The WAWLI (Wrestling As We
Liked It) Papers No. 763
THE 1932 SUMMER SEASON IN WASHINGTON D.C.
(Ed. Note – The Paul Bowser promotion, based in Boston, reached out in the spring and summer of 1932 in an attempt to profit from the extraordinarily fertile wrestling market in the nation’s capital. This had been secured by local promoter Joe Turner for the Jack Curley office in New York City. Turner had done such a solid job of promoting that his summer season took place, exclusively, in the spacious confines of Griffith Stadium, the American League home of the baseball Washington Senators. No other wrestling promotion, in the long history of the game, before or since, ever attempted weekly shows in a major-league baseball park – but Turner did it practically every summer during the halcyon days of the 1930s. The Bowser forces, represented by promoter Goldie Ahearn and matchmaker Bert Bertolini, teamed up with the athletic officer at nearby Bolling Field, a Lt. C.W. Coustand, and attempted a regular series of outdoor Tuesday night dates in a new, 3,500-seat arena. Alas, an incredible string of Tuesday night rainstorms – at one point wreaking havoc with 10 of the first 12 Ahearn shows – got them off to a shaky start. By the first of July, however, they finally began getting a break from Jupe Pluvius and ran regularly through early September. At that juncture, instead of finding a regular indoor venue for the winter, the Bowser company gave up what had become an awfully one-sided promotional "war." Turner kept right on with his Thursday night shows for another 15 years or so, prior to his death. His wife and partners operated the promotion for another five years before selling out to Vince McMahon Sr. The latter, in case you came in late, sowed the seeds for what would become the longest-running, and by far the oldest, and largest, professional wrestling promotion in North America. Return with us now, though, for a glimpse of what big-time wrestling was like in D.C. during the summer of 1932.)
SHIKAT BEATS CANTONWINE AT BALLPARK
(Washington Post, Friday, May 20, 1932)
By Bob Considine
Dick Shikat, who is so good he is not trusted far enough for a match with Jim Londos, champion of the most prosperous mat corporation, was made to look excessively bad last night by Howard Cantonwine, late of the University of Iowa, but Shikat made the world safe for the form book and won in 36 minutes of bump-raising battle.
It was the first outdoor show of the year, and in honor of the occasion, Shikat and Cantonwine staged a brawl which must have looked to the forgetful man in the moon like some titanic struggle between two enraged primeval mammals, wallowing in the original mire of the earth.
So great was their evident fatigue near the end of the match, that a gentle zephyr sweeping across Mr. Griffith’s ballyard would have toppled both of them. Indeed, Shikat won on no particular hold. They were standing in a corner, with their arms around each other and their tongues hanging out, when Cantonwine, with all his college degree and fame as a dilettante and epicure, could no longer withstand the horrible drag of gravity, and fell backward with a long-drawn sigh of relief.
Shikat also fell, because he seemed too weary to let go of his big beer-chested colleague. Shikat landed on top.
The mat game for the first time forays into the fine old field of burlesque in the travesty between Leo Pinetzki and Fritz Kley. It was a draw, of course, since both have very excellent reputations to uphold. Kley has an abnormal spine which accentuates certain portions of his body.
He squirmed away from the lumbering mountain Pinetzki with much hula-hula hipshifting, and Jimmy Lake, who operates the local burley-cue emporium, is unreliably reported to have attempted to sign up the rubber-jointed Germany to show his own heavyweights the gentle art of muscle manipulation.
Matros (Mattress) Kirilenko, the downy Russian, beat Milo Steinborn in 14 minutes by swinging the pugnacious strong man by the heels and then submitting him to about 20 rolling flying mares, three ghastly stomach butts and a sit-on-‘em hold. Sam Stein used up eight minutes of the time in his match with Alex Aberg, whose had is as barren of hair as the Chevy Chase Club is of hot dogs.
In the first match of the evening Sandor Szabo won a popular decision over Herb Freeman in 20 minutes. Freeman was a substitute for George Calza, who was unable to appear, having lost two falls the night before to a double order of spaghetti Italienne.
ROUGH BOUT THURSDAY AT THE PARK
(Washington Post, Tuesday, May 24, 1932)
A new institution in mat shows, a bout in which there is little or no wrestling and much in the way of old-time bare-knuckle slugging, has been gaining credence of late and is doing much to keep the turnstiles revolving with something like the old zest.
There seems little doubt that the public is becoming jaded with the conventional style of mat warfare. The hue and cry for something original has caused emissaries of the mat moguls to unearth such unorthodox performers as Leo Pinetzki and Fritz Kley to sustain the patronage.
But one thing that mankind never tires of is sock, and wily promoters are demanding more and more of this virtue from at least two of the principals on each card. The thing has become standardized. On a card of five bouts there will be an opener, which nobody sees, an orthodox wrestling match, which nobody cares about, a comical match, in which everything is burlesqued, a fighting match, and the final, which generally concerns two famous and not very furious growlers.
The impression most fans carry away, particularly in Washington where the sight of a legalized bust on the nose is still a rarity, is the one which was derived of the rough match. How rough the rough matches really are is a matter of opinion.
Promoter Joe Turner’s roughies this week are George Zaharias and Jack Washburn. Zaharias is a young Greek, who cuffs his way about the mat as venomously as Rudy Dusek. He is so much in demand that although Turner has a standing lien on his services he is able to secure him only about once a month.
Washburn is a venerable and pugnacious warrior who has been campaigning for years.
The other bouts at Griffith Stadium Thursday
night are Dick Shikat vs. Earl McCready, Sandor Szabo and Benny Ginsberg, Matros
Kirilenko and George Manich, and Sammy Stein and Renato Gardini.
SHIKAT VICTOR IN WRESTLE FEATURE
(Washington Post, Friday, May 27, 1932)
Dick Shikat, whom the New York State Athletic Commission and Jack Curley have ordered to rassle Jim Londos for the N.Y.S.A.’s 10 per cent and Master Curley’s considerably more, won another match here last night at Griffith Stadium, defeating Earl McCready, a reformed college man, in 44 minutes with a head scissors and body press.
Cowboy McCready, who hails clear out of Stillwater, Okla., provided his own undoing by attempting to use steer-throwing tactics on the sensitive chassis of the big German ex-champion. After 44 minutes of fairly even bone-buckling, Shikat was grabbed by the 230-pound McCready and hurled with terrific detonations on the loose plank. At three of these he arose unsteady and pushed McCready for the ropes. McCready hit the ropes with much more effort than Shikat had imparted and dove back, feet first, in an effort to wrap his legs around the German’s beer reservoir.
But Shikat, who had fallen prey to several of these charges during the match, sidestepped this one and McCready landed heavily upon his back and the portion of his size 20 neck upon which he takes nightly rabbit punches. Shikat quickly clamped a leg scissors around McCready’s prostrate head and held him down, while the eminent produce dealer-referee, Bennah Bortnick, counted three and then told the boys not to miss the big beer and watermelon festival at 12 o’clock.
McCready impressed many of the 5,000 in the audience with his strength and general all-around knowledge of the game. He dispensed fine misery with his scissors and a cradle hold something like Rudy Dusek’s. Shikat worked harder than in recent appearances here, wriggling energetically to escape McCready’s holds. He started impressively by picking up the 230-pound Westerner like a cracked ping pong ball and beating the dust out of the mat with him.
The best of the remaining matches was Sammy Stein’s victory over the syllable-spouting Renato Gardini, one of the few wrestlers who ever learned to talk. Stein won in eighteen minutes.
Howard Cantonwine lost a chance to become firmly entrenched in the hearts of local customers by permitting pugnacious Jack Washburn to go 30 minutes to a draw with him. George Manich and Matros Kirilenko committed another 30-minute draw.
Sandor Szabo, one of the best, beat Benny Ginsberg, by far the wrost, in eighteen minutes on a backdrop.
(ED. NOTE – The old hooker from Iowa, Fred Grubmeier, always had his name spelled with a "u" wherever he traveled during the 1920s and ‘30s, except in Washington where Bob Considine insisted on spelling it with an "o" and, on occasion, referring to Fred as the "most misspelled wrestler" in the world. As Considine went on to become one of America’s foremost journalists, who are we to argue?)
LONDOS SPINS GROBMEIER INTO DEFEAT
(Washington Post, Friday, June 3, 1932)
By Bob Considine
What started out to be a typically dull Jim Londos vs. Joe Somebody match last night at the ball park developed into a wild brawl and a hysterical huzzah when Londos nearly had his ears knocked straight again by Fred Grobmeier, a wire-ribbed string bean from Harlem, Iowa.
Londos won, of course, in the standard time of 43 minutes, but that is the least to record of Londos bouts. Here was one that touched off the old mob psychology spark and set 5,000 fans on their feet howling for Grobmeier to put the screws on the classically formed Greek, whose winning streak has recently been patented as the first practicable perpetual motion machine.
The usual travesty on sport marked the opening of the match. The boys yawned at the same old orders from Cyclops Burns, handed each other a dead herring handshake and then Londos seized his high wheel bike and began cycling around the ring, figuratively of course. Grobmeier chased him for about ten minutes and then secured the same old harmless arm hold. Londos went down the customary three times, no closer to a fall than a cement lamppost in non-earthquake country.
The thing that ordinarily follows in Londos matches failed to materialize. Ordinarily at this stage Londos gets up and the challenger secures a weak edition of his pet hold on the Greek. Then Londos walks out of it and dumps him. Last night was a little different and police lines crumpled before the rush of an inflamed crowd.
Hitting Londos with everything but the snapper on Ed White’s grandpapa suspenders, Grobmeier stunned the Greek with enough blows to sink a bell buoy. Maybe it is this new talk of a bust-up in the House of Curley, but Londos has not taken such punishment since he became champion. Bouncing Londos against the ropes, Grobmeier would counter with arm blows that lifted toupees ten rows back.
When Grobmeier clamped his first figure four scissors on Londos the champeen looked like he was not able to maintain an upright position much longer. The crowd went wild, many storming down out of their pews to smell the agony. Londos rose three times, with Grobmeier on his back, only to fall backwards. Finally he rolled out and took a count of eight lying prone on the edge of the ring.
Grobmeier continued on the offensive. Twice more he entwined londos with his pet hold, the only trouble being that he can not throw anyone with it, since when it is gained the two men are sitting down, as on a tandem bike. But the crowd seemed to think it was important.
Grobmeier made the world safe for the form book with two minutes left of the hectic match when he took a full lunge at Londos, who ducked and saw his tormentor sail through the top and middle ropes, twist in midair like a stricken duck, and hit the homeplate some feet below with a rolling land dive that was beautiful in the extreme. The good citizens gasped as Grobmeier p[icked himself up, visibly shaken, and hobbled back in the ring. He planted two swell rights to Londos’ iron-bound jaw and then was picked up and thrown lustily to the mat and counted out.
For once the feature proved to be the feature.
The preliminary results were: Jim McMillen defeated Frank Brunowicz, 29 minutes,
flying tackle; George Cochrane beat Roughhouse Olsen, 9 minutes; Nick Zaras beat
Cy Copley, 13 minutes, and Chief White Feather and Jim Corrigan drew – boos,
catcalls and very ripe and luscious razzberries.
MAT BATTLE IS ANNEXED BY CHIEF
(Washington Post, Friday, June 10, 1932)
By Bob Considine
Old Chief Whitefeather, a venerable tramp athlete who has been everything from a professional ping pong player to a sparring dummy for Max Schmeling, ran away with an otherwise listless rassling show at the ball yard last night in the full view of about 4,000 fans, most of whom booed him with a mighty boo.
The Chief beat Jim Corrigan, a bronzed, bulbous-nosed gentleman from California, in 30 minutes of wild tangling. The match was one of the most original ever presented here, and gave fresh hope that the syndicate has hired a new idea man. Ten minutes from the end, Whitefeather, after planting three tooth-loosening rights to Corrigan’s mouth, was disqualified and the referee held Corrigan’s hand aloft as a token of victory.
But Whitefeather would have none of this. He brushed the umpire aside and stormed over to the corner where Corrigan was trying to don his mildewed bathrobe and began belaying him with rabbit punches. Corrigan turned and biffed the chieftain right on his bugle. Announcer Lake and assistant umpire Bortnick, who had been warming up in the bull pen, rushed into the ring to separate the assailants. They finally dragged the Chief off Corrigan, but he broke away again and the impromptu barefist stuff went on.
Then the referees made a strange decision. They said rassle it out. Bath robes were tossed out of the ring and the two mastodons went after each other. Corrigan backed Whitefeather into a corner and sent him sprawling three times with elbow jabs that if they had hit the shins of the Statue of Liberty would have put the light out.
The Chief came back with a really expert barrage of lefts and rights, one of which sent Corrigan through the ropes and created a ditch in Mr. Griffith’s ball yard. Whitefeather made Corrigan give up on a chinlock.
Pinkie Gardner defended his own light-heavyweight title by downing Steve Beamis in 29 minutes of wrestling. None of the spectators knew what was going on and subjected the two fleet and scientific boys to great blasts of silence. Fred Grobmeier rassled a ridiculous fellow in Marshall Blackstock and had trouble carrying him for 19 minutes. Jim McNamara held Jack Zarnas to a draw, and John Maxos did the same thing to Renato "Incoherent" Gardini.
7,500 WATCH GROBMEIER TRIUMPH; WHITE FEATHER VICTIM
(Washington Post, Friday, June 17, 1932)
By Bob Considine
Grasshopper Grobmeier, the spindly legged rassler, scalped the venerable and pugnacious old Chief White Feather last night after being subjected to 29 minutes of abject misery at the hands of the Indian. The two boys put on a good show and finished off the display in fine style when Grobmeier, after taking most of the punishment throughout, hurled the Chief up against the ropes and clamped a figure four scissors around his middle as he came flying back on the rebound.
A crowd of 7,500, the largest of the season, witnessed the bouts, drawn to Griffith Stadium when typical Joe Turner luck washed away the storm clouds and revealed one of the most beautiful nights of the summer.
The boosted attendance figures came to see Rudy Dusek, and extended to the former local idol one of the most monumental boos of the year after he went 45 minutes to a bruising draw with Jim McMillen, who came out of the match the hero, through some complex working of the composite mind of the crowd in attendance.
The Dusek-McMillen draw was by far the outstanding match of the night’s program. There appeared to be bad blood between the two, and it splattered all over the ring as they waded in with a succession of elbow jolts and bare knuckle fisticuffing. Never once was Dusek able to get his cradle hold, from which no man can escape without recourse to wrestling politics.
It was a gory, even battle. The loose plank beneath the mat resounded defeningly to the onslaught of bodies and first one and then the other was hurtled to the floor. Both bruisers made much use of flying mares, and both were seemingly in danger of being counted out after taking a series of these jolts.
Police had to separate the boys about five minutes from the end when they fell out of the ring and began to slug each other in the muddy no-man’s land between the pitcher’s box and home plate.
A world record for Washington was set when Berto Assirati, a reformed circus rubber man, dumped fat Renato Gardini in 55 seconds. Assirati wrestles like an armless man chopping wood by holding the ax in his mouth and turning front flips. George Kotsonaros and Frank Brunowicz had too many reputations to uphold, and so went to a 30-minute draw. Jim Corrigan beat Jack Zarnas by proxy. Zarnas tried a flying dive and landed on his head, and very surprisingly knocked himself cold.
10,000 WATCH LONDOS BEAT GROBMEIER
(Washington Post, Friday, June 24, 1932)
By Bob Considine
Herr Fred Grobmeier, the only wrestler in the world who operates without a bay window, brought his batting average against Jim Londos up from .0 to .00 last night at Griffith Stadium after Londos had jammed Grobmeier’s celebrated scissors hold after 41 minutes of reasonably interesting growling.
A massive crowd viewed the contest, much of which was fought out with both principals sitting on the floor. The lesser employes of Joe Turner estimated the mob to be about 15,000 but George King, the firm’s business manager, who hasn’t any illusions, allowed that he’d be a son of a bronze ping pong ball if there were more than 10,000 witnesses to the night’s entertainment.
It was Londos’ second win here over Grobmeier, and it failed to occasion the wild scenes of several weeks back when several hundred overly optimistic patrons streamed out of their pews when Grobmeier secured a figure four scissors, expecting to see the meal ticket of Eastern rassling go down before a comparative unknown. Last night Grobmeier secured an uncounted number of his favorite holds, but the audience kept both its decorum and its collective seat.
The most interesting phases of the match were Grobmeier’s comebacks. People started to stream out of the stadium when Londos secured an airplane spin and drop after 20 minutes, but Grobby squirmed out and duplicated the stunt twice more. The second time fooled even Manager Ed White, who leaped into the ring with Londos’ bathrobe while Grobmeier was being spun around and around in the night air, only to see the itchy-nosed, sharp-ribbed eventual loser summon up an atom or two of strength and sidle out of it. There was no fooling about the third airplane spin. Grobmeier had to be carried out of the ring.
As Londos was putting on his towel muffler and the usual ring of fans were gaping at the gladiators and gingerly testing the resiliency of the mat, several shots rang out and Londos instinctively ducked. Nothing happened, so the incident may have been nothing more than some premature Fourth of Julying, or else a sorry commentary on the ability of local gangster-marksmen.
An intersectional weight-lifting and carrying record was broken in the semifinal. Rudy Dusek smeared a substitute, Marshall Blackstock, in 13 minutes with a creaking cradle rock that looked as if it hurt pretty badly. Blackstock lay there, a huge mound of humanity after the match and Benny Bortnick, the produce dealer turned referee, picked him up like a great hind of elephant beef and waddled to the dressing room amid cheers.
The best preliminary saw George Zaharias dump Frank Brunowicz in 23 gory minutes. Some fellow had to sweep up after the two bruisers finished. Brunowicz gave up on a crab hold. Jim McMillen and Pat O’Shocker went to a rather listless, 30-minute draw. Mike Walker tossed Jerry Monohan in 12 minutes, and Gino Garibaldi drew with the elderly George Kotsonaros in 30 minutes in "The Battle of the Century" plants.
Promoter Turner announced last night that Joe
Stecher, world’s heavyweight champion in 1924, will head next week’s bill.
Tickets have been reduced. The new scale is $1, $1.50 and $2.
DWAYNE JOHNSON, AKA THE ROCK
(Miami Herald, Sunday, April 9, 2000)
When an idea strikes Dwayne Johnson, he makes
sure to jot it down quickly -- on a napkin, a scrap of paper, or, if he has it
handy, his notebook. It is an obsession. Typically, what he writes are insults
If his name is not familiar to you, then you are not a fan of the World Wrestling Federation, of which Johnson, a Miami-area resident a.k.a. The Rock, is one of the biggest stars, nor are you particularly attuned to the curious state of pop culture at this moment: The Rock and the WWF are very, very big. And Johnson is a multimillionaire.
His recent book, "The Rock Says . . . ," is a national best-seller. World Wrestling Federation shows are the top-rated cable programs in the nation. And Johnson, posing with the trademark swagger and uplifted eyebrow of The Rock, was recently on the cover of Newsweek.
As The Rock says:
"The Rock is the most electrifying man in sports entertainment!"
In person, though, this king of malevolent leering, an arrogant TV hothead, is strangely shy.
As he sat down for a recent interview, Johnson, who was accompanied by his wife, Dany, seemed to regret his imposing physique. He is 6-5, about 270 pounds, muscular, a former defensive tackle for the University of Miami, but while waiting briefly for a table, he seems to try to shrink. He shuffles. He put his hands in his pockets.
"I'm quieter than The Rock," he acknowledges, on his way to a table in a back corner. "I'm laid-back."
Indeed, over spaghetti Parmesan and Diet Coke, Johnson never sounds quite like The Rock.
When he talks about pay-per-view rates, he sounds like an accountant. When he talks about his wife, he sounds hopelessly in love. And when he talks about his notebook, he sounds like an aspiring poet -- and indeed one of his co-writers compares The Rock's audience rapport to "interactive poetry."
Pro wrestling sounds like an art form in their telling, in fact, a demanding combination of macho choreography and soap-opera-like character development -- complete with social parallels. The Rock is part of a new generation of wrestlers who feel free to talk about the creative aspects of a spectacle once sold as honest sporting competition. The wrestlers, moreover, are not just actors. For while the WWF writers sketch out story lines, it's up to the wrestlers to fill those out with dialogue and personality.
Hence the notebook.
"I'm always writing -- I'm writing every day," he says. "I keep a notebook with me at all times."
The Rock is arrogant and cocky; likewise, Johnson can seem supremely confident -- "I've been blessed with a considerable amount of charisma" he'll say flatly. The Rock is permanently on the verge of unspeakable
violence; Johnson admits in the book to a handful of violent tantrums – he once tried to rip out a University of Miami teammate's tongue and he was a protagonist in the team's infamous on-field brawl in 1992 at San Diego State. (Johnson chased the Aztec warrior mascot around the stadium.)
During the interview, Johnson dismisses the violent similarities, however, describing the San Diego State incident as "just youth." In his book, though, he describes the pleasure he felt the first time he practiced
becoming a "heel," or bad guy, something like The Rock: "With each kick and snarl and grunt, I remember feeling rather intensely . . . this is more fun than being the good guy."
If Johnson seems uncannily suited for pro wrestling fame -- he even has the perfect voice, a slightly hoarse baritone -- it may be genetics.
He is a third-generation professional wrestling star.
His maternal grandfather was Peter Maivia, a Samoan high chief with sprawling body tattoos, who entered the ring barefoot. His father was Rocky Johnson, one of pro wrestling's first black stars, whose ring act included bits of the Ali Shuffle.
As society has evolved since his grandfather's time, so has pro wrestling: It is simultaneously more honest and less civil.
Today, Dwayne Johnson and the World Wrestling Federation openly admit pro wrestling is fake; the performance is choreographed; the outcome predetermined. His father's and grandfather's generation cringe at the admission. But now pro wrestling is appreciated as performance rather than as sport.
"My parents still can't get over that," Johnson says.
At the same time, professional wrestling has become nastier. No longer are the wrestlers' allegiances so clearly either good or evil.
"Fans have changed -- people have changed," said wife, Dany, a vice president at Merrill Lynch who has spent a fair amount of time among wrestling audiences. "Coming out and waving the American flag -- da dum -- that's just not cool anymore."
Neither are displays of affection. When Johnson's father used to approach the ring for match, he'd stop and kiss his wife. The Rock would never show such a . . . weakness.
"I'd be booed out of the arena," he says.
Johnson met his wife when he was a freshman at the University of Miami.
"I knew immediately: This is the one for me!" he writes. "I know that sounds corny, but it's the absolute truth. I had been hit with a thunderbolt."
After the University of Miami, Johnson intended to make it to the NFL. He ended up in the Canadian Football League, and, after earning as little as $250 a week, gave up and turned to his ancestral calling.
Johnson began at the bottom, playing actual working barns and car dealerships, for as little as $40 a night. Last year, he made an estimated $4.5 million, and he has appeared on shows ranging from "Star Trek:
Voyager" to "Martha Stewart Living."
He is clear, however, on what may be The Rock's strongest appeal. We all, he suggests, harbor vengeful fantasies.
"There are a lot of people who live vicariously through the WWF characters . . . ," he says. "What I think some of them want is to be able to put people down -- like their bosses -- and then get away with it."
(ED. NOTE – The present "dean"
of wrestling researchers, Mr. Don Luce, has probably done as much to unearth the
history of our beloved game than anyone alive. Scott Teal has available, on his
web site, a selection of Luce’s work and is in the process of publishing
collections of results, from Luce and many others, that provide a close-up view
of "wrestling as we liked it." The following, by Luce, serves as a
prologue to his work and may be found, along with a veritable wealth of
professional wrestling history, at http://www.teal.org/wht/index.html)
THE HISTORY OF PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING
(Columbus, Ohio: 1920, 1925-1965)
The research for this project began during my summer vacation in 1965. I wanted to know more about the career and title claims of the famed "Nebraska Tiger Man," John Pesek, so I traveled to Columbus, Ohio. I spent five days at the downtown library and verified as much title information that I could.
On my way home, I stopped in Reynoldsburg, Ohio at the motel run by Al Haft, the noted Columbus promoter. Someone pointed him out to me ... he was plowing a nearby field. When I tried to initiate a conversation, he apologized and said that he was trying to get some work done.
I mentioned the name Marin Plestina and told him that I was trying to research the history of the Midwest Wrestling Association title, which John Pesek held. Al then spent about twenty minutes answering a few of my questions. He finally said that he had to get back to work, but invited me to stop back at the motel that evening. He had a couple of title belts that he would show me.
I still kick myself because I didn’t take him up on it. I’m still not sure why I didn’t, but that was before the days of credit cards and I was probably short of money.
In 1975, I drove by the motel and a closed sign was standing in front of it.
I read once that Al Haft started promoting in 1919. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, the name Herman Hamer pops up as the Columbus matchmaker. No doubt, Haft ran the show, but since he was the manager of John Pesek during this time period, he didn’t want to push the point and tried to stay somewhat in the background. Even so, Al and Clete Kauffman had to be two of the hardest working promoters in the mat game.
Like other promoters, Al Haft would use any World Champion title claimant he could to draw the crowds. One week, he might use his local MWA champion, like Pesek or Joe Banaski. The next week, he might bring Frank Sexton or Hugh Nichols in to defend their version of the title.
In 1978, my job took me to Cleveland. On many a Saturday, I drove to the Ohio Historical Center in Columbus to check complete years of Columbus results, plus stuff that I had missed. I’d get up at 5:00 a.m. and would start the trip down highways 271 and 71, stopping at a McDonald’s on the way. A couple of times, I still had a hangover from a rough Friday night.
Title matches aren’t listed unless the newspaper mentioned them. We need to research many other area cities to straighten the title mess out. The tag team title picture is the worst. They called the tag belts the MWA, World, U.S., Midwest and Ohio. More than likely, it was all the same title. As I don’t have results for Cincinnati or Dayton, I don’t want to guess about them and how they changed hands. Al Haft had only one tag team title in his area. Often it was called the Ohio Tag Team Championship. However, the terms Eastern Tag Team Title or Midwest Tag Team Title sometimes appeared.
I think the effort was worth it and wish more
fans would check their local libraries for the true history of the mat sport.
The WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No. 764
STEINKE TO GRAPPLE AT GARDEN TONIGHT
(New York Times, Monday, March 19, 1928)
Hans Steinke and Renato Gardini will meet tonight in a finish wrestling match at Madison Square Garden. The bout will be the feature of an all-star card that will mark the inauguration of wrestling in the Eighth Avenue arena. Marin Plestina and John Pesek grappled in the old Madison Square Garden several years ago, but tonight’s card will be the first held in the new structure.
Steinke has the endorsement of the State Athletic Commission as one of the foremost contenders for the wolrd’s championship, which title has no holder in the eyes of the commission at present. Gardini has proved one of Steinke’s most formidable opponents, and if the huge German can decisively put Gardini out of his path tonight he will make a determined effort to secure the title.
Pesek will have a part in the introduction of the sport in the Garden, as he will meet Dan Koloff in the semi-final contest. This match will be limited to forty-five minutes, and the winner will be decided by one fall. Jim Londos will meet Ray Steele in another match, and Dick Shikat will face Freddy Meyers. In the opening bout George Delongschamps will grapple with Abie Coleman.
STEINKE GAINS FALL IN GARDINI MATCH
(New York Times, Tuesday, March 20, 1928)
Wrestling came to Madison Square Garden last night, but the sport followers who have welcomed boxing, hockey, cycling, and various other sports with open arms accorded the mat game a chilly reception. Only 3,500 attended, and most of these were in the upper sections. There were only about a hundred in the floor seats. Although small, the crowd was an enthusiastic one.
The crowd gave Hans Steinke, the Teuton Giant, a great ovation when he pinned to the mat Renato Gardini of Italy in the feature finish bout. There was little of the spectacular about the bout when it was in progress, but the finish was sensational.
After one hour five minutes and 18 seconds Steinke shoved Gardini away from him. The Italian catapulted across the ring, crashed his head against the top strand of the ropes and bounded back into the waiting arms of Steinke. The German immediately fell on top of the dazed Italian and pressed his shoulders to the canvas after applying a scissors and arm lock.
Jim Londos, the Greek Adonis, 195 pounds, and Ray Steele of the University of California, 208, gave an exhibition that was packed with thrills in the bout following the feature. Both wrestlers went at a furious pace for thirty minutes and a draw decision resulted.
At the start Londos jabbed with his right and Steele countered with a left cross to the chin. Referee Roeber objected and they changed their mode of attack. There was no let-up as one mauled the other, only to be punished in turn.
In the last bout of the night, John Pesek of Nebraska, 195 pounds, tossed Dan Koloff of Bulgaria, 210, after 28:36 with a head scissors and armlock.
In the opening bout, which had a thirty-minute time limit, Abe Coleman, 180 pounds, of Brooklyn, and Georges Deslonschamps, 202, of Montreal, wrestled to a draw. It was a good, fast bout with plenty of action and neither man had much of an advantage over the other.
In the second bout, Dick Shikat of Philadelphia, 220 pounds, showed class in pinning Fred Meyer of Chicago, 195, with a head scissors after 21:03. Shikat mauled and tossed his opponent around for most of the bout and Meyer was unable to struggle loose when Shikat clamped on the scissors.
STEINKE ON MAT TONIGHT
(New York Times, Monday, March 26, 1928)
Hans Steinke of Germany will meet Wladek Zbyszko, Polish grappler, in the feature wrestling match at Madison Square Garden tonight. The bout is billed for the catch-as-catch-can championship of the world. The men will wrestle to a finish.
Steinke has been performing excellently in his recent matches, and he will attempt to prove conclusively that he deserves the position conferred upon him as the foremost heavyweight wrestler byk the New York State Athletic Commission. In Zbyszko Steinke is meeting a wrestler who twice held the world’s championship. The sturdy Pole has victories to his credit over Strangler Lewis and Joe Stecher in title matches.
The semi-final will bring together Jim Londos of Greece and Paul Jones, Texas strong man. This match is scheduled for one fall, with a forty-five-minute limit. Renato Gardini will face Joe Zickmund in a special match, while in the opener Henri Deglane faces George Hills.
STEINKE IS ON TOP IN ZBYSZKO MATCH
(New York Times, March 27, 1928)
Hans Steinke, giant German wrestler, downed Wladek Zbyszko of Poland, twice champion of the world, after one hour, 26 minutes, and 16 seconds of wrestling at Madison Square Garden last night.
A crowd of 7,000 fans witnessed the match which was thrilling in spite of its length. The weights were 238 for Steinke and 217 for Zbyszko. Steinke won with an upper body hold.
In spite of Steinke’s superior bulk, Zbyszko displayed no timidity, but assumed the aggressive from the outset. The former champion applied several powerful holds on his opponent, but was unable to exert sufficient pressure to subdue Steinke.
The German, who seemed lethargic at first, worked at a whirlwind pace after breaking from a dangerous hold and had Zbyszko in difficulties with a punishing toe hold. The latter broke the hold and in a flash turned the tables on the Teuton. He had Steinke’s shoulders so close to the mat that Referee Ernest Roeber reached out to be ready to tap Zbyszko in token of victory when Steinke managed to write out of danger.
They continued at a torrid pace for a considerable period, with the Pole forcing matters the greater part of the time.
The end came suddenly after a long session of exchanges. Zbyszko catapulted Steinke over his head. The latter, squirming in midair, attached himself to Zbyszko’s neck and pulled him to the floor. Zbyszko fell heavily, directly underneath Steinke, and was pinned directly.
The semi-final, staged after the main bout, brought together Renato Gardini, 196, of Italy, and Joe Zickmund, Nebraskan, 210, with the former emerging victorious. This contest was furiously waged, each grappler at times becoming excited and resorting to slaps and swings. After twenty-six minutes of struggling Gardini ended matters with a flying mare.
Paul Jones, newcomer from Texas, displayed a wealth of agility in evading the attempts of Jim Londos of Greece to pin him in the second bout. Jones, employing defensive tactics principally, was able to meet Londos’s best holds capably. The men wrestled thirty minutes to a draw. Jones, at 205 pounds, was 10 pounds heavier than his opponent.
In the opening bout, also scheduled for thirty minutes, Henri Deglane of France, Olympic wrestler in 1924, was held to a draw by George Hills of Wisconsin. Deglane carried the fighting to the American, but his great strength was more than offset by Hills’ evasiveness. Deglane scaled 220 and Hills 218 pounds.
FILM TRIES TO PUT A HUMAN SPIN ON WRESTLING
(San Diego Union-Tribune, Friday, March 17, 2000)
By James Hebert
`Who are these guys?" That's the question
Barry Blaustein, the director, writer and narrator of "Beyond the
Mat," asks at the start of his documentary about pro wrestling.
Thanks to Blaustein, a Hollywood scriptwriter and former "Saturday Night Live" scribe, we learn soon enough who the wrestlers are. They are family men, schoolteachers, bodybuilders, born performers, born losers.
One is dubbed "Puke," for his talent at vomiting on command. Another is a former superstar laid low by drugs. Still another has left wrestling for big-time politics. (Hello, Jesse Ventura.)
We never learn quite why these men (and the occasional woman -- the film spotlights one female wrestler) do what they do. Beyond the obvious financial incentives, many of them seem just as foggy on their own
Even Blaustein can't manage to pinpoint the appeal of pro wrestling's garish, often grotesque spectacle.
"I don't know why I like it," he says in narration. "I just always have."
But through Blaustein's remarkable access to performers, league officials and others involved in the . . . sport? circus? of pro wrestling, "Beyond the Mat" puts a human face on this weirdest of pursuits.
(Apparently, it's all been a little too real for pro wrestling to handle. The film's distributor says the World Wrestling Federation has refused to run ads for "Beyond the Mat" during its broadcasts, even though WWF chief Vince McMahon cooperated with the filming and appears prominently in the movie.)
Like fellow documentarian Michael Moore, Blaustein employs a folksy, no-frills approach, injecting himself into the tale as he hangs out with wrestlers and hops from subject to subject, updating us on his characters' latest dramas and follies.
There are moments of low humor, such as the vignette about a small-time promoter who owns a low-rent boot camp for wrestlers, a one-ring circus that he runs with the greatest of sleaze.
"They get paid well," the promoter says of his performers-in-training. And how much is "well"? Twenty-five dollars a match, the wrestlers reveal. If they get paid at all.
There also are revealing scenes of World Wrestling Federation writers hashing out plot lines for upcoming matches.
"Beyond the Mat" saves its greatest impact, though, for the harrowing scenes of on-the-mat mayhem. As Blaustein says, pro wrestling may be staged, "but it's not as fake as you think."
Even top stars get beat up. Mick "Mankind" Foley, one of the sport's biggest names, is shown taking an unscripted fall through a metal cage and onto the mat, some 15 feet below.
That plunge puts him in the hospital, but soon enough he's back for a big match, where he'll suffer even worse injuries, including a gaping head gash from getting bashed in the head with a folding chair.
When he's interviewed after the match, Foley actually tells Blaustein, "I think we touched a lot of people (out there)."
The sentiment is true in ways Foley doesn't realize. It turns out his two young children had a ringside seat for the carnage; Blaustein shows them sobbing as they watch their father being brutalized.
"I don't feel like such a good dad anymore," says Foley sheepishly, after he is shown the footage.
At times, Blaustein indulges a bit too enthusiastically in this carnival of carnage. But even when "Beyond the Mat" goes beyond the pale, the film manages to put a pin on pro wrestling's harsh realities.
FOREVER YOUNG: WRESTLING DIVAS SPAN AGES
(San Diego Union-Tribune, April 22, 2000)
The Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young are feuding in
the World Wrestling Federation, but they share a common goal.
"Both of us are going to be wrestling when we're 100," Moolah said. "We're going to prove that."
Considering what both have accomplished since becoming full-time WWF performers last year, it's hard to argue with pro wrestling's divas.
Young, 77, is now wrestling in her eighth decade. She actually worked in Memphis on the night Pearl Harbor was bombed.
"It was quite an experience," said Young, who broke into the business in 1939. "All I know is that everybody was down. All hell had broken loose and the streets were packed. It was war."
Moolah, 70, was trained by Young in the 1940s and is the longest-tenured world champion in wrestling history, having held the women's title for 29 years. Moolah has an autobiography in the works, but admits it will be hard to condense a career that began in 1949 into one book.
Young still doesn't mind taking risks in the ring, like getting powerbombed through a table by the Dudley Boys.
"It doesn't bother me when I take a bump or two, because when we started if you busted up a knee, all you'd do is soak it in Epsom salt overnight, tape it up and go back in the ring," said Young. "As long as you could use one hand to pull yourself up and down, you did it. We took a lot of punishment. This is nothing unusual for us."
The WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No. 765
(Associated Press, July 29, 2000)
NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. -- Gordon Solie, a professional wrestling announcer whose graphic commentary became a fixture of Florida matches in the 1960s and 1970s, died at 71.
He died Thursday of brain cancer at his home in New Port Richey. Late last year, Solie lost his larynx to cancer, the result of years of smoking.
"He was the man -- the absolute best to ever call a match,'' said legendary wrestler Dusty Rhodes. "Back in the '70s, the announcer wasn't in on everything that was going on in the ring and behind the curtain, so Gordon had to call it like he saw it.''
Solie grew up in Minnesota with dreams of becoming a broadcaster. He joined the Air Force after graduating from high school and moved to Tampa after he left the military. He worked as a disc jockey and a radio reporter before landing his first job in pro wrestling.
"I made $5 a night emceeing a weekly wrestling card in Tampa,'' Solie said in an interview last year. ``From there I worked my way into the announcer's spot.''
He became a fixture on Championship Wrestling from Florida telecasts for nearly two decades before he was hired by Ted Turner to work the Georgia Championship Wrestling on cable superstation WTBS in the 1980s.
"If you grew up in Florida or Georgia you knew who Gordon Solie was,'' former wrestler Steve Keirn said. "Me, Hulk Hogan, Dick Slater. We all imitated Gordon. He used the most detailed descriptions and adjectives in describing the action, he was an original.''
Barbara Clary, a Spanish teacher in Zephyrhills, once worked for Solie.
"I was bilingual and he wanted me to conduct interviews with some of the wrestlers in Spanish for all the wrestling fans that watched the shows in Cuba,'' Clary recalled. "He was a wonderful, wonderful person with a great and loving family. He will be missed.''
THE VOICE OF WRESTLING IN SOUTH FLORIDA
(Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, July 28, 2000)
By Alex Marvez
The voice of the most famous announcer in professional wrestling history has been silenced.
Gordon Solie, who hosted Championship Wrestling from Florida for 27 years, was found dead Friday at his home in New Port Richey after succumbing to brain cancer. He was 71.
"He was probably the absolute best commentator quality-wise," said Wayne Coleman, who wrestled for more than two decades as "Superstar" Billy Graham. "He could make a guy who was a poor technical wrestler sound like a Greco-Roman champion. He was so smooth that words were like butter coming off his lips."
Before the World Wrestling Federation began enjoying nationwide popularity in 1985, Mr. Solie was one of wrestling's most well-known figures because of the amount of announcing he did. Mr. Solie served as host for Georgia Championship Wrestling on TBS -- which was the top-rated show during the early years of cable television in the late 1970s and early 1980s -- and promotions based in Alabama and Puerto Rico.
But in South Florida, Mr. Solie was best known for describing the staged mayhem on CWF shows that aired every Saturday morning from 1960-87. Mr. Solie's catch phrases -- such as describing the blood spewing from a wrestler's forehead as a "crimson mask" -- and his ability to make matches sound like legitimate athletic competition were his true strengths.
"We were a team together in an era that kind of led to us where wrestling is at now," said Virgil Runnels, who headlined the CWF territory for much of the 1970s and early '80s as the "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes. "We used to call each other the Howard Cosell and (Muhammad) Ali of wrestling. He could call a match better than anybody."
When the CWF folded in 1987, Mr. Solie went to work two years later for Ted Turner-owned World Championship Wrestling until 1993. Mr. Solie underwent surgery for throat cancer in 1999, which officially ended his announcing career.
Born in Minneapolis on Jan. 26, 1929, Mr. Solie broke into the wrestling business as the CWF ring announcer in 1950. Ten years later, Mr. Solie became the promotion's television announcer when hired by owner Cowboy Luttrall.
"Other announcers at the time treated wrestling like a comedy act," Mr. Solie said Sunday during his final media interview. "When I got the job, I went to Cowboy Luttrall and asked him how he wanted me to handle it. He looked me in the eye and said, 'It's like your paycheck. Treat it very seriously.' That's what I did ever since."
Mr. Solie is survived by five children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending, but information will be available at
CANCER CLAIMS REVOLUTIONARY ANNOUNCER
(SLAM! Wrestling, July 28, 2000)
By John Molinaro and John Powell
The wrestling world suffered another major loss as Gordon Solie, the ‘Dean of Professional Wrestling,’ succumbed to the ravages of throat cancer.
Solie passed away last night at his home in New Port Richey, Florida. He was 71.
Often called the "Walter Cronkite" and the "Howard Cosell" of professional wrestling, Solie set the standard for today's wrestling commentators and was respected by those in the industry and the fans alike as a living encyclopedia on the sport. Solie has been battling cancer for quite some time. In November of 1999, he underwent surgery to stop the cancer from spreading in his throat. His voice box had to be removed. It was a blow to Solie, a man who voice was as memorable as his quick wit.
Sadly, Solie's wife, Eileen, whom he affectionately called "Smokey", also died of cancer passing away in 1997.
(SLAM! Wrestling, July 28, 2000)
By Greg Oliver
Just as Howard Cosell made Muhammed Ali into a bigger star and cultural icon, so did Gordie Solie affect the life of ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes.
In conversation with SLAM! Wrestling Friday night, Rhodes was subdued, reflective on his experiences with Solie in Championship Wrestling from Florida, and later in the Crockett's NWA / WCW circuit. "He helped create the American Dream persona, make it alive on TV. My hat's off to him."
"In the ‘70s, my fondest memory was calling ourselves the Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali of the wrestling industry," Rhodes said. "We had a run together, television-wise, that was so unique because he was the best call of a match. Ever. If I was going to compare somebody to him today, it would probably be Jim Ross if anybody could come closest, touch him."
Rhodes recalled that the business in the '70s thought that playing 'kayfabe', keeping the inner workings of the business a secret was so important that Solie was kept out of the loop by Florida promoter Eddie Graham.
(St. Petersburg Times, July 29, 2000)
By Mike Brassfield
Before there was Smackdown or Monday Nitro. Before there were flashpots, fireworks and screaming guitars to accompany every wrestler to the ring.
Before all of that, there was Gordon Solie, a microphone and a collapsible card table in Tampa's Fort Homer Hesterly Armory.
Mr. Solie, whose low-key announcing style was the soundtrack for televised professional wrestling for four decades, was found dead of brain cancer Friday in his New Port Richey home. He was 71.
Pro wrestling was big in Tampa before almost anywhere else. It dates back to the days of the "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes and Eddie Graham knocking bellies at the armory, and Mr. Solie ending his Channel 44 broadcasts from the Sportatorium with "So long from the Sunshine State."
Born in Minneapolis in 1929, Mr. Solie broke into the wrestling business as a ring announcer in Tampa in 1950. Ten years later, he started announcing the Championship Wrestling from Florida television show that aired in the state every Saturday from 1960-87.
Mr. Solie had a deep, gravelly voice. But his true strengths were his catch phrases such as "foreign object," "pier six brawl," or describing the blood spewing from a wrestler's forehead as a "crimson mask," as well as his ability to make the staged mayhem sound like legitimate athletic competition.
"We were a team together in an era that kind of led us to where wrestling is at now," said Virgil Runnels, who headlined the CWF territory for much of the 1970s and early '80s as Dusty Rhodes, a bad guy turned good who pummeled opponents with his "atomic elbow."
"We used to call each other the Howard Cosell and (Muhammad) Ali of wrestling."
Before the World Wrestling Federation began enjoying nationwide popularity in 1985, Mr. Solie was one of wrestling's best-known figures because of the sheer amount of announcing he did.
He hosted Georgia Championship Wrestling on TBS, the top-rated show during the early years of cable TV in the late '70s and early '80s, and wrestling shows based in Alabama and Puerto Rico.
"He could make a guy who was a poor technical wrestler sound like a Greco-Roman champion," said Wayne Coleman, who wrestled for two decades as "Superstar" Billy Graham. "He was so smooth that words were like butter coming off his lips."
Mr. Solie called the matches of wrestlers such as Jack Brisco, The Great Malenko, Handsome Harley Race and Nature Boy Ric Flair. When Championship Wrestling from Florida folded in 1987, he went to work two years later for Ted Turner-owned World Championship Wrestling until 1993.
In the mid-90s, he announced matches via satellite, his commentary translated into six languages and beamed out to Europe, India, Africa, and Japan by Eurosport, Europe's counterpart to ESPN.
His rise from local TV personality to international play-by-play announcer showed just how far pro wrestling had come.
Today, wrestling is a huge ratings draw. Superstars like Steve Austin, The Rock and Mankind have their own action figures, T-shirts and books. The WCW markets its own cologne.
But Mr. Solie wasn't a fan of the WCW and WWF.
"You can't argue with their success. What they do, they do very well," he said in 1997. "It's just not what I call wrestling."
Mr. Solie said he always took a low-key approach to calling matches and let the action dictate his tone, whereas today's announcers seem to scream the entire match.
"I was like a golf announcer, building up to the excitement," Mr. Solie said. " "He moves from the corner and goes for single leg takedown. He applies pressure. ... AND HE TURNS HIM OVER INTO A BOSTON CRAB ... ' "
"Gordon changed the face of wrestling announcing. He called it like a legitimate sporting contest," said Alex Marvez, who writes a syndicated pro wrestling column for Scripps Howard News Service. "Then it became more of a comic-type industry that Gordon didn't care to be a part of."
For a man who called a sport that most people consider fake, the rewards for Mr. Solie were quite real. He and his wife raised five children in a large home on Lake Keystone in northern Hillsborough County. He moved to New Port Richey in 1994. Mr. Solie underwent surgery for throat cancer last year, officially ending his announcing career. "Over the last several weeks, he had been visited by many longtime friends and colleagues," said Tedd Webb, co-host of WFLA-AM 970's popular weekday morning show A.M. Tampa Bay. "His spirits were very high till the end, and he maintained the sharp sense of humor we all came to love him for."
Mr. Solie is survived by five children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending, but information will be available at www.nwa-wrestling.com.
THE ‘DEAN OF WRESTLING’ IS GONE
(Tampa Tribune, July 29, 2000)
By Joey Johnston
Gordon Solie's signature line was delivered with a wink and a salute to his viewing audience. So long from the Sunshine State. That's how he closed "Championship Wrestling From Florida,'' a homespun precursor for today's slickly produced wrestling shows.
Sometimes, those productions look the same, complete with pyrotechnics, outlandish costumes and dangerous stunts. But in his era, alongside timeless characters inside dingy arenas, there was Gordon Solie. The voice of wrestling. One of a kind.
Solie, who had been battling throat cancer, died quietly Thursday at his home in New Port Richey. He was 71.
"There will never, ever be another like him,'' said wrestler B. Brian Blair. "He was the dean of wrestling for an entire generation. He made a bad match sound good. He made a dull match sound interesting. He was the greatest.''
For the last year, Solie was forced to communicate through the vibrations of a voice box. His raspy delivery had been robbed, although he never lost his sense of humor or the love for regular lunches with close friends. But in recent weeks, Solie learned the cancer was spreading. A large party in his honor had been planned for early August. A few weeks ago, Solie told friends to cancel it.
Solie is survived by four children - Pam, Eric, Ginard and Greg. Funeral arrangements are pending.
"He was the man - the absolute best to ever call a match,'' said former professional wrestler Dusty Rhodes. "Back in the '70s, the announcer wasn't in on everything that was going on in the ring and behind the curtain, so Gordon had to call it like he saw it.''
Solie's interviews were straight-faced and dramatic, much like he was questioning the president. His descriptive phrases were widely known - and widely imitated.
"It's a Pier-6 brawl,'' Solie deadpanned before adding, "we'll be back as soon as order is restored.'' When a wrestler bled, "his face was a crimson mask,'' Solie said urgently. When a sleeper hold was applied, Solie instructed his audience that "the hold is pinching the carotid artery, limiting blood flow to the brain.''
"Gordon Solie absolutely led the way,'' said "Mean'' Gene Okerland, the announcer for World Championship Wrestling (WCW). "He showed so much dedication and respect for wrestling. He leaves a lot of good friends in this business. What greater tribute could there be for him?''
Solie, originally from Minneapolis, came to Tampa in 1950 after a stint in the Air Force. He began as a disc jockey for an Ybor City radio station, then branched into announcing and promotions for auto racing and professional wrestling.
He attracted a loyal and growing audience with "Championship Wrestling From Florida,'' which was syndicated throughout the state. The familiar venues were the Sportatorium and Fort Homer Hesterly Armory. The big names were Jack and Jerry Brisco, Duke Keomuka, Hiro Matsuda, The Great Malenko, Cowboy Luttral, Pak Song, Buddy Colt, Dory Funk Jr., and Rhodes. Solie became nationally known when WTBS began broadcasting wrestling cards.
After his retirement from the sport in 1995, he sometimes lamented the
sport's direction. "It's getting too suggestive ... the themes are in poor
taste and usually outright disgraceful,'' he said in a 1999 interview.
"They don't know a wristwatch from a wristlock. Whatever happened to
wrestling?'' Solie fell into despair when his wife Eileen -- known to friends as
"Smokey'' -- died of cancer in 1997. Solie's four-pack-a-day smoking habit
led to some of his health problems, but he maintained a brave face publicly. He
told some friends he knew the end was near.
"He had a pillow in his home that said, ‘Screw the golden years,' '' Blair said. "He had it rough. We grieve for ourselves now because we miss him, but I can almost see him now, dancing with his wife in the clouds.
"And I can see the wrestlers who have passed, all up there with him. There's Gordon with his microphone, describing the action as always. He's gone home. We'll never see another one like him.''
VOICE OF WRESTLING NO LONGER HEARD
(SLAM! Wrestling, December 8, 1999)
By Chris Schramm
In a press release before Solie's death, NWA
President Howard T. Brody, wrote "On a personal level, Gordon Solie, who
along with Hiro Matsuda, had been one of my mentors in the wrestling business. I
am proud to say that he has been a very close friend of mine for the past 18
years and until May 11th, had been my business partner in NWA Florida, working
behind the scenes to help our group lay the groundwork to revitalize the Florida
Solie's remarkable broadcasting carrer began in the 50's as he took a job as radio sports announcer in Florida after leaving the Air Force. Covering many minor league events, Solie was known as the guy who would report on the lesser-known, grittier sports such as stock car racing, boxing and...pro wrestling.
At $5.00 a night, he took a job as a ring announcer for Cowboy Lutrell's promotion. Solie approached this position with as much seriousness and professionalism as he did his other ventures in journalism. His ringside interviews with the grapplers revolutionized the way wrestling shows were done. As the company grew, Solie also took over the publicity chores.
From 1960 to 1987, Solie hosted Championship Wrestling from Florida, one of the most revered wrestling shows in the 80s. His work on the show led to him being picked as the host of Georgia Championship Wrestling on Ted Turner's TBS station, one of the most watched wrestling shows on cable ever, from 1974 to 1985.
Solie, who lived in Florida, would travel to the TBS studios in Atlanta every week do broadcast the show where the likes of Roddy Piper, The Freebirds, Tommy Rich, The Road Warriors and Don Muraco first became national stars. At one time he was also the host of Continental Wrestling, the NWA's office based out of Alabama.
He joined World Championship Wrestling in 1989 where he did play-by-play on several of their syndicated programs and offered colour analysis alongside Jim Ross on their nationally broadcasted programs on TBS.
He stayed with WCW until 1995 before he quit, but not before he was inducted into the WCW Hall of Fame at the Slamboree pay-per-view event in his home state of Florida.
Solie had earned the reputation of being the most credible and respected broadcaster ever in pro wrestling. His ringside interviews were done in a probing and inquisitive manner that brought a great deal of legitimacy to wrestling. He paved the way for today's announcers, including Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone who have both cited Solie as major influences on their respective careers.
At press time, there is no word on where funeral arrangements will be held.
"Eddie Graham, his mentor, would never make
him privy to what was going on as far as what was going to happen on TV,"
Rhodes explained. "So he had to really call it. Solie was out there, 'the
crimson mask', the whole thing. He made up great cliches that will live forever.
He was a pretty cool guy."
Kendall Windham was one of those young wrestlers who came along in the 1980s after the business had gone more mainstream, more towards sports entertainment. The son of Blackjack Mulligan and brother of Barry Windham recalled that when he started, Solie was quick to help out the youngsters.
"He always helped you out," Windham said. "It was his job basically to help you get established and he would get you established. He did his job very well as announcer, commentator for Florida Championship Wrestling."
Solie was a professional's professional when it came to announcing. "He was always on top of the game. He always knew what to say to help get guys over," Windham recalled.
Gil Hayes was in Florida in the early '70s and recalled Solie as "one of the most colourful for the era of professional wrestling. He always had good taste, dressed well, well-spoken and gave the business a little class."
"He had a unique style," said Rhodes, 'The American Dream.' "It was almost TV-radio. He'd make you feel the colour of the guys trunks to his face to his eyes. Our industry was very lucky to have somebody like him, especially my era to come along and feed off of."
Dewey Robertson went through Florida when he wrestled as the Missing Link in the early '80s. The veteran Robertson has a different perspective of his colleagues from the past.
"I would say within the last 10 years, I've been hearing about all these guys going down, and it's devastating. When I was young, and all the other guys would say 'oh, so-and-so died, so-and-so got sick,' -- it wouldn't mean anything to me, I didn't know them," Robertson said. "Now, Gordon Solie, I've got a picture of him with my son. He was quite a friend of mine."
The surgery was deemed a success. Support from
friends and family members made his time in the hospital shorter than expected.
He started rehab days after surgery and was sent home within the same week.
His voice may only be scarce for a short time. After recovery, he will be fitted for an internal voice box sometime early in the new year.
His friends were quick to thank everyone for their support. "I know when Gordon gets his new voice box, he will be able to thank you all himself," said one friend in an email to a wrestling legends egroup.
Friends are now at his side, but it is not always this way for Solie. Living outside of Tampa, Fla., he tries to cope with a lonely life.
His dog, Aimee is the only friend he sees everyday. It was just a little over two years ago that his wife, Eileen, died.
Many wondered how Solie would live through the death of his wife, who he called Smokey. She fought cancer till the end, but Solie continues to battle.
"I woke up just before five, and she was gone," Solie said in a 1999 interview. "I wake up every morning at four and stay awake for an hour."
It has been fifty years next year since Solie made his first appearance in the world of wrestling. Solie made his home in Florida after his stint in the U.S. military service. He took a small job at a radio station in Ybor City, Florida. He was the only sports anchor, and he found himself interviewing local wrestlers on a regular basis.
Promoter Cowboy Luttrel offered Solie $5 for one night of ring announcing. Solie accepted, and it was the start of what Solie often called "The Solie Era."
Soon the promotion he worked for became televised, and after clamoring to save money for using a big name, Luttrel offered the job to Solie. He accepted, and his role became a play-by-play man for the matches.
Although talking as if he was Julius Caesar, Solie was a real quiet and down to earth announcer. He took wrestling for what it was worth. He did not want to insult peoples' intelligence. He did not sugarcoat, but he did make every move and every match seem just as technical and rigid as the next.
His announcing soon became so innovative that many announcers were being hired based on how well they could do Solie's style.
"He became the person every broadcaster in the '70s and into the '80s became compared to," said Apter. "The question was always, 'Is he as good as Gordon,' whenever a new announcer was considered for a position."
"I don't think there's a guy behind the wrestling microphone in the world today that wasn't affected by Gordon Solie," said "Mean" Gene Okerland in a 1997 article.
A sleeper hold wasn't a sleeper hold till Solie renamed it. "The hold is pinching the eartoid artery, limiting blood flow to the brain" would be how Solie would describe it.
"His face is a crimson mask," "it's a Pier-6 brawl" and his infamous "we'll be back as soon as order is restored," were sayings that Solie created during his time behind the microphone.
But it worked the other way around. "Let me tell you something, Gordon Solie," was the natural way every wrestler would start an interview. He not only gained respect from the fans, but he gained it from the wrestlers. Something that was not easy to do.
"He was my idol at the time," said Norman Smiley to SLAM! Wrestling. "I remember when I first moved here from England, I went straight to Miami, and would always watch the show at 12 o'clock on Saturday afternoons. 'Live from the Sunshine State!' he'd always say. And the first time I went there, it was Barry Windham, Luger, Scott Hall, so I was overwhelmed with these guys, even with their presence back then. Gordon Solie was one of the guys I was impressed with too. The guy with the golden tongue."
Gorilla Monsoon, the recently-deceased long-time announcer for the WWF, took much of his style from Solie. Monsoon would use terms only pulled out of medical books to describe body parts. Monsoon did not use a book, but he used Solie. Solie said a chest was really a "pectoralis major" and a head was a "glutus maximus."
Solie worked in Florida his whole career, but he also ventured to Georgia and other southern states to announce matches. He also was the announcer for the aborted third promotion, the Global Wrestling Alliance out of Florida.
Most wrestling fans outside the Southwest would first see Solie when he commentated on "World Championship Wrestling" on WTBS. Ted Turner, owner of the Atlanta-based station was able to gain a satellite connection, and the whole nation was able to see Solie's face on a weekly basis.
Solie stayed there till his retirement in 1995. His departure was not a happy one. He became tired of the wondering from why he started in the business, wrestling. "The homosexual themes ... the crucifixes ... it's disgraceful."
Wrestling is not the same as he once called at the Tampa Sportatorium.
"Today they don't know a wristwatch from a wristlock. They don't know, and they don't care," he once said.
Through all he has been through, he will never see wrestling live in the same format as he once announced it. And fans will never see announcing in the same way and style Solie did it.
People will always quote Solie, but no one will ever match him.
The WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No. 766
RIOT FOLLOWS WRESTLING BOUT
(Los Angeles Times, Thursday, January 13, 1938)
It was riot last night at the Olympic and no holds were barred as fans, fighters and referee Man Mountain Dean all entered religiously into the spirit of the rough and rowdy occasion. And while some 6,000 spectators booed and showered the ring with paper, George Zaharias was given a swift decision over Sandor Szabo in the main wrestling event.
It was a case of two against one as referee Dean and Zaharias combined their mat talents to upset Szabo in straight falls. The winner took the first pinning in 18m. when he applied his face lock and put Szabo down for the count.
Prior to the fall, Zaharias showed all of his rough strangle holds which Dean failed to call. When Szabo tried anything out of line, he was promptly reprimanded for his actions. This bit of officiating infuriated all concerned and, after the round, the riot cry started.
Zaharias started the second canto with a face lock that was nothing short of a real strangle hold. Szabo was mad when he was not made to stop and started a one-man stampede against Zaharias. Szabo kicked, slugged and went generally nuts much to the pleasure of the cheering throng. Referee Dean could not put up with such uncouth antics and disqualified Szabo in 2m. 44s. and gave the match to Zaharias.
To say that Szabo was enraged would be putting it mildly. By this time he was completely blind with rage and even went so far as to refuse to leave the ring. He was still standing around when brother Chris Zaharias entered the square for his bout with El Pulpo. Brother Chris, not particularly caring for Szabo’s actions, slugged him on the back and then ducked and ran up the aisle with Szabo in hot pursuit. Police officers finally grabbed the two wild ringmen and stopped them before any serious damage was completed.
After some semblance of order had been resorted, the semi-windup tussle between El Pulpo and Chris Zaharias went on and, after a short rough session, ended in 6m. 14s. when El Pulpo put brother Chris away with a drop kick.
Bill Longson put on a rough performance to defeat Harry jacobs in 8m. 11s. with a pile driver in the top preliminary bout.
Honors in the fourth match went to George Harben, who was given the duke over Tom Zaharias in 5m. 14s. when the latter was disqualified for unnecessary roughness.
Del Kunkel, fast and colorful grappler, took the measure of Bull Martin, substitute for Buddy O’Brien, in 9m. 59s. with an Australian roll. Al Lafoon defeated Lord Albert Mills in 9m. 15s. of the second bout with a body press and in the opener Lee Henning floored Tom Meade in 8m. 32s. with a toe hold. Meade gave up when Henning was causing him too much pain.
HULK HOGAN HAS RETURNED TO WRESTLING!
(Associated Press, June 27, 1994)
ATLANTA -- Ringside excitement hit a fever pitch this weekend when long-standing rumors were confirmed -- Hulk Hogan has returned to wrestling!
The world-renowned Hogan signed a deal with World Championship Wrestling (WCW) that would bring him back into the ring early this summer. The historic signing, the biggest acquisition in the history of the wrestling industry, was announced on WCW Saturday Night, seen weekly on TBS Superstation.
"Wrestling fans all over the world can celebrate now that the most exciting presence in the sport has returned to do battle," said Eric Bischoff, senior vice president and executive producer of WCW Programs, who was instrumental in negotiating the Hulk deal. "Having Hulk in our corner only confirms the fact that WCW is the premiere wrestling organization of the '90s."
WCW President Bill Shaw added: "Hulk is the crowning jewel to a glittering array of talent such as Ric Flair, Sting, the Nasty Boys, Mean Gene Okerlund and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, a group who has truly escalated to superstar status this year. I have enjoyed following Hulk's career and look forward to a long and happy partnership."
(Hammond Times, November 12, 1996)
You might expect that acting would be a natural progression for the world's
most popular professional wrestler. After all, whether you consider pro
wrestling a total sham, a completely legitimate sport or something in-between,
you can't deny the obvious showmanship involved.
Wrestling is entertainment, and the most successful wrestlers are usually the most entertaining ones. Yet Hulk Hogan, the industry's most famous and popular personality, said his film career still feels the weight of the negative wrestler stereotype.
After seven feature films, including "Rocky III," "Gremlins," "Suburban Commando," "No Holds Barred" and his latest effort, "Santa With Muscles," Hogan said he knows he must still earn his breaks in Hollywood.
"I proved myself in the wrestling ring, and I'll have to do it again in Hollywood," said Hogan during an interview last week. In Chicago for a quick promotional tour on his new movie, "Santa With Muscles," the 6'7, 275-pound professional wrestler talked about his life in the ring, in front of the camera and as one of the entertainment world's more recognizable role models.
Hogan said wrestlers have always labored under a dubious reputation that has hindered them from making the move from the ring to movies or other endeavors. That was true when he first started making movies more than 10 years ago, and he said it hasn't entirely changed.
"It's still there," said Hogan, who has two children, Brooke, 8, and Nicholas, 6, with his wife, Linda. "I'm a sort of a security freak, and I know I'll always have wrestling there to take care of my family. But when I wrestle, some people look at me and say, `Oh, he's just a dumb wrestler.' "
Hogan is anything but dumb. Involved in various movie and television projects, the actor-producer has a varied and busy career outside the ring. In fact, he left wrestling for several years in the early 1990s to pursue various small and big-screen projects, including his TV series, "Thunder In Paradise."
That hiatus came on the heels of pro wrestling's most successful period ever, a streak of nationwide, even worldwide, popularity during the mid-and-late 1980s. Led by Hogan and his legions of "Hulkamaniacs," the World Wrestling Federation and its cast of colorful fighters took pro wrestling from the regional notoriety of small-town convention halls to the national prominence of network matches, lucrative cable deals and pay-per-view windfalls.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not, wrestling's spiraling fame dipped during Hogan's absence. Hogan said wrestling's popularity is on the rise again, though he admitted it's still not where it was during its heyday. Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, said he was taken aback one day when his son asked him who Hulk Hogan was.
"He said, ‘Dad, the kids at pre-school say you're Hulk Hogan,' " Hogan recalled. "I said, 'Well, I am and I'm not.' So I let him watch tapes of me wrestling."
Hogan returned to the ring in 1994. Signing up with the Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling, he gave his mat persona a twist.
"I was working on some projects with New Line Cinema, which is owned by Ted Turner," Hogan said. "He called me up and said, ‘There's a home for you here, boy, but you've got to wrestle part-time.' I said, ‘OK, what's the deal?'
"I told him that if he really wanted to get a reaction from the audience, he should turn me into a bad guy," Hogan said.
Thus was born Hollywood Hogan, Hogan's latest wrestling incarnation, and one that has proved quite popular. A classic ringside villain, Hogan's bad-boy antics haven't cost him many fans. Indeed, Hogan expressed surprise that his following has remained intact and just as supportive as ever.
"They still cheer, man. I can't believe it," Hogan said. "I was wrestling in Las Vegas the other night, and I did something that I just knew would make them boo me. I had this wig on, and I walked out, strutting like a peacock. And they still cheered. It's wild."
Hogan said playing the bad guy is something he never could have done in past years, in the ring or on the screen. His image as the ultimate do-gooder led to another title: role model. Because kids and adults of all ages looked up to him as wrestling's greatest good guy, Hogan said any deviation from that path would have betrayed the image so important to others.
"I would have had parents yelling at me, ‘How could you do that? My kids look up to you,' " said Hogan. "Now, though, people recognize that it's just entertainment. It's entertainment with good athletes."
Whether he's Hollywood Hogan, Hulk Hogan or just plain old Terry Bollea, the multi-talented entertainer said he remains very active in charities and other activities that benefit children. He's involved with the Pediatric AIDS Center, the Special Olympics, the Starlight Foundation and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Unlike some athletes, who consider their role-model status a burden, Hogan said he has enjoyed living up to the responsibilities it entails. He has been one of the Make-A-Wish Foundation's most requested celebrities.
"I have two perfectly healthy children, for whom I am very grateful," said Hogan, who emphasized that his career comes second to his family. "This gives me something positive to do, something that fills that need in my life. I've really enjoyed it. You always have to be ready, too, because you never know what kids want to talk to about. I've been asked everything from ‘Is wrestling fake?' to ‘Why am I dying?' "
Hogan's concern for and emphasis on children has extended to his film career, too. "Santa With Muscles," like his other movies, is directed at youngsters, and upcoming roles in "The Secret Agent Club" and the new "3 Ninjas" sequel continue the trend.
Hogan said he's not sure how much longer he'll continue to wrestle. At 43, he's still in great shape, and Hogan said he feels he can still compete with guys 10, 20 years younger.
"I don't know," Hogan said. "As long as I'm not embarrassing myself out there, I'll keep doing it."
WRESTLING AND RACING TOGETHER
(Hammond Times, April 27, 1997)
CRETE - This was too good to be true, but the newspaper ad seemed to be
Balmoral Park and Windy City Wrestling
Present - 1st Time Ever
Featuring Wrestling and Racing
King Kong Bundy - Koko B. Ware
Midgets - 7 title matches
Bell - 5:30 Racing - 7:30
Surely, this was a joke, or something out of the Bill Veeck school of marketing.
You want entertainment? Come see Eddie Gaedel Jr. jump over the ropes, win the WCW midget title, and then guiding Sea Biscuit home in the fifth.
But sure enough, at 5:30 p.m. Saturday about 1,000 fans of all shapes, colors and ages had slapped their fannies into the Balmoral grandstand on the second floor. If they looked out onto the track behind the makeshift ring, they could see some of the featured horses of the night warming up. Not many did.
Down on the first floor, Mr. Racing Form Vendor was trying to make a living. He didn't want to give his name. He knew this was a slightly different kind of night.
"The people up there are not regular customers," he said. "That's a new crowd."
A new crowd is exactly what the horse racing industry is trying to attract. Riverboat gambling, cable and age have thinned out the horse crowd to where many tracks nationwide are struggling, closing or both.
So it's in their best interest to try Something Completely Different.
If Saturday was any indication, they may be onto something. Not only were Mssrs. Bundy and Ware in the house for entertainment, but also the WCW lightweight champion, Calvin Thomas, the "Chi-Town T."
If the name doesn't ring a bell, Thomas was a backup fullback on the '85 Bears. In the WCW, everyone's a celebrity.
"This is great," said Wayne Rollins, a retired Marine and Navy man who lives in Chicago Heights. "This has to be two of my favorite things. I can come and scream and yell, and then lose all my money right afterward."
As with many fans, Rollins had a rooting interest, and not just because of the five empty beer cups stacked in his right hand.
His nephew, "Bulldozer," had just lost a very, very important match to WCW heavyweight champ Mike Anthony.
Dozer looks like Meat Loaf in denim. He enters the ring to the soothing sounds of "Working Man," by Rush. He's earnest and wrestles by the rules, unlike that cocky Anthony character, who pulled on Bulldozer's long hair many times and had to be warned by the referee. Meanie.
In the end, Dozer got jobbed because his wife got into a ringside tussle with Anthony's babe, Baby Doll (not her real name), and Dozer was disqualified when he left the ring to break up the spat.
Bulldozer shook off that emotional loss and was able to wrestle two or three more times before the evening was up.
It helped that he had plenty of support. Uncle Dozer sat with his brother, Mr. Dozer -- Bull's dad -- and about 10 more friends and family for an evening of beer and belly-to-back souffles.
Oh yeah, and by the way, horses.
"We've seen him wrestle about a hundred times," Rollins said. "Most kids have got nothing to do. He went to wrestling school, trained hard. There's a lot of education involved here. You have to know what you're doing."
Yes, you do, and Balmoral did with this one. A thousand people at 10 bucks a pop plus concessions equals something for not much.
Down below, Mr. Racing Form Vendor was counting his money, and chuckling.
"They go where the show goes," he said, motioning toward upstairs. "Will they be back? I couldn't tell you."
Bulldozer and his entourage will be, at Balmoral or wherever.
"It's all about showmanship," Rollins said. "Putting on a show. That's what it's all about. Nobody gets hurt. It's a good time, right?"
Hey, whatever it takes.
FLIPPIN’ BODIES, HOLDING THE MUSTARD
(Hammond Times, January 29, 1998)
By Al Hamnik
You've got to love professional wrestling, if for nothing else, its complete lack of self control.
In what other sport can you have a guy named "Hot Stuff" working at a Northwest Indiana McDonald's and going up against New Wave Wrestling Association favorites "Bam Bam Bino," "Ax Murdock" and "J.T. Sexy."
From flipping burgers to flipping bodies. It's the kind of transition headline writers love.
Never heard of the NWWA? Its big star is Rex Hart. Yeah, THAT NWWA.
Wrestling fans are cut from a different cloth. I remember a huge card years ago at the Holiday Star in Merrillville. Fans of all ages cheered and cursed, sobbed and shouted - and that was just in the ticket line.
Talk about a tough crowd. Chains, tattoos, scars - and the men weren't much better.
I wrote that many of the fans who stayed overnight were outraged the next morning because they couldn't close their suitcases when they checked out. The hotel towels were too thick.
Famous pitchman Chet Coppock was the emcee on that card and he wore a tux at ringside. Whenever a wrestler got too close, Chet would jump up and say: "Please, sir. My hair. It cost me a fortune to have it done."
Afterward, we all sat in the dressing room, swapped tales and ate cold pizza. Pro wrestling was a stretch then. Today, it's choreographed chaos with the worst acting since "Mothra."
This may be the only sport where athletes can resurrect their fading careers and actually make a fortune doing so.
All you need is a crafty promoter like the World Wrestling Federation's Vince McMahon, who created greater mainstream interest with NFL washouts William "The Refrigerator" Perry, Steve McMichael, Lawrence Taylor, pop queen Cyndi Lauper and the comical Mr. T.
And now, add Mike Tyson to the mix.
McMahon reportedly will pay the disgraced former world heavyweight champ $6 million to throw around "Stone Cold" Steve Austin at Wrestlemania on March 29 in Boston.
Tyson was supposed to referee the pay-per-view event, but scuffled with Austin at the Jan. 19 press conference. They will now settle their differences in the ring. Gee, that's original.
No biting allowed.
"Vince is probably the greatest marketing genius in the world," said burger man Rod Bell, whose real name is Rod Bollenbacher. "That (Tyson-Austin confrontation) made the front page of every newspaper around.
"Maybe it'll draw some of the boxing crowd into that wrestling crowd. It's great for the business."
Makes you wonder if Tyson, the original loose cannon, will agree to follow a scripted match.
"A lot of it is entertainment," Bollenbacher said. "But myself ... I've had six broken noses, internal bleeding, broken bones here and there. To say pro wrestling is just a joke, those people obviously haven't been in the ring.
"It's a rough business to be in."
So rough, Hot Stuff runs a wrestling school in Lake Station that has 21 students. The number is (219) 641-5914. Bring your own first-aid kit.
The WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No. 767
MAN MOUNTAIN DEAN TACKLES SZABO
(Los Angeles Times, July 14, 1937)
Man Mountain Dean has resurrected his running broad jump and is ready to break out with it tonight at the Olympic when he smacks into Sandor Szabo, the handsome Hungarian, in a three-fall-finish rematch. This bout tops promoter Jack Daro’s card. Vincent Lopez, the mad Mexican, and Gino Garibaldi, the sizzling Sicilian, are on the same bill in a one fall, one-hour time limit match.
The running broad jump was put on the shelf a year ago by the M.M. when the State Athletic Commission issued a ban against it after several of Dean’s opponents went to the hospital from the effects of it. After last week’s mad mix-up, however, when Szabo chased Dean with a chair and smacked the referee around the place, the M.M. asked permission to bring his broad jump into play. This was granted for tonight’s match when Szabo waived any or all claims of damages if he happens to get hurt.
Don McDonald will referee tonight’s fracas between the big strong fellows in the main event.
Dean Detton, former world heavyweight champion, has come out of his shell and challenged the winners of the Dean-Szabo match and the Garibaldi-Lopez affair. Detton recently lost his title to Bronko Nagurski at Minneapolis. Nagurski, in the meanwhile, has run out on Los Angeles matches and is the target right now for promoter Daro’s potshots. Daro threatens to have him barred throughout the country if he doesn’t come to terms here soon.
Ernie Dusek, leader of the famed Dusek riot squad, is another wrestler who seeks action here and wants the winner of either match this evening. Daro has inveigled Dusek away from Ray Fabiani, the Philadelphia promoter, who is reported to have Nagurski under contract.
Hans Steinke, German ace, faces Jimmy Sarandos, the new Greek idol, in a thirty-minute match.
Ted Key, who once lugged a football for U.C.L.A. until they found out he might be two other fellows, meets Dick Lever, Tennessee bully. Seven matches are carded.
MAN MOUNTAINED HUMBLED BY SZABO
(Los Angeles Times, July 15, 1937)
That loud crackling noise that rent the air in the vicinity of Eighteenth and Grand last night was not a mighty redwood crashing to the ground. As a matter of fact, it was one of Man Mountain Dean’s legs being givent he business.
Yep, the old Man Mountain was rendered hors du combat during his main event mat match with Sandor Szabo before 8,000 fans at the Olympic last night, giving the Hungarian sweet revenge for the thumping he suffered in his meeting with Dean a week ago.
The end came suddenly. After Dean had won the first fall in 9m. 42s. with a hammer lock that forced Szabo to surrender, it looked as though Szabo was all washed up, but he was revived during the recess and came out for the second fall full of fight.
Dean, eager to apply another hammer lock, grabbed Szabo’s right arm,w hich was the signal for the Hungarian to lift the large load of human lard over his shoulder and flop him in the second row of seats. Which he did. In making his forced landing, Dean injured his leg and was unable to continue. Dr. Lloyd Mace, house physician, said that there was evidence of a fracture after examining one of Dean’s hippo-like legs with a divining rod.
When two hot-blooded Latins get their dander up something is sure to happen (old Siamese proverb) and such was the case when Senor Vincent Lopez, the pride of all Chihuahua, tangled with Signor Gino Garibaldi, of Italy.
Referee Dick Rutherford finally called the match a draw after 36m. 31s. of brawling, with both wrestlers out of the ring (and their heads). Garibaldi had just crowned Lopez with a press telephone, with Lopez returning his favor in kind, when Rutherford called the whole thing off.
Young Jimmy Sarandos, fast-stepping Greek grappler, sprang a mild upset when he held the German Oak, Hans Steinke, to a draw after 30m. of scuffling.
Ted Key, the former Bruin fullback, scored an impressive victory over Dick Lever in 7m. 31s., spreading Lever on the rug with a series of smashing flying tackles.
Other results: LaVerne Baxter pinned George Wilson in 6m. 58s. with a body press; Jules Strongbow threw Mike Mazurki in 6m. 20s. with a body press; Ignacio Martinez defeated Tom Marvin in 13m. 20s. with a reverse Indian death grip.
WRESTLERS TAKE A SWING AT TNN
(New York Post, July 6, 2000)
By Joe Rubi
The pro wrestling/cable TV soap opera is about to get even zanier.
According to a Daily Variety report, Extreme Championship Wrestling is planning legal action against CBS/Viacom, which last week announced a blockbuster deal acquiring World Wrestling Federation cable rights from USA Network.
ECW had been appearing on CBS-owned TNN for the past year but was thrown off to make way for the top-rated WWF.
But ECW, a minor-league outfit based in Pennsylvania, is not taking this body slam lying down.
ECW attorney Stephen Stern says TNN has violated the contract by not supplying "the promotion, publicity and exposure" to the weekly ECW series that would’ve helped the show to reach the Nielsen guarantees.
Stern then added that the clear implication is that TNN didn’t want more viewers tuning into ECW because of the WWF deal.
The ECW contract has two years left – but TNN has no plans to buy out the remainder of the contract.
TNN spokesman David Schwarz wouldn’t comment on that, but said that ECW’s ratings were underperforming and failed to meet the 2.0 Nielsen rating, as required by its contract.
It had been registering a 1.0 rating during its run on Friday nights at 9 p.m.
In an ironic twist, there has been a history of "conflict" between TNN and ECW, but, according to Schwarz, it was only storyline related.
"A lot of that stuff that’s been going back and forth for awhile now is the network vs. ECW.
"’Cyrus the Virus’ is a chracter who supposedly works for TNN, and is part of the ‘evil network."
"It’s part of the whole ‘work" – which is a wrestling term – and it’s part of the whole beauty of wrestling. It’s part of the storyline."
WWF senior vice-president of marketing Jim Byrne issued the following statement to The Post:
"We wish ECW nothing but the best and we’ve been an advocate of Paul Heyman (ECW promoter) and ECW for years."
In the past, WWF wrestlers have crossed over to ECW and vice versa.
Hoping to avoid a nasty courtroom battle royal, ECW hopes to work out a settlement with TNN and to look for a new home come September.
But, according to Mediaweek.com TV analyst Marc Berman, unless ECW finds a new home – and fast – its staying power would become greatly diminished.
"Without a major cable outlet, there’s no reason to keep it going," Berman said.
USA and ECW’s marketing departments failed to return phone calls. A spokesman for ESPN did call back, but was not sure if it’s been contacted by eCW.
In New York, ECW Wrestling is shown over MSG Network.
(Hammond Times, December 1, 1998)
Jimmy Valiant used to wrestle seven days a week, and took a lot of punishment
"For years, I abused my body by not slowing down. I was burning the candle at both ends,'' said the Hammond native who has performed as "Handsome" Jimmy Valiant in the World Wrestling Federation, and the "Boogie Woogie Man" in World Class Wrestling.
"Now I'm taking time out to smell the roses,'' he said.
Valiant, who started his wrestling career in the mid-1960's, retired from regular competition eight years ago and moved to Shawsville, Va. with his wife, Angel. There, he opened his own school, Boogie's Wrestling Camp, and spends most of his time training young grapplers for the ring.
But at 56, he still feels the urge to wrestle. In fact, he's looking to make history.
"When the year 2000 comes, I'll have wrestled in five different decades,'' he said. "I'd like to go until 2004, when I'll have wrestled for 40 years. I don't know of anybody in any sport who's done that.''
Valiant was back in his hometown last Wednesday, as the featured attraction in Ringside Wrestling Alliance's "November to Dismember" at the National Guard Armory. For the Hammond Tech grad, it was an chance to get together with family and friends and to help out a local charity, the Lake Area United Way.
He has four grown children and six grandchildren, and his three daughters still live in Northwest Indiana.
"I love to do benefits,'' Valiant said. "Anything I can do for an organization, now I have the time for it.''
Earlier in the day, Valiant signed autographs at the Citgo gas station at 173rd Street and Indianapolis Boulevard, and continued to do so shortly before the program at the Armory, where he participated in a tag-team match with RWA member Don Bratton of Hammond.
Valiant entered the gym to a thunderous ovation, and used the public address microphone to charge up the crowd.
"The Boogie Woogie Man...he's been all over the world, but there's no place like home. The greatest wrestling fans in the world are right here in Indiana,'' he announced to another chorus of cheers.
Ringside Wrestling Alliance is a professional organization of Northwest Indiana residents, which presents shows throughout the Midwest. Valiant accepted RWA's invitation, in part, because of its solid national reputation.
"These are all local kids,'' Valiant said, "and it gives them good training for WWF.''
Valiant didn't have that advantage when he started out. He had no formal training in wrestling, and his only athletic experience in high school came on the football team at Tech.
"I played for Coach Swede Carlson in late fifties and early sixties,'' he said. "I was a tight end and a right tackle.''
"Back then, they didn't have any (wrestling) schools. You learned on the job. The old-timers either liked you or they didn't like you, and if they didn't like you, they didn't teach you anything.''
The importance of proper training is what led Valiant to found Boogie's. His students include both men and women, regardless of size or weight.
"I think it's important for people to get into a credible school, and get training from somebody who's knowledgeable,'' said Valiant, who's seeing the fruits of his teaching labors. "I've got a couple of kids the WWF's looking at.''
Valiant played such venues as Chicago's International Amphitheater and the Hammond Civic Center. His contemporaries included everyone from Verne Gagne and Dick the Bruiser, to Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. Valiant was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame in New York in 1996.
For the members of RWA, it was a thrill to be on the same card with Valiant, although it's nothing new to Rob Henderson of Chesterton. He wrestled with Valiant in a WWF event two years ago.
"I've been a fan of his since I was a kid,'' said Henderson, known in the ring as "The Paralyzer." "He's a gentleman in and out of the ring. A hero at a time when heroes are few and far between.''
The Handsome Jimmy Valiant File
* Age: 56.
* Hometown: Originally from Hammond, now lives in Shawsville, Va.
* Background: A 1961 Hammond Tech grad, Valiant began his wrestling career in Chicago in 1964. He toured with World Class Wrestling, the World Wrestling Federation and other associations until 1990, and in 1992 opened his own school, Boogie's Wrestling Camp, in Virginia. He was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame in 1996.
RWA COMING TO CAL CITY
(Hammond Times, August 17, 1999)
By Paul Skrbina
Some 30 days of preparation will equal one night of perspiration.
And hopefully for Michael Palmer, a lot of appreciation. Palmer is the owner of Ringside Wrestling Alliance, a professional wrestling organization that will be appearing at the Calumet Memorial Park District's Memorial Park on Thursday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m.
The show is to benefit the National Youth Project and will feature a 12-man battle royal and a Chicago street fight.
"I'll be the guy running around sweating, making sure everything is all right," Palmer said.
The RWA's style of wrestling is hardly akin to that of big-name organizations such as the WWF and WCW. The park district found Palmer and the RWA on the Internet.
"Our wrestlers get fined if they use profanity," Palmer said. "Everybody is there for entertainment. It's a very controlled thing. You don't have to worry about wrestlers going into the crowd, or anyone getting hurt."
Palmer has been in the wrestling business his whole life. The Thornton resident promotes shows across the country and is a registered Illinois referee. Palmer has reffed in the WWF, and seen some of the RWA's finest move on to the big time.
Guys like Skullcrusher and T.J. Powers got their start in the RWA before going on to the WWF.
And even though some of his wrestlers have hit the big time, Palmer insists that his shows are safe for kids to enjoy.
"We are not like the WWF," he said. "... We are a family-oriented show."
Palmer also pointed out that most of his wrestlers have other jobs. Palmer himself if a computer repair technician.
One thing Palmer does have on his side is the fact that RWA owns its own ring and has its own belts.
"Wrestling is just something that is very addictive," Palmer said. "Once you are involved in it, it becomes your life."
* Ringside Alliance Wrestling Benefit for the National Youth Project
* Where: Memorial Park, Calumet City.
* When: Thursday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m.
* On the card: A 12-man battle royal and professional wrestlers Don Diamond, Kenny Nash and Vicki Violent.
LEARN TO WRESTLE
(New York Daily News, January 31, 2000)
NEW YORK -- Professional wrestling instructor Pedro Rodriguez has a word of advice for teen-agers who aspire to the high-flying, flamboyant "fighting" style of the World Wrestling Federation:
Don't try it at home.
"Doing pro wrestling stunts is dangerous unless you have proper training," said Rodriguez, 57, who has been teaching teen-age boys the fine art of staged acrobatic grappling since retiring from the independent pro wrestling circuit 20 years ago.
"Teen boys are huge wrestling fans. And when you don't have pro wrestling schools for them, what do teen boys do? They go to empty lots, imitate what they see on TV and get hurt. It's not the kids' fault, it's the adults'. If adults say wrestling is OK for kids, we have the responsibility to train kids how to do it safe."
True enough. In fact, Rodriguez's aptly named The Unpredictable School of Pro-Wrestling, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of New York, is the only New York City area school that trains teen-age boys and has them participate in its amateur exhibitions for parents and friends.
The only other local pro wrestling school, run by former WWF wrestler Johnny Rodz, operates out of Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn Heights, but it is for adults, ages 18 and over.
Rodriguez's school has been operating for three years from a second-floor location at St. John Church, 75 Lewis Ave.
He runs the school with his wife, Gladys Santiago, 44, a licensed pro wrestling promoter. She runs the Arena Puerto Rico Wrestling Federation, which regularly puts on cards featuring state-licensed adult pro wrestlers at St. John Hall, 790 Willoughby Ave.
Rodriguez and Santiago charge boys, ages 13 to 17, $40 a month for daily five-hour training sessions, Monday through Saturday.
The training is hazardous-looking, but Rodriguez insists it's just intended to look that way.
"The magic of pro wrestling is that it is supposed to look dangerous," said Rodriguez, whose beginner students train on Saturdays. "The hardest things in wrestling to learn are falling safely, faking hits, timing, stamina and relaxing. Once you learn that, you can do anything safely."
Bob Limerick, pro wrestling coordinator for the New York State Athletic Commission, said Santiago and Rodriguez are legitimate, licensed promoters and instructors "who have never gotten into any trouble and have never had any complaints filed against them."
Despite the clean record and Rodriguez's safety rhetoric, the program is still train-at-your-own-risk -- parents must sign legal waivers -- with teen boys doing aerial acrobatic stunts and recovering from falls as if their bodies were made of rubber.
"Those students you see are my best students. I don't need to watch them every second," explained Rodriguez, who said no teen has ever been injured at his school.
During one recent training session, 16-year-olds such as John "Quiet Storm" Costa from Manhattan and Kelvin "Kev Carnage" Ramirez from East New York were doing stunts such as jumping from the top rope of the wrestling ring, doing a midair flip, and landing flat on their back, buttocks or stomach on an old, folded mat.
"It's all fake. The only thing that was real was five years ago, when kids here were into cutting their foreheads to get bloody," Santiago said. "But we outlawed that because of AIDS. Kids can only use fake blood now," she said.
Does high school wrestling have any appeal to these future stars of the WWF?
"No, it doesn't," said Williamsburg's Philip "War Child" Nieves, 17. "A lot of us used to do legitimate wrestling in high school, but we found it boring."
LIMP BIZKIT AND THE ECW ONSTAGE
(www.mtv.com, December 1, 1999)
By Tina Johnson
For those who feared that the world of professional wrestling had not completely penetrated pop culture, we offer the following news.
Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst found himself in the middle of a donnybrook involving Extreme Championship Wrestlers Steve Corino, Balls Mahoney, Axl Rotten, and New Jack onstage during a recent concert.
The band's Billionaire Pirates tour rolled into Peoria, Illinois' Civic Center on November 20, the same night that ECW was staging an event in town. Limp invited some of the ECW stars to its show, and Corino (the scourge of the ECW) accepted, running onstage during the band's performance and announcing that he'd rather see "good bands" like Carly Simon and The Bee Gees.
Corino barked at Limp frontman Durst. The singer retorted that perhaps Corino wouldn't talk so tough if Mahoney, Rotten, and New Jack were around, a cue that brought the aforementioned wrestlers out from backstage.
The ECW stars then proceeded to pummel Corino with fists, a metal chair, and a beer can as Durst held Corino's arms behind him. After Corino crashed to the ground with a bloody forehead, the band then resumed its set.
Limp's Billionaire Pirates Tour (with Method Man, Redman, and System Of A Down) wrapped up last week in Madison, Wisconsin without further incident.
SMASHING PUMPKINS FRONT MAN BUSY
(www.mtv.com, July 24, 2000)
By David Basham
Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan took a theatrical turn over the weekend as he made an appearance at an Extreme Championship Wrestling match in Peoria, Illinois. Corgan, a noted pro-wrestling fan, was to have played a short acoustic set, although one song in, Corgan got into an altercation with ECW wrestler Lou E. Dangerously and smashed the acoustic guitar over Dangerously's head.
The Pumpkins frontman was then surrounded in the ring by wrestlers Steve Corino, Jack Victory, and Scotty Anton and was saved from a three-man beatdown when grapplers Tommy Dreamer and Jerry Lynn arrived in the ring to fend off the other men.
The incident is not the first time that ECW wrestlers have squared off with rock musicians, as Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst was involved in a similar brawl with Corino last December.
A publicist for the Smashing Pumpkins told MTV News that they were aware of Corgan's ECW melee but were not planning to comment or issue a statement regarding what happened.
The Smashing Pumpkins will cross the Atlantic for a final European round of
dates from September 16 through November 4, after which the band is expected to
hit the road in the U.S. for what could be its last tour hurrah.