The WAWLI Papers No. 779...
(continued from WAWLI No. 778)
SOUTHWEST CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING 1983-1984 PART 2
By Chuck Merkich
A quick correction and an omission before we start Part 2. The team of Tully Blanchard & Gino Hernandez was called The Dynamic Duo. We incorrectly called them The Dream Team. Also, Blanchard was managed by Christopher Love during most of 1983. Love is better known today as NWA Worldwide promoter Bert Prentice. Results for the next couple of months are very hard to come by, and what I do have is mostly just title changes, but well run through what I have quickly.
9/11/83 San Antonio: Scott Casey beat Tully Blanchard ... Danny Hodge beat Eric Embry by dq
9/19/83 San Antonio: Luke Williams beat Bobby Jaggers
9/26/83 San Antonio: Eric Embry & Ken Timbs beat Scott Casey & Buddy Moreno
10/1/83 San Antonio: Ralampago Leon beat Eric Embry
11/3/83 San Antonio: Ken Timbs & Eric Embry beat Scott Casey & Buddy Moreno ... Relampago Leon beat Dusty Woods ... Tully Blanchard beat Luke Williams in a scissors on a pole match ... Butch Miller beat Buddy Moreno
11/24/83 San Antonio: Relampago Leon beat Cesar Valentino by countout
12/3/83 San Antonio: Ken Timbs & Eric Embry beat The Rock & Roll Express
Scott Casey beat Tully Blanchard on 9/11 to win the Heavyweight title. Tully left the promotion at this point, although he came back later in the year as a babyface for a big match with Luke Williams. Williams had a match with Bobby Jaggers on 9/19 which saw him break Jaggers arm. So Jaggers was out for a while. Jaggers & Buddy Moreno were the Tag Team champions, so the following week Moreno teamed with Casey to lose them to Eric Embry & Timbs, The Fabulous Blonds. Those belts were held-up in late November following a match between The Blonds and The Rock & Roll Express, and then The Blonds beat Rock & Roll to win them again on 12/3. Aside from Blanchard, also leaving the territory were Moreno, Cocoa Samoa and Bob Sweetan. Coming in on the heel side was Butch Miller (who would of course team up with Williams as The Sheepherders), Adrian Street and Voodoo Mulumba. On the babyface side, coming in aside from Rock & Roll were Relampago Leon and Bruiser Brody. Legendary Junior Heavyweight wrestler Danny Hodge did a brief angle with Embry, who was the promotions U.S.A. Junior Heavyweight champion at the time. Embry lost that title to Leon on 10/1. The top feuds were Casey vs. Blanchard, Jaggers vs. Williams and Rock & Roll vs. Fabulous Blonds.
1/5/84 Beaumont: Adrian Street beat Relampago Leon
1/28/84 San Antonio: Bruiser Brody beat Voodoo Mulumba in a loser leaves town match ... Dick Murdoch & Manny Fernandez beat Sheepherders by dq ... Eric Embry & Ken Timbs beat Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson by dq ... Al Perez beat Killer Brooks by dq ... Adrian Street beat Scott Casey by dq
2/24/84 Wichita Falls: Bobby Jaggers & Manny Fernandez beat Eric Embry & Luke Williams in a barbed wire cage match
2/27/84 San Antonio: Killer Brooks beat Scott Casey
3/4/84 San Antonio: Sheepherders beat Fabulous Ones
3/7/84 Waco: Bobby Fulton beat Adrian Street ... Tony Falk beat Relampago Leon ... Bobby Jaggers & Al Perez beat Eric Embry & Ken Timbs ... Killer Brooks beat Scott Casey ... Butch Miller wrestled Manny Fernandez to a draw
In addition to the promotions Southwest Tag Team titles, at one point they had had World Tag Team champions as well. The last team to hold those titles were Bruiser Brody & Dick Slater, but both men left the territory in late 1982. They revived these titles in early 1984 when The Fabulous Ones came in. They announecd that The Fabs had won a tournament in Australia (fictitious). On March 4th, The Sheepherders beat The Fabs to win the titles, touching off another legendary feud from the 80s. Killer Brooks came to the territory and quickly won the Heavyweight title from Scott Casey on 2/27. He replaced Voodoo Mulumba on the heel side. The Rock & Roll Express left the promotion as well, and coming in as babyfaces besides The Fabs were Manny Fernandez, Bobby Fulton and Tony Falk. Dick Murdoch also made one or two appearances. The top feuds were Casey vs. Brooks, The Fabs vs. The Sheepherders, Al Perez & Bobby Jaggers vs. The Fabulous Blonds and Relampago Leon vs. Adrian Street. Street beat Leon to win the U.S.A. Junior Heavyweight title on 1/5 in Beaumont, TX.
3/18/84 Weslaco: Bill Howard beat Tony Falk ... Adrian Street & Miss Linda beat Bobby Fulton in a handicap match ... Eric Embry & Ken Timbs beat Al Perez & Bobby Jaggers ... Manny Fernandez beat Butch Miller ... Scott Casey beat Killer Brooks
3/22/84 Wichita Falls: Bill Howard beat Tony Falk ... Bobby Fulton beat Adrian Street ... Bobby Jaggers & Al Perez beat Ken Timbs & Eric Embry ... Killer Brooks beat Scott Casey ... Butch Miller wrestled Manny Fernandez to a draw
3/25/84 San Antonio: Bobby Fulton beat Adrian Street in a loser leaves town match ... Bobby Fulton won a Texas Brawl battle royal ... Killer Brooks beat Scott Casey ... Mil Mascaras & Manny Fernandez beat Jos LeDuc & Butch Miller
4/1/84 Weslaco: Tony Falk beat Snake Brown ... Bill Howard beat Zar Rojo ... Scott Casey & Bobby Fulton beat Eric Embry & Ken Timbs by dq ... Manny Fernandez beat Killer Brooks ... Sheepherders beat Al Perez & Bobby Jaggers
4/19/84 Wichita Falls: Bill Howard beat Henry Garcia ... Ken Timbs beat Tony Falk ... Bobby Fulton beat Eric Embry ... Bobby Jaggers wrestled Killer Brooks to a draw ... Manny Fernandez & Al Perez beat The Sheepherders
4/25/84 Waco: Henry Garcia & Manny Villalobos beat Snake Brown & Juan Reynosa ... Bill Howard beat Tony Falk ... Bobby Fulton beat Eric Embry ... Mil Mascaras beat Killer Brooks by dq ... Manny Fernandez, Bobby Jaggers & Al Perez beat Ken Timbs & Sheepherders ... The Mummy won a Texas Brawl battle royal
Al Perez & Manny Fernandez beat Eric Embry & Ken Timbs in April to win the Tag Team titles. Perez & Jaggers had been feuding with Embry & Timbs, while Fernandez had been teaming with Mil Mascaras against The Sheepherders for most of this time period. Bobby Fulton won the U.S.A. Junior Heavyweight title from Adrian Street, who then left the territory. Embry then beat Fulton for the title. Bill Howard, Jos LeDuc and The Mummy came in as heels, while the only new babyface was the aforementioned Mascaras. The top feuds were Scott Casey vs. Killer Brooks, the two tag feuds mentioned above and Bobby Fulton vs. Adrian Street. By this point in time, the promotion had cut back on the number of house shows they were promoting. As opposed to wrestlers moving to San Antonio and working on the full-time circuit, this switch enabled wrestlers who primarily competed in other territories to come in for brief stays. A lot of big names would come to the promotion over the next few months, but the lack of continuity from a "traditional" territory would take its toll.
SOUTHWEST CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING 1983-1984 PART 3
By Chuck Merkich
One quick note before we start Part 3. The Mummy, who came in to the territory in April, was Bobby Duncum Sr.
5/3/84 Waco: Henry Garcia beat Juan Reynosa ... Bill Howard beat Tony Falk ... Bobby Jaggers beat Killer Brooks by dq ... Manny Fernandez & Bobby Fulton beat Ken Timbs & Eric Embry ... Sheepherders beat Fabulous Ones by dq ... Bruiser Brody wrestled Jos Leduc to a draw
5/5/84 San Antonio: Bruiser Brody wrestled Jos Leduc to a double countout ... Manny Fernandez & Bobby Fulton beat Eric Embry & Ken Timbs ... Sheepherders beat Fabulous Ones
5/6/84 Temple: Hernry Garcia beat Juan Reynosa ... Bill Howard beat Tony Falk ... Bobby Jaggers beat Killer Brooks by dq ... Manny Fernandez & Bobby Fulton beat Ken Timbs & Eric Embry ... Sheepherders beat Fabulous Ones by dq ... Bruiser Brody wrestled Jos Leduc to a draw
5/26/84 San Antonio: Relampago Leon beat El Grande Uno ... Bill Howard beat Steve Simpson ... Eric Embry beat Tony Falk ... Bobby Fulton beat Ken Timbs ... Bobby Jaggers wrestled Killer Brooks to a draw in a bullrope lumberjack match ... Manny Fernandez & Al Perez beat The Sheepherders by dq ... Bruiser Brody & Scott Casey beat Joe Leduc & The Mummy
6/2/84 San Antonio: Steve Simpson beat Dusty Wolf ... Susan Green beat Paula Kay ... Ken Lucas beat Bill Howard ... Eric Embry & Ken Timbs wrestled Bobby Fulton & Tony Falk to a double dq ... Carlos Colon beat Moondog Rex ... Manny Fernandez, Al Perez & Wahoo McDaniel beat The Sheepherders & The Mummy
6/16/84 San Antonio: Bill Howard won a 6 man elimination match ... Tony Falk & Sue Green beat Ken Timbs & Evelyn Stevens ... Bobby Fulton beat Eric Embry ... Sheepherders beat Manny Fernandez & Al Perez in a strap on a pole match ... Bruiser Brody beat The Mummy by dq in a cage match ... Bobby Jaggers beat Killer Brooks (Brooks was painted yellow afterwards as per match stipulations)
The USA Junior Heavyweight title changed hands several times. Eric Embry beat Bobby Fulton to win it some time in April. Fulton then regained it on May 13th, Embry won it back on May 27th and Fulton beat him again for it on June 16th. Embry & Ken Timbs, meanwhile, were awarded the Tag Team titles on June 13th. The previous champs were Al Perez & Manny Fernandez, and neither of them had left the territory, so I dont know why they did this. Bobby Jaggers beat Killer Brooks on June 16th to win the Heavyweight title. The two title switches on 6/16 were to set up a big card in San Antonio on July 1st. Jaggers vs. Brooks and Fulton vs. Embry were two of the top feuds at this time, along with Perez & Fernandez vs. The Sheepherders and Bruiser Brody vs. Jos Leduc. Leduc left the territory in May. Leaving on the babyface side were Relampago Leon, Scott Casey, The Fabulous Ones and Mil Mascaras. Coming in were Carlos Colon, Steve Simpson (as basically a jobber; he didnt get pushed until going to World Class a couple years later, where they billed him and his brother as childhood "pen pals" of The Von Erichs. Wahoo McDaniel also made one of his several times per year appearances on June 2nd.
7/1/84 San Antonio: Steve Simpson beat Juan Reynosa ... Bill Howard beat Manny Villalobos ... Tony Falk beat Steve Dupree ... Evelyn Stevens beat Susan Green ... Carlos Colon & Al Perez beat The Sheepherders ... Killer Brooks beat Bobby Jaggers in a chain match ... Eric Embry beat Bobby Fulton in a scaffold match ... Bruiser Brody wrestled Abdullah the Butcher to a double dq
7/15/84 McAllen: Bo Beck beat Bill Howard ... Steve Durpee beat Rudy Gonzales ... Eric Embry beat Tony Falk ... Susan Green beat Evelyn Stevens by dq ... Manny Fernandez beat Killer Brooks ... Bobby Jaggers & Al Perez beat Sheepherders
7/21/84 San Antonio: Bob Garcia beat Rudy Gonzales ... Bo Beck beat Juan Reynosa ... Bobby Jaggers & Tony Falk beat Steve Dupree & Dan White ... Evelyn Stevens beat Susan Green ... Carlos Colon & Al Perez beat Eric Embry & Dan Greer by dq ... Killer Brooks beat Manny Fernandez by dq ... The Zambuie Express beat Sheepherders by dq
8/3/84 San Antonio: Juan Reynosa beat Manny Villalobos ... Bo Beck beat Dan White ... Tony Falk beat Steve Dupree ... Susan Green beat Evelyn Stevens in a street fight ... Carlos Colon, Al Perez & Manny Fernandez beat Eric Embry, Dan Greer & Killer Brooks ... Sheepherders beat Zambuie Express
8/11/84 San Antonio: Juan Reynosa beat Bob Garcia ... Steve Dupree beat Bo Beck ... Susan Green beat Evelyn Stevens in a lumberjack match ... Sheepherders beat Carlos Colon & Al Perez by dq ... Blackjack Mulligan wrestled Abdullah the Butcher to a draw ... Manny Fernandez beat Killer Brooks in a taped fist match
9/23/84 San Antonio: Sheepherders beat Road Warriors by dq ... Killer Brooks beat Manny Fernandez in a loser leaves town match ... Pierre Lefebrve & Frenchy Martin beat Voodoo Malumba & Al Madril by dq
The July 1st card drew over 6,000 fans. Bruiser Brody wrestled Abdullah the Butcher in the main event, plus there were two title changes in stipulation matches. Eric Embry beat Bobby Fulton in a scaffold match to win the USA Junior Heavyweight title and Killer Brooks regained the Heavyweight title from Bobby Jaggers in a chain match. Jaggers left the territory soon after, and Brooks feuded with Manny Fernandez. Brooks beat Manny in a loser-leaves-town match on September 23rd. Ken Timbs left the promotion in late June, and the promotion just put Dan Greer in his place as part of The Fabulous Blonds with Embry. They would eventually lose the Tag Team titles to Chicky Starr & Brett Sawyer on September 9th. In addition to Jaggers and Fernandez, several other babyfaces left at this time. Bruiser Brody, Al Perez, Bobby Fulton and Carlos Colon all left the territory. Filling their spots were Chicky Starr, Brett Sawyer, Pierre Lefebvre and Frenchy Martin. Blackjack Mulligan came in for a big card in San Antonio. In an attempt to get the "World Tag Team titles" held by The Sheepherders over, the promotion brought in some teams from other territories, including The Road Warriors and The Zambuie Express (Elijah Akeem & Ray Candy) to put them over. Week after week on television, the new team of Killer Brooks & Al Madril would attack the babyfaces during matches. One time, they attacked The Sheepherders. The following week, The Sheepherders returned the favor, attacking Brooks & Madril and turning babyface. Lou Thesz also wrestled at least one match during this time, on September 7th in Waco, TX defeating Juan Reynosa. On the heel side, Timbs and Bill Howard left. Voodoo Mulumba returned, Abdullah the Butcher came in as a regular, and Steve Dupree, Dan Greer and Al Madril came in as well. King Kong Bundy also made at least one appearance. The top feuds were Manny Fernandez vs. Killer Brooks, Carlos Colon & Al Perez vs. The Sheepherders and Bobby Fulton vs. Eric Embry. Women wrestlers Susan Green and Evelyn Stevens also had a big feud, with a few stipulation matches.
9/30/84 McAllen: Tony Falk beat Steve Dupree ... Princess Jasmine beat Evelyn Stevens ... Chicky Starr beat Eric Embry by dq ... Brett Sawyer beat Dan Greer in a leather strap on a pole match ... Mongolian Stomper & Sheepherders beat Killer Brooks, Al Madril & Voodoo Mulumba
10/1/84 San Antonio: Killer Brooks, Al Madril & Voodoo Mulumba beat Sheepherders & Mongolian Stomper ... Tommy Rich beat Abdullah the Butcher by dq ... Brett Sawyer, Chicky Starr & El Canek beat Eric Embry, Dan Greer & The Medic
10/7/84 San Antonio: Leo Burke beat Dan White ... Evelyn Stevens beat Princess Jasmine ... Chicky Starr, El Canek & Brett Sawyer beat The Medic, Eric Embry & Dan Greer ... Abdullah the Butcher wrestled Tommy Rich to a draw ... Killer Brooks, Voodoo Mulumba & Al Madril beat Sheepherders & Abdullah the Butcher
10/18/84 San Antonio: Eric Embry & Dan Greer beat Brett Sawyer & Chicky Starr ... Killer Brooks & Al Madril beat Sheepherders by countout ... Tommy Rich beat Abdullah the Butcher by dq ... Vinnie Valentino beat Dan White ... Leo Burke beat Gerald Finley ... The Mummy beat Rudy Gonzales & Bob Garcia
11/22/84 San Antonio: Kevin Sullivan beat Bugsy McGraw ... Bob Sweetan & Chicky Starr beat Eric Embry & Dan Greer by dq ... Killer Brooks beat Jerry Oski ... Vinnie Valentino beat The Mummy ... Pierre Lefebvre & Frenchy Martin beat Leo Burke & Al Madril by dq
12/9/84 San Antonio: Kevin Sullivan beat Killer Brooks ... Al Madril & Bugsy McGraw beat Pierre Lefebrve & Frenchy Martin ... Jerry Oski beat Leo Burke in a loser leaves town match ... Little Tokyo beat Cowboy Lang ... Eric Embry & Dan Greer wrestled Bob Sweetan & Chicky Starr to a double dq ... Vinnie Valentino beat The Mummy
The Fabulous Blondes regained the Tag Team titles from Chicky Starr & Brett Sawyer
on October 18th. Sawyer left the promotion shortly thereafter. The Blonds would
lose the titles to Jerry Oski & Rick Casey (Wendell Cooley) on December 7th.
Chicky Starr beat Embry for the USA Junior Heavyweight title in November. Killer Brooks
lost the Heavyweight title to Kevin Sullivan on December 9th. Sullivan came in
as a babyface. Also new on the babyface side were a returning Bob Sweetan, Oski, Casey and
Vinnie Valentino. Coming in for short stints or just for a weekend were Mongolian Stomper,
Tommy Rich, El Canek and Jimmy Valiant. Promoter Joe Blanchard also wrestled a match,
losing to Jonathan Boyd in San Antonio on December 17th. Abdullah the Butcher
turned babyface shortly before leaving the promotion, and Tony Falk left as well. On the
heel side, Voodoo Mulumba and Steve Dupree left, and were replaced by Leo Burke and Bugsy
McGraw, although Burke would leave by the end of the year as well. The top feuds were
Sheepherders vs. Al Madril & Killer Brooks, Bob Sweetan & Chicky Starr vs. The
Fabulous Blonds and Jerry Oski vs. Leo Burke. In 1985, the promotion was sold, and was
renamed Texas All-Star Wrestling. It was in TASW that a young wrestler named Shawn
Michaels won his first title, the Tag Team titles along with Paul Diamond (who works for
Michaels Texas Wrestling Association promotion today and helps him train students at
his school). TASW didnt last very long either, and Fritz Von Erichs World
Class Championship Wrestling had a virtual monopoly in Texas for a few years. Bill Watts,
who primarily promoted in the deep south, would promote cards occasionally in Texas over
the years, but never made it his "home base."
(ED. NOTE As previously noted, wrestling nostalgia is beginning to abound in cyberspace. Another site, devoted to Quebecs Legendary Superstars of Pro Wrestling, includes a fairly comprehensive history of the game in that Canadian province. Our congratulations to the authors and we invited WAWLI readers to visit the site for a variety of features: http://www.geocities.com/Colosseum/Ring/9301)
THE HISTORY OF WRESTLING IN QUEBEC
Part 1: From Humble Beginnings to 1940
No one knows exactly in Québec when pro wrestling really started. Like the USA and Canada, though, we had our county fairs with rides, midways, sideshows, acrobats, farm animals, etc. And also a strongman contest. As a passage of Germaine Guèvremonts " Le Survenant " mentinned, the hero, a man just passing by and spending a year with a family near Sorel, Québec, wrestled a man during a county fair in a strongman contest. In many books about pro wrestling, this is how it started. A wrestler came with his manager and a ring, and challenged anyone in the audience to beat him. Of course there was a reward for beating the wrestler, but any challenger trying failed, to the pleasure of the manager, who kept it until the next stop. But at a certain point, one challenger beats the wrestler and earns the reward to the displeasure of the promoter, who lost at least part of the earnings received by the midway promoter. However, to avoid another humiliation, the manager proposed to the winner, a chance to join the bandwagon and earn money while wrestling his superstar protégé. Of course, he would make more money because he would charge an entrance fee. And of course he would also make a challenge contest to find new recruits for his show. This is partly how pro wrestling started.
Then it moved into venues such as parish halls, sports gyms and improvised outdoor venues, in which wooden stands were built in a squared form, hosted pro wrestling as well as variety shows, circuses and boxing matches. (These existed in Montréal-North and the Plateau Mont-Royal district in Montréal).
One of the first major venues in Montréal was the Mont-Royal Arena, which was located corner Mont-Royal and St-Urbain streets in the Plateau district. Many wrestlers did have success here, like Henri Dufresne (recognized as the first successful wrestler coming from Québec) and French champion Henri Deglane. However, on a certain night of 1932, a young and talentful kid from Verdun, out fresh from a famed wrestling camp in the Laurentians, would paved the path to Québecs pro wrestling success : Yvon Robert.
After a short while, Robert went to the United States to improve his techniques. Wrestling in Montréal still had few major superstars. But with Roberts success in the U.S., it would be obvious that sooner or later, Québec wrestling would make its way. Then Yvon Robert met Eddie Quinn near Boston. Quinn took the young prospect under his wing and brought him to success, until that night when Robert beat Danno OMahoney for the NWA belt. Then Quinns boss, who was head of the Boston promotion, sent him to Montréal to rule the NWA chapter in that city. However, to be major, you need a big sports venue. The Forum was the answer.
The Montréal Forum didnt have a good promotion, as Tommy Gorman had several responsibilities at the time, one as general manager of NHL Maroons and Canadiens (the first had success, the second was sinking and also mourning the lost of a superstar named Howie Morenz). In order to merge the two teams and bring back the Canadiens to success, Gorman sells the wrestling promotion rights to Quinn. It was the start of a beautiful friendship between Montréal and pro wrestling.
Part 2: The Roaring 40s
When Eddie Quinn took over, pro wrestling took a giant leap and drew thousands of fans into the old Forum. The reason was, of course, Yvon Robert. The crowds always came to see him battle the wrestling heroes of the time.
Among them was Lou Thesz. Son of a St-Louis shoemaker, Thesz had a unique style of wrestling that would revolutionize the sport: he was a master of the flying kick, a move which knocks down the opponent at any time. Mastering this technique, Thesz won most of his matches. But against Yvon Robert and his devastating Japanese arm lock, Lou had a hard time with the Quebec champ.
One that would fire passions was the rivalry between Robert and Whipper Billy Watson. As the latter came from Toronto, matches were like renditions of the eternal NHL rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Each time those two fought, it was memorable.
However, as the crowds packed up the Forum in the cold months, in the summertime, Quinn moved some of his shows to former Delorimier Stadium, where 35,000 people could watch Yvon Robert wrestle against any challenger.
Many Quebec wrestler, following Roberts footsteps, were up and coming at the time. Larry Moquin was one of them (he came from the same wrestling school as Robert: the Maupas Camp) as well as Bob Langevin (who,later, would serve as bodyguard for several dignitaries), Omer Marchessault, who wrestled as one Masqued Marvel and six strongmen from outside Quebec City known as the Baillargeon brothers.As the 50s came around the corner, Montreal was indeed the Mecca for Pro Wrestling in that era. Knowing that Yvon Robert would accept the challenge to put his belt on the line, many came and also discovered how Quebecquers at the time enjoyed the sport...
Part 3: The 50s, or The Golden Years
When World War II ended, everything started to change. Lifestyles would change dramatically and more people would access things that only rich people could afford before.
Wrestling was about to face those changes. From the basic moves taken from amateur wrestling to win a fight, the sport has taken a radical change: high flying kicks, punches and illegal moves were the standard for wrestlers to win a fight. Mostly the heels and most hated wrestlers used these moves.
In Quebec, Robert was still the star, Quinn held the promotion to its high standards and new wrestlers were constantly put on the roster. It also opened the doors for new characters who would revolutionize the look of pro wrestling.
Welcome Gorgeous George, an American who was a sensation every time he passed by. Tagged as a heel, he drew attention by coming into the ring with style: dressed with a satin robe, blond and walking Hollywood style, with a lady valet on its side. Though we thought this guy was doing this for showing off, George could really wrestle and gave a hard time to every dazzled wrestler who faced him. Then came Nature Boy Buddy Rogers, a spectacular high-flying wrestler and master of the figure-four leglock.
And the heel of heels himself, a brutal wrestler which would set the standard for the genre: Wladek Kowalski.
The latter would mark the history of pro wrestling in Montreal in one crucial date in 1953. Wrestling against Yukon Eric, a crowd favorite, Kowalski went on the top rope to execute a move on Eric, who was lying down. In his drop, Kowalskis leg came so close to Erics left ear it ripped off easily. The referee, thinking it was a thing thrown from the crowd, put it in his pocket. But when he saw Yukon Eric bleeding so fiercely on the heads left side and reaching his pocket to discover the damaged ear, the official rang the bell. From that night, two lives would change: Yukon Eric, with a missing left ear, would see his career go down due to several mental breakdowns before his suicide in 1964. Kowaski however lived with the nickname "Killer" until the end of his career.
To prepare for an eventual departure of Yvon Robert, who was close to his 40s, many Quebec wrestlers were ready to take his place. Among them an international amateur wrestling champion named Maurice Vachon. After gaining the gold in the British Empire Games in 1950, Vachon then went on to pro wrestling with a unique style of brutality (he said in his autobiography that he was born to brawl) but also of wrestling wits taught by an old pro called Jim Cowley. And of course, Johnny Rougeau, who already organised a few bouts in a sandlot at the Villeray district of Montreal where he grew up. Though he was due a career in the Coca-Cola Company, his uncle Eddie Auger invited him in 1953 to wrestle in Detroit one night. And thats when Rougeaus career broke off. His brother Jacques, father of the second generation wrestlers that are Raymond and Jacques Jr., followed in 1955. With his handsome looks and a style taught by none other than the Champ, Yvon Robert himself, Johnny Rougeau got success everywhere he went. Others Quebec wrestlers that went rather for a career in the U.S .are Guy Larose, who wrestled as the German heel known as Hans Schmidt and Camille Tourville, who wrestled mostly as Tarzan Tyler in later years.
February 1953 will pass as a landmark in the history of Pro Wrestling: the French CBC TV network started to broadcast live wrestling matches from the Montreal Forum on wednesday nights. It was indeed one of the most popular programs ever to be scheduled. These were hosted by the late legendary sports announcer Michel Normandin, and were sponsored by the Dow Breweries (who became later Molson-OKeefe Breweries).
Finally, the inevitable happened: Yvon Robert retired after a tag team match with Johnny Rougeau in 1957 at Quebec City. After officiating matches for two years in the Quinn promotion, he becomes the manager of Johnny Rougeau itself and brings him to the path of a championship belt in 1961.
Part 4: The 60s, or Decline and Renaissance
With Yvon Roberts retirement, it was clear that pro wrestling in Québec would go into a hiatus: new wrestlers had to find new gimmicks to bring the fans into the arena. Two more events would affect the success that pro wrestling had in the past 25 years. In 1961, shortly after winning the championship belt, Johnny Rougeau went into semi-retirement to run a nightclub in Montreal with his brother Jacques. Then in 1963, promoter Eddie Quinn died. Since his death, pro wrestling was going almost nowhere. Local talents would go elsewhere, like Mad Dog Vachon who went to Minnesota and win the AWA title in 1964 and Edouard Carpentier, who went to Japan and Alberta to gain more success. With this kind of degradation, the wrestling business was nothing but back to the drawing board.
In the meanwhile, Johnny Rougeau had success with his nightclub, the Mocambo, in east end Montreal. However, TV and expensive salary demands by some artists forced Rougeau to sell the business, and analysing what had happened in the local wrestling business lately, he would don the tights again and bring back the crowds.
He created a company called "Eastern Sports Entreprises," to whom he gave promotion rights to wrestling buddy Bob "Legs" Langevin under the name "All-Star Wrestling." He established an office in a less expensive venue, the Paul-Sauve Arena, in Rosemont district northeast of Montreal. Remembering the impact TV gave to Quinns promotion, he contacted Roland Giguère from Télé-Métropole (today the national TVA French network) to produce a weekly pro wrestling show called SUR LE MATELAS (will be presented later at CTVs affiliate CFCF 12 as Superstars of the Mat). This show was extremely popular on Saturday afternoons.
The Paul Sauvé Arena would become the main venue for regular shows, but the Forum would be used for special events during holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas...
With this new boom, new faces would come around, like Gino Brito, Gilles Poisson, Neil Guay, Tony Parisi, Johnny War Eagle, and heels like The Sheik, The Cuban Assassins and Abdullah the Butcher. Sooner or later, the vets of the former promotion came back: Maurice Vachon, Wladek Kowalski, Don Leo Johnathan, Edouard Carpentier and Tony Baillargeon. As well, a new breed of wrestlers has become popular: midget wrestlers, introducted by Gino Britos father Jack Britton. Among the pint-sized athletes were Little Beaver, Sky Low Low and Little Brutus...
In the 60s, a new kind of character came into the scene: unlike the masked men of the 50s, mobster-like men roamed around the ring to interfere in the match so their protégé would win: the wrestling manager. Most of the time a manager of heels, he is the person in charge of the talking, while the employee does the hard work. One of the most successful managers would be Eddie Creatchman, alias The Brain or The Boss. A referee who had his ways with wrestlers (hes the one lifting Johnny Rougeaus arm in victory over Hans Schmidt in a championship bout), Creatchman decided to put his mouth where the money is. He hired the most brutal heels ever to come into a ring (The Sheik and Abdullah the Butcher) and once a week, delivered one of his devastating speeches to the public. With a mobster-like voice, no matter he attracted lots of people in the arena, as well as his illegal actions like bearing an electric cattle rod on the opponents and a whistle to tell the protégé to go at it.
If wrestling came back from the ashes, Johnny Rougeau did save it from total indifference.
Part 5: The Controversial 1970s
In the 70s, pro wrestling in Quebec was on cruise control, well almost. In 1971, unsatisfied with some booking procedures inside ALL-STAR WRESTLING, several wrestlers including Gino Brito have left the promotion to create GRAND PRIX WRESTLING with Lucien Gregoire as promoter. This created a rivalry paralleled by MLBs American and National Leagues in the World Series. And they had a TV show in both languages...
Beside the separation, wrestling was up and coming with the arrival of the Leduc Brothers, Andre the Giant, Dino Bravo, Rick Martel, Sailor White, Michel Dubois, Ivan Koloff and others.
As well as the first member of the second generation of the Rougeau family : Raymond, older son of Jacques Sr., who started in 1971.
However, wrestling was stirring controversy at times. Due to a misconduct of several wrestlers and fans (see next paragraph about Dick Taylor) on July 30, 1974 at the Montreal Forum, the Montreal Athletic Commission suspended a scheduled gala on August 13 and put the blame on the promoters. On the night the show was supposed to be presented at the Paul-Sauve Arena, thousands of people with Creatchman in front protested against the canceled show.
On July 30, 1974, wrestlers Jacques Rougeau, brother Johnny and the Leduc Brothers were accused of brutality against Dick Taylor (due to that assault, he would refuse to participate in a show). The trial was controversial: many members of the wrestling community defended the accused explaining that it was a stupid misfortune and Taylor exaggerated his charges. The foursome was acquitted.
Wrestling became more and more controversial at these times. Several wrestlers were using dangerous articles and illegal weapons (not guns) to cheat and win matches. The Sheik threw fire, Abdullah the Butcher used a fork to cut other wrestlers forehead, heel Japanese wrestlers throw salt in faces, etc. It was also the era of special matches : battle royals, cage matches, strap matches, dog collar matches, Russian chain matches, lumberjack matches, no-disqualification matches, and so on.
The Quebec government judged that wrestling has gone too far on these practices, so it proposed a law project restricting the sport itself, to the great dislike of the fans and the wrestlers itself. In a resume, Quebec wanted to ban wrestling indefinitely, to let it come back to a purer form of sport, avoiding the notion of extreme violence it was associated with.
But, by popular demand, the law proposal backed off. It was unrealistic. However, the Montreal Athletic Commission will impose strict rules such as forbidding a wrestler to be thrown over the third rope, jumping from the top corner, special stipulations matches involving cages, collars, straps and any foreign objects, womens matches and any manager from other associations than the one recognized by the Commission. The Commission also has the right to name the referees to apply those rules.
In the mid-70s, wrestling was at the peak of its popularity. On July 17, 1972, more than 29,000 fans filled Jarry Park (now the DuMaurier Tennis Stadium) to see the Rougeaus beat the Arab connection of The Sheik and Abdullah the Butcher (individually). One year later, Grand Prix used the same ball park venue for a show which the main event matched Mad Dog Vachon and Killer Kowalski. Quebec had its first woman wrestler to break through: Vivianne Vachon, sister of Maurice and Paul Vachon, who came so close to winning a womens championship against the Fabulous Moolah. The same year, Johnny Rougeau hosted a radio show on talk radio station CKVL for one year (Creatchman was the first guest). Then Grand Prix was in troubled waters.
To help regain popularity, the promotion held several joint shows with All-Star Wrestling. Then it continued to present shows in the Verdun Auditorium until it folded in 1975. CFTM retired its All Star Wrestling TV show as well. With that matter causing low attendances in the Paul Sauvé Arena, Bob Langevin closes the promotion in 1975. Johnny Rougeau retired from wrestling to take care of his hockey team. And more wrestlers were lured by the American dollar and the Japanese yen.
Many attempts to recreate a wrestling promotion in Québec passed by, but with no luck. CELEBRITY WRESTLING was one of them. Then Jack Britton created OLYMPIA PRO SPORTS, without success, as well as SUPER CATCH, created by Paul-Émile DesMarais. Gino Brito held somewhat the boat by organizing some shows in the summer with several former stars of Grand Prix and All-Star around parks and festivals in Québec and Ontario...
This is how INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING will be born...
Part 6: Wrestling Goes International
In the beginning of 1980, Québec Wrestling was about to get another second wind. Grand Prix veteran Gino Brito, along with Frank Valois, former wrestler turned promoter and André the Giant, creates International Wrestling (the company name was Promotions Varoussac, which stands for VAlois, ROUSSimoff, and ACcocella, the first letters of their family names.). He puts under contract many of the wrestlers which have made prime time in both All Star Wrestling and Grand Prix Wrestling. Due to the popularity of a late night wrestling show on a nearby American channel affiliated with the ABC network, he also invites wrestlers from the Wide World Wrestling Federation.
Grand Prix Wrestling, before its folding, had a TV show made in the CHLT TV studios in Sherbrooke, Québec, in the 70s. The same studio is used again to broadcast the flagship show, called LES ÉTOILES DE LA LUTTE (Superstars of Wrestling, which was broadcast also in English on the CTVs CFCF 12 station with George Cannon at the anchor desk). It was a very popular show from 1980 to 1985, shown on Sundays at a time when everyone was supposed to go to church.
Many wrestlers were participating in that promotion. Among the vets were Brito itself, Michel Dubois, Raymond Rougeau, Tony Parisi, Neil Guay (the Hangman), Sailor White, Gilles Poisson, Maurice Vachon, Rick Martel, Frenchy Martin, etc. as well as new faces like Pierre Lebfèvre, Mike Vachon, Richard Charland, Louis Laurence, Alain Vigneault, Ludger Proulx, Armand Rougeau, Jacques Rougeau, etc. Even the midgets Little Beaver and Sky Low Low were there once in a while.
But mainly, it was Dino Bravo who was the focus in that promotion. Billed as the Canadian Strongman in the U.S., Bravo would become the champ and keep the belt for more than five years overall. However, he would be the main target for several heels, many headed by the notorious Eddie Creatchman (back with his speeches) and later by the late Tarzan Tyler.
The main venue was again the Paul-Sauvé Arena. It was the most appropriate place for wrestling shows, especially that most of the shows will average at least 3,000 persons per night. The shows were mostly presented on Monday nights, 48 nights per year.
The TV show and the dynamic organisation that was INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING brought wrestling to new heights. In the newspapers, everyone was talking about the comeback of a controversial, but entertaining sport. And affordable as well... Fans fill arenas in every venue the federation passed in the province of Québec.
American wrestlers were also in demand due to that late night TV show. Wrestlers like Sargeant Slaughter, Hulk Hogan, Bob Backlund, Big John Studd, Stan Hansen, The Destroyer, Ken Patera ,were invited to the federations shows. Another one, who started his career in Montréal, came back for several shows and fill out each time the Paul-Sauvé Arena: André the Giant !
Everything went so well that Frank Valois had big plans for the promotion, especially to bring some shows in the Montréal Forum, where many legendary wrestlers fought. It happened in April 1983, in a sold-out show which featured in the main event, Jimmy Snuka vs.Ray Stevens as well as the awaited battle between Dino Bravo and the Masked Superstar.
The federation created a pro wrestling school to train future wrestling hopes. Directed by Édouard Carpentier, the school was located at the Paul Sauvé Arena, assistant teachers were Gino Brito and Dino Bravo. One of the first graduates was Gino Brito Jr, son of Gino.
With the association of Verne Gagnés AWA promotion, some wrestlers from Minnesota came into Montréal to challenge our wrestlers : Curt Hennig, Billy Robinson, Ric Flair, Greg Gagné, Jim Brunzell, Tom Zenk, Nick Bockwinkel, the Road Warriors and the Garvins came to challenge our wrestlers. Thus not forgetting that in 1983, Rick Martel won the coveted AWA championship belt against Jumbo Tsuruta.
However, pro wrestling was about to be strongly popular in the U.S. Vince McMahon Jr buys his ailing fathers WWWF to create the World Wrestling Federation. Its goal is to internationalize wrestling by many phases. The first was to get a popular wrestler to promote and bring the fans all over. Fresh from his ROCKY III success, Terry Bullea, alias Hulk Hogan, would fit into the picture. Having won the championship in January 1984 against Iron Sheik, Hogan and wrestling would go into higher levels. Then, McMahon would tape the matches from a single venue (first, the former Felt Forum in New York, then a studio in Glens Falls, NY), then sell the tapes to TV channels across America and Canada. Then get into the lucrative promotional products. Even a cartoon was made. Finally, one by one, the WWF would buy major regional promotions to reunite under one federation and present several shows throughout the year. It also presented the first wrestling match in a video clip channel (MTV) and the first wrestling pay-per-view: WRESTLEMANIA in April 1985.
In Canada, Maple Leaf Wrestling was the first step to the WWFs quest to conquer the Canadian wrestling market. And INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING was about to be next. First, it purchased the rights to a WWF-TV French version (with Edouard Carpentier as host), and then co-host some shows with the promotion at the Montreal Forum in 1986.
Soon, Dino Bravo, the Rougeaus: Raymond and Jacques Jr, Rick Martel, Frenchy Martin, Louis Laurence, King Tonga and Tom Zenk would be signing contracts with the help of former member Pat Patterson. With these major INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING players leaving the Québec federation, it finally fell into forgetfulness.
It folded in 1987. Gino Brito reunited the rest of those who wanted to carry the torch and created Super Pro Wrestling (SPW), a small promotion touring during the summer months around Québec.
The Quebec wrestlers fared pretty well on wrestling shows. However, they were given the heavy roles of heels. But they didnt mind, because the majority of the WWF venues were American, European and even Australian... But when they came at the Forum for the occasional show, they were booed : quite a contrast for local heroes. We remember that Mad Dog Vachon did retire from the sport on a WWF show in 1987.
The 80s saw veterans come and go. Besides the death of Tyler, Lebfèvre and DesBlois cited above, wrestling great Johnny Rougeau passed away in May 1983 from cancer. Rougeaus story was at least special : in order to accept his fate, he wrote an excellent biography (edited by Québecor). Mad Dog Vachon retired in 1986 after a short shift at the WWF, but bad luck struck him in 1987 when he was victim of a hit-and-run while doing his jogging at his home town of Iowa City. Vachon lost his left leg due to this misfortune. A member of the Rougeau Family, Armand, saw his career broken when he was victim of a severe back injury in 1986 and was forced to retire from the sport.
With the influence of free TV, no one dared started another wrestling federation before 1989, when Ludger Proulx, Frank Blues and others would start independent federations that would keep alive the flame of Quebec Pro Wrestling...
Part 7: The 90s: Indies and a New Hope
While Quebec wrestling fans were in majority seeing WWF programs on French networks, new federations were about to be created.
Though Gino Britos SPW had a certain success in regions, back in Montreal, in 1989,former INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING member, Ludger Proulx, along with Carl Ninja Langlois, created a small but strong promotion called INTER CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING. The promotion does shows in a small parish hall in east Montreal. Many wrestling hopes were trained here, like the 2 Prisoners. It also stars many others wrestlers with names like Mobster, Screw, Mr. USA, Dark Purple, Dynasty, Spoiler, Serge Saumon, Mad Dog Cloutier and members of Ludgers family: brother Serge (the promoter, almost as hated as Vince McMahon today), Paul, nephew Francis and niece Francesca. Other superstars from the former federations, like Gino Brito, Jos Leduc and Georges Guimond passed by sometimes to challenge the ICW members. And they follow the flow of the clans: Boys in Black (faces), SWAT (heels) and Nasty Freaks always feud to the satisfaction of more than 250 people each Saturday night.
In 1986, in a Joliette high school project, Francois Poirier and some friends take their amateur wrestling skills to work and put on a wrestling show between four badminton poles rounded by elastic poles and gymnasic mats. In 1991, Pelletier changed his name to Frank Blues and joined with his high school friends along with Phil Belanger to create the NORTHERN CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING. The promotion started small though; in a little Joliette reception hall and a ring purchased from ICWs Ludger Proulx, fights were held each week. The federation had a goal and a motto: UNFORGETTABLE. And unforgettable were each show. From traditional to hardcore, NCW grew out a legion of fans in the Joliette region with Bertrand Hebert as promoter (Joliette is in the same region where the second generation Rougeau brothers and Pierre Lebfevre were raised). Then they produce a monthly TV show in the Lanaudiere community channel, where they showed highlights of the Joliette shows as well as promoting the future galas. Even with a tight budget, NCW has a way to put on a show on the road. The shows were becoming more and more important, attendance-wise. At one point, they organised their major shows like CHALLENGEMANIA at the Marcel-Bonin Arena in Joliette. And other venues wanted the NCW to perform locally. Especially from the Montreal South Shore area of Beauharnois and Valleyfield. Recently, the NCW gave a succesful shot at the Quebec City market.
Others promotions came and pass, however only the strong survived... To the late Royal Wrestling Ring of Verdun, came the W.I.T. of Pointe St-Charles district of Montreal, still alive and well (the promotion is in a middle of a poor neighborhood).
But still the American promotions present their occasionnal shows in Montreal. Though Dino Bravo has retired (to his unlucky fate in March 1993), the Rougeaus were still the talk of the town in wrestling. Jacques Rougeau Jr wrestled in solo and happened to win a WWF belt under the name of Mountie (yes the RCMP mountie !). However, he kept the Intercontinental belt for a week, until he was beated by one Bret Hart...Afterwards, Jacques took a young buck named Pierre-Karl Ouellet, a wrestler who wrestled with an eye-patch due to a childhood accident (he had a caracter of a pirate). Along with manager Johnny Polo (who later will become the Raven...), they won the WWF tag team belt in 1993 against the Steiners...
However, efforts were still made for bringing back a major local wrestling federation in Quebec. Who will be the saviour? With all the agressive marketing of the American promotions such as the WWF and WCW (headed by TV tycoon Ted Turner, who started his career producing wrestling shows). Besides the independent promotions, a major star would come and endorse a delicate but worthy initiative.
In the spirit of his legendary uncle in the 60s, a fed-up Jacques Rougeau, screwed by both American federations, tries the impossible. Rougeau and his then-buddy Pierre-Karl Ouellet joined the WCW in 1996 in order to have a match against Hulk Hogan. In April 1997, his dream was fullfilled (he even beat him) but Eric Bischoff, the president, fearing that Rougeau would spoil Hogans stardom and the structure of his NEW WORLD ORDER, fired Rougeau and Ouellet. A short stint in the WWF as mid-carders gave the answer to Rougeau to start thinking about the future of local wrestling. After parting ways with Ouellette, Jacques reconciled with his brother Raymond and announced that they were creating INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING 2000 in a press conference in January 1999. With young superstars like Carl Leduc, Nelson Veilleux, Ron Trottier, Iceman and veterans like Sunny War Cloud, Richard Charland, Michel Dubois (who wrestled in the U.S. and Japan as Mad Russian Alexis Smirnoff), the Garvins (by the way, they are both from Quebec origin) and the Rougeaus themselves. Womens wrestling has a young hope as well in the footsteps of the late Vivianne Vachon: Precious Lucy. They held shows in the Pierre-Charbonneau Center near the Olympic Stadium in Montreal three times in 1999, improving at each time.
If future legends are yet to be born, others have to leave as well. Vivianne Vachon was victim of a car accident with her daughter in 1992 (she retired from the mat in 1976). Dino Bravo got shot in a result of some payback by the Montreal Mob in March 1993.
Andre the Giant, who first gained North American fame in Montreal, died almost one month before Bravo. But the biggest wrestling seller of all times in Quebec, the original manager Eddie Creatchman, died in March 1994. So did Omer Marchessault, the Montreal Fireman cum Masked Marvel and timekeeper, midget greats Little Beaver and Sky Low Low, native Johnny War Eagle, and last but not least, Frank Valois, in December 1998, the man who resuscitated and brought back wrestling in the 80s.
Part 8: Into the 2000s
As we enter the 20th century, the fate of Quebec pro wrestling is quite challenging. With a couple of Indy promotions like the NCW and the ICW in Montreal as well as new-born INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING 2000, seems that our pro wrestling is getting back on the track. But the American Menace stills looms as wrestling fans of today roots for the heroes of WWF or WCW they learned to watch when they grew up. With TV appealing and merchandising aplenty, how can we forget that the American product of pro wrestling has practically killed the show here. Well almost. It took the brains of one Ludger Proulx, some kids from Joliette and a veteran wrestler screwed up by both major american promotions to revive the flame that was once held by Yvon Robert, Maurice Vachon, Johnny Rougeau, Eddie Creatchman, Dino Bravo, Rick Martel and others.
What the local scene needs, is more exposure from the media. Already, the LUTTE.COM site (and now QuébecLutte, since LUTTE.COM has closed its site), does a good job of trying to promote the local promotions, sometimes by participating directly in them. But lets not forget that only TV is the sole great promotion organ that can make a pro wrestling promotion works.
Stampede Wrestling, the legendary promotion that was once purchased by the World Wrestling Federation, has just launched a TV weekly show.
Recently, Paul Leduc has talked about evolution in pro wrestling. Obviously, there is something evolving when were talking about alternative ways to attract fans today: more stunts, more falls, more illegal tactics, more illicit weapons, more hardcore matches. Without forgetting that once pro wrestling was more scientific, this kind of combat would become today less than a bore. People want action, characters that they would recognize in themselves and then excellent rivalries to keep the storyline moving.
Going into the twenty-first century, wrestling will come back to a way where it used to be before. The young athletes and the veterans would mingle in minor Indy promotions while the top brass would still hold on to the major national wrestling promotions. However, with the power of TV (public, commercial and private) and the way communications are today, it would be doubtful that mega-leagues like WWF, WCW and the ECW would disappear one of these days.
What about the fate of Quebec in pro wrestling? Right now, Jacques Rougeau is building slowly a major pro wrestling promotion in the province. The route will be long of course, due to the habits of the fans watching the WWF (and now WCW) for more than a decade, but he knows that talent roams into Quebec and others are trying desperately to make it to the big leagues. With big league experience, Rougeau with its INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING 2000, will surely create something stable and worthy for the fans. Another one, the NCW, now tours Quebec with its brand of hardcore and spectacular bouts. And finally, the ICW, staying in Montreal, and having its legion of fans, offering an off-the-wall product similar to the American wrestling shows (and fans are near the action).
And our wrestlers. For the moment, theyre polishing their
moves. However, one of them will come out of the pack and one day will become the stuff
that legends are made off, like Yvon Robert, Johnny Rougeau, Maurice Vachon, Dino Bravo,
Rick Martel, Jacques Rougeau Jr and others. And keep the flame burning so no other major
federation would barge in and gobble all the glory that our local pro wrestling scene has
accumulated in the past 70 years.
The WAWLI Papers No. 781...
ILIO DIPAOLO IN THE BUFFALO HALL OF FAME
(Buffao Sports Hall of Fame, http://www.buffalosportshallfame.com/1996/Ilio_DiPaolo/ilio_dipaolo.html)
The Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame has honored many individuals who forged a reputation not only as athletes but also as civic leaders and beacons of the Buffalo community. Ilio DiPaolo made his mark as a standout professional wrestler during the heyday of the sport. However, the gentle giant is noteworthy not only for that reason, but as an athlete who gave more back to his community than perhaps any other in the long history of sports in Buffalo. The 1995 accident which claimed DiPaolos life robbed Western New York of not only a legendary sports figure, but a familiar restaurateur whose legend later grew to mythic proportions as he willingly and actively embraced his role as a community benefactor.
DiPaolo left his native Italy for South America in 1949, and arrived in the United States in the early 1950s. He overcame a childhood bout with polio, and a subsequent difficulty with an enlarged heart, to become a professional wrestler.
DiPaolos career blossomed in this country. He was one of the "good guys" in the high-profile world of professional wrestling in the 1950s and early 60s, engaging in battle with such notables as Killer Kowalski, Fritz Von Eric, the Masked Marvel and Gorgeous George. However, DiPaolos wrestling skill produced more than entertainment, as evidenced by two Tag Team titles, an All-Asian Championship in Japan, and competition in World Championship bouts in Toronto and Winnipeg. DiPaolos peers acknowledged his contributions to wrestling in 1994 by inducting him into the prestigious and exclusive Cauliflower Alley Club Wrestling Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
When an ankle injury ended his wrestling career in 1965, DiPaolo the world traveler chose Buffalo as home and opened his famous Blasdell restaurant. The restaurant became a favorite with Buffalo Bills players and countless other Western New Yorkers. Many Bills and their families were welcomed to Buffalo with dinner at DiPaolos, where they were nourished with fine food, friendship and inspiration from the gracious owner.
Although DiPaolos restaurant became a gathering place for
Buffalo celebrities, the owners generosity extended equally to the less famous and
less fortunate. He campaigned vigorously for a variety of causes including the Leukemia
Society, Cystic Fibrosis, People Incorporated, and Camp Good Days and Special Times.
DiPaolos community involvement was recognized by Outstanding Citizens awards from
many community-minded organizations, including Hilbert College, the Rotarians, the Lions
Club of Blasdell, Boys Town of Italy, St. Francis High School and the Western New York
STRANGLER LEWIS DEFEATS SARPOLIS IN PORTLAND
(Associated Press, February 12, 1930)
PORTLAND, Ore. Ed "Strangler" Lewis, former worlds heavyweight champion, defeated Dr. Karl Sarpolis, Cleveland mat man, two out of three falls in the main event of a wrestling card here tonight.
Lewis took the first fall in 3 minutes 40 seconds with a toe hold and the third in 6 minutes with his famous headlock.
The second fall went to Sarpolis in 17 minutes 39 seconds.
CHARLEY HANSON WINS MAT MEET
(Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 10, 1930)
OLYMPIA, Wash. Charley Hanson, Seattles favorite heavyweight, again proved himself master of the body slam when, groggy from a series of punishing headlocks, he picked Martin Zikov, powerful Russian, up for a paralyzing slam and fall in 44 minutes 55 seconds at Legion Hall last night and then took the second fall in less than ten seconds the same way.
Bud Anderson, Seattle, proved too foxy for the tough Emil Firpo of Argentina, taking the first fall in 26:03 with a short arm scissors and second in 8:50 with body scissors and arm bar.
Tommy Kilonis, of San Francisco, took the one-fall preliminaary from Jack Durant, Seattle, in 14:32 with an arm bar.
(ED. NOTE The following pieces are from the NWA Midwest
Wrestling site, located at http://www.midwestwrestling.com/Nastalgia.htm)
2000 CAC REUNION
By Harry White
In conjunction with the new millenium an old club breaks out a new image. What place better than Las Vegas to break out a new image for the Cauliflower Alley Club. The venerable, history-filled Sportmans Lodge in Studio City, CA, had done a great job of filling the needs of the CAC. The club got larger and like wrestling today the club became more well known and mainstream publicized.
A new venue for meetings moved past the discussion stage. A few successful East Coast Reunions for those jet laggers who could not make the traditional West Coast meetings and a 1999 stop at the Newton Iowa Hall Of Fame showed that reunions could be viable outside Calilfornia. If I can quote the Batman TV show, the club chose a location with "zip," "pow," "bam," and pizazzLas Vegas, NV.
As in Newton, a Friday night social and cocktail get together was added to the weekend. The location for both Friday and Saturday night was the top floor of one of the Riviera Hotel towers. FINALLY, a location as TALL as those great stories we all love to hear. Except for the California Sportsman Lodge heated pool (where we could swim laps with Penny Banner) the Riviera Hotel had it all.
The Riviera also had it all in terms of wrestling personalities past and present. One thing at the hotel regarding scheduling was a bit odd. The Board Of Directors meeting was held next to an Alzheimers symposium. Ill bet if some old wrestlers ever do succumb to that problem, it will not affect their recall of memories about wrestling places and events.
Unfortunately Harley Race could not make it due to recent surgery but Chris Owens who runs Harleys web site filled in nicely. Chris was selling and is still selling old star wrestler autographed ring bells. So if anyone has not had the pleasure of being hit over the head with a genuine ring bell, contact Chris. A percentage of the funds goes to CAC. At the other end of the room Mark Nultys on-line radio show interviewed wrestlers. No word if expert yodeler Ida Mae Martinez overtaxed the warranty on Marks equipment.
The audience was treated to a variety of on stage entertainment. It was good to know that in Johnny Merceds wrestling career that any to-the-throat knee drops did not damage his dynamic singing voice. Paul Boeschs son Joeys talent on the piano always entertains. Gene Stanlees wife also played the piano.
So I actually did get married on Cauliflower Alley weekend in Las Vegas. If anyone needed a definitive answer to any obscure wrestling trivia they would have had to come to the chapel because premiere old time mat history mavens Tom Burke,Jim Melby,and Scott Teal were in attendance.
The omnipresent Mike Lano with his surgically attached camera was there fighting with the chapel photographer for best shooting position. (Im darn lucky I was able to keep Mike and his camera out of the honeymoon suite.) It was kind of a lumber jack thing because if I tried to sneak off the altar, then wrestlers attending would have thrown me back.
Ken Taylor, a one time indy wrestler and a swimming coach in L.A., did a fine job of not dropping the rings so we both would not bang heads picking them up. Mary (the new Mrs. White) does not swim well so it was important that a swim coach stand up for me in case I started sweating buckets. Turned out I was not nervous, but if I was, I had saved the air sickness bag from the plane flght out to Vegas.
The minister though, almost needed sweat goggles when he looked up and saw the bride being escorted by The Great Mephisto. For those not familiar with the wild and crazy Great One, he makes the Unpredictable Johnny Rodz as predictable as one of those lame Magic Eight Balls. My mind is half on my lovely bride and half trying to calculate the monetary damage to the chapels carpet from a patented Mephisto fireball. I was considering having the much calmer (????) Sputnick Monroe escort the bride but the mans eyebrows are just too wide to fit through the door.
On a nostalgic note, as a 10-year-old, when St Louis Wrestling At The Chase started in 1959, the first villain I saw was the salt throwing Kinji Shibuya. Forty years later that same villain was at my wedding. Im lucky he did not throw any salt in my eyes as I might have kissed the wrong girl.
The minister urged us to "love, honor, and obey." I wanted
to amend that to "love, honor and obey EXCEPT for PPV Sundays." My bride is
beginning to enjoy wrestling but if I see any problems in the future they would be
"stop reading WHT at the breakfast table," or "I wish you would read the
financial papers as much as you read J Michael Kenyons WAWLI papers." Later
that night after the CAC banquet, my bride says to me "dear dont ever worry if
some nights you cant get me all that excited, Ill just think about some of
those old wrestlers and that should do the trick."
The WAWLI Papers No. 783...
THE READERS ALWAYS WRITE
From: Brian J. Hardy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dick Lane was one of the first television announcers who gained lasting fame, at least on a regional basis, by doing professional wrestling. He began right after World War II and became a living legend by blurting out things like, "Whoa, Nellie!!"
He was generally aired over a Hollywood, Calif., TV station and his career lasted nearly 30 years.
In later life, he added to his notoriety by doing telecasts of the Roller Games in Los Angeles.
The book you describe should be of significant interest on the part of collectors should you put it up for bid on some site like E-Bay.
Many people want to live a modest life, and some people are able to achieve a kind of simplicity in the midst of this busy, cosmopolitan, getting and spending world. Even people like you, who either live surrounded by luxuriant rural verdure, have one or two potted plants to console you, or use red masonry bricks for a pilloweven you struggle with the realities of accumulation.
Just the other evening, as I relaxed in a hot, scented bathtub following a long and challenging yet satisfying days work educating the eager young students of this quaint seaside village as to the intricacies of definite and indefinite English article usage, I was reminded yet again that searching after truth is a rutted highway, full of twists and turns and the occasional roadkill.
My wife, who is an astute and insightful observer of the human scene, and has raised the question before, called my attention to the Dalai Lama, a presumably immaculate, devout individual who has been forced by circumstances to live a life of exile. Do you think he lives a modest life? my wife asked me. Look at those glasses he wears, she suggested. Those must be Renoma frames. What kind of a modest man wears Renoma frames? What kind of a Buddhist does he think he is?
This was not an easy question, not one I could dismiss with a glib, ironic answer. First of all, I would not recognize Renoma eyeglass frames even if I were wearing them myself, and I settled back into the steamy, fragrant waters of my tub, my tightly knotted muscles relaxing uneasily, the stresses of the day slowly melting away, certain that my wife would herself soon straighten me out with answers of her own, if not, more questions which would illuminate the subject like a bank of kleig lights.
Was Fred Blassie a modest man? Blassies major claim to his fame derives from the night he took the right to wear the worlds pro-wrestling championship belt back from Rikidozan of Japan. Rikidozan had been yokozuna, the highest rank in the Japanese national sport,sumo,before becoming a professional wrestler and world champion, himself taking the title from Blassie, from America. Before that night, Blassie was no more than a bad guy blowhard with long platinum bleached hair who took the televised locker room interview from filler at the end of the evenings matches to a level of high art.
Defeating Rikidozan and winning back the championship redeemed Fred Blassie, who grew up as Freddie Blassman and was known as a professional variously as "Classy" Freddie Blassie, Fred McDaniel, and even, God knows why, "Sailor" Blassie. He is now retired from professional wrestling, and lives in Los Angeles.
It was Fred Blassie who introduced the expression "pencil-necked geek" into the popular vocabulary as a typical excoriation of his many colorful opponents.
Fred Blassie was a great showman, who often took a metal file to his front teeth in order to make them sharper and more menacing to his many worthy and colorful opponents like the Super Swedish Angel Tor Johnson, or Szandor Szabo, or Mr. Moto, or the Frenchman, Edouard Carpentier, or that masked guy, The Destroyer, or Lou Thesz.
One balmy Southern California evening, in that locker room at the venerable Olympic Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles, Fred Blassie dangled the pencil-necked geek ringside announcer Dick Lane by his ankles out an upper-story window. Live. On the air. Dick Lane, professional that he always was, did not drop his microphone, and continued broadcasting his interview with Blassie, though in an understandably somewhat more strangled and excited tone.
It was Dick Lane who coined the expression, "Whoa, Nellie!" to lend color to particularly exciting pro-wrestling moves. Dick Lane did not cry "Whoa, Nellie!" while being dangled by his ankles in the strong but tenuous grip of Fred "Sailor" Blassie out the window of the locker room of the venerable Olympic Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles that balmy Southern California evening. He had other things on his mind that evening. Dick Lane had his entire life flashing before his eyes that evening, and survival was suddenly much more important to him than shouting "Whoa, Nellie!"
That night, the line between art and life was blurred considerably, and for Dick Lane, the more important line between life and death yawned before him like a chasm. He held on tightly to that microphone like a lifeline.
Dick Lane was the model of a modest man. His suits were not expensive, and his glasses were not mounted in designer frames. He was just a skinny little guy with dentures and thinning hair who smelled funnywhich is not to say his body produced odors so powerful that driving through the streets of Los Angeles, home from work each night, packs of dogs, their glistening snouts high in the desert air, and coyotes drawn down from the hills, swollen tongues lolling and dripping, would chase, howling, after his black, round-topped Ford coupe and mill around all night outside the brick apartment building making it a nightly peril for Dick Lane, who kicked around Hollywood during the late 30s and 1940s and played a few bit parts in pictures while more worthy talents were fighting the Fascist menace abroad before he landed the announcing job he held all those years at KTLA, Channel 5, to negotiate the walk from his parking spot in front of the building to the elevator inside the first floor lobby.
Dick Lane was not a Buddhist, but then he didnt wear a Rolex watch, either, if you know what I mean. After finishing up his job that night, long ago, the night Fred Blassie dangled him high above the downtown Los Angeles urban pavement, still alive, Dick Lane went back to his skanky Hollywood apartment where he lived during the years after his wife, fed up, for reasons of her own, left him, fixed himself a cup of hot cocoa which he liked to drink with those little mini-marshmallows floating in it, put the cat out on the fire escape, relaxed in front of the tube for awhile, until after midnight when the test pattern with the little picture in the middle of an Indian chief wearing an eagle feather war bonnet came on, then opened up the couch and went to bed. What Dick Lane dreamed about as he slept is his own private business.
WWF DRAGS GOP INTO THE CUTTER
(New York Post, Sunday, August 13, 2000)
By Phil Mushnick
The worst forces of popular culture now are more powerful than mainstream, two-party American presidential politics.
To sleep, perchance to dream - even a bad one - has become a welcomed alternative to the nightmarish reality of witnessing the free fall of common decency and common sense at the highest levels of media, commerce and politics. Anything for a buck, anything for a vote.
Two weeks ago in Philadelphia, in nominating George W. Bush as its presidential candidate, the Republican Party reached a new low in expeditious, Machiavellian pandering.
While the Republican Party ostensibly stands for good, old-fashioned family values, its special guests during its presidential convention were none other than the leading action figures of the World Wrestling Federation, an organization practiced at wearing its sweet, civic-minded mask when needed, but thats long been in the business of popularizing degenerate acts.
That the Republican Party was able to escape widespread and lasting ridicule for embracing the WWF during a presidential convention is evidence of a news media that is either sorrowfully blind to the WWFs content or, in the case of television news, co-opted by their networks investments in pro wrestling.
Two Mondays ago, as the Republican National Convention began in Philly, Vince McMahons WWF staged a nationally televised show in Atlanta. It featured its usual pornographic, hateful and violent performances that have made it so attractive to children, young adults and now, three months before a presidential election, to the Republican Party.
At one point, a group of barely clothed, large-breasted WWF women paraded outside the Georgia Dome in a mock demonstration. They encouraged onlookers to chant, "Save the Hos!"
"Hos" is street for whores. Little boys now reflexively refer to little girls as bitches and hos in large part thanks to McMahon and his national TV enablers, which now, incredibly, include NBC and CBS.
As a WWF camera panned the crowd, children, some no older than 8, chanted, "Save the Hos!"
During the in-house, scripted prime-time TV show, McMahons latest top star, The Rock, slammed a shapely female wrestler to the mat. She was left stretched out, "unconscious," on her back.
The Rock then grabbed a folding chair and hit a male nemesis over the head with it. He staggered, then fell, also "unconscious." He landed with his face in her crotch and her face in his crotch. And there they stayed as The Rock sauntered around the ring, grinning broadly and knowingly. The live audience, comprised of thousands of children, was delighted.
Two nights later, this same guy, "The Rock," sat on the podium, among the Bush family, including the ex-President of the United States and his wife, Barbara. The Rock was an honored guest of the Republican Party and a featured speaker at the Republican National Presidential Convention in Philadelphia. This is the state of our nation.
In fact, Vince McMahon and his WWF were bestowed fully credentialed, VIP treatment at the convention. Within the same WWF show that included 8-year-olds chanting "Save the hos" and The Rocks latest vile performance, came remote video reports from a WWF announcer working the floor from the Republican National Convention.
If only The Rock had brought along the tape from that show, two nights earlier, to demonstrate to the delegates and to national TV audiences what makes him so popular among younger folks that he was worthy of featured speaker status at the Republican Presidential Convention. And just how badly the Republicans were being had.
If only he had brought along tapes of some of his celebrated TV acts, like the one where he demands sex by hollering a profane expression for the female genitalia. That one was popular enough to inspire McMahon to sell merchandise carrying The Rocks visage along with the unprintable expression.
Why didnt The Rock and McMahon demonstrate to the assembled exactly why theyre so popular that they were worthy of invites as honored guests and speakers? Why so circumspect before this audience?
Linda McMahon, Vinces wife, addressed a Republican Convention symposium entitled "The American Dream." Why didnt she distribute some of those oversized, foam rubber hands - the ones with the raised middle finger - that the WWF sells to kids at shows and features on TV?
Why didnt she explain to her Republican Convention audience how one of the WWFs most popular acts features wrestlers pointing to their crotches and hollering "Suck it"? Why didnt she provide full disclosure to her audience, especially to the uninitiated, as to how she and her husband have fulfilled their American Dream?
"Ladies and gentlemen" she might have begun, "I stand before you today to tell you that weve grown fabulously wealthy by selling violence, homophobia, misogyny, twisted sex, negative ethnic stereotyping and senseless hate to American children!
"We have grown rich, famous and powerful by doing dirt to society, but especially to your children. Thats the realization of our American Dream. Oh, and God knows how many of our wrestlers are juiced to the max on steroids. Good day."
The Republican Party is one that largely embraces the sanctity of the Bible. Why didnt Mrs. McMahon or The Rock or Vince, while working the convention, tell their audiences how Stone Cold Steve Austin, another WWF American Dream money-maker, draws approval among young audiences by making lewd gestures and mocking the New Testament?
Why didnt Vince, or Linda, or The Rock speak of the modern, ongoing history of the WWF - and all of pro wrestling, for that matter - that includes rampant and systematic drug abuse? Why not a roll call of the wrestlers who have died closeted deaths from drug overdoses in order to "get big" for the likes of the McMahons?
Why not talk about the ring announcer/ring boss in the McMahons employ who was widely known to use his position to sexually prey on under-aged boys? He operated with Vinces knowledge and to his amusement. McMahon cracked jokes about his deviance.
Why not show the tape of the transvestite oral sex scene that the WWF staged and aired in primetime? McMahon claimed to have loved that one, so why not share it with those delegates who might have missed it?
Why not a moment of silence for Owen Hart, who died last year performing a pay-per-view stunt for McMahon? Why not note for the assembled that after Hart was killed the show not only continued, but the next night, McMahon, rather than allow his wrestlers to mourn, gathered them for a national TV show to exploit Harts death for bigger-than-usual ratings?
Or why not tell the Republican National Convention how the WWFs physician did a stretch in federal prison for distributing drugs to McMahon and his wrestlers?
Why not tell the Republican Party about how major TV advertisers, including the U.S. Armed Forces, pulled out of WWF shows because their content has become so vile?
The WWF is extremely hot among the young, so the Republicans wanted a piece of the feel. They may not know why its hot. They may not even care. Look what pro wrestling did for Jesse Ventura.
McMahon lately has talked big about how 14 million eligible voters watch the WWF every week. Bigshots within the Republican Party mustve bought that.
While the WWF is enormously popular, on a good night it attracts roughly 7 million viewers, nearly 40 percent of whom are minors. How does that translate into 14 million voters?
But thats McMahon. One day he says the WWF is adult entertainment, the next day he brags about the increased number of kids who watch. One day he says its up to parents to monitor what their kids watch, the next day he grows solemn and speaks of how his father was never around when he was growing up.
One day he says that theres no drug problem within the WWF, the next day he admits that theres a big drug problem within the WWF. One day he holds a news conference to declare that he has instituted rigid drug testing, the next day he says theres no drug testing because no one cares if his wrestlers are on drugs.
And just a few days ago, he and his charges took time out from
producing another disgusting, kid-desensitizing national TV show to be the honored guests
and speakers at the Republican National Presidential Convention. And the WWF, were
told, will be embraced by the Democrats this week in Los Angeles. God help us.
The WAWLI Papers No. 784...
A Video by Rusty Bakerhttp://www.fadedglorythevonerichstory.com/bio.html
Wrestling, it is an athletic art form that dates as far back as mankind. From the first Greek Olympiad competitors to the sumos of the ancient orient. Gladiators grappled to the delight of crowded stadiums, auditoriums, or coliseums for the right to live, or as civilization came along, to be called champions.
Today professional wrestling is a multi-million dollar industry. Thanks in great part to a family that paved the way for wrestlings stardom. They captured the worlds heart with the Iron Claw hold. They rocketed to fame and success and then touched our hearts as well when the familys tragedy struck.
They were a Texas sized wrestling family. They were warriors, Greek heroes, the all American boys. They were... the Von Erichs.
Millions of people around the globe heard the name, witnessed the
energy first-hand, and followed the family on television. Yet the Von Erich brothers
untimely deaths remained an enigma to outsiders. Now, for the first time, the truth is
Here is the story of a father bent on preventing his sons from following in his footsteps in the "squared circle," yet forced to watch them eclipse his own glory. Here is the story of five brothers rising to fame and glory, only to be snuffed out at the peak of their popularity. Never has fate wrought so much pain on a single family in the sporting world.
See the Von Erichs unbelievable saga from the inside in the form of never-before-seen 8mm home movies, vintage wrestling footage, and personal photographs provided by the family. Narration by Bill Mercer with commentary by Kevin and the last taped interview of the late Fritz Von Erich.
Baker, a native of Dallas, Texas, graduated from University of North Texas in 1999, with a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences: Radio, TV, Film. He spent eight years in the US Marine Corps, based out of Dallas and Fort Worth as a F-4 and F/A-18 Plane Captain. He started the piece about the Von Erichs in 1997 as a summer documentary workshop project.
To say that Faded Glory is Rusty Bakers directing debut is an
understatement. Aside from a little help from his friends, Baker wrote, directed,
produced, DPed, CGed, and edited the entire piece. It took this "One Man Band" a
total of three years to complete what was once just a 20 minute summer documentary
workshop video entitled: Von Erich, The Legend Lives On (1997). Shortly after the premier
of that piece, Fritz Von Erich died from the combination of a stroke and a battle with
cancer. Rusty Baker felt compeled to re-shoot and create a tribute to Fritz. And now,
amidst the delays, death threats, and deceased heroes; Baker shows us what most said
couldnt be done.
(ED.NOTE Among the more dedicated sports historians plying their trade today is Joseph Svinth of Edmonds,WA. His web site is a treasure trove for those who follow the martial and combat arts, boxing or wrestling. In this, and the next few issues of the WAWLI Papers, we will reprint some of the materials Svinth has so paintstakingly gathered in his researches. The site is www.ejmas.com, "ejmas" representing the Electronic Journals of Martial Arts and Sciences.)
READING RANJIT SINGH aka BHU PINDERS MAIL
(InYo: Journal of Alternative
Perspectives, http://ejmas.com/jalt/, June 2000)
Ed. note: Thanks are owed to Balbir Singh Kanwal, curator of the International Punjab Heritage Museum in Ilford, Essex, England, both for sharing the letter and for providing much of the material found in the footnotes. As for why Ranjit Singh is worth remarking, well, one of his pseudonyms was Bhu Pinder, and while wrestling under that name in Seattle in 1937, he was apparently involved in the first mud-wrestling match ever held in the United States. According to a story promoter Paul Boesch later told Sports Illustrated writer Joe Jares, what happened is that the crew used too much water on the dirt used for a "Hindu match" between "Prince Bhu Pinder" and Gus Sonnenberg, and the rest, as they say, is history. This letter was to British historian Balbir Singh Kanwal, dated April 8, 1981.
My dear Kanwal,
Yours of March 10, 1981 to hand, it is the old age that has brought slowness in my actions, not that I ignored you. And now you are being so persistent about getting an answer from me, so after putting it off till tomorrow for many times, I am compelled to answer your letter. V. Farbahi is in Distt. Sangrur near Barnala. [EN1] As far as I know, Gora Partapa was the best wrestler of his time in Malwa, [EN2] as after beating him Gama at once gained popularity and became Rustam-e-Hind. [EN3]
My bio-data runs thus. I was born 16th August 1912. My parents were very healthy and strong, especially my mother. I was very quarrelsome and rowdy in the childhood, always challenging and wrestling with boys older in age and strength. When I was in the ?th class in Sangrur I used to make 1500 dands [EN4] and 1500 baithaks [EN5] and in the whole school only three boys of the 10th class were stronger than me. After passing matric [e.g., graduating from high school] I joined Mahindra college in Patiala and became the pupil of Great Gama in 1930-1931. In 1934-1935 I fought for the championship of the Punjab University. No wrestler could stand more than one and a half minutes and I was declared champion Punjab University heavyweight wrestler. I beat Sardar Khan, the champion of Jullandhar [a city in Punjab] in Allahabad, and Press Dangal and Bara Sohan Singh, who was second to Goonga, in Tata Nagar, in Dhotian. [EN6] This is the same year I beat Chotta and Bara Pooran Singh in Calcutta. [EN7} Then in 1935-36 I left college as a graduate and beat Raj Bansi Singh, champ of Calcutta. Then via Burma, Malaya, Hong Kong, Shanghai, where I beat Arjan Singh Dhoti [EN8] and Ganda Singh Johal [EN9] on my way to Canada. In Tokyo I very foolishly accepted a challenge from the champion of Japan, Kimon Killa Kudo, who had an easy victory over me in jiu-jitsu (30 minutes). [EN10] I stayed in Japan for a fortnight and learnt the tactics and again fought Kudo, the match was drawn and it was a good show. First time I was a novice in the jiu-jitsu in Canada I fought my first fight with Bronko Nagurski, champ of the Pacific Coast, and beat him very easily, though he had a massive build and I looked insignificant before him. He was a body builder and a football player, he lacked the real wrestlers skill and strength. I wasnt on the program that night but his opponent failed to appear, so the management put me a new face against him and I at once became champion of the Pacific Coast in 1936. After that I had win after win. [EN11]
In 1936-37, I beat Louis Thesz, former world champion [sic; in 1936, Thesz was a future world champion], Lefty Bloomfield, champ New Zealand, Vincent Lopez, the Mexican champ, and drew with Leo Savage, champ Texas. Beat Crusher Casey, the champ of world. I beat Jim Londos the world champion in 1937 in Chicago. In 1941 I beat Chota Gama [EN12] in Calcutta and drew with Goonga in the same year at Lahore. The match lasted for one hour and fifteen minutes. In all I have fought over six hundred wrestlers. In London I fought in ring [at] Blackfriars, [in] Brighton with Tiger Daula, in Manchester with Dick Shikat champion of Europe and drew with him. In Germany I fought with Willi Mueller, the champion of Germany for 7 years, and beat him after 2 hours 30 minutes in Berlin. In London I fought in the management of William Bankier, who knew Urdu and was very skilled man. [EN13] So Sir, this is all the outlines of my wrestling career which I have given up to now. I am living a retired but healthy and peaceful life in my village Dhilwan [in the Punjab]. I still take light exercise daily. My knees have gone little stiff and I can not sit properly. Otherwise I think I am still good for great many wrestling matches. I am sending you some of my photographs also.
In case you are able to include me in your new print, then do not forget to send me a copy of the addition. My friend Bhajan Singh Pahelwan [EN14] is somewhere in London, you can trace him among the Aldgate, where the Indians are plenty.
Rest is O.K., with lots of kindest regards,
/s/ Ranjit Singh alias Prince Ranji alias Rajah Ranji, ex-champion wrestler of the world.
There were five hundred good wrestlers in my time, all have gone except me.
EN1. Barnala is a town in the northwest Indian state of Punjab. A distt. is a political entity roughly equivalent to an English county.
EN2. During the late 1880s and early 1890s, Kala Partapa and Gora Partapa were two well-known but unrelated heavyweight wrestlers from the Malwa region of the Punjab. During the 1940s, the famous wrestling writer S. Muzumdar frequently misspelled these names as Kala Pertaba and Gora Pertaba. See, for example, S. Muzumdar, Strongmen Over the Years: A Chronicle of Athletes (Lucknow: Oudh Printing Works, 1942).
EN3. Gama (real name: Ghulam Muhammad) became Rustam-e-Hind, or champion of pre-Partition India, in 1898. In 1910, he attained significant international reputation by defeating Ben Roller and Stanley Zbyzsko in London.
EN4. Dipping push-ups. A traditional exercise of North Indian wrestlers, the dand may owe its origin to the Zoroastrian practice of genuflecting to the sun, the supreme flame. The best work available in English on North Indian wrestling is Joseph Alter, The Wrestlers Body: Identity and Ideology in North India (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1992); see also http://www-ucpress.berkeley.edu:3030/dynaweb/public/books/south_asia/alter
EN5. Deep knee bends. The modern Indian record stands at about 3,200 per hour.
EN6. In 1918, a 19-year old wrestler called Goonga Pahelwan (literally, "Dumb Wrestler;" his given name was Ferozuddin, but disease had ruined his voice) shocked India by defeating the Great Gamas nephew Gama Kalloo. By the mid-1930s Goonga was past his prime, and in 1936, he even lost a match to an unknown German upstart named Edmond Kraemar.
EN7. Although Chota means "Junior" and Bara means "Senior," these were two unrelated heavyweight wrestlers.
EN8. Dhotian is a village near Amritsar in the Punjab. Arjan Singh was better known in North America as Arjan Dass, and he usually traveled with Tiger Joginder Singh. Although billed as Hindu wrestlers, both were actually Sikhs. (For what its worth, most so-called "Hindu" wrestlers are actually Muslim or Sikh.)
EN9. As Ganda Singh Johal was a huge man as well as an excellent wrestler, it is possible that this victory was arranged.
EN10. Although born in Japan, Kaimon Kudo was raised in Seattle and lived his entire adult life in the United States and Hawaii. He was a legitimate judo black belt, and so far as I know he never lost a jacketed match to any professional wrestler.
EN11. In the New Yorker (November 13, 1954), A.J. Liebling wrote: "A Foreign Menace, in most cases a real wrestler, would be imported. He would meet all the challengers for the title whom [reigning champion Jim] Londos had defeated in any city larger than New Haven, and beat them. After that, he and Londos would wrestle for the worlds championship in Madison Square Garden. The Foreign Menace would oppress Londos unmercifully for about forty minutes, and then Londos... would whirl the current Menace around his head and dash him to the mat three times, no more and no less, and after the bout, the Menace would either return to Europe or remain here to become part of the buildup for the next Menace."
EN12. Although billed as "Gama Junior," this was actually Gama Kalloo, whom Goonga had beaten years earlier.
EN13. William Bankier, who was better known by his stage name of Apollo, had been a very competent music hall wrestler during the 1890s. He turned to promoting during the early 1900s, and by the 1930s he was among Britains leading promoters of what was then known as physical culture.
EN14. Pahelwan is an Indian title meaning
FRANK GOTCH REMEMBERS ALASKA
(The Yukon World, Dawson City, Mar. 24, 1907)
(reprinted in the Journal of Combative Sport, November 1999, www.ejmas.com)
Now that Frank Gotch is a top-notcher in the world of sport as a champion wrestler, he is given to talking of the glories of his past and the victories he scored. In one of these reminiscent moods he told a reporter the story of what he calls his first match, which was when he ran against Frank Slavin in the Klondike. This is how Gotch describes it:
"After I had won at wrestling, the miners up there thought I must be invincible in any sport, so they matched me with Frank Slavin, the Australian heavyweight, who was there at that time. Well, Slavin was never much of a slouch at boxing, and no matter what any one tells you, he was better that night than he ever was in his lifeat least, I think so. He must have hit at me fully 300 times in that scrap, and I didnt let one of the blows get by me. I stopped them all with my head or my body. The fight went seven roundsor at least, that is what they told men the next day when I came to."
There are evidently a great many things that Gotch has forgotten, or would like to forget. The match he refers to did not last seven rounds. It was in the fourth round, when Slavin was undoubtedly getting the best of it, that Gotch lost his head and started to wrestle. He took Slavin by the middle and upended him. Judgment was then given against him for fouling.
At that time Gotchs name was Frank Kennedy. He was brought here by Ole Marsh, having for some time before been traveling with Farmer Burns. Not only had a different name but he posed as a United States soldier, just in from the Philippines.
Ed. Note: Frank Gotch was arguably the most
technically proficient U.S. professional wrestler of the 20th century; Farmer
Burns was his mentor. Frank Slavin was a competent heavyweight boxer of the period. And
Ole Marsh was a pseudonym of Joe Carroll, a man convicted in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on
March 9, 1910 of using the U.S. mails to fix horse races, foot races, and (say it
aint so!) wrestling matches.- -Joseph Svinth, www.ejmas.com
THE GREAT ENABLERS: MUHAMMAD ALI VS. ANTONIO INOKI
(Journal of Combative Sports, January 2000, www.ejmas.com)
By Donn F. Draeger
(Extracts from letters written by Donn F. Draeger to Robert W. Smith. Letters in the Joseph R. Svinth collection, reprinted courtesy of Robert W. Smith and Joseph R. Svinth. Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved.)
(Editors note: On June 25, 1976, boxer Muhammad Ali and professional wrestler Antonio Inoki worked a 15-round draw at the Budokan in Tokyo. The match aired live on closed-circuit TV and drew 32,000 spectators to Shea Stadium in New York. The Shea Stadium card also featured boxer Chuck Wepner versus wrestler Andre the Giant, a match that reportedly inspired scenes in Sylvester Stallones Rocky films.)
(May 25, 1976)
If the Ali-Inoki thing comes off, it will be a fix. You know that of course. No decision yet for pride gets in the way of he who has to dive. Inoki is a protégé of Riki Dozan, [EN1SEE EDITORS NOTES AT END] who found him in Brazil farm fields. [EN2] Inoki cant wrestle, but looked fierce and could be taught to roll around. A powerful chap, something like Maurice Tillet, the French Angel, who drew on looks. [EN3] Inoki learned his craft here with Riki, never did sumo formally, though he has learned a bit to spice up his performance. He is a leader of different wrestling organization than the one that lists Giant Baba (another glandular freak who cant wrestle) as world champion. [EN4] Inoki, like Baba, is not world champ except in his own billing.
Inokis recent "defeat" of [former Olympic judo champion] Willem Ruska was a farce. Ruska could murtilize him if he was allowed to do so; so could [former Olympic judo champion] Anton Geesink. The whole thing with Ali is a promotion gimmick.
There is a rumor that Inoki will take on a karate style fighter [Willie Williams] later in the year, also crap as to the outcome.
Of course Ali will win the match; he cant be allowed to lose. But do you think Ali, or at least his handlers, are unaware of the fact that a good wrestler is advantaged over a boxer? [Former boxing champion Jack] Dempsey and others can attest to that as you well know. [EN5] Frankly, if Ali sticks to boxing, I feel that I could get him: if I could avoid his blow and make a clinch I am sure that I could win on the ground, just like any other good grappler. (Hell, Id try it for less money, too!)
If this were a real go, I think that it would scare Ali away, and that if Inoki insists on it, the thing will never take place. (Inoki is 64", 245 pounds, and an ex-shotput, discus, and javelin man.)
(June 19, 1976)
Yesterday at the Budokan, the site for the coming Ali-Inoki farce, all was busy in preparation for what almost everybody knows to be a yaocho (fix). It is funny that people realize that this is a phony yet will still pay US $1,000 per ringside seat. At the wrestling association it is no secret that the fix is on. Many wrestlers and judoka are eager to have a chance and for less money.
The best man in the ring that night will be Gene LeBell, who will referee. He could defeat both the headliners in one night. I will try to see him soon.
LeBell apparently has no objections to being the referee for this phony event; its said that he will gross fifty grand for his efforts.[EN6]
Inokuma Isao [a former Olympic judo champion] tells me that he would love to tackle Ali, and predicts that he could dump Ali within the first minute. Surely he can.
By the way, in Japanese the word "Ali" is pronounced "ah-ree", and echoes a word meaning "ant." Guess what friction this word has produced? The Ant versus the Pelican. Wow! There must be two Shaolin styles like this somewhere, eh?
The rules have been so seriously modified that the contest is no longer boxing versus wrestling. Unless this were done there would be no way to choreograph the match and make it look convincing. Ali can grapple or punch the man down; Inoki is not allowed to leg-dive or tackle. That latter restriction is the same as prohibiting Ali from jabbing. What a farce!
At the Budokan, Watanabe Kisaburo, the former Chuo University [judo] flash, explains that the event will bring money to the now low coffers of the Budokan, which must now make its money not on the [martial arts] events for which it was structured but on Rolling Stones and Beatles concerts and farces such as the Ali-Inoki thing. [EN7] Sad. Watanabe also believes he could cream Ali inside of one minute. I believe he could.
(July 11, 1976)
The Ali fiasco was carefully staged. The main concern was to not injure Ali, causing Inoki to complain that by the rules and this concern there was damn little that he could do to make it look good. The clumsy Ali [EN8] could not even avoid the baby-like kicks of Inoki, [EN9] and the fact that he still suffered some minor injuries is evidence of Alis relative lack of combative skill. Anyway, the upshot is that Ali is laughing at the public for he made some money by doing nothing, though not as much as he hoped. I think he should be barred from boxing for participating in such a vast con job. Inoki is probably finished here in Japan for the obvious fix and there is a lot of static still being heard. [EN10]
By the way, the Budokan (venue) janitorial people took almost a full day to clean up the garbage that was hurled at the two "combatants" as the result of their lousy performance. The whole thing was disgusting! [EN11]
EN1 Originally from Pyongyang, Korea, Rikidozans birth name was Kim Sin Nak. He moved to Japan before World War II to become a professional sumotori. In 1951 he took up American professional wrestling under the tutelage of Tetsuro "Rubberman" Higami. In December 1954 Rikidozan defeated Kimura Masahiko for the Japanese professional wrestling title, in October 1957 he drew with Lou Thesz in the first-ever "title match" held in Tokyo, and in March 1962 he became the first Asian to win a World Wrestling Association (WWA) heavyweight belt. He died from a knife wound in December 1963.
EN2 -- Although born in Yokohama in 1943 Inoki Kanji was always billed as a Brazilian Nisei. Thus his ring name Antonio. Inoki started wrestling in Tokyo in September 1960. After making a US debut in Honolulu in March 1964, he returned to Japan. His participation in a National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) "world title match" with Dory Funk, Jr., in December 1969 elevated him to star status, a position he retained for the next thirty years. (Literallyhis last match was in Tokyo in April 1998.) He was affiliated with New Japan Pro Wrestling.
EN3 -- Tillet suffered from a disease that caused facial deformity. He died of heart disease in Chicago in August 1954. He was 51.
EN4 -- Born in Niigata, Japan in 1938 Baba Shohei started wrestling professionally in September 1960. (It was on the same card as Inoki, actually.) During the Rikidozan era, it was arranged that Baba would lose to visiting Americans that Rikidozan would then defeat in the finals, but after Rikidozan died then Baba got to win the finals. In fact, he still holds the record for the most Japan Wrestling Association world league championships. (Six, if it matters.) This being professional wrestling, of course those wins were prearranged; for Walter "Killer" Kowalskis description of a Japanese title bout that Antonio Inoki "won" while unconscious, see Jeff Archer, Theater in a Squared Circle: The mystique of professional wrestling (Lafayette, CO: White-Boucke Publishing, 1999), 304-305. In 1972 Baba helped establish a Japanese wrestling association called All-Japan Pro Wrestling, and a year later he was declared All-Japan Pro Wrestlings heavyweight champion. Professionally he and Inoki were bitter rivals.
EN5 -- Dempsey had done some professional wrestling in his youth and throughout his life he regularly refereed bouts. For a precise listing of the advantages the grappler has over the striker during one-on-one combat, see Charles B. Roth, "The Muscle Head Always Wins," Esquire, June 1949, 101-102.
EN6 -- A three-time US AAU judo wrestling champion, LeBell later took up professional wrestling (his mother was a Los Angeles promoter) and Hollywood stunt work. In the latter role, hes remembered as the man who gave Bruce Lee "noogies" (e.g., held Lee under one arm and rubbed the top of Lees head with the other). Persistent but unconfirmed stories also report LeBell easily manhandling film star Steven Seagal after the latter started boasting that he was as good a fighter in real life as he was on the screen.
EN7 -- For an online photograph of the interior of the Budokan during the Beatles 1966 visit, see http://www.bekkoame.or.jp/~garp/japan66.htm. For a similar photograph of the Ali-Inoki match of 1976, see http://www.albany.net/~hit/puroresu/newjapan/ali1.jpg.
EN8 -- Although Ali was the classiest American heavyweight boxer of the 1960s and continued fighting until 1981, he was never the same following the 1975 Thrilla in Manila. I wish he had retired sooner.
EN9 -- Like most professional wrestling techniques, Inokis kicks were thrown in such a way as to be easily seen by the crowd and safely handled by the opponent.
EN10 -- Draeger was wrong and both Ali and Inoki quickly recovered the favor of their fans.
EN11 -- Disgusting it may have been but the promoters still ran with it to the bank: in 1977 Inoki started using a tune from Alis film, "The Greatest," as his theme song and in 1986 he attempted to reprise the evening by pinning boxer Leon Spinks, who had once beaten a completely over-the-hill Ali.
The WAWLI Papers No. 785...
B.F. ROLLER, MASTER OF ANGLES AND FEUDS
(InYo: The Journal of Alternative Perspectives on the Martial Arts
and Sciences, July 2000, www.ejmas.com)
By Joseph R. Svinth
(Svinths editors notes: A version of this article appeared in Wrestling Then & Now 1998 annual, and it is reprinted here as a continuation of the story begun in "The Discipline Necessary for Attaining the Highest Rewards: Amateur Wrestling at the University of Washington, 1905-1942," http://ejmas.com/jcs/jcsframe.htm, volume II. For the additions, the assistance of Mark Hewitt, Graham Noble, and Steve Yohe is gratefully acknowledged. The theme of this piece is that the professional wrestling of great-grandpas day was as much a circus act as the professional wrestling of today, and that the athletes and promoters simply used different methods to work (e.g., arouse) the crowd. Because this is a contentious argumentif you believe some wrestling writers, turn-of-the-century wrestling was honest competition rather than muscular theater, and Frank Gotch was the finest (if dirtiest) wrestler who ever livedI thought it better to let the sportswriters of the day speak for themselves rather than summarizing their words.)
(the number after each headline is the page on which the article may be found)
"Dr. B.F. Roller," Seattle Mail and Herald, December 22, 1906, 12.
Born in Illinois in 1876, Dr. Roller was brought up on a farm. He graduated from Du Pauw University, completing the seven years course in five years. While there he was captain and coach of the track team and football team, and was pronounced by the Indianapolis and Chicago papers the best football player in the central states.
He represented the Chicago Athletic Association against that of New York, and broke the worlds record in discus throwing, and made 148 feet 6 inches with a 16-pound hammer.
Dr. Roller graduated from the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania with the highest honors, winning a Saunders prize of $100 in gold.
He used athletics as a means of getting his education by teaching wrestling and playing football Coming to Seattle in 1904 Dr. Roller accepted a professorship in the University of Washington, delivering lectures on physical culture and hygiene and also having the direction of all the athletic work of the University and the Seattle Athletic Club. He resigned his position in the University for the practice of his profession [wrestling], to which he is now devoting all his energies.
(Svinth: Roller wrestled for gold rather than glory. Therefore he paid no attention to what champion Frank Gotch thought about wrestling for a living.)
"Gotch Not Proud of His Wrestling Title," New York World, January 28, 1907, 8.
Frank Gotch, who is just now taking his turn as champion wrestler of America, [says]:
Its a poor game this wrestling. My advice to aspirants is "dont try it." Because theres no money in it until you are champion. Its a long, hard fight up to that point, and theres room for only one at the top. And after youre pushed away, youre done for good. At the best you cant last longer than from five to seven years. Its pretty hard at the end to settle down to humdrum life. The old game spirit is in you. Youll think of the crowds, the glare of the calcium lights, the cries for the champion, the struggle on the mat. And you rebel. I rebel even now when I stay long on my farm.
(Svinth: Rollers first professional match was against a Canadian wrestler in 1906. After that, he started having matches around the Northwest. The following is a typical description.)
"Roller Wins in Private Contest in Two Straight Falls," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 26, 1907, 10.
Dr. B.F. Roller defeated Emil Klank, of Denver, in two straight falls of sixteen and thirteen minutes respectively in a private match at West Seattle yesterday Klank is not much on the offensive, but he is a wonder on the defensive and cleverly slipped out of half-Nelsons, Nelsons and hammerlocks. Roller then went for his legs
(Svinth: Rollers manager Joe Carroll, a man who had managed the North American champion Frank Gotch for several years in the Yukon Territory and Washington State. Unfortunately, Carroll was also more corrupt than was the average promoter, which is saying a lot. But, as Roller disliked fleecing people (he didnt mind working a crowd, but he thought the paying customers should get some entertainment for their money), he and Carroll eventually parted ways. This annoyed Carroll, so besides importing wrestlers he thought could beat Roller, he also started calling him a crook. )
"Dr. Roller Beats Emil Klank Easily," Tacoma Daily Ledger, September 28, 1907
Dr. Roller won from Emil Klank in a private wrestling match this morning [September 27] in two straight falls. He took the first fall in sixteen minutes and got the second fall and the match in thirteen minutes. Roller threw Klank as easily and in about the same time as Gotch turned the trick in Denver a few weeks ago.
The match was reputed to be for $1,000 a side and was pulled off over a saloon in West Seattle. About twenty-five invited guests were present Eddie Gaffney, who used to wrestle for the Seattle Athletic Club, was the referee. Charley Beckingham, county commissioner, was timekeeper. Joe Shulte, a big Indian who learned to play football at Carlisle and who has been doing some fighting since, was in Klanks corner and Lonnie Austin and Tom McDonald fanned Roller.
(Svinth: Lonnie Austin was the boxing instructor at the Seattle Athletic Club, and a fixture of Seattle boxing promotions for the next four decades.)
"Roller the Victor in Great Wrestling Match," Tacoma Daily Ledger, November 4, 1907.
In the fiercest and, at the same time, very cleanest wrestling match ever seen in Tacoma, Dr. B. F. Roller of Seattle last night twice pinned "Sharkey" McLaglen, the South African champion, to the mat and won the bout after a forty-two minute struggle before an assembly of 800 appreciative lovers of sports at the Savoy Theater.
(Svinth: The 21-year old McLaglen later went to Hollywood, where he acted under his birth name, Victor. His older brother Leopold meanwhile claimed the jujitsu championship of the world based on some victories in San Francisco and, British Columbia in 1907, and continued training police in unarmed combatives until the 1930s.)
"Roller Wins, As Expected," Tacoma Daily Ledger, January 24, 1908.
In a seventy minute exhibition, on a par with the many fake wrestling matches pulled off in this city [Seattle], usually with negroes and Japs contesting, during the past twenty years, Dr. B. F. Roller of Seattle defeated "Farmer" Burns of Iowa in two straight falls. There was practically no betting on the result, as it was a foregone conclusion with the majority of the spectators that the local man would win
It was as poorly managed an affair of the kind as was ever seen even in the sawdust district of the early days Burns is such an old stager at the wrestling game that he does not care for any more glory. He does not make any effort to conceal the fact that he is sticking with the sport solely for the money. The division of the proceeds last night was made entirely to Burns liking, win or lose. He had nothing to gain by winning and nothing to lose by losing
Last nights exhibition served merely as an advertisement for the [forthcoming] Gotch affair.
"Roller Too Clever for Big Turk," Seattle Times, June 10, 1909, 9.
Dr. B.F. Roller signalized his return to Seattle last night by defeating Big Yussif [Armenian wrestler Bob Managoff], one of the Terrible Turks, in the Arena at the exposition grounds, in one of the roughest matches ever seen in this city
Between the bouts all sorts of challenges were read and wrestlers were introduced. Matchmaker Jack Curley, with his bland smile, handled this part of the performance nicely.
The challenge that created the most interest among those in the know came from Bert Warner. For some reason or other Warner has it in for Roller, and has been making cracks for weeks that as soon as Roller came back to Seattle he was going after him
Other challenges were bugled by John Berg, who used to be known around here as the Bellingham Strong Boy, but of late has been traveling under the name of Charles Hackenschmidt; Henry Ordemann, of Minneapolis, whom Gotch picks as his successor; Charles Olson, of Indianapolis, who was known around Seattle a few years ago as Miller, and who once wrestled an impromptu match with Joe Carroll on the stage of the Grand Opera House for a $50 note; and Americus, of Baltimore, one of the best wrestlers in this country.
(Svinth: The bout was not as rough as it looked, as Managoff and Roller essentially repeated it two weeks later. Said the Seattle Times following the rematch, "There is just one complaint to make of the show. It dragged out to too great length. It takes quite a while for one to come to the city from the exposition grounds and with this 1 oclock closing ordinance in force there is not much chance for a thirsty soul when the wrestlers fool around until nearly midnight." This scenario, the feud so beloved in modern professional wrestling, continued throughout the summer: different wrestlers challenging Roller, who had never been defeated in Seattle. Finally came the match everyone had been awaiting: Rollers meeting with Gotchs handpicked successor.)
"Ordeman and Roller Will Fight to a Finish Tonight," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 3, 1909, 10.
Every wrestler carries a handle with the word champion. Some are coming champions, others claim the title of their own nationality. For instance, Ordeman is called the Norwegian champion, but all agree that Frank Gotch is the champion of all champions. However, there is a strong feeling of competition for second honor and there is no question but that Dr. Roller and Henry Ordeman have the best right to wrestle for the right to be called the best man in America, next to Gotch, and that means the world.
"Wrestling Again," Bobby Boyce, Seattle Argus, September 4, 1909, 5.
Wrestling as wrestling is a grand and clean sport, but the kind of wrestling we have had here during the past few years has not been altogether lovely. I think it would be a good thing if the mat men left Seattle alone for a year or two
Joe Carroll and Doc Roller have had a falling out and now Carroll is after some man who can beat the big medico It wasnt so very long ago that Joe was claiming Roller could defeat any man in the world barring Hackenschmidt and Gotch, and now he thinks the woods are full of wrestlers who can make mince pie out of the doctor
Personally, I believe Carroll when he says he can find an American, other than Gotch, who can throw Roller. I believe he can, beyond question.
"Ordeman Hands a Bunch to Roller," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 4, 1909, 10.
After an hour and six minutes of savage wrestling at the Grand opera house last night, Henry Ordeman, of Minneapolis, picked up Dr. Roller, the local physician-athlete, and dashed him to the mat with such force that the doctor was put out of business
The big physician narrowly escaped serious injury. He was knocked completely unconscious but not completely hurt
The dope had gone out that Joe Carroll imported Ordeman from Minneapolis especially to beat Roller, and there was literally a fight for tickets.
(Svinth: Yet immediately after the Ordeman match, the Seattle wrestling community started leaving town.)
"Exit of Wrestlers after Roller Match," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 6, 1909, 2.
It is the grand exodus of heavyweight wrestlers, who are returning to their homes in the East, North and South. The wrestlers evidently see no bright prospects for the Seattle wrestling game, and they charge the sudden change to the downfall of Dr. Roller and the escape of Henry Ordeman without granting the physician-wrestler a rematch
The only mat notable who failed to use the Union station iron gates to make his getaway was Dr. Roller, and he left on the noon boat for his summer home at Eagle Harbor. He told Jack Curley that he had no set plans, but that he would want a few days in the country to rest up and think over his future plans.
(Svinth: The reason for the exodus was rumors about postal authorities investigating match fixing. As the sporting press hadnt heard those rumors yet, it attributed the wrestlers departure to other reasons.)
"The Wrestlers Have Gone," Bobby Boyce, Seattle Argus, September 11, 1909, 5.
It looks as though the wrestling game was a dead one in Seattle. As soon as Ordeman shattered the career of one B. Roller, the wise wrestlers took the big hike for the tall and uncut And its a good thing at that. Seattle has stood for this bunk long enough. We dont begrudge the boys the easy money they pulled out, but this is such a good field that it is no more than fair that they work Kansas City or Denver or Omaha for a while.
(Svinth: Not everyone left, of course, and Roller and Bert Warner had a match in Seattle on September 20, 1909. In the ring before the start of festivities, Joe Carroll and Warner shouted that Roller rigged his matches, and couldnt actually wrestle. Roller refused to wrestle, but the roar of the crowd caused him to reconsider.)
"Bert Warner Quits before Dr. Roller," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 21, 1909, 10.
Ill agree to this simply because I want to show that his [Warners] talk of laying down is foolish, said Roller. He says after these two falls hell go in and show me up. Heres his chance. Carroll and Warner have simply tried to ruin the show, to get the crowd sore at myself and the Arena, management, and to kill wrestling in this town.
Then followed the spectacle of Warner deliberately falling on his back before Roller had put a hand on him and Referee [Tom] McDonald gave the fall to Roller.
Then Carroll was satisfied. Now my man will go in and beat Roller just to show he can do it, he yelled to the spectators.
By this time the crowd was wild with excitement But if the crowd expected any whirl of arms and legs, any spectacular headspins or grand and lofty tumbling, it was disappointed. The match was intensely exciting throughout because of the bitter hatred with which the men fought, but they worked slowly and carefully
Instead of showing Roller up, Roller showed Warner up last night. He never gave Warner a chance There is no question that Bert Warner, or Billy Maynard, or Bert Shores, or whatever his real name is, can wrestle. But he is not in Rollers class except on the defense
The end came as unexpectedly as the other events of the evening. Roller picked Warner up with a crotch and arm hold, poised him a moment in the air and then threw him on the mat, falling on top with all his weight.
It was exactly the same treatment that Roller got a few days ago from Henry Ordeman. And, as in the previous case, the man underneath did not get up.
(Svinth: His reputation "saved"one assumes the excitement was scripted rather than realRoller then went to the Midwest and East as part of Gotchs entourage. There the reporters wrote whatever they liked, usually without wasting much time on research, as the following item, reprinted from a Midwest newspaper, shows.)
"Roller Wrestles at Purdue," University of Washington Daily, October 28, 1909, 4.
The term Doctor, as applied to Dr. Roller, is not merely an empty title, as he is really one of the best of doctors and is recognized as an authority in his specialty. His text book on "Gynechology" (sic) is considered by the medical profession to be one of the best that was ever published. It was while he was holding a position as professor in the Seattle Medical school that Dr. Roller first became interested in wrestling as a recreation and he soon became so good that he began meeting the professionals who, from time to time, visited his city.
(Svinth: Excepting Roller actually possessing a medical degree and having taken up professional wrestling while living in Seattle, there is little true in that entire paragraph. The Library of Congress, for example, has only one photograph of Roller in its collection (LC-USZ62-96140 DLC, B&W film copy negative) and no medical texts at all. Meanwhile, at the University of Washington Roller was professor of physical culture rather than medicine. Be that as it may, on September 23, 1909 US postal authorities indicted Joe Carroll, Bert Warner, and eighty-two others on the charge of fixing horse races, foot races, and (say it aint so!) wrestling matches. The eighty-five victims named in the case included Hans Anderson of Ketchikan, Alaska; F. Ellison and H. Ford of Vancouver, British Columbia; and John H. Sizer of Seattle.)
(to be continued in WAWLI No. 786)
The WAWLI Papers No. 786...
(continued from WAWLI No. 785)
"Penitentiary Doors Yawn for Joe Carroll," Seattle Times, March 10, 1910, 18.
Joe Carroll and Bert Warner, well known in Seattle, and Wynn Harris, of Spokane, yesterday pleaded guilty at Council Bluffs, Iowa, to the charge of conspiracy to defraud, rather than stand trial in the federal court there
There are about eighty members of the famous John C. Maybray gang under indictment back there, and it is believed that others will plead guilty.
Carroll, who was indicted under the name of George Marsh, is well known in Seattle. He came to the Northwest country more than ten years ago and gained an unenviable notoriety up in the Klondike region. He took Frank Gotch up there under the name of Kennedy, and a lot of trusting miners were plucked of their gold dust betting against Kennedy.
Later, Gotch and Carroll stopped at Bellingham quite a while. Carroll was Gotchs manager and boosted him into the championship
After the wrestling game had been put on the blink in Bellingham, Gotch went East and Carroll came to Seattle. He had no part in any public matches around here until he took Dr. Roller under his wing, but there were rumors of fake matches pulled off in a little house on the shores of Union Bay
Carroll and Roller made good money in the wrestling game here, but when Roller went East he went alone and put himself under the management of Jack Curley in Chicago
Carroll then began a systematic campaign to discredit Roller and kill the wrestling game in Seattle, and Bert Warner, or Bert Shores, or whatever his real name is, was the man used by Carroll to badger Roller into a match
"Joe Carroll Now Learning Art of Brick Making at Pen," Seattle Times, April 10, 1910, 23.
Joe Carroll, whose real name is Marsh, and Bert Warner, who says his name is Shores, are tending a brick machine at the United States penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kan., and John C. Maybray, chief of the gang of sure-thing men who swindled gullible sports out of about $2,000,000 in two years, is making the brick that Carroll and Warner are carrying away.
They are all doing time as the result of sentences imposed by the federal court at Council Bluffs, and it is the first time any of them have worked in some time.
(Svinth: John C. Maybray and his confederates were released from the penitentiary in late 1911. The ring was prosecuted by postal authorities, and fell apart due to boasting. While an article called "The Man Who Fleeced a Town of $750,000" (Seattle Times, August 6, 1911, Sunday Magazine, page 5), describes how the ring was broken, the following article explains how their scam was worked. For his part, Maybray only said, "I never milked an honest man." Carroll meanwhile returned to promoting wrestling, and as late as 1920, he was telling anyone who would listen that wrestling matches were fixed, and that the current champion, Jim Londos, refused to meet anyone on the level. Which was true -- in March 1934, Pete Ladjimi said in a Los Angeles court that the only people allowed to wrestle Londos had previously agreed to let Londos win -- but back then the fans didnt want to hear that. Anyway, the following entry describes one way that the marks were fleeced.)
"Stranger Thought He Could Wrestle," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 15, 1906, Sports, 1.
Harrington, Wash., awoke one morning to the astonishing discovery that it had a great wrestler. His name was Herr Heinrich, and as his prowess on the mat became better known he was called the strong boy. Strange as it may seem the discovery of the strong boy was made by Duncan McMillan, who has been in the wrestling game so many years that no one can tell the beginning
A stranger drifted into the neighborhood, and when the subject of catch-as-catch-can came up for discussion he showed passing interest.
Yes, he had wrestled a little, and thought he might be able to give the strong boy something to do. The match was made, and again, strange to say, Ole Marsh, who is in reality Joe Carroll, one of the best wrestlers in the country, bobbed up as referee.
Harrington was prosperous. Everybody had money and they bet it on the strong boy. It looked like a cinch. When they had got down a fat sum they went back home for more.
The match was pulled off and the stranger showed the strong boy things about wrestling he had never heard of or dreamed existed.
Harrington came to earth with a dull and sickening thud. The stranger proved to be Frank Coleman, the Chicago wrestler, who has few superiors in the country.
Duncan scratched his head, whistled and sorrowfully remarked, "Frank Coleman! --- ---- ! I hadnt seen him for eight years, and didnt recognize him."
Ole Marsh was thunderstruck at the discovery. He didnt even know Coleman. His memory as to the times they had wrestled was a blank as blank as some of the pocketbooks in Harrington.
When strangers come to Harrington now and say they know something about wrestling there is a chilliness in the air.
(Svinth: Dan McMillan lost a match to Frank Gotch in Whatcom, Washington, in October 1903. (See the Seattle Times, October 25, 1903, 19.) During the championship match between Tom Jenkins and Frank Gotch in Bellingham -- Whatcom merged with Fairhaven to become Bellingham, so its the same town -- on January 27, 1904, Joe Carroll was Gotchs second, while McMillan was Jenkinss second. See the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 28, 1904, 13. The routine fixing of results in wrestling matches probably explains why both Frank Gotch and his parents were embarrassed by his choice of professions. Roller, meanwhile, found his medical training very helpful in faking injuries. Oddly, his system seems to have attracted attention only in Seattle, apparently because cynical sportswriters such as Ed Hughes of the Seattle Times were following his career more closely than most. For example, in Kansas City, Missouri, on April 8, 1910, Roller "injured" his right shoulder during a match in Kansas City, and a month later, he repeated the act in Buffalo.)
"Roller Falls Before Giant Pole in Match at Buffalo," Seattle Times, May 17, 1910, 15.
Dr. Roller was licked by [Stanislaus] Zbyszko at Buffalo [New York] last night in two straight falls. The first bout lasted one hour and five minutes and Roller went down with his left shoulder badly wrenched. He lost the second fall and the match in one minute and forty seconds
Roller has not been making much of a showing in his matches of late. He usually gets hurt and loses, and he puts in the time between matches in various hospitals nursing his hurts and fighting off attacks of blood poisoning. But Roller has the money, and gets a chunk of it every time he starts.
(Svinth: Roller continued "injuring" himself upon going to London, England.)
"Hindu Hugs Roller So Hard He Cracks Two of His Ribs," Seattle Times, August 9, 1910, 13.
Dr. Roller had two ribs broken in his match with Gama, the Indian wrestler, Monday.
Doc is the real unfortunate kid. Every time he loses a match the report follows that he has broken a rib, dislocated a shoulder, developed an abscess or sprung a new crop of boils. Defeat affects him strangely, but he recuperates quickly when there is another match in sight
He must have caught a Tartar Monday in this Gama man. Roller had a big advantage in height and weight, yet this smoked Hindu man not only threw him two falls in less than two minutes, but crushed two of his ribs during the operation
Some live promoter will be sleeping on the job if he does not bring Gama over here for a campaign, with Gotch reserved for the last man Now if Gama will come over here and toss three or four men, it is a cinch that he would pull a big house when he is matched with Gotch.
It is almost as equally certain that Gotch will flatten him like a gob of mud on a puncheon floor.
(Svinth: Gama was Muslim, not Hindu, and despite Ed Hughes understandable cynicism, probably was not on the take. The reason was that he was on the payroll of Bengali millionaire Sharat Kumar Mishra, an ardent Indian nationalist who paid for Gamas European adventure specifically in hopes of humiliating the British.)
"Seattle Man Not Impressed by Gama, Indian Wrestler," Seattle Times, September 4, 1910, 27.
James D. Thagard, of Seattle, saw Dr. Roller go down to defeat before Gama, the Indian wrestler, at London, England, a few weeks ago, and unlike a lot of others who are singing the praises of the East Indian, he does not think Gama is such a much in the wrestling game
He just banged Roller about by main strength. Gama was puffing like a porpoise and seemed much nearer exhaustion than Roller when he discovered quite by accident that Rollers ribs were sore. Then he kept digging and punching away at the sore spot until Roller was worn out and had to succumb
I called to see Roller the day after the match and he was in bed nursing his sore ribs. His wife was with him, and Jack Curley and his wife were also there. Curley was going to take the two women on a shopping tour and Roller had ordered some chops for himself. The English waiter took Rollers order to mean that he wanted chops and trimmings for the whole party, and when I got there Roller had the bill in his hand and was on the verge of apoplexy.
The bill called for $14, and Roller indulged in some lurid language as he gave his opinion of the stupidity of English waiters.
Those who know Roller can readily understand how that bill for $14 hurt him far worse than his broken ribs.
(Svinth: While Roller was out of the country, North American wrestling fans convinced themselves that the Maybray convictions had cleaned up the game. Relieved promoters then started building up the story that all the best wrestlers were foreign anyway, thus inciting fan support for a match between a European champion and the American champion Frank Gotch.)
"Little Real Crookedness in Wrestling Game Now," Lloyd Kenyon Jones, Seattle Times, September 11, 1910, Sports, 4.
The only way to enjoy a wrestling match is to forget to place a bet on it and then the moral status of it will never worry one much. And besides, to the loser, the event is always a frame-up
And what, pray, makes crooked wrestling? The betting? Very seldom [The wrestlers] idea of business is to get his guarantee or percentage and let it go at that. But sometimes there is a reason a very good one. And crookedness may be the desire of a capable wrestler to give the fans a run for their money. It is crooked to let a fellow stay longer than he can stay. It is crooked to throw a fall even if the match itself is won; that is, the other two falls. But it is often done, and is not infrequently done without the knowledge of the poorer man And beyond that is the fact that a good man isnt going to wear himself out throwing poor men in jig time.
"Emil Klank Says that Gama, Indian Wrestler, is Goods," Lloyd Kenyon Jones, Seattle Times, September 16, 1910, Sports, 3.
Gama, said Klank, is the real mat goods and what he did to Roller was a pity, a shame, and other things. I saw the match, and the Seattle physician had as much of a look-in as an A. P. A. at a St. Patricks day parade. Of course, in the Gama-Zbysco (sic) meet, there wasnt much done and the East Indian didnt try to do much. He just tortured the big Pole; thats all. And say, when it came time for Zbyscos return, he was just as much absent as one of last years bird nests in the tree that was chopped down yesterday.
"No Set Standard by Which to Judge Wrestlers Ability," Lloyd Kenyon Jones, Seattle Times, October 9, 1910, Sports, 1.
The capable wrestler doesnt always throw his man as rapidly as possible because of several reasons.
In the first place, he may not care to expend his strength in a sudden burst of speed, preferring to let the other fellow wear himself out before the climax is brought about. In the second place the wrestler might harbor a certain amount of revenge and purposely put his opponent in numerous bad positions and to considerable pain before culminating the match in a fall. A third element is found in the possibility that the poorer man is very tricky under certain conditions, and the better man does not propose to give the other fellow any advantage. Therefore he tries to wear his man out without taking any chance whatever in actually trying to throw him. The fourth reason may be to cover up the actual ability the better man possess so that some other match may be arranged between himself and a more worthy opponent. The fifth reason may be that the better man is not in the best of condition. Naturally his opponent does not care to take the chance of rushing the affair to a speedy conclusion. He estimates that the other fellow is willing to take a match over a considerable route, and is very glad to take advantage of the situation. There have undoubtedly been times in the career of even the best men when vastly inferior grapplers could have thrown them had they known the truth about the condition of their ordinarily better opponents.
(Svinth: To digress a bit, after beating Roller, Gama challenged the European champion George Hackenschmidt to a match. Unsurprisingly, Hackenschmidt suddenly decided it was time to go to Switzerland for his health. Therefore Gamas next match was instead with the Greco-Roman champion Stanislaus Zbyszko. "Two minutes wrestling in 2½ hours" was how the London Sporting Life described that match, in which Zbyszkos method of securing the draw emulated the modern Olympic practice of hugging the mat until time was called. The following is how the match was reported in Seattle.)
"Gama Gets Belt and Title over in England," Seattle Times, October 15, 1910, 5.
The end of the Zbysco-Gamma (sic) farce came when, before an admiring throng of Britons and East Indians, Horatio Bottomley presented Gamma with a belt inscribed, Champion Wrestler of the World. To their credit be it said that the papers here want to know where Gotch comes in. Zybsco failed to appear on the last day of the continuous performance wrestle, as he had a very important engagement to meet Doc Roller in Vienna.
(Svinth: The important engagement with Roller was doubtless intended to avoid another fiasco like the first. While in Europe, Roller and his manager Jack Curley looked up Hackenschmidt and proposed that he make another North American tour. Hackenschmidt liked the idea, and so soon after he left Europe for North America, where night after night he thrilled the crowd by throwing Ben Roller.)
"Dr. Roller Tossed Twice by Mighty Hackenschmidt," Seattle Times, November 29, 1910, 16.
Dr. Roller of Seattle was licked again last night. He went to the mat with George Hackenschmidt, the Russian Lion, in Montreal last night and was beaten in two straight falls the first in forty-seven minutes and the second one and the match in nineteen minutes
Hack is billed to wrestle Jess Westergaard in Chicago in a finish match pretty soon. He will beat Jess, too, and after cleaning up a few more like him the boards will be swept clean for Gotch. Along about the first of the year the yapping will begin for Gotch to come out of his retirement and clip the whiskers of the Russian Lion, who, by the way, is a German.
(Svinth: While of German descent, Hackenschmidt was actually an Estonian bodybuilder who had taken up wrestling in St. Petersburg rather than Berlin. Thus his title, "The Russian Lion.")
"Hackenschmidt Does Away with Ringside Challenges," Seattle Times, December 4, 1910, Sports, 4.
[Hackenschmidt] and his manager, Jack Curley, have suppressed the practice of issuing ringside challenges So, in future, at shows in which Hackenschmidt appears, nobody, unless possibly the man whom Hackenschmidt is to meet at some future show in that city, will be presented to the crowd
Hackenschmidt continues to follow out his avowed purpose of wrestling himself into condition during his tour on the road. He is barring nobody, and even during his idle moments welcomes the coming of aspirants who seek only a little practice bout with him.
(Svinth: By eliminating the necessity for shills in the crowd, Hackenschmidt and Roller restored a sense of legitimacy and decorum to US professional wrestling, and the syndicated sportswriters went wild.)
"Many High Class Men in Wrestling Game at Present," Lloyd Kenyon Jones, Seattle Times, December 4, 1910, Sports, 4.
Within the past five years wrestling has attained a much broader patronage than it ever had in the old days. This is due largely to the disfavor of the legislatures of the different states to prize fighting and by the adoption of grappling by so many young athletes who would have undoubtedly entered the prize ring under different conditions.
(Svinth: Knowing Ben Roller well, Ed Hughes of the Seattle Times remained skeptical.)
(to be continued in WAWLI No. 787)
The WAWLI Papers No. 787...
(continued from WAWLI No. 786)
"Roller Gets Rich Losing Every Bout," Seattle Times, December 18, 1910, Sports, 1.
It would appear that the doctor fairly can be accused of commercializing his art, for the wildest dopester in the country couldnt figure out how he still retains any hope of becoming champion or even a near-champion
Jack Curley, who formerly was Rollers manager, writes that Roller is showing just as often as he can get a date, and is simply raking in bundles of kale
(Svinth: Still, the Seattle Spirit was boosterism, and to many Seattle sports, it didnt matter how their citys name got into lights, just so long as it did.)
"Roland Cotterrill Tells of Roller and Mat Game in East," Seattle Times, December 19, 1910, 13.
I had a chat with Doc before the match and he told me he was wrestling nearly every night, had twenty-one matches in November and lost only five falls.
Some of our Seattle people have said some harsh things about Doc Roller, but I want to tell you he is a credit to us and is advertising Seattle in great shape. I have been through various Eastern cities and Doctor B.F. Roller of Seattle is in every paper you pick up and on every billboard.
(Svinth: For both promoters and wrestlers, even scandals were better than no publicity at all.)
"Big Mahmout Exposes Fakers in Wrestling," Seattle Times, January 1, 1911, Sports, 1.
The wrestling trust seems to be on the way to busting Some entertaining facts have been divulged in the negotiations for a match between Mahmout, the Turk, and Zybysko (sic), the Pole, and the most interesting is the fact that in the last three years there have been but three matches in Chicago that were on the square.
One was the Hackenschmidt-Gotch match, which as an exhibition was the worst ever seen. But it was honest. Another with a taste of squareness was the Mahmout-Americus contest, one fall of which was on the level. The other square bout is not exactly known.
The information comes with the declaration of Mahmout the Turk that he is going to reform It is safe to say that 99 per cent of all wrestling matches where an admission fee is charged and where professionals take part have been prearranged before the men shake hands. Many have even trained together those that made any show of training. The hitting and biting in the matches, the kicking, the calling of foul vulgar names, the threats, the falls from the stage, the challenges from the audience all those things are the little jokers used to stir up the maddened crowd. It does little harm, and it makes the game good, say the wrestlers.
(Svinth: So much for wrestling being honest in Grandpas day -- Mahmout was Frank Gotchs partner during a 1911 North American tour. It is my only partially facetious contention that professional wrestling was always honest when the speaker was eleven years old, and became decadent about the time he discovered girls. Be that as it may, Doc Roller was part of the new system, the one where matches were fixed in such a way that the crowd got its moneys worth night after night, show after show)
"Dr. Roller is Hacks Real Backer on Present Tour," Seattle Times, February 8, 1911, 13.
Dr. Roller of Seattle advertised the town some more last night by being beaten by George Hackenschmidt in Toronto. The Doc lost in two straight falls and the faithful old Associated Press comes through with the information that Dr. Roller had a cold which interfered with his breathing. He wrestled gamely, evading many difficult holds, but the Russian beat him down.
Every time business gets a little dull and Hack has an open date he flops Roller and, as the man from Battle Creek, Mich., has it, theres a reason for it.
Roller is Hackenschmidts financial backer this trip. Jack Curley always tells with a straight face about how rich Hack is and how he wrestles only for the love of the sport and not for the lure of the coin, but just the same, they say it was Doc Roller of Seattle who put up the $20,000 guarantee for Hacks present tour.
Curley and Roller ostensibly parted company when Hack came over here, and that made it possible to use Roller as an opponent to Hack when others were shy about coming forward. And at that Roller can put on a better show with the big Russian than almost any other man in the country, so those who pay their money to see the men in action do not get cheated a bit.
But it really is amusing to read every so often about Hack and Roller, his real manager, having had a terrific struggle, and always in a different city. Roller will clean up a bunch of money on Hacks tour and he is entitled to it for being game enough to take a chance on the proposition
Frank [Gotch] will now go the rounds, trimming Beell, Ordeman, Roller maybe; Jess Westergaard, possibly old Farmer Burns, and then wind up with Zbyszsko [sic] and Hackenschmidt. Its the old merry-go-round that is worked year after year. The public likes it and theres nothing better in sight, so whats the difference?
(Svinth: Beyond the money, another reason the wrestlers preferred the merry-go-round was that it was a whole lot safer than the alternative.)
"Both Wrestlers Were Using Assumed Names," Seattle Times, February 13, 1911, 13.
Charley Olson, wrestler, flitted unobserved through St. Louis a day or two ago, on his way to Indianapolis. He came from the Southwest, after having participated in the match with one McRay, who died as a result of injuries received in their match at Amarillo, Texas
McRay is not the first to die following a match with Olson. Several years ago a black wrestler succumbed, following a mat match with Olson, in Montreal, Canada
This is one reason why there is so much faking in the mat game. There is very seldom enough at stake to make really good men endure the punishment incident to a real battle to the finish.
(Svinth: "I cried like a baby," Olson later told John C. Meyers. "That dead mans father jumped on the mat and it was a terrible scene. My friends hurried me from the place as fast as we could get away and I took the first train out of town." The Canadian death occurred in 1906 when the black wrestler was thrown from the ring and hit his head on a chair. The Texan fatality occurred while the wrestler was being driven into a mat using a crotch hold. Both piledrivers and crotch holds were (and are) quite normal tricks of the trade. But "to reduce the risk," the sports started clamoring for the elimination of "the deadly toe hold," a move that sometimes caused injuries but so far as I know never killed anyone. Now, admittedly, the toehold was not a nice move. Instead, as described by E.J. Harrison in "Wrestling," London: W. Foulsham & Co., 1934, page 76, it was a "really nasty and potentially dangerous lock. It is applied when your opponent is lying face downward on the mat. Cross his feet, say the right over the left, above the ankle; then locking them against your chest, force him to bend his legs. Then reaching forward and downwards you clasp both hands against the crown of his head which you force backwards, in this manner inflicting intolerable pain upon his spine and neck." Nevertheless, it was a controllable submission technique, and thus far safer than throwing the wrestlers into the chairs. But it wasnt nearly as thrilling to watch)
"Dr. Roller Thinks Deadly Toe Hold Should Be Barred," Dr. B.F. Roller, Seattle Times, February 20, 1911, 10.
The toe hold, although as old as catch-as-catch-can wrestling, has only been played up as a feature in the past three years, simply because it enabled Frank Gotch, who developed it to its highest efficiency, to work his way to the championship of the world.
I think, however, that Gotch would have eventually become champion without this terrible hold, thus adding force to my argument that the toe hold produces little except punishment
I am not in favor of making wrestling a gentle sport, by any means. I want to see it just as rugged as it can be made, but I want it to be, above all things, sportsmanlike
(Svinth: Unfortunately, sportsmanlike conduct was not something the wrestling fans liked to see. And, as the following article shows, police used the sham violence of the ring to insist on greater payoffs.)
"Champion Wrestler of Japan Meets Defeat at Last," Seattle Times, March 3, 1911, 17.
Claude Bannick, our blonde chief of police, says there will be no wrestling bouts so long as he is on the job. [Promoter] Kid Herman [Lanfield] had an idea that it would be a fine thing to put Hackenschmidt and Ordeman on here for an exhibition bout and turn over part of the profits to the fund for the starving Chinese, and the committee handling the fund thought well of the suggestion. R.P. Wilson took it upon himself to talk to Chief Bannick about the matter, and after the interview he looked as if he had passed through a blizzard
The chief is said to base his opposition to wrestling bouts on the ground that the people who attend them are not the right sort. This will be an awful jolt to the pride of some of the swells who used to have ringside seats at all the big matches here
(Svinth: In boxing, corruption was rarely mentioned because promoters such as Jack Kearns and Tex Rickard normally provided the reporters with a percentage of the gates or bottles of whiskey. But wrestling promoters rarely followed suit, so of course the sportswriters had no remorse about panning wrestling whenever they could.)
"Frisco Sports Do Not Care for Wrestling," T.P. McGilligan, Seattle Times, April 18, 1911, 13.
Wrestling as a sport here [San Francisco] seems about as popular as a reptile at a Sunday school picnic, and there was so little coin in the house that the promoters were afraid to count it. After the expenses of running the match had been settled, Gotch took his end and bought a cigar and a sandwich for himself. Ordeman got enough to pay his carfare and demand a transfer in a haughty tone.
There were few of those present who seemed to have even a rudimentary knowledge of the most ancient sport in the world. Some of the boys were calling the half-nelsons half-uppercuts, and when Gotch pressed an English arm lock on Ordeman now and then, the more excitable lads in the gallery wanted Gotch disqualified for hitting in the clinches.
(Svinth: But the fans didnt care, and meanwhile the wrestlers and promoters gleefully added fuel to the feuding fires. For example, following Hackenschmidts very poor showing against Gotch during a world championship match held in Chicago on September 4, 1911, Roller had this to say.)
"Dr. B.F. Roller Is Not Satisfied with Hacks Work on Mat," Dr. B.F. Roller, Seattle Times, September 5, 1911, 1.
My hat is off to Gotch. He is still the champion of the world.
He is a greater man than I ever thought he was. I think he is better today than I ever saw him in my life. Gotch wrestled very cautiously, he wrestled beautifully, but after all it was temperament more than anything else that defeated Hack
The only way to see him [Hackenschmidt] at his best, however, is to spring a surprise match on him with an hours notice. For the past week, at least, he has slept very little
His stubbornness made it impossible for us to have control over him. I tried to outline his condition and I told him that it should be a rushing fight, but he told me to shut up, that he knew what he was doing
I saw Monday morning at sunrise that Hacks courage was waning. I dont want to say much of this sort, for I do not want the public to think I am turning against a man because he is defeated, but I must admit that, as I predicted yesterday, gameness was a long factor in this contest
In the gymnasium he [Hackenschmidt] is a greater man than he showed today, but unfortunately championship matches are not wrestled in gymnasiums. I tried my best to make a winner out of him and put him into the ring in the best possible condition, but as I said yesterday, gameness is something you cannot put into a man. I am glad the thing is over and I would not go through with it again for the entire gate.
(Svinth: For his part, Hackenschmidt replied that the pain from Gotchs vaunted toehold had been excruciating, especially since he had a preexisting knee injury. Be that as it may, there was no public interest in a third match between the two men; Gotch was widely conceded to be the true world champion. (Given the tenor of the times, the Great Gama and various Japanese professional wrestlers of the day were of course not considered. Footnote -- Lou Thesz insists that Hackenschmidts knee injury was the result of a match with Ad Santel. Santel was in Chicago in January 1911 -- his moniker was Adolph Ernst -- so Santel and Hackenschmidt could have worked and trained together. Nevertheless, it is strikes me as unlikely that a last-minute injury caused Hackenschmidt to fall --lose is surely not the correct verb to apply to the outcome of any twentieth century professional wrestling match -- to Gotch in Chicago.)
"Dr. Roller Calls, Looking Like General Prosperity," Seattle Times, September 25, 1911, 12.
Hack can take Gotch in a gymnasium and beat him today, continued the doctor, but a child could have beaten the Lion in Chicago the day of the big match. Talk about Jeffs having buck ague at Reno it was a mild case of the shakes compared to what Hack had at Chicago. He could not sleep the night before the match and he cried like a baby after it; he would not listen to me or anyone else and was as peevish as a teething baby.
I firmly believe that Gotch was scared, too, but Gotch is a good bluffer, so he made a few rough passes at Hack, and Hack simply wilted. I was terribly disappointed in Hacks showing because I had worked hard with him, and, had he won, I would have cleaned up about $80,000 with him showing him around the country.
But Roller really did not do so badly on the big match as that, for he has just been over to Yakima buying another bunch of fruit land with the money gleaned at Chicago. Had Hack won he figured on buying the whole county, but as Hack quit cold on him he had to be content with just buying one more ranch. By the way, the big doctor now calls Yakima [Washington] his home town
Gotch beat himself out of a nice chunk of money by insisting upon a guarantee of $21,000. Frank never was much of a hand at taking a chance. He was offered 40 per cent as his bit, but he preferred a guarantee of $21,000 and 50 per cent of the moving pictures. Roller and Curley, who were not afraid to take a chance, cleaned up much more money than Gotch did, and they will have half of the picture money with which to buy meal tickets this winter.
(Svinth: This was no exaggeration, as Roller earned at least $22,000 from the film rights and his share of the gate. Hackenschmidt did fine, too, at least until World War I wiped out hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of investments in Russia and Germany. The American wrestling audiences meanwhile clamored to see more of Frank Gotchs deadly toehold.)
"Toe Hold Not Barred at Dreamland Tomorrow Night," Seattle Times, November 2, 1911, 15.
The toe hold is not barred at the big wrestling show to be staged at Dreamland Pavilion tomorrow night, and Frank Gotch, champion of the world, will probably illustrate the hold. He says is not coming to Seattle any more as a wrestler, so he will very likely show how to apply the hold which he has made famous
the champion will be seen in a good work-out, and that will be worth the price of admission. An exhibition bout between two clever men is far more enjoyable than a blood match anyway, for the wrestlers can thus illustrate all the holds in the game and how to break them, where they would be afraid to take chances in a blood match.
"Seattles Sport-Hungry Folks Like Wrestling Bouts," Seattle Times, November 4, 1911, 8.
Though it was well known that Jack Leon could not put up a real contest against Champion Frank Gotch, still the folks of this town have been shut off from all kinds of sporting events for so long that they fairly flocked to the pavilion just to see the champion in action
(Svinth: Modern show wrestling had entered the world.)
"Jack Johnson Fat as Prize Porker Will Fight No More," Seattle Times, December 12, 1911, 15.
Dr. B.F. Roller, once of Seattle, but now of everywhere, wrestled with Jesse Pederson, the Swedish giant, at Chicago last night and won the match on a foul. Pederson got peeved about something and hoisting the kicking doctor high in the air he pitched him out into the audience. Of course a return match is the thing now. When two men show such temper as Roller and Pederson displayed last night, it would be a shame not to let them have it out. In his brief career on the mat, Roller has had a lot of queer experiences Verily age cannot wither nor custom stale the infinite variety of angles in the wrestling game. Chicago is no boob town, but still the wrestlers flourish there and wax fat.
(Svinth: The foreign wrestler started becoming a joke instead of a serious threat.)
"Seattle Athletic Club Puts on Big Smoker Tonight," Seattle Times, December 15, 1911, 21.
Zbyszko, the Polish wrestler who is built like a barrel of pork, is coming out this way again, and inquiries are being made about a date for him to appear in Seattle. Zbyszko was here about two years ago. He wrestled with Dr. Roller in the Grand Opera House and the bout pulled hardly receipts enough to pay for the lights and janitor service. It was the smallest house Seattle ever turned out to a wrestling match, where the principals had any pretense of class. That night the giant Pole looked as slow as a stall-fed ox, but there is no denying his strength, and he flopped Roller twice. Maybe he will draw better the next time he comes.
(Svinth: Why? Let syndicated columnist Lloyd Jones explain.)
"Foreign Wrestlers Poor Lot Yet Demand Big Money," Lloyd Kenyon Jones, Seattle Times, December 19, 1911, 19.
The public has pretty nearly lost all interest in wrestling. Gate money runs lower than at any time since the days of Evan Lewis, when $300 or $400 was a princely sum. Labor Day [and the second Gotch-Hackenschmidt bout] did it. And is the public going to repeat Labor Day? Everybody supposed that Hackenschmidt was better than he proved to be. His miserable showing started a long echo traveling and it hasnt made the round trip by long odds.
These other Europeans aver they are the masters of Hack but they never wrestled him as far as the records show. Their titles for the most part have been won in tournaments, and in this connection let us quote the words of a man familiar with these tournaments.
A wrestler aspiring to easy money, engages a grappling band of twenty or thirty ordinary mat men at a weekly stipend. He stages his tournament. He calls it, perhaps, the worlds championship as Ralcevich did in Mexico after Gotch trimmed him in Chicago. Being the employer, he graciously wins.
If this is the brutal truth, let it be known. If European titles have grown on shrubs of this kind, let Americans study the botany of their own species and draw their own conclusions.
(Svinth: Roller, nonplused, continued his merry moneymaking ways.)
"Short Jabs at Sport," Seattle Times, March 19, 1912, 13.
At Knoxville, Tenn., last night Jess Westergard beat Dr. B.F. Roller of Seattle. After 40 minutes of wrestling without a fall, Roller was injured slightly when the men fell through the ropes. He was unable to continue the match, although he recovered within a few minutes.
(Svinth: Sportswriters continued panning the game, saying it wasnt sport.)
"Gotch-Hack Fiasco Put Big Crimp in Wrestling Game," Hugh E. Knough, Seattle Times, April 14, 1912, 29.
There is only one excuse for professional wrestling, and that is the absence of boxing It is an exhibition game, which cannot support its players as anything else. Far worse than being crooked, it is stupid. One can overlook the crooked part of it, as one does not have to be deceived, but its stupidity is unforgivable.
(Svinth: But audiences didnt care -- they've always liked what James Twitchell calls "preposterous violence"-- and the promoters laughed all the way to the bank.)
"Large Belgian Wrestler Breaks One of Rollers Ribs," Seattle Times, November 16, 1912, 9.
Dr. Roller has had his ribs broken again. Doc has had ribs broken in London, Seattle, Philadelphia, and several other seaports, both in football and in wrestling, and last night he honored Ottawa, the capital of Ontario, by having his slats cracked there. He was wrestling a large, well-fed Belgian named Constant Le Marin.
(Svinth: As for Roller, he continued wrestling --
and breaking ribs -- for another decade. He died of pneumonia on April 19, 1933, age 57.)
The WAWLI Papers No. 788...
MORE ABOUT OLD, WONDERFUL PROMOTIONS
A GLANCE AT THE MEMPHIS TERRITORY, EARLY 1970s
The early 1970s saw business boom for Nick Gulas. As mentioned earlier Christine Jarrett became more involved in the business end of the company by helping open up and run shows in Kentucky and Indiana. Jerry Jarrett became more involved in the behind the scenes end of things by basically becoming co-promoter Roy Welchs assistant. Jerry ended up booking the shows in Memphis, which became the city that drew the largest attendance week in week out on the circuit.
Major stars for Gulas during the early 70s include Dr. Ken Ramey and The Interns, Buddy Wayne, Big Bad John, Pepe Lopez, Sir Steven Clements (known later in Georgia as Sir Dudley Clements), Eddie Marlin, Tommy Gilbert, The Alaskans: Frank Monte & Mike York, The Samoans (Tio & Tapu), Norvell Austin, Cowboy Frankie Laine, David & Jerry Novak (better known as The Bounty Hunters from Tombstone, Arizona), Bill Dromo, Ronnie Garvin, Terry Garvin & Duke Myers with manager Jim Garvin, Rufus R. Jones, Charlie Cook, The Fabulous Kangaroos: Al Costello & Don Kent with manager George "I Am Right" Cannon, Ben Justice, The Masked Infernos and manager J.C. Dykes, Phil Hickerson, Dennis Condrey, Johnny Grey, Tex McKenzie, Johnny Weaver, Ray Candy, Jerry Barber, Ernie Ladd, Billy and Benny McGuire and more.
A young Kevin Sullivan also worked the territory for Gulas in the early 70s. Around the same time another young man made his debut. He was known as Dennis McCord. He gained some further fame as Iron Mike McCord but even greater fame several years later as Austin Idol. Many fans saw Idol feud with Sullivan in the early days of Atlantas TV superstation, WTBS. Sullivan would have a long successful career both in-ring and behind the scenes. McCord would return to the area as Idol years later and become a major attraction for the promotion.
Nick Gulas son, George, debuted in ring in 1973 as a "special referee" on cards throughout the territory. By 1974, George, a tall, thin man, made his debut as a wrestler and immediately was placed in prominent places on cards teaming with such stars as Jerry Jarrett, Tojo Yamamoto and Jackie Fargo, the three biggest babyfaces of the time for Gulas.
Also making their presence known in the early 1970s were the younger members of the Welch family. Buddy Fullers two sons, Ron and Robert debuted. Buddy was the son of Gulas promoting partner, Roy Welch. Ron and Roberts cousin, Jimmy Golden also worked the area as did Lester Welchs two sons, Jackie and Roy Lee Welch. Also appearing from time to time were Johnny, Marshall and Ricky Fields, nephews to Roy Welch.
The Welch family plays a vital part of pro wrestling throughout the South for many decades. Not only was Roy Welch part of a successful promotion with Nick Gulas but other members of the Welch family became part of the business of wrestling promotion.
Lester Welch had bought into the Florida wrestling office based in Tampa and operated by Cowboy C.P. Luttrell and Eddie Graham. Meantime, Edward Welch, a/k/a Buddy Fuller, bought into the Georgia wrestling office based in Atlanta along with Paul Jones, Fred Ward and Ray Gunkel. Gunkel and Fuller became one of the areas top tag teams of the 1960s. There was just one problem though, away from the fans Gunkel and Fuller often clashed on how business should be conducted. In 1972, Buddy Fuller, wanting out of the constant bickering with Gunkel, which no doubt included how his sons, Ron and Robert, would be used in the promotion, arranged a deal with his brother Lester Welch. Lester would trade his Florida shares with Buddys Georgia shares. Lester came to work in the Atlanta office while Buddy moved to work in the Florida office.
Later in the year, one of the remaining owners of the Atlanta office, Ray Gunkel, died. His part of the company fell to his wife, Ann. The Georgia office split when Ann Gunkel formed All-South Wrestling and acquired much of the Atlanta-based talent. The one thing she did not take was the sanction of the National Wrestling Alliance, who had long, well-established ties to the Welch family. The NWA sent in stars from around the country to assist Welch in Atlanta. By January 1973, the NWA put into place a new team to help run the Atlanta office complete with new booker Cowboy Bill Watts. Until late 1974, the NWA and All-South ran weekly wrestling cards against each other in many Georgia cities. Some of Gulas stars made appearances for the NWA in Georgia including Don Greene, Jackie Fargo, Tojo Yamamoto, Jerry Jarrett, Ron and Robert Fuller, Jimmy Golden, Roy Lee Welch, J.C. Dykes and The Infernos and even a young Jerry Lawler. The NWA eventually won the war and along the way Lester Welch sold his part of the Atlanta promotion to Jim Barnett.
Looking for a booker for Atlanta, Barnett approached Jerry Jarrett, who agreed to book Atlanta but only if he could continue working for Gulas. Not long after this development Jerry was approached by Gulas and Buddy Fuller about buying Roy Welchs part of the promotion in Tennessee since Roys health was in decline. Jarrett bought into the Gulas promotion and for awhile, all was well as Gulas, Jarrett and Buddy Fuller, serving largely as a silent partner, continued to give the fans what they wanted to see.
Obviously, Jerry Lawler made a name for himself in the Tennessee territory in the 1970s. Lawler is truly a versatile performer. He ranks very high on the lists of many who think he is the businesss best talker. As he grew older he became somewhat more cautious in ring of what he would do but early in his career Lawler was one of the best bump takers in the business. (Bump taking is important for the heel since he must really sell the offense of the babyface as something that the heel cannot overcome, thus he must be able and willing to take more dangerous and exaggerated falls.) Discovered by Jackie Fargo at a Memphis radio station, Lawler worked for Gulas as an undercard performer. Lawler was advised to gain some more experience by working a territory that had just opened. The territory was based in Montgomery, Alabama and was operated by Bill Golden, father of Jimmy Golden. Jimmy was the grandson of Gulas partner, Roy Welch. While in Alabama, Lawler teamed with Steve Lawler (No relation, Steve was known later as Steve Kyle). While there Jerry came in contact with veterans Jim White and Sam Bass in this territory. White and Roy Klein were working the area as The Green Shadows. When they were unmasked they were billed as Woodrow and Roy Bass. Sam Bass was then brought in as their manager. Roy soon left and was replaced by Jimmy Hydes working as Percy Bass. White eventually went to work for Gulas and Lawler soon followed. Eventually White and Lawler teamed and added Jim Kent as their manager for awhile before Bass took over the honors. This threesome would become trouble for Nick Gulas babyfaces beginning in 1972. Lawlers talents reached beyond the wrestling ring as he drew a cartoon strip called "The Patriot" for theWrestling Monthly magazine in the early 1970s. As the history of this territory unfolds, Lawler will play an increasingly bigger role but by 1974, just three years after his debut, he was already poised to become the territorys top star.
Gulas wrestling was wild stuff for the times. Some of the more memorable angles of the early 1970s include a long-running feud between Al Greene and Jackie Fargo. The feud featured hair vs. hair matches and shockingly, Fargo, the top star, actually lost one of these matches, and had to have his head shaved, despite an near mob-like Memphis crowd begging him not to go through with the stipulations.
Len Rossi, one of Gulas top stars, was injured in an automobile accident in late 1972. His injuries were severe enough to force him to retire from active competition. In the summer of 1973, a recovering Len came to watch his son, Joey, wrestle Sam Bass on Memphis TV. Joey defeats Bass with a sleeper hold. Bass partners in crime, Jerry Lawler and Jim White, then argue that Joey had illegally choked Bass. Tempers flare leading to Bass, Lawler and White attacking the injured Len and leaving him a beaten man. This lead to a series of matches pitting Lawler and White against Joey Rossi and Lens longtime tag partner, Bearcat Brown. (A similar scenario played out on the eastern half of the territory around the same time featuring Terry Garvin and Duke Myers and manager Jim Garvin attacking Len on television leading to matches pitting Garvin & Myers against Joey and Brown.)
In late 1973, during the live Chattanooga TV show, announcer Harry Thornton tried to conduct an interview with the daughter of wrestler Don Greene. This would be a nice change of pace since fans rarely had the chance to hear the relative of a wrestler talk about what life is like for them. Needless to say the interview never was completed. The masked Interns and manager Dr. Ken Ramey were wreaking havoc over much of the territory at the time. The Interns and Ramey charge the announce position while Donna Greene is with Thornton. Incensed that Thornton refuses to give them interview time then, one of the Interns slaps Donna Greene. As Thornton and a horrified audience watched, Don Greene, who had just wrestled and retired to the showers, rushed out covered in soap to rescue his daughter.
Wrestlers were tarred and feathered (Bearcat Brown by Don and Al Greene). Scaffold matches were held in the early 1970s (Jerry Jarrett vs. Don Greene in Louisville). A manager was barred from appearing at ringside so he disguises himself as a woman and ran into the ring and attacked the opposition. (Sir Clements did this). Wrestlers were "run off the road while driving to the TV show" and beat up on the side of the road (There were several angles like this over the years most notably with The Bounty Hunters running Jackie Fargo off the road which lead to Jackie showing up late on the TV show but only after he called his brother, Roughhouse and requested he return to help him battle The Bounty Hunters). There was even a cake presented that ended up in the face of the honoree (The Bounty Hunters smashed Jackie Fargo into a cake). These angles may not mean much today but much of this was occurring in a day and time much tamer and conservative than now.
All these things lead us to our target start date of 1975. Almost.
Before looking at 1975 it is important that we examine 1974. This appears to be the year
the promotion began focusing less on tag teams and more on singles matches and titles. In
particular, much of the promotion began to be focused on the past and future of the
region. The past was represented ably by longtime fan favorite Jackie Fargo, the King of
Memphis. The future was being represented by the upstart cocky heel, Jerry Lawler and his
manager Sam Bass.
INTERVIEW WITH JOEY ROSSI
By Todd Nelson
(Joe was born in Utica New York in 1952. He grew up in Nashville where he attended Maplewood High School, and MTSU for a short time. His life story, like his father's, is most interesting. At a young age he developed an interest in weightlifting, but had little interest in his father's sport of wrestling. The following interview was conducted in 1996.)
Todd: It seems like a strange progression in time to where you started at to where you are now?
Joe: Well yes actually its like I guess how did the Grateful Dead describe it what a long strange trip its been. Actually life is just one part of our existence, just part of the long journey.
Todd: How about the weightlifting and the wrestling?
Joe: Well I was basically a strong kid. I got interested by watching the Russian Olympic lifters so I just started lifting, and by the time I was in 7th grade I was bench pressing 200 lbs, which was very strong in those days. The wrestling got started just like it did with my dad. G. P. West had started a team at Maplewood and Talked me into trying out so I agreed to wrestle him. He was much smaller than me and I really thought I'd win. He mopped the mat with me. Tore all the skin off my knees, elbows, and face.
Todd: So you were humiliated?
Joe: Very but I was hooked and stuck with it. My dad was a natural athlete I was strong but I was clumsy I lost every single match for the first 3 years. My nickname was Canvas Back. So it took a while but eventually I became very proficient and won my share of medals. I had unwavering drive and I worked out with some of the pros like Lou Thesz who could really wrestle.
Todd: That brings up two questions. Who's Thesz , and you turned pro at a young age?
Joe: Lou Thesz was the 7-time NWA world heavyweight
champion. He was the greatest champion in the modern era. Nobody has been able to
accomplish what he did. He is 80 now and still runs 3 to 5 miles a day. About 10 years ago
he challenged all the so-called world champions and nobody accepted so that speaks for his
prowess. I actually had my first pro match at 14 years of age. I wore a mask and didn't
receive any pay to protect my amateur status. The opponent beat me half to death by the
way. I really turned pro after high school.
Todd: You wrestled with your father in the Gulas
promotion and helped break the racial barrier in wrestling.
Joe: It was actually broken in 1969 but I was involved in it. You know we look at 30 years ago and we say it was yesterday but in mentality it was so different. In all the arenas black and white seating areas, rest rooms, concession stands were all the norm and a black athlete could not wrestle against a white athlete. So it mirrored the rest of society. I just feel fortunate to have been around to be part of doing what was right at the time. That's the thing I have to give Gulas credit for even though I never really personally got along with him. He had the fortitude to stand when it was'nt popular and it was dangerous when we did it. There were death threats against us and they threatened to blow up the auditorium in birmingham Alabama. The funny thing about it all was that the overwhelming majority of the fans were for us from the beginning. They loved Bearcat, and my father.
Todd: You're talking about Matt Jewell what kind of person was he?
Joe: He was great. The character Bearcat really was him. I mean it was like I'm black and that's what I am but I'm not mad at anybody I just want to ply my trade. He was a great person who had traditional values did not want any special treatment and just happened to be in the right place at the right time. You know it's really funny because really we're talking about our involvement in altering history and not one other wrestler, promoter, or organization ever came up to any of us and said thank you for what you guys did. It doesn't bother me.
Todd: You left after your dad's wreck?
Joe: Yea I went all over the US. I wanted to see America and hone my craft and my dad really had a hard time so I didn't need to burden him with my career at that time. Eventually I came back and dad and I made his comeback together and after that I went overseas and traveled all over Asia, Africa, and Europe. It was a great education.
Todd: I want to touch on the Ali thing. What was that all about?
Joe: Well there's actually two Ali stories. The first one is my dad's and the second one is mine but before I start I want to say that I saw Ali at the Olympic ceremony and I have a respect for the good things he's done. I basically didn't like Ali. He really got his gimmick the loud mouth, the riddles and all that from wrestling. He imitated Gorgeous George so he really was nothing new. Wrestling wasn't new to him either his manager Angelo Dundee's relatives promoted wrestling in Miami. Deep down in my opinion he was afraid of the wrestlers. Any way my dad formally challenged him to a boxer vs. wrestler match. He eventually did the thing with Inoki and we all know that they never touched each other and how bad it was for both sports. So the difference is my dad was serious and he intended to win.
Todd: So that's the first story?
Joe: Right. Now for the second story. I was
wrestling in florida and one night.Tiger Conway Jr. and I were coming back from Miami and
we heard a distress call on the cb radio for broken down bus. We go to the location and
it's Ali broke down. We were going to help, but he comes out and starts mouthing right
away. He asks me who we are and I tell him we just got through wrestling for Chris Dundee
in Miami, I also told him that he and I had met before but that he probably doesn't
remember me. I stuck my hand out to shake hands and he says I'll just whip all you guys
now. We took the rib in stride at first because you know how he was always clowning
around, but he persisted and he really got real nasty. His whole entourage was with him
and there were 5 or 6 of us so I'd had enough and I told him to just come and whip me now
if he could. I looked him right in the eye and I said ok loud mouth I'm serious me and you
right here no people, no hype, no promoters, lets see who wins, and you're going to lose
and you know it. Conway told his entourage to stay out of it or its a gang fight. I
started telling him names of wrestlers I knew and that I knew he knew and I think he
remembered after that. So now I was ready to have it out with him. He just would not
fight. It was that simple. In a way I hate telling this story because I realize a lot of
people won't believe it, but its the truth it really happened and the guys that were there
know its true and that's good enough for me. The bottom line was he shot his big mouth off
to the wrong people and he got called on it and wasn't willing to back it up. Do I hate
the guy? No. Do I like The guy? No.
Todd: You later challenged Larry Holmes?
Joe: Yes that made the magazines. Larry was out of Ali's stable. He was a great athlete. I was hoping to get a promoter. Gulas was willing but the Holmes people never responded. Like my father I intended to win the match.
Todd: How did you get involved in the health food business?
Joe: When I was wrestling I took supplements, but I really did not get involved, Really involved until I got out of wrestling. A lot of things happened and wrestling got more and more political. Its still the only major sport without a union, or benefits so I became interested in trying to start a union for the boys. It was a death blow for my career as far as the promoters were concerned and they did not want to use me any more so I just started wrestling local around Tennessee for independent promoters and I opened a small shop.
Todd: So you started out of necessity?
Joe: Well it was part necessity and part natural progression. I'd always been interested in supplements. I really didn't know anything about business though so I had to start from the bottom. My mother was a good business woman she taught me little by little how to order and all of those mundane things you must do in business. My father was the scientific person as far as what things do and how they work. I was always interested in politics so I joined the industry association and started learning the politics of the industry also.
Todd: You wouldn't think of the health food industry as political?
Joe: No the average person would not but it is. This is one of the most sincere industrys as a whole but it has also been historically one of the most unfairly maligned industry's. It's hard to believe especially now with all the research out that backs up what we've said for years how hard this industry had to fight just to keep it's products in the market place.
Todd: So you learned quckly?
Joe: I became a legislative advocate for the trade association and I still get involved on my own now when something comes up.
Todd: You went to school to?
Joe: I started taking the courses my dad was then changed focus. I became certified in reflexology and got my license from the state. I really got interested in herbs and just devoured everything I could on them and also became interested in quality control and the manufacturing end of things. There's a lot to it and there are big differences in what makes a quality supplement.
Joe: For example the difference in some synthetic supplements and high quality natural ones in regard to absorption in the body can be as much as 70 to 80 percent. So I studied and went to manufacturing plants to see how things were done and eventually we were able to formulate our own brand of high quality supplements which we're very proud of. I think in ten years we've maybe had four or five bottles returned.
Todd: Did being sick have anything to do with your learning process?
Joe: You bet it did. What happened was in 1990 my mother died unexpectedly in the house in my arms. We were very close and it devastated me. I now had the entire business part of the business dropped in my lap so the stress got to me and I almost died with a big hole in my stomach. It took three years to get well. What's amazing is I did it with natural products. The doctors and the medicine were wonderful to keep me from dying during the crises but if it were not for the natural things I wouldn't be here today.
Todd: So you experienced it first hand?
Joe: Not only that but the real lesson came from the two experiences because now I as a human being could understand for the first time in my life what real pain and suffering is like and how valuable people really are. That's why our family only sells the best because that's what people deserve.
Todd: How do you feel about the internet?
Joe: It's the most wonderful tool in human history. We constantly review the latest research and I am always on the net pulling it in so we can review it. That is why we put what I call science in laymen's terms on our web site because I wanted our site to be a learning tool for people and for us. I've contacted some brilliant scientists on the net and picked their brains and I have learned a lot from doing this. I love to get feedback from people.
Todd: Thank you for talking with us today.
Joe: Any time.