ever the loyalist, Flair may well opt for a "take this job and shove it" attitude toward Bischoff, at a time when WCW is facing its lowest ebb in popularity in four years.

More bits and pieces this week from your friendly neighborhood wrestling critic as you ponder getting the kids back in school or why your summer flew by so quickly:

Hogan defeated Kevin Nash Saturday night at "Roadwild" to reportedly "end the career" of Nash, if you believe the match stipulations. This is from the same WCW that had Hogan defeat Flair in a "retirement" match five years ago. Flair was back in the ring in less than three months. Nash will be back.

Don’t buy Hogan’s return to the yellow-and-red good-guy colors as permanent. At some point before his scheduled matchup against Bret Hart this fall, Hogan will go back to his villain image. After the emotional upheaval of Hart losing his brother Owen in a tragic fall on a World Wrestling Federation pay-per-view this summer, Bret would never be believable as a heel.

Other "Roadwild" topliners had Bill Goldberg destroying Rick Steiner and Randy Savage (Randy Poffo) defeating ex-NBA thug Dennis Rodman. However, a couple of surprises saw Sid Vicious (Sid Eudy) upset Sting (Steve Borden) and Chris Benoit retain the U.S. title over Diamond Dallas Page (Page Faulkenberg).

ECW has locked up its long-time star Taz in what is believed to be a three-year, $3 million deal. But the bucks didn’t all come from ECW owner Paul Heyman’s pocket. CBS is believed to have kicked in a substantial portion of Taz’ salary. CBS now owns TNN and the network is said to be high on the chances of the ECW show becoming a ratings winner for the currently in-renovation country channel.

Viewers who attended the first ECW/TNN taping say a lot of editing will be necessary to pass muster with TNN’s censors. Frequent profanities were chanted from the crowd and ECW’s stars reportedly continued to let fly with the same salty language from their previous regional cable shows.

Crazy rumor of the week: "The George Michael Sports Machine" reported Vince McMahon has been offered millions by the National Football League and ABC to move his top-rated "Raw" show away from Monday night and direct competition from the NFL games. That’s crazy. For one thing, it’s collusion. For another, two years ago—when WCW was on top—wrestling was also diluting the Monday Night Football ratings. Where were NFL dollars for Ted Turner then?

We’ll see down the road whether Minnesota’s (and the nation’s) voters really care whether Gov. Jesse Ventura’s foray back into wrestling (as a referee this weekend at WWF "Summerslam") involves his pocketing as much as $1 million in percentages. He has said he will donate his base pay to charity. Yet, Ventura is not acknowledging at all what he’ll do with the rest of it. Would Georgia voters tolerate that with our current governor?


(St. Paul Pioneer Press, Aug. 26, 1999)

By Tom Powers

ST. PAUL, Minn.—Further proof that baby boomers are aging: We can remember when pro wrestlers actually wrestled.

Back in the days before the World Wrestling Federation decided to become the entertainment of choice for white-trash America, rasslin’ adhered to a strict code of honor. Good triumphed over evil. Civility overcame rudeness. Sportsmanship prevailed.

Remember that no matter how many dirty tricks he had pulled, whenever the bad guy got on his knees and begged for mercy, the good guy invariably extended his hand in friendship. Of course, the villain always bit that hand. Which made the crowd go crazy.

But that’s how character was revealed. Good guys, such as the great Bruno Sammartino, always forgave their opponents. Bad guys, such as Professor Tanaka, constantly were up to no good.

Today, character is revealed by dialogue. In the current theater of the absurd, the performers grab microphones and yak at each other, frequently for hours on end. The audience, the same human flotsam and jetsam that fill the seats at Jerry Springer tapings, joins the fun by screaming obscenities.

It used to be so simple to set the stage. Bobo Brazil would offer to shake hands with his opponent just before the bell. George "The Animal" Steele would lean forward and try to chew off Bobo’s fingers. And from that moment, everyone in attendance knew exactly what was what.

Good guys showed mercy. Bad guys reached into their trunks and pulled out brass knuckles, which they used to crease the foreheads of their foes.

Now that’s entertainment.

There were terrific characters, such as Sammartino, Gorilla Monsoon, Haystack Calhoun, Pedro Morales, Andre the Giant, Killer Kowalski and Beautiful Bobby. Tactically, we had the Claw, the Cocoa Butt, the Heart Punch, the Sleeper hold, the Big Splash and the Back-Breaker.

Today we have Mr. A**.

Which is an appropriate moniker for all current wrestlers.

The best part about old-time rasslin’ was you didn’t have spend $49.95 on pay per view to see the bad guy get his comeuppance. Sammartino, for example, held the WWF title for 11 years. And he wrestled almost every week!

He didn’t have to lose to some cheating, steroided, drooling Satan worshiper just so he could win back his belt during a TV extravaganza. Bruno meted out justice weekly. In 1964, he made $100,000 -- just like Mickey Mantle. He literally made the WWF. A true gentleman, fans everywhere adored him.

Now 65 and long retired, he recently was quoted as calling the current wrestling programs "garbage."

There weren’t many things we could count on in the tumultuous ‘60s and ‘70s. Yet we knew that on weekends the good guys would whip the bad guys, despite referees who were oblivious to the goings-on in the ring.

Think back. How many times was the ref counting out the bad guy, "One ... two ..." only to have the villain’s manager jump into the ring? So the ref stops counting, gets up and starts lecturing the interloper. Meanwhile, the bad guy reaches into his trunks, pulls out a hunk of metal, and rakes it across the good guy’s kisser.

You can’t find good clean fun like that anymore.

Today we have coffins, snakes, poisons and submachine guns toted into the ring. There are subplots about kidnapped grandmothers and/or girlfriends. Obscenity is the rule rather than the exception. The more degrading the proceedings, the better.

And when everyone finally stops yapping, the "action" frequently consists of two guys slapping each other like a couple of sissies.

Well, we’re getting older. To a certain element of society, there’s nothing like a good freak show. We’ll have to live with that.

With luck, the various wrestling federations, having exhausted every outlandish ploy to attract interest, will come up with the ultimate event: Hellfest 2000. That’s where all the participants gather around a nuclear warhead, which is promptly detonated.

Count me in for that one.


(Minneapolis Star Tribune, Aug. 23, 1999)

By Graydon Royce

Before 19,404 roaring fans and a worldwide audience, Gov. Jesse Ventura spent his off day on Sunday moonlighting in his former line of work.

Ventura safeguarded the cause of law and order as he refereed the main event at the World Wrestling Federation’s SummerSlam at Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.

It was an evening filled with behemoths bruising each other with chairs, road signs and impossibly inflated forearms. The action in one match even spilled out of the arena, crossing 7th Street and ending up on the pool table of a nearby bar. There were cages, body slams, morality plays, happyreunions, mock tragedy and the turnover of four championship belts.. That plus blaring music, pyrotechnics that rocked the floor and light shows accompanying the wrestlers’ journeys to the ring.

And then at 9:20 p.m., Ventura strode down the aisle, waving to the fans as he was announced as the guest referee for the contest among WWF champion Stone Cold Steve Austin, Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Triple H) and Mankind.

Despite his vow in July to get back in shape, Ventura was sporting what appeared to be an ample midsection.

As he entered the ring, he grabbed the microphone and shouted:

"Let me tell you something. There’s a lot of media saying I’m a disgrace for being here. But let me tell you, I’m proud I’m a wrestler, and I’m proud I was a wrestler and I’m proud to be here." The crowd roared its approval.

An often-profane Ventura slipped easily back into his bad-boy image as he took control of the match. For example, when Chyna tried to interfere in the match, he threw her out, telling Triple H to "get her ass out of the ring."

Later, when Shane McMahon, son of WWF owner Vince McMahon, tried to butt in, Ventura said, "Don’t you come out here and tell me shit." He later grabbed McMahon by the face, swung him around and hoisted him over ropes, throwing him to the floor. Leaning over the ropes, Ventura looked at McMahon, crumpled on the floor and shouted, "That’s one for your old man, you little bastard." Despite the fact that it was Vince McMahon who asked Ventura to come back into the ring, he and Ventura have been longstanding enemies ever since Ventura successfully sued the McMahon and the WWF.

That was the highlight of the match, eventually won by Mankind, who was declared the new champion.

Ventura’s hands-off approach continued after the event. Triple H, enraged that he was denied the championship, used a folding chair to smash Austin’s injured knee. Six referees ran up to the ring to try to stop the mayhem, and the crowd sensed that this was a buildup for Ventura to come back and restore order. But Austin slid underneath the ropes and onto the floor and the action ended without the guest referee reappearing.

So did the event live up to a hype that drew 78 media representatives? Depends who you talked with. Some observers felt the main event lacked some of the spark of other WWF buildups. Often, the combatants of a championship match will spend a few minutes whipping the crowd into a frenzy with some choice comments. That wasn’t the case Sunday.

"Wrestling has lost its purity," John Pint, 20, of Minneapolis, said after the match. "This was nowhere near Wrestlemania Three in the Pontiac Silverdome."

Mike London, 16, White Bear Lake, felt Ventura "didn’t play much of a role." But he was not disappointed and thought the whole evening had been "too hyped."

And besides, Ventura was the referee, not a combatant. "If he would have started to wrestle," said Dave Johnson, 23, of Shoreview, "it would have been stupid. He kept his cool."

The governor had drawn criticism after it was announced in mid-July that he would participate in the WWF event. Many critics felt he was compromising the dignity of the office. Ventura responded with a comment that was repeated in a prematch video Sunday night: "Just because I’m the governor doesn’t mean I’m going to stop having fun."

Ventura was paid $100,000 as an appearance fee, money that he pledged to start two charities. Wrestling sources indicated that other moneys the governor receives from licensing fees and percentages on residuals and future video sales of the event could put his take over $1 million.


(Kansas City Star, September 23, 1999)

By Jason King

When Paul Wight enters the World Wrestling Federation ring, he doesn’t go through the ropes. He steps over them.

When Wight opens a Miller Lite, he flicks the cap from the bottle with his thumb as he would a nickel in a game of heads-or-tails. Gorging for Wight doesn’t just mean two or three Big Macs. It’s seven or eight, and maybe a pizza, too.

No wonder how he got his nickname.

At 7 feet 1 inches and 470 pounds—and that’s after liposuction—Wight is The Big Show in the big show, the giant of professional wrestling. The WWF continues to attract 10 million viewers each week, pile driving programs such as "Monday Night Football" and the NBA playoffs in the war for television ratings.

Wight, a former Wichita State basketball player, is one of the main reasons. With his trademark move, The Choke Slam, Wight is quickly becoming one of wrestling’s most recognizable names.

It’s Wight’s size and power that make him so well known.

"I’m 6-4, 310 and he makes me look like a pygmy," said Mick Foley, one of Wight’s in-ring opponents.

His strength is staggering. On a recent show Wight overturned a four-door sedan with his bare hands.

"He picked me up by the neck one time and lifted me above his head with one hand," said D’Lo Brown a 240-pounder and WWF star. "I’ve never felt so little, so insignificant, in all my life."

It’s Wight’s fluid movement and coordination, though, that impress fans the most. Despite his stature, Wight consistently flies over the top rope and lands on his feet or falls and rises repeatedly without getting winded.

Much of that endurance, Wight said, comes from his days as a basketball player.

"The first time I picked up a basketball I was 6 years old in my neighbor’s back yard," said Wight, 27. "I made the first shot I took. From then on that’s all I wanted to do."

Wight was 7-1 as a high school senior at King Academy, a private school in his hometown of Aiken, S.C. He averaged 35 points, 22 rebounds and 10 blocks that season. In the first round of the state tournament he scored 61 of his team’s 66 points by making 26 of 27 shots and all nine of his free throws.

But King Academy, a kindergarten through 12th grade school, had just 73 students. Most of its opponents were small schools with mediocre players. Wight never was tested.

"I totally dominated," Wight said. "I could do whatever I wanted to. Problem was, I never learned how to run an offense."

Wichita State coach Mike Cohen recognized Wight’s weakness. Instead of signing Wight out of high school, Cohen requested that Wight attend Northern Oklahoma Junior College for a year where he could learn under his friend, Mick Weiberg.

Wight said the decision was one of the best he ever made. Not only did Weiberg provide basketball knowledge Wight had never known, but he also instilled some much-needed discipline.

"We were the Mavericks, so we had a big old painting of a bull on our wall," Wight said. "Whenever I messed up in practice, coach Weiberg made me go over and talk to the bull. He said maybe the bull could understand why I was doing what I was doing, because he sure couldn’t."

As successful as Wight became on the court—he averaged 14 points and 6.5 rebounds in winning all-conference honors—he was even more popular off of it. His size and friendliness made him popular, Weiberg said.

After one year at Northern Oklahoma, Wight signed with Wichita State. Deemed a project, Wight rarely played. In 22 games he averaged just 2.0 points and 2.3 rebounds.

Most of Wight’s time was limited to second half mop-up duty, a role he wasn’t used to.

"The only thing I was known for at Wichita State was diving for loose balls," Wight said. "You go out there with two minutes left, and you’re trying to do anything you can do impress someone."

To make matters worse, Cohen resigned during the middle of the season. Wight transferred to Southern Illinois as a junior, but he never played again. Nor did he graduate.

"Basketball just didn’t work out," Wight said. "The springs fell out of the clock, and I got left in no-man’s land."

But not for long.

After a brief stay at Southern Illinois, Wight moved back to Wichita and worked for 18 months as a bouncer. Eventually, though, he was coaxed into trying his hand at professional wrestling.

Wight was introduced to Hulk Hogan, maybe the most recognized name in professional wrestling. Astounded by his size, Hogan told Wight he had dollar signs on his forehead.

So Wight signed with Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling and six months later, in October 1995, Wight defeated Hogan for the world title in his first-ever match.

"People always remind me that I didn’t have to pay my dues," said Wight, who was known as The Giant in WCW. "I realize that, with me, I was just in the right place at the right time."

When Wight left the WCW at the end of 1998 and signed with the WWF, he weighed 537 pounds. Wight was advised to get liposuction and to shave his chest. He obliged.

"I don’t have any problem admitting that," Wight said. "This is a body business. The old days of the big, fat giants are over. I’m not fat. I’m a very mobile, athletic person."

Although he has been a crowd favorite for most of his stint with the WWF, Wight has recently become a bad guy or, in wrestling terms, a heel. He said his size enhances the effectiveness of his character.

"There’s nothing any nastier than to see someone as strong and overpowering as I am that’s also a jerk," Wight said. "But in the real world I’m a pretty easy-going guy—unless I’m hungry or in a hurry to catch a plane."

Wight, who said he feels like a "stuffed up accordion" when we gets out of a car and "wedged cheese" when he’s on a plane, tries to limit his food intake these days. After all, he said, he has a lot of improving to do if he wants to increase his level of fame.

But that can be counted on. Just consider the questionnaire Wight filled out for the Wichita State media guide in 1991:

Whom Do You Most Respect?: People who pull themselves out of the trash and make themselves the best at what they choose to do.

"Basketball didn’t work out for me, and that’s OK," Wight said. "This is more than just a job. It’s like I have a family here....

"I couldn’t ask for much more."

The WAWLI Papers #588...


(Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Friday, Apr. 16, 1999)

By Burl Burlingame

In one of the testosterone-soaked web sites devoted to pro wrestling, Malia Hosaka and other lady wrestlers are in the column marked "ETC." Well, wham bam, thank you Ma’am!

"When people find out what I do, they ask if it’s Jell-O or mud wrestling," sighed Hosaka, who’s one of the professionals appearing tonight in the "Hawaiian Heat ‘99 Superstar Wrestling" event.

No Jell-O. No mud. Hosaka is more likely to crack you a good one. She’s in the gym five days a week pumping up, and on the road on weekends flinging opponents across the ring. The rest of the time, she’s watching tapes of wrestling matches, scoping the moves. Don’t mess with Malia.

Not that she figured on this career track at an early age. Her family moved from Honolulu to Florida when she was a kid, and her father and brothers would whoop and holler while watching pro wrestling on Florida TV. "I wanted to watch the Smurfs. I never watched wrestling unless I was dared to," Hosaka admits.

And then they dared her to try it.

The next thing the Hosakas knew, Malia was in a kind of wrestling boot camp. "There are various training camps across the U.S., where you not only learn the basic skills but start to make a name for yourself," said Hosaka. "You basically build on your own personality."

As someone who is half-Japanese—still unusual on the mainland—Hosaka decided to capitalize on her "unique Amerasian look." She first appeared in the ring wearing kabuki makeup and kimonos. Today, her name

established, the Japanese side is represented by subtle decorative motifs, such as a black-leather rising-sun on a black-velvet jacket.

"Tasteful and understated," said Hosaka. "Kind of Xena."

Women’s wrestling is still dominated by images of women writhing in slippery muck or by the faux-fashionable Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW). Hosaka’s circuit is wherever they can build a ring, ranging from

National Guard armories (a favorite) to "a Jewish synagogue to a lesbian bar—the synagogue was more fun than the lesbian bar! Lots of people still have an image of lady wrestlers as big and butch-looking. Pretty sexist stuff."

Hosaka has wrestled all over the world, and says the only country that’s really different is Japan. "They don’t care about good and evil—they want to see high-flying and wild throws. And booing is considered impolite, so they cheer everyone."

So how does the sport affect her private life?

"That’s why they call it a private life, right?"

OK ... so is wrestling fake or what? "It’s a sport, with moves and reversals. There’s no choreography, no script. But if your opponent has a particular grip on you, you know how to get out of it. And there’s an undeniable entertainment value as you interact with the fans. There’s some acting involved, but that’s part of projecting your personality, and it helps psyche your opponent.

"Essentially, professional wrestling is soap opera for males. You get behind your favorite wrestler and yell and vent and act stupid. It’s


What’s about feuds? Hosaka is squaring off against Debbie Combs tonight in a title match, and they have a—ahem—history.

"They do play up feuds. It’s part of the entertainment package."

How does she actually get along with Combs? "We’re not best friends. We’ve had some problems. I kicked her butt around the world before and I’ll do it again."

Hold the Jell-O!


(Minneapolis Star Tribune, Sept. 24, 1999)

By Graydon Royce

This hurts Verne Gagne more than a tombstone piledriver. Ensconced in his white leather easy chair, Gagne is suffering through two hours of "Smackdown," the World Wrestling Federation’s Thursday night show on the UPN network.

"I haven’t sat and watched this crud in I don’t know how long," he says. The screen fills with wrestlers pouring gasoline on one another, the crowd shouting scatological epithets at villains, fiends brandishing crowbars and chairs and a porn-star-turned-wrestler inviting you into his bedroom.

And the former heavyweight champion of the world sits in his Eden Prairie townhouse and shakes his head in disbelief.

"We had rules and we enforced them," he says of the days when he wrestled for the American Wrestling Association (AWA). "Now they use tables and chairs and no one gets disqualified. It makes no sense."

The sport in which he made his livelihood has turned into a vulgar entertainment.

"It’s a low-class soap opera. As a wrestler, I don’t even want to be associated with that."

He fidgets during one particularly embarrassing shtick of vulgarity and asks a visitor, "Now is this good for children?" He looks at his watch. "They’re still up, it’s only 25 to 8. If those are our role models, I don’t know what kids’ attitude is going to be toward their fellow man when they grow up." Or woman, for that matter.

Gagne is not alone in his angst. There is now more professional wrestling on TV than ever before. The Internet is filled with Web sites and home pages dedicated to the game. Wrestlers are national icons, spokesmen, and some are acting (that is, in movies and TV shows). But with the visibility has come increasing criticism of the violence, the role models, profanity and sexual content.

Longtime fans are disgusted, parents wonder whether their kids should be watching and social critics file wrestling alongside violent movies and gangster rap music in the pantheon of social vices that, to them, represent everything that’s wrong with America.

How violent?

While several observers say that wrestling has indeed become more extreme in its caricatures, its embrace of violence and its vulgarity, they caution against making it a metaphor for all that is wrong with this country.

"There are other variables affecting teens: gang membership, access to guns, alienation and bullying in school and community," says Walter Bera, a Minneapolis psychologist who has worked extensively with young offenders. "Most kids can separate myth and reality."

Jeff Brown, a professor in Bowling Green State University’s Center for Popular Culture, agrees with Bera, pointing out that studies of violent behavior place greater importance on how children are raised, what they believe in and what their values are.

"The fact is, the majority of people in the world can watch anything violent and they don’t go out and kill," says Brown. "That proves that it doesn’t cause violence, or else we would all be doing it."

Brown and Clay Steinman, chairman of communications studies at Macalester College in St. Paul, point to a different concern with the entertainment society in general.

"The problem is that it detracts attention from larger causes" of violent behavior, says Steinman, who co-authored "Consuming Environment: Television and Commercial Culture." "And it’s an easy thing to scapegoat. There’s no cost to the person doing it; the person can feel more moral than what they’re attacking; it doesn’t involve any basic social change."

Brown finds the roots of violence in a "racist, classist society that teaches kids to hate each other," while Steinman points to economic issues and the stability of social relations among people. He also doesn’t accept the premise that society is becoming more violent.

"It’s no longer considered socially acceptable for people to hit each other in families," he points out. "Hitting, spanking, corporal punishment, getting out the belt, even in schools—these are things that used to be OK. So in that sense there is less violence."

This is not to let pro wrestling off the hook entirely. While serious violence owes to more significant factors, wrestling can influence roughhousing and lewd conduct, particularly among young kids. Robert Brancale, assistant principal for Hale and Field elementary schools in Minneapolis, recounted wrestling’s influence on the playground:

"We saw a lot of bodyslamming behavior. And also inappropriate, lewd body gestures, kids pointing to their crotches, making really suggestive comments. It was exactly what they were doing on TV wrestling. Exactly. Kids were using the same vocabulary, doing the same gestures. And we’re talking kindergarten through third grade here."

Brancale said that the school responded strongly, to the point where kids were discouraged from wearing wrestling T-shirts to school, because many carry provocative and inappropriate messages.

Like so many others, Brancale remembers the pro wrestling of his childhood—the game featuring Gagne, the Crusher and others—as being superhero stuff with buffoonish villains. But never was it this profane or lewd.

"You have a dominatrix in the ring dressed in leather and studs, and the foul language," he says. "It’s adult entertainment. We’re totally opposed to it at the school level. I have close friends in Bloomington schools and also Apple Valley, and they say the same things are happening in their places."

Like Verne Gagne, Sheik adnan Alkaissy owes his livelihood to wrestling. Born in Baghdad, he came to the United States on a college wrestling scholarship and went pro in 1967. He wrestled for Gagne and also for the WWF. During the Persian Gulf War, he was a top villain, bringing the Iraqi flag into the ring.

"It was so hot, I was scared to go into the ring," he remembers. "Finally, they called Vince [McMahon] and said, ‘Don’t bring that Iraqi flag into the ring, or you’ll be dead.’ Vince didn’t care, because it was good publicity."

He smiles, recounting those matches and the heat he drew. But he’s upset with the current state of wrestling. "I don’t like the violence. They use chairs, tables, garbage cans, barbed wire. That’s not wrestling. You’ve got young guys sacrificing their bodies."

But more than the action in the ring, the Sheik worries about the effect on children. His eyes flash with concern over a network news feature that showed back-yard videotape of 14-and 15-year-old boys staging their own matches, exfoliating each other’s faces with cheese graters, smashing one another with baseball bats and jumping off garage roofs onto folding tables.

The Sheik has four young children and he doesn’t let them watch the national wrestling shows. "They say, ‘Why can’t we watch, why can’t we watch?’ But right now I don’t think they should. There’s too much violence and foul language. It’s a shame. But sometimes when I’m promoting a match nearby, I let them come along."

He and Ken Patera, who also wrestled locally, run a school in Prescott, Wis., and they dream of someday returning a local show to television. "I hope and pray on my hands and knees that there is support," the Sheik says.

While the WWF isn’t allowed in the Sheik’s house, it gets a better reception from Beth Johanneck of south Minneapolis. Johanneck has two children, now 21 and 18, who grew up watching wrestling.

Both kids have mentioned the rude language, but felt it wasn’t any worse than you might hear in day-to-day life. She also says that her daughter was fascinated because she figured wrestling was real. "I ruined it for her by telling her it wasn’t. Weird, huh?"

Not really. Bera recounts a session he had with a father and his 9-year-old son, who was getting too rambunctious by imitating his hero, Stone Cold Steve Austin. "His father and I told him, ‘You know, it’s not real.’ And it had the same effect of telling a 4-year-old that Santa Claus isn’t real. He was heartbroken. He had Stone Cold T-shirts, he followed the drama. But when he found out it wasn’t real, he lost interest and moved on to Pokemon."

Wrestling was once a pretty clear-cut example of the Myth of Good and Evil.

"They’ve read their Beowulf," Bera said of the promoters who construct wrestling’s soap opera. "Back to the Norse legends, where you have very archetypal and simplified characters. They represent good, evil, death, vanity, arrogance."

But Gagne, watching the final match of the "Smackdown"—which had been touted all night as a "Buried Alive Match"—says there isn’t any good left. "Everyone’s evil in some way," he says. Or angry, rebellious, arrogant—brutish outsiders who reject any rules.

In that world, it makes perverse sense when the Big Show—a 500-pound participant who’s shoveling dirt on his opponent, Mankind (who’s down in the grave) -- gets whacked by the reigning WWF champion, Triple H, with what’s purported to be a sledgehammer. After a few more twists, Triple H is driven out of the arena in an ambulance by former champion Steve Austin, who then jumps into a nearby semitrailer truck and slams into the ambulance.

"First time I’ve ever seen a truck match," says Gagne. He adds, with a laugh, "Get the police, where are the police?"

He shakes his head and tells a story from his early days wrestling in Chicago.

"Flying saucers were big then, and we had a match at Wrigley Field. The promoter said, ‘Verne, I want to make you a Man from Mars. We’ll hook up a cable from the roof of Wrigley Field and have you ride down into the ring. And I said, ‘I’m a wrestler, not a man from Mars. I’m going to stay a wrestler.’ "

Of the current brand, he says, "There are no wrestlers in there. Wrestling is the hardest sport there is. And national amateur champions deserve a chance to make a living. But as long as we’ve got this stuff on the tube, most people think it’s wrestling. But it’s not.

"It’s a brawl."



Harley Race is one of the most respected foreign wrestlers ever to tour Japan. The following is an article and compilation of Race’s title matches in Japan written and researched by Masanori Horie:

Harley Race is one of the most famous gaijin (foreign) wrestlers in Japanese wrestling history. He was called "Mr. Puroresu" (Mr. Pro-Wrestling) by Japanese fans. He came to Japan for the first time with Dick the Bruiser, Dirty Dick Murdoch, Killer Buddy Austin, Baron Michael Scicluna, and The Masked Tennessee Rebel (Mike Paidousis) from February 23 to March 23, 1968. He had 36 tours for JWA, All Japan Pro-Wrestling, and Tokyo Pro-Wrestling over 28 years, and had countless tough and rough matches with the late Giant Baba, Jumbo Tsuruta, Dory & Terry Funk, Abdullah the Butcher, and many more. We Japanese fans will never forget about our champ of the century, Mr. Puroresu, Harley Race. Take a look at his record of title matches in Japan.

February 26, 1968---Osaka Furitsu Gym International Tag Team title match Giant Baba & Antonio Inoki (2-1) Dick the Bruiser & Harley Race (1) Baba (13:14 disqualification) Bruiser & Race (2) Bruiser (1:56) Baba (3) Baba (6:10) Race (referee is former NWA champ Bill Longson)

December 1, 1969---Hiroshima Prefectural Gym All Asian Tag Team title match Antonio Inoki & Michiaki Yoshimura (2-1) Dory Funk, Jr. & Harley Race (1) Race (16:28) Yoshimura (2) Inoki & Yoshimura (6:23 disqualification) Dory & Race (3) Yoshimura (2:32) Race

March 13, 1972---Miyagi Prefectural Gym, Sendai United National Heavyweight title match Seiji Sakaguchi (2-1) Harley Race (1) Race (8:43) Sakaguchi (2) Sakaguchi (5:18 count out) Race (3) Sakaguchi (4:30) Race

September 13, 1973---Nichidai Kodo (Nihon University) Hall, Tokyo PWF Heavyweight title match Giant Baba (2-1) Harley Race (1) Race (17:05) Baba (2) Baba (3:12) Race (3) Baba (8:46 count out) Race

January 24, 1974---Hiroshima Prefectural Gym NWA World Heavyweight title match Jack Brisco (1-1) Harley Race (1) Race (23:55) Brisco (2) Brisco (8:56) Race (3) 60 minutes time up

January 27, 1974---Higashi-Yodogawa Gym, Osaka PWF Heavyweight title match Giant Baba (2-1) Harley Race (1) Race (12:48) Baba (2) Baba (4:39) Race (3) Baba (7:50) Race

January 29, 1975---Tokyo Metropolitan Gym PWF Heavyweight title match Giant Baba (2-1) Harley Race (1) Baba (11:42) Race (2) Race (2:05) Baba (3) Baba (7:56) Race

June 11, 1977---Setagaya-Ward Gym, Tokyo NWA World Heavyweight title match Harley Race (2-1) Jumbo Tsuruta (1) Tsuruta (8:26) Race (2) Race (8:08) Tsuruta (3) Race (5:24) Tsuruta

June 14, 1977---Matsudo City Sports Center, Chiba NWA World Heavyweight title match Harley Race (1-1) Giant Baba (1) Baba (24:23) Race (2) Race (17:55) Baba (3) 60 minutes time up

January 18, 1978---Sapporo Nakajima Sports Center, Hokkaido NWA World Heavyweight title match Giant Baba (2-1) Harley Race (1) Baba (14:54) Race (2) Race (5:40) Baba (3) Baba (11:26 disqualification) Race

January 20, 1978---Obihiro Gym, Hokkaido NWA World Heavyweight title match Harley Race (1-1) Jumbo Tsuruta (1) Race (28:09) Tsuruta (2) Tsuruta (16:30) Race (3) 60 minutes time up

May 7, 1979---Osaka Furitsu Gym NWA World Heavyweight title match Harley Race (1-1) Jumbo Tsuruta (1) Race (20:17) Tsuruta (2) Tsuruta (2:50) Race (3) 6:10 double count out

May 8, 1979---Chiba Prefectural Gym NWA World Heavyweight title match Harley Race (1-1) Dick Murdoch (1) Murdoch (14:45) Race (2) Race (20:46) Murdoch (3) 60 minutes time up

May 9, 1979---Miyagi Prefectural Sports Center, Sendai NWA World Heavyweight title match Harley Race (1-1) Giant Baba (1) Baba (32:50) Race (2) Race (14:45) Baba (3) 60 minutes time up

October 26, 1979---Matsumoto City Gym, Nagano NWA World Heavyweight title match Harley Race drew Jumbo Tsuruta (30:29 double count out)

October 31, 1979---Aichi Prefectural Gym, Aichi NWA World Heavyweight title match Giant Baba (18:29) Harley Race (Baba became the champion)

November 5, 1979---Kushima City Gym, Miyazaki NWA World Heavyweight title match Giant Baba (20:38) Harley Race

November 7, 1979---Amagasaki City Gym, Hyogo NWA World Heavyweight title match Harley Race (20:58) Giant Baba (Harley Race regained the championship)

November 8, 1979---Korakuen Hall, Tokyo NWA World Heavyweight title match Harley Race drew Abdullah the Butcher (5:08 double count out)

May 27, 1980---Akita Prefectural Gym NWA World Heavyweight title match Harley Race (2-1) Tiger Toguchi (Kim Duk / Tiger Chung Lee) (1) Race (11:59) Toguchi (2) Toguchi (8:50) Race (3) Race (5:30) Toguchi

May 28, 1980---Sapporo Nakajima Sports Center NWA World Heavyweight title match Harley Race (1-1) Jumbo Tsuruta (1) Tsuruta (30:05) Race (2) Race (17:10) Tsuruta (3) 60 minutes time up

September 1, 1980---Kanoya City Gym, Kagoshima NWA World Heavyweight title match Harley Race drew Jumbo Tsuruta (15:35 double count out)

September 4, 1980---Saga Sports Center NWA World Heavyweight title match Giant Baba (14:05) Harley Race (Baba became the champion)

September 10, 1980---Ohji-ga-oka Park Gym, Ohtsu, Shiga NWA World Heavyweight title match Harley Race (11:58) Giant Baba (Race regained the championship)

September 12, 1980---Ichinomiya Industrial Gym, Aichi NWA World Heavyweight title match Harley Race drew Mil Mascaras (14:45 double count out)

February 15, 1981---Korakuen Hall, Tokyo NWA World Heavyweight title match Giant Baba (2-1) Harley Race (1) Baba (9:39) Race (2) Race (3:36) Baba (3) Baba (6:28 disqualification) Race

April 2, 1982---Civic Center Coliseum, Amarillo, Texas International Heavyweight title match Dory Funk, Jr. (22:45 count out) Harley Race

April 19, 1982---Hiroshima Prefectural Gym United National Heavyweight title match Jumbo Tsuruta (22:43 double count out) Harley Race

April 22, 1982---Tokyo Metropolitan Gym United National Heavyweight title match Jumbo Tsuruta (13:06 referee stop) Harley Race

August 1, 1982---Korakuen Hall, Tokyo United National Heavyweight title match Harley Race (15:29) Jumbo Tsuruta (Race became the champion)

October 24, 1982 Kitami Sports Center, Hokkaido United National Heavyweight title match Jumbo Tsuruta (20:14) Harley Race (Tsuruta regained the championship)

October 26, 1982 Obihiro Gym, Hokkaido PWF Heavyweight title match Harley Race (12:45) Giant Baba (Race became the champion)

November 2, Aichi Prefectural Gym, Nagoya PWF Heavyweight title match Harley Race (12:41 double disqualification) Giant Baba

February 11, 1983---Checker Dome, St. Louis, Missouri PWF Heavyweight title match Giant Baba (13:04) Harley Race (Baba became the champion)

April 20, 1983---Tokyo Metropolitan Gym PWF Heavyweight title match Giant Baba (11:24 double count out) Harley Race

October 31, 1983---Fukushima Prefectural Gym, Aizu-wakamatsu NWA World Heavyweight title match Harley Race beat Ted DiBiase

May 25, 1984---Funabashi Civic Gym, Chiba NWA World Heavyweight title match Ric Flair (1-1) Harley Race (1) Race (16:06) Flair (2) Flair (6:31) Race (3) 10:46 double disqualification

September 19, 1985---Korakuen Hall, Tokyo International Heavyweight title match Jumbo Tsuruta (16:12 double count out) Harley Race

May 24, 1986---Numazu City Gym, Shizuoka International Heavyweight title match Jumbo Tsuruta (13:02 double disqualification) Harley Race

The WAWLI Papers #589...


(Associated Press, Friday, April 21, 1893)

BALTIMORE—William Muldoon, who is now at the Monumental Theater with his athletic combination, met with a serious accident Wednesday night. While wrestling with Fritz Thompson of Germany, the latter accidentally struck Muldoon just below the right eye with his elbow.

The blow cut a gash two inches in length. It is now stated that eryispelas had supervened, and that there is danger of its so affecting one of his eyes as to cause the loss of its sight.


(Minneapolis Tribune, April 1, 1942)

By George A. Barton

It is said Bill Longson, new world’s heavyweight champion wrestler, learned the tricks and holds of the catch-as-catch-can pastime as a student at the University of Utah.

But some 3,500 mat addicts who watched Longson defeat Ali Baba at the Auditorium Tuesday night gained the impression that Bill earned his trade among the longshoremen on the docks of some seaport city.

Bill staged a regular Pier 6 brawl in battering Baba into submission in a tussle lasting 17 minutes and 11 seconds.

He did everything to the squat Turk except rip out a ringpost and wrap it around Ali’s well shaved noggin.

Minneapolis wrestling fans, who thought Lou Plummer, Abe Kashey, Dick Raines and Joe Cox were rough guys, decided they were Little Lord Fauntleroys after seeing Longson in his local debut.

"Wild Bill," as he is called back in utah, starts in where the other four mat ruffians left off.

There are no dull moments with Longson in action. He kept the crowd in a frenzy from the time he greeted Baba with a punch on the chin until he crushed the Turk like a collapsed accordion with his deadly piledriver hold. This crusher device consists of slapping a leg-scissors hold around an opponent’s neck, then gripping him around the waist with his arms and banging the other guy’s head against the mat.

The champion kncoked Baba with his punishing hold, but the gritty little Turk quickly recovered and walked out of the ring under his own power.

Judging from his actions, Longson must have taken a vow to make the public despise him.

At least, he worked along that line in manhandling Baba. On several occasions, Wild Bill caused the fans to question his gameness by leaping out of the ring when Baba retaliated by smacking the champ on the kisser with his fists.

Baba lost the match but he won the admiration of the crowd because of willingness to absorb punishment. The Turk wrestled the champ virtually on even terms up to the time he fell victim to Longson’s pile-driver hold.

The fans cheered Baba and jeered Longson. It was evident they would like to see some rough guy take Longson apart next time he appears here.

Longson weighed 238, Baba 205.

Bill Kuusisto increased his prestige by wrestling Ray Steele, former world’s champion, to a draw in 30 minutes.

The youngster made an impressive showing against Steele in a spirited match. Kuusisto weighed 228, Steele 216.

In the other matches, Rudy Strongberg, 233, and John Grandovich, 251, tussled to a draw in 30 minutes, while Johnny Carlin, 196, threw Johnny Seal, 197, in 17 minutes and 19 seconds.

Whitey Koopman refereed all the matches.


(Montreal Daily Herald, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 1942)

"If the Commission bars my ‘pile driver’ hold, I’ll walk right out of the match, and be very happy to do so," said Wild Bill Longson today, prior to attending a meeting of the Athletic Commission, where Yvon Robert, opponent for Longson at the Forum tomorrow night, was set to press a claim that this grip is illegal, brutal and dangerous.

"What’s brutal, or dangerous about it, any more than a hammerlock, or a full-nelson, a head-lock or a neck hold? They are all dangerous," said Longson, "but wrestling is a tough game. Lots of wrestlers have been killed in the ring, or died as the result of holds. Necks have been broken with the full nelson, legs broken with toe-holds, guys have gone to hospitals with concussions after Strangler Lewis head-locked them. So what is there about the pile-driver that’s different? It might produce a mild concussion, by banging the head on the floor, but the head-lock gets the same result. And as for it having no science, as Robert claims, I’d like to try to see him get one on me, or anybody."

"That hold took a lot of developing," cut in Ray Steele, Longson’s manager. "It’s hard to get a wrestler in that position, and Bill worked a long time to perfect it. I think he’ll take two straight from Robert with it. Plainly enough, Robert must be afraid of the hold, or he wouldn’t squawk so much about it. His claims are silly. Bill used the hold here before. It was regarded as alegal gripo then, and it hasn’t changed any. It would look pretty fishy to us if, in this second match, the grip was eliminated, and I think under such conditions, Longson would be perfectly justified in walking out. But I can’t imagine the Commission doing any such thing."

Steele revealed that he and Longson would both be either in the U.S. army, or into war work, within a few months, and that Longson would like to take his title with him. "We’re both in 3-A, and not yet on call," said Steele, "both of us being married, and with children. But we’re not going to wait to be called on. We’re both offering our services in the very near future. I think that will be a nice gesture on behalf of wrestling, for it will really be something worthwhile if the champion of all wrestlers enlists, along with his manager, a former champion. That being me."

Steele said that he and Longson would prefer National Wrestling Association rules, with a 90-minute limit, and one fall after the hour, but if they couldn’t get it, would wrestle under the prevailing rules, no time limit, and two falls in three, no matter how long it takes.

"We’d prefer it the other way, but we’re not here to dictate," said Steele. "We only want a fair break, and no interference with the pile-driver."

Steele is wrestling Nanjo Singh, the rugged Hindu, tomorrow night. In other matches, Larry Moquin tackles "Rough House" Spencer and, in the opener, Jean Pusie squares off with Frank Valois.

(ED. NOTE—Longson lost the match, and his title, in this October 7, 1942 bout with the Canadian Robert who, in turn, dropped the belt to Bobby Managoff in Houston a little over seven weeks later. Longson regained the laurels, from Managoff, in St. Louis on Feb. 19, 1943 and held the title for more than four years.)


(Spokane Spokesman-Review, May 4, 1945)

If the walls at the Armory show a distinct bulge on Saturday morning, it’ll be because of the crowd that’s expected to be on hand at 8:30 tonight for the Spokane Wrestling Club’s all-star card.

The fans, many of them boxing enthusiasts who pack the Armory to see Tiger Jack Fox in a mitt event, will be there to see their fistic idol meet Chief Thunderbird in what is billed as a combination boxing and wrestling match. From the reports of the advance sale of tickets, the show will be a sell-out.

Fox reported today that he had completed his training for the Chief but admitted he didn’t just know whether or not he had trained for the right things. The Tiger’s plan of attack is hit and run for this one. He figures he’ll let one go at the Chief’s chin and if it connects, well and good, and if it doesn’t he intends to be on the move in order to keep away from Thunderbird’s bulging biceps.

Promoter Roy Johnson has lined up a complete wrestling card in addition to his main event feature which he figures could last an hour and could be over in less than a minute, depending on how agile Fox is, and how solid a chin the Chief has.


(Spokesman-Review, May 5, 1945)

Spokane last night got a real taste of rough-and-ready action on the Spokane Wrestling Club card at the Armory when Tiger Jack Fox, idol of northwest fistic fans, donned the gloves against Chief Thunderbird in a wrestler versus leather tosser affair. The match was called a draw after the Indian kicked Fox out of the ring and refused to let the negro re-enter the squared circle.

The Tiger, a bit puzzled over his new role, failed to land a slumber punch in the battle, but rocked the warrior with several solid clouts to the head. Thunderbird was down several times but rallied to pin the mauler. The wily Fox wriggled loose each time. In the fourth stanza, the Chief again became the villain and tossed Fox out of the ring. Each time Fox tried to climb back, Thunderbird slammed an ample brogan against the Negro’s midsection and clambered through the ropes to get a better kick at his foe. While using these tactics, referee Barney Felix counted both men out and declared the slugfest a draw.

In the evening’s curtain-raiser, Andy Londos, 187, drew with Bulldog Atkinson in a one-fall match. Lou Martinelli, 220-pound New Yorker, dropped a three-round match to blond Jack Kalliox of Portland. Kalliox kicks the scales to the 205 mark. Amid cries of "let him have it, Blondie," Kalliox routed the badmnan in 40:12 of the third round, but the fight continued when both matmen met on their way to the dressing rooms. Al Summers refereed the first two scraps.

Frank Cutler, 210, lost to Jack Forsgren, 230, Vancouver, B.C., in the third round. Forsgren copped the first in 18:19 and Cutler got the second by pinning the Canadian in 45 seconds. Forsgren turned the tables in the third in 5:13.



Arachnaman (WCW): Brad Armstrong
Arachnaman (Georgia): Scott Armstrong
Arachnoids (WWF): Headbangers
Assassin #1: Jody Hamilton
Assassin #2 (Georgia): Tom Renesto
Assassin #2 (Mid-Atlantic): Hercules Hernandez
Assassins (Indianapolis):Guy Mitchell and Joe Tomasso
Avatar (WWF): Al Snow
Avenger (Calgary): Owen Hart
Awesome Kong (GWF/WCW/Memphis): Dwayne McCallaugh

Badstreet (WCW): Brad Armstrong
Batman (WWWF): Tony Marino
Battle Cat (WWF): Brady Boone, Bob Bradley
Beetlejuice (WCW): Art Barr
Big Machine (WWF): Black Jack Mulligan
Big Van Vader New Japan/WCW):Leon White
Black Blood (WCW): Billy Jack Haynes
Black Cat (NJ): Victor Mar
Black Knight (WWF): Jeff Gaylord
Black Knight and Red Knight Tag Team (WWF): Barry Horowitz and Steve Lombardi
Black Panther (SanFran): Frank Sexton
Black Scorpion (NWA): Al Perez (Clash of Champions), Ric Flair (Starrcade)
Black Terror (Vancouver): Bobby Graham
Black Tiger (NJ and WWF): Marc Rocco
Black Tiger (NJ): Eddy Guerrero
Blackhearts (Calgary):Tom Nash and David Heath
Blackhearts (WCW/All-Japan): Tom Nash and Dave Johnson
Blue Blazer (WWF): Owen Hart
Blue Infernos (Florida): Lee and Bobby Fields
Blue Infernos (Tennesee): Gypsy Joe and Pepe Lopez
Blue Infernos (Tennesee):Gypsy Joe and Frank Martinez
Blue Knight (WWF): Greg Valentine
Bullet: Bob Armstrong

Captain USA (WCCW):John Studd
Charlie Brown (Mid-Atlantic): Jimmy Valiant
Checkmate (World Class): Tony Charles
Cheetah Kid:Ted Petty
Christmas Creature (USWA): Glenn Jacobs
Clones (Memphis): Pat and Mike Kelly
Cobra (WWF and NJ): George Takano
Conquistadors (WWF):Jose Estrada and Jose Luis Rivera
Crypt Keeper (W*ING): Jose Estrada Jr.
Cyclopes (EMLL): Tug Taylor

Dante (Tennessee): Hans Steiner
Dante (Memphis 90s): Tommy Heggie
Dark Patriot (GWF and ECW): Doug Gilbert
Dark Secret (SMW): Brian Armstrong
Deadeye Dick (WCW):Randy Colley
Deadhead (USWA): Ken Raper
Destroyer (Lexington): Randy Savage
Destroyer (International): Dick Beyer
Ding Dongs (NWA): Jim Evans & Richard Sartain
Dink (WWF): Tiger Jackson
Dirty Yellow Dog (Florida): Barry Windham
Dixie Dynamite (SMW): Scott Armstrong
Doink I: Matt Borne
Doink II: Steve Kiern
Doink III: Steve Lombardi
Doink IV: Ray Appollo
Doink (NWC): Mark Starr
Doom: Butch Reed & Ron Simmons
Doomsday (Tennessee): Glenn Jacobs
Dos Hombres (WCW): Ricky Steamboat, Brad Armstrong
Double X (AWA), Red Osbourne
Dr. Death (Oklahoma), Steve Williams
Dr. Feel Good (Deep South): Terry Taylor
Dr. X (AWA): Dick Beyer
Dr. X (Omaha): Bill Miller
Dr. X (NWA 70s): Jim Osborne
Dr. X (WCW 90s): Randy Colley

Eagle (All-Japan): Jackie Fulton
El Grande Pistolero (Memphis): Gypsy Joe
El Medico (LA): Apollo Jalisco
El Samurai (NJ/WAR): Osamu Matsuda
Eliminators (Memphis): Perry Saturn & John Kronus
Executioner (ICW): Randy Savage
Executioners (WWF 70s): Killer Kowalski & John Studd & Nikolai Volkoff
Executioners (WWF): Duane Gill and Barry Hardy

Falcon (All-Japan): Steve Armstrong
Fantasia (WCW): Brad Armstrong
Fire (Memphis): Don Bass
Fire Cat (WCW): Brady Boone
Flame (Memphis): Roger Smith
Flame, The (Alabama): Jody Hamilton
Flying Nuns: Headbangers
Freedom Fighter (WCW): Brad Armstrong
Friday: Buddy Wayne
Funk, Jimmie Jack: Jesse Barr

Galaxians (Memphis): Dan Davis and Ken Wayne
Giant Ninja (WCW): Ron Reis
Giant Machine (WWF): Andre the Giant
Gobbledygooker (WWF): Hector Guerrero
Grappler (Florida): Johnny Walker
Grappler (Oklahoma/Texas): Len Denton
Grapplers: Len Denton & Tony Anthony
Great Wizard (WCW): Kevin Sullivan
Green Panther (SanFran): Pat Fraley

Haito (WCW): Paul Diamond
Handsome Stranger (GWF): Marcus Alexander Bagwell
Hangman (LA): Neil Guay
Hood, The (LA): Ron Starr
Hood, The (Portland): Ricky Santana
Hood, The (World Class): Jeff Gaylord
Hornet (SMW): Brian Keyes
Hulk Machine (WWF): Hulk Hogan
Humongous (Tennessee ‘84): Mike Stark
Humongous (USWA): Randy Lewis

Infernos (Original): Frankie Cain, J.C. Dykes, Rocky Smith, Curtis Smith
Infernos (Memphis 80s): Ron Gibson & Stan Vachon
Interns (Florida): Billy Garrett & Jim Starr, Billy Garrett &Tom Andrews
Interns (Memphis): Roger Smith & Don Bass

Jason (Calgary): Karl Moffat
Jason the Terrible (W*ING): Roberto Rodriguez
Juicer (Portland): Art Barr

Kato (WWF): Paul Diamond
Kendo the Samurai I (SMW): Tim Horner
Kendo the Samurai II (SMW): Bobby Blaze
Kendo the Samurai III (SMW): Brian Logan
Killer Bees: Brian Blair & Jim Brunzell
Killer Bee (New Japan): Brian Blair
Kim Chee II (WWF): Steve Lombardi
King Killer (USWA): Mike Miller
Kowabunga Ninja Turtle (SMW): Brian Hilderbrand
Krueger, Freddy (W*ING): Doug Gilbert
Kwang the Ninja: Juan Rivera (Savio Vega)

Lacrosse (All Japan): Jungle Jim Steele
Lady X (LPWA): Peggy Lee
La Parka: Adolpho Tapia
LazorTron (NWA): Hector Guerrero
Leatherface (USWA): Ken Raper
Leatherface (USWA): Mike Samples
Leatherface (W*ING - Original): Tim Patterson
Leatherface (W*ING): Doug Gilbert
Lee, Stagger (Memphis): Koko Ware
Lee, Stagger (Mid-South): Junkyard Dog
Lord Humongous (Alabama mid 80s): Jeff Van Kamp
Lord Humongous (Continental): Sid Vicious
Lords of Darkness (WWF): Duane Gill and Barry Hardy
Los Espelicitos (WCW): Ricky Santana and David Sierra

Masked Avenger (World Class): Chris Adams
Masked Bat (Tennessee): Bob O’Shocker
Masked Champion (Oklahoma): Randy Colley
Masked Destroyer (Florida): Killer Kowalski
Masked Infernos (SMW): Brian Keyes and Anthony Michaels
Masked Marvel (40s-50s): Robert Maines
Masked Marvels (NC): Billy Garrett and Jim Starr
Masked Outlaw (NWA): Dory Funk Jr.
Masked Rebel (Tennessee): Sonny Fargo
Masked Scyscraper (WCW): Mike Enos
Masked Strangler: Guy Mitchell
Masked Superstar: Bill Eadie
Masked Superstar II (Mid-Atlantic): John Studd
Masked Terror (AWA): Jay York
Master of Pain (Memphis): Mark Calloway
Masters of Terror (Memphis): Dan Davis and Ken Wayne
Matador (Alabama):Jerry Stubbs
Max Moon (WWF): Konnan
Medics (Tennessee): Tony Gonzales and Donal Lortie
Medics (Florida): Billy Garrett Dick Dunn, Billy Garrett and Jim Starr
Mega Maharishi (PNW): Ed Wiskowski
Mephisto (Tennesse): Lou Papineau
Mephisto (Memphis 90s): Romeo Rodriguez
Midnight Rider (Florida &NWA): Dusty Rhodes
Midnight Rider (Mid-South): Bill Watts
Midnight Rider (GWF): Sam Houston
Mighty Yankees (60s):Ron Wright, Frank Morell, Eddie Sullivan and Pepe Lopez
Minnesota Wrecking Crew II (NWA): Wayne Bloom & Mike Enos
Miser (Lexington): Angelo Poffo
Mister M (AWA): Bill Miller
Monster, The (LA): Tony Rodriguez
Montoya, Aldo (WWF): PJ Walker
Mr. J.L. (WCW): Jerry Lynn
Mr. M (Indianapolis): Hard Boiled Haggerty
Mr. Madness (WWF): Randy Savage
Mr. R (Georgia): Tommy Rich
Mr. R (Georgia, against DiBiase): Brad Armstrong
Mr. Wrestling (I): Tim Woodin
Mr. Wrestling (Tenn): Dick Steinborn
Mr. Wrestling II: Johnny Walker
Mr. X (Vancouver 60s): Frank Townsend
Mr. X (Vancouver 70s): Guy Mitchell

New Jason the Terrible (W*ING): Tracey Smothers
New Spoiler (Wild West): Jeff Gaylord
Nightmares (Cont): Dan Davis & Ken Wayne
Nightmare Freddy (Cont): Doug Gilbert
Nightmares (Alabma): Dan Davis & Ken Wayne

Olympia, Mr.: Jerry Stubbs

Patriot (GWF/WCW): Del Wilkes
Pegasus Kid (NJ): Chris Benoit
Phantom (WWF): David Heath
Phantoms (USWA): Jerry Faith and Troy Haste
Pierce, Shanghai (WCW): Mark Canterbury
Prince Kharis (SMW): Rob Mayze
Professional: Doug Gilbert (70s)
Psychosis (AAA, WCW, EMLL): Dionoco Castellanos
Punisher (WCCW): Mark Calloway
Purple Shadow (SanFran): Bill Longson

Rasputin (Portland): Black Angus Campbell
Red Hangman (SanFran): Tom Rice
Red Knight (WWF): Barry Horowitz
Red Knight and Black Knight Tag Team (WWF): Barry Horowitz and Steve Lombardi
Red Knight (Memphis): Del Rios
Red Masked Marvel (Tennesse): Jack Larve
Red River Jack (WCCW): Bruiser Brody
Red Shadow (Tennessee): Dick Dunn
Repo Man (WWF): Barry Darsow
Russian Assassin I (NWA): Angel of Death
Russian Assassin II (NWA): Jack Victory

Screaming Eagles (WCW): Michael Hayes & Jimmy Garvin
Senior X (LA): J.C. Dykes
Sensational White Phantom: Nick Bockwinkel
Shadow (Alabama): Norvell Austin
Shadows (WWF): Randy Colley and Jose Luis Rivera
Shinobi the Oriental Assassin (Ohio): Al Snow
Shinobi (WWF): Al Snow
Siva (Crockett 94): Tony Norris
Spider (Indies): Randy Savage
Spider Lady (WWF): Moolah
Spiders (USWA &WWF): Headbangers
Spoiler #1 (Georgia): Don Jardine
Spoiler #2 (LA): Ron Starr
Spoiler (Memphis ‘84): Frank Morell
Spoilers (Florida): Don Jardine and Bobby Duncum
Spoilers (Oklahoma): Don Jardine and Buddy Wolfe
Spoilers (Texas): Don Jardine and Smasher Sloan
Starblazer (NWA): Tim Horner
Starship Coyote: Scott Hall
Starship Eagle: Dan Spivey
Stomper (Oklahoma): John Quinn
Student (Detroit): George Steele
Super Assassins (WCW): Warlord and Barbarian
Super Destroyers (WCCW): Bill and Scott Irwin
Super Destroyer (GWF): Bill Irwin
Super Destroyers (GWF): Bill Irwin and Gary Young
Super Destroyer Mark II (AWA): Sgt. Slaughter
Super Infernos (Memphis): Doug Gilbert and Don Smith
Super Invader (WCW): Hercules
Super Machine (WWF): Bill Eadie
Super Olympia (Alabama): Arn Anderson
Super Shockmaster (WCW): Fred Ottman
Super Strong Machine (Japan): Junji Hirata
Super Vader (UWFi): Leon White
Super Zodiac I (WCCW): Gary Young
Super Zodiac II (WCCW): Cactus Jack
Superfly (World Class): Kamala
Superstar (Tennessee): Bill Eadie
Sweet Brown Sugar (Memphis): Koko Ware
Sweet Brown Sugar (World Class): Skip Young
Sweet Ebony Diamond (NWA):Rocky Johnson

Tennessee Stud (Memphis): Ron Fuller
Tennessee Stud (II) (Memphis): Robert Fuller
Terrorist (AWA): Brian Knobbs
Texan (WCCW): Blackjack Mulligan
Texas Dirt (Memphis): Dutch Mantel
Texas Outlaw (Vancouver): Bobby Bass
Texas Outlaws (Memphis): Doug Vines and Jeff Swords
Texas Red: Red Bastien
Thunderfoots 1 and 2 (NWA): Joel Dave Deaton
Thunderfoots 1 and 2 (IWA): David Isley and Gene Ligon
Tiger Mask I: Satoru Sayama
Tiger Mask II:Mitsuharu Misawa
Tiger Mask III: Koji Kanemoto
Twin Devil #1: Alfonso Sanchez

Vader (WCW, WWF): Leon White
Viper (GWF): Mike Davis

War Machine (NWA ‘87): Ray Traylor
White Knight (Texas):Dick Steinborn
Who (WWF): Jim Neidhart
Wild Pegasus (NJ, Japan): Chris Benoit

Yellow Dog (WCW): Brian Pillman, Tom Zenk
Yellow Scorpion (Tennessee), Buck Lawson
Yetti (WCW): Ron Reis

Zanta Klaus (WWF): Boo Bradley
Zodiac (Calgary): Barry O

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