The WAWLI Papers No. 774...

THE WORD FROM MRS. JOHNNY VALENTINE

From: Doug McCullough d.mccullough@mindspring.com
To: wrestlinglegends@egroups.com
Date: Wednesday, August 09, 2000 5:56 AM
Subject: [wrestlinglegends] Johnny Valentine

Next to Buddy Rogers, Johnny Valentine was my favorite wrestler when I first stated watching wrestling on WTTG in the late 50s/early 60s. So when I received an e-mail from Dr. Michael Lano which contained a message from Johnny's wife, Sharon, I wanted to share it with this group. I can tell you that I've taken it to heart and am acting upon it. I hope that others do so as well.

Although it might be a bit lengthy, here's the message verbatim from Sharon Valentine on her husband's condition:

"To my husband's fans. Everyone is aware of the mid-‘70s plane crash that ended Johnny Valentine's in-ring career but not his fighting spirit or brilliant wrestling mind. To date, those in the business have never offered any financial aid, and certainly there was no retirement, Keoghs, no hospital or medical insurance from our business for the decades of health care needed. He's been in constant pain since 1975, and finally needs to ask for help, something he vowed he would never do. Johnny once told me "I've lost the use of my legs and I'm on braces and crutches or a wheelchair the rest of my life, but everyone in the business seems to think my brain is crippled as well. I've made millions of dollars for the McMahons and also for the NWA/WCW and the Crocketts in the Carolinas and promoters around the world. I'm not mad, I'm just sorry they think I can be of no use to the business." Johnny is truly a good man with a great heart and an undying love for the business to this day. He's still in training and has trained many young wrestlers on how to be stiff and is still a booking genius. He can lend his expertise to any wrestling company, since many have lobbied for him to deservedly run a training territory like Memphis; for WWF, WCW or Japan.
Johnny's biggest fight since the NWA plane crash has been his constant battle with pain and overwhelming weekly doctor, physical therapy and hospital bills. Financial aid of any kind would be of great help as well as letters and cards. I urge you to contribute whatever you can to this great giant who gave his heart and soul to the business to: Johnny and Sharon Valentine, PO Box 10792, River Oaks, TX 76114.

"The stars of today are getting huge money, health insurance, the whole retirement package but the legends of yesteryear who pioneered the field of wrestling and made it possible for today's stars to earn their trade,
received little to nothing."
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TURK WRESTLER IS ILL

(Associated Press, March 1, 1919)

CHICAGO -- Yussif Hussane, well-known Turk wrestler, has been removed to the Garfield Boulevard Hospital here for treatment of an internal ailment that is puzzling the doctors. The wrestler was taken sick about 12 weeks ago and has had no relief since that time.

He weighs but 159 pounds now where before he tipped the scales at 210. He has not appeared on the mat for the last four months and is under the care of Dr. B.W. Sippy.
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OLD ‘JAWN’ PESEK SHOWS RASSLE ARTISTRY

(Associated Press, Wednesday, May 5, 1954)

By William A. Drake

OMAHA – Unconquerable John Pesek, who at the three-score mark has made another comeback, has promised he’ll be around next season to show young upstart rasslers the wizardry that made him a legend.

"Old Jawn" admits to 57 and some records list his age at 61. Thirty-five years ago he was one of the rassling sensations of the midwest and the nation.

Pesek, who beat the best in his day, has made innumerable comebacks. His latest this winter resulted in a string of exhibition victories. Monday night at Holdrege he won in straight falls over big Frank Marconi, Salem, O.

It was a semifinal match for the feature between U.S. champion Verne Gagne, former Minnesota football star, one of the currently popular terrors of the mat, and Joe Dusek, Omaha.

But Gagne conceded here that "I watched the whole match and that Pesek – I don’t know how he can do it.

"Most people his age couldn’t even climb in the ring," Gagne said.

Gagne, who tends toward a more "scientific" style when he can get away with it in today’s grunt, groan and mayhem type competition, said he hopes someday to work out with "the Tigerman" from Ravenna.

Gagne, who has beaten Argentina Rocca before 15,000 in Madison Square Garden, and drawn with Lou Thesz in Chicago before 19,500, said "I sure wish I could get a chance just to work out with Pesek.

"I’d ask him to show me some of that stuff," he said.

Pesek lives on a farm near Ravenna and keeps in perfect trim. He trains and shows greyhound dogs and has won national honors. But his real love is rassling and he can’t stay away from the mat.

"For 20 years I never lost a match," Pesek recalled. "And I never did lose many. It’s hard to quit and I’m always in good shape. I’d like to get a crack at the big boys today. Maybe I will."

Pesek’s son, Jack, former University of Nebraska football player, is a professional rassler. He left this week for an Australian tour. Two decades ago, his father won 44 matches in a row in Australia.

Pesek flourished in an era when Nebraska was a hotbed of rassling, and matches between Joe Stecher and Pesek have become ring classics. Pesek recalls winning from Jim Londos, Lou Thesz (sic) . . . "and all the guys that were champions."

Long after his prime, in 1937, the National Wrestling Association declared Pesek a national champion in a playoff-rating arrangement. But then, as now, rassling titles were in some dispute and confusion.

Pesek’s favorite holds were the toe hold and a strongman "bone breaker" which on occasion lived up to its name. He has been hailed by many as having the greatest knowledge of leverage in the ring.

Pesek, who still weighs in at 205 pounds, said he doesn’t know if he’ll rassle any more this season. But "I’ll be around and available anytime. I’m always ready."
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OLD JAWN, WRESTLER, NOT RASSLER

(Omaha World Herald, Sunday, April 1, 1956)

By Robert Agee

RAVENNA, Neb. – Omaha sportsmen will never forget the night of January 17, 1920. That was the night six thousand people jammed into the old City Auditorium for a gigantic sporting event. The total gate was 30 thousand dollars.

Seats sold for as high as $11 and standing room only prevailed soon after the doors were opened. The crush was so rough that one of the auditorium doors was broken.

The event? A wrestling match between John Pesek of Ravenna and Joe Stecher of Dodge, Neb., for the heavyweight championship of the world.

And notice that spelling "wrestling." It was not "rassling" as is done these days, with clowns and groaners and all kinds of gimmicks.

Old Jawn Pesek likes to recall those old days. "I wrestled Stecher a number of times and I beat him more than he beat me."

That night in Omaha John Pesek, sometimes called the Tiger Man, sometimes The Rubber Man, for his ability to wiggle out of tight holds, tore into Stecher with a ferocity that had the big crowd standing on their seats and roaring constantly.

Stecher won the first fall in two hours and three minutes. Pesek took the second in 13 minutes and Stecher took the deciding fall in eight minutes.

The ‘20s were the golden years for John. He began a winning streak in those years and went 18 years without losing a match, "the greatest record ever compiled by any American wrestler."

Old Jawn was named the world champion by the National Wrestling Association in 1932. By that time he was so feared by other wrestlers that they refused to meet him.

John Began in the wrestling game many, many years ago. He won’t say how old he is but it is said he was 53 years old in 1942, which would make him 67 now.

Pesek fans in Ravenna – and in many other towns as well – claim Old Jawn could beat Gorgeous George, Yukon Eric and Hans Schmidt in 15 minutes, five minutes to each match.

John only grinned when asked for verification of this claim. However, he will admit that some of the oldtimers, like Primo Carnera and The Angel, "could not fight their way out of a paper bag."

John is credited with reviving the wrestling game in Australia. He went Down Under in 1930 (sic) at a time when wrestling was at a low ebb and most of the performers were, in John’s own words, "a bunch of clowns." He wrestled before big crowds and he beat the clowns, one after another.

He speaks admiringly of such old wrestling greats as Jim Londos, Strangler Lewis, Frank Gotch and Earl Caddock.

"I wrestled Londos in Chicago once and the match went nearly three hours. There wasn’t a rough blow struck. It was just straight scientific wrestling. I beat Londos that night."

John didn’t make a national reputation that should have been due him. He refused to sign up with the wrestling trust and thus did not appear in New York City (sic) and some other Eastern towns where the trust operated. However he often wrestled at Columbus, Ohio, where the newspapers awarded him the world title, even though it was unofficial.

His reminiscences often mention Joe Stecher. "Once Strangler Lewis was supposed to wrestle Stecher in Oakland, Cal., and Lewis hurt his foot and I substituted. I beat Stecher two falls out of three but the next morning the decision was reversed and the referee said I had fouled Joe."

Another time Pesek and Stecher were in a hotel room to sign papers for a main event. One of Stecher’s handlers made some slighting remark that angered the Ravenna Tiger Man. Pesek challenged Stecher right there, and threw him to the floor without even taking off his coat.

Around Ravenna John is an institution. He has a big ranch near to there where he raises racing greyhounds, peafowl and wild ducks and geese.

He is a big man and weighs about two hundred pounds. His face is lined and his ears are crumpled from his many bouts on the mat.

He is quick to laugh and enjoys talking about the old days.

His strength is prodigious. He used to let people drive automobiles across his chest. He also would pull a harrow over a couple of acres of plowed ground, just to keep in shape.

John does not race his greyhounds any more. He leases them to racing men in Florida, Arizona and Denver.

Right now John is interested in the progress of his son Jack, who is an important wrestler in this part of the country. He weighs 235 pounds and has made a respectable record for himself.

John is also proud of the time he posted five thousand dollars for a mixed match (wrestler vs. boxer) with Joe Louis. The Brown Bomber never took him up on the offer.

The Ravenna Tiger Man is not shy about his ability. "Verne Gagne is the best wrestler today and I think I could beat him right now."

And when old Jawn says that, and you see those muscles bulging against his collar and his shirt sleeves, you can go along with him on his boast.

(ED. NOTE – The above two pieces, and a few others which will appear shortly in the WAWLI series, are courtesy of clippings sent us by the indomitable Scott Teal. Thanks, as always, to The Whatever Happened To…? man whose prodigious efforts may be, in part, viewed at the WHT web site, http://www.1wrestlinglegends.com/index2.html)
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GORDON SOLIE’S ‘FINAL STATEMENT’

(I don't know how many of my friends have seen this....but I thought I would pass it along.—Al Friend)

On Saturday, August 5th, services were held for Gordon Solie in Tampa, Florida.

And B. Brian Blair read Gordon Solie's "Final Statement." Written just two days prior to his passing, the statement was originally intended to address his health issue, but the family felt it would serve as Gordon’s "Final Statement":

"There are times when words cannot properly define one’s thoughts or emotions. With all that has happened in my life over the past several months, this is certainly one of those times.

First and foremost I want to thank those of you who have passed along your well wishes. They are deeply appreciated. And considering the reason I have decided to deliver this statement, it is quite comforting to know during my final days here that I have had such a positive effect on so many of you.

With that said, I also want to thank each of you for allowing me to be a small part of your lives, even if it might have been for just a few hours each week. And I want to thank you for allowing me to tell you a story; a story that I never got tired of... a story that could be told ten thousand times... a story that could have a different ending each and every time it was told.

To be quite honest, when my wife "Smokey" passed away more than two years ago, it could have been very easy for me to throw in the towel. But that wasn’t me. Then the throat cancer came, and again it could have been very easy to give up. But again, that wasn’t me. The bottom line is that I’ve never been a quitter. As a matter of fact at one point I thought I had this damn disease beat. Obviously I didn’t.

While only the good Lord knows how much time I actually have left here, in my final days I ask that you not grieve for me, but rather remember me fondly as you would an old friend. In my eyes I lived a full and satisfying life that some only dream of fulfilling.

Over the years I’ve had my share of heat with some people. How insignificant all that seems today. So being reflective, I hold no grudges and I have no ill will toward anyone. Let bygones be bygones.

Well, I suppose there’s not much more to say here, except for a line that I once made famous and is now more appropriate than ever.

So long.... from the Sunshine State.

Peace to all.

Gordon
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RALLYING AROUND AN AILING KLONDIKE BILL

(SLAM! Wrestling, July 14, 2000)

By Greg Oliver

(full article at http://www.canoe.ca/SlamWrestlingBiosK/klondike_14jul00.html)

When the illustrated dictionary on pro wrestling is finished one day, there will be a photo of Klondike Bill beside the word Loyalty.

For years and years, he was a mainstay in the Crockett-run Mid-Atlantic wrestling promotion, and later WCW. He also worked for the Crockett-owned Charlotte O's minor league baseball team.

Now those years of loyalty and service give him strength as his friends come to visit as he fights a serious case of a type of Bell's Palsy. The disease has taken away the use of his tongue and left him speechless.

David Crockett first met Klondike Bill -- sometimes known as Calgary's Bill Soloweyko -- years ago when Bill worked for his father Jim Crockett Sr. David was only in high school, and the friendship with the now 68-year-old Klondike Bill continues to this day.

It has been painful for Crockett to see his friend this way. "He's not doing that well. He's lost the use of his tongue and he's being fed through a tube and he has a walker now."
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The WAWLI Papers No. 775...

GLORY DAYS OVER, BUT WRESTLING IN HIS BLOOD

(Winnipeg Free Press, August 8, 2000)

By Ashley Prest

He’s been an all-American hero, a masked Oriental villain, a downright heel and now he's back home.

Winnipeg's own Tom Boric -- though maybe you know him better as Paul Diamond, or Kato or Max Moon or Venom -- is back from the grit and glamour of the World Wrestling Federation. But he's still got the ring in his blood. So instead of doing wrestling, he'll teach wrestling.

Starting in front of crowds of 300 in 1985, Boric's heyday was 1990-93, when he performed in front of thousands and was on the same card as such legends as Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior.


"I've never felt anything like it. When you realize you can do something right and see the people react so much, it gets in your blood and you'd almost do it for nothing," said Boric, 39. "Of course, you can't, and that's where it's almost like heartbreak."

"Your run is only so long and they need to see new faces and it's very political. But I love the wrestling business, passionately, and I just can't see doing anything else," Boric said.

With an open, friendly face and infectious grin, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound Boric is a regular-looking fellow at first glance, albeit muscular. But a closer look reveals the double-pierced ears -- one of them damaged -- and the last of the Venom haircut -- shaved on the sides and past his shoulders in the back.

Boric never got to be a superstar, but he's proud that he was never a "jobber" -- a body in the ring that gets pounded by the stars of the day.

"There's some days you never forget," Boric said, "like your wedding day or when your kids are born. But another day I'll never forget is the first day I stepped into the ring. It was Valentine's Day 1985. And I was hooked."

Boric was born in Croatia and immigrated to Winnipeg in 1974. He played professional soccer in the now-defunct North American Soccer League. When the Tampa Bay Rowdies folded, Boric trained in Florida with "Professor Boris" Malenko, father of Dean (Man of 1,000 Holds) Malenko, a familiar name to wrestling fans.

He joined Texas All-Star Wrestling as Paul Diamond, where he and Shaun Michaels, now a superstar in the WWF, were an instant hit as "The American Force" and won the tag-team belt.

In 1987, Boric met Pat Tanaka. They formed the tag team "Badd Company" -- they were despised rule-breakers -- in the Tennessee circuit and moved up to the American Wrestling Alliance, where they won three tag-team belts in three years. They were hugely popular villains and when Badd Company broke up, Boric signed with the WWF, the pinnacle of the wrestling world.

When he and Tanaka reunited as The Orient Express, Boric took the name Kato. "The only martial arts I knew were to kick my legs," he said. "They put a mask on me, since I'm obviously not Oriental. And I didn't talk.

The Orient Express didn't catch on with the fans and the WWF didn't renew Boric's contract in 1993. He bounced around in various circuits until last year, when he joined his old friend Shaun Michaels in San Antonio, Tex., where he ran Michaels' Wrestling Academy.

And now he's home.

He's getting his wife and children settled into their new home, next door to his mom and dad, in the Maples where he grew up and went to Garden City Collegiate.

Interviewed there a few days ago, Boric laughed when his wife Lisa, 34, brought out some of his costumes.

For old times' sake, Boric put on the Max Moon mask. "You look funny, Daddy," giggled six-year-old Kiana, who was born a year after her dad's WWF days ended. Moments later, the younger of the Borics' two Sharpei dogs raced around the corner wearing the mask and the whole family, even three-year-old Quentin, called "QB," broke into laughter.

By fall, Boric and Lisa hope to begin pursuit of his next dream of opening a wrestling school.

Lisa said the amount of time professional wrestlers must spend on the road travelling from show to show has been deadly to so many families.

"There's girls in every town (called ring rats) who just hang around after the shows hoping to be with one of the guys and they don't care who. They just want to say they've slept with someone who's on TV. People sleep with Mr. Fuji, for goodness sake!" she said with a laugh.

Tom and Lisa were introduced by friends in 1987 when he went to Minneapolis with the AWA. They were married exactly one year after their first official date.

"I still call him Paul. He was Paul Diamond when I met him and that's still who he is to me. Both names (Diamond and Boric) are on our marriage licence. But we're basically starting over now," Lisa said, adding she and her husband will celebrate their 10th anniversary in October. "We lived the life all right there for a while. We bought furniture, cars, we took trips, had parties, went to parties, had a big house in Tampa with a screened-in pool. We didn't even think about kids then. We went from that to a two-bedroom apartment in Nashville.

"There's been some really hard times, but through it all we always had each other. It might sound mushy but it's kept us together."
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ASPIRING WRESTLER DIES, NECK-FIRST

(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 7, 2000)

By Lisa Sink and Mike Johnson

WAUKESHA -- A Milwaukee man who aspired to be a professional wrestler got his first shot in the ring as a stand-in for another grappler and then died when a poorly executed flip sent him crashing neck-first into the mat.

Tony Nash, 30, of Milwaukee died Saturday night after the match at a Sussex sports bar.

The event was staged by Wisconsin All-Star Wrestling, one of several such groups to have sprung up in response to the national craze created by the World Wrestling Federation and its "Smackdown" broadcasts.

When another wrestler backed out of his match Saturday, Wisconsin All-Star Wrestling owners asked Nash if he would fill in, said Waukesha County Sheriff's Lt. Karen Ruff.

"They thought he was ready, and he thought he was ready, so he agreed," she said.

Nash "was supposed to either tuck his head or land on his shoulder, and for some reason he didn't do that," Ruff said.

"He didn't fall properly. We don't know why."

Nash, a parking checker for the Milwaukee Police Department, had been in training for about four months with Wisconsin All-Star Wrestling, a group that holds matches at taverns.

His opponent, whom authorities would not identify, had known Nash for about a year, Ruff said.

"They were friends, so he's very broken up about it," she said.

Nash was 6 feet 3 inches and weighed more than 300 pounds. His opponent, 23, was 2 inches taller but weighed about 240 pounds.

Authorities said the death appeared to be an accident, but they are investigating what training the wrestlers received, as well as how the maneuver was performed Saturday night.

District Attorney Paul Bucher said: "I want to know as much as I can about the company, what the wrestlers were told, what they signed, what precautions were taken."

But Bucher said that the death appeared to be a "tragic accident."

A spectator caught the match on videotape, which authorities are reviewing.

According to sheriff's reports:

About 40 bar patrons were watching the match about 8:24 p.m. Saturday at Sussex Place Sports Bar & Grill when Nash put the other wrestler into a headlock.

In a staged move, the other wrestler lifted Nash into the air for a maneuver called a "back suplex."

As the other wrestler fell backward with Nash, "something went wrong and Mr. Nash ends up landing" on his head and neck, instead of his shoulders as choreographed, Ruff said.

Nash was knocked out and never regained consciousness.

A nurse who accompanies the wrestling group for its performances provided aid as emergency personnel were summoned, officials said.

Nash was pronounced dead at Community Memorial Hospital of Menomonee Falls.

Ruff said the Wisconsin All-Star Wrestling owners - Clarence White and Trevor Lange - told authorities they teach amateur wrestlers how to perform holds, moves and falls.

The medical examiner's office was to conduct an autopsy, but the exact cause of death had not been determined as of late Monday.

Ron Stortz, who runs Sussex Place with his wife, Pauline, called the death "one of those tragic things that happen."

"He was a new guy. It was his first match, I was told. He made a wrong move," said Stortz, who wasn't at the bar Saturday night.

He said the bar had held three or four such wrestling events.

The matches are held at the tavern's indoor sand volleyball courts, where wrestling organizers set up a ring.

"They are a really great bunch of guys," Stortz said of the wrestling organizers and the wrestlers. "Everybody has a great time. People enjoy them."

After Saturday night's tragedy, Stortz said it likely would be some time before the bar held another wrestling match.

Nash's relatives were stunned by his death.

"All we can say at this point is that he was very interested in wrestling. He was involved in it as a hobby, but we didn't know he was doing actual tournaments," said his aunt, Diana Wright.

His mother, Bannette Nash, learned only a week ago that Nash was involved in some sort of wrestling practices, Wright said.

"He kept it a secret from his mom," Wright said. "He knew she didn't care for the wrestling thing at all."

Nash has a 2-year-old son, Tony Jr., and was engaged.

"He was a very outgoing person. He loved sports. He was a Christian. He loved going to church," Wright said. "He loved to help out. . . . He had so much going for himself."

Wisconsin All-Star Wrestling officials could not be reached for comment Monday.

Carmine DeSpirito, owner of Mid American Wrestling in Milwaukee, said there were an increasing number of "backyard wrestlers" and semiprofessional groups popping up in the Milwaukee area.

"There's so many of these little groups," the wrestling promoter said. "They're not professionals; they don't have professionals training them. (They) are just mimicking what they see on TV, and all of a sudden they are going to get hurt."

He recommended that would-be wrestlers receive at least six months of formal training before they enter the ring.

The maneuver that Nash was performing is a "very basic move. You see it all the time," said DeSpirito, who acknowledged using wild gimmicks like matches in rings surrounded by barbed-wire and others in which wrestlers break fluorescent lights on each other's heads.

"My guys are all thoroughly trained," he said. "There is a science to it, believe it or not. As preposterous as it sounds, there's a way to do it and you're not going to get hurt."

Gary Davis, spokesman for WWF, said the interest among would-be wrestlers had been spurred by the wild popularity of pro wrestling, as demonstrated by the 22.5 million viewers who watch WWF programming each week.

But he warned people not to try to imitate pro moves in their backyard. "Our athletes are well-trained," he said. "They have worked long and hard to perform these exceptional feats of athleticism without injury."

But even the highly trained WWF wrestlers can be injured, or worse. Last year, WWF wrestler Owen Hart plunged about 80 feet to his death at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo.
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THE RISK IS NOT WORTH IT FOR THEM

(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 8, 2000)

By Lisa Sink

When Tony "Dream Street" Nash climbed into the wrestling ring for his first match, he had visions of making it into the big time of sold-out arenas and World Wrestling Federation telecasts watched by millions.

Going into Saturday's dues-paying contest, he understood that the payback for the choke holds and body slams was not a single dime but rather valuable experience.

Instead, his pursuit of glory - played out in a ring erected in a Sussex tavern before 40 spectators -- cost him his life.

And now his fellow wrestlers who had likewise been shooting for wrestling stardom are throwing in the towel, saying the risk far outweighs the small chance at fame.

"We will no longer set foot in a ring," said Jared "Phoenix" Jamrozy, who wrestled with Nash for the Wisconsin All-Star Wrestling Federation, or WAW.

"The WAW no longer exists, it's no longer together," said Jamrozy, 20.

He and other wrestlers say they have quit the federation.

"We all knew it was a risk," Jamrozy said. "We were willing to take it until this happened."

When asked by WAW owners to fill in for another wrestler Saturday night, Nash initially wasn't sure he was ready, Jamrozy said.

But then the opposing wrestler, a close friend, changed Nash's mind, said Jamrozy, who arrived just after the accident.

"After this happened, (the other wrestler) was in shock," Jamrozy said. "He just sat there with this blank look on his face."

Nash, a parking checker for the Milwaukee Police Department, was 6 feet 3 inches and weighed about 240 pounds, officials said. His opponent, 23, was 2 inches taller but weighed about the same.

In a choreographed move gone wrong, the opponent flipped Nash, who, instead of falling on his upper back as planned, failed to tuck his head and landed on his neck. He was knocked out and pronounced dead later that night.

"We all just stood there in shock," Jamrozy said. "It was completely silent.

"We all joined hands and said a prayer. We prayed and prayed and prayed. We were all hanging onto hope."

Jamrozy said Clarence White, part-owner of WAW, told wrestlers that he and fellow owner Trevor Lange would close the WAW.

Reached by phone Tuesday, White refused to speak with a reporter.

"I don't have any comment for you," said White, who then hung up.

The medical examiner's office Tuesday ruled Nash's death accidental, caused by neck and head injuries. But District Attorney Paul Bucher said he was just beginning a review.

Bucher said he had "great concern" about information he had received about the group's training and safety precautions, but he would not elaborate.

"We're going to continue our review (into) all of that - training, lack of training, lack of regulations," he said.

State officials confirmed Tuesday that there are no state regulations or oversight of amateur and professional wrestlers.

Jerid "Venom" Bohmann, another WAW wrestler, said Nash's death prompted him to walk away from wrestling, which he called a lifetime love.

"I quit because of my three-year-old son," said Bohmann, 24. "He's at every match. I couldn't imagine if he was there and that was me. That could be my son without a daddy."

Nash had a 2-year-old son and was engaged.

Bohmann not only won't wrestle anymore, he won't let his son - a wrestling fanatic - watch the WWF on television anymore. He said he boxed up all his son's wrestling posters and figurines and sent him into tears by saying he would no longer let him watch professional wrestling.

Bohmann said Nash was serious about wrestling and was one of the most focused wrestlers in the group. "He was all business," Bohmann said. "This was something he had his heart stuck on."

The WAW group had about 20 wrestlers, who often practiced at each other's homes without any ropes, sometimes throwing mattresses on the floor to simulate the canvas mat, members said.

"This is going to sound really cold, but in a way they had it coming," said Mike Thompson, who trains and promotes matches for Powerhouse Pro Wrestling in Richfield. "These guys are not professional wrestlers. These guys are backyard wrestlers who just bought a ring."

Meanwhile Tuesday, Sussex Village President Patricia Bartlett called the incident "unfortunate" but didn't want to comment further because of the pending investigation. She said, however, that Sussex officials are cooperating with the investigation and looking into the village's past dealings with the Sussex Place Sports Bar & Grill.

Pat Ostenga, assistant area director for Occupational Health and Safety Administration in Milwaukee, said the agency likely does not have jurisdiction over the death of the wrestler. OSHA investigates employee/employer accidents and not contractual agreements between a sponsor and individual party.

"We're still checking into it just to make sure," Ostenga said.
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DEATH OF WRESTLER SHOCKS PROMOTER

(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 10, 2000)

By Lisa Sink

WAUKESHA -- Speaking publicly for the first time since one of his club's wrestlers died during a weekend match, Clarence White said Wednesday he was still reeling from shock and never thought any of his group's wrestlers would get seriously injured.

"I didn't get into this for anyone to get hurt," he said. "All I tried to do was help (create a wrestling group) because I loved it, and the guys loved it.

"Other than the family and the man who was in the ring with him, no one is hurting more than I am," White said. "My deepest condolences go out to the family."

Tony "Dream Street" Nash, 30, died Saturday after being flipped by an opponent and landing on his neck and head during his first public match. About 40 spectators at the Sussex Place Sports Bar & Grill watched as Nash was knocked out and never got up.

The county medical examiner's office ruled the death an accident, but District Attorney Paul Bucher said he was reviewing whether there was any criminal negligence.

Bucher said he had "great concerns" about the level of training and oversight over the growing number of grass-roots clubs forming as pro wrestling's popularity soars.

Promoters of other Milwaukee-area wrestling federations distanced themselves this week from White's 10-month-old group, the Wisconsin All-Star Wrestlers, saying their groups had more professional training and precautions than WAW.

White said Wednesday that he believed Nash and the other approximately 20 wrestlers in WAW were adequately trained to perform in public shows. He said that Nash had practiced for four months and even performed a fall without problems during a show in July.

In that instance, White said, Nash performed a "run-in," which White described as a wrestler running into the ring to "rescue" another wrestler being pummeled by an opponent.

White said Nash told him he planned to attend a two-week training session in Tennessee at the end of August and bring back moves to teach others.

Saturday was Nash's first match, however, and he was a last-minute stand-in when another wrestler couldn't get a ride to Sussex, White said.

White said that after Nash agreed to wrestle, he had time to practice before the show began and didn't enter the ring without knowing the choreography.

But when Nash was flipped into the air by his opponent, instead of landing on his back, Nash was sent crashing head-first into the mat, injuring his head and neck, authorities said.

White said he was shocked and joined more than 15 other wrestlers in praying near the ring and then rushing to the hospital where they learned Nash had died.

Many of WAW's wrestlers said they were throwing in their towels, saying the risks were not worth the fun and glory. Two WAW wrestlers said Tuesday that White was shutting down the club for good.

But White said Wednesday that he hadn't made a final decision. He said he had canceled future shows and wanted to focus on helping Nash's fiancee and on grieving his death.

"I'm not going to sit here and say that nine years from now if the WWF comes knocking . . . if a big break comes, that I'm not going to take it," he said.

White added that "there was no money made, none" by the club, which still owes money toward its purchase of a wrestling ring.

He said if he ever did sponsor wrestling shows again, Nash's death would prompt changes.

Emergency medical technicians or nurses should be at each show, he said. A nurse who assisted Nash on Saturday was not there at WAW's behest or knowledge, White said.

Christopher "Tank" Taylor, a WAW wrestler who said he helped supervise the club, said Wednesday that there should be "more drills for everybody" and perhaps six months of training before a public performance.

White and Taylor said they helped form Wisconsin All-Star Wrestlers about 10 months ago as an outlet for inner-city males who couldn't afford to pay thousands of dollars to attend local or national wrestling schools to get experience and show tapes.
_________________________________

The Scout Report

Volume 5, Number 17

August 21, 1998

A Publication of the Internet Scout Project

Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Wrestling as We Liked It: The WAWLI Papers

Usenet News Access
rec.sport.pro-wrestling.moderated

Partial Archive
http://www.wrestlingclassics.com/wawli/index.htm

In America there are serious professional sports (baseball, football, basketball, golf, etc.) and there are "trash" sports (roller derby, tractor pulls, etc.) But for the last century or more, the ultimate king of the trash sports has been professional wrestling. With its scripted morality plays, its faces (good guys) and heels (bad guys), it has played out one of the longest soap operas in history to its marks (true believing fans), as well as millions of others. This type of "sport" is not particularly interested in its own history, but devoted hobbyist J Michael Kenyon has spent untold amounts of time and effort ferreting that history out. And The WAWLI Papers are the result of that work. This irregularly issued newsletter specializes in the grapplers of yesteryear, and Kenyon regularly transcribes newspaper and magazine accounts of the great matches and personalities of such luminaries as Strangler Lewis, Lou Thesz, Frank Gotch, and Stanislaus Zbyszko, among others. For those who see today's lily livered (but acrobatically talented) grapplers as pencil-necked geeks who wouldn't know what to do if they had to battle for more than three minutes, the WAWLI papers will hark back to a time when a cauliflower ear was a badge of distinction. Note: as befits its subject, there is no full archive of postings available (although that is presently under construction at the above web site).
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The WAWLI Papers No. 776...

THE JOE STECHER-JOHN OLIN UPSET

(Excerpted from "On the Mat – And Off: Memoirs of a Wrestler," by Hjalmar Lundin, 1937, Albert Bonnier, New York)

By Hjalmar Lundin

(ED. NOTE – We are in possession of this book thanks to the kind auspices of Avo Siismets. The match herein detailed occurred in December, 1916, and represents a distinct "blip" in the chronology of the world’s heavyweight wrestling championship. As it was Strangler Lewis who next hung a defeat on John Olin, it is therefore reasonable to assume that Lewis, and subsequently, Wladek Zbyszko, were champions as early as 1917, contrary to the "official" history of the old National Wrestling Alliance.)

My wife and I were in Stockholm during the Olympic Games in 1912, and during the course of events there was a Finn, John Olin, who took second prize for wrestling in the heavyweight class. We didn’t take any particular notice of him then, but had cause to a few years later.

Olin was born in 1883, and after his success in the Games in ’12 he decided to turn professional. In 1914 he came here to try his luck. He went directly to Worcester (Mass.) where he met a fellow Finn who could act as interpreter and manager for him, and they started for the West. Unfortunately for Olin’s purse-strings, neither had had any experience in the professional game, and John came back, "sadder but wiser" to the tune of a $1,500 deficit. Back in Worcester again he decided to open a steam-bat business, which proved to be a paying proposition, but no more than that.

Just about that time I was invited to attend a banquet in Worcester. I arrived early in the evening and, having heard that my old acquaintance Alex Aberg was to wrestle the same evening, I decided to see the match since my banquet affair was not scheduled to begin until 11 p.m.

I had not seen Olin since the Games and was rather surprised to see him matched with Aberg. I had no idea the Olympic contestant would be any sort of a match for Aberg whom I knew to be one of Europe’s best Greco-Roman wrestlers, and when the match continued a little longer than I expected, I attributed it to the fact that Aberg was trying to give the fans a little extra for their money. About 10:30 I was getting ready to leave for the other side of town where the banquet was to take place when I suddenly realized that Aberg was not "giving" anything but a hard struggle, and that Olin was far superior than I had thought him to be. I promptly forgot all about the banquet and my eyes were glued to the mat until 1:30 a.m. when the match was stopped and called a draw.

I went in to Aberg’s dressing room after the match and he told me then and there that the match with Olin was the greatest surprise of his life. No one had suspected that Olin was as good a bridger, nor as defensive a wrestler as he actually proved to be that night.

Four or five months later during a visit in Springfield, I met my old comrade Jim Barnes who told me he had Joe Stecher, the champion then, booked for the next show, but had no opponent for him. Stecher had beaten almost everyone of repute in the country, with the exception only of Strangler Lewis, and it was a problem to get hold of a man who could give the sensational Joe some kind of a battle.

I told Barnes about Olin, and after my description he asked me to contact him, if I could, when I got to Worcester, where I was headed the following day. The terms, he said, would be $100 guaranty, or 15 percent of the gross receipts.

I saw Olin the next day, and struggled through the proposition with him. John knew very little Swedish and almost less English but I finally got the idea over to him that I wanted him to wrestle Stecher. He answered in his staccato voice, "Me lose."

I wasn’t quite sure whether that was put in the form of a question, a statement that he WOULD lose if he wrestled Stecher, or he was WILLING to lose. I decided that it was one thing or another, and although the trip out West might not have been profitable financially, it looked to me as though he had learned some of the tactics of the game!

Nevertheless, I replied in the clearest word and manner I could muster, "No, no, if you beat Stecher you be champion."

Then he said, slowly but quite clearly, "How . . . much . . . money?" That question came with little or no difficulty.

When I told him the terms he replied, "Me . . . take . . . $100 . . . money . . . before . . . go . . . mat."

To my query as to whether or not he wanted to sign a contract, he said, "Me . . . no . . . contract . . . me . . . be . . . there."

I personally felt that he wouldn’t stand much more of a chance than the others, because although he was an excellent Greco-Roman grappler, his experience with the catch-as-catch-can style was very limited.

On my return to Springfield I accepted the 15 percent of the gross terms, because I figured the house would net between $1,500 and $2,000 which, with the aid of a little simple arithmetic would mean more than the $100 guaranty.

Stecher, who bore a fine, clean record, was a tremendous drawing card when booked with a man who had at least a little reputation. Olin, however, was scarcely known, the fans who did see the match (an $1,800 house) went for the sake of seeing the champion. The majority expected the match would be a push-over.

Just prior to the match, I noticed Olin pacing up and down the lockerroom, a worried expression on his face. He finally came over to me and said, "You . . . speak . . . Stecher . . . he . . . not . . . go . . . so . . . fast . . . me . . . give . . . good . . . show."

To satisfy him I went in to Stecher’s dressing room. We shook hand and talked for a little while but naturally I said nothing to Stecher or his manager for I knew that no one could influence Stecher to do anything but his usual wrestling – his best!

I returned a few minutes later and Olin immediately inquired as to what Stecher had said. I wanted Olin to forget his nervousness by making him angry, so I said, "Stecher says he will beat you in one minute."

"Oh . . . no . . . not . . . one . . . minute," was all Olin said, and I knew his self confidence was climbing.

Jim Barnes was the promoter and referee, which meant that if Olin stood any chance at all with the champion he would get a fair deal.

The wrestlers were on their feet for the first ten minutes, and then things began to happen so fast they landed on one side of the mat, near the ropes. Barnes ordered them to the center of the ring and to take the exact positions they had while near the ropes. They took their orders from Barnes as a soldier takes his from a superior officer.

After wrestling half an hour, Stecher took his famous body-scissors and almost at once the crowd voice their opinion – it would soon be over. However, Stecher found that this was a horse of another color and the match was nowhere near the end. He kept the scissors and worked a barlock on Olin’s left arm for about 15 minutes, when it looked as though it was paralyzed. Then Stecher began to turn John over on his back – the crowd hollering, "It’s all over now!"

They were wrong again, for Olin went into a high bridge and his opponent could not hold him – John was up on his feet once more. The crowd roared their excitement. I could plainly see that the champion was more than perplexed when his favorite holds were not working out as they had always done before. They wrestled up and down for quite a while before Joe again took another body scissors, which he held for 14 minutes; for a second time Olin bridged himself out of the serious position.

I saw that Stecher was losing heart, which is a sad factor in any match, and I knew that Olin was nearly exhausted. Then John said something in Finnish to the man in his corner who turned around and told me on the quiet that Olin wanted to quit. He felt he had done more than anyone else by remaining so long with the champion, and he was ready to end it. Knowing that Stecher felt the same way himself, I had to think fast.

"Tell Olin a Finn in the audience has bet $1,000 on him and will shoot him if he quits."

John must have valued his life because when he heard that threat all thoughts of quitting left him and the wrestlers continued another half hour when Stecher walked off the mat. John Olin was declared the winner! When I told him he was the new champion, he merely said, "Me . . . no . . . champion . . . me . . . country . . . boy . . . no . . . speaka . . . English . . you . . . me . . . make . . . little . . . money . . . maybe." That was all the fuss he made out of his championship match.

It is no more than fair to state here, however, that it must have been an off-night for Joe. For one thing, Joe had always had his brother Tony, also a well known wrestler, with him and it was probably the only night of his career while champion that his close companion was not by his side. Had Tony been present, I am quite certain he would have come to me while the match was in its last stages and proposed to have it stopped and a called a draw.

Naturally if he had been there and had such a suggestion been made, I would have been only too glad to accept it, because I was afraid that my own man, Olin, was going to quit any moment, despite the fictitious threat.

His winning the match was as great a surprise to me as it was to everyone else, on the mat – and off! Stecher was a fine loser and only said, "It’s all in the game." It just proved again that a man’s "second" is often to be credited with winning a match. It was Olin’s lucky break, and Joe’s hard luck, that Tony Stecher was not present that evening, but then again, perhaps Fate had something to do with it.

The day after the upset, Olin wanted me to be his manager but refused to sign on the dotted line. I received several offers for bookings and accepted them. Olin went back to Worcester and I returned to New York. Meanwhile Olin was getting offers from various parts of the country and the bright prospects looked so promising to him he completley forgot about me and the dates I had accepted for him. For example, when I had him booked in Baltimore one night I wired him in Worcester to be sure to go to Maryland. Instead of being in Massachusetts, he was in Chicago.

Before the day passed, six wires had been sent to him. He finally showed up in Baltimore ten minutes before he was scheduled to appear – before a house packed to capacity. He gave me a perpetual headache in those days, but shortly after the match in Baltimore he came to me and said, "Me . . . stay . . . with . . . you. Everybody . . . else . . . crooky."

Olin was as stubborn as a mule in many respects, but we managed to get along very nicely. He trusted very few people, the ladies included, but he knew I was on the level with him. He was single at the time and occasionally wanted to splurge by taking a girl out. Inevitably he would report to me in the morning, "Girls . . . nice . . . but . . . me . . . spend . . . too . . . much . . . money."

He simply hated to part with a greenback, and thoroughly believed in the slogan, "It’s not what you make, it’s what you save." An acquaintance once said, "Olin wouldn’t spend a nickel to see the Statue of Liberty turn a somersault."

In 1922, John went back to his native country with a $50,000 bankroll, so he certainly felt that Lady Luck had been with him. Upon his return home he married and settled down on a lovely estate, ready to enjoy life and get some benefit from his savings, but Fate again had something to say, and four years later the old motor which eventually goes back on all of us, stopped, and Olin was taken to meet his Maker.
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RING OF LEGENDS: BIG NAMES COME FOR CHARITY

(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 12, 1998)

By Milan Simonich

They say Killer Kowalski tore off another wrestler's ear and then laughed about it. The story is accurate. It's not exactly true, though. Kowalski's legend grew beyond all reason because he played the bad guy to perfection in his 30 years as a professional wrestler. He seemed as cold-hearted as Michael Corleone and more savage than Mike Tyson, another well-known abuser of ears.

Now, at 70, Kowalski will return to Pittsburgh as a hero.

He is one of a dozen or so famous old wrestlers who will be honored Friday and Saturday in a series of public appearances to support the national Cauliflower Alley Club, a nonprofit charitable organization made up of wrestlers, boxers and movie actors. The events are being organized by Marlene Breegle, a wrestling promoter based in West Mifflin.

In addition to Kowalski, other ring legends coming to town for the bash will include Lou Thesz, Ivan Putski, The Fabulous Moolah, Big Cat Ernie Ladd and Handsome Harley Race.

One of Pittsburgh's own, Jumpin' Johnny DeFazio, will receive a special tribute. DeFazio gave up what might have been a lucrative wrestling career in the 1970s to become an international union representative for steelworkers.

In the ring, DeFazio was always a crowd favorite. Kowalski was the one the fans loved to hate.

A brawler who stood 6-feet-7 and weighed 260 pounds, Kowalski became one of wrestling's biggest stars during its first great television run half a century ago.

"He was a hell of an attraction," said Thesz, the legendary champ who is now 82. "He had a great body back then. He was not a sophisticated wrestler, but every promoter wanted him because he made a lot of money."

Kowalski's first name is Walter, but he was billed early on as Wladek Kowalski, a Cold War modification to imply that he was a menace from Europe.

Kowalski, born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, to Polish immigrants, was never what he seemed.

A vegetarian whose interests ranged from poetry to public speaking, he was respectful of just about everybody, including his opponents. The fans, though, knew him only as a rough rule breaker.

They were calling him Killer Kowalski even before he severed most of Yukon Eric Holmbeck's left ear in a 1954 match at the Montreal Forum.

Kowalski never meant to hurt Yukon Eric, a bear of a man whose years in the ring had left him with brittle, cauliflower ears.

"I had him caught in the ropes," Kowalski remembered. "My gimmick at the time was jumping off the top rope and down onto the other guy. The referee tried to get between us and Yukon Eric turned his cheek a little bit."

That caused some unplanned contact.

"My shin and boot grazed his head," Kowalski said, "and his ear came off, just like you knock a fly across a table. It rolled across the ring ... glub, glub, glub. The blood squirted everywhere."

In the world of professional wrestling, where outcomes are predetermined, this bout provided a rarity - the surprise finish.

Yukon Eric, declared the loser because he could not continue, was hustled to the emergency room. Kowalski's hand was raised to boos that were louder than ever.

His villainous reputation was sealed two days later when the promoter ordered him to apologize to Yukon Eric, who was still in the hospital.

"I told him I don't ever apologize," Kowalski said. "These things happen. Wrestlers get broken arms and broken legs. These things are part of the business."

But the boss was an insistent nag, so Kowalski walked the two blocks to the hospital to say hello to Yukon Eric.

He arrived as newspapermen and a female television reporter were milling outside Yukon Eric's room. These journalists became responsible for one of the most unfair stories in wrestling history, if such a thing is possible.

Yukon Eric, whose ring personality was that of a friendly lumberjack, was seated on the edge of his bed, his head wrapped in bandages.

"I swear, the first thing I thought of was Humpty Dumpty on the wall," Kowalski said. "Yukon Eric looked at me, shook his head and smiled. I started laughing and he laughed, too."

The reporters, who missed the nuances between two co-workers, rushed out to file their stories. Next day, the headlines screamed something like this: Kowalski visits ailing Yukon Eric, laughs at him.

They met in the ring many more times, the severed ear providing a natural story line for a feud that was replayed in town after town.

But poor Eric Holmbeck lost his zest for it all somewhere along the way.

He killed himself in 1965 outside a Georgia church, apparently because of marital and money problems.

"It was a shame. Yukon Eric was a pretty nice guy," Kowalski said.

Truth is, Kowalski was no villain.

He never married, but he received countless proposals from women who watched him wrestle across the states, and in Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Hong Kong and South Africa.

He retired from the ring in 1977, but he could never get wrestling out of his system. Eager to teach others how to put a hammerlock on fame, he still runs a wrestling school in the Boston area.

One of Kowalski's more successful graduates is Hunter Hearst Helmsley, a foppish bad guy of the World Wrestling Federation. Another of his proteges was the late Big John Studd, who was plain old John Minton when he was born in Butler.

Kowalski, a naturalized U.S. citizen, enjoys a status in Massachusetts that's normally reserved for old Celtic and Red Sox greats. He can still work a crowd, and these days they cheer him.

"Nobody's more popular than the Killer," said Eddie Paleski, an aide to Joe Malone, who ran unsuccessfully this year for governor of Massachusetts. "The Killer helped us in the campaign, and the lines for him were always the longest."

Kowalski said coming back to Pittsburgh inspires memories of Bruno Sammartino, a man he rates as one of the three best wrestlers he ever faced.

The other two were Thesz and the late Nature Boy Buddy Rogers, a sculpted, strutting blond whose style might be the most copied of any wrestler.

Kowalski was harder to imitate. He made a nice living by being mean. Even as a senior citizen, he can still talk the wrestler's talk.

"Make sure you come by to see me," he said. "I'll bodyslam you."
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GRAPPLING LEGENDS INCLUDE THE BIG CAT

(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 12, 1998)

By Milan Simonich

Here's a quick look at three other legendary wrestlers who are coming to Pittsburgh for the celebration of wrestlers and Walk of Fame dinner.

Ernie Ladd, the Big Cat

Ladd received his nickname when he was an agile 280-pound defensive lineman for the San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs.

The Big Cat entered professional wrestling with a big reputation because of his success in the American Football League. But, he said, he wouldn't have been much of anything if it weren't for Chuck Noll, the retired Steelers coach.

They met in 1961, long before either was famous. Noll was coaching the Chargers' defensive line and Ladd was one of his least attentive pupils.

"I'm thickheaded," said Ladd, now 60. "I had my way of doing things. I used my forearm to hit everything in sight, and I was always getting hurt.

"Charlie Noll kept telling me to put my shoulder into the other guy, so I could get more power and be more durable. I wouldn't listen. Finally, he suggested that I try it his way for two weeks. If I didn't get better, I could go back to my way.

"He was right. He made me a player. My day has come and gone, but right there in Pittsburgh is the best football coach ever - Charlie Noll."

Ivan Putski, the Polish Power

Countless wrestlers have adopted phony ethnic identities to sell tickets. Hans Schmidt, supposedly a fierce German, was really Canadian. Ivan Koloff, advertised as "the Russian Bear," also was Canadian.

In this world of ethnic impostors, Putski was the real deal - a Pole who proudly claimed to be Polish.

Putski's real name is Joe Bednarski. He immigrated to the United States in 1950, when he was 9 years old. "We were one of the last families to come through Ellis Island," he said.

The Bednarskis settled in Texas, where muscular young Joe caught the eye of local wrestling promoters.

He later spent 20 years working the East Coast circuit for the late Vince McMahon Sr., whom he regarded as a prince in a business of sharks.

Putski holds no warm feelings for Vince McMahon Jr., now boss of the World Wrestling Federation.

"I can't really tell you what I think of him," Putski said of Vince Jr., an over-the-top showman who has brought cross-dressers, naked women and soap opera plots to wrestling.

Back in the good old days when McMahon Sr. ruled benevolently, Pittsburgh was one of Putski's favorite stops.

"The people there were always very good to me," said Putski, 57. "I'm looking forward to seeing some of my old friends."

Handsome Harley Race

Race turned pro at age 15, when he already weighed 225 pounds.

"I had watched a lot of wrestling on TV as a kid. I always said, 'That's what I want to be,' but nobody thought I was serious," said Race, now 55.

He quit school in Quitman, Mo., to train under a pair of wrestling brothers, Stanislaus and Wladek Zbyszko.

"Actually, they didn't do much training. Mostly, they made me work on their farm for about a year," Race said.

He moved on to Kansas City, where promoters were willing to let the big kid take his lumps against grown men with bad tempers. It was 1959, and nobody seemed to mind if a boy who wasn't old enough to drive entered so rough a business.

By the mid-1960s, Race had become a star in a circuit around the Great Lakes. He went on to win championships in Missouri, Texas, Georgia and other territories of the old National Wrestling Alliance.

Later, Race owned and starred in a small promotion in Missouri until it was gobbled up by the wrestling empires of Vince McMahon Jr. and Ted Turner. He then went to work for McMahon, wrestling until his body gave out in 1995.

Race recently had hip replacement surgery. Exercising has become difficult, and his weight has climbed to 290.

"That's about as heavy as I've ever been," he said. "Most years I was wrestling, I wasn't much bigger than I was at 14."
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HONORING FLORIDA’S LEGENDS

(Miami Herald, August 9, 2000)

TAMPA -- Cowboy Lutrall, Eddie Graham, Duke Keomuka, The Great Malenko, Hiro Matsuda and Gordon Solie: when it came to Florida wrestling, they were the best at what they did.

On August 15, NWA Florida will honor these men during the "Back to Tradition" show at the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory, 504 N. Howard Avenue in Tampa, FL.

Buddy Colt and Karl von Stroheim are scheduled to attend as honorees. Greg "the Hammer" Valentine and Joe Malenko have been confirmed to honor their respective fathers, "Handsome" Johnny Valentine and the late Larry Simon, better known as Professor Boris Malenko. Also appearing are three of Solie's surviving children -- Eric Solie, Jonard Solie and Pam Allyn.
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The WAWLI Papers No. 777...

THE TREND TOWARD WRESTLING NOSTALGIA

(ED. NOTE – Slowly, but surely, it appears as though the ranks of those with a view toward professional wrestling’s past, rather than the present of "sports entertainment," are coming forth to be counted. Among them, a couple of bright, enterprising fellows named Dick Bourne and Dave Chappell, who have opened a "gateway" to one of the last, great "wrestling as we liked it" promotions, Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. It may be found on your cyberspace dials at http://www.midatlanticwrestling.net/Lobby.htm and includes a host of wonderful features, including the data which follows. Keep up the good work, guys. It is much appreciated by those of us who are "old enough to know better.")

FROM THE GATEWAY…

There are several excellent published title histories available, both in print and on the web. Two of our favorites are Wrestling Title Histories by Gary Will and Royal Duncan (www.garywill.com/wrestling), and Great Hisa’s Pro Wrestling Title Histories (www.albany.net/~hit/puroresu/titles/home.html). None that we've found, however, list a complete and accurate history of the Mid-Atlantic heavyweight title. Wrestling title histories are extremely hard to put together to begin with, since official records were rarely kept years ago.

We have an "unfair advantage" when it come to the Mid-Atlantic area, and it's title histories. David Chappell's extensive collection of audio tapes, some 300 strong and going back to 1974, are allowing us to build the most thorough, complete, and definitive title history published anywhere (that we are aware of). For changes where certain data is missing or basically unknown (such as dates or venues where title changes took place), we can isolate that change down to the specific week. Local promos often indicate where a title change took place. This will be the first time much of this information has been available.

The most significant example we've found is the first title win by Ric Flair over Wahoo McDaniel for the Mid-Atlantic title. All of the title histories we've read have Flair first winning the Mid-Atlantic title from an unknown champion in mid-1975 (following Johnny Valentine) or for the first time from Wahoo McDaniel in1976 following Flair's return from the plane crash. Flair actually first won the title on September 20, 1975 in Hampton, VA from McDaniel in a hair vs. title match. It is the first known match where Flair put up his hair as a stipulation in a match. (The Gateway will feature in-depth coverage of this change, including newspaper clippings and audio clips when we build the 1975 history in the Almanac.) Flair held the title throughout his time off recuperating from injuries suffered in the plane crash (as documented in the History section of the Almanac, as well as the Title Status section, both currently on-line.)

We are working on the complete history, the only changes significantly at play being those from 1974-1977. Anyone wanting further information on the change mentioned above, or other changes we will attempt to clear up in the coming months, may contact David Chappell (chappell@midatlanticwrestling.net) at the Gateway. He will be glad to provide supporting documentation for the information we will provide here.

Also, anyone that has information that runs contradictory to what we will list, or has information about information still missing in the history progression, please contact us at the Mid-Atlantic Gateway (gateway@midatlanticwrestling.net).

MID-ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING 

Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling experienced both change and growth during the first three months of 1976. As 1976 dawned, Jim Crockett Promotions was still reeling from the horrific airplane crash in Wilmington, N.C. that occurred on October 4, 1975 which ended the career of the promotion’s top bad-guy, the legendary Johnny Valentine. A top mid-card wrestler, Bob Bruggers, was also lost to the promotion due to the crash. The good news for the promotion was that the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion, "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, continued his amazing recovery from injuries sustained in the crash. While Flair was not ready to return to active wrestling when the calendar flipped over to 1976, the "Nature Boy" was on the verge of getting back into the "squared circle." That fact alone seemed to energize the promotion, setting the stage for what would be fast start for Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in the year 1976!

JANUARY

January of 1976 was very much a transitional period for Jim Crockett Promotions. Many of the main event stars of late-1975 were de-emphasized in January of 1976 and played little or no role for the promotion thereafter. For instance, Steve Keirn, who was one half of the World Tag Team Champions in November of 1975, was dropped to mid-card status in January and soon thereafter left the promotion entirely. There also was Ken Patera, who was headlining cards in December of 1975, but found his role reduced in January and by the end of the quarter was teaming with jobbers such as Klondike Bill on TV and was likewise losing singles bouts on TV. As with Keirn, Patera would also soon leave the area.

January also claimed as a victim, the masked Spoiler # 2. This 345 pound masked man had been involved in a minor angle with United States Heavyweight Champion "Number 1" Paul Jones in late 1975, which went over briefly into January. Jones handily took care of the Spoiler, and then went onto much more memorable feuds. Steve Strong was another wrestler who would not count January as a month to remember. Strong was brought into the area, along with Superstar Billy Graham, soon after the plane crash. Strong was impressive, and was in the main events in some cards around the area in late 1975. Then in January, the bottom dropped out for him. While Strong stayed around the area until May of 1976, he was never better than a mid-card performer and was jobbing on TV matches soon before leaving the area.

The first quarter of 1976 was not a period where significant newcomers came to the area. January did produce the most notable addition to the quarter, the Mongols. Bolo and Geto Mongol had just come from a successful stint in the IWA promotion that did well for a time in 1975. Touted as the "International Tag Team Champions," the Mongols were dominant during the early months of 1976. However, even the addition of "Professor" Boris Malenko as their manager could not vault this team into the position of overtaking Gene and Ole Anderson as the promotion’s top tag team.

January of 1976 will perhaps be best remembered for the tag team battles of that month. Gene and Ole Anderson proudly carried the NWA World Tag Team Championship into the year 1976. The Anderson’s had been champions since November 17, 1975, when they won the titles back from the duo of Steve Keirn and Tiger Conway. At the beginning of January, the Anderson’s had to weather the challenge of the young duo of high-flying El Rayo and Roberto Soto. The El Rayo and Roberto Soto team actually defeated the Anderson’s in non-title bouts in early January.

Then, in unexpected fashion, the Anderson’s lost the World Tag Team Titles to the newly created team of Wahoo McDaniel and Rufus R. Jones in late January. This victory by the McDaniel/Jones team effectively ended the push El Rayo and Soto had been getting in the tag team division. There was no buildup to the Wahoo McDaniel/ Rufus R. Jones title win, and it is quite curious as to why this reign ever happened. The reign was quite short, as on February 3, 1976, the Anderson’s won the World Titles back at the Dorton Arena in Raleigh, N.C.

There was no big push on the part of the McDaniel/Jones team to win the titles back, and this short reign passed mostly forgotten into history. The Anderson’s then moved onto a short program against the Mongols, and then defended their titles successfully against a number of makeshift combinations to close out the first quarter of 1976.

FEBRUARY

As January turned into February, the biggest event in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling had to be the return to active competition of Mid-Atlantic Champion "Nature Boy" Ric Flair. Flair wrestled in Greensboro, N.C. on January 31, 1976 against Wahoo McDaniel, defeating McDaniel by count out.

Flair had obviously lost a significant amount of weight due to his injuries from the plane crash, but wrestled a normal schedule after his return to the ring. During the month of January, while not wrestling, Flair had appeared on TV and seconded Angelo Mosca to the ring in matches Mosca had against Wahoo McDaniel. Flair would interfere on Mosca’s behalf in these matches, costing Wahoo victories. This was a good buildup to the matches that would follow in February and March (and throughout 1976) which pitted Flair and McDaniel battling over the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title in perhaps the greatest single feud in the history of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling.

February was also a month in which fans in the area got to see a great deal of the NWA world heavyweight champion, Terry Funk. Funk was in the early stages of his reign as the World Champion, having beaten Jack Brisco on December 10, 1975 in Miami Beach, Florida. By February of 1976, Funk was certainly no stranger to the Mid-Atlantic area. Funk captured the United States Heavyweight Title in Greensboro, N.C. on November 9, 1975 in a one night tournament to fill the vacant title after Johnny Valentine was injured in the Wilmington plane crash. Paul Jones then defeated Funk for the U.S. Title on Thanksgiving night, November 27, 1975, paving the way for Funk to ascend to the top spot in December. Funk made two passes through the area in February, one in early February and one in late February. The World Champion successfully defended his title against Paul Jones and Rufus R. Jones. Funk also appeared on Mid-Atlantic TV programs in February, and once even wrestled a television match against U.S. Champ Paul Jones, a VERY rare occurrence as TV matches were primarily of the "squash" variety during this time period.

A feud of note that reached its climax in February of 1976 was the feud between Tim Woods and Blackjack Mulligan. As was the case with much that occurred in the first quarter of 1976, this angle had its roots from the terrible plane crash in October of 1975. At the time of the crash, Woods was in a terrific feud with Johnny Valentine. The plane crash, of course, ended that feud prematurely because of the injuries to Valentine. What is not widely remembered, is that Woods was in the crash as well, and walked away from the crash with only scratches. After the crash, Woods was booked into a feud with Mulligan, who was just returning to the area after a brief stint in the WWWF. Mulligan attacked Woods on the set of Wide World Wrestling, injuring Woods’ hand. Woods retaliated during the U.S. Title tournament in November, costing Mulligan a match and a shot at the title. That interference prompted Mulligan to put a $5,000.00 bounty on Woods’ head. A number of Bounty Matches ensued, but by the time February rolled around, Woods and Mulligan were wrestling each other. The matches between these two were highly competitive and entertaining.

While still being referred to as "Mr. Wrestling," Woods was not wearing his trademark white mask during early 1976, though this would soon change. The feud between Woods and Mulligan ended inconclusively, as Mulligan’s focus would turn to the U.S. Title and Paul Jones as February turned into March.

MARCH

March of 1976 would see a significant title change, and a vacant title becoming close to having a new champion. March also saw the regular pairing of what looked at that time to be a significant new tag team for the area, Sgt. Jacques Goulet and Mike "The Judge" DuBois. The Goulet/DuBois team turned out to be only a mid-card team, but still was an entertaining duo.

United States Champion Paul Jones and Blackjack Mulligan had been wrestling each other frequently since Jones captured the U.S. Title in November of 1975. These two worked well together, and both were on top of their games during the first quarter of 1976. Jones played the undersized, fighting good-guy Champion role to perfection, against the huge bully Mulligan, who played his role equally well. Mulligan was seemingly closing in on Jones and the U.S. Title as the spring thaw was beginning around the area in March. Sure enough, the inevitable occurred on March 13, 1976 at the Greensboro Coliseum, as Mulligan defeated Jones for the U.S. Title in a match where Mulligan promised to leave town if he didn’t beat Jones.

The victory by Mulligan added fuel to an already heated situation between he and Jones, and led to an outstanding feud between the two over the U.S. belt that went on strong throughout the rest of 1976.

The other title that had significant activity in March was the Mid-Atlantic TV Title. While this singles title was clearly third in line in importance in the area, behind the U.S. and Mid-Atlantic Titles respectively, it was nonetheless a significant title that was well promoted during this time frame. Paul Jones gave up this title after winning the U.S. belt in late November of 1975, and a tournament was set up for television in December and January. The tournament actually started in early February, and by the end of March was down to four semi-finalists. The "final four" were Johnny Weaver, Tiger Conway, Angelo Mosca, and Tim Woods. The TV tournament had some fine matches along the way, but the clear favorites throughout had to be Mosca and Woods. Mosca in particular was red hot, having come to the area in November of 1975, and jumped right into a feud with Wahoo McDaniel and very much stood toe to toe with the great Chief.

The completion of the TV Title Tournament, the continuing feuds between Flair and McDaniel over the Mid-Atlantic Title and Paul Jones and Mulligan over the U.S. Title gave fans of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling a lot to look forward to as the calendar entered April, and the second quarter of 1976!
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RICHMOND REFLECTIONS

By David Chappell

The winter of 1976 was an unusual one for Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling fans in the Richmond, Virginia area. But maybe a brief look at the history of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling in Richmond will help explain why that was the case.

Richmond, Virginia was at the geographical northern extreme of the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling territorial boundaries. During the Mid-Atlantic years, our night for wrestling was every Friday night. Friday night was probably the best possible day of the week to have a card regularly running in your city. Through early 1974, wrestling in Richmond was at the State Fairgrounds at Strawberry Hill on Friday nights. Then, in the spring of 1974, Mid-Atlantic Wrestling was put on regularly at Parker Field (an outdoor baseball stadium that housed the Atlanta Braves’ Triple A farm team, the Richmond Braves), the Richmond Arena and the Richmond Coliseum.

The Richmond Arena was a rundown city owned facility that was dark and dingy. There were posts and beams everywhere, thus making it difficult to get an unobstructed view of the ring at all times. And did it ever get HOT in the summertime at the Arena! The Arena held approximately 4,500 people for wrestling. Jim Crockett Promotions held cards at the Arena for about three years, until the middle of 1977 (plus several cards in 1981 when the Coliseum was undergoing renovations). The Arena typically had "lesser" cards than the Coliseum, getting the Friday nights when the Coliseum wasn’t booked, but World Champions came to the Arena and titles occasionally changed hands there.

The Richmond Coliseum was Richmond’s largest venue, having a capacity of nearly 11,000 during the Mid-Atlantic years. Many historical matches and moments occurred at the Coliseum, and arguably this building was second only to the Greensboro Coliseum in its housing of great Mid-Atlantic cards. The Richmond Coliseum never held more than two cards per month, making the events that did come that much more special.

Folks in the outlying areas around Richmond also got to see wrestling on Friday nights when neither the Coliseum nor the Arena were booked. Essentially, these cards were in smaller towns that the local affiliate WTVR-TV Channel 6 could promote and reach with its signal. I’ll just mention a few of these towns, as there were many. To the east of Richmond were Tappahannock and Saluda. To the south of Richmond were Colonial Heights and Petersburg. To the west of Richmond were Charlottesville and Harrisonburg. To the north of Richmond were Fredericksburg and Stafford (the latter two coming perilously close to the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and the WWWF).

What was strange about the first three months of 1976 was the lack of live matches in the city of Richmond. There were two Fridays with no wrestling in January, and in the months of February and March there was only one card in the city each month. Luckily, things got back to normal in April, and Friday nights were wrestling nights again!

Despite the lack of live action in Richmond during the first quarter of 1976, I still have a lot of lasting memories of that time frame. Ric Flair making his in-ring return to Richmond on February 21 after the plane crash. Ric looked as though he had lost so much weight, but seemed to move better than ever. Angelo Mosca beting the great Chief Wahoo McDaniel on January 23, with a little help from a friend (at that time a still recuperating Ric Flair who was in Mosca’s corner for that match). Wahoo coming back and winning the Cadillac Tournament at the Coliseum on March 19.

In a general sense, I remember thinking how imposing and frightening the new team of the Mongols were. I know I was fully expecting them to become tag team champions at some point, but of course that never happened. I also think back as to how great Blackjack Mulligan was going during this time frame. But I never really thought he had the "stuff" to be United States Champion. Did he ever prove me wrong! I think back to being shocked when Gene and Ole Anderson dropped the World Tag Team Titles to Wahoo and Rufus R. Jones, but feeling that order was restored when the Andersons reclaimed the belts two weeks later. I recall how impressed I was with the new world’s champion, Terry Funk, when he actually wrestled on Mid-Atlantic television. And I was perplexed at how main event wrestlers in December of 1975 were jobbing in January of 1976. Such was the plight of Ken Patera, Steve Keirn and Steve Strong.

While in the winter of 1976, Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling brought some great action to Richmond, I think the spring of 1976 was even better. There were certainly more live matches to attend on Friday nights! Look forward to reminiscing about the spring of 1976 in Richmond with you soon. Until then, so long from the capital city!
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RICHMOND CARDS, 1976 (research by David Chappell)

1/2/76 (Friday Night--Richmond Arena)

Jack Evans v. Steve Keirn-----DRAW
Larry Sharpe d. Greg Peterson
Ken Patera d. Bill White
El Rayo & Roberto Soto d. Gene & Ole Anderson (non-title match)
Paul Jones d. Spoiler #2 (Jones retains U.S. Title)

1/9/76 (Friday Night)------NO MATCHES

1/16/76 (Friday Night)-----NO MATCHES

1/23/76 (Friday Night---Richmond Coliseum)

Klondike Bill v. Bill Howard---DRAW
Ronnie Garvin d. Jack Evans
Tony Atlas d. Doug Sommers
Tiger Conway & Tim Woods d. Bill White & Mike Dubois
Roberto Soto & El Rayo d. Steve Strong & Boris Malenko
Angelo Mosca d. Wahoo McDaniel
Paul Jones d. Blackjack Mulligan (Jones retains U.S. Title)

1/30/76 (Friday Night--Richmond Arena--Attendance 4,000)

Klondike Bill v. Jack Evans--DRAW
Ronnie Garvin d. Charley Fulton
Ken Patera d. Doug Gilbert
Johnny Weaver d. Boris Malenko
The Mongols d. Swede Hanson & Danny Miller
Gene & Ole Anderson d. Paul Jones & Rufus R. Jones by DQ

2/6/76 (Friday Night)---NO MATCHES

2/13/76 (Friday Night)--NO MATCHES

2/20/76 (Friday Night)--NO MATCHES

2/21/76 (Saturday Night--Richmond Coliseum)

Bill White v. Klondike Bill--DRAW
Ronnie Garvin d. Bill Howard
Haystack Calhoun d. Mike Dubois
Roberto Soto & El Rayo d. Doug Gilbert & Jim Lancaster
Rufus R. Jones d. Angelo Mosca
Blackjack Mulligan d. Tim Woods by DQ
Paul Jones d. Ric Flair (Jones retains U.S. Title)

2/27/76 (Friday Night--University Hall, Charlottesville)

The Mongols v. El Rayo & Roberto Soto
Tim Woods v. Angelo Mosca----Bounty Match
Blackjack Mulligan v. Paul Jones (U.S. Title Match)

3/5/76 (Friday Night)--NO MATCHES

3/12/76 (Friday Night)--NO MATCHES

3/19/76 (Friday night, Richmond Coliseum)

One Night Tournament......15 Matches for 1976 El Dorado Cadillac. Participants: Wahoo McDaniel, Sgt. Jacques Goulet, Angelo Mosca, Tiger Conway, Doug Gilbert, Jack Evans, Bill White, Two Ton Harris, Danny Miller, Klondike Bill, Rufus R. Jones, Tim Woods, Blackjack Mulligan, Paul Jones, Johnny Weaver, Mike Dubois. WINNER: Wahoo McDaniel

3/26/76 (Friday Night--University Hall, Charlottesville, VA)

Tiger Conway & Larry Zbyszko v. The Mongols
Gene & Ole Anderson v. Paul Jones & Wahoo McDaniel (World's Tag Title Match)
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The WAWLI Papers No. 778...

(ED. NOTE – Continuing our "survey" of contemporary web sites devoted to some of the better promotions from the last days of "wrestling as we liked it," we come to the Southwest Championship Wrestling promotion of Joe Blanchard. Our thanks, and gratitude to Chuck Merkich, who has constructed this fine site -- http://community-2.webtv.net/marsha316/ATRIBUTETOTHE/ -- May it flourish.)

By Chuck Merkich

SOUTHWEST CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING was formed in 1978 by long-time wrestler/promoter JOE BLANCHARD. Based in SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS. They held most of their cards at the HEMISPHERE ARENA and the JUNCTION, the latter has since burned down. SWCW soon became one of the hottest regions in the wrestling game, presenting some of the greatest and wildest matches with some of the best talent the ‘80s had to offer. SWCW was extreme long before the term became commonplace in pro wrestling. For a small independent promotion that was running head to head with FRITZ VON ERICH'S promotion it was able to generate enough excitement and popularity to become the first wrestling program on the USA Network.

(ED. NOTE – Chuck Merkich’s work appears on other, notable sites, such as the following at KayFabeMemories --http://www.kayfabememories.com/Regions/swcw.htm and WHOO’s Wrestling Retro section -- http://www.whoowrestling.com/wrestling_retro/southwest8384_1.html. Do yourself a favor and check out both of these intelligently designed web sites.)

SOUTHWEST CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING – AN INTRODUCTION

By Chuck Merkich (for kayfabememories.com)

To me, Southwest Championship Wrestling will always be the true definition of professional wrestling. My love of the sport grew out of this little promotion from west Texas and I will always cherish its memory. While all of my friends, and for that matter most of the world, were parading around in their red and yellow, I was struggling to stay awake every Sunday night so I could watch a wrestling program that most of the fans in my area didn't even know existed. That program was of course Southwest Championship wrestling (SWCW). It only took one night of sneaking up late behind my mothers back with a little 13-inch black and white television to hook me for the rest of life.

SWCW was awesome! It had better matches, interviews and their top stars almost always faced each other on TV compared to the headliner vs. jobber matches that I had grown accustomed to watching on World Wrestling Federation (WWF) programming. For a small promotion that hardly ever traveled out of the state of Texas, SWCW was able to draw you in from the start and you never wanted it to end. Originally a part of the Dallas booking office for the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), SWCW came into being when longtime wrestler/promoter Joe Blanchard broke away to form his own wrestling promotion.

Based out of San Antonio, Texas, Blanchard with his son Tully at his side purchased an old supermarket that only held 300-400 people to tape their television shows. He brought in announcers Gene Kelly (Kelly would soon be replaced with Steve Stack, who stayed with the promotion until it's demise) and Rapido Rodriguez who provided commentary for the Spanish outlets.

As well, SWCW had some of the best talent that the business had to offer. With a roster that at different times consisted of Abdullah The Butcher, Adrian Adonis, Tony Atlas, Tully Blanchard, Killer Brooks, Bruiser Brody, Rick and Scott Casey, Tiger Conway Jr., Eric Embry, Manny Fernandez, Dory And Terry Funk, Stan Hanson, Gino Hernandez, the Iron Sheik, Buddy Landel, Wahoo McDaniel, Bob Orton Jr., Al Perez, Tito Santana, Brett and Buzz Sawyer, Bob Sweetan, the Sheepherders and Jonathan Boyd, Dick Slater and so many more. Nick Bockwinkel would be brought in from time to time to defend his American Wrestling Association (AWA) world heavyweight title and six-time former world champion Lou Thesz was named acting commissioner.

SWCW soon became one of the hottest wrestling regions in the game. It was extreme long before the term became common place in wrestling. Working relationships with both Houston and Georgia wrestling were able to generate enough excitement and popularity that in 1983 they became the first wrestling program to be aired on the USA network. It would soon become the number one rated show on the station. With close to national exposure, SWCW sponsored a tournament to crown an undisputed world heavyweight champion. I assume it was done to show that they were a major player. An eight-man tournament was held on May 26,1983 in Houston, Texas with the late Adrian Adonis emerging as the winner. The championship would not be accepted by the rest of the wrestling world and was abandoned four months later. SWCW continued presenting some of the highest quality cards that have yet to be equaled to this day.

Eventually troubles would arise and due to overpaying talent and dwindling attendance they were forced to sell their USA time slot to Vince McMahon's Titan Sports when they could no longer afford the $7000.00 a week that it cost to air the show. Prior to that, the working relationship with Houston wrestling came to a close when Bill Watts took over the territory and the Georgia partnership dissolved because of troubles in their own backyard. The blow that would eventually force the end of SWCW came in late 1984 when it was discovered that Fred Behrend, who unbeknownst to most was Blanchard's partner, put Fritz Von Erich's World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) show in the San Antonio time slot. This left SWCW with only Spanish television and a sparse few U.S. TV outlets. Blanchard soon had no choice but to sell out his part of the promotion to Berhend who closed down SWCW and replaced it with first, Lonestar Wrestling and then a short time later, Texas All-Star (TASW). A once revered promotion was gone but the tradition of San Antonio would live on. As for myself SWCW will never die for it will always be alive in my memories and loved in my heart.

SOUTHWEST CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING 1983-1984 PART 1

By Chuck Merkich (for whoowrestling.com/wrestling_retro)

 Southwest Championship Wrestling, promoted by Joe Blanchard, was one of the wildest territories of its' time. It was also one of the bloodiest. Based in San Antonio, TX, the wrestling was rough and rugged, with frequent bloodletting. Had the promotion not been so bloody, the face of wrestling today may have been quite different. The promotion had a television show on The Fiesta Channel, a regional cable station in the very early days of cable. As the station was picked up by more cable companies, they changed their name to USA. They eventually kicked Southwest Championship Wrestling off the air because of the content, and awarded the time slot to Vince McMahon and the WWF. The rest, of course, is history.

Going into 1983, the crew consisted of the following wrestlers. On the babyface side, you had "Bruiser" Bob Sweetan, Ivan Putski, Scott Casey, Eric Embry, Steve Regal (not the one currently in Memphis, but the former AWA wrestler), Ricky Morton and Ken Lucas. On the heel side, you had Tully Blanchard (following in a long tradition of nepotism among wrestling promoters, particularly in Texas), Adrian Adonis, "Hangman" Bobby Jaggers, Ali Bey the Turk and The Grapplers (Len Denton & Tony Anthony). The promotion's Heavyweight title was vacant, and Morton & Lucas were the Tag Team champions. They also had a Junior Heavyweight title, but I don't have a complete title lineage for that one. I am going under the assumption that Eric Embry held it for most of 1983, although they may have done back-and-forth switches with the guys he feuded with.

1/1/83 San Antonio: Tully Blanchard beat Bob Sweetan ... Bob Sweetan beat Adrian Adonis ... Tully Blanchard beat Mike Graham

1/8/83 San Antonio: Steve Regal beat Ninja ... Eric Embry beat The Turk ... Ivan Putski beat Bobby Jaggers ... Tully Blanchard beat Scott Casey ... Ken Lucas & Rick Morton beat Grapplers ... Bob Sweetan wrestled Adrian Adonis to a draw in a bounty match

1/15/83 San Antonio: The Grapplers beat Ricky Morton & Ken Lucas ... Scott Casey beat Bobby Jaggers in a bullrope match ... The Turk beat El Santo Negro ... Juan Reynosa beat Terry Daniels ... Steve Regal beat Ninja ... Adrian Adonis & Tully Blanchard beat Bob Sweetan & Jerry Lawler by dq

1/22/83 Weslaco: The Turk beat Eric Embry ... Steve Regal beat Ninja ... Adrian Adonis beat Scott Casey ... Ken Lucas & Ricky Morton beat The Grapplers ... Bob SWweetan beat Tully Blanchard in a cage match

2/12/83 San Antonio: Princess Victoria beat Wendi Richter ... Tully Blanchard beat Bob Sweetan in a Texas death match ... Scott Casey, Steve Regal & Ivan Putski beat Adrian Adonis, Bobby Jaggers & Tonga John ... Ken Lucas & Rick McGraw beat The Grapplers ... Eric Emby wrestled El Santo Negro to a draw ... Rick McGraw beat Juan Reynosa

3/13/83 San Antonio: Wahoo McDaniel won a battle royal ... Wahoo McDaniel beat Bob Sweetan by dq ... El Santo Negro beat Tonga John ... Frank Monte beat Juan Reynosa ... Grappler #1 beat The Turk ... Grappler #2 beat Rick McGraw ... Bobby Jaggers beat Eric Embry ... Gino Hernandez beat Scott Casey

Tully Blanchard beat Bob Sweetan in the finals of a tournament on 1/3 in San Antonio to win the Heavyweight title. Sweetan avenged the loss on 2/27 in San Antonio, defeating Blanchard to win the title. The Grapplers beat Ricky Morton & Ken Lucas for the Tag Team titles on 1/16 in San Antonio. The main feuds were Sweetan vs. Blanchard, Ivan Putski vs. Adrian Adonis, Scott Casey vs. Bobby Jaggers, Morton & Lucas vs. Grapplers and Eric Embry vs. The Turk. Rick McGraw came in as an undercard babyface, replacing the departing Regal. Jerry Lawler and Wahoo McDaniel came in for brief stays as well. Morton & Lucas left after failing to regain the Tag Team titles, and Putski left as well. Adrian Adonis left the territory for a couple of months, and taking his place as a heel was Tully's long-time tag team partner, Gino Hernandez. The two were 4-time Tag Team champions, collectively known as The Dynamic Duo. Gino had all the potential to be a huge star in wrestling (in fact, he was a huge star in Texas), but his career ended prematurely in February of 1986, when he died from a cocaine overdose. He was an earlier, smaller version of "Ravishing" Rick Rude, the cocky arrogant stud heel. Many of the Texas veterans, such as Jaggers, were a bit too "redneck" to succeed in other territories, and their physiques were not up to what would become industry standards a few years later. Then again, Eric Embry was a short guy with no physique (except for a beer gut) who made it pretty big in Dallas, Memphis and Puerto Rico. Putski of course went on to the WWF and was a pretty big star for them over the next couple of years. Morton, already known as a tag team specialist, would hook up later in the year with a guy named Robert Gibson to form The Rock & Roll Express. Both Grapplers still wrestle today, Denton in the pacific northwest and Anthony in eastern Tennessee. Tully of course went on to big things for Jim Crockett, having a legendary feud with Dusty Rhodes and later teaming up with Arn Anderson. Adonis was a big name, and would become even bigger (in more ways than one) during his WWF stint which began in 1984. He passed away on July 4th, 1988 in a car crash.

4/15/83 Waco: Eric Embry wrestled Coco Samoa to a draw ... Rick McGraw beat The Turk by dq ... The Grapplers wrestled Scott Casey & Bob Sweetan to a draw ... Gino Hernandez beat Tully Blanchard

5/1/83 Weslaco: Eric Embry beat Tonga John ... Coco Samoa beat The Turk ... Armando Guerrero & Rick McGraw beat Bobby Jaggers & Grappler #1 ... Scott Casey beat Bobby Jaggers ... Bob Sweetan & Gino Hernandez beat Tully Blanchard & Adrian Adonis

5/12/83 Corpus Christi: Eric Embry beat The Turk ... Scott Casey beat Eddie Mansfield ... Gino Hernandez beat Bobby Jaggers by dq ... Sheepherders beat Armando Guerrero & Rick McGraw ... Adrian Adonis beat Bob Sweetan

5/19/83 San Antonio: Scott Casey beat Bob Orton ... Eric Embry beat The Turk ... The Sheepherders beat Sweet Brown Sugar & Armando Guerrero ... Adrian Adonis beat Bob Sweetan ... Gino Hernandez beat Tully Blanchard in a cage match

5/20/83 Weslaco: Eric Embry beat Coco Samoa ... The Turk beat El Santo Negro ... Armando Guerrero beat Bobby Jaggers ... Scott Casey & Sweet Brown Sugar beat The Sheepherders ... Adrian Adonis beat Bob Sweetan ... Terry Funk beat Bob Orton ... Gino Hernandez beat Tully Blanchard in a cage match

5/21/83 Houston: Bob Orton wrestled Terry Funk to a draw ... Sweet Brown Sugar beat Luke Williams ... Adrian Adonis beat Bob Sweetan ... Wahoo McDaniel beat Bobby Jaggers ... Abdullah the Butcher beat Scott Casey ... Bob Orton beat Sweet Brown Sugar ... Adrian Adonis beat Wahoo McDaniel ... Adrian Adonis beat Bob Orton ... Gino Hernandez beat Tully Blanchard

There were numerous title changes at this point in time. In the tag team division, Tully Blanchard & Gino Hernandez beat The Grapplers on 3/21 in San Antonio to iwn the titles, but Tully attacked Gino immediately after the match and the titles were vacated. The Grapplers re-won them on 4/3, beating Bob Sweetan & Armando Guerrero in a tournament final. The Sheepherders beat The Grapplers on 5/7 in San Antonio to win them. Adrian Adonis beat Sweetan on 4/15 in Austin to win the Heavyweight title, but Sweetan regained it on 5/20 in Weslaco. Adonis then went on to win a one-night tournament to be crowned "Undisputed World Heavyweight chmapion) on 5/26 in Houston. The belt was the one owned by Lou Thesz (which was used a decade later in Japan for a UWFI angle), and Thesz presented the belt to Adonis. Adonis left the promotion shortly thereafter. Also leaving were The Grapplers, Rick McGraw and Gino Hernandez. Hernandez turned babyface after being attacked by Tully, but left shortly thereafter for World Class. Coming in were Armando Guerrero (aka Mando Guerrero, the oldest son of Gory Guerrero and brother of Hector, Chavo & Eddie), Sweet Brown Sugar (Skip Young), Coco Samoa (as a heel, he wrestled as a babyface most everywhere else he went) and The Sheepherders (Luke Williams & Jonathan Boyd). Coming in for the Houston tournament were such big names as Terry Funk, Bob Orton, Abdullah the Butcher and Wahoo McDaniel. In one of those things that would seem ridiculous to today's wrestling fans, but was commonplace in these days, Funk and Orton wrestled to a draw in the first round, and they had a coin toss to determine who would advance. Funk won it, and was set to advance to the next round, but was injured during a post-match brawl following another first-round match, so Orton ended up advancing. The main feuds at this time were Gino vs. Tully, Sweetan vs. Adonis, Scott Casey vs. Bobby Jaggers, Eric Embry vs. Samoa and Guerrero & Sugar vs. Sheepherders.

6/22/83 Corpus Christi: Tommy Rich beat Larry Zbyszko ... Tully Blanchard beat Scott Casey ... Bob Sweetan wrestled Abdullah the Butcher to a draw ... Buzz Sawyer beat Stan Hansen ... Ole Anderson beat Paul Ellering ... Eric Embry & Sweet Brown Sugar beat Luke Williams & Bobby Jaggers ... El Santo Negro beat Ninja

6/22/83 Wichita Falls: Eric Embry beat Coco Samoa ... Armando Guerrero wrestled The Turk to a draw ... Bob Sweetan beat Tully Blanchard by dq ... Scott Casey & Sweet Brown Sugar beat Luke Williams & Bobby Jaggers by dq

7/2/83 Tulsa: Eric Embry beat Coco Samoa ... Eric Embry wrestled El Santo Negro to a draw ... Al Perez beat Ninja ... Sweet Brown Sugar & Tiger Conway Jr. beat The Turk & Luke Williams ... Scott Casey beat Bobby Jaggers ... Bob Sweetan beat Tully Blanchard by countout

7/10/83 Waco: Armando Guerrero beat The Turk ... El Santo Negro beat Coco Samoa by dq ... Tully Blanchard beat Bob Sweetan by dq ... Sheepherders wrestled Sweet Brown Sugar & Scott Casey to a draw

7/30/83 San Antonio: Buddy Marino beat Ali Bey ... Al Perez & Scott Casey beat Black Gordman & Coco Samoa ... Sweet Brown Sugar beat Bob Sweetan by dq ... Eric Embry wrestled Armando Guerrero to a double countout ... Luke Williams beat Bobby Jaggers ... Stan Hansen beat Tully Blanchard

Tully Blanchard beat Bob Sweetan to win the Heavyweight title on 6/13 in San Antonio. Dick Murdoch wrestled Adrian Adonis on 8/20 in San Antonio, defeating him to win the "Undisputed World Heavyweight Title", although it was later held-up and returned to Adonis. The promotion announced a fictitious title change, with Scott Casey winning the "Undisputed World Heavyweight Title" on 8/30 in St. Louis. The promotion then dropped the title shortly thereafter. Adonis, who had been gone from the promotion, came back only for the 8/20 match. In mid-June, Jonathan Boyd broke his leg. Bobby Jaggers filled in for him, teaming with Luke Williams as the Tag Team champions. In 1984, Butch Miller came in to team with Williams, and they went on to achieve great success as The Sheepherders and later, The Bushwhackers. When Boyd recovered, he formed his own version of The Sheepherders with Rip Morgan, which was not as successful as Williams & Miller's version, before finishing out his career as a singles wrestler in Portland. He passed away in 1999. The Williams-Jaggers combo didn't last long, as Williams attacked Jaggers after they lost a non-title match to Armando Guerrero & Sweet Brown Sugar on 7/4. Jaggers was turned babyface, and he teamed with Buddy Moreno to win the Tag Team titles in a tournament on 8/29 in San Antonio, beating Sweetan & Ken Timbs in the finals. Sweetan had turned heel in mid-July. Also turning heel was Eric Embry. In addition to Timbs & Moreno, other new faces at this time were Al Perez and Tiger Conway Jr. Conway only lasted a couple of months. The promotion also ran some joint cards with Georgia Championship Wrestling (which had retained their cable outlet, TBS). The Georgia contingent consisted of Stan Hansen, Tommy Rich, Ole Anderson, Ron Garvin, Dick Murdoch, Larry Zbyszko, Abdullah the Butcher, The Iron Sheik, Buzz Sawyer and Paul Ellering. Leaving the promotion besides the aforementioned Boyd & Conway were Guerrero, Sweet Brown Sugar and The Turk. The top feuds were Sweetan vs. Tully, Scott Casey & Sweet Brown Sugar vs. Williams & Jaggers, Embry vs. Coco Samoa and Guerrero vs. The Turk.

(to be continued in WAWLI No. 779)
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