The WAWLI Papers #602...


(Associated Press, October 7, 1999)

WILLINGBORO, N.J.—Robert "Gorilla Monsoon" Marella, a true giant of professional wrestling who body-slammed Muhammad Ali and debated Jesse Ventura, has died of a heart ailment. The 62-year-old former teacher, died Wednesday.

The 6-foot-6, 400-pound Marella turned to the pro wrestling game in 1960 when a promoter offered him $500 per week to don the tights.

As Gorilla Monsoon, Marella soon shared world tag-team titles with Walter "Killer" Kowalski and "Cowboy" Bill Watts. Playing a villain’s role at the time, Marella gained notoriety for his feud with longtime champ Bruno Sammartino.

Marella’s career in the ring lasted until the early 1980s, when he became one of the World Wrestling Federation’s top ringside television announcers. He co-hosted WWF telecasts at a time when the high-flying entertainment genre was booming in popularity.

Marella frequently shared the microphone with former wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura, with whom he often argued over the importance of fair play in the ring. Ventura now is governor of Minnesota.

The younger generation of wrestlers was honored to have the rotund Marella analyze their moves and holds, said fellow pro wrestler King Kong Bundy.

"He was somebody who knew the business," Bundy said. "A great guy, a real class act all the way."

Marella also wrote a weekly pro wrestling column for the now-defunct Philadelphia Bulletin.

A son, Joey Marella, became a WWF referee in the 1980s. He died in an auto accident in Burlington in 1994. Thereafter, Robert Marella appeared on television less frequently.

"When his son got killed in a car accident, I think that took a lot out of him," King Kong Bundy said.

Marella did serve as interim president of the WWF in 1997 -- at a time when the industry admitted openly that the outcomes of its matches are scripted.

Heart problems forced Marella to scale back his work with the WWF. He also suffered from diabetes in recent years.


(Philadelphia Daily News, October 7, 1999)

By Michael Tearson

He was one of the early villains of the wrestling ring, a huge man with such a fearsome visage that even had fans quaking at the sight of him.

"No one in the audience laughed at his gimmick," said a wrestling magazine editor. "They were actually both afraid and respectful."

But under the ferocious mien he presented to wrestling fans and opponents, Gorilla Monsoon was a pussycat, a family man who wound up his career in the wrestling field as an announcer and writer.

Monsoon, whose real name was Bob Marella, died early yesterdaay of complications from a recent heart attack. He was 62 and had been living in Willingboro, N.J.

The legendary wrestler had suffered from diabetes in recent years.

WOW Magazine editor Bill Apter described the 350-pound giant as an excellent "heel" in the wrestling ring.

"He was so ‘over’ in the early ‘60s," Apter said. "His fierce growl and full beard persuaded people to take his ‘gorilla’ persona very seriously.

"Unlike the heels of today, the Gorilla Monsoon image was genuinely frightening."

He was a huge, flamboyant presence in the ring, and his feuds with World Wrestling Federation champion Bruno Sammartino are the stuff of legend.

At one point, he bodyslammed boxing champ Muhammad Ali, feeding the bad-boy image he had fashioned for himself.

A native of Buffalo, N.Y., the 6-foot-4 Gorilla became a major wrestling star almost as soon as he first entered the ring in 1960.

His character was billed as coming from Outer Mongolia, and it was a sensation.

Even as a raw rookie, he stunned audiences with his ponderous bulk and bad attitude.

Wrestling expert Georgiann Makropoulis, a longtime friend of the Marella family, cites two matches as Gorilla’s best.

There was a May 11, 1964, Madison Square Garden main event against Sammartino that went to an 1 hour, 20-minute draw, ended only by a curfew.

And in Jersey City, N.J., on Oct. 4, 1963, Monsoon actually defeated Sammartino, but as the decision was a disqualification due to excessive bleeding, Monsoon did not win the WWF championship.

Monsoon never held many singles titles, but two reigns as a WWF U.S. tag-team champion stick out.

With Walter "Killer" Kowalski he was champion from November to December 1963, and with Cowboy Bill Watts, he held the belts from April to July 1965.

He later doubled as an agent/coordinator for WWF tours. But according to Apter it wasn’t the same for the Gorilla.

"As the business progressed, the heels of pro wrestling became more of a laughing matter to many fans," said Apter. "What Monsoon brought to the table was no longer to be."

His character was a classic one. His feuds with Sammartino drew huge gates, and their matches were always the kind that kept audiences panting for more.

"You had no doubt in your mind that wrestling was real when these two battled each other. It was ‘work’ at the finest level."

After his ring career ended in 1980, Monsoon became a top wrestling broadcasting commentator.

He helped break in ex-wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura, now the governor of Minnesota, behind the microphone.

Monsoon and Ventura became a memorable team. They announced the first Wrestlemania in 1985, and they went on to do several more "Manias" as the World Wrestling Federation’s lead announcing team.

Monsoon voiced countless WWF shows at arenas like Madison Square Garden in New York and the Spectrum, where he worked with local announcer Dick Graham on cards that were broadcast on PRISM.

This writer, who worked as a ring announcer at the Spectrum, remembers how extremely helpful and encouraging Monsoon was. He made difficult situations easy to master.

While Monsoon was an announcer, he also became a wrestling journalist. In the late ‘70s, until the paper folded in December 1981, Monsoon wrote a weekly column about pro wrestling for the Philadelphia Journal.

He was named to the WWF Hall of Fame in 1994, the Hall’s second year of existence. During the ‘90s Monsoon acted as the WWF president on its TV shows for much of the decade.

Monsoon’s son, Joey Marella, became the lead referee for the WWF during the ‘80s and ‘90s. Joey died in an auto accident in Burlington, N.J., on July 4, 1994.

A viewing will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. tomorrow at the Goes-Scolieri Funeral Home, 212 Levitt Parkway, Willingboro, N.J. Another viewing will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday.


(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Oct. 7, 1999)

Gorilla Monsoon, a giant of professional wrestling who once body-slammed Muhammad Ali and often debated Jesse Ventura, died Wednesday of complications from heart problems. The wrestler, whose real name was Robert Marella, was 62.

A former schoolteacher from Rochester, N.Y., Mr. Marella stood 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 420 pounds in his wrestling heyday.

He was a standout amateur wrestler and played football at Ithaca College in New York before entering the ring in 1960. He was enticed by a promoter who offered him $500 a week.

Mr. Marella soon won world tag-team titles with two different partners, Killer Kowalski and Cowboy Bill Watts.

As Monsoon, playing a villain’s role at the time, he gained even greater notoriety for his feud with legendary champion Bruno Sammartino of the North Hills.

"He was an amazing guy," Sammartino said yesterday. "We once wrestled for one hour and 30 minutes at Madison Square Garden, and he weighed more than 400 pounds at the time. This guy, for his size, was quick and had great moves."

Their famous 90-minute bout ended in a draw. Sammartino and Mr. Marella collided in the ring dozens of other times.

Mr. Marella, called "Gino" by fellow wrestlers, continued to wrestle until the early 1980s, when he became one of the World Wrestling Federation’s top ringside television announcers. His trademark line when calling a match was: "It’s pandemonium here in the World Wrestling Federation."

He often shared the microphone with Jesse "The Body" Ventura. By then, Mr. Marella had become a crowd favorite. He and Ventura usually argued over the importance of fair play in the ring.

Ventura, now governor of Minnesota, aggravated Mr. Marella with his own favorite line: "Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat."

Sammartino remembered that Mr. Marella was diagnosed with diabetes while in his late 30s, yet he continued to work the WWF circuit, then mainly confined to the Northeast.

He said Mr. Marella’s emotional state was wrecked when his son, Joey, died in an automobile accident in 1994. He retreated after that, appearing less frequently on television, and at pay-per-view events and arena shows.

"Let’s just say the diabetes may have helped kill Gino, but the death of his son absolutely destroyed him," Sammartino said. "He could not accept it."

Joey Marella had worked as a WWF referee. He often participated in matches that were announced by his father, who never disclosed their relationship to the viewing public.

The younger generation of wrestlers was honored to have Mr. Marella analyze their moves and holds, said King Kong Bundy, a 470-pound wrestler from Atlantic City, N.J.

"He was somebody who knew the business," he said. "A great guy, a real class act all the way."

Mr. Marella served as interim president of the WWF during the 1990s, a figurehead title that allowed him to appear in public for only the most hyped matches.

Despite his bulk and fearsome ring name, Mr. Marella’s neighbors in Willingboro, N.J., remembered him as a loving father who prided himself on his lasagna. He even liked to play Santa Claus.

"He was the kindest, gentlest person you would ever want to meet," said Willingboro Solicitor William Kearns.

Sammartino, who never socialized with any wrestler, nonetheless had fond memories of Mr. Marella.

"I know he was a good husband and he was a darned good guy," he said.

Mr. Marella is survived by his wife, a son and two daughters.


(Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Wednesday, October 7, 1999)

By Bob Matthews

Bob Marella, arguably the most famous pro wrestler to come out of Rochester as the world-famous Gorilla Monsoon, died yesterday at his home in Willingboro, N.J., of complications from a recent heart attack. He was 62.

Mr. Marella was a star athlete at Jefferson High School (Class of 1955) and Ithaca College before becoming one of pro wrestling’s best-known and best-paid performers in the 1960s and 1970s.

Mr. Marella weighed around 300 pounds as a football player, wrestler and track and field athlete at Jefferson and was in the 350 range at Ithaca (where he was affectionately nicknamed "Tiny"). He topped 400 as one of the top drawing cards in pro wrestling.

He was a road agent and prominent TV commentator for the World Wrestling Federation for many years after retiring from the ring, often sharing the microphone with current Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura. His last ring and TV appearance was at this year’s Wrestlemania.

"I was a physical education major at Ithaca, and the only thing I regret about becoming a professional wrestler is that I missed the opportunity to teach youngsters," Mr. Marella said in a 1978 interview. "Of course, there aren’t many $100,000-a-year teachers walking around."

At Ithaca, Mr. Marella finished second in the NCAA wrestling championships in 1959 and an 18-second pin win remains the quickest in the school’s history. He set school records in the discus and shot put that lasted almost a decade after he graduated. He was was inducted into the Ithaca College Sports Hall of Fame in 1973. He proudly brought a WWF show to his alma mater in 1987.

Bad knees ruled out a career in the NFL but Marella’s size and athletic ability attracted the attention of western New York pro wrestling promoter Pedro Martinez.

"I was proud of my success as an amateur wrestler but knew that Pedro was more interested in my physique than my technique," Mr. Marella said. "I was huge."

Mr. Marella made his pro wrestling debut at the Rochester War Memorial in the summer of 1959 and 6,000 fans—four times the normal turnout—saw him quickly pin bad-guy Pauncho Lopez.

Mr. Marella was a "good guy" in the early years of his pro wrestling career but didn’t hit it big until his Gorilla Monsoon gimmick began in 1963. The story line said he was born on an isolated farm in Manchuria, earned his keep with a gypsy caravan wrestling bears, arrived in America speaking no English, and ate raw meat washed down with the blood of his victims.

"In short, I was a guy the fans loved to hate," he said.

Mr. Marella wrestled at Madison Square Garden "hundreds of times," including dozens of main events, often classics against popular world champion Bruno Sammartino.

WOW magazine editor-in-chief Bill Apter yesterday hailed Gorilla Monoon as one of the all-time great pro wrestling heels. He dwarfed most wrestlers of his era and had a full beard and fierce growl that made fans genuinely afraid of him. Apter said that when Monsoon and Sammartino were in the ring, no one thought pro wrestling was fake.

For being such a convincing bad guy in the ring, Mr. Marella often paid a price. He once said, "I’ve been stabbed, jabbed, poked and spat upon. One night in Puerto Rico, I got nailed in the head by a flying brick. But nothing hurts quite as much as having somebody use your back to snuff out a big fat burning cigar."

Mr. Marella’s most publicized fling in the ring was a confrontation with Muhammad Ali in the summer of 1976 in Philadelphia. It made newspapers and TV news reports around the world.

"Ali was trying to get pubicity for an upcoming gimmick fight for a fortune against a Japanese wrestler (Antonio Inoki) and he apparently wanted to use me as a warmup for publicity," Mr. Marella recalled.

"I was in the ring, waiting for my regular match, when Ali jumped through the ropes, kicked off his shoes, tore off his shirt and began screaming at me. I picked him up and tossed him to the mat with a Giant Swing. But I gave him a break and didn’t use my Manchurian Splash."

Mr. Marella insisted the episode was not contrived: "I never saw him (Ali) before and haven’t seen him since."

A shrewd businessman, Mr. Marella 20 years ago predicted that pro wrestling would someday enjoy a mammoth revival on cable TV. He was a major player in that becoming a reality as a minor partner and confidant of WWF boss Vince McMahon Jr.

Mr. Marella often visited his parents and other relatives in Rochester and was proud of his part in building up his hometown.

"In my college years, I worked heavy construction in Rochester," he said. "I helped put up buildings at Kodak, RIT and the University of Rochester. That’s my lasting contribution."


(Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 9, 1999)

By Bill Lyon

He was the better part of 400 pounds when he slid, with surprising agility, into the diner booth. The waitress braced for his order, wondering if she had enough paper.

"Toast, dry," he said. "Two eggs, lightly scrambled. Cup of hot tea, lemon on the side. Please."

She waited for Page 2.

"No, that’s it," he said.

And he smiled.

"My tights are getting too tight," he said.

His name was Gorilla Monsoon, and he had just finished his evening’s work, which consisted of picking up other large men and helicoptering them over his head and then depositing them on the canvas with gleeful force, laughing fiendishly as they writhed about in apparent death throes.

He would gouge eyes, kick groins, throttle windpipes, and commit assorted other physical indignities. And then he would shower and change clothes and change into Robert Marella of Willingboro, N.J., a gentleman and a good and gentle man.

He was roughly the size of a Clydesdale, so it was always something of a shock to people who were introduced to him to find out how approachable he was, how considerate and accessible, how genuinely appreciative that they had come to watch him.

Some of the recalcitrant little boors who make money by the bale in the allegedly legitimate sports and who have no time for the people who make their wealth possible could have learned from Gorilla Monsoon’s example.

Perhaps it is strange, recommending a professional ‘rassler as someone worthy of emulation, but the fact is that Gorilla Monsoon had an abiding respect for his craft, took pride in his performance, never shortchanged the paying public, treated people with courtesy, and played hurt almost all the time. Isn’t that supposed to be pretty much the essence of sport?

Bob Marella will be laid to rest today. He died, at his home, gone much too soon at 62. He wrestled for more than 20 years, and, by his accounting, had more than 8,000 matches. Even with scripts and even though he and his foes were as much thespians as athletes, that amounted to an impressive pile of punishment, of body slams both administered and received.

"I always tell people who think what we do is all fake that, when I try to get out of bed the next morning, those aches and bumps sure do feel real," he said.

He was the villain most of the time, which was most assuredly not typecasting. But he was credible—at least in the eyes of those wrestling loyalists who are willing to suspend belief and who booed and hissed him. And working the audience into a proper froth is the villain’s job.

"You know you’ve done your job when the little old ladies want to stab you with their knitting needles," Gorilla Monsoon said proudly.

He was a barnstormer. He wrestled in cold, echo-chamber armories and smoky VFW halls. Sometimes the fans sat on metal folding chairs, and some nights there would only be two rows of those chairs. Didn’t matter. The show went on anyway. There was a sense of obligation.

"Plus," Gorilla Monsoon said, smiling, "we needed the money, even if it was only a few bucks."

His was a time in pro wrestling before the current era of glitz and profanity, glitter and obscenity, of how-do-we-top-this-outrageousness that escalates into ever more dangerous stunts, paralysis and even death. Gorilla Monsoon was privately distressed at what they have done to his craft, and he would talk about how he perceived that they had perverted it.

Frequently, he would square off against Bruno Sammartino, who was a hugely popular hero, and he often was paired with Killer Kowalski in tag-team matches. One of his contemporaries—and one of the few men who could make him seem small—was Haystack Calhoun, who weighed an alleged 600 pounds and filled out his specially made bib overalls.

When the pounding caught up with him, Gorilla Monsoon traded his tights in for a TV microphone. That was in the early 1980s. He campaigned zealously for his sport.

"And it is a sport," he would argue. "We entertain. We don’t hurt anybody. We don’t cheat anybody. We take people’s minds off their troubles. We give ‘em a night out and someone to cheer and someone to boo."

He didn’t mind being the one booed. Not as long as they kept coming.

As Bob Marella, he got his degree from Ithaca College and worked as a teacher. You guess that no one nodded off in his classes.

And then, in 1960, a promoter discovered him. The promoter offered him $500. Gorilla Monsoon was born.

"You could buy a lot with that," he said.

Except class. You still can’t buy that. Gorilla already had it.

The WAWLI Papers #603...

(ED. NOTE—The indefatigable Steve Yohe, this past year, churned out a remarkably complete summary of the wrestling career and record of one of the alltime great stars, "Classy" Freddie Blassie. From this review we have selected a few clippings to demonstrate the hold Blassie had on Los Angeles wrestling fans for more than a decade. Our thanks, per usual, to Steve and his indomitable researches. Without his aid, and the aid of others, the task of putting together The New WAWLI Papers each day would be a daunting one. But with their help—and, hopefully, yours, too—we’re able to present a lively review of professional wrestling history, stretching from 1875 to the present, but usually concentrated on the halcyon years when Ed "Strangler" Lewis and Lou Thesz dominated the game, on a daily basis. The Blassie articles will continue in the next edition of WAWLI, too.)


(Los Angeles Times, June 12, 1961)

An application by TV announcer Bill Welsh and others for a license to stage wrestling matches for television and at the Sports Arena was pocket vetoed Saturday by the State Athletic Commission.

The application was filed by Luchadores, Inc., with Welsh, John Doyle and Sidney Simmons as the principal shareholders. It was the subject of a bitter exchange between the applicants and rival ring promoters Cal and Aileen Eaton at a commission hearing in the State Building.

Dr. Dan Kilroy, commission member, moved that the license be approved. But his motion failed because none of the other commissioners would second it.

"The Eatons have maintained their monopoly over wrestling in Southern California," cried Edward B. Stanton, attorney for the Welsh-Doyle group, "and we intend to get to the bottom of what’s going on."

The combine had planned to stage its first show in the Sports Arena on October 7.


(Los Angeles Times, Monday, June 12, 1961)

A gate record for an indoor wrestling show is a cinch to be set Monday night at the Sports Arena when France’s Edouard Carpentier defends his world heavyweight mat crown against Freddie Blassie.

Promoter Cal Eaton announced Saturday he had over $20,000 in the till and was sure the box office receipts would hit more than $40,000 to smash the present mark of $31,000, set last year by Carpentier and Lou Thesz at the Olympic.

Monday night’s complete card also was announced Saturday by Eaton. Former champion Thesz will meet Cowboy Dick Hutton in the semifinal.

Other matches: Count Billy Varga vs. Wild Red Berry; Gene (Big Daddy) Lipscomb vs. Hans Hermann; Zebra Kid vs. Gene LeBell (judo style); Ricki Starr vs. Don Duffy; Ramon and Alberto Torres vs. Mr. Moto and Mike Sharpe; Reggie Parks vs. Stan Holek; Lord Blears vs. Sam Steamboat.

Something new in wrestling will be tried in the championship bout. At the request of Blassie, two judges will work with the referee and give a decision if need be.

The program starts at 8 p.m., with the title tilt scheduled to go on at 9:45 p.m. There will be no TV or radio.


(Los Angeles Times, June 12, 1961)

By John de la Vega

This is it, he-man fans and little old ladies. For the world’s rassling champeenship, Edouard Carpentier of France against Freddie Blassie, the Georgia peach.

They match "holts" at the Sports Arena toniht starting at 9:45 p.m., marking the first time the groaners have invaded the plush sports palace. And why not? They’ve had everything else there, from circuses to home shows.

It’s such a hot one that a full house of some 15,000 fanatics is expected. Coughing up from $5, $3.50 and $2.50, a new Southland indoor record of some $40,000 is a cinch. Carpentier and Lou Thesz set the mark of $31,000 in their showdown at the Olympic last summer.

Bring the kiddies. They don’t let the writers in on the format but we have a hunch the good guy will predominate.

It all depends. If the Pasadena gals stir up enough animosity, maybe Blassie, who vows that his career will be climaxed "when I kill a man in the ring," will win.

Then we can have a rematch in midsummer. Carpentier, unbeaten in seven years since he switched from a graceful Olympic Games gymnast to grappling gyrations, is too good to lose twice to this guy. Maybe not even once.

Since Cal and Aileen Eaton have set aside three dates for "summer spectaculars" at the Arena, we’ll guess that Lou Thesz, from whom Edouard captured the crown, will be next up for the grabs.

How good are tonight’s gladiators? Well, all kidding aside, they’ve got to be pretty fair. In this dodge, going through the routine at least twice a week, sometimes you have to lose. Even fanatics get tired of a winner.

Carpentier’s slate is perfect. Blassie, no substitute for Lassie, claims a streak of five years without a setback. Obviously, it wouldn’t be much of an upset if Freddie should flatten him.

Edouard is a nephew of Georges Carpentier, the party of the second part in that historic heavyweight title fight against Jack Dempsey. Edouard even started out as a fisticuffer.

But Carpentier keeps hammering that he’s a clean wrestler. "My job is to pin this man and nothing else. Now if he wants to try other stuff . . . "

IF? Please, dear fans, do not stay away thinking Freddie will try to win without foul tactics. That’s all he knows.

It’s a curious thing, but Blassie has requested that besides the usual referee, two judges also work the match.

So it shall be. But doesn’t Freddie realize that while the ref might miss some of his underhand methods, the judges will see it all? Ah, we think he goofed there.

The card will be hypoed by the presence of practically all the top mat names in action this generation and last. There will be eight preliminary 1-fall matches starting at 8 p.m.

The prelims:

Lord Blears vs. Sam Steamboat; Reggie Parks vs. Stan Holek; Ramon and Alberto Torres vs. Mr. Moto and Mike Sharpe; Zebra Kid vs. Gene LeBell (judo); Ricki Starr vs. Don Duffy; Big Daddy Lipscomb vs. Hans Hermann; Wild Red Berry vs. Billy Varga; Lou Thesz vs. Cowboy Dick Hutton.


(Los Angeles Times, June 13, 1961)

By John de la Vega

Blond Freddie Blassie won the world’s wrestling title (honest) at the Sports Arena Monday night by putting France’s Edouard Carpentier out of commission, and the howling mob of 13,200 wanted to crown him personally.

The gross gate of $40,169 set an indoor record for Southland wrestling matches.

The bad actor from Atlanta climaxed a night of "crime" when he flipped the champion hard against the ropes just when it looked as if Carpentier would win.

Carpentier bounced off the top strand and landed on his right knee. As he writhed in pain on the canvas, unable to regain his feet, referee Mike Ruby gave Blassie the fall. The time was 10:20.

Actually, that only evened the match at a fall apiece, but when Carpentier was unable to continue Dr. Robert Richards was called in. He diagnosed the injury as a badly sprained knee with a possible fracture, so Blassie was declared the winner.

Carpentier had won the first fall in 20:24.

Blassie started out using his infamous neck breaker which naturally infuriated the fans. Carpentier’s face was beginning to match his sky-blue eyes.

Just when it appeared the champ would pop a blood vessel, he became a whirling dervish. He unleashed a series of body slams, followed with a reverse leg drop and applied a spectacular alligator crab for the fall.

Starting the second fall, Carpentier, who had not lost a match in seven years, went into his famed repertoire of 1,000 clean holds. Several times he had the groaning Blassie on the verge of giving up. Each time, however, he extricated himself with those choke holds.

Just before the finish, Blassie was in trouble after Carpentier spun him to the canvas, did several flips and landed on him. But Edouard allowed Blassie to grab his arm, which led to the back flip that ended the proceedings.

Preliminary results:

Lou Thesz defeated Cowboy Dick Hutton; Count Billy Varga defeated Wild Red Berry; Big Daddy Lipscomb won on disqualification over Hans Hermann; Ricki Starr defeated Don Duffy; Zebra Kid vs. Gene LeBell, both disqualified; Torres brothers, Alberto and Ramon, drew with Mr. Moto and Mike Sharpe, tag team; Reggie Parks drew with Stan Holek; Lord Blears drew with Sam Steamboat.


(Los Angeles Times, July 6, 1961)

Freddie Blassie retained his world heavyweight wrestling title at the Olympic Wednesday night before 8,500 fans by defeating Sandor Szabo. Blassie scored the match’s lone fall before the hour time limit ran out.

Other results:

Alberto and Ramon Torres drew with Zebra Kid and Mike Sharpe; Ricki Starr defeated George Drake; Dick Hutton defeated Stan Holek; Mr. Moto defeated Freddie Fraley; Art Mahalik defeated Vic Christy, and Gene LeBell drew with Don Duffy.


(Los Angeles Times, July 21, 1961)

Blond Freddie Blassie of Atlanta defends his newly won world heavyweight wrestling championship against former titleholder Lou Thesz tonight at the Sports Arena.

The three-fall, two-hour time-limit match is expected to lure 10,000 fans and a gate of $25,000.

Jersey Joe Walcott, oldest man to ever capture the world’s heavyweight boxing crown, will referee the title match.

Blassie won his title June 12 when he rendered France’s Edouard Carpentier hors de combat in the first wrestling card ever presented in the Arena.

Thesz, 45, one of the game’s all-time greats, first won the championship in his native St. Louis in 1937, defeating Everett Marshall. He held the title on and off until 1959 when beaten by Carpentier in Chicago (sic).

Backing up the title match, promoter Cal Eaton has signed some of the biggest names in wrestling.

The bare-footed Argentina sensation, Antonino (Argentine) Rocca, takes on the masked Preacher and colorful Ricki Starr, who features ballet along with wrestling, is paired with Aldo Bogni in two of the top matches.

Another former heavyweight boxing champ, Primo Carnera, meets Big Mike Sharpe.

In other matches, Cowboy Dick Hutton tiffs Sam Steamboat; the Mexican tag team of Alberto and Ramon Torres opposes Angelo Savoldi and Mr. Moto.

First match starts at 8 p.m. There will be no television.


(Los Angeles Times, July 22, 1961)

Much to the disgust of 13,400 fans, Freddie Blassie retained his claim to the world wrestling title at the Sports Arena Friday night by defeating ex-champ Lou Thesz in a 3-fall match.

The big gathering coughed up a whopping $37,500 gate. It was the second mat show ever staged at the Arena. In the first, last month, Blassie wrested the championship belt from Edouard Carpentier before a $40,000 house.

The end came quickly after each had taken a fall. With both matadors fatigued from a terrific pace, Blassie uncorked a series of booming body slams and pinned Thesz at 3:21.

Both were on the verge of collapse at the windup, but Blassie was able to stand up and taunt the unfriendly throng. Several fans managed to climb into the ring but were pulled away by ushers and special police.

Blassie won the first fall after 17:34 of rough going. His famed Southern neck breaker did the trick.

The powerful Thesz made it all even at 14:34 to win the second fall. He withstood plenty of Blassie’s slugging tactics and retaliated with a Graeco-Roman back body drop to pin the burly blond.

Former heavyweight boxing champ Jersey Joe Walcott, who refereed the match, did a fine job to keep the rough bout under control.

Promoter Cal Eaton said the contracted return match against Carpentier hinges on whether the latter’s knee has healed. The Frenchman was injured while losing to Blassie and has been taking treatments.

Results of the prelims:

Argentina Rocca defeated The Preacher; Ricki Starr defeated Aldo Bogtni; Primo Carnera defeated Mike Sharpe; Alberto and Ramon Torres defeated Mr. Moto and Angelo Savoldi; Dick Hutton and Sam Steamboat drew.


(Los Angeles Times, August 3, 1961)

Freddie Blassie successfully defended his world wrestling title Wednesday night at the Olympic by pinning Cowboy Dick Hutton in two straight falls.

Other results: Edouard Carpentier defeated Aldo Bogni; Ricki Starr defeated K.O. Murphy; Pedro Sanchez defeated Don Duffy; Shohei Baba and Sato Yoshino defeated Mike Sharpe and Zebra Kid; Gene LeBell defeated Don Duffy, and Lord Blears defeated Art Mahalik.

 The WAWLI Papers #604...

(ED. NOTE—Here are more items from Steve Yohe’s career record book of Fred Blassie.)


(Los Angeles Times, October 6, 1961)

The year’s largest crowd for a wrestling card is expected tonight at the Sports Arena to see Freddie Blassie of Atlanta defend his world mat crown against Ricki Starr of Greenwich Village, N.Y.

The championship match heads a star-studded lineup, featuring some of the biggest names in wrestling. There will be no television and first bout gets under way at 8 p.m.

The sensational Argentine Rocca will take on Yukon Jackson in the semifinal. Art (Seaman) Thomas, Negro heavyweight champ, meets "The Brute" in another top bout.

Other matches: Nikita Mulkovich vs. Leo Garibaldi; Lou Thesz vs. Mike Sharpe; Ramon and Alberto Torres vs. Fritz Von Goering and Mr. Moto; Gene LeBell vs. Yoshimo Sato (judo); Shohei Baba vs. Yukio Suzuki.


(Los Angeles Times, October 6, 1961)

Luchadores, Inc.—John J. Doyle, Promoter


Greatest Card in California History


Dick the Bruiser—First Time in L.A.

The show Dick Lane told you about . . .




plus Special Added Attraction



Wilbur Snyder vs. George Drake, Pepper Gomez vs. Prof. Roy Shire, Red Bastien vs. Killer Kowalski, Verne Gagne vs. Eric Pederson

plus Special Tag Team Match


Tickets now at . . .

Mutual Agencies, So. Cal. Music Co., Music City, Sports Arena

Excellent seats available $5, $4, $3, $2


(Los Angeles Times, October 7, 1961)

Brutal Freddie Blassie, taking full advantage of his 40-pound weight pull, put colorful Ricki Starr out of commission at the Sports Arena Friday night and retained his world’s wrestling title before an enraged crowd of 12,138.

The crowd paid a gate of $32,530, putting the Olympic’s promotion of three Arena wrestling shows over the $100,000 mark.

The scheduled 3-fall match went only two. Starr, to the delight of the crowd, put on a whirlwind finish to take the first fall after 28:19 with a technique he calls a "shooting star" body slam.

However, the rough Blassie, who won the title in the same arena by putting undefeated Edouard Carpentier out of commission early last summer, went to work on Starr’s left leg.

While the throng yelled for referee Mike Ruby to halt the foul tactics, Blassie kept twisting the left knee until it finally gave way. Blassie was awarded the second fall after 10:19 of tugging.

Other results: Argentine Rocca defeated Yukon Jackson;Art Thomas defeated The Brute; Lou Thesz defeated Mike Sharpe; Leo Garibaldi drew with Nikita Mulkovich; Alberto and Ramon Torres drew with Fritz Von Goering and Mr. Moto; Gene LeBell defeated Yoshimo Sato, judo; Shohei Baba defeated Yukio Suzuki.


(Los Angeles Times, Sunday, Oct. 8, 1961)

Villainous Ray Stevens, antagonizing a Sports Arena turnout of 4,000, retained his United States wrestling title Saturday night by taking two of three falls from Ray (Thunder) Stern.

In the second half of a double main event card promoted by The Luchadores, Dick the Bruiser and Cowboy Bob Ellis were counted out by the referee after they traded dropkicks. Other results:

Killer Kowalski defeated Red Bastien; Verne Gagne defeated Eric Pederson; Pepper Gomez defeated Prof. Roy Shire; Bobo Brazil defeated Don Leo Jonathan; Wilbur Snyder defeated Haaji Baba; and Mitsu Arakawa-Kinji Shibuya defeated Guy and Joe Brunetti in a tag team match.


(Los Angeles Times, October 27, 1961)

Wrestling’s most famous box office attraction, the spectacular Argentine Rocca, meets Freddie Blassie in the main event of a special non-televised mat card tonight at the Olympic Auditorium.

Blassie will defend his world heavyweight title in a two-hour time limit match. The 240-pound blond from St. Louis is recognized as champion by the W.W.A. (Worldwide Wrestling Alliance).

Featured in the semifinal is Art (Seaman) Thomas, 250-lb. sensation. Managed by blues singer Jimmy Witherspoon, Thomas is paired with Crusher Kowalski.

Other bouts: Ramon and Alberto Torres vs. Nikita Mulkovich and Fritz Von Goering; Lou Thesz vs. The Brute; Ricki Starr vs. John Smith; Leo Garibaldi vs. Mr. Moto, and Little Beaver and Irish Jackie vs. Fuzzy Cupid and Billy Burke (dwarfs).

The program starts at 8 p.m.


(Los Angeles Times, October 28, 1961)

Freddie Blassie retained his world heavyweight wrestling title Frideay night at the Olympic Auditorium when the Latin temper of Argentina Rocca got the best of him and he was given the heave-ho by the referee for being too rough.

Blassie took the first fall with a body press afrter 15:22, but Rocca bounced right back to even the match at 12:37 with his famed backbreaker.

Then the trouble started.

As Blassie lay unconscious on the mat, Rocca continued to pummel and kick him. When referee Cecil Payne intervened, Rocca knocked Payne down. Leo Garibaldi and Art Thomas then jumped into the ring and subdued Blassie after a brief struggle and Payne disqualified Rocca for unethical tactics as the fans booed.

A crowd of 8,660 paid a gate of $16,100.

Other matches: Art Thomas defeated Crusher Kowalski; Ricki Starr defeated John Smith; Little Beaver and Irish Jackie defeated Fuzzy Cupid and Billy Burke; Leo Garibaldi drew with Mr. Moto; Lou Thesz defeated The Brute.


(Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, July 30, 1970)

By Bud Furillo

More than 2,000 people ringed the building owned by the Los Angeles Athletic Club seeking admittance to the Olympic last Friday. They never made it because the standing room capacity of 12,000 was above the plimsol two hours before caged fury was to erupt.

The attraction was the long-awaited rematch between Freddie Blassie and The Sheik. It took all of two weeks to get them together after The Sheik scored an unpopular victory on the first Friday of the month.

They had been matched in a cage said to be 15 feet high and constructed by Blassie, the ingenious student body president-elect of four Los Angeles area high schools.

Striving for a new dimension in the grand old sport of wrestling which has a B.C. backlog, Blassie proposed that he be locked in the cage with the Arab villain. After all, the California State Athletic Commission no longer allows grudge matches in a ring full of anchovies. There were too many complaints from the anchovies.

Under the Blassie Rules of Orderk, which differ from those of Roberts, the victor would be the man who left the other for dead and climbed from the cage to the ring floor.

In the first match, Freddie beat the bejabbers out of The Sheik. However, as he climbed from the cage, The Weasel, who has the same first name as The Sheik, dashed a potion said to be iodine into Blassie’s eyes. It must have been iodine. There was a skull and bones on the bottle.

"I can’t see," screamed the platinum Blassie as The Sheik finally was revived and climbed out of the cage. Blassie was administered to by the ring physician, Dr. Bernhart Schwartz, a miracle worker. Several minutes elapsed. Then Dr. Schwartz announced:

"Freddie Blassie will see again."

The news was greeted with the enthusiasm shown after a transplant by Dr. Christian Barnard. Bernhart deserved to be applauded for his honesty if nothing else. There never was much doubt in his mind that Freddie could see okay.

Sam Muchnick, who is to the National Wrestling Alliance what Pete Rozelle is to the NFL, ordered a rematch with The Sheik to give up a draft choice to be named later.

Promoter Mike LeBell proposed the Olympic as the site. He usually does. For it is in this building that LeBell, eldest son of Aileen Eaton, reigns as the Prince of Hokum.

It’s possible that LeBell is the nation’s most successful promoter of this strange sport that evokes laughter, rage, or tears, depending on one’s lack of or possession of senility.

The showmanship is priced at $5 and $3.50 for adults, with the second ticket available for one extra buck. The gate last Friday was in excess of $20,000, according to LeBell.

Mike and Freedie agreed that something had to be done to neutralize The Weasel, Sheik’s manager. So Freddie built another cage. It would be extended 50 feet above the ring.

The Weasel, who will go along with almost anything, balked at the suspension. "I am nauseated by height," he said, presumably a trauma experienced at the Golan Heights or Boyle Heights. He agreed to go 20 feet, while keeping a watchful eye for Israeli planes.

The crowd at the rematch was raucous but the folks didn’t get into any fights among themselves, a common hazard on Olympic boxing nights.

"The cage is 10 feet high, not 15," I told LeBell. "Yes," he said, "but’s another five feet from the mat to the auditorium floor."

The noise of bodies landing on the mat was awesome. A thin canvas covered the tin floor. Wrestlers don’t need as much padding to break the fall as boxers. These guys know how to fall. They do it six nights a week from L.A. to Pismo Beach.

Blassie, once the dreaded villain, was accorded cheers louder than those ever heard in the Olympic over the years for anyone from Mando Ramos to Henry Armstrong.

A cheer was struck up. "Bite ‘Em Blassie, Bite ‘Em" they exhorted. An incisor to the forehead is Freddie’s best hold.

Following five agonizing near escapes by The Sheik, Blassie threw pepper in his eyes, followed with bites and knee combinations to the groin and neck. All in good clean fun of course.

Blassie climbed from the cage and panted in a front row seat until attacked by John Tolos. The Sheik somehow made it out of the cage and left immediately for Toronto.

On the way out, the sight of all those happy people gave off a warm feeling until one terrifying thought.

Most of them vote.


(Souvenir Program, August 27, 1971)

On Friday night, August 27th at the L.A. Coliseum, wrestling fans will witness what must be the biggest wrestling card in the world. It will be topped off by the GREATEST feud in the world, Freddie Blassie and John Tolos.

How did it all start, you ask? Let’s go back to last May 8th. Before millions of viewers Blassie was voted the wrestler of the year. The night before Fred lost the Americas’ title to Tolos after the ropes broke and Fred was knocked out.

Anyway, Fred accepted the trophy from announcer Dick Lane with pride. While making a speech, John Tolos ran to Dr. Schwartz’s medical bag and pulled out a bottle of Monsel’s Powder. He threw the blinding solvent into Blassie’s eyes. Fred fell to the ground screaming, "My God, my eyes!" Fred Blassie had been blinded!

He was rushed to South Hoover Hospital where he faced days of treatment. Three weeks later fans found out Fred would never wrestle again. Sad as he was, Blassie went into hiding. All he could think about was TOLOS. Only a few weeks ago it was announced that Fred had 30 percent vision in his left eye. Without anyone knowing, Fred began to train again. He trained hard against the advice of his doctors.

Then, on July 30th, the night TOLOS re-won the Americas’ championship from Don Carson, Blassie shocked the turnaway wrestling crowd by running out of nowhere in an effort to get Tolos. The Olympic police, sensing a riot, stopped Blassie by handcuffing him. Tolos didn’t bother to shower or dress, he ran out of the arena and into the darkness.

Promoter Mike LeBell signed a return bout and added it to the spectacular August 27th COLISEUM wrestling card.


(Los Angeles Times, Saturday, Aug. 28, 1971)

By Don Page

They performed a little morality play Friday night at the Coliseum which may or may not be an accurate social commentary on our times. Moreover, it could be weeks before they identify the casualties. It was like a prison riot with choreography.

It was an all-star wrestling show with a cast larger than "Ben Hurt," and to give you an idea of the emotional posture of the fandom, allow us to describe one of the protagonists in the main attraction.

By his own admission, this guy wrote the book on "dirty rassling." Some of his acts in the ring have been criticized as unspeakable, and he has been known to laugh at the sight of an opponent’s blood. He has had to be restrained by security police on numerous occasions. Once, he broke a chair over another wrestlers’ head—during a television interview! In his field, he is the epitome of evil. And he was the sentimental choice!

He is Freddie Blassie and his Friday night adversary was John Tolos, who is so bad we can’t profile him in a family newspaper.

The big wrestling show was the result of one of the greatest show biz build-ups in televised wrestling history, perpetrated by those funsters who run the Olympic shows. They are geniuses at their trade. You didn’t get this kind of stuff with Olsen and Johnson.

It started on TV last May when Tolos supposedly blinded Blassie by throwing a mysterious powder in his face. Blassie maintains that he actually was blinded and this kid is too big to argue with, so it’s OK. Subsequently, practically every Saturday on Channel 13’s wrestling theater, Tolos hatingly taunted Blassie and finally Freddie (miraculously) recovered and signed for the big match.

Last Saturday in what you might call the final dress rehearsal, Blassie was chained to the ring post (to keep him out of the ring) while Tolos was demolishing some poor volunteer. After Tolos had the guy sufficiently waffled, he proceeded to work Blassie over by massaging his face with the chain. Announcer Dick Lane was screaming for the police at his fade out. Then Gene LeBell gave the pitch for Friday’s biggie. Honestly, these weekly shows are the best entertainment television has seen since Rocket to Stardom.

Today’s program (Channel 13 at 7 p.m.) will feature Blassie or Tolos (or both) reporting on what happened Friday night. And Dick Lane will do it straight through the entire interview. You’ve got to see it to appreciate it. Who says there’s no creativity in television?


(Los Angeles Times, August 28, 1961)

Freddie Blassie emerged triumphant over John Tolos in the wrestling main event Friday night at the Coliseum before 25,847 fans who contributed to a record outdoor gate of $142,158.50.

After Blassie and Tolos split the first two falls, Blassie was the winner when Tolos was unable to continue.

Other results:

Black Gordman-Goliath defeated Kinji Shibuya-Mr. Saito; Peter Maivia defeated Dutch Savage; El Gran Lothario defeated Ripper Collins; Cowboy Lane defeated Paul DeMarco; The Sheik defeated Bobo Brazil; El Gran Markus defeated Suni War Cloud; The Medics defeated Earl Maynard-Apollo; El Sicodelico defeated Fidel Castillo.

The WAWLI Papers #605...



By Patrick Michael

Heroes of Wrestling PPV Report - October 10, 1999

The Samoans defeated Marty Jannetty and Tommy Rogers.

The Samoan Swat Team came out first with a manager that ran down Tommy Rogers and Marty Jannety. Very slow paced match with Rogers and Jannetty taking control first with fast paced double teaming for the first few minutes. The Samoans controlled the match with submissions moves but the match had no psychology. The end came out of nowhere as Jannetty was outside the ring fighting one of the Samoans when one of the Samoans used Marc Mero’s finisher on Tommy Rogers to get the pinfall.

Greg Valentine defeated George Steele.

George Steele came down with Sherri Martel. The match was about and minutes of stalling and then Sherri Martel turned on Steele as Greg Valentine took control of the match by pulling The Animal’s shirt over his head. Animal then began a comeback as he punched Valentine repeatedly. Each guy then traded control back and forth. Sherri nailed Animal with a chair, at which point Valentine made the pinfall. Following the match, Animal threw Sherri over the top rope as he chased them to the back. Steele then returned to the ring to throw chairs around and destroy the turnbuckle.

Too Cold Scorpio defeated Juilo Fantastic.

The match started out quickly and had a very quick feel, as the crowd was getting into the show for the first time. The crowd was solidly behind Scorpio. The match was back and forth as they also did a few highspots in what would be the best match on the card. A few points happened where it looked as if neither guy was sure about how to procede. Julio Fantastico had control during the middle of the match, but Scorpio made a huge comeback to win the match with a pinfall after a somersault legdrop.

The Bushwackers defeated Nikolai Volkoff and The Iron Sheik.

A very slow paced match with virtually almost all stalling. Iron Sheik and Volkoff could barely move as the match also featured everyone in the ring at the same time. Nobody had definite control at any point. The Bushwackers got the pinfall victory after a rollup that came out of now where. Nobody in th ecorwd knew the match ended. Afterwards, Volkoff and Sheik began to fight but their manager stopped them and they made up.

Tully Blanchard defeated Stan Lane.

The match started out fast with some heat from the crowd, but it soon degraded into a very slow 80’s style pace with rest holds that went on for a few minutes at a time. They went back and forth for a few more minutes until the match came to a end that took about three minutes to understand. Stan Lane suplexed Tully Blanchard and went for the pin with a bridge. The referee, though, counted the pin on both men and changed his decision twice. Blanchard was finally awarded the win. Both he and Lane began to fight, but were soon pulled apart by the referee.

Abdullah The Butcher and One Man Gang went to a Double Countout.

The match was a total brawl with tons of blood as they used weapons around the ring. Butcher was bleeding heavily. He was stabbing One Man Gang in the head with a fork. The end of the match came with both fighting on the outside of the ring and the referee counted them both out. They kept fighting despite the end. Security tried to break them up, but they beat up security and fought to the back.

Jimmy Snuka defeated Bob Orton.

The match was one long resthold that Orton had on Snuka and the only action was Orton going to hit Capt. Lou Albano and missing. Snuka then got the pinfall when he hit a cross body off the top rope. Nobody was into this one at all.

King Kong Bundy and Jim Niedhart defeated Jake Roberts and Yokozuna.

The match started out with about five minutes of back and forth action, when Jake Roberts took his snake out. Niedhart left the ring and refused to get back in for a few minutes. King Kong Bundy made his way down and interfered a few times as Niedhart and Roberts fought again. The match went on for a few minutes until Yokozuna came down and attacked Bundy. Niedhart then attacked Yokozuna as they announced that the main event was now a tag team match. It started out like every other match with pure stalling. The stalling went on for a few minutes until Neidhart finally attacked a hurt Roberts on the outside of the ring. They dragged Roberts into the heel corner and kept him there for a few minutes with rest holds and a punch or two every few minutes. Roberts, in the end, tagged Yoko in for the only crowd pop of the night. Yoko beat up both heels for a few minutes, but Bundy then pinned Roberts with a big splash when Yoko had his back turned. They then attacked the manager of Bundy. Roberts then placed the snake onto the manager of Bundy as the show went off the air without explanation.


(Associated Press, Oct. 8, 1999)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Willie Herenton, the city’s first elected black mayor, has won a third term and defeated a member of Memphis’ most politically powerful black family in the process.

Herenton drew 74,896 votes, or 46 percent, Thursday while his chief rival, City Council Chairman Joe Ford, gathered 41,161 votes, or 25 percent. Coming in third in the 15-candidate race was pro wrestler Jerry "The King" Lawler, with 19,092 votes, or 12 percent.


(, October 9, 1999)

By Jonathan Dube

Professional wrestlers may choreograph their moves, but the injuries and death they sustain while entertaining millions of fans are very real.

In fact, professional wrestlers have an unusually high chance of dying compared to other pro athletes, according to a recent study.

Now experts say that danger may be increasing as pro matches become more popular and wrestlers attempt ever-riskier moves to draw in fans. The paralyzing neck fracture suffered this week by Darren "The Droz" Drozdov’s and the death last May 23rd of Owen "The Blue Blazer" Hart’s are just the latest examples of what can happen.

"The injury rate is way higher than it’s ever been," says David Meltzer, editor of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. "There are guys who every night take too many risks. And those guys will probably pay for it."

Professional wrestlers practice their moves hundreds of times and rarely make mistakes, Meltzer says. But the moves themselves are sometimes so risky that one wrong drop can be deadly.

Drozdov fractured his neck when D’Lo Brown threw him onto the mat in a routine move known as a "Power Bomb." Drozdov is paralyzed from the waist down and his doctor says it’s too early to tell whether he’ll regain use of his legs.

Hart died after falling 50 feet when he dropped from a cable lowering him into the ring. His family is suing the World Wrestling Federation and its owner, Vince McMahon, for wrongful death.

In an Indiana University study last year, researchers reviewed 50 WWF Raw episodes and counted 609 instances of wrestlers or others being struck by objects such as garbage cans or nightsticks.

"Even with scripts, even with people in good shape, " says New York chiropractor Victor Dolan, "when you have this kind of physicality, if you’re just half an inch to the left or to the right, obviously, you can do a lot of damage because you’re dealing with such big, strong, fast athletes."

No doubt about it, America’s 250 or so professional wrestlers live high-risk lives. When Meltzer studied accident and death data, he found that at least 16 U.S. pro wrestlers had died in a six-year period, or roughly one of every 85 each year.

An equivalent rate in professional football, he says, would mean 14 player deaths every year. (The National Football League says no one has died on the field in the past six years, but does not keep track of how many players die off the field. A spokesman said he’s only aware of two who have died during that time period, as a result of accidents.)

In most cases, the wrestler deaths occurred outside the ring - and were usually linked to steroids, pain killers or other drugs, according to Meltzer.

WWF spokesman Greg Castronuovo wouldn’t comment on Meltzer’s data. But he characterizes the incidents involving Hart and Drozdov as unrelated.

"Are the dangers any better or worse than any other sport or any other event that requires athleticism and judgment?" Castronuovo asks. "I don’t think so. If you look at various sports events, you’ll see all types of different injuries."

While a number of states have wrestling rules on the books, Meltzer says Oregon is the only state that enforces its regulations. The state requires drug tests for wrestlers and forbids such practices as slashing foreheads with razor blades, one of many things wrestlers do to make it look as if they’re in a genuinely dangerous battle.

"Setting other wrestlers on fire makes the fans go crazy," Meltzer says about one of other bizarre theatrics pro wrestlers depend on. "But these guys get third-degree burns all the time."

Oregon has fined and banned wrestlers for such behaviors and as a result major wrestling leagues simply avoid the state. Although Meltzer and others argue that stricter regulations could help protect wrestlers, this would happen only if the laws are enforced in every state. Otherwise the leagues will simply continue to avoid regulated states - and we can probably expect to hear more reports of injuries and deaths in the pro wrestling ring.


Wrestler—Age—Cause of Death—Date

Andre Roussmoff (Andre the Giant), 46, heart attack -- 1/27/93

Kerry Adkisson (Kerry Von Erich), 33, suicide -- 2/18/93

Adolpho Bresciano (Dino Bravo), 44, murder --3/11/93

Larry Cameron, 41, heart attack during match -- 12/13/93

Ray Canty (Ray Candy), 43, heart attack -- 5/23/94

Art Barr (Love Machine), 28, alcohol and pain killers -- 11/23/94

Jerry Blackwell (Crusher), 45, pneumonia --1/22/95

Thomas Gilbert III (Eddie Gilbert), 33, heart attack after using cocaine -- 2/18/95

John Minton (Big John Studd), 46, liver cancer -- 3/20/95

Hart Richard Murdoch (Dick Murdoch), 49, heart attack -- 6/15/96

Brian Pillman, 35, heart attack after using cocaine -- 10/5/97

Louis Mucciolo (Louie Spicolli), 27, heart attack after using drugs and alcohol -- 2/15/98

Sylvester Ritter (Junkyard Dog), 45, auto accident -- 6/2/98

Brian Hauser (Shane Shamrock), 23, shot by police during domestic dispute -- 8/17/98

Richard Wilson (Renegade), 33, suicide -- 2/23/99

Owen Hart (Blue Blazer), 34,fell from ceiling cable during match -- 3/23/99

Source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter.


(Time Magazine, October 11, 1999)

By Garrison Keiller

Here in Minnesota, we are carrying on an experiment in democracy, having elected a Governor whom we can especially enjoy because only 37% voted for him and the rest of us are not responsible. This is something new in America, the ironic public servant.

Ordinarily a Governor is elected with 51% or 55% or (if he is young and has luminous children and his opponent is a pencil-necked geek) 60% of the vote, and two months after his Inauguration, he starts to brown around the edges and disillusionment sets in, starting with the people who once worshiped the ground he trod on and now see that, alas, he is a dumb cluck like everyone else and has no solutions for problems such as ignorance and cruelty and the aging process.

In Minnesota, our Emperor started out with no clothes at all. He came to us from a branch of the performing arts in which large men who resemble comic-book characters pretend to fight each other, so when he was inaugurated and did not appoint barflies and dope dealers to office but donned a suit and white shirt and horn-rimmed glasses and managed to sound half-smart about a third of the time, his approval ratings turned three sheets to the wind and have stayed that way ever since.

His success has been discouraging to people in politics, much as the success of The Blair Witch Project is discouraging to filmmakers: if the public embraces something so shallow and tedious, what future is there for the professionals? But the source of the man’s strength is no secret. It is that he speaks plain English with none of the circuitous posturing and preening of public officials, who cannot give you the time of day without saying that time is a topic of great concern to them, as it is to all Americans, and that they have long devoted themselves to finding a solution for the chronic problem of time shortage. Governor Ventura just says it’s 12 o’clock.

People are grateful for that, and surprised, and on the basis of this plain-spokenness, Ventura has leaped to national prominence, and deservedly so. He scorns the religious right and the war on drugs, which nobody else dares to do. He is hard as nails on the subject of campaign financing. He is brave in so many ways, and just when you want to admire him, he shows his great capacity for silliness, and there is nothing more fatal in politics. I’m sorry, but it simply is true. Voters don’t elect people to goof around.

This summer, after he told farmers he doesn’t like to use the term farm crisis because it is too negative, Ventura, for a million dollars or so, climbed back into the pro-wrestling ring as a referee, to be among men strutting around the ring pointing at their butts and yelling butt-related words for the audience to yell back at them. It wasn’t a proud moment for Minnesotans, especially if you made the mistake of watching. Then, in September, Ventura touted Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. Let’s be clear about this: anyone who imagines Donald Trump in the White House has the brains of a stale bagel. Donald Trump makes Ross Perot look like a giant. Jesse Ventura was the first man, aside from the men in Mr. Trump’s employ, ever to make this imaginative leap.

And now, this week, in an interview in Playboy, he talks about prostitutes and not wearing underwear and breasts, breasts, breasts, Sophia Loren’s and his wife’s, and how he’d like to be reincarnated as a 38-double-D bra, and he implies that groping women, Tailhook-style, is a prerogative of the warrior and says, in perfectly plain English, "Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers." So much for St. Thomas and Martin Luther.

Minnesotans are polite people who tend to deal with provocation by sidestepping it, ignoring it, chuckling at it, trying to find a charitable explanation. But the Governor, in plain English, is a Yahoo who has never confessed to a single regret or second thought and who struts around St. Paul, a big small town, with a retinue of bodyguards, emitting a great air of celebrity, scorning the local press while courting the national media. People do their best to grin and go along with it, but eventually you have to tell him to shut the hell up. He isn’t a danger to anybody. He’s just big and loud and arrogant. He’s a guy wearing a 38-double-D bra on his head, and all we needed was someone to run the government.


(Dallas Morning News, Oct. 8, 1999)

By Cody Monk

Fritz Von Erich stood in the back of the stoic, dimly-lit Sportatorium in Dallas with a smile on his face.

He watched his oldest son, Kevin Von Erich, bounce off the ropes, jump from the turnbuckles and take the match to the floor, trying desperately to get the new student to simply make eye contact.

Despite Kevin Von Erich’s obvious frustration, Fritz Von Erich kept the grin as he walked out the back door. The legendary Fritz Von Erich rarely missed on a prospect, and he knew he had something special with 6-9, 300-pound Mark Callaway - also known as The Undertaker.

"When he first started, he would just stand there and look straight down at my knees or my boots," Kevin Von Erich said of the wrestler who became one of the most revered and transcendent stars in the past 20 years. "I wasn’t sure he would ever develop a personality. He was a star in Dallas as The Punisher, but he didn’t ever say anything. I’ve enjoyed seeing him become successful even though those first few times I wrestled him, I wasn’t sure he was ever going to look at me."

Callaway has since developed the personality. With The Undertaker character, he has carved a niche that has kept him at the top of the industry since he joined the World Wrestling Federation at the Survivor Series in November 1990.

Since then, Callaway has held the WWF tag team and champion titles three times each. He has become a mainstream media presence and has exemplified staying power in a character.

Callaway has been both babyface and heel. While his peers have switched monikers and gone through several creative changes, however, Callaway has only massaged The Undertaker.

"You have to keep giving the fans what they want," said Stone Cold Steve Austin, who changed from Stunning Steve Austin to the Ringmaster before finding his current character.

"The best characters are the ones that are extensions of your own personality," Austin said. "That is the way my character is. When it’s that way, you are really in tune with it and the fans normally respond. The Undertaker is a guy the fans like. You keep guys like that the way they are."

Like most wrestlers, Callaway grew up watching wrestling on television. A Houston native, he became familiar with Fritz Von Erich and, eventually, his five sons. Callaway had never given much thought to actually getting into the ring until the summer before his junior year at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth.

Callaway had attended several matches at the Sportatorium and inquired about getting involved. Because he was playing basketball for Texas Wesleyan, Callaway wanted to finish school before making a full-time commitment to wrestling.

That plan, however, was prior to an altercation that changed Callaway’s life.

Before the season began, Callaway, who played center, told the coach he wanted to keep playing while continuing his wrestling training.

The coach told Callaway he needed to make a commitment and asked him to stop wrestling.

Considering he was playing at the college equivalent of the minor leagues and his tombstone pile driver was developing much faster than his baseline jumper, Callaway said he couldn’t give the team his full attention.

"I had every intention of coming back and playing that last year," Callaway said. "The coach asked me about wrestling and I said it was something that I was interested in doing. We had some words, so I quit the team. He ran me down in the papers, saying that I was the first player he had ever lost to pro wrestling."

Callaway left Texas Wesleyan and became a bouncer at a bar in Arlington while honing his wrestling skills. He made a run through the Sportatorium with Fritz Von Erich’s promotion before moving on to the WCW and eventually the WWF, where he has become one of the company’s cornerstones.

"I never talked to that coach again," said Callaway, who has a comic book series and is the subject of a Toliver Racing funny car that debuted in July. "That was 15 years ago. I’d actually like to see him. I’d say he did me a favor."

During his early days in Dallas, Callaway met William Moody, who was managing as Percy Pringle. Moody had been working with Austin, Chris Adams, Kerry Von Erich, The Ultimate Warrior and several others during his Dallas stint. But, Moody saw something he liked in Callaway. The two became friends, and when Callaway landed in the WWF, Pringle jumped at the chance to manage "The Phenom." It’s a decision that prolonged Moody’s career and created an aura that is fast becoming legendary.

"I loved my time in Dallas because you saw guys like Mark (Callaway) develop," Moody said. "Mark found a great fit. That’s what you’re looking for."

 The WAWLI Papers #606...



First (and only so far) bid was $19.99, but closing soon. The description:

This is a wrestling poster advertising the fights of March 12, 1943, in Chicago at the Cicero Stadium. The matches were John Pesek (Nebraska Tiger, former World Champ) vs. Bull Doehrnig (former Chicago Bears Football Star) and another fight between Ole Olson and Bill Bartush.

The poster is of a thick card stock and has yellowed with age and is wavy (rippled). Dust shadowing mostly around edges.A few dings around the edges, but still a neat poster. At this time we can only accept U.S. Postal Money orders (available at your local post office), and payment must be recieved within seven days of auction end. Buyer pays shipping. Good Luck and Happy Bidding!!!

(ED. NOTE—"Bull Doehrnig" was, in fact, John "Bull" Doehring, a Milwaukee product, age 33 at the time of this bout, who played for the Bears in 1933-34-36.)


(Savannah Morning News, Oct. 4, 1999)

By Doug Gross

For writer Julian L.D. Shabazz, pro wrestling might seem like an unlikely subject.

In the past, the 31-year-old motivational speaker and chairman of Awesome Records, a multi-media company in Clinton, S.C., has focused on such non-traditional African-American subjects as rap music and ‘70s movie stars.

But in 1998, the deaths of two childhood wrestling favorites—Bobo Brazil and The Junkyard Dog—got him thinking about the legacy of these grappling stars.

Brazil’s death, he said, was handled with three lines on the sports page of a local newspaper.

"That just affected me in such a strong way," he said. "I said ‘Wow, there’s really nothing written out there on these guys."

He set out to write something commemorating the two men’s careers, but soon found the project growing and growing.

"I said, ‘If I write about Junkyard and Bobo, then I’ve got to write about Bearcat Wright," he said. "And if I write about Bearcat, then what about (Ron) Simmons? Then, what about (Rocky) Maivia?"

The final result is "Black Stars of Professional Wrestling," a 148-page collection of photographs and brief biographies of some of wrestling’s greatest.

"I wanted to create a good primer, if you will," said Shabazz. "This is not the ultimate, final authority, but a good introduction. There needed to be a good introduction."

Shabazz says he didn’t set out to write an insider piece or an analysis of race in wrestling.

"I’m not qualified enough to speak about (a promoter’s) personal character," he said. "I’m not friends enough with Thunderbolt (Patterson) or Abdullah (the Butcher) to talk about their personalities.

"I just looked at it as an outsider looking in. I did not want to deal with a tome on racial relations in professional wrestling. ‘Pistol’ Pez Whatley and Booker T. and Ernie Ladd could talk about that easier than I could."

Instead, he’s provided a virtual "who’s who" of black wrestling—from a former slave named Viro Small who wrestled in the 1880s to stars of today like Booker T., Ron "Farooq" Simmons and Rocky "The Rock" Maivia.

Not that he doesn’t have strong opinions.

In conversation, Shabazz is quick to point out that the history of pro wrestling, like the history of the nation, is tainted with racism.

Too often, he said, black wrestlers have been called on to reinforce negative stereotypes through their characters.

His research unveiled grapplers like Gorilla Parker, Cornbread Brown and Burrhead Jones. Many black wrestlers were made to play savages—like The Great Kamala and Abdullah the Butcher.

Shabazz said that in some cases, the stereotypes had less to do with intentional racism than with creating easy characters to appeal to fans.

"It’s all about money," Shabazz said. "From a business standpoint, I clearly understand it. But as a black man, I don’t want to see it."

Ironically, wrestling has always experienced what Shabazz calls "The Elvis Effect"—white wrestlers adopting the style and mannerisms of black wrestlers to improve their own popularity.

He said legends Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes owe much of their style to Thunderbolt Patterson, who they wrestled with in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

"And listen to Hulk Hogan," he said. "Every third word he says is ‘bro’ or ‘dude.’ He sounds like a guy from the ‘70s off of ‘Good Times’ or something.

"Black wrestlers of the ‘70s didn’t get that push because they were told their blackness limited their crossover appeal. But crossover did not limit Rhodes or Flair or Hogan."

Even now, he said, racial overtones to wrestling aren’t hard to find.

The WWF’s Nation of Domination was a direct takeoff of the Nation of Islam and The Godfather portrays a black pimp.

Several weeks ago, the WCW’s Buff Bagwell mocked Earnest "The Cat" Miller by coming to the ring in blackface.

"If you put down on paper that the Harlem Heat is wrestling the West Texas Rednecks, you know immediately who’s who," Shabazz said.

So, how does Shabazz square his love for the game with his distaste for some of its story lines?

"I don’t," he said. "I just compartmentalize it. I really don’t like it all, but I’m a lifelong fan.

And, he says, things have gotten better.

In the past few years, black wrestlers, especially in the WWF, have held some prime booking spots.

The Rock and Jacquelyn both held the organization’s world titles in the same month. Overwhelming fan support turned The Harlem Heat from heels into good guys. And virtually all of the WWF’s black wrestlers have held one title or another, he points out.

"I wondered if someone at the WWF had read my book," he joked.

Shabazz won’t say who he thinks may be the greatest black wrestler of all time. Instead he mentions a note he got from legendary wrestler and promoter Lou Thesz.

"When I first started seeking information, I got a message from Lou Thesz saying, ‘Don’t forget Luther Lindsey, he was probably the greatest ever," he said. "If Lou Thesz says Luther Lindsey was the greatest, I will defer to the champ."

"Black Stars of Professional Wrestling," by Julian L.D. Shabazz, may be purchased at or by sending $14.95, plus $2 shipping and handling, to Awesome Records, P.O. Box 793, Clinton, S.C. 29325.


(Playboy Magazine, November, 1999)

It’s 11 o’clock Friday morning and Jesse Ventura is at the microphone, headphones on, at Minneapolis radio station WCCO. He’s preparing to spend an hour over the airwaves with his constituents. It’s "Lunch With the Governor," and the press and TV reporters are also there—they follow his every public move because, as one cameraman states, "You never know what Jesse is going to say." He begins with a tirade about lawn darts and how the federal government has banned them. "You can go down to your local gun dealer and buy a .44 magnum, but you can’t buy a lawn dart," he says. "That’s not my law, that’s the federal law." He then takes on the movement to tear down the 17-year-old Metrodome, which could be replaced with a new stadium. After the show he talks to a journalist who asks him again about the stadium issue. He realizes that a new stadium will become a huge issue "because you run the risk of losing your professional teams to this blackmail." And he knows if that happens the governor will get blamed. "But you know what? This governor don’t care. This governor will stand by his principles. I could understand building a new stadium if this stadium was 35 years old; but you didn’t hear one complaint when we won the World Series in 1987 and 1991. Then they called it the Dome-field advantage. Now all of a sudden: ‘We can’t compete here.’ They’ve got businesses that are out of whack like baseball, and then they think building a stadium is going to put them back in competition? If stadiums were a good deal, the private sector would be building them."

On the drive back to his office he takes a call from a Newsweek reporter who has the presidency and the control of the Reform Party on his mind. "I’m not trying to wrest control over anything," the governor—currently the party’s most powerful member—tells him. "I have the state of Minnesota to run. My priority is not to control the Reform Party. I just feel it’s time for some new leadership. We have to move beyond Mr. Perot." A few weeks later, Ventura’s handpicked candidate, Jack Gargan, took over as the party’s new chairman. That gives Ventura a big voice on who the Reform Party will run for president. "It’s important for us to have a viable, fairly well-known candidate. I think a candidate like myself could come in through the back door and take the election. I never led the polls in Minnesota at all, and at the primary six weeks before the general election I was polling only ten percent. They have polls right now that have me in the 20s, and I’m not even a candidate. That’s one out of five people saying they’d vote for me—and I’m not running. But I will finish my job as governor because I’d be a hypocrite if I turned around and ran for president."

This election year, Jesse Ventura is not running for president. Not yet, anyway. But his opinion is sought by the national press. He’s a frequent guest or subject of conversation on all the major political talk shows, from "Rivera Live" to "Meet the Press," as well as a late-night talk show favorite. What Governor Jesse Ventura, formerly known as the wrestler Jesse "the Body" Ventura (and before that as Jim Janos), former Navy Seal, nightclub bouncer, bodyguard, biker, ring announcer, actor and mayor has to say about gun control or the legalization of marijuana or prostitution or his opinion of the Democratic and Republican parties has become newsworthy. He ran for governor last year as a Reform Party candidate against two professional politicians, Democratic State Attorney General Hubert "Skip" Humphrey III (son of former vice president Hubert Humphrey) and the Republican mayor of St. Paul, Norm Coleman. Ventura’s surprising victory "shocked the world," a phrase he borrowed from his idol Muhammad Ali. And his performance during his first year in office has continued to surprise many who predicted he would fall flat on his face once he had to actually govern.

His approval rating has remained high, especially as he secured a permanent income-tax cut and made good on his promise of a sales-tax rebate to taxpayers. But his critics complain that he is capitalizing on his name and fame while serving as governor. The advance for his book I Ain’t Got Time to Bleed was in the mid six figures. His return to the World Wrestling Federation as a referee for a pay-per-view event last August may have paid him even more. (Although he donated his up-front fee of $100,000 to charity, he received a percentage of videotape sales and compensation for the use of his name.) At the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, Ventura declared himself a professional and was paid just over $1000 for his last-place finish. The Minneapolis Star Tribune estimates that Ventura may have earned as much as $2 million to $3 million in outside income during the first eight months of his term. "It’s one thing to promote your own book," observes Steven Schier, chairman of the political science department at Carleton College. "It’s another thing to hire yourself out to a private corporation to promote its event while you’re the full-time salaried governor of Minnesota. This is an ethical line that should not be crossed." The governor defends himself by saying he does not earn outside money on government time, that he does so on weekends and in the evenings, and that what he does should be taken "with a grain of salt and a gleam in the eye."

His defenders believe that Ventura has injected a new spirit into politics. Ohio Republican Governor Bob Taft believes Ventura is "bringing more national attention to governors than we’ve ever had before." Arizona Senator John McCain says he admires Ventura "enormously for telling the truth and having some rational ideas." Former Minnesota congressman Tim Penny has said, "The reason serious-minded, altruistic people agreed to work for Ventura is that he has made politics meaningful again." And the legions of young people who logged onto various Ventura websites greatly contributed to getting others involved in his election.

Growing up in a middle-class family in south Minneapolis, Jim Janos had strict parents, George and Bernice, who both served in World War II. George Janos had been in a tank-destroyer battalion under General George Patton; Bernice served as an Army nurse in North Africa. Of the two boys (Jim and older brother Jan), Jim was the extrovert. Jim and his friends liked to make trouble in school, started drinking beer in junior high and favored sports over academics (Jim was a star swimmer). When Jan joined the Navy Seals, Jim followed in 1969. By the time he was 19 he was sent overseas and spent a lot of time drinking, whoring and misbehaving in Olongapo in the Philippines. During four years as a Seal he learned to make explosives, rappel from helicopters and feel as comfortable as a dolphin underwater. Then he left the Navy and rode with a California biker gang, the Mongols, for nine months. In 1974 he returned to Minnesota, where he enrolled in North Hennepin Community College and took some acting classes. He married Terry Masters, a teenager he met while he was checking IDs at a bar, the Rusty Nail. While working as a bouncer, he attended his first professional wrestling event. Impressed with the way a good wrestler could control the crowd, he joined a gym where wrestlers worked out. He soon became a pro wrestler and for long months traveled the circuit, making $35 to $65 a match while building a name for himself as Jesse "the Body" Ventura. Eventually he became a headliner with long bleached hair, wearing feather boas, earrings and glittering sunglasses. The more people booed him, the more popular he became. But in 1984, just before he was slated to wrestle the sport’s biggest star, Hulk Hogan, blood clots were discovered in his lungs, and he was forced to quit wrestling. The WWF, not wanting to lose his outrageous mouth, hired him as a ringside announcer. (His relationship with the WWF has been stormy. Ventura sued in 1991, claiming the WWF was marketing his image without his permission. Despite the bad blood, he returned to the WWF in August to referee Summer Slam.)

When Hollywood needed a strong body to help hunt down an evil alien, Ventura was cast in Predator (1987), which was followed by parts in The Running Man (1987), Repossessed (1990), Abraxas (1991), Demoliton Man (1993), Major League II (1994) and Batman and Robin (1997). When a TV series he was to star in didn’t pan out and he lost his job as a WWF announcer, he decided to run for mayor of Brooklyn Park, a Minneapolis suburb, over a personal issue—he was angry about a proposed sewer and housing project that threatened the wetlands near his home. He shocked everyone, including himself, by winning 63 percent of the vote in 1990. We sent Contributing Editor Lawrence Grobel (whose last interview was with Nick Nolte) to the Minnesota state capitol to spend a week with the governor. Grobel’s report: "What I found most refreshing about Governor Ventura was his willingness to defend his positions and attack his interrogators. During our first session, he was sizing me up. By the second day he had invited me to attend the funeral of his high school coach. During our third session he began challenging my positions on subjects I was asking him about. When we discussed handgun control, the governor called me a ‘liberal weenie’ for not believing every house should be equipped with weapons of destruction. He’s an imposing man who’s not easily intimidated, and he’s convinced he has the aura that will take him to higher places. He also believes he has yet to reach whatever destiny has in store for him. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if we’ll be knocking at Ventura’s door to interview him again, say, three years from now."

Jesse Online and Uncut

Media hype notwithstanding, Jesse is a phenomenon to behold. His comments to Lawrence Grobel in the November Playboy Interview outraged just about everyone this side of the ring. In our exclusive excerpt not available in the printed Interview, Ventura slings more darts at his hometown press.

VENTURA: Maybe the media wish something would happen to me. After all, they’re afflicted with great jealousy. There wasn’t one person in the media that predicted I would win.

PLAYBOY: This was basically your local media in Minnesota?

VENTURA: Yes. National treats me good. I have no complaints other than Katie Couric and Matt Lauer. It’s the state media, mainly the St. Paul Pioneer Press. They show me no respect. They call over here and ask for "Jesse." They don’t ever refer to me as the governor.... For them to disrespect me the way they do, I will show them no respect back. I don’t do interviews with them any more, I ignore them. I called over to them one time to speak with their head editor, and they said he’s out of town. I said, ‘Well, the governor’s calling.’ They said, ‘Well, so what.’ I said, ‘Let me talk to who’s in charge then.’ They said, ‘She’s in a meeting.’ The governor calls and she’s in a meeting? If I were there, I’d love to interrupt a meeting to say, ‘Would you excuse me, the governor is on the phone.’

PLAYBOY: The press might piss you off, but you seem to thrive on attacking them all the time.

VENTURA: Because they need it. Because nobody holds them accountable. No one holds their feet to the fire.

PLAYBOY: They tried to hold you accountable for making money from your book, your action figures, your golfing, your refereeing while you’re governor.

VENTURA: And yet you don’t hear anything about other people making money off me. Those ‘My Governor Can Beat Up Your Governor’ bumper stickers are totally illegal, I don’t want that message out there. We created what we did to protect my image, so that whatever’s put out there I get full approval of. I took heat because some little old lady who works here at the capitol started putting out cards of me depicting me as a wrestler. Well, I have my name copyrighted, and if you don’t protect your copyright, the government won’t let you keep it, and this woman thinks I’m out of line because I’m saying cease and desist.

PLAYBOY: And because of this you wind up looking like a bully.

VENTURA: Yup. The writers for the media are nothing but political hacks for whatever party or philosophy they belong to. They’ll criticize me for writing a book as if I’ve done something wrong. I’ve done nothing wrong. NBC does a made-for-TV movie of me, I get nothing from it.


 The WAWLI Papers #607...


(Amarillo Globe News, June 6, 1999)

By Chris Gove

Some consider professional wrestling these days to be a complete circus, based on the outlandish antics seen in millions of homes several days throughout the week on cable television.

In truth, the circus days of pro wrestling have been over for some time. Those were the days when bands of wrestlers traveled to cities throughout a "territory" endlessly, heading to a new city almost every night for another set of matches.

Those were the days when there was no bigger family in professional wrestling than the Funks—Dory Sr., Dory Jr. and Terry—who were among the top drawing cards in the Amarillo area from the early 1950s and beyond.

For about the past 20 years, things have been a bit different with the advent of wrestling on big-time cable TV, which has relegated territorial wrestling to minor-league status.

The Funk name has survived, though, with both Terry and Dory Jr. making the transition as stars through the 1990s after years of championships and glory for the family from some of the earliest days of pro wrestling.

"I have a lot of great memories, just being with them and meeting with their friends," said Dorothy Funk Culver, wife of the late Dory Sr. and mother of the two wrestling brothers. "It was a lot of travel and we got to see a lot of the country, but most of us had a little bit of gypsy in us, anyway."

Eventually, the travels landed the Funk family in Amarillo, where their legend developed not only through what they did in the ring, but in the community as well. All three of the Funks are members of the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame—Dory Jr. and Terry entered in February—and are the largest family gathering in it.

"You know, being in that profession, sometimes you get maybe the reputation of being hard or tough or whatever," said Ronnie Mankin, a longtime friend of the Funks who played college football with Terry. "But I can tell you all three of those guys have big, big hearts. They do a lot of things that people never know and they do it in the true sense of giving in that they don’t want anything in return."

The amazing story began in Hammond, Ind., where Dory Sr. attended high school and was a three-time high school state wrestling champion.

He married high school sweetheart Dorothy in 1939 and went on to wrestle at Indiana University, earning induction into the Amateur Wrestling Hall of Fame for his efforts there. After serving with the United States Navy in the Philippines during World War II, Dory Sr. came back and embarked on a career in professional wrestling. That was when the fun—and the travel—really began.

From the Chicago area to Ohio to Florida to El Paso . . . the cities rolled on and on.

"We just kind of jumped around," recalled Terry, who was born in 1944. "Back then we would live in a mobile, 30-foot trailer. That’s the way all the wrestlers did it."

Though not always the most stable lifestyle, there at least was a sense of family throughout the wrestling community.

"The plane service wasn’t as good as it is now, so you had to take your family to different cities in different territories and stay maybe three months at a time in each place," Dorothy said. "Every time you’d move, you’d see some people you had been friends with. Each place you’d move to, it was like going home to see your friends. "It was like a nomad life."

That all changed in 1949 with a trip to the Texas Panhandle. Dory Sr. was in the area to wrestle and got a call from Cal Farley—who also was involved in wrestling—to help bring order to Boys Ranch, which Farley ran. According to popular legend, a number of the older boys at Boys Ranch were in a state of revolt and had threatened to throw the superintendent into the Canadian River.

Farley asked Dory Sr. to serve as superintendent for three months. Instead, he stayed for a little more than three years.

"They were having some difficulty with the kids out there," Dory Jr. said, "and they needed a leader, a takeover-type person for the Ranch."

Though Dory Sr. had never before served in the role of educator, he is widely credited for saving Boys Ranch, which had been in existence since 1939.

In addition to duties as a superintendent, he also was the school’s football coach and implemented amateur wrestling.

During the same time, both young Dory Jr. and Terry attended school at Boys Ranch and got their initial wrestling instruction. They also participated in all Boys Ranch activities, including rodeos.

"When we were traveling all the time from territory to territory, the difficult part for Terry and I was we were in a lot of different school systems," Dory Jr. said. "They were teaching different things at different places we went. Sometimes we were ahead, sometimes we were behind, but Boys Ranch was a place our family got to settle down, and I loved the place.

"I liked being out in the country, especially the fishing lakes that were out there. Cal Farley and his wife, Mimi, were just wonderful people, and it was kind of like a dream come true to live on a ranch like that."

Following the end of the family’s tenure at Boys Ranch, they got a ranch of their own. The Funks spent three months in Oklahoma after leaving Boys Ranch but returned to the Amarillo area when Dory Sr. purchased the Flying Mare Ranch in Umbarger.

"He loved the people here," Terry said. "He really did. We loved the area, and it was just a great place to be from, he (Dory Sr.) felt, and that’s what he did. I’m sure he possibly could’ve done a little better by going to New York or Chicago, but this place kind of grabbed his heart."

Throughout the 1950s, Dory Sr. was one of the mainstays on the pro wrestling circuit in the Amarillo territory that stretched throughout many places in West Texas and all the way to New Mexico and Colorado as well.

During the time, he held championship belts in various organizations for the Amarillo territory and also was big on the national scene.

While Dory Sr. was on the road, the brothers and Dorothy kept things together at home. "He traveled a lot, but that’s a part of the wrestling business," Dory Jr. said. "The wrestling business can be very hard on family life, but he made every effort to be there for us when we needed him."

Wrestling interested both boys to an extent, but their first love was West Texas’ first love—football.

Both brothers played at Canyon High School, with their careers extending to West Texas State University.

In fact, Dory Jr. played a starring role on WT’s Sun Bowl championship team in 1963, won 14-13 against Ohio University. Also that year, the Buffaloes defeated Texas Tech.

Terry played at WT as well, finishing his career in 1965 and earning a tryout with the Kansas City Chiefs in the National Football League.

"He was just one of the guys," Mankin said of Terry. "He was going to school and everything and he was just one of the guys. His dad was famous, and you didn’t even think at that time that he’d ever be famous. He was just one of the guys and happy to have a famous dad. It was pretty obvious that he and Junior were both going to do extremely well."

Dory Jr. and Terry soon joined their father in the wrestling ring, even if that wasn’t exactly the plan.

The profession was intriguing, but it wasn’t like they were expected to jump right in.

"That was their choice," Dorothy said. "They were never pushed to do that. They chose that as a profession. It wasn’t a matter that they had to do it. There wasn’t much I could do about it to stop them, so I went to every match I could go to and did my share of yelling."

Both Dory Jr. and Terry immediately made an impact, going toe to toe against the best that the Texas wrestling circuit had to offer. Occasionally, the bothers were tag team partners with each other or with Dory Sr.

"As soon as the 1963 Sun Bowl was over, I could give pro wrestling a try," Dory Jr. said. "I had my first match in Amarillo and made $180. I thought that was terrific, so I just went on with it and never looked back. Wrestling’s been very good to me."

It was very good for Dory Jr. on Feb. 11, 1969, at Tampa, Fla., when he beat Gene Kiniski for the National Wrestling Association’s world championship.

Later that year, in fact, Amarillo mayor J. Ernest Stroud proclaimed a "Dory Funk Jr. Day" during October. "That was one of the greatest moments, when my brother won the world heavyweight championship," Terry said.

"That was an exciting time for our family, for all three of us to be able to enjoy that. That was quite a deal for the entire family."

He held on to the title through May of 1973 before losing it to Harley Race, but had to deal with something much harder than a lost title soon after—as did the rest of the family.

On June 3, 1973, Dory Sr. died of a heart attack at the age of 54. Still active in professional wrestling and actually horsing around on the night of the heart attack, Dory Sr. appeared to have no health problems.

"It was something I never expected," Dory Jr. said. "We weren’t as aware of everything as we are now, but it was a total shock because his blood pressure was always perfect, he was always in good condition. Part of the attraction of wrestling to me was the opportunity to participate in a professional sport that you could for a long time and keep yourself physically fit. It was a total shock when he passed away.

"(It stays with you) the rest of your life."

Perhaps the shock of the loss was blunted by the public outpour of tribute to what Dory Sr. had accomplished during his time in the Amarillo area.

Globe-News columnist Putt Powell lauded the time and effort Dory Sr. put into Boys Ranch and also noted other charity work with the youth of Amarillo.

"Their dad was a great man," said Mankin, who now works in Amarillo as an insurance agent. "Putt Powell’s whole article about Senior talked about everything he had done and how he had made Putt promise he wouldn’t tell anybody.

All those people have done a lot of good things for the Panhandle of Texas. They were always great ambassadors for this area."

Through the heartache, the brothers maintained their status as the two of the best professional wrestlers throughout the 1970s, which were highlighted by Terry’s reign as world champion from 1975 to 1977.

Toward the end of the 1970s, the face of wrestling changed when the sport became dictated by cable television. Pro wrestling was highly successful in the early 1980s, when the Funks were still two of the biggest names.

During that time, they also garnered a rabid following from fans throughout Japan. But the best of times came during the days when all the Funks were wrestling together across the Amarillo territory.

"It was the best wrestling in the country at that time," Terry said. "For many years it was. It wasn’t easy. Back then, I’d wrestle 250, 300 times a year. An area in the Amarillo territory meant this: you’d wrestle in Amarillo on Thursday; on Friday, in San Angelo sometimes; Saturday, you’d go to Colorado Springs; Sunday, you’d go to Albuquerque; Monday, El Paso; Tuesday, Odessa; Wednesday, Lubbock.

"There might be another spot or another town, but we probably averaged six days a week back then."

There also would be occasional big-time matches outside the territory, making for an ultra-busy schedule.

But it was through that rabid promotion that professional wrestling earned cult followings that have developed into the national passion it has today.

"It’s really funny," Terry said. "We came through the era of territories, as far as driving as far as you could in a day to flying all over the world. It sure has changed.

"I love it today, but I think it has changed a great deal. It’s total entertainment. I was able to make the transition, and my brother was also. I liked it better back then, but there are a lot of great young guys in the business right now."

For the most part, both Funks are through with the wrestling aspect of wrestling—though for the right money, both would consider stepping back into the ring.

Terry has never left the Panhandle, and currently resides on the Double Cross Ranch in Canyon with his wife, Vicki. The couple has two children, Stacy and Brandee. Other then tending to the ranch, Terry dabbles in acting and has a few projects scheduled for release in the next year.

Dory Jr. lives in Ocala, Fla., with his wife, Marti, and trains up-and-coming wrestlers both in Ocala and at the World Wrestling Federation headquarters in Stamford, Conn. In addition to that, he and Marti maintain a top-notch Web site at

Through a previous marriage, Dory Jr. has three children, Dory III, Dirk and Penny. Just this past week, all members of the Funk family got together for a special cookout at Terry’s ranch in Canyon.

"It’s been a pretty fantastic experience for all of us, all the kids," Dirk Funk said. "I remember it as a lot of fun. Growing up, we did a lot more traveling than typical children did, and it personally gave me a lot of great experiences.

"People still ask me about it. Any more, it’s kind of a humbling experience around here in Amarillo because the people still recognize the Funk name so well."


(Amarillo Globe News, April 14, 1999)

Compiled by Rick Storm

Dory Funk Sr. probably had more than one tough day at the office, but one particular night, a free-for-all broke out that included Funk slugging it out with his wrestling partner, the April 14, 1972 Amarillo Daily News reported.

Funk and Thunderbolt Patterson defeated Bobby Duncum and Moose Morowski, according to the story, but they had to settle for a draw when they battled each other that night at the Amarillo Sports Arena.

Funk admitted he didn’t like Patterson but wanted to partner with the wrestler in the main event against Duncum and Morowski.

Patterson won the first fall by stopping Morowski with a head butt 9 minutes, 46 seconds into the match. Moose downed Patterson with a back breaker at 7:39 into the match.

During the deciding fall, Patterson handed Funk a pair of brass knuckles. The Umbarger rancher floored Morowski and scored a pin at 5:36 into the match for the win.

Funk still was mad because Duncum had hit his son, Terry, over the head with a chair the previous week.

Duncum accepted a challenge for a five-minute match with Dory Sr., but Morowski helped Duncum slug Funk.

Patterson came to Funk’s aid, but Funk figured it should have been sooner and slugged his partner. The two partners ended up fighting each other for several minutes.

Other matches that night included Dingo the Sundowner taking a victory over Lord Alfred Hayes in the semifinal. Hayes squared off against Apache Gringo, Dingo’s manager. The Sundowner backdropped Hayes to win at 13:10 into the match.

Newcomer Pedro Smith pinned Bill Cody at 7:42 into the match. Cody was thrown from the ring and body-slammed when he returned.

Duke Myers won when Buck Robley was disqualified for not breaking a sleeper hold. The card opened with Sumi Warrior and Eric Rommel battling to a draw.

 The WAWLI Papers #608...


(current CAC newsletter)


Schedule of Activities: Friday, Feb. 11, cocktail/social party, 7:30 p.m., TOP OF THE RIVIERA . . . Saturday, Feb. 12, 10 a.m., Board of Directors Meeting, Riviera; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sportscard & Collectibles Show, Sam’s Town; 6 p.m., 34th CAC Banquet & Convention, Riviera . . . Sunday, Feb. 13, 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., No-host breakfast/brunch, Riviera; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sportscard & Collectibles Show, Sam’s Town . . ..

Toll free number to book a room at the Riviera Hotel/Casino is 1-800-634-6753. Be sure to identify yourself as a CAC member.

Banquet/Reunion tickets must be purchased by Jan. 10, 2000. No tickets will be sold at the door. No admission without prepaid tickets.

What to Wear: Friday night cocktail/social party is casual, but no shorts. Saturday banquet is a little dressier, but ties are optional. Be comfortable and enjoy yourself.

STILL ONLY $50 FOR DINNER AND REUNION. All seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Priority seating is reserved for full tables only. All tickets must be paid in advance. Only pre-paid tickets will be held for pickup at the banquet.



HCR 33, BOX 107, ROLLA, MO 65401


For information only (573) 729-2775 -- And remember, non-members of the CAC are invited to join us at the Riviera in Las Vegas in February. The Ring of Friendship extends to wrestlers, boxers and other ring sports, plus all fan of the squared circle.

TO JOIN THE CAC (and be paid up through Dec. 31, 2000), send your NAME, ADDRESS, CITY, STATE, ZIP CODE AND PHONE NUMBER, PLUS A CHECK FOR $25.00, TO COVER DUES FOR ONE YEAR (any amount over $25.00 is tax deductible and contributions are always welcome to keep this bare-budget club going at full strength).

LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP: $300.00 ($275 is tax deductible on Lifetime Memberships)



HCR 33, BOX 107, ROLLA, MO 65401


(Current CAC newsletter)

It’s been an exciting year and now 2000 is almost here. And our 34th reunion is just around the corner. This is shaping up to be the biggest event in our history. An outstanding list of honorees and guests has been booked for this fun-filled, tear-jerking, heart-warming and exciting two days.

With Nick Bockwinkel, Leo Garibaldi and Red Bastien as your hosts and masters of ceremonies, anything can happen and probably will.

To bring in the millenium we will honor a few more than usual, some on Friday night and some on Saturday. Friday will be quite informal with food, entertainment, and "story-telling" by many CAC members. Friday will be free and included with the Saturday night banquet, but non-banquet ticket holders can be admitted for a $20 donation. The event will start at the Top of the Riviera at 7:30 p.m.--Karl Lauer, CAC Vice-president.


(Current CAC newsletter)

By Dean Silverstone

Former wrestler and current CAC board member Penny Banner wowed them in the North Carolina Senior Olympic Games when she placed first in the 50-yard butterfly swim, 50-yard and 100-yard back stroke and placed second in the 50-yard freestyle. For some reason it is difficult to think of Penny as a senior citizen . . . The CAC February reunion and convention will attract many current stars from the WCW, WWF and ECW, as well as many from numerous independent promotions . . . Nick Bockwinkel recently purchased from the estate of Paul Boesch all the publicity photographs and office impedimenta (ED. NOTE—Not "empedimenchia"!!) from the ex-Houston wrestling booking office that Paul used to run. Nick hasn’t unpacked everything yet but he thinks he has photos of every wrestler that ever worked in Texas . . . Lord James Blears turned 76 in August and fellow Hawaiian Captain Leslie Holmes is now 83 . . . CAC member and former wrestler Ted Lewin, now a world-class illustrator, is having his never-before-seen paintings on display Oct. 18 thru Nov. 5, at the Society of Illustrators Members Gallery, 128 E. 63rd Street, in New York City. The paintings celebrate The Golden Age of Professional Wrestling. Ted will appear in person at an October 28th artist’s reception. Lou Thesz and Red Bastien are among the fellow wrestlers who will be in attendance . . . Receive 15 back issues of Art Abrams’ old CAC newsletters and reunion programs, a true collector’s set, for $10, plus $3.20 priority mail postage ($6 Canadian shipping, $10 overseas). Send to CAULIFLOWER ALLEY CLUB, HCR 33, BOX 107, ROLLA, MO 65401. Approximately 200 sets, all different, are available and will be sent out on a first-come, first-serve basis . . . Pat Patterson has accepted the position as Director of Future Legends. This exciting new category of CAC honorees will allow the current stars to be recognized and honored by the CAC, and allow them to meet the legends that made it possible for their talents to flower today . . . The CAC board wishes to thank Jason Sanderson of Ringside Wrestling in New Hampshire and Jeffrey Compton of Las Vegas for their generous support of the club. Their efforts are enabling Friday night’s social gathering to be free to club members . . . Jo Ann Dusek, wife of the late Joe Dusek, will be in Vegas to accept a special award for the great Dusek clan—originals Rudy, Joe, Emil and Ernie . . . Also due honors at the big February conclave are Crusher Lisowski, Stan Kowalski, Stan Pulaski, Killer Karl Kox, Fritz Von Goering, Ethel Brown, Titi Paris, Beverly Shade, Natasha, Rockin’ Robin, plus boxers Gene Fullmer, Oscar De La Hoya, Evander Holyfield and promoter Bob Arum . . .


(St. Louis program, June 3, 1949)

The Grapevine by Matt Weaver

Wrestling is enjoying a boom in many parts of the country, but its biggest explosion is taking place right here in St. Louis. Under Mississippi Valley Sports Club sponsorship, local wrestling has has experienced its most profitable five-month period in history; in fact, business from January to May of this year was exactly double that of 1948, which was some shakes of a year, too. M.V.S.C. officials have said no other city ever has seen such a volume of patronage. Of course, the programs themselves have been of the best possible caliber . . . Other centers on the North American continent have reported a lively tempo of activity at the box office: Montreal, Buffalo, cities in Texas, along the West Coast, Mexico and South America . . . George Holmes, who made his local bow on the May 20 card, is another one of the actors’ group here on "lease-lend." The 220-pounder from Hollywood is said to have a fine future before the klieg lights. Several of the pictures in which he has parts are due shortly for release . . . Sometimes you have to leave home to be appreciated. That’s probably the case of Carlos Rodrigues, a 218-pound St. Louis matman, who’s been campaigning in Mexico and Texas. He’s a beeg hit, too, down there . . . Recently named assistant deputy by Commissioner Col. Charles P. Orchard was Eddie Davidson, a prominent figure in St. Louis sports circles. The diminutive Eddie was a football star at St. Louis University several years ago, besides coaching the Billikens’ basketball squad. Davidson, now a practicing attorney, is quite busy during the winter months as a basketball referee . . .

Mat Echoes by J.V.P.

The Sharpe brothers . . . have told M.V.S.C. officials they’re going to make their home right here in St. Louis, moving from Canada. At the moment, Mike’s wife and boy are here now . . . George Holmes, by the way, has starred in "Footlight Serenade" with Betty Grable (1942); "Little Giant" with Abbott and Costello (1946); "It Happened in Flatbush" with Carol Landis and Lloyd Nolan (1942), and "Ten Gentlemen from West Point" with Maureen O’Hara (1942) . . . George Tragos is now owner of a combination restaurant-bar on Kingshighway near Forest Park . . .

Mat Echoes (June 17, 1949 issue)

The movies and wrestling renewed an acquaintance two weeks ago when luscious Linda Darnell caught up with matman George Holmes here. The Twentieth Century-Fox actress and the Hollywood grappler appeared in several pictures together while back home in Filmland. Holmes has impressed local observers with his speed and versatility in matches here with Carlos Rodrigues and Mike Sharpe . . . Lou Thesz, a picture-book grappler, enhanced his standing with the fairer set recently. He has been making several personal appearances at neighborhood theaters throughout St. Louis in connection with a cooking school. Johnny Polzin, well-known orchestra leader hereabouts, was emcee at the schools and he and Thesz entertained the women audiences with a skit . . . Al Lovelock was a former hockey player while attending McGill University in Montreal . . . It was only three years ago that, under the name of Paul "Tarzan" Brown, Paul Stanlee appeared in St. Louis and won three of four matches, defeating Stocky Knielson, John Cretoria and Cliff Olson and losing on a foul to Alex Kasaboski. Stanlee was the number two man in the Mr. America contest several years ago . . . St. Louis cards promoted by Martin Thesz last season (July 1, 1948 to July 1, 1949) drew a total of 183,537 fans, an average of around 8,000 per show . . .

Down Memory Lane by Ray Schmidt (September 9, 1949 issue of Sports Pointers)

Dan Koloff, who is remembered for his many bouts with Jimmy Londos here at the Coliseum, passed away in Paris some years ago . . . Londos is in California with his wife, a St. Louis girl, and their two fine daughters . . . Jack Pesek, son of the greatest of them all, "Tiger John" Pesek, looks like a future title contender . . . Dick Daviscourt, an old favorite of St. Louis fans, has a fine orange grove in California . . . Ray Steele is reportedly getting better from a recent illness . . . Did you know that some seventy-five wrestlers have died during the past decade? Many were auto accidents and a number from ring injuries. We were with Jim Browning in his last days after he wrestled at the Arena . . . Ed Lewis, Stan Zbyszko, Joe Stecher, Earl Caddock, John Pesek and Jimmy Londos were some of the greatest in the game . . .

The Grapevine by John Murphy

Ray Eckert, known throughout the country as "Sandy" McDonald (sic), is spending the summer at his Missouri farm, readying himself for another hard season . . . Lou Thesz has disposed of most of his famous kennels but still retains his interest in the Dobermans, retaining a few for his own interest and pleasure . . . Promoter Martin Thesz was a wrestler himself. In a fanning bee he recalled the time he pinned the champion of Europe, although it was a rolling fall, which is recognized there . . .


(Sports Pointers, October 15, 1949)

The Missouri Athletic Commission, through its chairman, Col. Charles P. Orchard, has made a great step towards solving the heavyweight championship debate in wrestling. It has ordered Lou Thesz and Orville Brown to meet within 60 to 90 days in order to at least decide who is the heavyweight mat king in the state of Missouri. Furthermore, neither man may appear in a St. Louis ring and claim any titles until after they have met on the mat. Will this sensational event be closed? That is a problem yet to be solved.

Thesz is the heavyweight champion in the eyes of the National Wrestling Association. He claims the crown by lineal descent and says that he rightfully is the champion. Brown is recognized as title holder by the National Wrestling Alliance. This organization is comprised of a group of promoters. Sports Pointers believes that Brown does not have a rightful claim and that he has everything to gain and really nothing to lose in a battle with Thesz.

However, there must be a showdown and for that reason this publication favors a match between these two to clarify an issue which has resulted in the formation of the rival camps. Fans feel that Thesz is the better man but there are a few who cling to the beliedf that Brown is the superior wrestler.

Will Thesz meet Brown? Here is what the man whom we believe is the real champ, Lou Thesz, has to say:

"I am willing to meet Orville Brown anywhere in the country, preferably in St. Louis. It is true that Brown posted $10,000 last season for a match with me and that I did not come up with the money. But I was acting on the advice of my counsel who told me that it would be illegal for me to post the money as Brown was insisting on a side wager.

"But before I sign for this match I want to find out a few things. In the first place, who will promote my match? My father, Martin Thesz, became head of the Mississippi Valley Sports Club over a year ago when he bought out the interest of Tom Packs. Will he be the promoter? Will another promoter promote this match or will it be a joint promotion?

"What will be my end of the purse? While wrestling champions defend their titles far more often than boxing champions there is still a matter of percentage to consider. I feel that insasmuch as I am a St. Louisan, have a greater following and that I am the real champion, I am the real champion and I should get a larger purse than Brown, who has only appeared here several times in the last five or six years.

"Who will be the referee? I am asking for no favors and giving none. If a neutral man is selected by the Commission, one of the highest integrity and honesty, I’ll wrestle Brown. But I don’t want the third man to be a personal friend of my rival although, mind you, I am not shooting at anyone’s character. I am merely asking for 50-50 conditions before the bell.

"Yes, I’ll wrestle Orville Brown . . . if all conditions above are settled."


(Sports Pointers, November 9, 1949)

Fate has again possibly stepped in and halted a match between Lou Thesz and Orville Brown to really settle the heavyweight wrestling championship. Injuries suffered by Brown in an automobile accident on the morning of November 1 have again postponed the "match of the decade" and we wonder if these two brilliant young athletes will ever face each other inside of a ring.

Last spring a Brown-Thesz battle was in the making and only several technicalities prevented the bout from being signed as a co-promotion between Martin Thesz and Sam Muchnick.

Chairman Charles P. Orchard of the Missouri Athletic Commission had called a meeting for Nov. 2 of the promoters, the combatants and members of the press and radio. The men were to sign their contracts, were to post appearance bonds, and were to agree to train in St. Louis from 10 days to two weeks prior to a match at the Arena on Friday, Nov. 25.

When the "flash" of Brown’s accident, while driving between Des Moines and Kansas City, came over the wires, the commissioner immediately called off the confab.

At this writing, the extent of Brown’s injuries is not fully known. Press dispatches say that he suffered a possible skull fradcture, two deep head ladcerations, a bad cut on the right arm and glass cuts in thke right eye. He lapsed into unconsciousness at the Bethany Hospital, Bethany, Mo., when brought there.

ED. NOTE: Brown, although he attempted a comeback, never again was a ring headliner. He turned to full-time promotion upon his recovery, having been a silent partner in Sam Muchnick’s rival St. Louis office. Brown, too, never again met Thesz in a ring. Up to that point, according to the WAWLI archives, the two contemporaries only met a total of six times in the years 1937 through 1942, when they were being booked out of the same offices. Interestingly, the scoreboard shows one win for Thesz (May 30, 1941, at St. Joseph, Mo.) and one win for Brown (via DQ at Kansas City, May 9, 1941). Four other bouts were declared draw decisions (Feb. 25, Mar. 2 and Dec. 21, 1937 in Evansville and June 18, 1942 in Kansas City).

 The WAWLI Papers #609...


(Sports Pointers, St. Louis, Nov. 9, 1949)

The greatest conference of promoters in wrestling history is scheduled to be held in St. Louis on Nov. 26 and 27. It will be somewhat similar to the one held in Chicago on Oct. 30 and 31, 1948, when numerous matters were discussed, including the effect of television on wrestling gates.

The promoters were going to take in the Brown-Thesz match on Nov. 25, then begin the conference. At this writing it appears that the match is off indefinitely due to Brown’s auto accident but the meeting will still be held.

Col. H.J. Landy, president of the National Wrestling Association, and P.L. (Pinkie) George, president of the National Wrestling Alliance, will be here.

Others who have already made plans to attend are: Al Haft, Columbus; Sam Avey, Tulsa; Eddie Quinn, Montreal; Frank Tunney, Toronto; Ed Don George, Buffalo; Paul Bowser, Boston.

George Simpson, Kansas City; Harry Light, Detroit; Johnny Doyle, Los Angeles; Fred Kohler, Chicago; Max Clayton, Omaha; Tony Stecher, Minneapolis; Morris Sigel, Houston.

Al Karasick, Honolulu; Jerry Meeker, Great Falls; Karl Sarpolis and Ed McLemore, Dallas; Joe Malcewicz, San Francisco; Hugh Nichols, Hollywood; Bill Atkinson, Wichita; Leon Balkin, Evansville.

Ted Thye, Portland; Ross Leader, Cincinnati; Jack Ganson, Cleveland; Paul Jones, Atlanta; Les Wolfe, Memphis; Joe (Toots) Mondt, New York; Gust Karras, St. Joseph.

There will be many others who have as yet not made their reservations.


(Sports Pointers, St. Louis, Dec. 10, 1949)

Lou Thesz, St. Louis, and Leroy McGuirk, Tulsa, were declared heavyweight and junior heavyweight champions, respectively, by the National Wrestling Alliance at its conference in St. Louis on Nov. 26 and 27. Heretofore both men were considered the "champs" by the National Wrestling Association.

While the Alliance did not previously recognize a junior heavyweight champ, Orville Brown had been its heavyweight king. However, because of injuries suffered by Brown in an automobile accident on Nov. 1 which have shelved him, Thesz has the nod of the NWA until such time as Brown is ready for competition. Then they both must meet to settle the issue in the ring.

Many other issues, including television, were discussed at the confab. All officers were re-elected for another term. They are P.L. (Pinkie) George, Des Moines, president; Al Haft, Columbus, vice-president, and Sam Muchnick, St. Louis, secretary-treasurer.


(Sports Pointers, St. Louis, Jan. 21, 1950

If you ever want to hear of the virtues of Hawaii, just sit down awhile with Zifko (Lucky) Simunovich, the big, handome blond that Mississippi Valley wrestling fans saw for the first time on the Jan. 13th card and who is in the Jan. 27th tag match. If you ever do, you’ll note a gleam and a sparkle come into his eyes that can’t be mistaken. He loves it down there, and he’ll go on for hours talking about the wonderful days he spent among those happy people.

Born in Yugoslavia, the son of a sea captain and a former European wrestling champion, Lucky came to the United States in 1931, stayed in California for a couple of years and then went to Hawaii. That’s when his real fun started.

First of all, the climate in Honolulu is just about the same as in the Adriatics, which made him feel right at home. He went to school in the Islands, moved on to pro football, playing with the Hawaiian Warriors, and then got a job on the police force—a motorcycle patrolman on the State Highway.

Lucky started wrestling in the Islands in 1943 and came along fast, graduating to faster company in the United States.

He’s quite a talented guy, this Simunovich, speaking Spanish, Italian, Yugoslavian, Hawaiian and English quite fluently. He also made a couple of movies, the first of which was "Foreign Affair" starring John Lund, Marlene Dietrich and Jean Arthur. His second film is on wrestling and has just been completed, but is not as yet released.

His hobby is surfboard riding and deep sea fishing and he also has won some swim titles.

(ED. NOTE—While Simunovich is uncredited in "Foreign Affair," another athlete who appeared in the 1948 film was ex-middleweight boxing champion Freddie Steele.)


In the winter of 1949-50, the Mississippi Valley Sporting Club wrestling promotion in St. Louis decided to change the name of its program, Sports Pointers. A fan contest was held but, "after careful consideration," it was decided that Sports Pointers would remain the name of the program. The top 25 entrants in the contest, however, did receive free tickets to forthcoming wrestling shows.

The "defeated" entries: Sports Preview, Ringside Roundup, Ringside News, St. Louis Pro Wrestling News, Tumbler, Wrestling Digest, Wrestling Review, The Wrestling Clarion, Canvas Capers, On The Mat, Mat Masters, Chips of Sports, Mat Facts, Main Event, The Grappler, The Wrestling Chronicle, Canvas Chatter, Ring Post, Mat Memos, Wrestling Hi-Lites, Mat Highlights and The Matt.

Small wonder the decision was made to retain the longstanding publication name.


(Sports Pointers, September 30, 1950)

The National Wrestling Alliance, governing body of wrestling, held its convention in Dallas, Texas, on Sept. 8, 9 and 10. New officers elected were: Sam Muchnick, St. Louis, president; Morris Sigel, Houston, vice-president; LeRoy McGuirk, Tulsa, second vice-president; Sam Avey, Tulsa, treasurer.

The Alliance comprises the great majority of the entire United States and the election of Mr. Muchnick to the presidency again reaffirms contentions that St. Louis is the wrestling center of the entire country.

Promoters from three more states were added to the NWA in Dallas: Alabama, Florida and Colorado.


(Sports Pointers, St. Louis, Feb. 10, 1951)

Lou Thesz, 238, St. Louis, was declared the winner of "Yukon" Eric Holmback, 275, Fairbanks, Alaska, when Holmback was disqualified for throwing Thesz over the top rope. Time: 12:25.

Wladek Kowalski, 275, Hamtramack, Mich., defeated Pete Managoff, 230, Newland, N.C., with a pile driver and body press. Time: 16:05.

The tag match ended in a draw at the end of 45 minutes. Ernie (Dutch) Hefner, 250, Sherman, Tex., and Dick Raines, 240, Dallas, won the first fall when Gentleman Jim Dobie, 225, Detroit, and Karol Krauser, 225, Catalina Island, Calif., both entered the ring at the same time. Hefner was disqualified in the second fall for kicking Krauser while the latter was out of the ring. The time limit was called during the third fall.

Fred Blassie, 220, St. Louis, and Angelo Poffo, 220, Chicago, went to a 20-minute time limit draw in the opener.


(Amarillo Globe-News, Feb. 8, 1999)

By Roger Clarkson

Family roots run deep in the high Texas plains. The latest four members of the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame displayed those ties at the induction ceremonies Saturday at Amarillo College’s Ordway Auditorium.

Two brothers from the first family of wrestling joined their father in the hall, making them the only family with three members enshrined.

Dory Funk Jr. and Terry Funk were inducted Sunday. Their father, Dory Funk Sr., became a member in 1976.

Tennis coach David Kent, originally from Amarillo High, also went into the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame along with McLean golfing legend Richard Back.

The Funk brothers attended Canyon High School and West Texas State. They joined their father in the wrestling ranks and both held world championships in professional wrestling.

Both Funk brothers are still active in professional wrestling. Dory Jr. operates a professional wrestling school for the World Wrestling Federation.

"This is a family affair," Terry Funk said. "I know our dad is looking down and smiling. Cal (Farley) and John Ayers is looking down and watching this smiling. My dad used to tell me that if you’re good to your home, it will be good to you. I want to be much more of a part of this community than I have in the past. I love you."

Jolee Ayers, the daughter of 1994 PSHOF inductee John Ayers, was on hand as a member of the West Texas Flyers, the recipients of the C.L. Duniven Jr. Super Team Award. Terry Funk is the godfather of the Ayers children. Ayers died of cancer shortly after his induction.

Dory Funk Jr. could not be on hand for the ceremonies, but his son, Dory Funk III, gave his father’s induction speech.

"It’s fitting that both dad and Terry are going in together," Dory Funk III said. "Their sibling rivalry is still intact."

In his induction speech, Terry Funk said his first wrestling match was against his brother. One day in the mess hall at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch, Dory Jr. was sitting in Terry’s favorite spot for lunch. Terry decided to surprise his older brother with a "hook hold." Terry put his index fingers in each corner of Dory’s mouth and pulled.

"That was when my brother stood up and turned around," Terry Funk said. "Shortly thereafter I suffered my first defeat."


(Morris News Service, July 31, 1999)

By Doug Gross

As even the most casual observer has figured out by now, pro wrestling’s all about telling a good story.

Call it "As the World Turns" with biceps. An enraged "The Real World." Whatever.

What goes on in the ring’s important. But it only matters to most viewers—many of whom don’t know a hurricana from a headbutt—if there’s something going on behind the scenes to make it interesting.

Tossing some guy through a folding table is one thing. But tossing the guy who just smeared your own birthday cake in your face through a table is something completely different. And a heck of a lot more fun.

So it only seems natural to take some time out to rate some of the wrestling world’s current story lines—to see who deserves a Rasslin’ Emmy and who could stand to go back to Scriptwriting 101.

Getting Vince McMahon, the mastermind behind WWF’s success and maybe the organization’s most-hated heel, off camera for a while will probably be a good thing.

As almost everybody knows, Vince has got plenty of off-camera problems to keep him busy—most notably a handful of multi-million dollar lawsuits.

From a practical standpoint, it probably wouldn’t do Vince a lot of good to be sitting in front of a hopefully-sympathetic jury one minute, then appearing on TV as the most evil guy who never tried to kill Austin Powers the next.

Plus, it’ll keep Vince’s bad guy routine fresh for when he eventually comes back. We all know he’ll eventually come back, right? If there’s one problem with the WWF’s relatively small talent pool, it’s that we end up seeing some of the same stuff over and over (Have The Undertaker and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin ever wrestled?)

If Vince stays off camera for a while, it’ll give new story lines time to develop and make his comeback that much more interesting.

Rating (1-10): 8

Texas Rednecks vs. No Limit Soldiers

I hated this rap vs. country thing at first. Still not crazy about it.

But a funny thing happened on the way to making Master P and company the Cyndi Laupers of the ‘90s.

Curt Hennig and the West Texas Rednecks, a crew pretty much created just to give the rappers somebody to beat up, actually became popular.

It gave longtime star Hennig a fresh gimmick and gave Barry Darsow and the Windhams an actual reason to be running around dressed like the Marlboro Man all the time.

And people started singing along to that stupid "Rap is Crap" song.

Now, it appears the WCW realized they may have accidentally stumbled upon a good story line. It looks like Raven, Vampiro and Insane Clown Posse (who prove that sometimes, rap really is crap) are joining to form a sort-of punk rock crew that could battle the other two.

If done right, this could be fun.

Rating: 6

Triple H title shot

The WWF needed somebody new to shake up their top ranks and become a legitimate contender for the title. Hunter Hearst Helmsely is a good choice.

He’s got attitude, athleticism and, in Chyna, the toughest valet in the game.

And, the organization’s bookers have done a good job of turning Triple H back into a bad guy, after he became a fan favorite with Degeneration X.

Getting illegal help to beat The Rock at Fully Loaded, then abusing an already-injured Ken Shamrock on Monday night probably didn’t win him any new fans.

Don’t bet big bucks that he’ll beat Austin in their upcoming pay-per-view title match. But it should be worth watching just to make sure.

Rating: 7 Good

Hogan vs. Bad Nash

When the WCW gave "Hollywood" Hogan the title belt on his first night back from an injury, it’s obvious that they were pinning their ratings hopes on an old workhorse. It wasn’t a bad idea, and ratings have been solid—if not spectacular—when the Hulkster’s been on the air.

If the fan-favorite-again Hogan’s title reign is used to push some newer talent, great. But if Hogan holds the belt for too long, which seems possible, the story line will fail. Meanwhile, Nash has gone from a crowd-pleasing bad boy to a full-on heel, hanging with the likes of Rick Steiner and Sid Vicious. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Nash has always been good as the guy you love to hate.

If he takes the belt from Hogan, it would set up a great feud between Nash and the newly-returned Goldberg.

If not, we’ll watch Hogan’s popularity slip as he keeps beating bigger, faster, stronger opponents with the same three moves he’s been using since 1983.

Rating: 7 (If Hogan "does the honors.") 4 (If he doesn’t.)


(Washington Post, October 12, 1999)

By Lisa de Moraes

Lenny is dead.

The pigtailed, body-glitter-adorned, ultra-fey wrestler on Ted Turner’s "World Championship Wrestling" survived a scorpion death lock from Sting, a jackhammer from Goldberg and a big boot to the face by Hulk "Call Me Hollywood" Hogan.

So what did him in? A tersely worded letter from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

"The character of Lenny is presented with the intention to incite the crowd to the most base homophobic behavior," GLAAD entertainment media director Scott Seomin said in the angry letter to Turner Network Television President Brad Siegel.

In response, "WCW has discontinued the Lenny and Lodi characters from any future programming," TNT, a Time-Warner company, said yesterday. Lodi was presented as Lenny’s gay wrestling partner.

And that’s all the talking they were doing for the record when contacted by The TV Column.

For those who aren’t WCW aficionados, Lenny was introduced about six months ago—about six months after gay college student Matthew Shepard was bludgeoned to death in Wyoming.

When Lenny entered the arena, the live audience would chant anti-gay slurs that Post editors deemed unsuitable for print. And when he got the stuffing beat out of him by an opponent, the crowd roared.

"The crowd is incited to very base homophobic behavior that’s shocking but is unfortunately a reality in 1999, and the audience’s reaction gives permission to viewers to do harm to gay people in a very literal way—it’s appalling," Seomin told The TV Column yesterday.

Seomin sent WCW President Eric Bischoff a copy of the letter to Siegel. A nice touch since, according to more than one source close to the situation, the complaint from GLAAD was what finally caused Turner bigwigs to remove Bischoff as president of the wrestling organization, whose staged battles appear on TNT and superstation TBS. He still has a job at WCW but will have no creative control over the product, insiders say. He’s been replaced by Bill Busch, whose title is executive VP.

After Seomin first wrote to the network in early September, he said, a Turner Entertainment executive immediately called him, vowing that Lenny was no more and that a standards and practices executive had been hired solely to keep an eye on WCW.

But two weeks later, Lenny sashayed into the arena again. And GLAAD fired off another letter, this time to Terri Tingle, head of standards and practices at Turner.

"How many gay bashings and gay murders have to be committed in this country for you to remove such hurtful portrayals from your broadcasts?" Seomin wrote.

He acknowledged to The TV Column that there is an irony to the situation, given that one of GLAAD’s stated goals is to see more gay characters in all forms of media.

"GLAAD would love to see a gay wrestler," he said. "It would be great if WCW introduced a wrestler for a given amount of time, a dozen appearances or so, and then revealed that he was gay."

Don’t expect that any time soon on WCW, according to a company exec who asked not to be named. He claims that the folks at Turner were alarmed by the crowd reaction to Lenny and that in this climate, it’s too risky to do gay characters—though maybe not down the road.

It was not the network’s intention to do any gay-bashing, he said.

I know, you’re wondering why he wouldn’t say that on the record. Me, too.

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