FINISHES: MARTIN (FARMER) BURNS
(Whatever Happened to...? No. 6)
By Scott Teal
In a publication of this type, you cant feature wrestling schools without making mention of one of the sports first and most famous teachers, Martin "Farmer" Burns.
Burns is best remembered as the man who trained Frank Gotch, taught him the fundamentals of the sport, and helped lead him to greatness as one of the best grapplers in America. But there is so much more to the life story of the great Farmer Burns.
Burns was born in a small log cabin on February 15, 1861 in Cedar County, Iowa. The oldest of six children, he grew up in an area of the country where farming was the way of life for most people. When Martin was just twelve years old, the stress and hardships of farming cost Martins father is life. Martin was forced to begin work on a neighbors farm to earn a living for his family. They paid him twelve dollars a month plus his keep.
Martin quit school in the sixth grade and continued to hack out a living as a farmer until he was nineteen years old. The pushing, shoving, and endless hours behind a horse-drawn plow helped him develop his athletic and powerful physique.
Martin loaded up a wagon and drove into town to sell his goods. While he was there, he always found someone willing to wrestle him for a small bet. He never lost a contest and was known as the countryside champion. As he grew older, he wrestled all comers and became unbeatable in the Midwest. Burns eventually suffered his first loss in 1886 at the hands of Evan "Strangler" Lewis, the then-recognized champion of the world, in Anamosa, Iowa.
When Martin was nineteen, he locked horns with David Graft, a renowned professional, in a struggle that lasted two hours and nineteen minutes, ending in a draw. Martin felt that he was ready to enter the big time and began working on the railroad grading camps, which paid better than farming. On payday, he would match his skills against the toughest men in the camps and never lost a match.
After the railroad job gave out, he returned to the farm in the fall of 1888 and worked until the spring of 1889. While on a ten-day trip to Chicago, where he had gone to sell two carloads of hogs, he noticed posters in store windows that advertised an event at the old Olympic Theatre. His old nemesis, "Strangler" Lewis, was in town and offering all comers twenty-five dollars who could stay with him for fifteen minutes. Martin lost not time beating a bath to the Olympic, but the manager told him that Lewis had all the opponents he needed for that evening. Martin refused to take "no" for an answer, showed up the next day, and again on the third day. The manager finally told him to show up that night and be ready to fight, but be prepared to face both Jack Carkeek and Lewis on the same night. If he could last the distance, hed receive a $100 payoff.
Martin showed up in his overalls and, when the vaudeville acts were over, held both his preliminary foe Jack Carkeek and Lewis to a stalemate. He earned fifty dollars for going the distance with both men and earned the nickname that would stay with him for lifeFarmer.
Burns joined the circus and remained undefeated as he wrestled with the Connors and Green Star shows until 1891, then began traveling with the Davis Floto show. In 1893, Burns left the circus and opened a gymnasium at Rock Island, Illinois, where he trained several hundred students and operated his famous correspondence school for many years.
In that same year, he defeated Jack King, the world light heavyweight champion, a title he held until his retirement in 1912 without suffering a single defeat. On his retirement, he gave the title to Fred Beell.
Farmer Burns was one of the biggest attractions in the country, and since 1889, fans of wrestling had been crying for a return match between Burns and Evan Lewis, but the Strangler refused, citing that Burns needed to earn the right to challenge for the world title. Burns beat every logical world-class challenger between himself and Lewis . . . until there was noone left but Lewis. In 1895 at Chicagos Savoy Theatre, Farmer Burns knocked Lewis off his throne, despite being outweighed by fifty pounds.
Burns met all comers in defense of the title, regardless of their size or weight. In 1897, Burns lost the title to Tom Jenkins, a Cleveland rolling mill worker. Jenkins was eleven years younger and fifteen pounds heavier. After the turn of the century, and after Jenkins had lost the title to George Hackenschmidt, Burns held Jenkins to a one-hour, ten-minute stalemate in Cleveland.
On December 19, 1899, Burns met the great Frank Gotch at Fort Dodge, Iowa. Burns offered Gotch twenty-five dollars if he could got the distance for fifteen minutes and Frank collected the money. Burns managed to defeat Gotch a few times during the next fifteen years, but the two began an association that would lead Gotch to the pinnacle of success. Burns took over the training of Gotch and taught him the toe hold, the hold that made Gotch almost unbeatable. Under Burns tutelage, Gotch became the heavyweight champion of the world in Chicago on April 3, 1908.
In 1917, Burns had a hand in training Earl Caddock, who won the heavyweight title from Joe Stecher in Omaha. He also taught Jack Reynolds, a college wrestler who later won the world welterweight championship.
Martin Burns never did retire from wrestling. During his career, he won all but six matches (some reports say seven) of over six thousand contests. When he reached the age of 63, he tossed the intercollegiate champion in four minutes in what was scheduled as an exhibition.
Burns was a walking example of what good living can do for a man. He ate only two meals a day, drank nothing but milk and water, never smoked, and believed in exercise. He stood just under six feet tall and never weighed more than 180 pounds. And he continued to teach and train right up until 1929, when he fell and dislocated his hip.
Martin "Farmer" Burns passed away on February 9, 1937, and
was buried in his hometown of Cedar, Iowa.
As always, I enjoyed another informative and entertaining issue. There were however, a couple of inaccuracies and omissions that I noted in the masked wrestlers list that I would like to bring to your attention. While on the subject, here are a few other notable masked men who have appeared in western Canada that come to mind. These are just the ones at the top of my head, and I know that there are countless more, dozens of "one-nighters", or "double-ups"someone no-showed and another wrestler who had already worked in the undercard donned the mask to allow the show to go on. In any case, here follows a brief list of fellows whose work under masks should not be ignored.
email@example.comWHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN?
On the night of December 18, 1889, one week before Christmas, Gotch and Burns met in the Opera House in Fort Dodge, a larger town just twenty miles south of Humboldt. The hall was packed for the bout between the sagacious Burns, who weighed just 160 pounds, and the powerful young farmer, who weighed 185. All Frank had to do to collect the $25 was last fifteen minutes without being pinned. But after a furious eleven minutes of action, Burns maneuvered Frank to his back and scored the pin.
"I was surprised at Gotchs strength," Burns confided many years later. "I had never encountered a young wrestler of his remarkable agility and strength, but at the time he knew nothing about wrestling."
Immediately after the match, however, Burns had a message for Gotch and the audience: "If this young man will train with me, I will make him champion of America."
It was a boast that filled Franks heart with pride. It also made him determined to become a professional wrestler. "I had dreamed of being a fighter, being famous like John L. or Jim Corbett," he said years later. Now he was on his way.
Frank began training with Burns, learning a variety of tricks from the great technician. He also began taking matches. He rang up a string of victories and was offered the chance to sail to Alaska. Dick Butler, part owner of several mines up in the Yukon territory, came to Iowa to try and lure Burns back north. The camps were full of boastful miners proud of their strength, and almost every night wrestling and boxing matches sprung up. The other miners, starved for recreation, paid heavy prcies to see champions of the various camps tangle, and betting was rampant. Butler told Burns he could take an assumed name, come to the camps under the preetense of mining, and clean up as a wrestler.
A devoted family man, Burns wasnt willing to leave his wife and children for six months. Instead, he recommended Gotch take his place. Butler studied the young Humboldt farmer in a training session, and quickly agreed.
Back in the states, Gotch was eager to begin his true wrestling career. Stronger and wiser, he continued learning his craft from Burns in gruelling, private sessions at the Farmers home in Big Rock, Iowa. The two spent long hours in the dusty hot barn, working techniques over and over and over. While Gotch was twenty-five pounds heavier and stronger, Burns was slicker and more polished, particularly on the mat, where punishing bar arms and leg locks were employed.
They also travelled extensively, taking bouts whenever they could find worthy opposition. On January 5, 1902, Gotch defeated a rugged packing house worker named Scott Miller in Sioux City, Iowa. During the match, he used the stepover toehold, a move which would eventually become the most feared wrestling hold of all time, eclipsing even the stranglehold of Evan Lewis. While the stranglehold caused a foe to pass out, he would soon recover; those who were subjected to the full fury of the Gotch toehold often had trouble walking correctly for weeks afterwards.
(In 1898) Jenkins defeated Farmer Burns at the Grand Opera House in
Indianapolis. The setback was one of only a handful Burns suffered in a career that
included some 6,000 matches, and it stamped Jenkins as the American heavyweight champion .
. . The Farmer, weighing in at 165 pounds, simply couldnt cope with the brute
strength of Jenkins, who was forty pounds heavier. But Burns felt Gotch could defeat
Jenkins, with proper training.
(The Weekly Standard, October 4, 1999)
By Paul A. Cantor, University of Virginia
When the great Parisian Hegelian Alexandre Kojéve searched for an image of the end of history, he finally hit upon the Japanese tea ceremony. Coming from Brooklyn, I am a bit less sophisticated and turn to American professional wrestling instead. For wrestling has been as much a victim of the end of the Cold War as the military-industrial complex.
It is not just that the demise of the Soviet Union deprived wrestling of one set of particularly despicable villains. The end of the Cold War signaled the end of an era of nationalism that had dominated the American psyche for most of this century. Like much else in the United States, including the power and prestige of the federal government itself, wrestling had fed off this nationalism. It drew upon ethnic hostilities to fuel the frenzy of its crowds and give a larger meaning to the confrontations it staged.
The state of professional wrestling today thus provides clues as to what living at the end of history means. It suggests how a large segment of American society is trying to cope with the emotional letdown that followed upon the triumph of capitalism and liberal democracy. If the vast wrestling audience (some 35 million people tune in to cable programs each week) is a barometer of American culture, then the nation is in trouble. Indeed, the very idea of the nation-state has become problematic. For wrestling has been denationalizing itself over the past decade, replacing the principle of the nation with the principle of the tribe.
The erosion of national identity in wrestling reflects broader trends in American society. If one wants to see moral relativism and even nihilism at work in American culture, one need only tune in to the broadcasts of either of the two main wrestling organizations, Vince McMahons Worldwide Wrestling Federation and Ted Turners World Championship Wrestling. (It is no accident that one of the pillars of professional wrestling is Turners cable TV empire, which also brings us CNN, the anti-nation-state, global news channel.) Both the WWF and the WCW offer the spectacle of an America that has lost its sense of national purpose and turned inward, becoming wrapped up in manufactured psychological crises and toying with the possibility of substituting class warfare for international conflict. And yet we should remain open to the possibility that contemporary wrestling may have some positive aspects; for one thing, the decline of the old nationalism may be linked to a new kind of creative freedom.
The history of pro wrestling as we know it begins after World War II and is roughly contemporary-not coincidentally-with the rise of television. Wrestling provided relatively cheap and reliable programming and soon became a staple for fledgling television stations. By the 1950s-and well into the 60s and 70s-wrestling was filling the airwaves with ethnic stereotypes, playing off national hostilities that had been fired up by World War II and restoked during the Korean conflict. Wrestling villains-always the key to whatever drama the bouts have-were often defined by their national origin, which branded them as enemies of the American way of life.
Many of the villains were at first either German or Japanese, but as memories of World War II faded, pro wrestling turned increasingly to Cold War themes. I wish I had a ruble for every wrestling villain who was advertised as the "Russian Bear," but the greatest of all who bore that nickname was Ivan Koloff. Looking for all the world like Lenin pumped up on steroids, he eventually spawned a whole dynasty of villainous wrestling Koloffs. The fact that the most successful of them was named Nikita shows that it was actually Khrushchev and not Lenin or Stalin who provided the model for the Russian wrestling villain. Time and again the Russian wrestlers pre-fight interview was a variation on "Ve vill bury you." Nikolai Volkoff used to infuriate American opponents and fans alike by waving a Soviet flag in the center of the ring and insisting on his right to sing the Soviet national anthem before his bout began.
To supplement its Russian villains, wrestling turned to the Arab Middle East, where a long tradition of ethnic stereotyping was readily available. During the years of tension between the United States and Iran, wrestling hit paydirt with a villain known as the Iron Sheik, who made no secret of his admiration for and close personal ties to the Ayatollah Khomeini. His pitched battles with the All-American GI, Sgt. Slaughter, became the stuff of wrestling legend. Not to be left behind by the march of history, during the Gulf War the Iron Sheik reinvented himself as Colonel Mustafa, and suddenly Americans had an Iraqi wrestler to hate.
The extent to which wrestling relied on national identity to manufacture its villains should not be overstated. Some of the greatest villains were home-grown, like Nature Boy Buddy Rogers, and some of the greatest heroes were foreign-born, like Bruno Sammartino. But although ethnic stereotyping was not essential to the emotional dynamics of wrestling, it did play a crucial role. That is why the end of the Cold War threatened to deliver a serious if not mortal blow to the whole enterprise. Suddenly audiences could not be counted upon to treat a given wrestler automatically as a villain simply because he was identified as a Russian. There was a brief, almost comic era of wrestling glasnost, during which the promoters tried to see if they could generate drama out of the shifting political allegiances of the Russian wrestlers. The extended Koloff family was riven by internal dissent, as some sided with Gorbachev and the reformers, while others remained hardliners and stuck by the old regime. But since Kremlinology has never been a popular spectator sport outside academia, the public quickly grew bored with trying to sort out the internal politics of the Koloff family, and it began to dawn on the wrestling moguls that the end of the Cold War was a threat to their franchise.
This problem was compounded by the fact that at roughly the same time as the Cold War was ending, ethnic stereotyping began to be anathematized. By the early 90s, the WWF even seemed to be testing whether it could capitalize on the new era of political correctness. With Russia and virtually every other country ruled out as a source of villains, Vince McMahon and his brain trust searched the globe to see if any ethnic group remained an acceptable object of hatred. The result was a new villain named Colonel DeBeers-a white, South African wrestler with an attitude, who spoke in favor of apartheid during interviews. One can almost hear the wheels grinding in McMahons head: "Russians may no longer be fair game, but no one will object to a little Boer-bashing." But wrestling fans did not take the bait. This was one of the few times the WWF misjudged its audience, proceeding as if its fans were sipping chardonnay and sampling brie instead of guzzling beer and munching on nachos. Colonel DeBeers was a flop as a villain and in some ways marked the end of a wrestling era-a last, desperate attempt to base physical conflict in the ring on political conflict outside it.
Wrestling promoters have always been concerned that theirs is not a team sport and thus threatens to lack that extra measure of fan commitment that group solidarity can extract. Exploiting nationalist feeling had been one way of turning wrestling into something more than single combat. Instead of rooting for the home team, fans viewing a Sgt. Slaughter/Iron Sheik bout got to root for America. Or rather, America became the home team.
But there was also a germ of a team concept in wrestlings peculiar institution of the tag team-a bout in which two wrestlers pair up against a couple of opponents. And as ethnicity faded as a principle in wrestling, the WWF and the WCW began to expand tagteam partnerships into larger groupings that might best be described as extended families or tribes. The wrestlers in such tribes pool their resources to advance their careers, often illegally entering the ring to come to each others aid, softening up each others opponents for future matches, and generally creating trouble for any wrestler not within the tribe. These wrestling tribes adopt an outlaw pose within their larger leagues, refusing to conform to league rules and challenging the duly constituted wrestling authorities. The most famous of these groups is the New World Order (the nWo) within the WCW, which was headed by Hollywood Hulk Hogan and is constantly trying to outwit the league owners and take over the organization. It is surely one of the ironies of the end of history that in the aftermath of the Gulf War, that "vision thing" of George Bushs has left no more lasting monument than the name of a group of renegade wrestlers.
Tribal organization gives wrestling something intermediate between national identity and a purely individual identity. Fans almost have the sense of rooting for teams, since the wrestling tribes often have their own logos, uniforms, slogans, theme songs, cheerleaders, and other badges of communal or team identity. The wrestling brain trusts create ongoing storylines involving the various tribes, so that the future of the whole league, perhaps its very ownership, can seem to depend on the outcome of a given bout.
Thus the newly created tribal identities in wrestling can serve as substitutes for the old national identities. But one thing is missing-any sense of stability, the reassuring feeling of continuity that used to be provided by ethnic stereotyping in wrestling. Once a Russian, always a Russian, and, until the era of glasnost, that also meant always a villain as well. National identity is not a matter of choice; one is born into it and stuck with it, unless one chooses to betray ones national origins (at the height of the Koloff confusions, charges of "traitor" were routinely hurled back and forth in interviews). But in the world of wrestling today, which group a wrestler affiliates with appears to be a matter of personal choice (though in fact these "choices" are still scripted by the league). As it happens, the traditional national identities in wrestling were often made up. Both the "Manchurian" Gorilla Monsoon and the "Oklahoma Indian" Chief Jay Strongbow were in actuality Italian-Americans (Robert Marella and Joe Scarpa respectively), and the wrestler known as Nikolai Volkoff began his career as Bepo Mongol. In the contemporary era, though, wrestling virtually acknowledges that it is manufacturing its villains, and their roles are presented as a matter of personal choice rather than national destiny.
Thus pro wrestling takes its place along with the plays of Samuel Beckett and the buildings of Michael Graves as an example of the dominant cultural mode of our age, postmodernism. The characters in Becketts plays are not meant to represent real-live human beings, who might be said to lead an existence independent of the drama. Rather they are revealed to be fictions, consciously constructed characters who are themselves sometimes dimly aware that they are merely characters on stage. Gravess buildings are not meant to be "true" in the way the triumphs of modernist architecture were. Abandoning the modernist dogma that form follows function, Graves returns to architectural decoration, reminding us that his buildings are after all human constructions and thereby "deconstructing" them before our eyes. Pro wrestling has similarly entered its postmodern phase, in which it deliberately subverts any claims to truth and naturalness it ever had. Of course, at least since the era of television, pro wrestling has always been entertainment rather than real sport. But for decades pro wrestling at least pretended it was real. It now admits its fictionality, and indeed, like most forms of postmodernism, revels in it.
But can we confidently say that wrestling simply mirrors broader movements in our culture and politics? It is difficult to look at developments in politics and culture today and not see them as in turn mirroring developments in wrestling. Was Hulk Hogan, who dominated the 1980s, perhaps our first taste of Bill Clinton? The Hulkster-who could never talk about anything but himself, his own career, and his standing with his Hulkamaniac fans-was the model of a roguish, narcissistic, utterly unprincipled performer. While changing his stance from moment to moment, he was never held accountable by his adoring public, to the point where he seems to have gotten away with anything. If postmodern wrestling was not a forerunner of postmodern politics, why is Jesse "The Body" Ventura now the governor of Minnesota?
When the villainy of wrestlers was rooted in their national identity, their evil was presented as inherent in their natures. Related to genuine political conflicts in the actual world, the evil of a Russian wrestler seemed real. But villainy has become something more fluid and elusive in the era of postmodern tribalism. Since the contemporary wrestler appears to choose his tribal affiliations, he also gets to choose whether to be a hero or a villain (again, these matters are carefully scripted by the WWF and the WCW authorities, but we are talking about how things are meant to appear to the wrestling public). The most striking characteristic of post-Cold War wrestling is the dizzying rapidity with which todays wrestlers switch from hero to villain and back again. Wrestlers used to spend their whole careers defined as either good guys or bad guys. Now they alter their natures so often that it no longer makes sense to speak of them as natural heroes or villains in the first place. The contemporary wrestler exemplifies the thoroughly postmodern idea that human identity is purely a construction, a matter of choice, not nature.
With its underpinnings in traditional notions of morality, heroism, and patriotism eroded, wrestling has turned to new sources to hold the interest of its fans. Generally these sources have been found in the dramas of private life. Televised wrestling has always had much in common with soap operas. Fans identify heroes and villains and get wrapped up in ongoing struggles between them and especially the working out of longstanding and complex feuds. Throughout its history, pro wrestling has occasionally sought to involve fans in the private lives of its warriors. Once in a while a wrestler has gotten married in the ring to his female manager or valet. (More recently-reflecting a loosening of morality-female companions of wrestlers have been at stake in matches, with the winner claiming the right to take possession of his opponents woman.) Personal grudges have always been central to wrestling, but over the last decade they have gotten ever more personal, often involving family members who somehow get drawn into conflict inside or outside the ring.
In short, wrestling conflicts have come increasingly to resemble the appalling family feuds aired on The Jerry Springer Show. This is only fair, since Springer seems to have modeled his show on wrestling interviews. Wrestlers used to get angry with each other because one represented the Soviet Union and the other the United States, and the two ways of life were antithetical. Now when wrestlers scream at each other, dark domestic secrets are more likely to surface-sordid tales of adultery, sexual intrigue, and child abuse.
Here a wrestler with the evocative name of Kane is emblematic. Kane was introduced in the WWF as the counterpart of a well-established villain called the Undertaker, who often punishes his defeated opponents by stuffing them into coffins (a nasty case of adding interment to injury). Kanes aptly named manager, Paul Bearer, soon revealed that Kane is in fact the Undertakers younger brother. Kane wears a mask to hide the frightening facial burns he suffered as a child in a fire set by his older brother, which killed their parents. Thus the stage is set for a series of epic battles between Kane and the Undertaker, as the younger brother seeks revenge against the older. Paul Bearer then reveals that Kane and the Undertaker are actually only half-brothers, and that he himself fathered the younger boy, though he neglected him for years and is only now acknowledging paternity. With its Kane storyline, the WWF crafted a myth for the 90s. All the elements are there: sibling rivalry, disputed parentage, child neglect and abuse, domestic violence, family revenge.
McMahon and his brain trust have once again proven that they have a finger on the pulse of America. In the wake of years of psychotherapy, Twinkie defenses, and the O.J. trial, they have reinvented the villain as himself a victim. No one ever felt a need to explain the evil of Russian wrestlers-they were presented as villainous by nature. But unlike his biblical counterpart, Kane is supplied with motivation for his evil, and therefore inevitably becomes a more sympathetic figure. After all, his problems started when he was just a little kid. Kane is in fact a huge man named Glen Jacobs: six-feet seven-inches tall and weighing 345 pounds. Yet when he climbs into the ring, he stands as the poster boy for the 90s-the victimized wrongdoer, the malefactor who would not be evil if only someone had loved him as a child.
The other victim of society now celebrated by pro wrestling is the poor, abused working man, symbolized by "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, currently enmeshed in a bitter feud with Vince McMahon and the entire power structure of the WWF. In his unceasing search for suitable villains, McMahon finally hit upon the most villainous person he could think of-himself. In the ultimate postmodern convolution, wrestling now focuses on itself as a business and makes its own corruption the central theme of its plots. McMahon has decided to build his storylines around ongoing labor-management disputes in the WWF. He is in constant public conflict with his wrestlers, trying to force them to do his bidding and above all to make his on-again, off-again champion Austin toe the corporate line.
In his quest to gain an edge on Turners WCW, McMahon realized he could tap into the resentment the average working man feels against his boss. McMahon is always threatening to downsize the WWF wrestling staff and has surrounded himself with corporate yes-men. Austin is his perfect working class opponent-a beer-drinkin, foot-stompin, truck-drivin, hell-raisin Texas son-of-a-gun, always prepared to tell McMahon: "You can take this job and shove it." With this storyline, wrestling has completed its turn inward, moving from the Cold War to class war. Ironically, even at the height of the Cold War, wrestling never went after Russian communism with half the fervor it now devotes to pillorying American big business. If wrestling is any indication, the United States-deprived of any meaningful external enemy-seems to have nothing better to do than attack itself. Why not go after a bunch of tobacco companies, for example?
The McMahon-Austin feud proved to be so successful that Turners WCW soon began imitating it, using its chief executive, Eric Bischoff (a former wrestler himself) to play the role of corporate bad guy. Always one step ahead of his competition, McMahon went on to fuse the family soap opera aspect of wrestling with the class warfare element by involving his son, his daughter, and eventually even his wife in his corporate struggles. These storylines have become increasingly bizarre, with McMahons son Shane first seeming to betray him and then revealed to have been secretly acting on his behalf all along, and his daughter Stephanie set up for a kind of wrestling dynastic marriage and then kidnapped under weird circumstances. Who would have thought a century ago when wrestling began with a simple full nelson and a step-over toehold that it would eventually culminate in a proxy fight? But that is exactly what happened when McMahons wife and daughter shocked him by voting their shares in the WWF to make Austin CEO, thereby transforming the board meetings back in Connecticut beyond recognition. (Austin brought a case of beer to his first session as president.) No wonder McMahon is about to take his corporation public.
Every time I think wrestling has reached rock bottom, either the WWF or the WCW finds its way to a new moral depth. A recent plot line culminated in Austin holding a gun to McMahons head in the center of the ring, as the nattily attired owner/operator of the WWF appeared to wet himself in terror. When one looks at wrestlings "progress" from the 1950s to the 1990s, one really has to be concerned about Americas future. If wrestling tells us anything about our country-and its widespread and sustained popularity suggests that it does-for the past three decades we have been watching a steady erosion of the countrys moral fiber, and Americas growing incapacity to offer functional models of heroism.
On the other hand, perhaps we should cease being moralistic for a moment, recognize that wrestling is only entertainment, and try to look beyond its admittedly grotesque antics. Though it is tempting to become nostalgic for the good old days of American patriotism in wrestling, lets face it: The traditional national stereotypes did become tired, overused, and predictable. In that sense, the end of the Cold War actually proved to be liberating for wrestling, as one might hope it could be for all American society. What appeared to be a loss of ethnic stereotyping proved to be a gain in creative freedom, as wrestling was forced to scour popular culture to come up with alternatives to traditional villains. Wrestling may not be more moral these days, but it certainly is more interesting and inventive. This development suggests that maybe we all need to be thinking beyond the nation-state as our chief cultural unit.
After all, the nation-state has not always been the dominant form of cultural or even political organization. It is largely a development out of 16th-century France, and has never as fully prevailed around the world as historians would have us think. There is no reason to believe that the nation-state as we know it is the perfect or even the best unit of political organization. When Aristotle made his famous statement usually translated as "man is a political animal," what he really was saying is that man is an animal whose nature it is to live in the polis-the Greek city conceived as the comprehensive human community, on a scale much smaller than a modern nation-state. Thus Aristotle would have said that the nation-state is an unnaturally large and even overblown form of community.
Perhaps what appears to be the end of history is only the end of the
nation-state, and humanity is now groping confusedly toward new modes of political
organization, which may be at once more global and more local in their scope. Todays
professional wrestling points in these two directions simultaneously. At any moment of
deep historical change, it is easy to become fixated on what is being lost and fail to see
what is being gained. The way wrestling has been struggling to find some kind of
postnational identity reflects a deeper confusion in our culture as a whole, but one that
may portend a profound and even beneficial reorganization of our lives in the coming
century. Perhaps, then, when we watch-and enjoy-the WWF and the WCW, we really are
wrestling with the end of history.
(Scripps Howard Service, Sept. 24, 1999)
By Alex Marvez
As a teenager in Sturgis, Mich., Rob Van Dam was closer to becoming the next Greg Louganis than a pro wrestling superstar.
Van Dam spent his summers on a diving board horsing around for
whoever would watch. Those hours have paid dividends today, as Van Dams high-flying
maneuvers have helped make him the top star in Extreme Championship Wrestling.
"I would go all day just showing off, trying to impress anybody who was watching," said Van Dam, a wrestling fan known by his real name (Rob Stazkowsky) in those days. "I would try to get further ahead than anybody else. I had never considered myself athletic, but if the top guy could do 1 ½ flips, I would do two flips. Pretty soon, I was doing stuff nobody had ever seen before."
The same could be said of Van Dams wrestling style, which incorporates his incredible flexibility with a willingness to sacrifice his body. One of Van Dams wildest momentsa flying in-air flip from the ring well into the crowdis a staple in the ECW highlight package.
But unlike other performers with flashy moves and little charisma, Van Dam is just as popular for his in-ring persona and interviews. Van Dam spent four nondescript months with ECW in 1997 before match-maker Paul Heyman devised a feud against Sabu. Van Dam refused to shake Sabus hand after one of their legendary matches, leading the two to feud for respect and eventually team together.
During that time, Van Dam distinguished himself with hilarious ego-filled interviews that often made Sabu the butt of his jokes. Van Dam also began calling himself "Mr. Monday Night" after making an appearance on the World Wrestling Federations Monday Night Raw and getting wooed by World Championship Wrestling.
Van Dam decided to stay, which is good news for ECW considering how many other performers have chosen to leave for more lucrative gigs in the WWF and WCW.
"I prefer ECWs style as far as the actual matches Im capable of having," said Van Dam, who is currently ECWs television champion. "I dont think Id have the same quality of matches if I worked anywhere else, and Ive worked for pretty much everybody in this business."
After high school, Van Dam began training under The Original Sheik (Ed Farhat, Sabus real-life uncle) in Michigan and worked independent shows in the Rust Belt before landing a spot in the Memphis-based U.S.W.A. The payoffs in that promotion were so bad that he split a $28 hotel room with three other performers to "save enough money just to make it to the closest buffet."
Van Dam then bounced around independent promotions in the Carolinas, Georgia and Floridaworking as a bouncer in Tampa to supplement the $35 per match he would receive from Orlando-based promoter Ron Slinkerbefore receiving what he thought was his big break from WCW in 1992.
Van Dam, who received his wrestling moniker because of an amazing facial resemblance to action star Jean-Claude Van Damme, was given a small push by WCW match-maker Bill Watts before embarking on a tour for All Japan Pro Wrestling. When he returned, Ole Anderson had replaced Watts and Van Dam was relegated to becoming a television loser.
Van Dam decided he had enough talent and television footage to gain work elsewhere, so he quit WCW and performed for AJPW and independent promotions until landing with ECW.
With ECW finally garnering national cable exposure on The Nashville Network with a weekly show at 8 p.m. (EDT) Fridays, Van Dam has become even important to the group now that Taz is leaving for the WWF and The Dudley Boys are already there.
"He is the foundation we can build on," Heyman said. "Hes the most remarkable performer in wrestling today. ... His moves are so spectacular and its the anti-hero thing of the late 1990s. People have just embraced him and made him our No. 1 star."
(Miami Herald, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 1999)
Just when you thought the wrestling phenomenon hit its peak, a one-of-a-kind international wrestling extravaganza emerges to topple all takers.
Catch King Kong Bundy, Jake The Snake Roberts, George The Animal Steele, Jimmy Superfly Snuka and many more live on pay-per-view, 8 p.m., Sun., Oct. 10 at Casino Magic in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
The Heroes of Wrestling, will rise to any challenge, presenting a squared circle slam down memory lane. The night includes an incredible collection of Hall of Fame wrestling superstars going toe-to-toe in non-stop action as legendary grudge matches will finally be settled once and for all.
The Heroes of Wrestling line-up includes:
King Kong Bundy: at 63" 450 lbs., this bald-headed beast of a man remains the master of the avalanche splash and has defeated almost every top star in wrestling today. The ring veteran continues to actively wreak havoc throughout the wrestling world.
Jimmy Superfly Snuka: A Hall of Famer best known for his Superfly leap from the top of the rope, the 61" 255 lbs. Snuka is a former United States, Pacific Northwest, Hawaiian and NWA World Tag Team Champion. The Fiji Islands native was a competition cliff diver in Hawaii, and the countrys most popular wrestler before the emergence of Hulk Hogan. His nephew is current WWF star The Rock.
George The Animal Steele: Legendary wrestler known for
his unorthodox wrestling style, hairy back and green tongue. Steele loves to tear apart
and eat the corner turnbuckle pads and rubs the stuffing from the pads in the eyes of his
opponents. Also a member of the WWF Hall of Fame.
Jake The Snake Roberts: One of the most well-known wrestlers of all time. This 65" 265 lbs. former North American Champion helped bring the WWF to its initial extreme popularity in the 80s. He is the Master and originator of the deadly wrestling maneuver the DDT, and is known for bringing a 12-foot python into the ring with him and laying it on his defeated opponent. Taught current ECW star Raven the DDT.
The Bushwackers: Luke and Butch, formerly the Bushwackers, are New Zealand natives who have competed and won tag team championships in 26 countries. These former WWF superstars are fan favorites, with children and parents alike, and continue to be one of the most popular attractions on the independent wrestling circuit. They live in Tampa, FL
Jim The Anvil Neidhart: 62" 275 lbs. former track and football star at UCLA. Neidhart earned his nickname for the various shot-put records he held in high school and college. Former NFL Oakland Raider and Canadian Football League player, he is a member of the Legendary Hart Foundation. Former two-time WWF World Tag team Champion with brother-in-law Bret Hart, he currently wrestles in Canada for Stampede Wrestling and in the United States for Northeast Wrestling. The Anvil is known for his thunderous powerslam.
Greg The Hammer Valentine: Known as the Hammer for his punishing elbow smashes to his opponents forehead, Valentine is also master of the figure-four-leglock submission hold. He wore gold his entire career with stints as WWF Intercontinental Champion, United States Heavyweight Champion (defeating Rowdy Roddy Piper), WWF World Tag Team Champion and multi-time NWA/WCW World Tag Team Champion. Former tag team partner of Ric Flair.
Tully Blanchard: Original member of the legendary Four Horsemen with Ole Anderson, Arn Anderson and Ric Flair, this former WWF/NWA/WCW World Tag Team Champion was one of the most hated wrestlers of the 1980s, an arrogant "bad guy" wrestler who mixed brawling with unparalleled technical wrestling skill.
Sweet Stan Lane: The 6 1" 235 lbs. star was a protege of the legendary Ric Flair and one-half of the Fabulous Ones tag team with Steve Keirn in the early 80s. At that time, they were the most popular wrestlers throughout Tennessee and the entire Mid Southern area of the United States. He was also half of the Legendary Midnight Express tag team with current WCW wrestler Beautiful Bobby Eaton. The Midnight Express along with the Four Horsemen were known as two of the three top tag teams of the 80s.
Marty Jannetty: 511" 238 lbs., he was one-half of The Rockers tag team in the WWF with current WWF star Shawn Michaels. Hes a former AWA World Tag Team Champion with Michaels, former WWF Intercontinental Champion and WWF World Tag Team Champion. An extremely quick high flyer known for a variety of flying maneuvers, he defeated his former partner Shawn Michaels in one of the classic matches of all time for the WWF Intercontinental belt.
Sensational Sherri Martel: Formerly known as Sensational Sherri in the WWF, Martel is a successful wrestling manager who has guided such superstars as Shawn Michaels, Macho Man Randy Savage, The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase and Harlem Heat. The top woman wrestler in the United States since 1980, she is a former WWF and AWA World Womans Champion.
Also, the high-flying Too Cold Scorpio will battle young, indie wrestler The Latin Dragon Julio S. Fantastico. Stay tuned for more names. All the matches will be announced very soon. The cost is $19.95. Check your local cable operators to order.They are trying to sign Yokozuna for the show. Check it all out at http://www.heroesofwrestling.com
On Sunday, October 10th, 1999 the talk will finally be over!!! No longer will wrestling fans have to wonder who the greatest wrestlers of our generation are. On that day, fans all around the world will get to see their idols, their icons and their HEROES in action once again as THE HEROES OF WRESTLING PAY-PER-VIEW comes into homes all around the world at 8:00 P.M. EST The Heroes of Wrestling Pay-Per-View will be bringing all of the greatest wrestlers from the 20th century together to decide who is the best of the best.
THE HEROES OF WRESTLING PAY-PER-VIEW will be coming to you live from the Casino Magic in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. If you live in the area and would like ticket information for this history making event click below!!!
THE THOUSAND POUND WAR!!!
The Mighty Yokozuna
King Kong Bundy
Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart
Jake "The Snake" Roberts
ULTIMATE GRUDGE MATCH
Cowboy Bob Orton
Superfly Jimmy Snuka
With Capt. Lou Albano
Abdullah The Butcher
The One Man Gang
FOUR HORSEMEN VS. MIDNIGHT EXPRESS
Sweet Stan Lane
Greg "The Hammer" Valentine
George "The Animal" Steele
With New Manager and Love Interest
Sensous Sherri Martel
Luke & Butch
(Formerly The Bushwackers)
Nikolai Volkoff & The Iron Sheik
Marty Jannetty & Fantastik Tommy Rogers
The Samoan Swat Team
Too Cold Scorpio
"The Latin Dragon" Julio Sanchez
PLUS Color Commentary by Dirty Dutch Mantell
AND A FEW SURPRISES!!!
FOSSTONE Productions, Inc. founded in 1990, produces and syndicates more than 100 college, professional, and pay per view events a year for a wide range of outlets. Some of these outlets include HTS, Sunshine Network, America One Networks, Viewers Choice, and DIRECTV.
Nikolai Volkoff, 6-4, 320 lbs.
Nikolai is a native of Moscow Russia. Former 2-Time WWF World Tag Team Champion with the Iron Sheik. Known for his lethal Russian Bearhug. This Powerhouse has bench pressed over 500 Lbs. Sings the Russian National Anthem in the ring before his matches to the dismay of the fans. Legendary feuds with the British Bulldogs and Ted Dibiase.
Sweet Stan Lane, 6-1, 235 lbs.
Lane was a protege of the legendary Ric Flair. One half of the Fabulous Ones tag team with Bobby Eaton (pictured right) in the early 80s. At that time, they were the most popular wrestlers throughout the state of Tennessee and the entire Mid-Southern area of The United States. The Fabulous Ones along with the Four Horsemen were one of the top three tag teams of the 1980s. Stan later became a commetator for the WWF.
Tully Blanchard, 6-2, 235 lbs.
Played Football at West Texas State. Original Member of the Four Horsemen along with Arn Anderson and Ric Flair. Won many singles titles in the NWA/WCW including the Television Title and the North American Title. Blanchard frequently teamed with Arn Anderson (pictured right) to form arguably the greatest tag team in pro-wrestling history. tully and arn held the NWA/WCW World Tag Team Title on two occassions and also won the WWF World Tag Team as The Brainbusters from Demolition under the guidance of Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. One of the most hated wrestlers of the 1980s, Tully was an arrogant wrestler who mixed brawling with unparalleled technical wrestling skills. He has had legendary feuds with Dusty Rhodes, Nikita Koloff, Magnum T.A., Strike Force, Demolition and The Hart Foundation.
Also known as Sensational Sherri. Still competes as one of the top woman wrestlers and managers in the sport. Former AWA and WWF Womens World Champion. Defeated and retired the legendary Fabulous Moolah for the WWF title and thoroughly trashed Madusa in the AWA. Sherri has managed the top wrestlers in the sport. Wrestlers who competed under her guidance include the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels, Ted Dibiase, Macho Man Randy Savage, Ric Flair and Harlem Heat.
Cowboy Bob Orton, 6-2, 240 lbs.
A second generation wrestler and master of the superplex. Former NWA/WCW world tag team champion along with a holder of various other champion ships during his career. Accompanied the team of Rowdy Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorf in their Wrestlemania I main event match vs. Hulk Hogan and Mr. T with his questionable broken arm. In the opposite corner was Ortons arch nemesis Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka. Former bodyguard of Roddy Piper and the late Adorable Adrian Adonis. One of the most respected technical wrestlers of this generation.
The Samoan Swat Team, Fatu & Samu
Formerly the Headshrinkers in the WWF. These Samoan Savages are over 600 lbs of untamed terror. Competed in the WCW and are former WWF World Tag Champions. Guided to the titles by Capt. Lou Albano and Afa. Known for their aggressiveness aswell as their hard heads, Samoan Drop and Big Splash off the top rope. Major feud with Money Inc in the WWF.
Captain Lou Albano
Known as the manager of champions. Former WWF World Tag Team champion as a wrestler with Tony Altimore as the Sicilians in the 60s. Known more for his managing then his own wrestling accomplishments. Led his man The Russian Bear Ivan Koloff to the old WWWF World Title by defeating the reigning champion for 7 ½ years, Bruno Sammartino. Managed the Magnificent Muraco and Greg Valentine to Intercontinental gold. His main claim to fame is that of a manager of WWF World Tag team champions. He managed 20 title winning teams during career. His teams sound like the whos who of the great tag teams in history. They include British Bulldogs, Moondogs, Fuji and Saito, Samoans, Executioners, Blackjacks and list goes on and on. Managed and feuded violently with Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka. The two have since reconciled. Managed the Fabulous Moolah against Wendi Richter and her manager Cyndi Lauper in a feud that brought wrestling to the mainstream in the mid 80s Lou is also a very accomplished actor starring in various movies and television shows. Wrote a very successful book with Bert Sugar that is on newsstands now called "The Idiots Guide To Professional Wrestling." A member of the WWF Hall of Fame.
Luke and Butch, The Bushwhackers
These men from down under are natives of New Zealand. They have competed and won tag team championships in 26 countries. Formerly known as the Sheepherders before joining the WWF as the Buschwhackers. These two wild men are fan favorites of children and parents alike. They have made appearances on Regis and Kathie Lee, various Nickelodeon childrens programs, "Family Matters," and many other TV programs throughout the world. Still one of the most popular attractions on the independent wrestling scene today.
Jimmy (Superfly) Snuka, 6-1, 255 lbs.
Snuka is best known for his superfly leap off of the top rope. Also known to do the same leap off of the top of 15-Foot high steel cages! Native of the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific. He is a former competition cliff diver in Hawaii. Former United States, Pacific Northwest, Hawaiian and NWA World Tag Team Champion and now a member of the WWF Hall of Fame. Managed by Capt. Lou Albano in the WWF. Snuka had legendary feuds with Bob Backlund, Ric Flair, Magnificent Muraco, Ray Stevens, Roddy Piper and Cowboy Bob Orton. Snuka is a big fan favorite who is always ready for a challenge. He was in the corner of Hulk Hogan and Mr. T in the main event of Wrestle Mania I. His nemesis, Cowboy Bob Orton, was in the opposing corner. Still competes actively on the Independent Scene.
The Iron Sheik
The Iron Sheik has an unparalleled wrestling record. A tehran, iran native, he was the former body guard for the Shah of Iran. A former Iranian army wrestling champion and a member of the Iranian Olympic Wrestling Team from 1968-1972. He Defeated WWF World Champion Bob Backlund on December 26. 1983 for the title. First man to dethrone Backlund who was an undefeated world champion for more than 5 ½ years. Lost the WWF Heavyweight Title to Hulk Hogan in 1984 and began Hulkamania. He is also a former 2-Time WWF World Tag Team Champion with Nikolai Volkoff. The Sheik is the Master of the Suplex and the dreaded Camel Clutch.
George (The Animal) Steele, 6-0, 300 lbs.
Legendary Wrestler known for his unorthodox wrestling style, hairy body, and gree tongue. Loves to eat and tear apart the corner turnbuckle pads in the ring and rubs the stuffing from the pads into the eyes of his opponents. Feuded with Randy Savage, The Iron Sheik, Bob Backlund and Bruno Sammartino. George is a member of the WWF Hall of Fame. He has heard the cheers and the jeers of the crowds while along the way becoming one of the biggest draws in wrestling history. He also appeared in various movies, television programs and commercials including a starring roll in the motion picture "Ed Wood."
Greg (The Hammer) Valentine
Known as "The Hammer" for his punishing elbow smashes to his opponents forehead. Perennial champion throughout his entire career. He is a former WWF World Tag Team Champion as a member of "The Dream Team" with his partner Brutus Beefcake. Also wore the gold as a former WWF Intercontinental Champion, NWA/WCW World Tag Team Champion with partner Ric Flair and NWA/WCW United States champion defeating Roddy Piper for the title. He was managed throughout much of his career by Jimmy Hart. The master of the Figure Four Leglock, Valentine is known for his feuds with Superfly Jimmy Snuka, Roddy Piper, Ronnie Garvin and Jake "The Snake" Roberts.
King Kong Bundy, 6-3, 450 lbs.
Nicknamed "The Walking Condominium." This veteran of the ring is still wrecking havoc throughout the world. In the last year alone, he has competed in Australia, Malaysia, The Phillippines, England, Nigeria and throughout Europe along with competing in many independent wrestling promotions in the United States. Bundy competed in WrestleMania I, defeating his opponent (S.D. Jones) in a record 9 seconds. He took on Hulk Hogan in the main event at WrestleMania II in a steel cage. Bundy has been managed by Jimmy Hart, Ted DiBiase and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan (pictured along with Governor Jesse Ventura). He has defeated many opponents with his dreaded Avalanche Splash.
Jake (The Snake) Roberts, 6-5, 285 lbs.
Former North American Champion. One of the most well known wrestlers in the world from the 1980s to today. Master of the DDT, you never knew what the devious Roberts was thinking. He feuded with Andre the Giant, The Late Ravishing Rick Rude and The Honky Tonk Man in the WWF and Sting in the WCW. He is the master and the originator of the deadly wrestling manuever, The DDT. Known for bringing a 12-foot python to the ring and laying it on his defeated opponent.
The Former Yokozuna, 6-3, 600 lbs.
This former sumo wrestling champion is also a former 2 time WWF World Heavyweight Champion. He defeated wrestling legends Hulk Hogan and Bret "Hitman" Hart to win his world titles. He had some heroic feuds with the biggest names in wrestling such as Tatanka, Vader, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, The Undertaker, Lex Luger and more. He is also a former WWF Tag team champion along with his partner, the late Owen Hart suprising The Smoking Gunns at WrestleMania XI. He was managed by Jim Cornette and Mr. Fuji in the WWF. The man formerly known as Yokozuna is extremely agile for his tremendous size and is credited with ending Hulkamania in the WWF. He is a master of the belly to belly suplex and his famed bonzai butt drop from the second rope.
Jim (The Anvil) Neidhart, 6-2, 275 lbs.
Former track and football star at UCLA. Got his name "The
Anvil" for the various shot-put records he held in High School and College. He played
in the Canadian Football League as well as for the Oakland Raiders in the NFL. He is an
original member of the legendary Hart Foundation. Brother-In-Law of fellow Hart Foundation
members Bret "The Hitman" Hart , British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith and the late
Owen Hart. Former two time WWF World Tag Team Champion with Bret Hart. Currently wrestling
in Canada for Stampede Wrestling and in the United States for Northeast Wrestling.
"The Anvil" is one of the most powerful men in wrestling and is known for his
(New York Times, January 26, 1974)
CADIZ, Ky., Jan. 25 -- Joseph A. Savoldi, who gained fame as a fullback on undefeated football teams at the University of Notre Dame in 1929 and 1930, died here yesterday after a long illness. He was 65 years old.
Jumping Joe Savoldi was an important part of two of the finest football teams ever coached by Knute Rockne. He was a fast and powerful runner known for his punishing play on offense. In 1930, he carried the ball 98 yards for a touchdown against Southern Methodist University, one of the longest scoring runs in Notre Dame history.
His collegiate career was ended, though, with three games left on the schedule in 1930. A city judge in South Bend, Ind., revealed that he had officiated at a ceremony in which Mr. Savoldi married Miss Audrey Koehler on April 3, 1929. The big fullback from Three Oaks, Mich., was forced to withdraw from Notre Dame.
He played the remainder of the 1930 football season as a professional with the Chicago Bears. Then he became a well-known professional wrestler during a 20-year career.
In 1962, 32 years after having left Notre Dame, he received a bachelors degree from Evansville College. For the last 11 years, he has been a science teacher in a high school. In 1963, he was honored in Evansville as the "Citizen of the Month" for work with youth groups.
Mr. Savoldi married three times. Survivors include his widow, Lois;
a son, Joseph A. Savoldi 3d of Birmingham, Mich.; a sister and a brother.
(Look Magazine, circa 1965)
By Myron Cope
Only a few months before, Cowboy Bill Watts had been one of the most beloved performers on the eastern professional wrestling "wheel." Now he was parking his car six blocks from the arena where he was to do battle, hoping that no one would identify him and slash his tires in his absence. "In Scranton I got three tires knifed," he said. "Its hell on your insurance."
Just 26, boyishly handsome in his crewcut, Cowboy Bill had met and defeated scores of scowling, villainous opponents. He was one of the leading good guys on the circuit, and while legitimate athletes might dismiss his vocation as theater rather than sports, he found solace in his income. The year before, he had grossed almost $40,000 in a business that, by conservative estimates, takes in $20 million a year.
Despite his success, Cowboy Bill felt that his prospects as a good guy were limited. The current world heavyweight champion, or, at least, the one recognized as such by the eastern promoters, was a squat, hatched-nosed opera lover named Bruno Sammartino. Sammartino was firmly established as the leading paragon of humility and clean living, and the Cowboy knew that he could not hope to dent the affection in which the wrestling public held him. Nor could he hope to dethrone the champion, for promoters rarely match one good guy against another good guy.
He and Sammartino had been working together in a series of tag-team matchesbouts that pit two-man teams against each other. One night, with treacherous suddenness, the Cowboy had converted to a bad guy; in a televised match he abruptly turned on the champion, stamping on him and swearing at him. Then he had seized the microphone and shouted at the audience, "In my estimation youre nothing but a bunch of pigs!"
Up and down the Eastern Seaboard wrestling fans had been stunned and angered by the Cowboys betrayal, and almost overnight he had become a box-office attraction second only to Sammartino himself. Fans spat at him, stoned him with chunks of ice and mailed him death threats. Old ladies jabbed him with hatpins. Old men burned their cigars into his flesh. "Ive had some narrow escapes," said the Cowboy, "but if I dont get a crowd reaction. Im not going anywhere."
Now, on this Monday evening in Washington, the Cowboy stood on the threshold of fulfillment. He would wrestle seven times in six days (twice on Saturday), and the following Monday take on Sammartino himselfin Madison Square Garden.
The Cowboys opponent at the Washington Coliseum, a one-time ice plant in the citys heavily Negro northeast section, would be Bobo Brazil, a black giant of 315 pounds. "Bobos a big favorite here," said the Cowboy, apprehensively pondering the reception he would get as a white Oklahoman in a Negro stronghold. Not match is dearer to the hearts of wrestling promoters than one that has overtones of ethnic warfare, and there is a fairly brisk demand for Negro wrestlers, virtually all of whom are good guys. Although promoters prefer their crowds intense, to employ Negroes as villains before white audiences would be to invite a lynching. In Canada, a nation less conscious of a distinction between races, a bleached-blond Negro named Sweet Daddy Siki is able to work as a villain, but when he crosses into the States he is transformed into a good guy.
Cowboy Bills dressing room was already occupied by eight other villains; the good guys dress separately. While waiting for their matches to start, the bad guys slumped on benches, wearing only their undershorts, their bellies big and their mouths clenching cigars. A short man in a purple polo shirt that announced in gold letters, I AM RIGHT, stood in the center of the room, decrying the increasingly homicidal mood of the wrestling crowds.
"They see so damn many idiotic imbeciles picketing these days, thats the trouble," he shouted. Fifty-five, his ears thick with cauliflower from his days as a wrestler, his name is Wild Red Berry, and he is said to have become a near-millionaire by shrewdly investing his ring earnings. He keeps his hand in the game by seconding Waldo Von Erich, a villain billed as the champion of Germany, and Gorilla Monsoon, allegedly a Manchurian emigrant.
"I read Spinoza and Kant," Berry went on. "Were outspoken men but not raucous. We have to be fit for ourselves to know. I dont want to walk out there and face the setting sun and hate myself for the things Ive done."
"Knock it off," said one of the bad guys.
A mustachioed, walnut-colored Puerto Rican named Frank Martinez departed from the dressing room for the first bout, making his way up a ramp overhung by chicken wire, which intercepts thrown objects. A handful of "specials"house copsflanked Martinez. Although the crowd was 80 percent Negro and Martinez opponent was a fair-skinned Carolinian, his reputation as a villain canceled any possibility that his skin would win him sympathy.
Martinez, though destined to be pinned in a matter of 17 minutes, quickly goaded the crowd to life by lifting the Carolinian by his ears and dashing him to the canvas. En route back to his dressing room, he also threatened to punch a vituperative old lady in a purple print dress.
The Cowboy left for his match a short time laterthe main event often takes place midway in the show, thus giving the principal villain a chance to escape the arena ahead of the crowd. Behind a flying wedge of 15 policemen, Watts plowed up the ramp toward the ring. On all sides the fans rose in waves, shaking their fists and railing at him with a wild-eyed savagery.
In addition to his black tights and black Western-style ring shoes, the Cowboy wore a boxers headgear for protection against Bobo Brazils favorite weaponhis "coconut butt." "Take it off, Bobo!" the fans shouted as the match got under way. Bobo butted the Cowboy high on his forehead, but the headgear absorbed the blow and the Cowboy stepped back and withered Bobo with a piteous smile. A toothless young white man charged out of the fifth row, fists clenched, but two cops intercepted him.
Up in the ring the Cowboy suddenly shoved Bobos head between the middle and top ropes, twisting a pretzel-like noose around Bobos neck. Bobos eyes bulged and his tongue hung out. Even though the referee freed him, the crowd was now convinced that Bobos only hope lay in divesting the Cowboy of his headgear. "Take it off, Bobo!" the fans pleaded.
Now, at close quarters, the Cowboy whispered a word or two into Bobos ear. (Skeptics might have concluded that Cowboy Bill was cueing Bobo, but the Cowboy assured me later that he was calling Bobo filthy names.) Running backward, the Cowboy flung himself against the ropes, then catapulted off them and crashed into Bobo, striking him to the floor with a forearm under the heart.
Tasting the kill, Cowboy Bill leaped high, bent on descending feet-first on Bobos chest. In the nick of time, Bobo rolled aside, and the Cowboy crashed clumsily to the canvas. At once Bobo was upon him, ripping off his headgear. A deafening roar of jubilation burst from the crowd.
The Cowboy scrambled to his feet. Bobo charged, and the dreaded coconut butt struck high on the left side of Cowboy Bills forehead. Blood spurted out and then poured in tributaries down the Cowboys face and over his chest. Suddenly he climbed out of the ring and, with a great arm-waving gesture of disdain for Bobos tactics, walked hurriedly up the aisle and through the ramp.
An hour later Cowboy Bill was sitting in a cocktail lounge, refreshing himself with six bottles of beer. Wearing a patch bandage on his head, he spoke of the advantages his career has brought him. He owns a one-third interest in a cattle ranch and is investing carefully in securities. He recently had taken an apartment with pool in Gloucester city, N.J., a town that is central to the wrestling cricuit and from which he was able to drivein his $5,500 air-conditioned carto most of his appearances in five hours or less. Best of all, his new career as a villain promised to be even more profitable.
"Look how well Buddy Rogers did," said the Cowboy. Rogers, a bad guy who reigned as champion before Sammartino, retired to a life of ease. "He wears a twelve-carat ring on his pinkie, and he went to his high-school principal at a class reunion and flicked the ash of his cigar and said, "Hey, daddy, Im that dropout you said would never amount to anything."
Since the Roaring 20s, professional wrestling has flourished despite the practically unanimous opinion of sports authorities that all pro matches are theatrical frauds. Certainly it would be an easy matter to fix a wrestling bout, for dozens of the men who regularly wrestle one another work out of the same stable, controlled by a single promoter-manager. Professional gamblers will not bet a dime on a wrestling match. No enlightened sports fan would thrill to a finish in which Sammartino appears to collapse from exhaustion but by great good luck lands flat on his opponent, pinning him to save the day.
When asked if their bouts are fixed, wrestlers respond not with an answer but with another question: "Want to get in the ring with me and find out if Im a fake?" Certainly there is no doubt that their business is punishing. Punches are pulled, but a good manyusually those thrown to the belly or high on the opponents backland reasonably hard. Broken bones are common to the trade, for not even the most agile wrestler can break his falls night after night.
Despite all skeptics, the advent of television in 1947 multiplied fans at least a thousandfold, and created such outrageous caricatures as wrestlers in long blond hair, Indian headdresses, and fur capes. This mixture of showmanship and violence packed arenas as tightly in New York City as in Wichita Falls, Tex.
At the business end of the wrestling cornucopia stands a lanky, pink-faced man of 58 named Vince McMahon, president of Capitol Wrestling Corp., and booking agent for his stable of 40-odd wrestlers, including Cowboy Bill. From his headquarters in a cheaply furnished four-room hotel suite in Washington, McMahon controls the eastern "wheel"the most prosperous of a handful of regional circuits across the country. He personally promotes shows in the Coliseum as well as weekly televised matches at studios in Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Washington; additionally, he services 80 clubs in 14 states and occasionally exports his boys to ports as distant as Tokyo.
McMahon deals strictly in "super heavyweights," explaining, "I believe the fan gets a bigger kick out of seeing a 300-pounder hit the canvas or go flying out of the ring." When building the cast for an evenings entertainment, however, he calls on other promoters, each of whom may have his own specialty. There is, for instance, an office in Columbia, S.C., that supplies lady wrestlers and one in Detroit that ships midgets on order. While I was talking to McMahon, his assistantthe former "Jewish Champion," Herbie Freemancovered a phone with his hands and asked, "You want to use two girls here on the third?"
"Yeh, OK," McMahon said. "Ill use two girls and a girl referee."
"Hell take three," Freeman told South Carolina. "No, he dont need two more."
"Wait, Herbie. Ill use five and make a tag-team match out of it."
"Hell take the whole five," said Freeman.
However impersonal, McMahon is a cautious man who has nurtured his gold mine by methods that are in sharp contrast to those of, say, major-league baseball. He does not, for instance, give his big events on TV. Before the cameras, his big-name wrestlers grapple only with lesser performers. Most important, McMahon realizes that the bush leaguesthe small-town clubsare the lifeblood of his business.
"Its our job to keep the promoters alive," he says. Toward that end, he usually leaves the local promoter with 40 to 50 percent of the receipts, paying the wrestlers himself. No matter how small the town, its promoter is shipped the best McMahon has to offer. Thus Cowboy Bill Watts, only 24 hours after earning $1,000 in Washington, would receive $50 in Harrisburg, Pa.
Harrisburgs Zembo Temple was a far cry from Washingtons Coliseum. Cherry trees lined the walk leading into a terrazzo-floor lobby. Cowboy Bill changed clothes in a room appointed with bamboo chaise lounges and reminisced on his beginnings. His father is an Oklahoma City steel salesman, a good Presbyterian who years ago gave up his predinner highball lest it have a pernicious effect on his growing children. All the same, Bill impetuously married at 17, was divorced at 19 after fathering a son. Though given an athletic scholarship, he did not graduate from Oklahoma University. He is remembered there as a third-string football tackle and a fairly promising wrestling prospect who, mostly because of disciplinary probation, never saw varsity action. Cowboy Bill left Oklahoma, he says, because of "A love of wine, women and fights."
After a brief trial with the Houston Oilers football club, he obtained an introduction to an Indianapolis wrestling promoter, who put him to work. Wrestling for as little as $25, Big Bill Watts, as he then called himself, drifted to his native Southwest, where he quickly became a popular attraction. Wild Red Berry, he of the Spinoza-Kant leanings, spotted him and tipped off Vince McMahon, who fetched him east and renamed him Cowboy Bill. Now McMahons top villain, the Cowboy has earned as much as $4,000 in a single night. "Everything I do gets a crowd reaction," he said. "If I blow my nose, they howl, because I project. I make em feel my loathing for them."
He climbed into the Harrisburg ring opposite his opponent, the "Irish champion" Don McClarity, who was busy signing autographs. One fana comely girlapproached the Cowboys corner for an autograph, but he tore up the paper she handed him, enraging the crowd. Scarcely had the bout begun when a sallow, sideburned young man, seated at ringside with his girlfriend, arose and challenged the Cowboy to a fistfight. The Cowboy stepped onto the apron of the ring, directly over the young man, and beckoned to him.
Screaming murderously, the young man elected to enter the ring at a point where two portly, smiling policemen conventiently intercepted him and ushered him back to his chair. "He wanted to be stopped," said the Cowboy later, after he had pinned the Irish champion. "A lot of them do that. If he had gotten into the ring, though, Id have torn his eye out. Never give a mark an even brea, because theyll never give you one. Ive got eight stitches on my back where a guy slashed me with a filed-down iron comb."
Occasionally wrestlers will warm up for their match by offering to take on any man in the house; the spectator who comes forward officially becomes a mark. As a rule, he is a college wrestler or a practitioner of judo or karate and is certain he will expose the professional as a fraud. He is disappointed, painfully. He is intent upon displaying the special skills he has learned, whereas the pro instantly calls upon every cruel blow imaginable.
"Karate and judo are a lot of overrated bunk," said the Cowboy. "So what if a guy can break a board in half? That board isnt hitting back."
After wrestling in a TV show in Washington Thursday, he went to appear at an ice arena in Brick Town, N.J., on Friday, and then flew to Pittsburgh, where he would wrestle twice on Saturdayat a TV studio at six oclock and a few hours later at a racetrack. Some 50 fans, carrying lunches, waited five and a half hours under a blazing sun to be admitted to the studio. Most of them were women, many wearing their stockings rolled below their knees. They scrambled into the studio, pouncing on the front-row seats, and when they saw Cowboy Bill pass throught the studio they greeted him profanely and obscenely with the sort of language used during race riots.
From the TV studio, Cowboy Bill proceeded to a nearby harness track, where a ring was pitched at the foot of the grandstands. There a tieless, bespectacled man in his 30s turned to me and said, "A lot of this stuff is fake, you know."
"Then why do you come?" I asked.
"Oh, its not ALL faked. These fellows just put a little color into it, but they get hurt, all right."
Suddenly my astute neighbor was on his feet shouting epithets. Waldo von Erich, Red Berrys German protege, had entered the ring to oppose a pudgy wrestler named Chief White Owla classic morality match pitting Nazism against the original American. "Swine hunt!" bellowed by neighbor, striving to make himself understood to the Hun in perfect Warner Brothers German. "Pig! Filthy German!" Then, turning to me again, he advised, "Hes not a man, hes a pig." When the Cowboy entered the ring, a paper cuppacked tightly with iceflew from the upper grandstand and struck him hard on the top of his head, and a number of fans opened fire on him with wire staples shot from rubber bands.
One the whole, though, Cowboy Bill emerged from Pittsburgh in fairly good shape, his features marred only by a bandage covering the wound which had been opened in Washington by Bobo Brazils coconut butt. Curiously, not opponent had leaped to exploit so obvious a target. Good guys are strong on charity.
Now the Cowboy moved on to New York for his showdown match with the prima good guy, Bruno Sammartino. Unlike the Cowboy, who had been willing to switch images for a better dollar, Sammartino possessed a wistful reverence for the sport he had learned as a boy in Italy. "The fans here in this country, they criticize the gimmicks, but they buy it," he sighed.
"A man named George Wagner was one of the best wrestlers to ever come out of this countryhe had everythingbut he was nothing," Bruno said. "So he bleached his hair and changed his name to Gorgeous George, and they paid a fortune to see him. The others saw his success and they did the same, and it ridiculed the whole game."
As champion for more than two years, Bruno has earned close to $200,000 annually. (He is not, by the way, the only world champion in America, for at last word Lou Thesz was recognized as champ by midwest promoters and others, and Pedro Morales, whose Mexican blood makes him big in Southern California, reigned in the West.) "Now, I am getting tired of it," Bruno said. "Ive had my jaw broken and my wrist broken and Ive had my nose broken ten, eleven times and cannot breathe out of it. But its so hard to get out when youre at the peak making money."
The Cowboy, meanwhile, had gone into New York declaiming that it was time wrestling had a champion capable of speaking good English. For weeks he had been hurling insults at Bruno, warming New Yorks Italian population to a nice ticket-buying temperature. Finally, with the moment of truth at hand, he donned a royal-blue Stetson and set off from his hotel to the Garden, followed by a band of children shouting. "You stink, Watts!"
In contrast, only adulation fell on Bruno Sammartinos large ears as he climbed into the ring wearing his bejeweled championship belt. After representatives of the International Bruno Sammartino Fan Club had come forward to present Bruno with a trophy for "ability, determination and fair play," the ring announcer bellowed that victory would be awarded the first contestant to pin his man twice. The formalities over, Cowboy Bill promptly doubled up Bruno with a rabbit punch and downed him with a kick in the belly.
While Bruno lay helpless, the Cowboy repeatedly leaped into the air and stamped on him with his right foot. Each time, the Cowboys left foot hit the canvas first, breaking the impact of his descent, and his right foot landed flat-soled on Brunos ample belly. The crowd responded as if Bruno were being torn apart by mad dogs. Six cops moved swiftly to eject a trio of ground-floor spectators for hurling missiles at the Cowboy. The Cowboy went on to batter Bruno from ringpost to ringpost and win the first fall easily.
Bruno, though, coming out for the second session on wobbly legs, summoned fresh strength from a reservoir of outraged anger and fell upon the Cowboy, fists flailing. Bruno then flung him to the canvas and quickly pinned him. Inexplicably, the Cowboy remained on the canvas, writhing in a compulsion of pain, and could not answer the bell for the third ession. The crowd thundered jubilantly as the referee held Brunos arm aloft in victory. Then Bruno, good guy that he is, went to the Cowboys aid. "Dont do it, Bruno," the crowd pleaded, wise to the Cowboys ways.
Sure enough, the Cowboy lashed up with a forearm to Brunos groin. While the referee restrained Bruno, the Cowboy allowed a police escort to whisk him to his dressing room.
Though he had not dethroned Bruno, Cowboy Bill did not appear entirely crushed when I saw him an hour later with a blonde in the hotel cocktail lounge. There would be rematches with Bruno shortly (all of which the Cowboy lost), and then exotic trips to San Francisco and Japan to tap fresh box offices. Meanwhile, he remained matchless in his arrogance.
"Howd you do tonight, fella?" asked a man passing the Cowboys table.
"None of your business," the Cowboy said.
By J Michael Kenyon
In June, 1996, while on a business and research trip to Evansville, Ind., I found myself immersed in microfilm copies of the old Evansville Press for the month of October, 1915. I was in search of articles concerning the historic Joe Stecher-Ed (Strangler) Lewis title bout held in that city that long-ago autumn. I read all the stories, made copies of them for my wrestling research archives and then went back to a downtown hotel where, on a whim, I decided to begin sharing the fruits of some 40 years worth of tracking down the history of professional wrestling. So, I typed up the results of that days research and, on June 23, 1996, posted the first edition of what was then called, simply, The WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers to the rec.sports.pro-wrestling Usenet list. With that, like topsy, WAWLI began to grow into the worldwide free mailing list that I have maintained to this day and intend to continue for the indefinite future. The idea, as always, was to encourage others to take an interest in wrestling historyespecially those halcyon days when the game was far different than that product which is, almost nightly, exhibited nationally via cable TV.
The original WAWLIs were numbered differently in those days, bearing both volume and issue numbers. After moving on to "Volume 3," I decided to simplify the system and just number them consecutively. Of late, just for the fun of it, Ive begun labeling them "The New WAWLI Papers," if only because the current editions are more recent than the "old" ones.
And now, as the 600th issue of WAWLI nears, it seems appropriate to reprint some of the very early pieces which appeared during that summer of 1996, more than three years ago. In due time, for those who came in late, I also will be publishing a complete index of ALL articles that have been reprinted in the entirety of the WAWLI Papers series. A good many of the early editions, of course, have been compiled and published, in book form, by the industrious Scott Teal of Tennessee, and may be purchased by dialing up Scotts web site at the following URL:
JOE STECHER WINNER OF THE MATCH
(Evansville Press, October 21, 1915)
(Originally appeared in The WAWLI Papers, Vol. 1, No. 1 June 23, 1996)
Joe Stecher, who wrestled Ed Lewis at the Wells-Bijou Theater Wednesday night, is still the undefeated champion heavyweight wrestler of the world. Fans were disappointed because they did not get to see Stecher apply his deadly scissors hold and because Lewis would not take the role of aggressor.
In the two hours and three minutes of wrestling, Lewis did not give Stecher an opportunity to put his famous scissors hold on him. Lewis wrestled on the defensive. Apparently, he was afraid to try offensive work.
The end came when, after the two hours and three minutes, Stechermad because Lewis would not mixbegan rushing the Kentuckian fiercely and drove him over the ropes, Lewis falling and striking his head on the rim of a chair seat. He did not rise. His managed said he was injured. Dr. Phil Warter, who was the first physician to reach his side, said he was not injured much. Later Drs. Greenleaf and Louis Fritsch made the same statement.
Lewis was taken to his dressing room. Physicians examined him and said he was not injured to any extent. Later Lewis was taken to the Walker hospital. Dr. Will Davidson, who worked with Lewis during the night, said Thursday morning that Lewis was injured in the groin.
Referee Bert Sisson gave Stecher the first fall and announced that unless Lewis came back into the ring within 15 minutes that Stecher would be awarded the second fall. During the wait Mayor Bosse took the opportunity to get into the limelight and announced from the stage that, in view of the doctors finding, he saw no reason why Lewis should not come back and finish the match.
Bosse, who had seven passes to the match, and who had General Manager Blinn of the Public Utilities Co. in his party, made a speech from the stage when Lewis was carried out. Throughout the match Bosse managed to be a counter-attraction by his actions in the box.
Had Lewis come back there could have been no doubt of the outcome. Sooner or later Stecher would have gotten his deadly hold on him. With that Lewis might have been injured for life. Only last week Stecher got it on Paul Sass, French wrestler, in seven minutes and left him bleeding from the ears, nose and mouth. Several wrestlers have been ruptured by Stecher with that hold.
Lewis went on the mat to wrestle on the defensive. For the two hours and three minutes he put up a wonderful exhibition of defensive work. He was able to do just what he had planned. He did not please the fans. They wanted to see him mix in with the champion. Even Stechers manager, at the end of one hour and 60 minutes, asked Referee Sisson to force Lewis to wrestle and not run. Lewis manager replied that the floor was roped and that it was Stechers task to throw Lewis. Not once did Stecher get behind the Kentuckian. Lewis, however, got Stecher on the mat and on top of him three times but confined his efforts to keeping away from Stechers toe hook, which is always the first stage of his famous scissors hold.
Lewis was behind Stecher four times. Stecher admitted that Lewis was the hardest man to get behind he had ever met. Stecher has no other hold which he uses successfully. He has won practically every match with his scissors hold which must be made from behind.
In staying with Stecher over two hours, Lewis did what he went on the mat to do. Stecher defeated Cutler, the worlds champion, in 27 minutes. No other man within the last two years has stayed on the mat with Stecher as long as has Lewis. George Turner stayed with him three hours to a draw two years ago.
Before Lewis went on the mat he got a telegram from Cutler which advised him to stay on his feet and break quick. He did this. The fans did not like his style of wrestling. They yelled for him to wrestle and not run. But (Billy) Sandow, his manager, instructed him by signals to wear Stecher out by letting the champion do the offensive work.
When the end came it was evident that Stecher was determined to force Lewis to wrestle vigorously. Had Stecher got the scissors hold in the mood he had then, Lewis would have suffered. His manager realized this.
"Our game was to stay with Stecher and let him do all the aggressive work," said Sandow, Lewis manager, Thursday. "This Stecher is deadly. Lewis did not get in there and let Stecher get this scissors just to let the fans see it done. That might have meant the end of Lewis wrestling career. Our game was to wear Stecher out. That is the way Gotch got the championship from Hackenschmidt.
"Any wrestler will tell you that a man who can wrestle defensively successfully is as scientific as the man who rushes his opponent, though the fans do not like a defensive wrestler. They want spectacular work. We did not care to sacrifice Lewis merely to make a show."
The match was perhaps too scientific for the Evansville fans who have been witnessing exhibitions of the second-raters, and have never before seen a "blood" match.
The match might be compared to a ball game in which there was no hitting and consequently no scoring for 17 innings.
After the match Mayor Bosse and Chief of Police Ed Schmitt took the receipts, and Thursday Bosse said that he was going to give a part of the receipts to charity because he thought the match was not on the square. He said he would let the wrestlers have what they would get if regular prices had been charged.
Mayor Bosse, Sheriff Habbe and Joe Stecher between them received four anonymous messages preceding the wrestling match. Two were by telephone and two by telegraph. An unknown man, signing himself R.M. Kerr, wired Mayor Bosse and Sheriff Habbe from Indianapolis, saying: "Stop fake wrestling match tonight." Upon inquiry of manager Eckler of the local Western Union office, the Indianapolis W.U. manager said that his telegram, printed with a lead pencil and with the signature likewise printed, was handed in over the counter of the Indianapolis main office and paid for in cash. The same mysterious Indianapolis person called Mayor Bosse up by phone.
A man who did not give his name called Joe Stecher up, by phone from Cincinnati. "You will be double-crossed, watch out," said the strange voice. Before the match Stecher and his brother voiced their fears to Referee Sisson. The referee told Stecher that he need not be afraid of getting any raw deal in Evansville. The conduct of the referee in over-stepping the rules and giving Stecher two falls when he was entitled to but one showed how groundless was the fear of a bad deal raised in Stechers mind by the anonymous telephone call.
To Promoter Barton, after the match, Stecher said: "Lewis is the best man I ever met. He is stronger than I am and we might have gone on for an hour more before I got him. He is the fastest big man I ever saw."
The first Gotch-Hackenschmidt match in Chicago was won by Gotch by the use of the identical tactics pursued by Lewis last night. Hackenschmidt chased Gotch all over the ring for almost two hours and then quit. "You can have it, Mr. Gotch," he said, and walked out of the ring. Last night when Lewis run for two hours, Stecher became only the more desperate in his desire to get Lewis to the mat where he could pin him.
CIRCUSES AND KINGS
(Canadian Forum, August, 1950)
(Originally appeared in The WAWLI Papers, Vol. 1, No. 14, August 28, 1996)
By D.M. Fisher
Several years ago Time magazine hinted that the large crowds drawn by wrestling in Toronto reflected the gullibility of the citizens. Now, with the surge of television, wrestling has come to the fore in the States; the top men are national figures, and the critics and publicists are debunking or glorifying the show. This is one matter where Canada has kept pace with America. We have the chance, even in the smaller towns, of seeing wrestling, and the attendance has risen until it probably stands behind only hockey and baseball as an athletic draw. No populated area fails to support the grapplers; Toronto, Montreal, and Hamilton turn out supporters enough to gross nearly a million and a half dollars a year. What does wrestling offer for the husky admission it charges?
The meaning of sport as a fair contest does not apply to wrestling; it is entertainment, generally of high calibre in execution, with features of the circus and the drama added to its athletic elements. The basic parts of an exhibition are two opponents, one referee, and the crowd. Color is supplied by the beautiful robes of the wrestlers, their wonderful or grotesque bodies, and the carnival informality of the show. Four or five matches make up the card, but many variations are common. The winner is usually pre-determined, but it is not a "fix" in the gambling sense. Team tag-fights, two against one, man against alligator, mud-floored rings, or the cockpit effect gained by a chicken-wire enclosure, keep the orthodox from becoming stale. Thought title matches are held, they signify little since each area has its "world champion" and, in Canada, its "British Empire champion." Because they advertise, promoters are given good coverage from local papers (and with a straight face), but there is little inter-city or international publicity on a press-service scale. This frees a man in a main event in Toronto on Thursday for a preliminary match in Buffalo on Friday. (It is disconcerting to find the invincible hero in Toronto being featured as a cad in the Montreal press.)
Despite this lack of geographic integration where rating or morality is concerned, the reciprocity of the different promotional centres is a marvel. There is a reptitive, rise, decline, and fall of wrestlers so geared that the public in each area has an ever-changing troupe to watch. A wrestler will usually draw well in his home town, but long jaunts on circuits, perhaps in Missouri, Texas, or in the Maritimes space out such appearances.
Canada is turning out many of its own entertainers although their names generally lack the phonetic lilt of the importations. Mike Sharpe, Al Korman, Yvon Robert, or Pat Flanagan are Canadian leaders who sound dull beside the Warren Bockwinkles, Suni War Clouds, or Gorgeous Georges from the south.
Instructions about his next match often come to the wrestler by phone and rarely, unless the publicists have been creating a "natural" rivalry, does he know whom he is to fight. Much leeway is left the contestants and the referee whnever the bout is not part of a build-up sequence. They know how much time to allow before the finish and the scope of their play is sensitive to the crowds reaction.
That is, inattention comes when too much applying for breaking of holds is presented so, sensing this, something sensational like tossing each other out of the ring is resorted to. Normally, action see-saws to a climax that may rest on the virtue versus evil theme, on a quirk of the referee, or upon an accidental slip or skid. A favorite ending is Prometheanlike: some daring manoeuvre backfires and the fall is lost with explosive suddenness, leaving a "Well! You never know" hush upon the audience.
Most matches pit good against evil and as a rule justice does not triumph. But it will. Rematches go on until the routine becomes jaded; then right prevails. The most entertaining match to the sensitive fan is the first contest between two wrestlers who hitherto have borne the true-blue stamp. Action will be very fast, ostentatiously clean, and may continue so to the end. This is rare. More likely, one man displays a character flaw. Chances for perfidy prove too tempting; then, as his baser nature revealed, the crowd takes up the chant against him. The spectators do not split into two factions behind either fighter. They await the cue of ones fall from grace. (Of course, there may be the odd agitator perverse enough to applaud roguery.) The character of the contestants fixed, the hero is, of course, justified in using any means to gain his ends, but often he will give the rascal another chance and extend the open hand of forgiveness. If the handshake is accepted, the crowd becomes uneasy, for past performances have indicated that reform is never lasting.
The spectators participation is not unlike the chorus in Greek drama, explaining and warning. In combat there are a number of conventions which theoretically must be upheld: when action comes to the ring border where either wrestler touches the ropes, they must break openly, as boxers from a clinch, and begin anew; strangle-holds, eye-gouging, punching, or the use of abrasive materials such as adhesive tape or peanuts, are technically forbidden. However, the referees as a group are typically ineffectual, a failing which the villain does not hesitate to exploit shamelessly. Thus the responsibility devolves upon the crowd, to call the arbiter to his duty, to warn the hero and to shame the villain. There is a quality, not unlike the responses in a prayer-meeting, appealing but dignified, which inhere in the cries of "Rope!", "Peanut!", etc., that rise from the crowd. In most matches, the opportunity arises for the hero to apply a hold whereby every rock of his body stretches the villain in a rack. The measured roar of "Hip. . .Hip. . ." that this occasions is in the spirit of the regatta. This eultant note has a rival in pure feeling when shrill despair settles in after the hero is beaten. The villain crows, defies the crowd, and often beats a cowards retreat under the fire of fists, fingernails, parasols, or burning cigarettes with which the fans assault him. Then, a hush of respect comes as the hero is solicitously helped away. A curious note about the mob scene around the villain is that the women show far more courage than the men.
Less than half the actual fighting time is spent at grips. A goodly bit passes in appeals to the referee and the crowd, and much to pacing and circling with gestures and grimaces of pain, wrath, or steely determination. The latter is the perquisite of the hero, and the villains counter is the skulk or leer of menace. Naturally, there is a great range in ability of expression but a similarity in technique. For example, all good fellows must simulate blindness since, sooner or later, the villain rubs a peanut or a thumb into his eyes. Every Toronto fan knows that their nonpareil, Whipper Billy Watson, is literally blind in one eye. This intensifies the pathos of poor Whipper, staggering around the ring, groping at his face, while the dastard blandly assures the referee he has no peanut hidden in his trunks. The crowd knows better; sympathy and love for justice weld in a mighty current of feeling.
Other heroes can hardly match Watson in this specialty, but many, because of greater purity of feature and physique, are better in limning the role of righteous indignation. At present a new hero, Timothy Geohagen, is rising on the Toronto scene. Tim is young, blond, and handsome. His special characteristic is mighty strength, his special hold the "Irish Sleeper," and his dramatic forte the pure rage of the righteous. When Tim gets his Irish up, when his patience is gone, his clear skin pinks, his arms writhe, and he vibrates from the floor in anger. The crowd approves, the villain shows yellow and hides behind the referee who wags a finger at Tim. Tim brushes this obstacle aside and metes out justice. (It is hard to imagine a clearer show of the cliches of histrionics than those in Tims bout, providing he is given a villain of merit.)
Often one finds former boxing "greats" such as Jack Dempsey, Jack Sharkey, or Max Baer headlined as referees. The idea is that they are impartial and able because of the supposed power in their fists to keep the villain in line. This myth is rooted in the "knock-out" punch and it promotes bizarre situations. Once a feud between Watson and a huge Pole, Wladislaw Talun, had grown so bitter that only a strong referee seemed to promise order and a decision. Jack Sharkey was brought in, and early in the bout he had to remonstrate with Talun for underhand tactics. Failing to impress the Pole verbally, Sharkey cocked his fist. Taluns reaction was swift; he cowered, fawned, and then carried on fairly, long enough for Watson to down him cleanly. The paradox here is the appearance of Talun and Sharkey. The ex-boxer is grey and paunchy, a flabby two-hundred pounder; Talun is at least six-foot-eight, weighs over three hundred and fifty, and ripples with muscle.
To most people, all these wrestlers are big, but the size range is broada small man is from two hundred and twenty to two hundred and forty pounds in weight, while the giants range to four hundred pounds plus. The bigger men tend to be the villains. This supports the proverb "the bigger they come the harder they fall." About fifty years ago Bob Fitzsimmons coined this phrase, just before his fight for the heavyweight crown with the giant Jim Jeffries. Fitz was crushed by Jeffries, but his words are the prop for the multitude who resent superior stature; thus the wrestling addict has the vicarious thrill of the human dreadnoughts fall.
One of the two groups of people whom wrestling infuriates are the sport purists who feel it as a satire on genuine competition. The other critics are the calamity howlers or disillusioned do-gooders. A sample of the latter was offered some years ago by Alan Sullivan. Writing in Macleans he rued wrestlings appeal in Toronto: "Is the public appetite of this city so jaded, surfeited, dissipated, so lacking in what one may call tone that the sensory receiving apparatus of eight thousand Torontonians demands the floodlit brutalities by mountainous grapplers . . ."
The brutalities are exaggerated. When giants begin somersaulting and leaping at lightning speed, there is a chance they may be hurt, but if it were brutal the men could not sustain their three to five matches a week schedule. An elbow-smash, a kick in the face, or a bite in the leg does seem rugged, but the recipients live to fight next day simply because their simulation is unbelievably good. The crowds savor for the rough stuff intrigues the analysts who deal in psychological jargon. Mob hysteria, persecution mania, blood lust, and sexual sublimation have been put forward. The fact that women form a large part of the attendance disturbs many. To those who suggest that they are attracted by the exposition of virile bodies, one could point out that many wrestlers are very ugly and malformed. One entertaining theory is that men readily take their women to contests where gambling is not a factor. Certainly, its hard to imagine even the staunchest fan wagering on wrestling. But then, this does not account for the ladies leading the chorus as they do.
Those who see the wrestling of today as another symbol of social decadence, might try attending some bouts in a relaxed state of mind, or if they are blessed with a TV set, watching it in their parlor. If they cant get delight from listening and watching the people around them, there are always marvels of muscle to admire and acrobatics in a grand manner. Besides, the orgy of disbelief at other peoples tastes can bolster ones more cultured ego.
Historians place wrestling as the second oldest sport of all. For those who never sw the sport when it was the focal point of people who were sure of its validity as a contest, it is hard to imagine this past. Books tell us that Henry VIII once tried a fall with Francis, King of France, at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Perhaps the pageant of today is a reversion to such a show. If nothing else, it reveals that Canadians, or at least many of them, are not so staid in expressing their emotions as weve been led to believe. _____________________________The WAWLI Papers #595...
The New WAWLI Papers
(Wrestling As We Liked It)
Edited by J Michael Kenyon
Issue Number 595
Sunday, October 3, 1999
IN THIS ISSUE: ANOTHER WAWLI REPRINT, THIS ONE FROM MACLEANS MAGAZINE, 1931
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PFEFER MEMORABILIA SOLD FOR $5,000?
A few days ago, E-Bay had an auction the following:
"This is perhaps the most extensive collection of wrestling memorabilia known to us. It all comes from the lifetime accumulation of the famous wrestling promoter Jack Pfefer. The collection consists of nearly ONE THOUSAND 8x10 studio type photos of 269 wrestlers from the late 1930s through the mid 1960s. Just to name a few: Gorgeous George, Antonio the Italian Giant, The Brown Bomber, The Red Headed Atomic Twins and hundreds more. There are tons of smaller photos as well. 269 large manila envelopes containig over thirty years of personal correspondence, souvenir programs, news photos, press kits, lobby cards, and vintage wrestling posters. This lot even includes Mr Pfefers personal addres book with hundreds or wrestlers phone numbers and business cards. I know it has already been stated but this is an INCREDIBLE collection. This lot has never been offered for sale before. If you live in or it is possible for you to visit New England, it is a must see. I will be shooting more photos of this collection, so e-mail if you are seriously interested. Please e-mail with questions before bidding as we want who ever bids to be satisfied. Thanks and dont miss this oppurtunity. Good bidding."
If I read the E-Bay page correctly, this materialwhich was apparently brokered through a shop in Providence, R.I.was bid for, and sold, for $5,000 to the holder of the following e-mail address (not a WAWLI subscriber, as best I can tell):
(ED. NOTEWith the milestone 600th issue of The WAWLI Papers coming up, a few of the very early submissions in this series are being reprinted, largely for the benefit of latecomers to the mailing list.)
(MacLeans Magazine, Oct. 15, 1931)
(Originally appeared in The WAWLI Papers, Volume 1, Number 18, September 5, 1996)
by H.H. Roxborough
Ages ago, historians tell us, the largest of animals roamed across Canadian plains and left their footprints in the sands of time.
True, they have long been consigned to glass cases in museums; but today their human counterparts, the 225-pound mastodonic specimens of the human family, like the mammoths of old, are snorting, writhing, puffing and stamping their courses along the canvas-covered, manila-bound wrestling rings of the broad Dominion.
The arrival of these heavyweight wrestlers was almost as unexpected as would be the restoration of those prehistoric animal giants, for both were considered to have passed forever from human sight. True, the grapplers were popular a quarter century back. The names of Hackenschmidt, Gotch and Zbyszko meant something and their appearances in a ring attracted thousands, but with their decline the sport rapidly rolled downhill. The leading wrestlers forsook championship bouts and began barnstorming the countryside, ballyhooing challenges to "all comers."
The "comers" were usually men of their own camps who were planted in the audience and who, with considerable assumed bravado, accepted the defi, entered the ring and went through the motions of wrestling.
Occasionally a sum of money was offered to anyone who could "stay" for an arranged time without being thrown, and when an honest stranger did offer himself he was handicapped with a referee friendly to the barnstormer and a timekeeper who often prolonged the limit so that the challenger might be securely pinned. Naturally, the game could not live long in such an unhealthy atmosphere; and so from barnstorming to circuses to burlesque shows, and finally out of the sporting picture altogether, the "rasslers" travelled from opulence to oblivion.
Then something happened. A little over two years ago a tall, athletic-appearing, pleasant-spoken sportsman arrived in Toronto and registered under the awe-inspiring Russian name of Ivan Mickailoff. Ivan was not an impostor. He had been an officer in the famous Cossacks, an intelligence commissioner in the Allied armies, a university graduate and a point gatherer for Russia in the Olympic wrestling championship of 1908. Mr. Mickailoff furthermore had an attractive personality and appeared quite sane. But when he approached sports editors and told them his Canadian mission was to revive wrestling, and even to make money out of it, they greeted him with shaking heads and expressions of sympathy.
Those experienced judges of sports taste informed the prospective promoter that he hadnt a "Chinamans chance" of making good; that former wrestling conditions had been so unsavory that even the recollection induced nausea; that wrestling even at its best wasnt much to look at, and, besides, boxing had such a "foothold" that a "toe hold" wouldnt attract enough people to pay for the resin.
The Russian visitor listened, but he was too big to be moved by the sound of voices. He merely shrugged his shoulders, smiled, and began preparing for his first show.
Wrestlers had been procured, paid advertising had announced the time and place, and eventually "came the night." The bright lights illuminated the duck-covered platform, the contestants for the great inauguration were "on the job." Every preliminary requirement had been met. The arena was sufficiently large to house ten thousand paying guests, and the metropolitan area of Toronto is population by nearly a million inhabitants. But, alas, only 300 curious folks strolled past the ticket taker, and fully half of them had complimentary tickets for which they hadnt paid even the amusement tax.
Dick Cossack Mickailoff roll himself up in his canvas flooring and quietly steal away? Did he call upon his sports advisers and tell them they were right? He did not. He didnt even wince. He was accustomed to hard rides, and the writers didnt hesitate to give him one. Like the heroes of old, the promoter sailed on. Steadily the printed opposition increased in vigor and word power; but week after week the wrestling bouts continued until the pass holders became regular customers. Those who had come to scoff remained to praise.
Eventually, after the promoter had gone "into the red" for $20,000, the increased interest brought the principal rolling home. And how the industry has thrived! Mr. Mickailoff gave a glimpse of its growth when he informed the writer that for arena rental alone he has expended over $50,000 in little more than two years.
But that is the situation in only one section of the country. Within the past year most of the larger Canadian cities have been visited by the exponents of "pitch and toss," while in Quebec, Montreal, Hamilton, Ottawa, Toronto, Windsor and Vancouver, the grapplers have appeared nearly every week even through the summers heat. In most of these centres there have been many occasions when capacity crowds have attended. Not only has boxing been forced to recognize the drawing power of the mat men, but wherever wrestlers have staked a claim, gold has been revealed in paying quantities.
What forces compelled wrestling to leap into such national popularity? How has this fan approval been maintained? Is it just a passing fancy or will it continue for many years?
Remember, wrestling is not a modern game. It is possibly the worlds oldest sport. More than twenty-six centuries ago the Grecian youths were matching grappling skill at ancient Olympia. Arm locks, half nelsons, toe holds, were familiar terms to our grandfathers. Every age, every people, seem to have accepted wrestling in some form.
Not only did promoters have to overcome this old-age handicap, but they also had to combat the antipathies aroused by the evil practices of a former wrestling generation. The game has made good because the organizing was sound and the matching skillful; because the athletes and managers sacredly kept promises, and principally because showmanship has been added in large doses to wrestling ability.
It is often supposed, but not generally known, that the wrestlers do not travel "on their own" but are formed into schools, trusts, combines, or whatever similar name you choose to give them. This control is beneficial to discipline. The directors know their men, they are acquainted with comparative weights, strength and skill; and when two wrestlers climb into the ring the fans are assured that there is a close approach to equality in the performers.
This control also ensures that the wrestler must give value. Lack of discipline killed the old game, but today if the athlete is incompetent, if he does not fulfill his engagement, if he does not observe rules, he is liable to be fined, suspended or refused further bookings. This control is not theoretical; it really functions. Three wrestlers were assigned to a certain programme and missed the train that would have permitted them to appear on time. Did they telegraph regrets? No. They hired airplanes to fly them to the battlefield at a cost of $125, and the expense was distinctly personal. One hot summer night an irritated Irish wrestler took a swing at the referee. He was a high-priced performer, but he worked that night for nothing.
In dressing rooms, around hotels, throughout their journeyings, the wrestlers have proved to be real gentlemen whose friendship is worth cultivating. Unlike some other sports participants, they are not followed by noisy disturbers, groups of gamblers or oath-dispensing managers. Indeed, wagering is not one of the by-products of present-day wrestling.
Some of the wrestling fervor undoubtedly has had a patriotic origin. In days of old, Russia and the Balkans provided most of the contenders, but now every motherland seems to contribute a "rasslin" son. Pat McGill, Ireland; Al Baffert, France; Joe DeVito, Italy; Andreson, Sweden; Komar, Lithuania; Zarinoff, Russia; Miyaki, Japan; Oakley, England; Schwartz, Germany; Henriquez, Cuba; Londos, Greece; Sonnenberg, McMillen, McCoy, George, United States; McCready, Canadathese men and many others indicate the strength of this league of wrestling nations.
Youth and intellect are also contributing to the sports popularity, for, while the champions in the preceding dynasty were men in their forties, the current crop contains many young men who have recently graduated from universities and who are still on the sunny side of thirty. Wrestling is a paying profession. One wrestler paid income tax last year on $80,000. The leaders are wealthy men.
So good faith, expert matching, strict discipline, international rivalries, youth and education have each given their little tug in the effort to pull wrestling into public favor. But those alone could not have succeeded. Something more was needed; something that would appeal to the man who wanted action, speed, combat, excitement, mob frenzy. Wrestling proved to have them all.
Picture a typical show in almost any of the large cities on almost any night. The outside temperature may have reached an unbearable altitude or sunk so low that the mercury seems ready to hit the floor; nevertheless, regardless of degrees, you will probably have to park so far away from the arena that you will wonder why you didnt taxi.
As you enter, the huge enclosure is in semi-darkness. In the centre the powerful lights concentrate their rays on the "squared ring." The two combatants are in their corners, and the announcer is shouting:
"In this corner, Freddie Meyers, Jewish wizard, weight 205 pounds; in this corner, Carl Pospishil, Bohemian champion, weight 215 pounds."
Then, after the bows, removing of robes and instructing by the referee, the two heavyweights leap from their corners with the dash of a sprinter and the ferocity of a jungle king. Quickly they engage, and for half an hour, without stalling or long-distance mauling, they pleasingly but forcefully illustrate every hold in a wrestlers repertoire; and when they conclude, the crowd admires, enthuses, and cheers as though a championship had changed hands.
The preliminary bout is followed by the semifinal exhibition. Into the ring jumps a superbly molded Frenchman with a weight of 195 pounds, built for speed and endowed with crowd-pleasing talents. Then ponderously to the opposite corner advances a Swede; slower moving, huge, thirty-five pounds heavier than his opponent, strong and grim, thoroughly hated by the mob.
The match begins. "Come on, Al," echoes through the arena. Every move of the Frenchman arouses encouragement. The hero, with sudden fury, chucks the Swede clean through the ropes, and as the villain despairingly hangs on the edge of the platform the cheers exceed that accorded a political leader as he accepts the nomination.
Slowly Axel Anderson crawls back and returns to work. Almost superhumanly, he lifts Al Bafferts shoulder high and tosses him so forcibly that the thud is heard outside the building. When Al returns to the perpendicular he is hurled to the ropes, while the crowd boos the villain for his roughness. A victory for the Frenchman would be as popular as the return of prosperity, but justice must prevail, and so after thirty-five minutes of clever and speedy manhandling the shoulders of Al are securely "nailed" to the floor. Villainy has triumphed, but the victor is hissed and hooted as though he were a Simon Legree.
The first two bouts are interesting, but the final is a "wow" for it introduces two of the choices examples of "strength with showmanship" ever graduated from this school of wrestling.
"Ladies and gentlemen: In this corner, Pat McGill, the Irish terror; in that corner, Gus Sonnenberg, former worlds champion."
McGill, seeking patriotic appeal, enters the arena attired in a brilliant, green silk gown with a fine gold harp embroidered across the back. Off comes the robe and at the clang of the timekeepers gong, Patrick wraps Sonnenbergs head under a huge, powerful arm and proceeds to manipulate his monstrous "nut-cracker." When that viselike hold fails to secure the desire result, the Celt lifts "Gus" above his head, spins him around like a top and then slams him to the floor.
Between times, the former Dartmouth star hurls himself at McGill and on many occasions "Pat" counters this devasting crash with a rabbit punch or a hoist under the chin.
For thirty-five minutes these mastodons twist arms and toes, shove hands and heels at faces, punch necks, pick up at full length and hurl to the floor, toss each other through ropes, drag across canvas face down and apparently advance every conceivable punishment short of beheading.
During all this battling and battering the cheering of the onlooking mob is one continuous ear-splitting roar; then, after Sonnenberg finally sinks the son of Erin, the voices of the spectators have become so strained that many of the "congregation" can only whisper their approval.
But is it all real? Do the wrestlers actually suffer? Are the contests faked? In the answers is found the key to wrestling prosperity.
Today a wrestler must know how to wrestle; but to this talent must be added the agility of an acrobat and an undoubted gift for acting. Pain may be simulated, punches may be pulled, toe holds may be massages, but you cant fake a six-foot toss to the platform or a violent heave to the concrete floor. Only a gymnast can take those chances and come through successfully. Occasionally he distance is misjudged and the human projectile is carried to his dressing room, but, to the mystification of attending physicians, no bones are broken and recovery is so rapid that ten minutes later the wrestler is back in the ring.
However, while they usually escape breaks or concussions, wrestlers do suffer. They do feel pain, and the most common cause of distress is that old complaint of boils. The constant scuffling on the resin-covered platform, the frequent dragging and grabbing, often produce those painful tumors. "Gus" Sonnenberg, the human bomb who hurls himself so successfully at his opponents stomach, has been plagued with four boils at one time, yet he wrestled. An Indian had one boil lanced four times within eight hours, yet gamely contributed one of the best exhibitions of his career. They do suffer and they are game.
Boils contributed to the death of Stanley Stasiak, the Polish giant, whose wrestling ability and artistry so moved the wrestling fans that in thirty-one engagements in Toronto nearly one hundred and fifty thousand persons paid for the privilege of hissing this "master villain." You will recall that after a slight operation had been performed to check infection, poison from boils on one arm spread so rapidly that even a major operation could not stem the infected stream in time to save the life of that magnificent figure of a man. Wrestlers suffer; and they are game.
Are the contests faked? A good boxer often carries an inferior fighter for ten rounds when he could have won at any time; a Tilden may win a tennis set at six to four when he might have prevented his opponent from getting a game; a mile runner has beaten his competitor by twenty-five yards when a hundred yards should properly have separated the two. Not many individuals nor many team teams play themselves "all out" when they can win by a reasonable margin. But these winning boxers, tennis players and runners are not called fakers; indeed they are often complimented for their chivalry. Why, then, should it be assumed the wrestlers are "quacks" when they perform three quarters of an hour with a wrestler whom they would "pin" in shorter time? Faking really occurs when the best man loses. Leaders like Sonnenberg, Don George and Londos have such long strings of victories that it is well known that the best wrestler wins.
Indeed the secret of the wrestling popularity might be compared with that of the stage. In both, the performers are actors, the hero is cheered and the villain hissed. The actor who dies in the play isnt really dead, the wrestler who registers agony may not be suffering; but in both, the people who pay like the show and appreciate the artistry like to see the good man succeed and the bad man suffer.
Will wrestling continue in the public favor?
I put this question to Sonnenberg. "Gus" is not only a sensational performer and a leader in his profession but also a graduate of Dartmouth University, where he excelled in both football and studies. Sonnenberg has had an opportunity to test public opinion and he firmly believes that the sports popularity will wax and not wane.
"I have just come from Boston," said he. "In two weeks there, over $140,000 was paid by wrestling fans."
Hitherto the sport has prospered in Canada without much native talent. Earl McCready, Reginas representative on Canadas 1928 Olympic team, has proved his fitness for competition in the most select company; Harold Starr, former Ottawa rugby player, has successfully crashed into the game; and at the time of writing, without any publicity, one of Canadas most capable all-around athletes is attending the school of wrestling, acrobatics and showmanship. After he stands the preliminary battering and training, he will be chucked into the den of wrestling lions. When he fully arrives, the game in Canada will receive a patriotic impetus that will assist in surpassing the high figures already established.
The New WAWLI Papers
(Wrestling As We Liked It)
Edited by J Michael Kenyon
Issue Number 596
Monday, October 4, 1999
IN THIS ISSUE: MOOLAH AND MAE YOUNG IN WWF COMEBACKAND THEY GET OVER!
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AD SANTEL TWO FALLS OVER STEELE
(San Francisco Chronicle, Mar. 15, 1922)
Ad Santel, as, of course, was expected, won in straight falls over Pete Sauer at Dreamland Rink last night in Frank Schindlers wrestling resumption. Sauer didnt have much but his healthcertainly little wrestling knowledgeand didnt have so much of that health when Ad had finshed.
The boys of the Phoenix, Ariz. Firehouse sent Pete a ringside telegram wishing him good luck. He needed more than than their wishes.
Santel took the first fall in 1 hr., 3 min. and 36 sec. with the arm scissors and arm lock. Sauer was tired long before the fall came to a end.
Santel took the second fall with the cradle hold and arm lock, hes legs well up on the chest and his weight forcing the tired Arizona lad to the mat.
There was no question of either fall that was called by referee Charlie Andrews.
Once during the match did Sauer have anything resembling a hold. It was before the second fall had been called and Ad fell into a head scissors and arm lock. However Ad fooled around until he had broken the hold and then all was merry as a wedding ball for him.
Sauer is a good, willing worker, but that about lets him out.
In one of the preliminaries Taramanchi won the verdict from Demon Dittmar who seemed to be aging. Taramanchi took a arm scissors and the Demon acknowledge defeat in 14:07. George Holden won from Dick Doolin in 10:40, the latter giving in.
The attendance was not so good.
AFTER 29 YEARS, MEAN GENE GOING STRONG
(Dallas Morning News, October 1, 1999)
By Cody Monk
Gene Okerlund didnt want the job. He just happened to not be working that night and figured it was a one time only stand-in. And, after all, he was doing a favor for an acquaintance.
That was 29 years, numerous friendships and one heck of a ride ago.
Okerlund had just moved into television sales after a stint as a Top 40 deejay in Minneapolis. A local promoter who ran a two-hour weekly show quickly found himself in need of a ring announcer after his regular announcer called in sick.
Okerlund stepped into the ring and has yet to step out, nor does he plan to anytime soon.
"It was really a last-second deal," said Okerlund, who spent 10 years with the WWF before moving to the WCW in 1993. "They happened to need somebody. The guy knew me from my deejay days, so I did it. That was in 1970 and I havent stopped since."
Okerlund spent 13 years in the AWA before joining the WWF in 1983. With the WWF, he saw the industry transform from a local pastime to a national phenomenon. Within a year of joining the WWF, Okerlund went from announcing in high school gyms to some of the biggest arenas in the country. One event cause this transformation, he said.
"Jan. 23, 1984," Okerlund said. "That was the day (Hulk) Hogan became (the WWF) champ and there we went. We went from the armories and high schools gyms that I first started with to Madison Square Garden, Reunion Arena, The Forum, The Silverdome. It seemed like it happened instantly. It became a cult-like following."
Okerlund was right in the middle. For four straight years Okerlund traveled more than 300 days a year. He saw Hogan become a national hero. He saw wrestling cross over into the mainstream, developing the Rock-n-Wrestling connection that became so prevalent on MTV in the late 1980s. He saw a Wrestlemania pay-per-view draw 93,000 at The Silverdome in Detroit.
Despite all of his success in the WWF, Okerlund stayed at the forefront of the wrestling business because of a relationship he developed while in Minneapolis.
While doing an AWA show, Okerlund met the young Ric Flair. Okerlund immediately saw the total package of ring ability, charisma and interview skills. "You could smell money with Flair," Okerlund said.
Flair then moved to the NWA, the organization that became WCW, but he and Okerlund kept in close contact. The duo later worked together on what Okerlund said are the more memorable moments of his career.
Before a pay-per-view during which Flair was scheduled to take on the mammoth Vader, Okerlund confronted Flair at his house. While on the air, Okerlund again begged Flair to reconsider.
"You wouldnt believe how much fun we had with that one," Okerlund said. "We got a little heavy into the cocktails that night and really had some fun. Flair is one of the all-around great entertainers. Hes got everything youre looking for. Hes amassed a small fortune, and hes brought this sport class with the suit and tie and the way he carried himself. He really brought dignity to it."
With Flairs recent return to WCW, Okerlund believes the company is headed in the right direction.
Even though Okerlund has a successful 41-store hamburger chain (Mean Genes Burger) and a national two-hour radio show in the works, he wants to be a part of WCWs revival.
"I read all these reports that say Im out of the business when my contract expires" within the month, Okerlund said with a laugh.
"But let me ask you this: What else would Mean Gene do?"
NITRO IMPROVING, RAW STILL BETTER
(Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Oct. 3, 1999)
By Rennie Detore
Dont let Mondays ratings fool you. "Nitro" wasnt that bad. Sure, it lost to "Raw", 6.8 to 2.5, but the content of "Nitro" was the best it has been in a long time.
"Nitro" continues to be a better show, thanks in part to the return of Ric Flair. At 51, he still has a lot to offer World Championship Wrestling.
His charisma still is the best in the business. For the "Nature Boy" character to persevere this long is a credit to Flair. A lot of wrestlers throw around the terms "legend" or "icon" too much.
Flair is the real deal. His physical ability has deteriorated, but if hes giving an interview, its worth watching.
The only segment on "Nitro" that was a bit odd was the re-debut of Lex Luger as simply "The Total Package." It was a nice touch, but Luger still is the same wrestler with the same five boring moves. A new name and some baby oil on his chest doesnt make his character any more important.
The rest of the program was solid, other than another main event ending in a disqualification. The two cruiserweight matches, Kidman against Psicosis and Dean Malenko vs. Rey Misterio Jr., were very good.
Putting Psychosis mask and Kidmans hair on the line was a smart idea because it actually gave fans a reason to care about the match.
But, please, dont throw these cruiserweights or mid-carders on "Nitro" into a match that means nothing. If WCW doesnt care about whos in the match, the fans certainly wont either.
If there is one aspect WCW needs to improve upon, it would be getting more guys involved in main events. Chris Benoit and Sting wrestled a few times, which was good, but WCW needs to experiment with other wrestlers, too.
Theres nothing wrong with pushing mid-card guys like Shane Douglas, Eddie Guerrero or Vampiro as main-event stars.
With all the positive points about "Nitro," the World Wrestling Federation remains in the drivers seat in terms of ratings success.
"Raw" was highlighted by The Rock-Mankind segment, which drew an amazing 8.4. WCW countered with a 1.6 during that time period, featuring a match between Perry Saturn and Konan. Theres a tough choice.
As for the segment content, it was funny, but The Rock needs to be careful about overexposing his "catchy lines." Teaming him with Mankind is a good idea because they play so well off of each other.
The Rock personifies what pro wrestling is about todayentertainment. Not only is the guy entertaining during interviews, but his in-ring ability is just as fluent. Unlike Luger, he is the real "total package." Its a matter of time before he becomes the main man in the WWF.
"Raw" wasnt without its dull moments, but overall it continues to set the standard for pro wrestling on cable TV.
With the arrival of Taz in January and the possible return of Randy Savage, the WWF doesnt appear to be loosening its choke hold on the wrestling audience. "Nitro", however, still should be commended for its improvement over the last three weeks.
WCW, in an effort to cut back on its expenses, has released several wrestlers. The most notable names include Madusa, Scott Norton, Horace and Brian Adams. Chances are that Madusa will end up back in the WWF.
Ken Shamrock missed the WWFs pay-per-view, Unforgiven, Sunday due to a neck injury. At first, the injury wasnt considered severe, but now that diagnosis has changed. The injury could throw a wrench in Shamrocks plans to return to the Ultimate Fighting Championships.
Scott Steiners injured back has once again forced him to put
his in-ring return on hold. He was clearly in pain during the Sept. 20 edition of
"Nitro," which prompted him to immediately see his doctor. He still may show up
on WCW programs for interviews as part of ongoing storylines.
GET READY FOR TRIP INTO THE PAST
(Scripps Howard Service, Oct. 1, 1999)
By Alex Marvez
Are you old enough to remember watching George "The Animal" Steele chew a turnbuckle or Nicolai Volkoff sing the Russian national anthem?
If so, the Heroes of Wrestling pay-per-view on Oct. 10 is for you.
FOSSTONE Productions has created a lineup that almost every member of Generation X will remember from pro wrestlings hey-day in the mid-1980s.
Matches include Yokozuna vs. King Kong Bundy, Jake "The Snake" Roberts vs. Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka vs. Cowboy Bob Orton, Steele vs. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, Tully Blanchard vs. "Sweet" Stan Lane and a four-corner elimination tag-team match featuring Volkoff-The Iron Sheik vs. The Samoan Swat Team vs. The Buschwhackers vs. Tommy Rodgers-Marty Jannetty. 2 Cold Scorpio (real name Charles Skaggs), One Man Gang and Abdullah the Butcher also will be appearing.
Promoter/producer Bill Stone, who began assembling talent in May, said he is surprised World Championship Wrestling or the World Wrestling Federation hasnt attempted to conduct a legends pay-per-view show.
"I really believe this either has been an oversight or something theyve chosen not to do," Stone said. "Why wouldnt (WWF owner Vince McMahon) take some of the guys that built his organization and have an event that would give them the stage to perform? "There are legitimate reasons why WCW and the WWF wouldnt be interested in such an endeavor.
The WWF is attempting to reach a younger demographic with its in-ring product, so older performers like Mae Young, The Fabulous Moolah, Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco are used in comedy roles rather than as legitimate title contenders. And WCW doesnt want its headlinersHulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Bret Hart and Randy Savagelooking like geezers even though all four performers are contemporaries of the grapplers on the Heroes of Wrestling show.
Of course, todays sex-heavy and obscenity-laced product has changed dramatically from the more lighthearted days that Captain Lou Albano yearns for. Albano was one of the greatest managers in wrestling history, with his in-ring feud with pop music star Cyndi Lauper helping the WWF gain mainstream acceptance in 1985.
"Honestly, the (wrestling) box office is doing very well today," said Albano, who will manage Snuka on the Heroes of Wrestling show. "But I prefer the wrestling of Bruno Sammartino and Killer Kowalski. Ive got 13 grandkids, and I think wrestling has gone a little too far.
"The old days were better. I think eventually if (the WWF and WCW) keep doing their style now, parents are going to get upset. It will catch up with them and things will go down. Theyve got to look at the long-range (picture)."
Stone said the Heroes of Wrestling show needs about 41,000 pay-per-view orders in a potential audience of 41 million to make it profitable enough for a return show. The three-hour card costs $19.95.
A wrestling diva
Speaking of stars from yesteryear, the 75-year-old Young deserves credit for a solid performance against Ivory on this weeks Monday Night Raw. Young, who was wrestling in Memphis the night Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, actually took an over-the-top-rope bump while teaming with Moolah against Ivory. However, we could have lived without Young being stripped to her undergarments by Ivory.
WWF SUNDAY NIGHT HEAT
(Real Wrestling Info Newsboard)
Live Sunday night, September 26, 1999 from Charlotte, N.C.:
Ivory said she would be putting the Womens Title and her own safety on the line in a Hardcore Match with Luna on the PPV. She called The Fabulous Moolah in the ring, who was sitting at ringside. Ivory said it was nice to have Moolah in attendance. She said that Moolah defended a Womens Title about 100 years ago. She then thanked Moolah for saving her a trip to the museum to see what her ancestors look like. Ivory continued to verbally assault Moolah, until Moolah decked her.
MOOLAH, MAE YOUNG GET THE WIN
(Real Wrestling Info Newsboard)
On WWF RAW Is WAR Monday night, September 27, from Greensboro, N.C.:
The Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young defeated Ivory in a Evening Gown Match. - Ivory was the first to rip the gown off Mae Young. She then made the tag to Moolah, who came in and got shots in on Ivory. She then ripped Ivorys gown for the win.
WWF SMACKDOWN, RICHMOND, VIRGINIA
(Real Wrestling Info Newsboard)
Show aired September 30, taped September 28, 1999:
Jeff Jarrett brought a plunder of "womens items" including an iron, pots and pans, etc. He said it would be a good housekeeping match at No Mercy between he and Chyna, where you could use all of the weapons he had in his hands. He challenged any woman and out came Debra, The Fabulous Moolah, Mae Young, Jacqueline, the make-up lady, the production crew member, and more women Jarrett has attacked in the past. He then stomped on Moolah and Young. Chyna came out of nowhere and low-blowed Jarrett. She nailed him with the ironing board. Moolah and Young attacked Jerry Lawler after the match for all of his old age comments.
http://www.ultimowrestling.com/encore/smackdown.htmlThe WAWLI Papers #597... (ED. NOTEOnce again, The WAWLI Papers are in the debt of Steve Yohe, Los Angeles-area wrestling historian, whose unflagging efforts are presently being devoted to complete collections of clippings and results from the 1920s and 1930s promotions of "Carnation Lou" Daro, one of the pro mat games most notable and illustrious characters. Herewith, from Steves scan of 1934 wrestling in L.A., a clip to mark one of the more fervent episodes in the storied history of the classic Olympic Auditorium.) RIVALS SENT BACK, $1000 IS DAMAGE
(Los Angeles Examiner, January 25, 1934)
By Sol Plex
Wrestling ran the gamut of public scorn last night at the Olympic Auditorium when 8,500 maddened mat fans objected to a State Boxing Commission ruling calling for all matches to end at 11:15 p.m.
Jim Browning, recognized heavyweight champion of the world in a half-dozen states, and Joe Savoldi, Italian challenger, had obtained one fall apiece and were 11 minutes and 18 seconds on their way to determine the winner, when referee Mickey McMasters halted the match and called it a draw.
Pandemonium burst forth from all corners of the Auditorium. An infuriated audience rose in protest, tearing up seats to smitherings, bursting electric bulbs, tossing pop bottles, papers and any loose objects as well as broken seats about the arena.
A half dozen times the lights in the building were extinguished, but the riotous mob refused to leave the building. One fan leaped into the ring and delivered a biting speech while half of the audience began chorusing "robbers," "thieves," "crooks," "give us our money back," etc.
Three police riot calls were sent in to clear the auditorium, but the fans refused to budge, stamping and yelling with maniacal fury.
Promoter Jack Daro, in charge of the show during the absence of his brother Lou, now in the East, appealed to a member of the State Athletic Commission to allow the bout to continue. When this agent of the board consented, Jim Browning, who had donned his street clothes, once again dressed in his ring togs and bounced back into the ring.
"Im willing to finish it out, if Savoldi will," Browning declared.
Meanwhile, Promoter Daro contacted Dr. Harry Martin, chairman of the State Boxing Board, who was in Santa Monica, and Doctor Martin ordered the bout to go on.
Savoldi reentered the ring and, amid the cheering and booing of the audience, the gladiators resumed their bout. The Grapplers, after a rest, took up where they left off, with Browning snatching the third and deciding fall with his famous airplane scissors and a bodypin. The time for the final fall was 30 minutes and 42 seconds.
Taking inventory after the match, Olympic officials estimated the damage to be in the neighborhood of $1000, most of this being due to breakage of seats.
They started off cautiously, with Savoldi taking the play away from the champion Browning. The former football hero of Notre Dame was like a cat. He darted from one side of the ring to the other in an attempt at a flying tackle hold, but Browning warded him off repeatedly by going to his knees with his hands on the floor.
Savoldi tracked the cagey Browning soon after they resumed wrestling and for a time it looked as though the champion had a defense for both the flying tackles and the drop-kick. Savoldi became enraged at Brownings rough tactics in attempting to ward off the football holds and they slugged it out in the center of the ring. When Browning became angry he tossed off his cautiousness and it was then that Savoldi spilled him tot he canvas with a flying tackle.
Bounding off the ropes, Savoldi leaped in the air, crashed both feet forward and spilled Browning the second time. He repeated this three more times and finally squared the match by grabbing the second fall in 7m. 50s.
Conversational wrestling was exhibited in the semi-windup match between Leo Numa and Nick Lutze.
The bout was scarcely under way when Numa kept appealing to referee McDonald to award him the fall. He had an arm lock on Lutze and threatened to break it.
It was a one-hour time limit match to a decision. Numa walked off with the verdict by taking the first fall in 22 minutes with a double toe hold that forced Lutze to give up.
Sammy Stein substituted in one of the preliminaries and took a fall
over Rudy Skarda with a series of tackles and body pins. The time was 15 minutes 30
seconds. In a rough and tumble bout Pat Fraley defeated Ad Herman with a double arm hold
in 7 minutes 15 seconds. The curtain raiser between Pat Riley and Cy Williams ended in a
(Los Angeles Examiner, January 26, 1934)
By Mark Kelly
There are three sides to the sad and silly scuffle Wednesday night in the Olympic Auditorium when a riot of 8,500 mat fans threatened to demolish the building. Lets take em in the order of their unimportance:
1. The State Athletic Commission.
2. Jack Daro, wrestling promoter.
3. Jim Browning and Joe Savoldi, the performers.
With all due deference to its remarkable powers of persuasion, to its marvelously sophistic logic, to its ability to clothe vacuity in words so that what is essentially blah appears to be sense, the boxing board must be proclaimed the Bombastes Furioso of the Southland. And if you know what that means, Im sure youll know Im complimenting the czars who govern state athletic activities.
As a matter of fact there is no way of excusing Dr. Harry Martin, chairman of the boxing commission. He knew of the silly curfew law that calls for wrestling bouts to end at 11:15 p.m. It has been brought to his attention repeatedly in the last six months. Maybe he imagined it was ballyhoo or build-up chatter on the part of Lou Daro. And maybe it was. But at any rate he made no effort to wipe out the rule. But now that the showdown is at hand our honorable chairman gets a megaphone and maybe a pair of stilts and begins shouting he had nothing to do with the ruling and in order to chill the "beef" immediately rescinds the daffy rule.
Doctor Martin, who has chairman of the boxing board has an enviable record, might as well know the State Athletic Commission is largely responsible for giving wrestling a discolored dye. The purpose of the State Athletic Commission is to protect the tax-paying citizens. Which wasnt done Wednesday night, despite the fact that Savoldi and Browning, after an hours lapse, resumed wrestling. Several thousand of the saner followers of wrestling left the auditorium. Left, to utter their protests, were bolsheviks, curious and morbid customers who wanted to stick around and have some fun watching the wild-eyed type try to shake down the joint. The more insistent and demonstrative customers were satisfied they got their moneys worth, maybe a shade the best of it, if you can consider riot scenes fun.
But the law-abiding customers, who filed out of the Olympic at the 11:15 ruling, have been gypped.
Jack Daro, subbing for his beeg brother, Lou, committed an unpardonable blunder. To begin with, he kept silent the fact that Browning and Savoldi were to wrestle under the rules of the curfew law. Even the advance notices of the show made no mention of the fact. And just before the grunt and groan experts entered the ring silence prevailed in regard to letting the fans know the match was a time limit affair.
It was so easy to eliminate any number of those horrible prelims and start the main event at 9:30 p.m., making half way sure of a satisfactory ending for the feature bout that Im beginning to wonder just what was in the back of young Mr. Daros noggin. Could it be that he premeditated the howl? And if he did, does he suppose it can be considered a boon to his racket?
Browning, recognized as worlds champion in several states, and Savoldi, perhaps one of the most colorful of the heavyweights, stepped into the arena at exactly 10:28 p.m. That would leave little over forty-five minutes in which to determine the synthetic worlds championship. And to me thats the nerts.
It does seem that if the promoters can bill one-hour time-limit bouts as preliminary attractions they certainly ought to figure the standout bout is entitled to mroe leeway.
Last week the State Athletic Commission, grossly insulted because Savoldi insisted on drop-kicking Browning in the probiscus to get himself disqualified, ordered Savoldis purse held up. That brought about Wednesday nights rematch.
Occurrences of the sort that prevailed in the Olympic Auditorium are regrettable, exceedingly dangerous. The fact that no one was seriously hurt is certainly no fault of the State Athletic Commission, Mr. Jack Daro or the contestants. Had one of those hefty seats conked somebody on the cranium, there is no telling what might have happened.
The wrestling audiences are unique and different from any other crowd that follows sports activity. They are serious to the core, easily excited and hard to curb once they get up steam.
While the damage to the Auditorium cannot be definitely determined
in dollars and cents, as yet, the biggest damage might come from the injured customers
giving wrestling what is commonly known as the "silent treatment."
(Pro Wrestling Illustrated, August, 1980)
This is why the tag team of Jesse Ventura and Adrian Adonis have their own dressing room.
It started about a month ago. The two men would walk into the dressing room and hear gurgling sounds. No one had to explain to them what the gurgling meant. Its the sound athletes make when they accuse other athletes of choking under pressure. Its one of the nastiest insults any athlete can suffer.
Usually, it was Adonis that attacked the gurgler. That would start the wholesale brawl. Promoters learned that if they wished to keep their dressing rooms from becoming a shambles, Adonis and Ventura should be kept apart from other wrestlers. That suits the tag team just fine.
"The bums in the AWA make me sick," Adonis says with a snarl. "If they were back on the East Coast, where we come from, these bums would be vegitables. There isnt a wrestler in the AWA I cant beat with one hand tied behind my back."
"He ought to tie one hand behind his back then." Verne Gagne said when he heard the remark. "Hes certainly not doing that well when he uses both hands."
The insults started when a pattern began to emerge. Adonis and Ventura were invincible when it came to preliminary matches. Their conquests seemed to assure them victory when it came to the big battles. However, when pressure was on, when the title hung in the balance, the tag team never seemed to win.
"Theyre bums," Gagne declares, "theyre not good enough to choke. They could be as calm as possible, as sure as death and taxes, but theyd still loose. They dont have the natural ability to take the title. Saying they choke is to compliment them. Theyre not good enough to choke!"
Dino Bravo, who has studied the team closely, says, "they didnt start choking until people accused them of it. In the beginning they couldnt be expected to win. To take a tag team title requires patience and luck.
Almost noone defeats champions on the first try.
"Yet, people expected too much from them. In their preliminary victories, they were devastating. Dirty as you can get, but devastating. People thought they should take the title immediately."These guys are conceited punks. They dont have the professional intelligence to see they couldnt take the title in their attempt."
Soon word began to get around. "Adonis and Ventura choke in the big ones."
They couldnt handle the pressure, people said. They fail when the going gets tough, wrestlers told each other. "Theyre bums. Nothing to worry about. All talk, no guts."
Then came the gurgling, followed by the brawls, followed by the separate dressing rooms.
Do Adonis and Ventura choke in the big matches? If you ask the question seriously, the answers show no one knows for sure.
Mad Dog Vachon, who owns the AWA Tag Team Title with Verne Gagne, has a very definite opinion.
"When they didnt do the impossible, people began to get on them. Instead of ignoring the taunts, these punks let the insults eat them up. They grew more and more determined to win in their very next match. They got tight. They choked. When it comes down to a title match, professionals beat punks every time."
Does this mean Adonis and Ventura are no longer a team to be reckoned with?
"I wish that were so," says Greg Gagne, "but those guys are still dangerous. Look, even the stupidest eventually stop banging their heads against walls. One of these days, Adonis will turn to Ventura, or Ventura will turn to Adonis and say You know, it hurts banging your head against the wall. Then theyll stop reacting to the insults and concentrate on wrestling. When that happens, Im afraid many fine wrestlers will suffer. When this pair gets it together, theyll be more dangerous than anyone imagines. A lot of guys in the AWA are laughing at them. Im not laughing. Believe me, Adonis and Ventura are nothing to laugh about."
Watching this tag team practice, one gets the impression that theyre laughing to concentrate on wrestling and not insults.
The gurgling may soon stop. What will replace that noise will be
cries of pain. As Adonis said with a look that could kill, "He who laughs last,
laughs over the broken body of he who laughed first."
Here, for a quite nominal fee, the entire Columbus mat record scan of Don Luce, from 1920 through 1965, may be ordered. Also available are the WAWLI reprints, issues Nos. 1 through 10, and Classic Wrestling Photo albums, Nos. 1 through 16. Other publications available, via links from the Teal home page, are Classic Clips and the No. 1 volume in The History of Professional Wrestling Series (the Columbus results are volume No. 2).All the Scott Teal publications receive the unqualified endorsement of The WAWLI Papers editorial board and are well worth the modest investment. They are "must" items on the book shelves of any true fan of pro wrestling. Check out the web page today, not only for the publications but for dozens of other fascinating items regarding this rich form of sport and entertainment. Now, without further preface, here are a few early samples of the vast Don Luce collection of Columbus, Ohio, wrestling cards.)
Washington, C.H., Ohio: January 2, 1920
Nels Anderson beat Matty Matsuda
Youngstown, Ohio: January 16, 1920
(Handicap match) Jim Londos beat Wladek Zbyszko (Zbyszko failed to throw Jim Londos, 75:00) ... Mort Henderson beat Steve Bella
Columbus, Ohio: January 24, 1920
(Athletic Club) ... Cliff Binckley beat Leo Hyatt (decision) ... Lee Miller drew with Charles Reynolds
Springfield, Ohio: January 28, 1920
Cliff Binckley beat Abe Sampson ... (First Springfield card in years)
Akron, Ohio: January 29, 1920
Matty Matsuda beat William HallasNote: Joe Stecher beat Earl Caddock on January 20, 1920 in New York, New York to win the World Heavyweight Title.
Springfield, Ohio: February 11, 1920
(WTM) Joe Stecher* beat Jack Dwyer
Youngstown, Ohio: February 26, 1920
(WTM) Joe Stecher* beat Ivan Linow
Springfield, Ohio: March 1, 1920
Cliff Binckley vs Young Sandoe
Columbus, Ohio: March 1, 1920
Charles Cutler vs Steve SavageNote: The Charles Cutler-Steve Savage match was canceled on February 26th as Cutler demanded more money. Cutler came to Columbus before he found out it was canceled.
Washington, C.H., Ohio: March 2, 1920
Paul Bowser beat Joe WillisNote: Paul Bowser beat Joe Turner in 1913 and defended the Middleweight Title for about six years before abandoning his claim to it.
Springfield, Ohio: March 11, 1920
Cliff Binckley beat Masked Marvel (aka Mort Henderson)
Columbus, Ohio: March 20, 1920
(Athletic Club) ... Cliff Binckley beat Frank Martin ... Jim Whitehead beat Young Wasserman ... John Tallman beat Ted Mack
Washington, C.H., Ohio: March 23, 1920
Paul Bowser beat Thor Olson
Cleveland, Ohio: March 24, 1920
(WTM) Joe Stecher* beat Ivan Popoff
Springfield, Ohio: March 31, 1920
Cliff Binckley beat Masked Marvel (utc)
Springfield, Ohio: April 14, 1920
Cliff Binckley beat George (Leo) AlexanderNote: George Alexander was the claimant of U.S. Light Heavyweight Title. Cliff Binckley was a local heavyweight who traveled around the country.
Washington, C.H., Ohio: April 20, 1920
Paul Bowser beat Charles Metro
Springfield, Ohio: April 27, 1920
Stanislaus Zbyszko vs Cliff Binckley
Newark, Ohio: May 5, 1920
(WTM) Joe Stecher* vs Paul Bowser ... (LWTM) Cora Livingston* vs May Kelley ... Bill Gallagher vs Matty MatsudaNote: Cora Livingston (aka Livingstone) claimed the Womens World Title since 1919.
Washington, C.H., Ohio: May 12, 1920
(WMTM) Paul Bowser* beat Charles Metro
Columbus, Ohio: May 15, 1920
(Athletic Club) ... Cliff Binckley beat Mort Henderson ... Matty Matsuda beat Vance Walsh ... Kid Knopfer drew with Jack HamiltonNote: No wrestling is held in Columbus until October.
Note: Matty Matsuda is the World Welterweight champion.
Columbus, Ohio: October 23, 1920
(Athletic Club) ... Cliff Binckley beat Frank Martin ... (WWTM) Matty Matsuda* beat Belgian Lion ... Jimmy Whitehead beat Simon Benson
Columbus, Ohio: November 3, 1920
Al Haft to coach the Ohio State University mat team.
Columbus, Ohio: November 18, 1920
Cliff Binckley and Clyde Hinton are helping Al Haft work out with the Ohio State mat team.
Columbus, Ohio: November 27, 1920
Charles Cutler vs Bob Monogroff (Managoff Sr.) ... Clyde Hinton vs John Tallman ... Charles Reade vs Young Beell
Columbus, Ohio: December 17, 1920
(Belmont Gym) ... George Kotsonaros beat Jack Rober ... Cliff Binckley drew with Al Haft (5:00) ... (Amateur Tournament for the Welterweight Title of Central Ohio) Young Beahl beat Young Bell ... Jack Stone beat Clyde Hinton (decision) ... (Final) Young Beahl beat Jack Stone
Unless noted otherwise, the Chamber of Commerce Arena was the site of all shows during this year.
Columbus, Ohio: January 1, 1925
(Thursday) ... Clete Kauffman beat George Kotsonaros ... Leslie Fishbaugh beat Si Benson ... Joe Zbyszko beat Bill Hutton (decision) ... Joe Altzbaugh beat Earl Keifer
Note: Jack Reynolds is the World Welterweight champion.
Columbus, Ohio: January 7, 1925
(non-title) Ray Carpenter beat Jack Reynolds ... Les Fishbaugh beat Lee Umbles (decision) ... Pete Montana beat Chris Brown ... Si Benson beat Paul Stanley
Columbus, Ohio: January 14, 1925
Clete Kauffman beat Hugh Nichols ... Lee Umbles vs Pete Montana ... Si Benson vs All comersNote: Clarence Eklund is the World Light Heavyweight champion.
Columbus, Ohio: January 21, 1925
(non-title) Clarence Eklund beat Clete Kauffman ... Hugh Nichols beat John Kilonis (decision) ... Harry Fulton beat Mike Brady ... Roy Jones beat Ralph Slaughter (decision)
Columbus, Ohio: January 28, 1925
(non-title) George Kotsonaros beat Clarence Eklund (Kotsonaros was too heavy) ... Billy Hallas beat Si Benson ... Billy Hallas beat Chris Brown ... Billy Hallas failed to throw Lee Umbles (10:00) ... Chris Patsey beat Paul Stanley ... William Mack drew with Frank Lane
Columbus, Ohio: February 4, 1925
(WWTM) Jack Reynolds* beat Billy Hallas (utc) ... Hugh Nichols beat John Kilonis (decision) ... Lee Umbles beat George Gatsoff (decision) ... Red Robinson beat Paul Stanley (decision)
Columbus, Ohio: February 11, 1925
George Kotsonaros beat Cliff Binckley (dq) ... Matty Matsuda beat Leslie Fishbaugh ... Ray Kiefer beat Lewis Keck (decision)
Columbus, Ohio: February 18, 1925
Ray Carpenter beat Matty Matsuda ... Clete Kauffman beat Kali Pashi ... Hugh Nichols beat Harry Mamos (decision)
Columbus, Ohio: February 24, 1925
(Tuesday) ... (WWTM) Jack Reynolds* beat Matty Matsuda ... Ray Carpenter beat Kali Pashi ... Jim McMillin beat Bill Hutton
Columbus, Ohio: March 4, 1925
(non-title) Clarence Eklund beat Chris Jordan ... (handicap) Ray Carpenter beat Hugh Nichols (Hugh won the only fall in the time limit, but was required to win two)
Columbus, Ohio: March 4, 1925
Clete Kauffman beat Strangler Lawrence ... Tommy Record beat Si Benson ... Tommy Record beat Harry Fulton ... Tommy Record failed to throw Lee Umbles (10:00)Note: Tommy Record beat Jack Reynolds on March 5, 1925 in Indianapolis, Indiana to win the World Welterweight Title.
Columbus, Ohio: March 11, 1925
(WLTM) Clarence Eklund* beat George Kotsonaros ... (handicap) Ray Carpenter beat Hugh Nichols (Nichols won the only fall in the 45 minute time limit, but was required to win two) ... Cyclone Peters beat Leslie Fishbaugh (decision)
Columbus, Ohio: March 18, 1925
(WWTM, Special referee: Farmer Burns) Jack Reynolds* beat Tommy Record ... Pinky Gardner beat Hugh Nichols ... Leslie Fishbaugh beat Pep Hartley ... Charles Haner beat PafflargerNote: Jack Reynolds beat Tommy Record on March 18, 1925 in Columbus, Ohio to win the World Welterweight Title.
Columbus, Ohio: March 25, 1925
(WLTM) Clarence Eklund* beat Pinky Gardner (2-3) ... Hugh Nichols beat Ray Carpenter ... (handicap) Lee Umbles beat Kali Pashi (Pashi won the only fall, but was required to win two)
Columbus, Ohio: April 1, 1925
Pinky Gardner beat Clete Kauffman (utc) ... Harry Mamos beat Eddie Pope (decision) ... (Tournament) Charlie Walker beat Bob Bowlander ... Harry Fulton beat Harry Hutton ... (Final match) Charlie Walker beat Harry Fulton
Columbus, Ohio: April 8, 1925
Harry Mamos beat John Kilonis ... Hugh Nichols beat Eddie Pope ... Charlie Walker beat Pet (Tex?) Atchison
Columbus, Ohio: April 15, 1925
(WLTM) Clarence Eklund* beat Pinky Gardner (two straight falls) ... Eddie Pope beat Ray Carpenter ... Lee Umbles beat Les Fishbaugh (decision)
Note: Pinky Gardner was occasionally spelled "Pinkie" Gardner in newspaper accounts.
Columbus, Ohio: April 22, 1925
(non-title) George Kotsonaros beat Clarence Eklund (two straight falls, non-title as Kotsonaros was over the Light Heavy weight limit.) ... Ray Carpenter beat Eddie Pope ... Harry Fulton beat Charlie Walker
Columbus, Ohio: April 29, 1925
(Mixed styles) Matty Matsuda beat Hugh Nichols (sub for Jack Reynolds) ... Waino Ketonan beat Clete Kauffman (decision) ... Charlie Walker beat George Gilbert
Columbus, Ohio: May 6, 1925
Columbus, Ohio: May 13, 1925
Hugh Nichols beat Chris Jordan ... (handicap) Clete Kauffman beat Cliff Binckley (Binckley won the only fall, but was required to win two) ... Ray Carpenter beat Leslie Fishbaugh ... Irish Hanan beat Ralph Lane
Columbus, Ohio: May 18, 1925
(Fairmont Arena) ... (Boxing Match) Cliff Binckley beat George Kotsonaros (4th round knockout) ... (Boxing Match) Clete Kauffman vs Hugh Nichols (4 rounds) ... Plus three boxing matches promoted by Al Haft
Columbus, Ohio: May 23, 1925
(OP) ... Clete Kauffman vs Ray Carpenter ... Ray Dixon vs Paul Stanley
Columbus, Ohio: May 30, 1925
(OP) ... Ray Carpenter vs Ernie Maddox ... George Gilbert vs Harry Fulton
Columbus, Ohio: May 30, 1925
(Ohio Penitentiary) ... Paul Stanley drew with Joe Alshaw
Columbus, Ohio: June 6, 1925
(OP) ... (handicap) Bobby Roscoe beat Clete Kauffman (Kauffman won the only fall, but was required to win two) ... Ray Dixon beat Earl Keefer
Columbus, Ohio: June 13, 1925
(OP) ... Bobby Roscoe beat Leslie Fishbaugh ... Ralph Lane beat Paul Stanley
Columbus, Ohio: June 20, 1925
(OP) ... (handicap) Bobby Roscoe beat Ray Carpenter (no falls) ... Harry Holt beat Glen Flow
Columbus, Ohio: June 24, 1925
(CC) ... (WWTM*) Bobby Roscoe beat Matty Matsuda (2-3) ... Mysterious Cowboy (Frank Judson) beat Cliff Binckley (decision) ... Clete Kauffman beat Charlie HarbaughNote: Bobby Roscoe beat Matty Matsuda on June 24, 1925 in Columbus, Ohio to win the World Welterweight Title. No record can be found as to where Matsuda won the title, but its likely that his claim came from a disputed contest with Jack Reynolds. This needs to be researched further.
Columbus, Ohio: June 27, 1925
(OP) ... (handicap) Charlie Harbaugh beat Clete Kauffman (Kauffman won the only fall, but was required to win two) ... Paul Stanley beat Joe Alsbaugh
Columbus, Ohio: July 1, 1925
(FA) ... (WWTM) Bobby Roscoe* beat Jack Reynolds (utc) ... Clete Kauffman beat Bill Warner ... Ray Carpenter beat Charles Harbaugh (decision)
Columbus, Ohio: July 4, 1925
(OP) ... (WWTM) Bobby Roscoe* beat Charles Harbaugh ... Tex Atchinson beat Doc Bates
Columbus, Ohio: July 8, 1925
(FA) ... (WTM) Joe Stecher* beat George Kotsonaros (two straight falls) ... Clete Kauffman beat Strangler Lawrence ... Roy Styers beat Paul Stanley ... Roy Styers beat Joe Alsbaugh ... Herb Sheline beat Ralph Lane
Columbus, Ohio: July 11, 1925
(OP) ... Ray Carpenter beat Strangler Lawrence ... Tex Atchison beat Ray Dixon
Columbus, Ohio: July 18, 1925
(OP) ... Ray Carpenter vs Bill Warner ... Joe Alsbaugh vs Tex Atchison
Columbus, Ohio: July 22, 1925
(FA) ... (Bobby Roscoe, referee) Frank Judson beat George Kotsonaros (two straight falls) ... Rudy Dusek beat Doc Duyamotte ... Ray Carpenter beat Bill Warner (decision)
Columbus, Ohio: July 25, 1925
(OP) ... Rudy Dusek beat Bill Hutton
Columbus, Ohio: July 29, 1925
(FA) ... (WWTM) Bobby Roscoe* beat Ray Carpenter ... Rudy Dusek beat Paul Martenson
Columbus, Ohio: August 1, 1925
(OP) ... Clete Kauffman vs Ernie Maddox ... Ray Dickson (Dixon) vs Chalmers Burke
Columbus, Ohio: August 5, 1925
(OP, att. 2,000) ... Rudy Dusek beat Paul Martenson ... Clete Kauffman beat Bill Warner ... Clete Kauffman beat Charlie Harbaugh
Columbus, Ohio: August 8, 1925
(OP) ... Charlie Fox beat Clete Kauffman (decision) ... Roy Dickson vs Al Smith
Columbus, Ohio: August 13, 1925
(FA, Thursday, att. 4,500) ... (WWTM*) Jack Reynolds beat Bobby Roscoe (2-3) ... Charlie Fox beat Clete Kauffman ... Johnny Carlin beat Joe Alsbaugh ... Johnny Carlin beat Paul StanleyNote: Jack Reynolds beat Bobby Roscoe on August 13, 1925 in Columbus, Ohio to win the World Welterweight Title.
Columbus, Ohio: August 15, 1925
(OP) ... (WWTM) Jack Reynolds* beat Johnny Carlin (dq) ... Paul Stanley beat Joe Alsbaugh
Columbus, Ohio: August 19, 1925
(FA) ... Rudy Dusek beat Charlie Fox ... (WWTM) Jack Reynolds* beat Johnny Carlin ... Les Fishbaugh beat Ernie Maddox (decision)
Columbus, Ohio: August 22, 1925
(OP) ... Leslie Fishbaugh vs Ernie Maddox ... Joe Alsbaugh vs Jack Reid
Columbus, Ohio: August 26, 1925
(FA) ... Rudy Dusek beat Yousif Hussane ... Clete Kauffman beat Sam Clapham ... Ray Carpenter beat Ernie Maddox (decision)
Columbus, Ohio: August 29, 1925
(OP) ... Ray Carpenter vs Ernie Maddox ... Joe Alsbaugh vs Carl Davis
Columbus, Ohio: September 2, 1925
(FA) ... (WWTM) Jack Reynolds* beat Eugene Tremblay ... Clete Kauffman beat Charlie Fox ... Ray Carpenter beat Charlie Harbaugh
Columbus, Ohio: September 9, 1925
(FA) ... Martin Ludecke beat Clete Kauffman ... Leslie Fishbaugh beat Ernie Maddox ... Bull Gozzard beat Ray Styers
Columbus, Ohio: September 16, 1925
(FA) ... Clete Kauffman beat Martin Ludecke ... Charlie Fox beat George Beloff ... Tony Ross drew with Ray Carpenter
Columbus, Ohio: September 23, 1925
(FA) ... Rudy Dusek beat Jack McCarthy ... Dr. Carl Furniss beat Ray Carpenter ... Tony Ross beat Leslie Fishbaugh
Columbus, Ohio: September 30, 1925
(FA) ... George Walker beat Clete Kauffman ... Billy Hallas beat Bobby Roscoe ... Nick Carvalls beat Tommy Record (decision)Note: Clete Kauffman is often spelled "Cleat" Kauffman in newspaper reports.
Columbus, Ohio: October 7, 1925
(CC) ... Rudy Dusek beat Soldier Frank Leavitt ... George Walker beat Martin Zbyszko ... Bobby Roscoe beat Billy Hallas (dq) ... Charlie Fox beat Oklahoma Jack (decision)Note: Soldier Frank Leavitt later became famous as Man Mountain Dean.
(TO BE CONTINUED IN WAWLI NO. 599)
Columbus, Ohio: October 14, 1925
(CC) ... (non-title) George Walker beat Clarence Eklund ... Hugh Nichols beat Charlie Fox ... Clete Kauffman beat Oklahoma Smith ... Eugene Poquette drew with Joe Shinks
Note: The spellings of many names were different from week to week, so incorrect ones may crop up occasionally. Most likely, the Oklahoma Smith on October 14th was Oklahoma Jack, who was listed in the lineup as Jack, but reported in the results as Smith.
Columbus, Ohio: October 20, 1925
(CC) ... Clete Kauffman beat Hugh Nichols (utc) ... (WLTM) Clarence Eklund* beat Eugene Poquette ... Ray Carpenter beat Oklahoma Jack
Columbus, Ohio: October 28, 1925
(CC) ... (WWTM) Jack Reynolds* beat Bobby Roscoe (two straight falls) ... Leslie Fishbaugh beat Lee Umbles (decision) ... (handicap) George Walker beat George Ecktor (decision) ... George Ecktor vs Eugene Poquette (didnt take place)
Columbus, Ohio: November 4, 1925
(MH, att. 4,000) ... (WLTM) Clarence Eklund* beat Clete Kauffman ... Rudy Dusek beat George Walker (decision) ... (WWTM) Jack Reynolds* beat Steve Graf
Columbus, Ohio: November 11, 1925
(CC) ... George Walker beat Paul Martenson (two straight falls) ... Eddie Pope beat Ray Carpenter ... Les Fishbaugh beat Nick Karavanis ... (Exhibition) Clete Kauffman vs Casey Berger (5:00)
Columbus, Ohio: November 18, 1925
(CC) ... George Kotsonaros beat Martin Ludecke ... Casey Berger (pro debut) beat Charlie Harbaugh ... Lee Umbles beat Ray Styers
Columbus, Ohio: November 25, 1925
(CC) ... Clete Kauffman beat Charlie Peterson (utc) ... Cliff Binckley beat Stanley Stasiak (decision) ... Harry Schaeffer beat Leslie Fishbaugh
Columbus, Ohio: December 2, 1925
(CC) ... George Walker beat George Ector ... Clete Kauffman drew with Leo Alexander ... Harry Schaeffer beat Lee Umbles
Columbus, Ohio: December 9, 1925
(CC) ... Charlie Peterson beat Clete Kauffman ... Martin Ludecke beat Leo Alexander ... Mike Kondos beat Casey Berger (decision) ... Tommy Lawrence beat Ray Dixon (decision)
Columbus, Ohio: December 16, 1925
(MH) ... Rudy Dusek beat George Walker ... Jack Reynolds beat Speedy Harry Schaeffer ... Ivan Linow beat Cliff Binckley (decision) ... Bobby Roscoe beat Lee Umbles (decision)
Columbus, Ohio: December 22, 1925
(CC) ... Rudy Dusek beat Ivan Linow ... John Kilonis beat Leo Alexander ... Leslie Fishbaugh beat Chris Brown ... Casey Berger beat George Gatsoff ... (Last show of the year)
Columbus, Ohio: December 23, 1925
(MH) ... A benefit show for ex-boxer Buck Stelzer was cancelled. The feature match was scheduled to be Strangler Lewis vs Wallace Duquid. Al Haft probably wasnt the promoter.
Columbus, Ohio: January 1, 1926
(MH, Special referee: Tom Packs) ... (WTM) Joe Stecher* beat Rudy Dusek ... (Non-title) Billy Romanoff beat Jack Reynolds ... George Walker drew with George Ector ... (All comers contest) Charlie Grip beat Bill Jones, Charlie Gardner, Chris Brown, and Joe Alsbaugh
Columbus, Ohio: January 6, 1926
(Chamber of Commerce) ... Billy Romanoff beat Bobby Roscoe ... Charlie Grip beat Ray Carpenter ... Casey Berger beat George Gatsoff
Columbus, Ohio: January 13, 1926
(MH) ... (WLTM) Clarence Eklund* beat Clete Kauffman ... Charlie Grip drew with Joe Turner ... Billy Romanoff beat Bull Smith ... Carl Beightier (first match) beat Chris Brown
Columbus, Ohio: January 20, 1926
(Chamber of Commerce) ... Charlie Grip beat Joe Turner ... George Walker beat Jack Roberts ... Leo Alexander beat Casey Berger
Columbus, Ohio: January 27, 1926
(Chamber of Commerce) ... (Non-title) Clarence Eklund* beat Charlie Peterson ... (Handicap match) John Kilonis beat George Walker (Walker won the only fall, but needed two.) ... Kid Clark beat Carl Beightler ... George Gatsoff beat Casey Berger
Columbus, Ohio: February 3, 1926
(Chamber of Commerce) ... (Special referee: Al Haft) ...Ted Thye beat John Kilonis ... George Hills beat George Walker (decision) ... Kid Clark beat Simon Benson ... Paul Stanley beat Lawrence Evans
Columbus, Ohio: February 10, 1926
(Chamber of Commerce) ... (WLTM*) Ted Thye beat Clarence Eklund ... Clete Kauffman beat Leo Alexander ... Bob Hendricks (amateur) beat Casey Berger (decision) ... Kid Clark beat Paul StanleyNote: Ted Thye beat Clarence Eklund on February 10, 1926 in Columbus, Ohio to win the World Light Heavyweight Title.
Columbus, Ohio: February 17, 1926
(MH) ... (Non-title) Clete Kauffman beat Ted Thye* ... George Walker drew with Jack Brissler ... (Handicap match) Charlie Grip beat Leo Alexander (no falls scored) ... Ray Carpenter beat John Kilonis (decision)
Columbus, Ohio: February 24, 1926
(Chamber of Commerce) ... Clarence Eklund beat Clete Kauffman ... George Hills beat George Walker (decision) ... Ray Phillips beat Joe Leonard ... Bob Dieble beat William Hassen (decision)
Columbus, Ohio: March 3, 1926
(Chamber of Commerce) ... Ray Carpentier beat Charlie Grip ... Leo Alexander beat Charlie Fox (decision) ... Ray Phillips beat Harold Simms (two amateurs from Central A.C.)
Columbus, Ohio: March 10, 1926
(C. of C.) ... George Walker beat George Hills (utc) ... Jim Browning beat Clete Kauffman ... Jim Browning beat Leo Alexander ... Jack Lander beat Lawrence Vance ... Ray Phillips beat Harold Simms
Columbus, Ohio: March 18, 1926
(MH) ... (WWTM) Jack Reynolds* beat Billy Romanoff ... George Walker beat Jim Browning (decision) ... Charlie Grip beat Billy Hallas ... Bob Hendricks beat Harry Guy (Thursday night card)
Columbus, Ohio: March 24, 1926
(C. of C.) ... (Non-title) Charlie Grip beat Jack Reynolds* (two straight falls, Grip weighed 149 pounds) ... Jim Browning beat Jack Sampson ... Fred Fast beat Ray Phillips ... Clyde Reed beat Joe Montana (decision)
Columbus, Ohio: March 31, 1926
(Chamber of Commerce) ... George Walker beat Jim Browning ... Ray Carpenter drew with Charlie Grip ... Whitey Hewitt beat Leo Alexander ... Ray Steinmetz beat Sam Donaldson (the two were local icemen)
Columbus, Ohio: April 7, 1926
(C. of C.) ... George Walker beat Jim Browning (two straight falls) ... Charlie Grip beat Sailor Burke ... Leo Alexander beat Charles Harbaugh ... Harold Sims beat Babe Stanford (decision) ... Ray Steinmetz beat Lee FergusonNote: Joe Turner is the World Junior Middleweight champion.
Columbus, Ohio: April 14, 1926
(C. of C.) ... (WJMTM) Joe Turner* beat Ray Carpenter ... Charlie Grip drew with Eddie Pope ... Ray Steinmetz beat George (Strangler) Robinson ... Young Bull (Joe) Montana beat Ray Conners ... Earl Clutters beat Ted LeonardColumbus, Ohio: April 21, 1926
(MH, att. 3,500) ... (WTM) Joe Stecher* beat George Walker (two straight falls, Stecher was paid $1500) ... Charlie Grip beat Eddie Pope ... Cliff Binckley drew with Jim Browning ... Ray Steinmetz beat Bob Hendricks ... (last card of the month)
Columbus, Ohio: May 5, 1926
Columbus, Ohio: May 12, 1926
(Fairmont Arena) ... Joe Turner beat Charlie Grip ... Hugh Nichols beat Leo Alexander ... Chief War Eagle drew with Whitey Hewitt
Columbus, Ohio: May 19, 1926
(Chamber of Commerce) ... (WLTM) Ted Thye* beat Hugh Nichols ... Chief War Eagle beat Whitey Hewitt ... Charlie Grip drew with Bobby Roscoe ... Clete Kauffman beat Charlie Grip ... Carl Beightler beat Henry Meloche
Columbus, Ohio: May 28, 1926
(Fairmont Arena, Friday, att. 3,200) ... (WLTM) Ted Thye* beat Hugh Nichols ... Billy Edwards drew with Clete Kauffman ... Chief War Eagle beat Carl Beightler ... Young Montana beat William Hassan ... (The ropes will be fastened together to keep the matmen inside) Roy Smith drew with Jack Landers
Columbus, Ohio: May 29, 1926
(OP, free admission) ... Billy Edwards vs Charlie Grip ... Young Montana vs Jack Melosh
Columbus, Ohio: June 2, 1926
(Fairmont Arena, att. 5,500) ... (WLTM*) Clarence Eklund beat Ted Thye (2-3) ... George Walker beat Billy Edwards (decision) ... Chief War Eagle beat John Kilonis (decision) ... Clete Kauffman beat Whitey Hewitt ... Henry Meloche beat Charlie Hassan
Note: Clarence Eklund beat Ted Thye on June 2, 1926 in Columbus, Ohio to win the World Light Heavyweight Title.
Columbus, Ohio: June 5, 1926
(OP) ... John Kilonis vs Chief War Eagle ... Ray Phillips vs Milton Smith
Note: Im not sure if this Chief War Eagle was the same wrestler that was Don Eagles father.
Columbus, Ohio: June 9, 1926
(Fairmont Arena) ... Billy Edwards beat John Kilonis ... Bob Edwards (nephew) beat Leslie Fishbaugh ... Billy Hallas drew with Charlie Grip ... Harold Sims drew with Ray Phillips
Columbus, Ohio: June 12, 1926
(OP) ... Chief War Eagle beat Whitey Hewitt (decision) ... Young Montana beat Young Hassan
Columbus, Ohio: June 17, 1926
(Fairmont Arena, Thursday) ... (WLTM) Clarence Eklund* beat Taro Miayki (utc) ... Chief War Eagle beat Clete Kauffman (decision) ... Leslie Fishbaugh beat Bob Edwards (decision)
Columbus, Ohio: June 19, 1926
(OP) ... Clete Kauffman beat Whitey Hewitt (decision) ... Carl Beightler beat Young Montana (decision)
Columbus, Ohio: June 22, 1926
(Fairmont Arena, Boxing Show) ... (Boxing Match) John Kilonis beat Billy Edwards (6th round knockout)
Columbus, Ohio: June 23, 1926
(Fairmont Arena, att. 1,500) ... Clete Kauffman beat Chief War Eagle (utc) ... John Kilonis beat Clete Kauffman (decision) ... Robin Reed beat Bob Edwards ... Freddie Myers beat George Walker ... Ray Phillips beat Jack Landers (decision)
Columbus, Ohio: June 26, 1926
(OP) ... George Walker beat John Kilonis (decision) ... Ray Phillips beat Joe Alspaugh
Columbus, Ohio: June 28, 1926
(Fairmont Arena, Boxing Show, Promoter: Nick Albanese) ... (Boxing match) John Kilonis beat Billy Edwards (7th round knockout)
Columbus, Ohio: June 30, 1926
(Fairmont Arena) ... Robin Reed beat Charlie Grip ... (Handicap match) Count Zarynoff failed to throw George Walker in 10 minutes ... Billy Hallas beat Leslie Fishbaugh ... Stanley Rogers drew with Clete Kauffman ... Ted Leonard beat Lewis Kech
Columbus, Ohio: July 3, 1926
(OP) ... Billy Edwards vs Count Zarynoff ... Ray Phillips vs Lawrence Evans
Columbus, Ohio: July 7, 1926
(Fairmont Arena) ... Taro Miayki beat Billy Edwards ... (Handicap match) Count Zarynoff beat Stanley Rogers, but Clete Kauffman lasted the time limit) ... Charlie Grip beat Soldier Mack (decision) ... Carl Beightler beat Young Montana ... Harold Sims beat Lloyd Morris (decision)
Columbus, Ohio: July 10, 1926
(Olgentangy Park) ... (Handicap match) George Walker vs Stanley Rogers ... Earl Saunders vs George Simms
Columbus, Ohio: July 14, 1926
(Fairmont Arena) ... George Walker beat Count George Zarynoff ... Charlie Grip beat Soldier Mack ... Clete Kauffman beat Archie Parker ... Tom Landers beat Gope Parker
Columbus, Ohio: July 17, 1926
(OP) ... Charlie Grip vs Charlie Harbough ... Ray Morris vs Young Hassan
Columbus, Ohio: July 21, 1926
(Fairmont Arena) ... (WWTM, Special referee: Farmer Burns) Jack Reynolds* beat Robin Reed ... Paul Martinson beat Count Zarynoff (decision) ... Louis Pergantas beat Carl Davis ... Louis Pergantas beat Bill Hassan ... Louis Pergantas drew with Charlie Grip ... Carl Beightler beat Ray Mack
Note: Carl Davis, a local boy, became mat villain Karl Davis in later days, and part time movie actor.
Columbus, Ohio: July 24, 1926
(OP) ... Louis Pergantas vs Count Zarynoff ... Herbert Sheline vs Jack Landers
Columbus, Ohio: July 29, 1926
(Fairmont Arena, Thursday) ... Clete Kauffman beat Taro Miayki (utc) ... Ray Carpenter drew with Louis Pergantas ... Earl Sims beat Herbert Cheline
Columbus, Ohio: July 31, 1926
(OP) ... Charlie Grip vs Bill Warner
Columbus, Ohio: August 7, 1926
(OP) ... George Walker vs Simon Hirsch
Columbus, Ohio: August 11, 1926
(Fairmont Arena) ... Clete Kauffman beat Ray Carpenter ... Count Zarynoff beat Simon Hirsch ... Casey Berger beat Archie Parker (decision) ... Carl Beightler beat Young Montana (decision)
Columbus, Ohio: August 14, 1926
(OP) ... Johnny Carlin beat Charlie Grip (decision) ... F.B. Fast vs Ray Phillips
Columbus, Ohio: August 18, 1926
(Fairmont Arena) ... Robin Reed beat Basanta Singh ... Charlie Grip beat Johnny Carlin ... Leslie Fishbaugh beat Soldier Mack (decision) ... Harold Sims beat Walter Glumensheim
Columbus, Ohio: August 21, 1926
(OP) ... Leslie Fishbaugh vs Soldier Mack ... Joe Connors vs Young Montana
Columbus, Ohio: August 25, 1926
(Fairmont Arena) ... (WWTM) Jack Reynolds* beat Robin Reed ... Charlie Grip beat Ernie Maddox ... Stanley Rogers beat Pete Dodge ... Casey Berger beat Archie Parker (decision) ... Carl Beightler beat Ike (Joe) Connors
Columbus, Ohio: August 28, 1926
(OP) ... Jack Kogut vs Ernie Maddox ... Ray Phillips vs Jack Schwartzaff
Columbus, Ohio: September 1, 1926
(Fairmont Arena) ... (WWTM) Jack Reynolds* beat Charlie Grip ... Robin Reed beat Leslie Fishbaugh (decision) ... Billy Hallas beat Casey Berger (decision) ... Billy Hallas beat Joe Zbyszko ... Charlie Harbaugh beat Carl Beighter
Columbus, Ohio: September 4, 1926
(OP) ... Leo Alexander vs Archie Parker ... Carl Davis vs Bill Hassan
Columbus, Ohio: September 8, 1926
(Fairmont Arena) ... George Walker beat Count George Zarynoff ... Ray Carpenter drew with Leo Alexander ... Nick Volcoff beat Casey Berger ... Volcoff beat Clete Kauffman ... Volcoff beat Charlie Grip ... Charlie Hassan beat Karl Davis
Columbus, Ohio: September 11, 1926
(OP) ... Leo Alexander vs Charlie Grip ... Ray Dixon vs Ray Phillips
Columbus, Ohio: September 16, 1926
(Fairmont Arena, Thursday) ... Rudy Dusek beat Nick Volcoff ... Cliff Binckley beat Count Zarynoff (decision) ... Bill Hassan beat Jim Marshall ... Joe Swartsoff beat Dan Powell (decision) ... Butler beat Bloomshine
Columbus, Ohio: September 18, 1926
(OP) ... Charlie Grip vs Leslie Fishbaugh
Columbus, Ohio: September 24, 1926
(Fairmont Arena) ... George Walker beat Rudy Dusek ... (Handicap match) Joe Stengle beat Casey Berger, but Count Zarynoff lasted the time limit with Stengle ... Charlie Grip beat Leslie Fishbaugh (decision) ... Joe Schwartzoff beat Ray Phillips
Columbus, Ohio: September 25, 1926
(OP) ... Joe Stengle vs Clete Kauffman
Columbus, Ohio: September 29, 1926
(Fairmont Arena) ... Rudy Dusek beat Joe Stengle ... Clete Kauffman drew with Jack Sampston ... Joe Schwartzoff beat Ray Phillips ... Dan Powell beat Kid Bates
Columbus, Ohio: October 2, 1926
(OP) ... Silvio Cheeco beat Leslie Fishbaugh
Columbus, Ohio: October 6, 1926
(Chamber of Commerce) ... Clete Kauffman beat Ray Carpenter ... Leslie Fishbaugh beat Silvio Checco ... Carl Beightler beat Ray Styers (decision) ... Joe Schwartzoff beat Bob Deible (decision) ... Jack Landers beat Gobo Parker
Columbus, Ohio: October 13, 1926
(Chamber of Commerce) ... Adam Weissmuller beat Charlie Grip ... Clete Kauffman beat Joe Shimkus (dq) ... Charles Lehman beat Clete
Kauffman (decision) ... Joe Schwartzoff beat Dan Powell ... Wayne Dunkle beat Jack Saunders (decision)
Note: Adam Weissmuller was the brother of swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, who became the most famous "Tarzan" of the movies.
Columbus, Ohio: October 20, 1926
(Chamber of Commerce) ... George Kotsonaros beat Count George Zaranoff ... John Kilonis drew with Charles Lehman ... Lee (Strangler) Robinson beat Bob Hendricks (decision) ... Jack Sanders (Landers) beat Milton Smith
Columbus, Ohio: October 27, 1926
(Chamber of Commerce) ... John Kilonis beat Joe Shimkus ... Clete Kauffman beat Charles Lehman ... (Amateur Middleweight Tournament) Thamer Teter beat Bill Hassan ... Carl Beighter beat Young Montana ... (Final) Thamer Teter beat Carl Beighter
Columbus, Ohio: November 3, 1926
(Chamber of Commerce) ... Charlie Peterson beat Clete Kauffman ... Ted Chin beat Casey Berger ... Chin beat Strangler Robinson ... Chin drew with Charlie Lehman ... (Amateur Welterweight Tournament) Dan Powell beat Harold Sims (decision) ... Joe Schwartzoff beat Morris (decision) ... (Final) Joe Schwartzoff beat Dan Powell
Columbus, Ohio: November 10, 1926
(MH) ... (WWTM) Jack Reynolds* beat Adam Weissmuller ... Ira Dern beat John Kilonis ... Jack Sherry beat George Walker (decision) ...
(Amateur Heavyweight Tournament) Ray Steinmetz beat Charlie Wilder ... Bob Hendricks beat Strangler Robinson (decision) ... (Final) Bob Hendricks beat Ray Steinmetz
Columbus, Ohio: November 17, 1926
(Chamber of Commerce) ... Ira Dern beat Charlie Peterson ... Jack Sherry beat Ted Chin ... Johnny Carlin beat Johnny Hurley (decision) ...
(Amateur Lightweight Tournament) Harold Sims beat Jack Landers (decision) ... Milton Smith beat Ted Leonard (decision) ... (Final) Milton Smith beat Harold Sims (decision)
Columbus, Ohio: November 24, 1926
(Chamber of Commerce) ... Ira Dern beat Martin Ludecke ... Ray Carpenter beat Charlie Lehman (decision) ... Casey Berger beat Bob Hendricks (decision) ... (Lightweight Tournament) Ray Phillips beat Jack Landers (decision) ... Milton Smith beat Neal Bolby ... (Final) Milton Smith beat Ray Phillips
Columbus, Ohio: December 1, 1926
(Chamber of Commerce Auditorium) ... (Special referee: Ira Dern) Jack Sherry beat George Walker (2-3) ... Ray Carpentier beat Charlie Lehman ... Casey Berger beat Young Holcomb ... Paul Turner beat Clarence Grace
Columbus, Ohio: December 9, 1926
(MH) ... (WLTM) Clarence Eklund* beat Ira Dern (2-3) ... (WWTM) Jack Reynolds* beat Joe Cossu ... Young Montana beat Paul Turner (decision) ... Joe Hackenschmidt beat Strangler Robinson, Bob Hendricks, and Casey Berger ... (Joe was meeting all comers in matches)
Columbus, Ohio: December 15, 1926
(Chamber of Commerce) ... Ira Dern beat Joe Hackenschmidt ... George Walker beat Ted Chin (decision) ... Casey Berger beat Charley Lehman (decision) ... Bob Hendricks beat Strangler Robinson
Columbus, Ohio: December 22, 1926
(Chamber of Commerce) ... Ray Carpenter beat Hugh Nichols ... George Romanoff beat Leslie Fishbaugh (decision) ... Casey Berger beat Joe Kappas (decision) ... Carl Beightler beat Hugh Bell ... (Last card of the year)
Note: Amateur matches were a part
of filling up cards in this Columbus era. Sometimes it is hard to tell who were pros and
who were amateurs, but the pros were usually at the top of the programs.
The WAWLI Papers #600...
JENNIFER ANISTON FLIPS FOR HUNK
(National Enquirer, April 8, 1997)
"Friends" star Jennifer Aniston has flipped over a masked man -- high-flying professional wrestler Rey Mysterio, Jr.
The sexy TV beauty has attended Mysterios wrestling matches and chats on the phone with him regularly. And she isnt the least bit concerned that Mysterio, known for his bone-crunching Huracanrana maneuver, is happily married.
Mysterio, a pint-size package of muscle and brawn at 5-foot-5, is a half-inch shorter than the blue-eyed beauty, who plays Rachel on the hit TV show.
And the 21-year-old wrestler, whos never been seen by fans or wrestling foes without his elaborate mask, is seven years younger than the sitcom sexpot. But that hasnt stopped Jennifer from moving in on him faster than a Hulk Hogan piledriver.
The two met several months ago at a World Championship Wrestling match in Atlanta and became fast pals. "I didnt realize it, but Jennifer was sitting at ringside," Mysterio said. "After my match, she came backstage and told me she loves professional wrestling and shes a big fan of my style.
"Im known for my physical style of wrestling. Im very acrobatic and fly off the ropes. And I always wear my maskALWAYS! Its a big tradition in Mexico, my native country. "But I broke tradition when I met Jennifer. I actually let her see me without my mask backstage. Ive never done that for any of my fans. She really got a kick out of it. "We talked for some time and exchanged home phone numbers. Now she calls me and I call her whenever I can. Shes invited me to the Friends set and weve also agreed to get together for dinner. As soon as we both have some time. Ive promised her that Im going to get her in the ring and show her some wrestling movesand let her try some on me. Ive told her Im happily married. My wife knows about our friendship and is great about it."
Jenniferwhos been dating hot young actor Tate
Donovantold a pal: "Im not going to break up Reys marriage or
anything like that. I just think hes a real hunk and I love to watch him leap
through the air. Lots of married women have crushes on a Hollywood star. So its O.K.
for me to have a crush on a married wrestling star. But if Rey is ever single, watch out!
Id be after him in a minute."
REGGIE READY TO RUMBLE AS MATMAN
(Associated Press, April 15, 1997)
MILWAUKEEReggie White is temporarily trading the gridiron for the wrestling ring.
The Green Bay Packers Minister of Defense will make his professional wrestling debut Sunday, May 18, in the World Championship Wrestlings Slamboree, promoters said Monday.
In a made-for-TV rivalry, White will take on former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Steve McMichael in a pay-per-view special from the Independence Arena in Charlotte, N.C., WCW spokesman Alan Sharp said.
Carolina Panthers linebacker Kevin Greene persuaded White to jump in the ring at the Pro Bowl in Honolulu in February, a few days after the Packers won the Super Bowl, said WCW executive vice president Eric Bischoff, who negotiated the deal.
"Reggie is a competitive guy and hes a big fan of WCW and Nitro. Hes a friend of Kevin Greene, whos been involved a little over a year. He saw how much fun Kevins been having," Bischoff said.
Bischoff would not reveal how much White will pocket for the one-time appearance, except to say: "It was a healthy payday."
White, 35, an ordained minister, set a Super Bowl record with three sacks and won his first Super Bowl ring in a 35-21 win over the New England Patriots. He inked a five-year, $19 million contract extension with the Packers last year.
Whites agent, Jimmy Sexton, did not immediately return a phone call to his office seeking comment on the gig.
Packers spokesman Lee Remmel said White did not need an OK from the Super Bowl champs to participate. "It doesnt impact his football career unless he gets hurt," Remmel said.
The WCW previously tapped Chicago Bulls forward Dennis Rodman for some ringside mayhem with Hollywood Hulk Hogan after a match in March.
Rodman "strangled" an opposing wrestler with a rope during that post-match appearance. He then climbed into the ring and spray-painted the initials of his future tag-team on wrestler Lex Lugers back. WCW said about 9,500 people attended the match while another 300,000 in the United States, Canada and Australia paid to watch.
Rodman signed a contract to appear in two other WCW pay-for-view
PAIR OF FANS GRAPPLE FOR MEMORIES
(Sacramento Bee, July 11, 1997)
By Jim Carnes
Remember body slams and flying leg drops? Remember beefy boys in tights doing somersaults off the ropes and landingsplat! -- on an opponent? Remember half-nelsons and head-slams into the turnbuckles?
Remember Gorgeous George and George "The Animal" Steele?
Remember professional wrestling at Memorial Auditorium?
T.C. Martin and Jim Hanzalik do. As president and chief financial officer, respectively, of the National Wrestling Conference, the Sacramento pair want to create slammin memories for a new generation of fans.
"My dad would drop me off just about every week when I was a kid," Martin recalled the other day. "I was like a diehard fan."
Still is. He can hardly sit still as he discusses Saturdays upcoming show at the Memorial, the third since the auditorium reopened last November. "Its such a natural mix. Wrestling and the Memorial Auditorium go hand-in-hand," he said.
Indeed, during the late 1960s and 70s, the auditorium was the hub of wrestling activity in Northern California. Matches were broadcast on local television, and audiences consistently packed the placewhole families who squealed and screamed as the good guys battled the bad guys inside the roped-off arena.
It was contained and safeand yet totally unpredictable.
"Our mission is to create that family-friendly entertainment again," said Hanzalik, a former coach and physical education teacher.
It may be a tall order. Anyone who has seen professional wrestling these daysusually on pay-per-view, or once every few years at Arco Arenaknows that things have changed from the old days. The kind of bare-bones production featuring guys who might actually have been athletes has long since disappeared. Now, there are smoke machines, loud music, outlandish costumes and characters with psychotic personalities acting out some script. Or so it appears.
Martin, a former sports radio host and ring announcer for the World Wrestling Federation, formed the NWC and staged its first bout at the Aladdin Theater on the Las Vegas strip Oct. 8, 1994. Three weeks later, he moved to the Silver Nugget Pavilion, where it has been ever since.
But Martin and Hanzalik want to make Sacramento the hub of operations, with regular shows at the Memorial Auditorium, expansion into Reno (where talks have already begun about staging matches) and onto television, with a weekly show like in the old days. All the auditorium matches are being videotaped for possible TV use.
The National Wrestling Conference has an uphill battle against the glitz and blitz of the sports two biggies, the WWF and World Championship Wrestling, but it relishes the role of 300-pound guerrilla. "At our first match in Vegas, a pin fall could occur anywhere in the casino," Martin said. "They were slamming each other into the slot machines, and there were chips flying everywhere! We had a Steel Cage War with weapons, where the wrestlers took fire extinguishers to each other. And one of our Vegas matches ended in a 15-man Battle Royal with all the wrestlers in the ring at once."
At the groups second match in Sacramento, 52-year-old wrestling legend George "The Animal" Steele raced from the upper balcony of Memorial Auditorium down to the ring to challenge that no-goodnik The Thug, who used an illegal object to defeat the Navajo Kid.
Saturdays show will feature an "Arabian Death Match" in which the loser will leave the ring in a casket.
The upstart organization has signed some familiar names from the world of big-time wrestling, stars such as Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Bam Bam Bigelow, the the Iron Sheik and, of course, Steele. There are new stars, too, including San Franciscos Johnny "Psycho" Paine.
And theres a school the School of Hard Knocks, no less, run by wrestling greats Jesse Hernandez and Bill Anderson down L.A. way that helps train aspiring pro wrestlers. "They teach them hold-for-hold wrestling, how to fly off the ropes, that sort of thing," Martin said.
"Most of the guys have some athletic background, so the school builds on that and teaches charisma, how to project an image and develop a character."
So it is all fake?
"Theres an element of entertainment in all sports," Hanzalik said. "Is wrestling real? Im not going to say anything other than all sports is entertainment. Is professional basketball real? If you want to make it real, you make the baskets 12 feet high instead of 10. But audiences want to see the wild dunks and the acrobatic play."
Said Martin: "We realize that there is a hardcore (wrestling) fan out there who likes to see chairs broken and grudge matches, and well give them that. Our guys are in great shape to do this. When you see a guy go through a table, that table is real. When you see a wrestler jump from the top of the ropes to a concrete floor, that floor is real.
"But youre not going to see any ultraviolent things with us. We dont go for foul language, and theres no room for racial overtones or gang violence."
And while youre not likely to see a free autograph session at a WWF show, the stars of NWC sign autographs before the matches and during intermission. For a fee (usually $10), fans also can get a Polaroid picture with their favorite wrestler.
Some of the wrestlers from Saturdays card will be at Florin Mall today and Saturday to meet fans and sign autographs, too. Theyll be there from 6 to 9 tonight and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
"Were going back to the old school just like we remember
it," Martin said. "We want to give kids good memories. Everythings not
about money these days.
BOLLAS WRESTLES WAY INTO OHS HOF
(Akron Beacon Journal, Sept. 18, 1998)
By John Seaburn
Not by way of football, but as a pro wrestler in what is now considered to be a golden era of that entertainment in the 1950s and 60s.
"He played the role of a villain, wore a black-and-white striped mask, and answered to the nickname Zebra Man, " said George Bollas Jr., 38, Georges only child, who is a lab manager at Chryslers Twinsburg facility.
George Jr., his family, and his mother, Angela, will represent the late George Bollas at Ohio States Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Columbus today and tomorrow.
Eleven honorees will be recognized at a reception and dinner tonight, and introduced at halftime of the Ohio State-Missouri football game tomorrow.
The elder Bollas had sought to earn a spot on the Buckeyes football roster in 1945, but coaches decided his 5-foot-10, 345-pound physique was better suited for wrestling.
Bollas had never stepped onto a wrestling mat, but in his freshman year, won the Big Ten title and finished as an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) tournament runner-up.
Having found a niche, Bollas the next year repeated as Big Ten champion and captured the NCAA crown.
Because of his size and his wrestling success, the 19-year-old Bollas quickly earned the nickname "Dreadnaught."
Bollas then launched a pro wrestling career in 1948 that lasted 20 years and took him around the world. His early pro years took him to matches at the old Akron Armory and similar venues in Cleveland, Warren and other northeastern Ohio cities.
But as his name became known and his reputation as a ring villain spread, so, too, did his travel schedule.
"Weve got scrapbooks of who he wrestled and where he wrestled, and he went everywhere and wrestled everybody," George Jr. said.
Bollas met his future wife, Angela, born in Poland and raised in New Zealand, while wrestling in New Zealand. Young George was born in 1960 in England, another stop in his fathers travels.
And celebrities! George Bollas became part of a sport that featured such stars as "Gorgeous George" and "Killer Kowalski," and he met Shirley Temple, Jersey Joe Walcott and others in sports and entertainment.
It was during his pro career that Bollas picked up the nickname "Zebra Kid."
"Hed been very heavy in college," young George Bollas said, "but as he got further along in his pro career, he got more into gym workouts and physical conditioning. He lost a lot of weight and people who noticed the stretch marks that were left told my father that he looked like a zebra.
"He used that to his advantage, and adopted the nickname Zebra Kid."
George Jr. became a state-tournament qualifier from North High in the late 1970s. He later wrestled for and graduated from Ohio State. He said he spent little time around his father during his pro career.
"Because of the role he adopted, people booed him and threw stuff at him, and Mom didnt want me around that and so I didnt get to know many of the guys back then," Bollas said.
The Bollases returned to the United States and Akron from England in 1968 to be near family and friends. Bollas died of congestive heart problems in 1977.
"I think wrestling had taken its toll on his body. His knees went bad and his weight shot up. It was very hard for him to move around. He had a lot of medical problems, and he died when he was just 53 years old."
George Bollas Jr. says his father gave him good advice. "I wrestled in college against a couple of guys who turned pro, but I guess I never really entertained thoughts about wrestling professionally because my dad always said he wanted me to go to school and get on with my life.
"Looking back, that was good advice."
WRESTLER TRADES BLOWS WITH WCW
(Orlando Business Journal, May 25, 1998)
By Alan Byrd
ORLANDOThe debate over whether professional wrestling is real or fake has heated up trailer parks and back-roads bar stools for years. Now, its heating up an Orange County courtroom.
An ex-professional wrestler is suing two fellow ring-meisters and Atlanta-based World Championship Wrestling, claiming his opponents were negligent.
They didnt follow their script.
Tampa resident Jerry Saganowich claims wrestlers Scott Hall of Orlando and Kevin Nash of Daytona Beach had been directed by WCW to hit Saganowich on the back with a chair, a "harmless act" of choreography, says Saganowichs attorney, Richard Wilkes.
Instead, Wilkes claims, one of the two-man tag team hit him with the side of the chair at a WCW match, leaving him with a concussion and spinal disc injuries.
"Theres a huge difference between the two" chair smashings, explains the lawyer. "One is meant to make a lot of noise, as opposed to an act that will quite clearly injure someone."
Two matches later, Wilkes claims either Nash or Hall slammed his client in the head with the World Championship Wrestling championship belt, a 6-inch-wide black leather belt emblazoned with gold and silver metal insignias.
The result, says Wilkes, was permanent physical injury. Its easy to see how Nash and Hall could inflict damage: Nash is 7 feet tall, 356 pounds. Hall stands 6 feet, 7 inches tall and weighs in at 287 pounds.
The two regularly fought Saganowich, one-half of a tag-team group known as the Nasty Boys, and other wrestlers from the New World
Order, an offshoot of WCW wrestlers formed by Nash, Hall and Wrestlemania ring legend Hulk Hogan.
At the heart of the case is whether the wrestlers were merely entertaining an audience. If wrestling is a sport, Saganowich would not be able to win money damages for his injuries. Thats because several states, including Florida, have laws saying that anyone who participates in a contact sport assumes the risk involved with the sport and so cant sue. That leaves Wilkes to prove, once and for all, that the ringside theatrics of the multi-million-dollar business are, well, rigged.
He fires the first legal volley with the assertion that WCWs wrestling is "an exhibition and form of entertainment." Among the supporting arguments:
"Methods of their performance were controlled by World Championship Wrestling;
"World Championship Wrestling dictated the outcome and length of wrestling shows; and
"World Championship Wrestling controlled Saganowichs physical movements" while he was performing.
Orlando attorney Tucker Byrd, who represents one of the two wrestlers, argues that the sports vs. entertainment claim doesnt matter: State law also bars personal injury claims arising from physical exhibitions. Besides, says Byrd, "They would have wrestling as nothing more than a Broadway production. In reality, wrestling is sports entertainment and there is an element of danger." And, noting the bone-jarring body slams that characterize pro wrestling, Byrd adds that, "Most wrestlers realize injury comes with the territory."
Meanwhile, Nash and Hall are back in the ring for WCW,
competingor, perhaps, entertaining. Not even WCWs legal counsel seems to know
for sure. "Honest to goodness," says F. Bradley Hassell of Daytona Beach,
"I dont know if it is a sport or not."
The WAWLI Papers #601...
(Dallas Morning News, March 22, 1998)
By Barry Horn
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Backstage, Mongo is sharing a dressing room with the likes of Conan and Meng, The Giant, Diamond Dallas and The Macho Man. While most of his compatriots patiently await their turns in the spotlight - playing cards . . . or watching television . . . or eating a catered dinner . . . or exchanging stock tips . . . or on the telephone with loved ones far away - Mongo is pacing.
World War Threehis latest Super Bowlawaits.
Mongos jet black hair is slicked back, tied in a short ponytail. His scarred knees are wrapped tight. On his black wrestling shorts, the the white numbers, 7 and 6 are planted on the material straining to cover his left thigh. Hiding his naked chest is a letter jacket with the word BEARS across the front.
His eyeshidden by sunglasses on a snowy, winter night deep in the bowels of the arenaand his menacing scowlonce a Sunday afternoon stapleare more effective than any 10-foot-high flashing neon "Do Not Disturb" sign.
Mongos Super Bowl ring hugs the fourth finger of his left hand.
On the other side of the curtain, 15,735 paying customers are screaming for blood as a gentleman known only as Raven is flying off the top of a ring rope onto the lifeless body of his already beaten, but yet-to-be counted-out, opponent.
In a moment, the curtain will part and Steve McMichael, a former All-Pro football player known as Mongo since his 13 seasons playing defensive tackle for the Chicago Bears, will storm down a runway and play his 10-minute role in the testosterone soap opera known as professional wrestling.
"Im twice blessed because the rush is alive," McMichael was saying hours earlier, sitting on a folding chair at ringside in a still-empty Palace of Auburn Hills. "I used to walk down tunnels in football stadiums across America, and now I get to walk down that aisle in arenas with the people screaming for me, against me, it doesnt matter . . .
"But the sound of the crowd is not the drug, my friend. It is what you have here in your heart that stimulates the rush," he says pointing above the E on his jacket. "It is a mixture of fear, aggression and excitement. It is a high like no other."
And now as the ravished body of Ravens opponent is being swept from the ring, Mongo is in full flight down the runway to center stage.
His opponent this night was to have been Bill Goldberg, who himself once played football briefly for the Atlanta Falcons. But as Mongo enters the ring, the crowd is told that he already has taken care of Goldberg in an unseen backstage mugging. All the crowd will see of Goldberg this night will be on the giant overhead screens, his body writhing in pain on the stone-cold concrete.
Instead, Mongo will battle Alex Wright, a Teutonic toughie, a blond-haired pretty boy given to pelvic gyrations usually associated with exotic dancers. It is welcome news to the crowd that breathlessly follows each new installment of the soap opera.
For Wrights manager, who accompanies him to the ring and urges him on this night, is none other than Debra McMichael. Still officially Mrs. Mongo, she is a former beauty queena Mrs. Texas and Mrs. Illinoiswho has split from her husband in hopes of finding her own sliver of the spotlight.
"Shes doing her own thing, baby," McMichael will say later. "Were just a casualty of war."
No less an authority on the subject than "Iron Mike" Ditka, a Chicago icon who played six seasons for the Bears and later coached them for 11 more, summed up Steve McMichaels NFL career with the highest compliment:
"He epitomized," Ditka said, "what a Chicago Bear should be all about."
Translated, that means McMichael never missed a game because of injury in his 13 seasons with the club. In his career, he underwent surgery on his knees six times, three on each. Never, however, no matter how great the pain, did knife carve knee until after the season was over. Bears officials can not recall ever seeing McMichael on the weekly injury report.
Never "doubtful," never "probable." Steve McMichael was always ready.
From 1981 to 1993, McMichael played 191 consecutive games - with an asterisk. He missed four in 1987 when players walked out on strike. No Bear, not Walter Payton nor Gale Sayers, not Mike Singletary nor Dick Butkus, Doug Atkins nor Bill Georgeall Pro Football Hall of Famersplayed more games in a Chicago uniform.
McMichael, 6-2 and 270 pounds, was easy to overlook on the Bears defensive line of an era that was highlighted by the Super Bowl XX trouncing of the New England Patriots, 46-10. "Refrigerator" Perry was the novelty act.
Richard Dent was its most feared pass rusher. Dan Hampton, who nicknamed McMichael "Mongo," was the lines best quote.
When the Bears decided they no longer needed McMichael, he played one season for the Green Bay Packers. He was 36 in 1994, the oldest defensive lineman in the NFL.
In career sacks, a statistic kept only since 1982, McMichael ranked 10th. He was the only pure defensive tackle in the Top 15.
His fiery locker-room speeches to teammates were legendary. "Before you go out, look in the mirror and swear to give it everything youve got . . . If you dont, for the rest of your life that person in the mirror will let you know you half-assed it and you let him down. You let your teammates down."
And now, slowly, Mongo rises from his seat in the still-empty Palace. In a nearby ring - one of three that would be used later for World War ThreeThe Barbarian and his tag-team partner, Meng, are practicing for the moment that their manager, Jimmy Hart, might get knocked over the top rope and out of the ring later in the evening.
For the moment, Mongo is far away, in Green Bay before the start of the 1994 season. He assumes the same the three-point stance he took that day in practice.
"I was fooling around in practice with Brett Favre," McMichael says. "I always went full speed in practice. I was chasing Favre, and he spun away. I could have hit him. But to be cute, I spun with him and it looked like we were dancing."
Painfully, McMichael recreates his dance of death.
"A guy came from behind and knocked me on the left knee. The ligament went POP.
"I lost a step, and I lost a career."
And still, he played. Never making his injury public. Never making an excuse. Only Mongo and his painkillers knew his agony.
To say McMichael retired after that season wouldnt be entirely accurate. He went home, had one last surgery to repair his damaged knee and waited for another team to call.
"I was never going to give up and retire," McMichael says, his left thumb reaching across his hand to play with his Super Bowl ring. Up and down the thumb shifts the ring.
"I wanted them to quit calling me, asking me to come back."
Up and down.
"After that season, nobody called."
Up and down.
It wasnt the money that drove him - $1.3 million his final year in Chicago - or the adulation.
"You find how fickle a demon those two are," he says.
Up and down.
"It was for the pure joy of playing the game."
"People always ask me," Mongo McMichael volunteers, not waiting to be asked, "how can you disrespect your pro football career doing this wrestling thing?
"And I tell em, RJR Nabisco didnt call offering me the CEO job. Wrestling called . . .
"I think I always had the wrestling mentality."
Like when he played football at the University of Texas from 1976 to 1979.
"You might say he had kind of a wild-and-crazy side," recalls Leon Fuller, then the Longhorns defensive coordinator. "I can remember quite a few examples, but none that I would want to bring up. I will say he was one of those guys who gave everything he had to campus life except maybe in the classroom. Oh, and he was a dream to coach . . . He always went 100 percent, even if he was hurt all of the time."
McMichael was an all-state selection as a tight end, defensive end and kicker at Freer High, located in a small South Texas town of 2,800 somewhere on the road between Corpus Christi and Laredo.
Bear Bryant recruited him to play tight end at Alabama. Darrell Royal recruited him to play defensive end at Texas.
"I told Bear," McMichael says, having come to a logical conclusion. " Thank you, but I prefer being the hitter instead of the hittee. "
When the Longhorns visited Texas Tech in 1978, "Bam Bam" McMichael, as he was known then, refused to walk down the traditional welcoming red carpet the Red Raiders laid out at the Lubbock airport for visiting players.
Instead, McMichael created an incident when he stepped off the plane, spat on the carpet and made his own path.
And like when McMichael played for the Bears and moonlighted on Sunday nights as guest analyst on a Chicago television station.
McMichael might even have made it to the end of his second season on television had he not crossed the line.
Slapping lipstick on one of the shows co-hosts and smashing cake frosting on another had been deemed acceptable slapstick. But attempting to make light of HIV testing by attempting to plunge a syringe into his unsuspecting co-host got him fired.
"Hes a character," says Eric Bischoff, senior executive vice president of World Championship Wrestling, creator of World War III. "He was a character in the NFL. The difference is, the NFL tries to contain its characters. Here, we try to exploit his character."
Bischoff is the No. 2 man at WCW. The president is Harvey Schiller, who is a former president of the United States Olympic Committee and commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. Further up the corporate ladder is Ted Turner and the mighty Time Warner Inc. WCW may not be the NFL, but it definitely is big business.
"Steve is who Steve is," Bischoff says. "He is outrageous, loud and aggressive. Some people like that. Some people find that obnoxious. In wrestling, that sells . . . I knew the first time I met him we could do business."
Bischoff produces, directs and plots the WCW soap opera. He is the backstage wizard blowing the smoke.
Behind the wizards curtain this night, the appropriately named Rick Rude is shouting into an interviewers microphone admonishing him not to stir up, "poopski."
"Poopski?" the smiling champion Hulk Hogan asks, popping his head through a black curtain, intrigued by the choice of words.
Meanwhile, the 9-year-old son of Rick Flair, the 13-time champion of the world, is calmly downing a pepperoni pizza while watching on a monitor as his father is being tossed around the ring - much to the delight of the crowd.
Pedro Morales, once a heavyweight champion of the world, is talking about life in retirement, living in the dream house that wrestling built off Exit 9 on the New Jersey Turnpike.
The scene could be repeated in any professional sports locker room or clubhouse in Americaon Halloween.
Only the odor is different. Everywhere the nose turns there is the piercing smell of liniment used to massage away yesterdays aches and pains. If Ben Gay was a hallucinogen, the Palace would floating off in the night sky.
"The majority of other pro athletes who have tried wrestling find out quickly that it is much more difficult than they thought it would be," Bischoff says. "Steve is one of the few who put his toe in the water and then jumped in."
The very first time he entered the ring, Mongo McMichael proved he had what it takes. He teamed with still-active NFL linebacker Kevin Greene against veterans Arn Anderson and Ric Flair.
By the time the match was over, McMichael had double-crossed his teammate, attacking Greene with a heavy metal briefcase, and had joined the enemy."
"I was elated," he says. "It was the same rush as in football. I knew I was home."
But why turn on Greene?
"Hey, I didnt like most of the guys I played with on the Bears, much less anyone on any other team," McMichael says. "He got what he deserved."
And so McMichael has become a wrestling gypsy. Last night in Kalamazoo, tonight playing The Palace, tomorrow in Saginaw. Next week, Knoxville, then Buffalo, then Charlotte, Macon and Baltimore and then another year will be done. Every night is a road trip.
"Im more responsible for myself now than ever," McMichael says. "In pro football, you take the charter plane to the charter bus to the hotel where you are handed your room key. In pro wrestling, you get yourself to the airport, you rent your own car, you get directions to the hotel and you get yourself to the arena on time or you dont get paid. Here, you grow up."
You can believe what you want about professional wrestling, he says, but rest assured it takes as much athletic prowess as the NFL, and the aches and pains are all-too-familiar.
Now in the Auburn Hills home of the Detroit Pistons, the crowd is in a frenzy as Mongo prepares to unleash the "Tombstone Piledriver" on the no-longer-gyrating Alex Wright.
The Piledriver looks suspiciously like something out of an NFL playbook. Mongo is back in a three-point stance, gearing up for takeoff. In the NFL, it would be a blocking dummy about to feel Mongos wrath. Here, it will be Wright in the wrong place.
Mongo McMichael chalks up another sack, another victory.
And when will the rush end, the need to compete, to perform on the public stage?
"You know, to die on the field of battle," Mongo McMichael
says, "is really every gladiators fantasy."
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dec. 19, 1998)
By Keith Schildroth
Older professional wrestling fans in St. Louis will remember Ric Flair, "The Nature Boy," strutting his stuff inside and outside the ring in televised matches on "Wrestling at The Chase" and live at Kiel Auditorium and The Arena.
He is the lone link to the wrestling past here on the WCW Monday Night Nitro show at the TWA Dome. The card begins at 6:30 and will be televised live on TNT.
Flair began his career working with former NCAA champion Vern Gagne in Minneapolis in the early 1970s. He moved on to wrestle in the Carolinas for Jim Crockett before promoter Sam Muchnick and Larry Matysik signed Flair to work here.
He defeated Omar Atlas on Jan. 6, 1978, at Kiel Auditorium in his first match. Flair impressed Muchnick, Matysik and was a hit with the fans. Three weeks later, he jumped to the main event by defeating Dorey Funk Jr.
"Ric took a big fall over the top rope and cracked his head on the top step going into the ring," Matysik said. "There was blood everywhere, but Ric kept wrestling."
Matysik said Flairs key to longevity can be credited to his bloodlines.
"I think its all genetics," Matysik said. "Hes like a Lou Thesz. He took the bumps so smooth, and hes protected his body so well. Ric has kept himself in great condition. Thats something you cant teach."
Flair has endured without the aid of gimmicks that a majority of the modern wrestlers use.
"Ric is a very dymanic performer and wrestler," Matysik said. "He understands the crowd and doesnt need the music, face paint or fireworks to win his audience over. Hes never needed that stuff. He knows what the people want."
THE PAST MAKES A BRIGHT PRESENT
(Miami Herald, Sunday, Jan. 24, 1999)
By Jim Varsallone
Dean Malenko has worn many names throughout his pro wrestling career, but the one you probably never, ever heard people call him is Shelly.
Well, Dean Malenko, a member of the Four Horsemen, is the World Championship Wrestling superstar seen weekly on TV by millions across the country.
Shelly Simon is seen by his wife Julie and daughter Larrisa in their home in Lutz, near Tampa.
Of course, Dean and Shelly are one in the same.
Malenko, a 5-foot-10 combatant, helped change the face of professional wrestling in the United States. In the early 1990s, he formed a dangerous alliance The Triple Threat with The Crippler Chris Benoit and The Franchise Shane Douglas in Extreme Championship Wrestling, a hard core wrestling group based in the Northeast. Benoit and Malenko became ECW tag team champions working an aggressive, intense style.
"In the United States, it was very stereotyped [in the 1980s and early 1990s] that unless you were 6-foot-8 and 350 pounds and arms of 24 or 26 inches, you werent considered a professional wrestler," said Malenko, a.k.a. The Shooter, The Ice Man, Man Of 1,000 Holds.
"With the athletes who have been coming in from Japan, Mexico and Europe, the United States fans are finally getting to see whats been out there for quite a long time. A lot of it just has to do with timing."
Malenko helped run a pro wrestling schoolMalenkos Pro Wrestling Campin North Tampa with his brother, Joe, a Tampa Jesuit graduate, and his father, the late Great Boris Malenko.
Moving from California to Tampa during his Pee Wee years, Malenko has lived in Tampa more than 30 years. A 1978 graduate of Tampa Catholic High School, he started on the schools wrestling team as a sophomore and junior at 145 and 152 pounds, but he missed his senior season with a neck injury suffered in a car accident.
"He was advised by doctors not to wrestle again," remembers Rod Lindsay, his high school wrestling coach. "Its a credit to him to be able to compete professionally."
During his senior year, Tampa Catholics wrestling team celebrated its all-time best effort, going 12-1 and finishing runner-up in the Class 3A Florida State Tournament. Tampa Catholic missed a state championship by just half a point.
"If he doesnt get in the car accident and wrestles, it could have been a big factor for us," said Lindsay who served as wrestling coach from 1970-82. Retired from coaching, Lindsay is teaching upper level math at Tampa Catholic, embarking on his 31st anniversary at the school.
"Here I was coaching Dean Malenko," Lindsay said. "How intimidating it was for me when his father The Great Malenko came to practice or one of our matches."
The Great Boris Malenko was a legendary pro wrestler and a stand-out technical wrestler. The fruit doesnt fall far from the tree.
Dean Malenkowho had wrestled in AAU Junior Olympics since age 8 -- competed with Glenn Goodman and Pat Tanaka through his high school days.
Goodman was a 4-time high school state champ for Tampa Catholic and later participated in the U.S. Olympic trials. Like Malenko, Tanaka became a pro wrestler forming the tag team Badd Companywith Paul Diamondmanaged by current WCW star Diamond Dallas Page. Tanaka later joined Kato (Paul Diamond under a mask) in the World Wrestling Federation in another successful tag team managed by the legendary Mr. Fuji.
Just two years after the neck injury, Malenko pursued a career in pro wrestling. He created a Heinz 57 type stylea mix of wrestling technique from Europe, Mexico and Japan.
"Ive been real fortunate to be able to wrestle overseas in Japan 13 to 14 years before I started in WCW," said Malenko. "I got a lot of basic knowledge of the wrestling industry, and Japan is a place where I think every young wrestler at one point of their career should goto learn all the fundamentals and the basic foundation of wrestling. Its taught me everything Ive known."
Malenko continued: "Also, having a father that was in the business over 30 years helped tremendously. He brought me into the business the right way and gave me a lot of knowledge as to what to foresee in the future in our sport and how to handle myself in a business like manner. Ive been real fortunate through the years with a little bit of luck to get some really good breaks along the line. At the same time, I was able to maintain a profession that I enjoy doing."
Malenko along with other technically sound matmen including Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, the Mexican and Japanese wrestlers and others signed contracts in Mexico and Japan in the late 1980s and early 1990s which prevented them from competing for other major wrestling companies in the United Statesi.e. WCW and World Wrestling Federation.
They could work some independent gigs with Extreme Championship Wrestling, an upstart company in the Northeast spearheaded by one of the most creative wrestling minds in the business, Paul Heyman/Paul E.
Dangerously. So, Malenko and some of these combatants worked several shows for ECW, bringing this changing style to American fans [at the time] on a smaller scale. But word quickly spread throughout the nation from the excitement generated from these wrestlers.
"The wrestling fans in the United States the last four to five years have been real fortunate to see some of Mexicos best from Rey Misterio Jr to Juventud Guerrera to Psychosis to some of the great wrestlers from Japan to Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Jerichowho I think are probably the elite group of wrestlers in our sport today."
He added: "Ive had opportunities in the past to wrestle in the United States, and I didnt think it was the right time. I didnt think the fans were ready for the knowledge and the background of some of the talent that was out there. Where wrestling had gone from one extreme to the other than it was right, and it was time to bring in a whole new breed of wrestler, and the fans have taken to it. Like anything else, like fashion or music, what goes around comes around, and I think there are a lot of wrestling, wrestling fans that have really been entertained by this great talent."
Malenko joined ECW in the early 1990s. He later signed with WCW, winning the WCW Cruiserweight title a few times and the U.S. Heavyweight title.
"The smaller, more technically proficient guys like Dean Malenko definitely add a lot to the sport," said Steve Ciacciarelli, editor of the nationally distributed Wrestling World magazine. "Not only putting on exciting matches for the fansinstead of the slow, plodding matches of some of the older style behemoths in the ringbut it also gives a lot more guys opportunities that didnt have them before. I think thats all because of guys like Malenko, Benoit and Jericho who have really livened up the scene."
Malenko now enjoys greater success as part of the Four Horsemen, an elite group of grapplers including the great Ric Flair, The Enforcer Arn Anderson, former Chicago Bears star Steve Mongo McMichael and Benoit.
The kicks, the punches, the elbows, the knee dropsits all part of the professional ranks. But Malenko combines his past with his present.
"On occasion Ive seen him wrestle on TV," Lindsay
said. "I still appreciate the fact that he shows some of his moves from his amateur