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(Special to The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Jan. 15, 1923)

By Frank G. Menke

NEW YORK -- Do not become unduly exercised over the "scheduled" mixed match involving Jack Dempsey and Strangler Lewis.

Chances are that it’s merely a bit of hokum designed to get a little publicity for Dempsey, Lewis and the town of Wichita, Kan.

In the first place, Wichita seems hardly able to finance any such affair. And, secondly, Jack Kearns is entirely too smart in fistic affairs to permit a world’s boxing champion to monkey around with a wrestler.

One little slip, one little misstep, an extra savage jolt, a sudden twist of the arm or the leg – and Dempsey, the "million-dollar asset," might be ruined forever as a fighter.

If Dempsey ever elected to mix it with a heavyweight wrestler the odds would be tremendously against him – provided he would have to wear boxing gloves while his rival operated in bare-handed fashion. For Dempsey’s only definite chance would hinge upon whether he could send home a sleep-producing punch before he was grabbed.

Inasmuch as Dempsey never has finished a truly trained athlete with one blow, how could he hope to win?

It’s true Dempsey wrestled somewhat in his younger days.

That was when on tour among the mining camps of the West, during which time he met all comers either at fighting or wrestling. And Dempsey knows quite a few grappling tricks.

But what good would all the wrestling knowledge of which he has availed himself be if he were in the ring grappling with gloved hands?

Dempsey is powerful – and he’s chain lightning in action for a heavyweight. He can stand up under terrific ring punishment. But his muscles are of the kind which merely make it possible for him to withstanding punching.

A wrestler and a boxer call into action entirely different sets of muscles. A wrestler couldn’t hit a straight hand punch if he were paid the ransom price of a thousand kings. His arm and shoulder muscles are heavy, ponderous; developed to push, haul and lift – but not to snap forward in a straight line with terrific speed and power.

The boxer, on the other hand, has no real lifting, pulling or hauling strength in his arms or shoulders. The legs of a boxer are built for speed – and little else. Those of a wrestler pack the power to crush, the power to stand up under a heavy human load. And also the ability to withstand crunches, twists and spins.

A fighter doesn’t pay much attention to the development of the neck muscles. But almost before he develops anything else, a wrestler must develop a powerful, unbreakable neck. If he doesn’t, his grappling career will be of the briefest.

Let’s suppose Dempsey goes on against a wrestler.

It’s 25 to 1 that Dempsey, even if he does land a punch with everything that’s in him upon the jaw of a fighter, won’t finish his man. He may stagger him – but what then?

The wrestler clinches. There’s no referee to part them. The wrestler continues to clinch until his brain clears. Then he gets busy. He tries for a crotch or a wristlock, a hammer-lock, a headlock, a half-Nelson, a full-Nelson.

It’s 10 to 1 that whatever he tries he’ll get because Dempsey, wearing gloves, won’t be able to pull away the clutching hands. And because Dempsey will be gloved, he cannot get an effective hold upon his rival.

What’s the answer?

Can it be other than that Dempsey will be flopped upon the canvas, where with muscles untrained to meet a wrestling emergency, he will be pinned at the will of the wrestler?

In years gone by, wrestlers have taken on boxers, each using their own style of warfare. Most of the affairs were won by the wrestlers. There are a few isolated instances where the boxer won. But it is well established that in those duels the boxer was a champion or a near-champion, whereas the wrestler he met was a dub.

It might be well for Dempsey or anyone else who thinks he can put the skillibuss under a grappler to recall what happened to Sam McVey some years ago when the late dusky heavy was in Australia and at the height of his career.

They tossed Samuel into a ring with a diminutive Jap, known as Shima. Time was called. Samuel wandered out in calm and dignified fashion. Shima hurled himself forward, and as he got within grabbing distance, he grabbed the negro. A fraction of a second later, the huge form of Sam McVey sailed up into the air, twisted, turned, landed on the ropes – and then fell outside the ring.

They picked up Sam and dusted him off. Sam looked around and couldn’t quite figure out what had happened and where he was. He inquired – and was given all the facts in the case.

"Now you get back into the ring for the second round," Sam was told.

"No, sah; no, sah, not me!" howled Sam. "Dis ain’t mah game!"

Sam went to his dressing room and never came back.


(Seattle Times, Monday, Sept. 31, 1931)

By Ken Binns

There seemed something fitting to the matchmakers of the Coast Athletic Club that Pat McKay, the gum-chewing man-from-the-masses, should introduce to Seattle Count Harkovsky of the nobility. He does it tonight in the semifinal bout of the Coast Club’s wrestling show at the Ice Arena, and the club deplores the necessary fact that the Count can’t come into the ring dressed as he does for the street. This identification of the Count, of course, is sheer hearsay. But he’s been in the movies, and not as a wrestler.

He has a mustache, but it’s not like that of Omar (Ferocious) Yousoff, the bearded Turk. The Count carries his with something of a defiant flair. He waxes it. He wears a cane. Spats. He has a resonant talkie voice. He walks like Jack Dempsey, which IS something. He takes his tea, neat. They’re mad about him in Vancouver, where he put Dr. Karl Sarpolis well-nigh to shame. Well, not to shame. You can’t shame Sarpolis, main eventer tonight with Dan Koloff.

The Count comes from Russia and gets mad when anyone questions the authenticity of his noble heritage. He can brandish papers, says Floyd Musgrave, Coast Club promoter, that prove he was a count.

Tonight, though, he meets Pat McKay, whose railroading eye has been cast at kings and queens perhaps as much as Harkovsky’s, though he swears for the life of him he can’t draw to a nobility flush. "Just pairs and now and then a full house," he complains.

McKay gets bounced by the elite of wrestling fraternity, but not by the lesser lads. If the Count excels him at a game preferred to railroading, he’ll be on the upward trend, no fooling.

There remains but one unknown on tonight’s Coast card. Harold Rumberg, identified as either from Holland or Germany, and new to the Coast, meets Ernest (Joe) Bickerton, onetime Rugby player at McGill University, of recent months an habitual wrestler about Vancouver, B.C.

Their bout is for three ten-minute rounds. Harkovsky’s is for five ten-minute rounds.

Dr. Karl Sarpolis, the Cleveland surgeon converted to the wrestling game five years ago, lost in his last bout to Joe Savoldi, heralded perhaps a bit prematurely as the coming heavyweight champion. They had wrestled one draw.

They met again last week in Los Angeles and Savoldi took the giant doctor in two straight, smashing falls. But Sarpolis figures Dan Koloff, his eight-round opponent tonight, easier pickings than Savoldi.

"He’s fatter," said Sarpolis. "More sluggish. A veteran wrestler is a doggone sight harder to stop than these kids fresh out of college. They haven’t had time to get tired."


(Seattle Times, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 1931)

By Ken Binns

Right in the middle of everything last night Steven Savage upset all Coast Athletic Club decorum and precedent by jumping into the ring. Then he pushed Promoter Floyd Musgrave aside, grabbed the loud speaker magnavox, and started to talk.

That was before Dan Koloff established added precedent by taking Dr. Karl Sarpolis for two falls out of three, to win an unexpected victory in the main event.

Musgrave grabbed the soundbox away from Savage, to articulate a bit more distinctly the Savage challenge to John Freberg. There was something of a Swedish roar and John Freberg went plowing into the ring. He shed his coat. Savage his coat. It was a titillating moment with Musgrave as much a titillator as the two heavyweight wrestlers.

He emerged finally with a slightly scrambled but presumably concrete contract, signed to with the ropes as a desk, that Freberg and Savage accepted each other’s somewhat hostile challenge to wrestle, with September 28 as the wrestling date, and the Coast Athletic Club as the promoter. A close scrutiny revealed September 28 as next Monday night.

That settled, the main bout began. Sarpolis won the first fall after a round of power-house wrestling, when, slamming off the ropes from a jolting headlock, he jack-knifed the Koloff middle with his spectacular flying scissors, to crash him to the canvas.

He tried it again in the third, after having been tossed over the ropes three times. But Koloff, on balance and anticipative, matched his leap with a thrust of his own, to jam him to the mat and pin his shoulders.

Sarpolis resorted to the Sonnenberg butt in the fourth, jolting him to the canvas five straight times. As Koloff rose from the fifth smackdown, he swung Sarpolis about, to pin him with a half body slam and win the bout.

Count Harkovsky, a dramatic lad with a touch of Frebergian wit, won one fall and the bout from Pat McKay, the Pennsylvania railroader, in the semiwindup, to bring down the house in a clamor of applause.

He found the going rough with McKay, never noted for his gentleness.

He was clinging to the ropes in the fifth round, with McKay tugging manfully enough at his midriff, when he suddenly let go, pushed backward, and fell on McKay to pin his shoulders for the only fall.

Harold Rumberg and Joe Bickerton wrestled to a three-round draw in the opener.


(Seattle Times, Saturday, Sept. 26, 1931)

The goodly and strong Mr. John Evko adminstered a muscle potion of double winglock and body slam to put an end to the nervous writhings and wrigglings of Pietro Bacini, sometimes called Italian heavyweight champion, last night in the main event of the Greater Athletic Club’s weekly mat show.

It was the first fall and happened in the third round. Bacini appeared to be so severely distraught by Evko'’ treatment that he was unable to return for the fourth canto.

The semi-windup saw August Sepp defeat Alex McDonald with an airplane spin. McDonald absorbed such punishment that, like Bacini, he felt unable to return for the next round.

Harry Ekizian, the black-visaged strong man from our Navy, was the fair-haired boy of the evening’s entertainment although he was unable to get better than a draw in his mad waltz with Cowboy Ray. They both earned one fall, Ekizian in the second with an airplane spin and Ray in the fourth with an arm bar.

In the opener, Jim Lamb took a two-fall victory over "Doc" Ferguson.

(ED. NOTE – Harry Ekizian, of course, went on to considerable fame and fortune under the name of Ali Baba.)


(Seattle Times, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 1931)

By Ken Binns

Two heartily thrown chairs bounced off John Freberg’s legs last night as he lost to Steve Savage, attesting in a measure the intense interest aroused amidst the citizenry over that long-discussed bout for the championship of the challengers.

The chairs were thrown by two irate fans. While one was being admonished by Freberg’s seconds, the other let fly. Both chairs connected. Freberg, however, not to be checked in a bit of oratory negating the Savage victory, continued a discussion which was drowned in what the moderns once termed the razzberry, but which now is just "the bird."

John won the first fall of the Coast Athletic Club main event – a really pleasing main event – with half a dozen synthetic rabbit punches and a body slam.

Savage won the second on a foul, induced by too many Freberg punches on the ropes, followed by a fusillade of half-rabbit socks behind the ear. Referee Harry Listman, finally accepted by Savage after the Slav had first demanded Jimmy Arbuthnot, University of Washington wrestling coach, awarded the fall to Savage. That was in the third round.

The bout – some claled it an exhibition, some a match and some didn’t know – ended in the fourth. Freberg picked Savage up, to throw him in a devastating body slam. Savage twisted on the way down.

As Freberg swung to pin his shoulders, Savage slid out, rolled on Freberg and pinned him flat. It concluded a bout doubtless the most spectacular of the year.

Savage jumped up laughing, grabbed for Freberg’s hand in high glee, bounced out of the ring, and immediately became the focal point of a Jugo-Slav influx. They hoisted him to their shoulders, to carry him out in the Lindbergh manner, while Freberg began his curtain talk.

Freberg was protesting as the first chair came whirling through the ropes to smack him in the knees. He moved over a pace and began gesticulating again. The seconds began uttering low but sincere sounds to the first chair thrower, as the second chair-thrower made his swing. Freberg resumed his speech.

But the continuity was somewhat shattered, and besides, no one seemed to be listening. The second chair scored a direct hit, and John gave up. After all, it was just a wrestling match.

Pat McKay outpowered the dogmatic Bob Kruse, disciple of the wrist-lock school, but unable to make that effective offensive weapon work.

They wrestled five rough and frequently inspiring rounds to a draw, yanked from the class of ordinary by McKay’s chase of Kruse with a Kruse bedroom slipper, and a tag-you’re-it scamper at the final bell, which saw them do a tap dance about the ring stratosphere.

Marin Plestina gave the first round but a brief chance to open. He picked up Joe DeVito, portly Italian heavyweight, slammed him in one booming blast to the canvas and won the bout.



(Chicago Tribune, Thursday, March 2, 1933)

The second 1933 showing in Chicago of the Jim Londos-Joe Stecher wrestling number, familiar to followers of the grappling pastime at intervals during the last decade, will be presented at the Chicago Stadium tomorrow night before what is expected to be a record crowd at a local match.

The match was prompted by the recent revival of the rivalry of the Greek and the Nebraskan at the Coliseum, wherein Stecher surprised everybody, including himself, by holding the claimant of the world’s championship to a draw within one hour. Doc Krone, promoter of that exhibition, now acting in the role of matchmaker for Promoter Joe Foley of the Stadium, averred that no less than 2,000 customers were turned away from the Coliseum doors.

Londos arrived in town last night and will work out at Kid Howard’s gymnasium this afternoon.

After their first meeting Stecher followed up his moral victory over Londos by challenging Jim to a match at the Stadium, with the title belt presented to the Greek three years ago by the Millionaires’ club of Madison Square Garden to be at stake. Londos, claiming to be dissatisfied by his performance against Stecher, readily agreed to a second match.

The Illinois Athletic Commission said yesterday it could not permit Jack Dempsey to referee the match, as he is not a resident of the state.

The meeting has caused a boom in ticket selling which bids fair to exceed that of the last important mat bout at the Stadium, that between Londos and the bald-headed Russian, Kola Kwariani, when nearly 18,000 were in attendance.

Mr. Foley and Dr. Krone have surrounded the main event with five bouts, bringing together at least six of the leading contenders for the championship, such as it is. The Londos-Stecher bout will have a new time limit, one hour and a half instead of the hour which held during the Coliseum match. In the other bouts Ray Steele will meet Pat O’Shocker, George Zaharias faces Abe Coleman, Jim McMillen engages Hans Steinke, Joe Savoldi wrestles Joe Cox, and Jack Smith meets Lou Plummer.


(Chicago Tribune, Friday, March 3, 1933)

Joe Stecher, the Nebraskan who is one of wrestling’s patriarchs by virtue of his years of experience, will seek his fourth lease on the world’s heavyweight championship tonight at the Chicago Stadium. He will engage Jim Londos, who has made the most sustained claim to the crown for the last three years, for the second time in six weeks.

Promoter Joe Foley and matchmaker Doc Krone have high hopes of setting a new Chicago record for attendance at a mat entertainment, even to outdoing Londos’ last appearance at the Stadium, when he defeated Kola Kwariani, the Russian, before nearly 18,000.

The second meeting of Londos and Stecher this year within such a brief space of time was prompted by the latter’s effort against the titleholder, in which he held James to a one-hour draw at the Coliseum in a match where at nearly 2,000 customers were turned away.

Londos was dissatisfied with his performance against Stecher, who has held the title thrice previously and came out of retirement less than a year ago. Ed White, Londos’ manager, decided that Jim was going stale, and he has appeared in only two matches since, spending the remainder of the time resting in the California mountains.

Stecher will enter the match with the advantage of an additional half hour on the time limit, and with it a margin of more than 40 pounds in weight and four inches in height.

In addition to the main event a majority of the Londos cast will appear in supporting roles. A half-hour time limit has been prescribed for four bouts, bringing together Ray Steele and Pat O’Shocker; George Zaharias and Abe Coleman; Jim McMillen and Hans Steinke, and Joe Savoldi and Joe Cox. Jack Smith and Lou Plummer will go 20 minutes or less in the opening match.

16,800 SEE LONDOS PIN STECHER; 59 MINUTES (eight column banner)

(Chicago Tribune, Saturday, March 4, 1933)

By Charles Bartlett

James Londos still is in control of at least 51 per cent of the world’s wrestling championship, despite the earnest efforts of Joe Stecher, once the main stockholder in the corporation, to persuade him to relinquish it at the Stadium last night.

The venerable Joseph, who held Londos to a draw at the Coliseum six weeks ago, did well for a large part of the entertainment, but his years began to tell on him before an hour was up, and James finally made him hold still with a series of body slams and a reverse head lock in 59 minutes and 9 seconds.

The ageing Nebraskan, who has held the title three times, found that not even his patented scissors hold could daunt Londos.

The boxing impresarios present wept and gnawed at their fingernails when they viewed the large numbers peopling almost all of the red seats in the big house, a fine tribute to Dr. John Krone, the patron saint of Chicago wrestling, who was moved beyond words by the attendance, which was officially 16,820 with receipts of $29,579.

After the preliminary acts had been disposed of and a hireling had gone to the prop room to dig up the bouquet in use at all of Londos’ Chicago bouts for the last year, the curtain rose on the feature number of the evening. In comparison with the lesser acts on the bill, the Londos-Stecher business was heavy drama. Stecher was particularly serious about his work, and Londos, obviously respectful of Joe’s deadly scissors, mounted his bicycle early and nearly climbed on Referee Emil Thiry’s shoulders once to escape it. Stecher finally caught up to the champion and twined his legs around Jim while kneading the latter’s jowls with his knuckles for nearly fifteen minutes.

Londos eventually squirmed out of this at about the thirty-minute mark and gave Stecher a bit of agony himself with an armlock. The Nebraskan repaid him plenty with a split hold which caused James no end of pain.

Stecher began to develop a fondness for the corners after fifty minutes, with the idea of luring Londos into another scissors hold, but James didn’t like the idea and surprised all present by getting that grip on Stecher himself and applying it so strenuously that it appeared the match was over.

They did a polka along the ropes after Joe finally freed himself, and Londos once more found the Nebraskan’s legs wound around his withers, a situation which endured for five minutes. Then Jim found the key to the puzzle and came out of it to repay Stecher for his split hold earlier in the performance.

Within 57 minutes of the allotted time consummated, the boys lightened the burden of the script with a few comedy lines. These included the hurling of Stecher into the laps of the commission and the subsequent pursuit of Londos around the ring for about five furlongs. Then came the curtain with all of the old Londos flourish.

It was 8:20 o’cock when the clang of steel bars and an ominous rumbling emanated from the nether regions of the building, indicating that the first twosome of the evening’s herd had been released from the cages below.

This number was composed of Jack Smith of Chicago and Lou Plummer of Waukegan and was a decided triumph for clean play and sportsmanship. The crowd howled its approval when Smith overcame Plummer with a series of headlocks and a flying mare in 10 minutes and 59 seconds.

Jim McMillen, the old Illinois football player, and Hans Steinke, the original German oak, lumbered up for the second skit on the bill, but arrived at no decision, Referee Managoff finally calling it even after 20 minutes.

After trailing for three quarters, Joe Savoldi, the people’s choice of Three Oaks, Mich., who used to lug a football for Notre Dame, rallied and scored four touchdowns in the last period to defeat Joe Cox of Cleveland with a body slam formation in 16:46.

The shortest priced favorite on the program went to the post when Abe Coleman, the Bronx chimpanzee, waddled into the ring. The railbirds took tickets on Abe, not because of any especial information on him, but because they did not like his opponent, George Zaharias of Colorado.

It was this performance which gave the ringside customers their money’s worth, for only they could glimpse the touch that is Zaharias, which makes him the foremost ham of this grappling art. Coleman proved to be no slouch at crying himself, and finally earned a dead heat in 30 minutes, a new track record for a match race with Zaharias.

Ray Steele, one of the troupers of the Londos stock company, and Pat O’Shocker, who wasn’t even playing butlers in the grunting guild’s production of two years ago, but has since risen to some fairly fat parts, appeared in what was called the semi-windup. Steele finally brought down the house and O’Shocker with a reverse body lock in 19:55.


(Chicago Tribune Syndicate, March 4, 1933)

By Westbrook Pegler

WASHINGTON, D.C. – It was my misfortune not to be among those present at the dedication of the new wrestling champion of the world, or New York, or somewhere, one Jim Browning, from some little town in Missouri, who lay on his back in the Garden ring on a recent evening, wrapped his legs around Strangler Lewis, twizzled him around in midair for some time, banged his had on the floor as you might wallop a catfish against the side of a boat, to subdue his wiggles, and then ironed him out, amid cheers.

Mr. Browning, it seems, is a sterling sportsman who intends to be a true champion, jealous of the fine traditions which all true sports lovers will ever hold dear.

This causes me to feel that a very beautiful influence has come into the sport, and if times were less difficult there certainly would be a gala testimonial banquet at one of the big hotels one of these evenings with William Muldoon conspicuous on the date to glower around the room at the assembled poltroons and evil influences and thunder the terrible word "scoundrel" as only he can pronounce it.

As every one knows, Mr. Muldoon has been a great force for good in the sports of the ring during the last twelve years or so. True, there have been an extraordinary number of fakes and fouls during his administration and the kidnapers, house painters, bootleggers, and smugglers who infest the sport have been quite as active as they ever were before. But with Mr. Muldoon on the prizefight commission, there has been a comforting assurance all the time that if the boys ever should go too far Mr. Muldoon would take firm steps with them. They did go pretty far, but not too far. I wonder how far too far is. I also wonder how high is up.

This is not to suggest, of course, that the new champion wrestler, Jim Browning, would ever permit himself to become involved in any proceedings of a kind which would be likely to tear down the fine standard of sportsmanship for which the wrestling business is noted. He says he would not do such and the word of a new champion is good enough for me.

It will be a sweet change, this reign of ethics and high principals and conscientious competition in wrestling.

I have felt – I have sometimes felt almost positive about it – that some of the heavyweight championship matches discoursed for the customers in various rings around the United States were not being conducted on the highest plane. It is hard to prove one’s suspicions, because who can sit at a ringside and purport to read what is going on in the heart and soul of a great moist, hairy, blubbery mass of meat, momentarily invested with the highest honors in the game? One may and one does have suspicions arising from certain circumstances, but what fair judge would accuse a noble athlete of doing wrong merely on circumstantial evidence?

Remember, if you please, that however impersonally you may regard the party under the suspicion, somebody loves him and cherishes his baby shoes. It is hard to bear in mind as one looks at them involved in their tangles and gigantic sprawls upon the mat that wrestlers are human beings with the hopes, principles, fears, desires, and so forth of human beings, but Jack Curley has told me repeatedly that they are and Mr. Curley is in a position to know. Mr. Curley has kept wrestlers in his home. He has slept with them and sat at a table with them and he maintains that they domesticate very readily.

One incident comes to my mind which seemed to suggest that maybe sometimes the wrestlers wrestled according to instructions or some prearranged scenario. This was in a bout in Los Angeles. A sophisticated sports writer took his shiny new bridge to the wrestling bouts one evening and was terribly embarrassed when his helpmeet, sitting in the first row, maintained a running fire of squeals and screams throughout the main event, and rooted for the wrong wrestler. Our friend was chagrined to think that here he was, supposed to be a very smart man, an authority if you please, who knew exactly what was going on at all times, and here was his bride acting in a very dumb manner. He remonstrated gently when the bouts had ended, pointing out that she had made a mugg, as he said, of him in the presence of several thousand people.

"Because, you see, my pudding," he explained to her, "everybody is supposed to know how the plot comes out in a wrestling match and when you root for the wrong guy it makes me look as though I didn’t know much."

The beautiful, blushing bride did not belive that at all, so papa promised to prove the truth of all he said at the next week’s wrestling exhibition.

So that night, before entering the arena, he told her which gladiator was going to win and told her also that the victim would be thrown out of the ring three times, the first time at 9:45, and the next time at 10:02 and the last time at 10:13, after which, he said, the victor would himself be thrown around the ring in a careless manner for several minutes but would suddenly put forth a Herculean effort, hoist up his adversary, whirl him high in the air, and send him crashing to the boards -–limp, unconscious, and defeated.

The wrestling match proceeded in strict accordance with this schedule and the bride was convinced and also disillusioned, but what does that prove?

Couldn’t it all have been a coincidence?



(San Francisco Chronicle, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 1935)

By Harry B. Smith, Chronicle Sports Editor

Jack Ganson, San Francisco deposed wrestling promoter, is willing to tell the commission all he knows about the wrestling game. But Ganson makes two stipulations about his willing to talk of the inside workings of the mat game. There will be a commission meeting in San Francisco next Saturday.

First of all, Ganson demands that he be subpoenaed by the commission. Secondly, he insists, if he is to testify, it must be under oath. The State Athletic Commission has the authority both to subpoena a witness and to let him testify under oath.

But so far in early announcements it has merely come from the commissioners that wrestling heads who in the past have made complaints of the way things have been run are free to testify if they care to do so. Pete Visser, Sacramento’s successful wrestling promoter, who started the investigation by making certain charges, has been blowing hot and cold so far.

Smiling Jack Ganson, after his dethronement as the wrestling boss at Dreamland, with Joe Malcewicz put in charge, attended a meeting before Governor Merriam recently at Sacramento. But Ganson didn’t have anything to say at the time.

Now the ex-wrestling head, who is making his home in Oakland, although he has declared his intention of going to Europe for a vacation, will have another opportunity to talk. Commissioner George Payne of San Jose, who conducted the preliminary investigation, has asked all the wrestling heads to appear before the commission next Saturday morning.

So far no subpoenas has been issued. Under the circumstances wrestling men have the right to attend or stay away as they see fit.

Ganson says, frankly, he will stay away unless the commission legally compels his attendance.

"I don’t want to hurt anyone in the wrestling game," Ganson said yesterday. "But at the same time if the commission compels me to attend and will put me under oath I will tell what I know. I will not only answer questions but I will make a statement as to existing conditions. It would be foolish for me or any other man in the mat game to attend voluntarily and make a statement without being placed under oath. If I am to tell anything, I want it to count."

Such word has been passed to Commissioner George Payne. The commissioner from the Garden City, who is reported as being in complete charge of looking over the wrestling situation, has been reported as anxious to get at the facts.

Ganson says he can help if he is ordered to be there. And Smiling Jack hints there are others in the wrestling game who can help make the Saturday meeting an interesting one.


(San Francisco Chronicle, Thursday, Dec. 12, 1935)

Leroy McGuirk, recognized by the trade as light heavyweight champion, returns to action in San Francisco tonight when he tangles with Ted Christy, rugged Sunland heavyweight, in the two-hour, best two in three falls main event on Promoter Frank Schuler’s weekly program at the Civic Auditorium.

McGuirk made a fine impression here earlier this year when he successfully defended his crown on two occasions. A graduate of the amateur ranks, McGuirk is well versed in the game. He wrestles on the scientific order and seldom indulges in rough tactics.

"Red" Lyons, vicious Seattle matster, steps in the ring against the giant Japanese star, Shinuchi Shikuma, in the semifinal – a 30-minute, one-fall encounter.

Tsutao Higami, Japanese "rubber man," who holds the junior middleweight championship, meets Basanta Singh, veteran Hindu, in a 30-minute, one-fall battle.

"Mysterious Mr. X," masked marvel, faces Jack Domar of Texas in a 30-minute, one-fall fracas.

"Buzz" Reynolds, 18-year-old Salt Lake boy, opens the evening’s sport in a 15-minute, one-fall match, against Joe Padia of this city.

John Kallos will referee. The first bout starts at 8:30.


(San Francisco Chronicle, Friday, Dec. 13, 1935)

Although Ted Christy insisted upon being an old meanie and doing things he shouldn’t have, everything turned out all right last night at the Civic Auditorium and Leroy McGuirk retained his light heavyweight wrestling title.

Christy won the first fall in five minutes with a body press and knees to the jaw. This latter method inspired John Kallos, referee, to issue a warning, but Mcguirk won the next fall in 10 minutes with exactly the same procedure, and the final fall was finished in nine minutes with a flying tackle and body press.

Red Lyons, the villain of the lightweight wrestling trust, didn’t earn any applause, but he did get a draw with Shinuchi Shikuma in the special event.

Tsutao Higami won on an arm stretch from Basanta Singh in 10 minutes.

Mysterious Mr. X beat Jack Domar on a foul in 10 minutes. Buzz Reynolds won from Joe Padia in eight minutes with a cradle hold.

A good house greeted the lighter wrestlers.


(San Francisco Chronicle, Saturday, Dec. 14, 1935)

By Harry B. Smith

Wrestlers and wrestling promoters are assured a packed house when they present their new act, "We Tell All We Know," at the State Athletic Commission meeting this morning in the Hotel William Taylor.

I have too good a sense of humor myself to expect grapplers to start a "squawk" that’s going to lead anywhere, but there are plenty of hopeful ones who think this morning’s show is going to blow the roof off the house.

Called chiefly to allow disgruntled and dissatisfied grapplers to speak out in the open and air their grievances, the State Commissioners will receive permit applications and listen to any ordinary run of business. The wrestling situation became somewhat muddied a few weeks back, when statements were made of the raising of a fund for alleged legal purposes.

Tom Foley, whose law partner was presumably in charge of the work, denied any interest in the matter. A Sacramento investigation produced no results, for such chaps like P.H. Visser of Sacramento, E.A. Fedderson of Oakland and Jack Ganson of San Francisco appeared but had nothing to say that would shake the rafters. Indeed, if there was any washing of dirty linen, it was done in private.

So this time a meeting of the entire commission has been called. Wrestling clubs have been notified and told that proprietors can come right out in the open and speak their pieces.

My private opinion, publicly voiced, is the whole thing will be a "flop" and a "dud."

The commission is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. They may have a "whisper" session in advance, but the main meeting will be "open house." There are accomodations for something like 150 people.


(San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, Dec. 15, 1935)

By Harry B. Smith, Chronicle Sports Editor

As had been anticipated and predicted, the carried-over investigation of the wrestling squawks proved a dud. When Dr. P.H. Visser of Sacramento started trouble some weeks ago, based on the raising of a fund for so-called legal services, it was thought it might start something. But the same wrestling protesters who failed to give any important information to Governor Merriam were even meeker yesterday when they faced the State Commissioners.

At Sacramento there were veiled hints the commission was favoring the Bowser-Curley syndicate to the exclusion of the light heavies. But when the question was put to these witnesses point blank yesterday, they were mum.

Practically the same two questions were hurled at witnesses called into the meeting room yesterday morning:

"Have you any criticism to offer of the State Commission? Has the commission ever been unfair in its dealings with you?"

Such witnesses as Pete Visser, the Sacramento promoter who had promised to "tell all he knew"; Ernest Fedderson and Ad Santel of Oakland; Bobby Burns, Eureka; Henry Goldstein, Vallejo, and Willie Hunnefeld, Fresno, answered "no" to the queries, saying they were only interested in the securing of their permits.

With such a lack of testimony, Chairman Dr. Harry Martin declared there was nothing on which to base any action and the probe was dropped forthwith. As a matter of fact the investigation didn’t get to first base. Jack Ganson, once boss of the matmen here, who has promised disclosures, left the day before the meeting for Los Angeles. Apparently Jack didn’t want to do any talking.

The "blowing up" of the wrestling scandal left the commission with one big argument on their hands to be settled by the last of the year. Three different groups want the lightweight wrestling permit for the Civic Auditorium. Frank Schuler, hooked up last year with Jack Reynolds, is an applicant by himself, as is Captain Alberger, whose Jewel City A.C. has George Selleneit as matchmaker. Mo Dorman, San Francisco businessman, once mentioned for a commissionership, is hooked up with Jack Reynolds this time, his club being the Diamond A.C.

It is a three-cornered fight for the lightweight permit and will probably be tossed in the lap of incoming Chairman George Payne for settlement.

Visser, who promoted this last two years for the D.A.V. of Sacramento, but may not have his contract renewed, has applied for his own permit. The gossip is, however, the "syndicate" may freeze out Visser by the simple expedient of refusing talent.

The following applications for wrestling permits will be considered at the December 27 meeting:

San Francisco – Joe Malcewicz, for Dreamland: Diamond A.C. (Mo Dorman and Jack Reynolds) for Civic Auditorium; Jewel City A.C. (Capt. Alberger) for Civic Auditorium; Frank Schuler for Civic Auditorium.

Oakland – Greey Bay A.C. (Louis Parente), lightweight wrestling; East Bay A.C. (Fedderson and Santel).

San Jose – American Legion.

Sacramento – Sacramento Wrestling Club; P.H. Visser; D.A.V.

Modesto – D.A.V.

Fresno – D.A.V.; Fresno Club (Don Price).

Stockton – D.A.V. (Willie Hunnefeld).

Chico – American Legion.

Redwood City – Tommy Cello A.C.

Vallejo – Vallejo A.C. (Joe Goldstein).

In addition, wrestling permits have been applied for by groups in Ukiah, Hanford, Grass Valley, St. Mary’s, Redding, Eureka and Petaluma.


(San Francisco Chronicle, Friday, Dec. 20, 1935)

Although he protested with all the eloquence of a peer in the British Parliament, Lord Lansdowne could not get his message across to Referee John Kallos last night at the Civic Auditorium wrestles. As a result, Tsutao Higami, the Japanese "rubber man," won the match.

"His Lordship" had whirled Higami around with an airplane spin and thought the match was over when he bounced the rubber man to the mat. But Higami bounced too far and a body press shoved Lansdowne and his curly locks into the mat.

Lansdowne claimed he was first, but Kallos couldn’t see it, but he did see Higami’s stunt. So all ended with boos and cheers in 29 minutes.

Although Dr. Barney Cosneck won two matches in the scheduled main event, his victories were accompanied by a small sized riot. First he pinned Les Wolfe in 18 minutes with a rolling wrist lock, but his next opponent, Ted Christy, wasn’t so nice. Christy gouged and kneed Cosneck, and finally threw him out of the ring. They led Barney back, and after more of the same Cosneck was awarded the bout on a foul. Following which the crowd – some of it, anyway – came into the ring while others chased Christy to the dressing room.

Other results: Mysterious Mr. X pinned Billy Hassan, 11 minutes, body slam; Buzz Reynolds on from Jack Domar, 11 minutes, drop kick; Al Stecher downed Tug Wilson, 15 minutes, body slam; Ken Hollis and Tiger Tsakoff, draw.



(Los Angeles Times, Monday, Dec. 16, 1935)

War in the local wrestling ranks loomed this morning following a telegram received by Promoter Lou Daro of the Olympic from Sandor Szabo in which Szabo absolutely refused to go through with his match next Wednesday night with George Calza.

Szabo’s telegram which came from New York stated: My western representative informs me matched with Calza in Los Angeles on the 18th. I did not authorize this match and therefore am notifying you to change same at once. Someone overstepped his authority. Will settle this when I arrived. Signed, Sandor Szabo.

The Szabo runout threw a monkey wrench into the Olympic plans and also halted Calza from getting a chance at Vincent Lopez, California’s world champion, who had agreed to meet the winner.

Rumors were rampant along the mat front that there was more than one reason for Szabo ducking Calza. It was said that Calza, who has claims on the European title, has been getting the run around from West Coast wrestlers. He insists they are trying to elbow him out of the picture. They say Calza is out to injure his opponents for a reason best known to himself. To back up this contention they point to the fact that every one of Calza’s opponents has been injured in bouts on this Coast.

Chief Little Wolf and Gino Garibaldi is the other three-fall match on the program. With Szabo out Daro must dig up an opponent for Calza. Both the Calza-Szabo bout and the Little Wolf-Garibaldi match were originally planned as three-fall affairs to top a six-bout program.

Kimon Kudo, Japanese star, is in the special with Luis Mayo, Mexico’s light heavyweight champion.

Daro was scheduled to hold a meeting today to try and straighten out the situation.


(United Press, Tuesday, December 17, 1935)

By Jack Diamond

NEW YORK – Not to be outdone by the glittering premiere of the opera last night, Promoter Jack Curley staged a rivalf, and repeat, performance of that stirring drama, Danno O’Mahoney versus Ed Don George, once again wrestling for what so many people believe to be the heavyweight championship of the world.

Jocular Jacques, the playboy of the pachyderms, with his delightfully humorous touch, has rounded out a thrilling production, replete with pathos and humor, tragedy, tears and laughs – with sound effects.

His principals, the Irish Free State soldier, who at present wears the champion’s moldy laurel, and the former Olympic squirmer, Mons. George, are perfect in their roles, and the presentation should have a long and profitable run, provided the public is willing.

They have performed the drama four times – twice in New York and twice in that capital of culture, Boston – and each time, by some strange quirk of fate, the pale skinned Irishman has retained his crown.

As long as the act has box office appeal, there is no reason why Dr. Curley should not continue offering it in its present form. After an out-of-town opening and a Broadway "premiere," he likely can road-show it in the tank towns, something like Primo Carnera’s spectacular knockout run across the country some years ago, which introduced the Italian circus giant to an incredulous America.

There was some talk that Senor Curley had called in a "play doctor," as they are designated on Broadway, to patch up his script with a different ending, giving the championship this time to the burly Don George. But evidently he elected not to alter the manuscript – so O’Mahoney won once again.

This time, as a matter of fact, the "stage business" differed slightly from previous performances, for it was the first time the 220-pound Irishman actually pinned George, the former champion, even if it required one hour and 23 minutes to achieve the deed.

But that’s really not so long, when you come to think of it – even "The Green Pastures" ran something over two hours.

In the two Boston showings the Irish sinew stretcher conquered by pitching his black haired opponent through the ropes, to the dire peril of the press and its battery of carefully guarded typewriters. O’Mahoney won the previous New York encounter by knocking out George with a punch on the jaw.

In the most recent engagement, almost all of the evening was spent with either the ex-champion or the current champion sitting down on the canvas with his opponent’s head squeezed tightly between his knees. The pair of performers sat on each other’s midriffs at times with terrific thumps that could be heard on the street outside the Garden.

For a period of some eight minutes Mr. George was unable to roll Mr. O’Mahoney over on his back and win the contest by pinning his shoulders to the mat – principally because Mr. George had his brawny arm pillowed under the Irishman’s neck.

But, like the true performer he is, Danno didn’t appear to enjoy it one whit.

At length, however, he threw the dangerous Don with a flying mare and a body hold, and another performance of the thrilling drama passed into history. Out of sight, it is hoped.


(Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 1935)

By Jack Singer

Lou Daro, the man who pulls the strings for the pachyderm puppet show, is the victim of the only double "double-cross" in wrestling history.

Mons. Daro, who suffered this strange attack yesterday forenoon, has been pronounced, according to latest bedside bulletins, a "very sick man, but has a fifty-fifty chance to recover." He is being treated by Dr. Jack Daro, his brother and partner in pain.

Fully aware that I will be summoned to testify at the inquest, that is if Mons. Daro, in his weakened condition, should not survive the shock, here’s the story as seen through the eyes of a "ringside" witness. Read this and run, do not walk, to the nearest drug store where you will be given a free aspirin tablet on presentation of this clipping.

Joe Marsh of Seattle, veteran manager of bone benders, has been "popping off," as Mons. Daro so adequately but crudely puts it, around town that he has in his possession a wrestler who can and will throw Senor Vincent Lopez, Mons. Daro’s champion, for a total loss if given the opportunity.

Charging that the Daros have turned icemen are giving him the well-known "freeze out," Marsh posted $1000 with the State Athletic Commission for a crack at Senor Lopez, Mons. Daro’s box office bonanza.

Striking Napoleonic pose No. 12B, Mons. Daro yesterday invited newspapermen to attend a conference in his office. At the opportune moment he opened a door and out stepped the obstreperous Mr. Marsh, himself.

"Boys," said Mons. Daro, "I’m going to put Mr. Marsh right on the spot. He’s been doing a lot of talking about my champion, Vincent Lopez. I am going to give Mr. Marsh’s "Unknown" wrestler a chance to earn a championship match. All Mr. Unknown has to do is beat George Calza Wednesday night and he can have a match with my man Vincent."

Looking all the world like the Vice-President of the United States just after he had addressed Congress, Mons. Daro cast a triumphant glance around the room.

Now it was Mr. Marsh’s turn to take the floor.

"Gentlemen and Mr. Daro," eloquently began Mr. Marsh, a white-haired, aristocratic-looking gent. "My good friend here, Mr. Daro, thinks he has me on the spot. Well, he’s wrong. I’ve got him on the spot. My wrestler, the Unknown, can’t wrestle George Calza because he is George Calza."

Having tossed his little hand grenade into the smoke-filled room, Mr. Marsh calmly reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a contract dated Nov. 2, 1935. You did not need a magnifying glass to see the signatures of Mr. Calza and Mr. Marsh scrawled on the dotted line.

Mons. Daro, who could hardly have been more surprised had Mr. Marsh reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a gun, snatched this document from the hands of Mr. Marsh, took one hurried look and fell back heavily into his chair.

At that moment Mons. Daro could have been mistaken for a rainbow. He turned red, white and blue, like a true patriot. We even thought we heard a groan escape from his parched lips.

Mr. Marsh tried hard not to laugh but he couldn’t restrain his mirth any longer. He laughed so hard the tears rolled down his cheeks.

Disposing of a glass of ice water, Mons. Daro made an effort to regain his composure.

"So you’ve double crossed me, eh?" screamed the excitable Mons. Daro. "Well, I’ll fix you and that Calza, too. You can’t do this to me."

"Now don’t get excited, Lou, don’t get excited," interposed Mr. Marsh.

"I’m not excited!" shouted Mons. Daro, who looked like he was going to throw a fit, to say nothing of a telephone and a chair.

Reaching into a drawer and pulling out a handful of photographs of seminude wrestlers, Mons. Daro addressed the gathering:

"Right here in my hand now I have the man who is going to take care of this Calza. When this man gets through with Calza he really will be the Unknown!"

"That’s okeh by me," said Mr. Marsh. "Who is this murder-man of yours?"

"Nick Lutze," returned Mons. Daro, waving a picture of Lutze under the nose of Mr. Marsh.

This provoked additional laughter on the part of Mr. Marsh, who was doubled up like a circus rubberman.

"Now, that’s really funny, boys," said Mr. Marsh, after he had wiped the tears from his cheeks. "Lutze is the guy that wrestled two hours to a draw with Methuselah a couple of thousand years ago."

"I’ll tell you what I’ll do," cut in the irritable Mons. Daro. "I’ll bet you a $100 suit of clothes that Lutze throws Calza."

"You’re on," said Mr. Marsh. "Let’s shake on that."

They did. The meeting was over.

So tomorrow night at the Olympic Nick Lutze will meet George Calza in two-out-of-three brawls.

If there’s any sillier business than wrestling, it’s wrestling – whether it’s catch-as-catch-can, Greco-Roman or jiu-jitsu.


(Los Angeles Times, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 1935)

One of the cleverest wrestling coups ever concocted reaches a climax tonight at the Olympic when George Calza, self-styled trust buster, takes on Nick Lutze, veteran trial horse, in a best two-out-of-three falls main event.

For several months J.C. Marsh, a well-known manager of wrestlers, has made life miserable for Lou Daro, hurling challenges right and left, posting appearance guarantees and demanding that Daro pit one of his topnotch performers against Marsh’s man, identified only as the "Unknown."

In a dramatic meeting at the Olympic Monday, Daro defied Marsh and told him to trot out his "champion." He was to be pitted against Calza, the piano-legged, bone-breaking grappler, who has incapacitated practically all of his opponents here.

The laugh was on Daro, however, as Marsh promptly dug up a contract which revealed the startling information that Calza was two different wrestlers, one of them being Mr. Marsh’s "Unknown."

It took Daro fifteen minutes to recover from the shock, and plot his revenge. Then he informed Marsh that the now well-known Calza would have to risk his life in mortal combat with Nick Lutze for having "double-crossed" the great Daro or leave town.

Marsh snapped up the match and tonight the two master strategists will sit back in their chairs and watch the rival grapplers try to tear each other to pieces.

In addition to the Calza-Lutze fracas, Chief Little Wolf locks grips with Gino Garibaldi, the sinister Sicilian. The bout is listed a three-fall finish match. Don George, now on his way to the Coast, is expected to face the survivor.

Both Little Wolf and Garibaldi scored victories last week.

Kimon Kudo, Japan’s champion catch-as-catch-can wrestler, leaps into action against Luis Mayo, Mexican light-heavyweight king. This is a thirty-minute bout.

In twenty-minute matches, Sun Jennings, American Indian, meets the German Ape Man, Milo (Scorpion) Steinborn; Casey Kazanjian, angry Armenian, tackles the Turkish Threat, Ahmet Youssoff, and Len Macaluso, ex-Colgate star, tackles Joe Varga.


(Los Angeles Times, Thursday, Dec. 19, 1935)

George Calza, the Italian wrestler, might have been "unknown" before, but Nick Lutze, popular Venice mat man, became acquainted with him in the worst way possible last night – on the mat at the Olympic Auditorium.

With 8000 fans looking on, Calza won two straight falls from Lutze and established himself as the leading mat villain in these parts. His victory is expected to earn him a shot at Vincent Lopez’s heavyweight crown in the near future.

Calza annexed the first fall in 22m. 32s. with a whirl slam. The Italian put Nick in a bad way with four consecutive toeholds, Lutze’s digit being in Calza’s possession for approximately 15 minutes before George decided to turn on the heat.

Wasting no time, the Italian came back to win the second fall and the match in 1m. 11s. Clamping a devastating interlocking toe hold on the beach grappler, Calza forced him to give up in order to escape further punishment.

The semifinal match between Gino Garibaldi, sinister Sicilian, and Chief Little Wolf, redskin terror, resulted in a draw when neither grappler could return to the ring within the prescribed time limit after Garibaldi had flung Wolf through the ropes and followed him out. Both were injured when they fell down a short flight of stairs leading down from the ring.

Garibaldi won the first fall in 17m. 55s. with a series of body slams, followed by a barrage of left hooks, while the Chief won the second spasm in 1m. 16s. with an Indian death grip, the pain of the hold forcing the Sicilian to give in.

Kimon Kudo, clever oriental, needed but 5m. 23s. to dispose of Luis Mayo of Mexico, bringing into play a Japanese arm lock that rendered the Mexican hors de combat.

Milo Steinborn pinned Sun Jennings, huge Indian, in 3m. 38s. with a back-drop slam.

Stanford’s former weight star, Casey Kazanjian, drop-kicked the Terrible Turk, Ahmet Youssoff, into dreamland in 12m. 33s. and Len Macaluso, ex-Colgate gridder, tackled Joe Varga into a state of submission in 8m. 27s.



(San Francisco Chronicle, Monday, May 20, 1957)

Lou Thesz arrives here today for his match with Leo Nomellini tomorrow night at Winterland.

Thesz and Nomellini have met three times – with each winning once and one draw thrown in. Ed "Strangler" Lewis, former manager of Thesz, will be in Nomellini’s corner for tomorrow night’s bout.

The referee will be selected tomorrow by the State Athletic Commission.

Other matches on the card include: Bobo Brazil-Enrique Torres vs. Mike Mazurki-Ray Stern, Lord Blears vs. Jack Moran, Kokichi Endo vs. Chico Gracia.


(San Francisco Chronicle, Tuesday, May 21, 1957)

By Will Connolly

Rasslers are people, too. Before he was anointed champion, Lou Thesz was on the road five nights a week.

He has been in every major city in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and in most tank towns. There were weeks when he paid $100 in long-distance tools to call home.

Last week was one. He phoned from Buffalo, N.Y., to La Jolla, Calif., person to person. He wanted to talk to his wife, Fredda, but son Jeff, 5, picked up the receiver.

"Hi, Daddy, how is it back there?" Jeff began. "You want to talk to Mommy? She’s in the kitchen doing the dishes. Just a minute."

Well, it was more than just a minute. Jeff forgot to tell Mommy that Daddy was on the long line. He turned on the TV set and neglected to hang up the upstairs extension.

"It cost me $17, plus tax, to say hello to my wife," said Thesz yesterday at the St. Francis. "I guess the Lassie program was on. I could hear barking on the open phone. I like dogs, but not at these rates across a continent."

Thesz is a clever man, son of a Hungarian shoemaker who settled in St. Louis. He is a conventional or classic rassler of the old school. He indulges in theatrics to keep in business, but if it came to a showdown we’d take him. Thesz has no gimmick.

He wrestles Leo Nomellini tonight at Winterland, and that’s the end of the commercial for nonce.

It’s a lonely life, being a rassling champ. A heavyweight fighter appears once or twice a year. He can break training and recover in six weeks.

"But I’m on deck almost every night of the week against bigger men," Thesz laments his lot. "When I was coming up, I was away from my family 275 days of the 365. The money I spent on long-distance would help reduce Joe Louis’ income tax."

Thesz regained the title from Whipper Watson of Toronto last November, not that it matters much.

"I miss my family, though," he says. "You think it’s an exciting life, bouncing around from city to city? You can have it. I broke an ankle in Toronto and I was about to give up rassling. I’ve made enough money to live a comfortable life. But I have just enough pride to carry on."

Why does he phone home at 2 o’clock in the morning?

"Because Fredda expects it of me," he says. "I’ve learned to phone after midnight when Jeff is asleep. Get him on the line and he’ll add your tolls. What a barber!"

Fredda Huddleston, he met at a dog show in Houston, Texas. She was showing Dobermans and he was exhibiting the less skittish Labradors. Girl met Labrador, and they have a handsome son. A headlock helped.

Fredda is an artist in her own right. She paints in oils at such colonies as Taos, N.M.; Santa Fe, La Jolla and Carmel.

Nomellini, Thesz says, is a strong young fellow but he’s never going to be a top wrestler while he divides his attention between 49er football and wrestling. It’s either one or the other.

"I’ll beat him again until he makes up his mind," Thesz says. "I am giving away weight to him. Nomellini must weigh 240. I’m 228. But I can play the cat-and-mouse game from 20 years’ experience and I know more holds."

Notice that the Hungarian from St. Louis, now in residence at La Jolla, calls it holds. The Minnesota pigskinner calls it holts. On a given night, Thesz, relatively small, can flip the likes of Leo the Lion in five minutes.

Let NFL football get a reputation. That’s a different sport. Thesz could mangle all of them. Rip arms and legs off, like a small boy torturing a fly.

Except Thesz is a civilized person, and wouldn’t do that. Hate to tangle with him in a dark alley. He’d have Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano on the flat of their backs before you could say Sugar Ray Robinson.

If you want your son to defend himself against street bullies, teach him how to wrestle. A 130-pounder can break the arm of a heavyweight, easy as pie.


(San Francisco Chronicle, Wednesday, May 22, 1957)

By Art Rosenbaum

Leo Nomellini was "saved" for the 49ers against last night at Winterland by failing to win the wrestling championship from Lou Thesz.

Thesz won the first flal and Nomellini won the second and just about then the timekeeper realized that the limit had been reached, and the match was called a draw.

The time allotted was 61 minutes. Thesz won the first fall in 34:59 with a flying scissors and body press after Nomo had knocked him groggy with head locks and elbow smashes.

Just when it appeared the audience, which paid $7,934, would see Leo’s heroics rewarded, Thesz came off the ropes to register the audience-crushing fall.

After a five-minute intermission, they went at it again and Nomellini applied what wrestling addicts declared was a seldom-used hold – a reverse short-arm scissors followed by a leg hammerlock.

This is known as a submission hold, and Thesz submitted in 17:10.

The two falls totaled 52:09 and the five-minute intermission made it 57:09. Another five-minute intermission was due which would have thrown the schedule off kilter, and so referee Al Stecher raised the arms of both contestants as the crowd cheered Leo and alternately booed and cheered the champ.

Nomellini was led into his dressing room by line coaches Phil Bengston and Bill Johnson of the 49ers, a positive indication that Leo’s head gear will be waiting for him this fall.

It was an excellent match and was their third draw. Thesz won once and Nomellini also won once on a disqualification, but the National Wrestling Alliance refused to recognize Nomo’s single victory.

In other bouts: Bobo Brazil and Enrique Torres defeated Mike Mazurki and Ray Stern in one fall; Lord Blears defeated John Swenski, body press, 19:42; and Kokichi Endo defeated Chico Gracia, judo chop, 14:39.


(Globe & Mail, August 15, 1958)

By Rex MacLeod

Dick Hutton was freighted out of Maple Leaf Gardens ring on a stretcher last night – still the recumbent champeen of the National Wrestling Alliance and a few allied outposts.

Champeens, as a rule, don’t leave the ring in this manner, a point which was argued forcibly by challenger Lou Thesz, who had hopes of regaining the title he had held for many years.

But referee Bert Maxwell, a portly chappie who is devoid of sentiment, declined to indulge in any bandinage. He disqualified Thesz after 24 minutes and two seconds of highly skillful grappling.

Naturally there was an uproar among the crowd of 6,002. Many thought that Thesz had won legitimately. A few expressed concern about the motionless Hutton and a few others thought that Maxwell had lost a few more marbles.

The end, to coin a phrase, came unexpectedly although Thesz, seemingly enraged by Maxwell’s peculiar concept of justice, had been growing more angry by the second. And when Thesz gets angry he grows muscles on his muscles.

In one moment of fury he hurled Hutton, a mere 250 pounds, out of the ring to the cement floor. Hutton, the fool, tried to climb back into the ring but Thesz drop-kicked him back to the cement.

Hutton arose groggily and once more tried to get back. Again Thesz went airborne to launch a drop kick but this time Maxwell somehow got in the prohibited area. He took the full impact of Thesz’ drop kick on one of his chins and fell flopping like a beached porpoise on the ring apron.

Hutton, meanwhile, had climbed wearily through the ropes, a reckless manoeuver. Thesz hoisted him aloft, aimed carefully and slammed him all over the canvas.

Thesz was perched on the comatose Hutton when Maxwell reeled back into the ring and clapped Thesz on the back. Numerous fans thought that Maxwell was proclaiming Thesz the winner. There was some jubilation but it was short-lived. Maxwell was merely informing everyone that Thesz had been disqualified.

Naturally Thesz protested. He gesticulated wildly, even threatened to punch Maxwell. He pleaded that he had not kicked Maxwell intentionally but the referee ignored him.

Hutton was examined briefly in the ring by a doctor before he was borne away to the dressing room. It was announced later that he did not suffer any ill effects.

The gigantic Miller brothers, Ed and Bill, won their tag team match in the semi-final by defeating Athol Layton and George Pencheff. Ed Miller subdued Pencheff with an expanding back-breaker at 23:42. Seconds before the playful Millers had played wishbone with the exhausted Pencheff.

In other exhibitions of skill and science Tarzan Tourville dispatched Tiger Tasker with a series of drop kicks, fancy Frenchy Vignal stopped Al Korman with an airplane spin and spread, and Wilbur Snyder won by disqualification over Dan Miller, younger member of the rowdy clan.


(Globe & Mail, August 22, 1958)

By Ken McKee

Dick Hutton is still champion of Oklahoma and the National Wrestling Alliance’s world – and nothing Lou Thesz can say or do is going to change it.

Lou, who somehow manages to be the people’s cherce hereabouts as long as he isn’t facing Whipper Watson, did his best to talk Hutton into an extra five minutes of grappling last night after the main event – a one-fall affair – had been tolled to a halt by the curfew after 36 minutes of skill, science and Hutton’s canny rewrites of the NWA rule book, if there is one.

Special referee Wilbur Snyder checked with Hutton. Oklahoma’s Dick would have none of it. Snyder’s decision hadn’t been announced, and the champ was "quite sure" he had won anyhow, and couldn’t see any reason for wasting five more minutes of his valuable time.

Since the commissioner wasn’t in the house of 5,555, ring officials couldn’t waive the 11:15 p.m. curfew, so the result stood.

While the main go produced plenty of the more scientific aspects of the game, it remained for a lowly preliminary bout to bring the fans in droves to ringside, mayhem in their eyes, rotten eggs in their hands.

The cause of their ire? Ah, yes, mother, you guessed it. Gentle Gene Kiniski, as gracious and kind a character as ever graced a Charles Addams cartoon, was in against Tarzan Tourville. And in spite of the fact that Tarzan is a Montrealer, he was popular.

Kiniski spent about 10 minutes and some seconds tearing him up, and after the bout, Gentle Gene engaged in some crowd baiting, interspersed with frequent trips back to the ring where a slightly foggy Tarzan was looking for daylight.

Finally, after he had seen enough from his seat in the stands, one Whipper Billy Watson – there is only one! – came upon the scene, and without so much as mussing his hair, sent the Gentle One upon his way.

In fact, Kiniski’s braggadoccio changed to cringing fear as soon as Whipper hove into view.

The Whip, along with the Miller clan, Ed, Big Mill and their iddy, biddy brother, Dan, were on hand later to hurl challenges. It ended up this way: The Millers, any or all, will face any tag team which promoter Frank Tunney can sign for the task, and will beat them – they say.

And Watson, rarin’ to go after a hospital and recovery period of idleness, will team with Bo-Bo Brazil in a bid to lift the tag team crown off the blond heads of the Lisowski brothers in next week’s main event.

Watson also challenged the winner of the title match – but he’ll have to wait for that one, since there wasn’t a winner, and Hutton reportedly headed back to Oklahoma.

Other prelims: Guy Brunetti, 236, and Joe Brunetti, 233, defeated Lee Henning, 250, and Fred Atkins, 248. Joe Brunetti pinned Lee Henning with drop kick and top spread at 12:46 of scheduled 30-minute bout; Frenchy Vignal, 240, defeated Abe Zvonkin, 250, with airplane spin and top spread at 10:45 of scheduled 20-minute bout; Maurice Lapointe, 232, and Carl Kulaski, 238, wrestled 20 minutes to a draw.



(Palm Beach Post, Tuesday, January 25, 2000)

By Michael Browning

He was never unmasked, though the furious fans howled for it, Saturday after Saturday. The hateful red cowl with the black eye, nose and mouth-slits remained in place. Chief Little Eagle tried to lift the mask like a scalp. Haystacks Calhoun would fall on him like a mountain, perhaps hoping the mask would just spurt off his head like a squeezed watermelon seed.

In vain: At the last minute, fate would always intervene, in the shape of a whammed folding chair or a thunderous body slam, or an illegal tag, resulting in a two-against-one melee. No one takes the mask off . . . the Assassin. He always escaped, to wrestle again another day.

Now it can be told! Richard Longino greets you with a firm handshake from his motorized wheelchair at the Darcy Hall nursing home.

"I was the Assassin. I was the bad guy," he says in a rich Georgia drawl, his diamond-studded Rolex watch glittering on his thick wrist. On the other wrist, he wears a light purple patient ID bracelet. He has been at the white-columned, Colonial-style rest home on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard since August.

Time, four divorces and horrific injuries suffered in a traffic accident have taken a heavy toll on his body. Although he has suffered several strokes, his memory is still clear.

Ironically, his very anonymity in those years creates difficulties. Longino can’t prove he was the Assassin. The whole purpose of playing the Assassin was to remain anonymous, mysterious. Now that he wants to take the mask off, it won’t come away easily.

He used to have a scrapbook, some posters from those days. "But they got away from me after my last divorce," Longino says. Only his encyclopedic memory and his insider’s knowledge of pro wrestling, the tricks of the trade, bear out his claim to have been one of the great bad men of early wrestling.

He also has his sister, Marty Snyder, a staunch supporter and eyewitness to some of his bouts back in the early 1960s.

"I had to quit going. I couldn’t take the way the fans were abusing him, hating him, because he was such a sweet man," Snyder said. "But it was all part of the game. I loved the Assassin. I got into fights with the fans over him, defending him. He was my brother."

Longino was half of the cape-clad wrestling team you loved to hate in the early 1960s, the brawny, brawling, braggadocious Assassins. He and his partner – it might have been Tom Renesto, it might have been Joe Hamilton; half the time he didn’t know who his partner was going to be that night – he and his partner would swagger into the ring in their polyester knit masks and silky red cloaks, radiating pure evil, and proceed to drive the spectators out of their minds with rage.

"One old woman fan, she must have been about 70, I swear got so mad at me she cut my back open with a beer-can opener. This was in the days before pop-tops. She cut me so bad it took 16 stitches to sew me up again." But the mask remained firmly in place, and the Assassin’s true identity remained a secret for more than 35 years.

Well, almost a secret.

His fellow wrestlers knew.

His neighbors in the Atlanta suburb of East Point knew.

Some of his fellow baggage-handlers at the Atlanta airport knew.

His four wives, including Las Vegas stripper Coco Bar, knew.

His two children know.

And today, the staff of Darcy Hall Nursing Center all know who the battered, scarred, pale, broad-shouldered man in the wheelchair used to be.

Nowadays, wrestling has become a multimillion-dollar industry, with bouts resembling rock concerts three nights a week, fantastic plots and subplots, clouds of dry ice and colored lights, men flying around on cables, women scampering into the ring wearing next to nothing, Arnold Schwarzenegger mixing it up next to Stone Cold Steve Austin – a tremendous spectacle, in which all that glitters is not sweat.

The Assassin isn’t impressed. "It’s all hoopla nowadays. They hardly wrestle at all anymore, they’re so busy yelling and flying through the air and throwing trash cans and hitting each other with chairs."

Longino, born in March 1936, dates back to a time when wrestling was just making its way onto TV. The most he ever made in a year was $53,000, and it was never more than a part-time job for him, being one of the Assassins. The rest of the week he worked at the Atlanta airport, loading and unloading baggage off planes.

He had the build for both jobs. "My biceps were 22 inches around. I had a 54-inch chest, a 32-inch waist, 30-inch thighs. I was 6 feet tall and weighed 250 pounds. Women used to come up to me and ask if they could feel my arms."

Longino reels off names that stir faint memories of Sunday afternoons in the early ‘60s: Dusty Rhodes, the American Dream; Gorgeous George; Verne Gagne; Wahoo McDaniel; Chief Little Eagle; Dick the Bruiser; Classy Freddie Blassie; Haystacks Calhoun, who entered the ring wearing bib overalls; Fritz Von Erich; Farmer Freddie, who would perch his pet rooster on the post; Nick Bockwinkel of a tag team called The Medics; Lou Thesz; Rowdy Roddy Piper, who wore a kilt like a Scotsman; and the little red-headed announcer, Ed Capral.

One of the most interesting wrestlers Longino ran up against was Lenny Montana, who became famous for playing Luca Brasi, the huge, grim gangster who is strangled to death in a New York bar in Francis Ford Coppola’s movie, "The Godfather."

"That was Lenny’s one great trick, he could bug his eyes out if you had him in a headlock. He looks great, getting strangled in that movie," Longino said.

When Longino watches wrestling nowadays – and he doesn’t watch often; he prefers to read – he sees the sport from an insider’s perspective. It may have gotten flashier, but the old war – between good and evil, between the god-like heroes with their sweat-sleeked pecs, and the dastardly Assassins with their scowls and snarls – goes on.

Though the carnage is exaggerated, Longino insists the matches were never fixed. "The winner got paid more than the loser, so that was a big incentive to do your best. You never went into that ring knowing who would win," he declared.

Wrestlers would put a tiny shard of razor blade under their fingernail, held in place with plaster of Paris. When the going got rough, Longino says, you would nick your forehead with the razor blade and get blood on your face.

"Fans loved to see blood. You can tell an old wrestler by how many little cuts he’s got on his forehead from the razor blade," Longino says. Cauliflower ears came from tight headlocks, the sweat being physically back-pumped into the ear, between the skin and cartilage.

But the blows were always cushioned.

"You never hit with a closed fist, just an open first. You can’t hurt anybody with an open first," Longino says. "When you do a full body slam, you don’t land on your torso, you land on your knees and elbows to avoid hurting your opponent. Whenever you hit, you stomp your foot on the canvas to make a big noise.

"Those chairs they’re always hitting each other with? They’re all made of very light aluminum, and they always pick them up by the legs and hit the other guy with the back portion of the chair. If you look at it afterward, you’ll see it’s bent, it’s so light."

To make sure noone learned his identity, he would be brought to the arena in Atlanta in a different car for each bout, dressed in normal civilian clothes. Once inside, he would put on his costume and meet his fellow Assassin, sometimes for the first time.

"You never knew from night to night who you were going to be fighting alongside of," Longino said.

Anonymity again: Scott Teal, a Tennessee-based historian of the early days of wrestling, who publishes two online magazines on the subject, drew a blank when Longino’s name was mentioned to him.

"It doesn’t ring a bell. The Assassins were played by a number of wrestlers over the years. The most famous was Tom Renesto. I do a lot of interviews with guys who did nothing but lose to the ‘name’ wrestlers. In the wrestling business, they were known as ‘carpenters,’ who used their abilities to make the ‘name’ guys look great. In fact, if it weren’t for the carpenters, guys like that bozo Hulk Hogan wouldn’t be anywhere today," Teal said.

"That said, Mr. Longino could well have been a ‘star’ in his day, albeit in a lesser light than the top names. However, he was no less important to the business and those wrestlers he helped look like ‘stars’."

Longino says he played one of the Assassins in approximately 15 matches, over a period of years from 1961-65, before moving to Texas. There, he sold luxury cars for a few years, then became a truck driver. An accident on Aug. 22, 1984, near Kirbyville, Texas, did what all his opponents in the ring could never do: nearly assassinate the Assassin.

"My front right wheel came off, and the rig flipped three times with me inside it. My neck was broken in three places, my back was broken. My spinal fluid was dripping out of my nose. I had a subdural hematoma, and they had to stick a needle up my nose and drain out the blood next to my brain. I’ve never been the same since," Longino says.

He was married four times, divorced four times and has two children, both in Texas: Russell, 31, and Mamie Antoinette, 32. His mother – even the Assassin had a mother – and his sister, Marty, live nearby, and he looks forward to their visits. He remembers his days in the ring with fondness.

"It was the highlight of my life. People in my neighborhood loved me. Kids asked me for my autograph. I loved wrestling. Those were wonderful times," Longino said.

He shakes hands powerfully and says goodbye. Battered, scarred, conquered only by time, the Assassin pilots his electric wheelchair away, down halls of memory.


(The Roanoke Times, Sunday, July 16, 2000)

By Matt Chittum

LEWISTON, Maine – The man who called himself Atlas had grown weak.

The 315-pound barbell bore down on his chest. He couldn’t make it move.

He cussed under his breath and tried again. He arched his back and strained at it, but the weight wouldn’t budge.

This was "Mr. USA" Tony Atlas, a champion weightlifter who once upon a time bench-pressed 650 pounds, a man who had taken the name of the Greek god doomed to carry the earth and heavens on his back.

For a minute, he lay there staring at the ceiling, ashamed to ask for help. Tears threatened. His eyes burned.

How did he wind up like this?

He once had been strong enough to escape a life of poverty in Roanoke and reach the pinnacle of professional wrestling. Now, his weakness for cocaine had pulled him back down, even lower than where he had started.

Two men finally lifted the barbell off Tony’s chest. He stormed from the gym in Lewiston, Maine, without thanking them. He grabbed what little he owned from the apartment he shared with some other junkies and walked out, determined to ignore the call of cocaine.

In wrestling, there are good guys and bad guys, the babyfaces and the heels who beat them nearly into submission before the good guys make their dramatic comebacks.

The referee was counting. If Tony didn’t pull himself up, it would be all over.

It was 1990. Tony was 36. Up to this point in his life, he had blamed everyone for his plight – promoters, other wrestlers, women.

But lying there under that weight, it had suddenly become plain to him. In 15 years as a wrestler, Tony had always played the babyface to a hundred other heels. Now, he discovered the heel who had beaten him down for real.

It was him.

His first addiction --

Tony’s grandmother wiped the blood from his face. His head gushed. The red ran into his eyes. He had fallen head first into a creek, pushed over a bridge railing by another boy who had tricked him into looking over first.

Tony sobbed for his mother. But, like most days, Ruby White was at work. His grandmother held him and told him to pray.

Tony bowed his head and spoke to God: "I want to be strong like Samson, built like Hercules, and be rich and famous."

He was 6 years old.

"It all came true in 1975," Tony says, when George and Sandy Scott, a legendary wrestling tag team in town for a match, plucked him from the YMCA gym on Church Avenue in downtown Roanoke and made him a wrestler.

He had the physique, the moves and the charm to be one of the best.

But the early life of Tony White was poor preparation for the success of Tony Atlas.

The Whites were a big family. Tony’s father split the clan in half when Tony was 2. Norris White took four of Tony’s sisters and one brother with him to Richmond. Tony hasn’t seen them since.

Tony’s family was poor.

Tony never ate off a plate or brushed his teeth or had a real bath until he was 12, when social services sent him to the Virginia Baptist Children’s Home in Salem for two years. He later spent time in a detention home for crashing a car he says his brother stole. He struggled in school.

The first barbell Tony ever lifted was a makeshift one made of stolen weights tapped to a baton. Tony and his friend Moochie would do curls until their arms ached.

Some Roanoke lifters, Randy Booth, Alphonso "Doc" Johnson and Jack Cooper, began taking him to the YMCA. He wore his workout clothes to Patrick henry High School every day, and headed straight to the gym after the last bell. Before he graduated in 1974, he had won his first bodybuilding title: Teenage Mr. Virginia.

Tony had found his first addiction.

Learning the ropes…--

Tony was n the gym when the Scott brothers discovered him.

After a few months of training in how to fall, or "take a bump," they took him to Charlotte, N.C., the home base of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling.

His first week he was paid $1,500.

"I got paid on Monday and I was broke on Thursday," Tony says. He spent lavishly and foolishly. He bought a trio of three-piece suits in orange, baby blue and chartreuse, with matching shoes for each, and a big hat – "pimp clothes," he calls them. That Christmas, Tony handed out $3,000 in $100 bills to his friends.

"If he had anythjing, people could take it off him," Sandy Scott says. "Particularly the women."

Wrestling has always been more theater than reality, but in Tony’s day, rookies took a real beating for the first few months, until the veterans "smartened them up" about the business.

Tony was a quick success, in large part because of his body. He was a sculpted 6-feet-2-inches, 280 pounds. In a day when most wrestlers were big but not particularly fit or beautiful, Tony had the bodybuilder’s physique that today’s fans have come to expect.

He took the name Tony Atlas and added "Mr. USA" after he won that bodybuilding title in 1979 and 1980.

When it came time to make a wrestler a champion back then, promoters wanted to make sure they could hold their own in a real fight. What would it do for wrestling’s credibility if a champ went into a local bar and took a beating from a nobody?

So before promoter Jim Crockett put a belt on Tony, Big Swede Hanson and several other wrestlers took him into a bar in Charlotte and had a white woman show him some very public affection. As expected, the white regulars at the bar didn’t cotton to the scene.

The slurs started. Tony tried to walk away. Someone slapped him on the back of the head.

"I just turned around and started swinging." The next thing he knew, he had fought his way out of the bar.

Race was never an issue for Tony in the business, he says. He traveled mainly with old Southern men like "Capt. Redneck" Dick Murdoch and Johnny Weaver. They would cruise from show to show spitting tobacco juice, listening to country music, drinking beer, eating bologna and passing gas. If you couldn’t tolerate country music, Tony says, you couldn’t get a ride.

Tony drifted from company to company, as most wrestlers did when wrestling organizations were small and regional. Promoters didn’t make room for more than one black wrestler on the roster at a time.

He had much of his early success with Georgia Championship Wrestling, where he was a tag-team champion with "Wildfire" Tommy Rich, Mr. Wrestling II, Thunderbolt Patterson and Kevin Sullivan.

He also gave a break to another large, well-built wrestler named Sterling Golden. These days, he calls himself Hulk Hogan.

Tony sent money home to his mother every week. She did with it what she knew Tony wouldn’t. She saved it.

During one trip home, she gave Tony what she’d put aside. Tony blew it all on a Cadillac.

"We figured we would never have to save any money," he says. "We figured the bubble would never burst."

Getting the heat… --

The first year Tony earned $100,000, he paid $52,000 of it in taxes.

He didn’t know he was supposed to save receipts to deduct his expenses, and wrestlers often had to pay for their own lodging and meals on the road.

He was spending the money as fast as he earned it.

In 1979, Tony joined the World Wrestling Federation, one of the biggest wrestling federations in the country even then.

Those were heady days. Tony’s financial records were never well-kept, and he says WWF president Vince McMahon Sr. paid everyone cash doled out of a shoebox each night. Even so, Tony figures he earned between $200,000 and $300,000 during his best years with the WWF in the early 1980s. He rivaled household names like Jesse "The Body" Ventura and Hulk Hogan for popularity. He was as big as a black wrestling star had ever been.

Women groupies – "arena rats" – waited for the stars at their hotels. Lechery and adultery were the norm, including for Tony.

He’s been married three times. He has one child he hasn’t seen since she was four.

"It’s a wonder all of us guys don’t have AIDS," Tony says.

Drugs were as much a part of the dressing room as tape and tights. What drugs you did depended on who you traveled with. One wrestler might favor pain pills, another tag team LSD.

With matches 300 nights a year, stimulants, especially cocaine, were fixtures, Tony says. He mostly smoked pot and swallowed pain pills, but tried plenty of the other stuff.

He was "half-crazy" from steroids, he says.

In a match, when a heel is getting the better of a baby face, it’s called "getting the heat." Tony was getting the heat from his bosses.

He missed a show in Philadelphia in 1981 because he found out a girlfriend in California had cheated on him and driven his Corvette into the Pacific Ocean. He jumped on a plane an hour before the show. Had he stayed, he and S.D. "Special Delivery" Jones would have become tag-team champions that night.

A year later, Tony did become a tag-team champion with Rocky Johnson, father of current WWF superstar Dwayne Johnson – The Rock.

But that relationship soured after Tony and Johnson fought in the dressing room after Johnson ignored the scripted end for a match and stole Tony’s glory.

Pat Patterson, second in command at the WWF, scolded the pair. Tony jammed his championship belt into Patterson’s gut. "You can keep your fucking belt," he said.

A year later in Oakland, Calif., a drug-addled Tony pointed a gun at Jones. He missed the next three shows because he was too sick from a night of drug use. Jones lied to cover for him, saying Tony had eaten some bad chinese food. Nobody believed him.

By the time Tony caught up with the tour in Philadelphia a few days later, his own finish had been scripted.

The WWF had had enough of Tony Atlas. Vince McMahon Sr. had died. Tony had loved him and thought of him as a father, but Vince Jr. wasn’t so patient with Tony.

He fired him.

The WWF, now the biggest wrestling organization in the world, did not respond to a request for an interview with McMahon.

Tony returned to the WWF briefly, but was rarely allowed to win a match. He grew bitter. The low point came on night in Madison Square Garden in 1987.

Tony had to wrestle an aging, overweight and apparently intoxicated Adorable Adrian Adonis on television, and lose.

Tony was the babyface for the match, but showed up with a shaved head and wearing black – the look of a heel.

"That was my way of letting him (McMahon) know I didn’t like this. I was ready to cry."

Tony dragged Adonis around the ring for a while before pretending to hurt himself and letting Adonis fall on him for the pin.

"That was complete humiliation," announcer Lord Alfred Hayes said. "Atlas has left the ring and has gone back to the dressing room."

When he got there, Tony looked at the bookings for the next month.

"Vince don’t tell you you’re fired," Tony says. "He just gives you a booking sheet and you aren’t on it."

Taking a bump –

Snow had fallen during the night, but it held in Tony’s body heat.

He curled his big body onto a narrow bench in Kennedy Park in the center of Lewiston, Maine. It was February.

To the north was the rusting Lewiston Civic Center, where a young fighter named Muhammad Ali knocked out Sonny Liston with the famous "phantom punch" to defend the heavyweight boxing title in 1965.

Three blocks away, Tony slept under a blanket of snow, using his own heavyweight title belt for a pillow. He was the Intercontinental Wrestling Association champion, and he was homeless.

After leaving the WWF in 1987, Tony drifted again through several wrestling organizations. His mother died that year.

In 1989, Tony moved to Lewiston, a withering factory town where French Canadians worked in the huge, brick shoe factories along the Androscoggin River. Most of the factories are empty now.

License plates identify Maine as Vacationland, but no one visits Lewiston. Tony calls it "the ugliest town in Maine."

An old wrestling hand turned promoter named Mario Savoldi had started his own federation and moved into the far northeastern territory. He lured Tony there to be the ICW world champion with a promise of $1,500 a week and plenty of shows.

"That promise lasted about one month," Tony says. The shows and the pay began to dry up.

Tony moved into the YMCA in Auburn, Lewiston’s sister city across the river.

He needed money, but wasn’t sure about how to get some. He had been a wrestler his entire adult life. Other than washing dishes at the Roanoke Weiner Stand as a kid, he’d never held a regular job.

He found work with a construction company in Lewiston for a while, but he wasn’t good for anything but digging ditches.

One day, he was digging a trench outside a house and heard the little boy who lived there tell his mother than the man with the shovel was Tony. "Why would Tony Atlas be digging a ditch outside our house?" she asked.

"I felt lower than before I started wrestling," Tony says.

But he got lower.

In December 1989, he was evicted from the YMCA for not paying his $125-a-month rent.

That’s how he wound up on the bench, a hundred yards from the Lewiston police station.

Most mornings, it was the police who woke Tony, telling him to move on.

But that morning in February, Tony rolled over and shook off the snow as a woman named Shirley passed by.

They talked, and she invited him to move into an apartment she had a few blocks away.

Shirley turned out to be an ex-stripper and drug addict, and the two-room apartment already had 10 other occupants, all of them addicts. Tony moved in, glad to be off the bench. But his slide wasn’t over yet.

No one paid the water bill, so the water had been shut off, but no one quit using the toilet. The place reeked.

There was one mattress on the floor, which Tony usually dominated because of his size.

The others who lived there had nothing to eat, but always managed to have some crack cocaine.

"Shirley, give me some of that shit," Tony said. He smoked it, but felt nothing.

"This ain’t nothing, give me some more," he demanded.

"Next thing I knew, it was six months before I stopped."

The high spot –

Tony says he rarely bought drugs himself, but never refused when others offered.

He earned a few bucks by offering protection to prostitutes, who would pay him $20 a job to pummel their tormentors. He spent his money on food.

A part of him wanted to die.

He dared the police to shoot him.

He drank cleaning products, but he only got sick.

One morning, he dug a razor blade into his left forearm so deep he couldn’t pull it out. A girl sleeping nearby woke up and called the police. At the hospital, the doctors told Tony the blade had struck bone.

Through it all, the one shred of his former life Tony never relinquished was working out. "That was something they couldn’t take from me," he says.

Local gym owners would let Tony work out for free because of who he was.

But Tony was wasting away. After six months of poverty and cocaine abuse, he’d lost 55 pounds.

Then came that day in the gym when 315 pounds – less than half of what he’d been capable of bench pressing a year earlier – got the better of him.

The day before, he’d met a woman named Monika Deranek in a Lewiston department store.

"He had these broad shoulders, and I love a man with broad shoulders," Monika says. "He had this sad look in his eye."

They chatted, and that night met at her apartment. Monika was 49, a German immigrant raising a teen-age daughter on her own, and she was nearly broke. "I needed a man. I needed a strong man," she says. Tony fit the bill. She offered to let him move in with her, but at first he refused.

Helpless under the weight of the barbell, he thought about her offer again.

In the great struggle of his life, Tony had reached his "high spot," that point in a wrestling match when a babyface is about to be pinned just before turning things around.

He gathered his few possessions from the apartment – some weightlifting plaques, a key to the city of Roanoke – and headed to Monika’s. He stopped off at the food bank on the way so he wouldn’t arrive empty-handed.

Tony never touched cocaine again.

Six months after Tony moved into Monika’s, they married.

Less than a month later, the WWF, the mistress Tony couldn’t seem to forget, came calling again.

But Vince McMahon Jr. didn’t want Tony Atlas. He wanted Tony to play an African called Saba Simba, complete with spear, headdress and war paint.

Monika cried.

Tony took the job, but found it humiliating. He was sure everyone knew it was really Tony Atlas.

After eight months, he quit.

Better than the bench –

"George W. Bush, he ain’t like his daddy."

Tony was rattling on and on about politics and politicians. It’s a habit with him. He can’t tell what any of them stand for.

"If I lived in New York, I’d vote for Hillary. At least I know something about her."

He spit tobacco in a cup.

It was a Friday night. Tony was on his way to a show in Salisbury Beach, Mass.

He is 46 now, still living in Maine and still working at the only thing that’s ever madfe him a living: wrestling.

After the stint with the WWF as Saba Simba, he worked briefly with the WWF’s chief competitor, Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling. Since 1992, he’s been on his own, wrestling for independent promoters around the northeast for a few hundred bucks a show.

"I got two good moves left: getting in the ring and getting out," he says.

He and Monika separated about a year ago, but they remain close friends and see each other daily.

"I just couldn’t take it anymore," she says. "The insecurity, and every broad in town is after his butt."

But things have picked up for Tony since he was featured in an MTV documentary on pro wrestling. The film followed a kid starting out in the business, two current WWF stars and one struggling has-been: Tony.

Tony earns a sporadic $10 an hour training people in a gym. He’s back to 280 pounds. His biceps measure 22 inches. He holds the Maine bench press reord in his weight class with a lift of 551 pounds.

Tony tells everyone he’s 56, so young guys who might want to challenge him to a fight aren’t so tempted. He figures they’ll find no conquest in beating up an old man.

He lives in a dim three-room apartment cluttered with videotapes and magazines that feature him. One wall is decorated with some African-looking artifacts, the props from his days as Saba Simba.

He’s writing his life story, longhand and in pencil, in a book he wants to title "Ship of Pirates." He underlines the words he can’t spell and Monika corrects them.

Tony located his daughter Nikki a few years ago. They talk by phone, and he hopes to visit her this summer in Alabama.

He has $1,000 in the bank and no medical insurance.

"I don’t live real great anymore," he says, "but it’s better than the bench."

On weekends, he hits the road in a rented car to wrestle. Just like in the old days, Tony owns a Cadillac, a 1982 Seville he calls "Brown Sugar." But it’s too unreliable for long trips.

He travels with a skinny referee named George Graffam, who doubles, unofficially, as Tony’s valet. He rents the car, makes sure there’s a few beers in a cooler for Tony to drink on the way home, drives, and has heard all of Tony’s ideas on politics more times than he can count. Promoters pay George $25 a night, but Tony pads his pay with a few bucks out of his own take.

Tony crooned a David Allen Coe song on the way to Massachusetts. "I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison. I went to the station in the rain. But before I could pick her up in my pickuuuuuuuup trucks, she got run over by a train."

Salisbury Beach is a dying boardwalk beach town where everyone seems to know Tony.

The shopkeepers feed Tony for free. Before the match, he chomped on fried clams on a bench by the boardwalk.

"Hey ladies, y’all want to get married?" he shouted at a couple of teen-age girls passing by. "Don’t y’all want an old dried up black man?"

He clowns with everyone. "If I didn’t, I might want to get that old razor blade out again . . . It’s not easy being a falling star."

Inside the leaky pavilion, where the ring and a few hundred folding chairs were set up, Tony sold autographed pictures for $3 a piece.

"I saw you on MTV. That’s a rough way to go," said a guy with a plastic cup full of beer, an inch-long ash hanging on his cigarette. Another guy saw Tony at Madison Square Garden years ago.

The crowd, mostly working class, filed in. Admission was $10.

Tony thinks people are attracted to wresting because of its sense of justice.

"The bad guy is their problems, their bills, their taxes, their kid getting cancer, their wife committing suicide," he says. Seeing the good guy win is kind of nice once in a while.

"This is a slow night," Tony said. "I’m probably the only one who’ll make any money." He’ll earn his usual $300 fee for a show in Massachusetts. He gets more the farther he travels.

Tony’s match was against Big Ric Fuller, a 6-foot-6-inch, 310-pound former house painter from Boston now under contract with the WCW. He’s not supposed to appear at independent shows, but WCW isn’t using him right now, and he wants to keep his skills sharp.

A few years back, before Fuller got his break with the WCW, he and Tony traveled together. Tony taught him about the business.

"Put your money away, kid," Fuller recalled Tony saying over and over. When Fuller got hired by the WCW, Tony told him, "First thing you do, find a place to hang your hat." That way he’d always have a roof over his head.

While other, less-experienced wrestlers worked out every move of their matches, Tony and Fuller, the heel for the match, only planned their finish: a double count out. Fuller’s credibility as a star with the WCW would be ruined if he lost, and Tony, a fan favorite in Salisbury, wouldn’t lose, either.

The match lasted 10 minutes and ended just as planned.

Afterward, Tony left the ring and bent over, breathing hard as soon as he was out of sight of the crowd.

"I’m just winded," he said.

‘If I had a dollar’ –

Tony sold his pictures in the Bourne High School gym on Cape Cod on Saturday night. The show was a benefit for the Bourne Canalmen’s basketball booster club.

"This is a long way from the Roanoke Civic Center, huh?" Tony said.

"You wrestled with The Rock’s father?" asked Joe Gadrow, a 17-year-old in a wheelchair whose mother drove him an hour and a half to see Tony. "What was he like?"

"He was a jerk," Tony said plainly. Gadrow speculated that Tony’s career had been hurt because he was black. No, Tony said, "Tony Atlas didn’t get a break because . . . when Tony Atlas was young, he was a jerk, too."

"You could have had Hulk Hogan’s spot," Gadrow told Tony. "I really hope you get your second break."

"One fan like that can make you feel good for a week," Tony said.

In the locker room, Tony put on his red, white and blue tights and pulled on a battered pair of white boots with one broken lace.

"I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve done this. I’d be out in my back yard barbecuing right now," he said.

Nearby, Derek Nalle, a 300-pound, 32-year-old mental health counselor, smeared on make-up and taped his wrists to become "The Evil Reverend."

Manny Cabeceiras, 30, transformed himself into "Doink the Clown." He’s a Home Depot clerk who would love to find himself in the WWF one day, but after nine years of trying, he’s not optimistic.

But the hope lingers for all of them. They all know someone who has made it.

In Salisbury Beach, it was WWF star Prince Albert, who lives a few blocks from the pavilion.

In Bourne, it was Scott Taylor, who a year ago made $25 a night, and is now a WWF star called Scotty "Too Hotty."

"It’s sad in a way," Tony said. "It’s like they’re chasing a dream that ain’t even there."

Tony strolled to the ring, shaking children’s hands, while Bruce Springsteen’s "Born in the USA" played: "Born down in a dead man’s town. The first kick I took was when I hit the ground. You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much, until you spend half your life just covering up."

Mike Maximus, Tony’s opponent for the night, took the microphone to stir up the crowd.

"I’m gonna make this real easy for you, Tony Atlas, former ‘Mr. USA,’ former WWF superstar," he said. "Out of respect for your age, I’m going to ask you to lay down in the center of the ring so I can elevate my career, and end yours peacefully."

"USA! USA! USA!" the kids chanted.

The bell rang, the match went as scripted, and it was over.

The finish –

Tony sipped a Budweiser in the car on the way home and launched into his theory on the O.J. Simpson case: O.J. was selling drugs, and Nicole found out about it and threatened to turn him in, so Simpson and his suppliers had to kill her.

George rolled his eyes.

The rented Saturn rolled north, past Brockton, Mass., birthplace of the only undefeated heavyweight boxing champion in history, Rocky Marciano. Marciano died in a plane crash when he was 46, the same age Tony is now.

Marciano never had to confront old age. Tony isn’t sure how to.

"Sometimes people ask me, ‘Who was the toughest opponent you ever wrestled?’ I say, ‘Tony Atlas. He was an asshole.’"

Meanwhile, he just keeps wrestling. "There’s nothing else I know how to do," he says. He knows there’s not much future in it. It’s unlikely the WWF or WCW will ever call, but if they did, Tony would go. He says he could earn enough in one year to retire.

"He’s such an innocent," Monika says. "He doesn’t understand the hardness and meanness of the world." She calls Tony a "child of wonder, forever."

"Right now, he’s not going to get the breaks," says S.D. "Special Delivery" Jones, Tony’s old tag-team partner. "They hear the name, they say, ‘Oh, boy.’"

Tony feels passed by.

"I feel like a cowboy at the end of the century," he says. "I can barely read. I don’t know nothing about technology . . . I just got to treat wrestling like I did cocaine. I just got to go a different way."

But what way?

"I’ve asked myself that question 101 times," he says. "I can’t answer yet."

 WAWLI REDUX No. 17...


(Minneapolis Tribune, January 9, 1910)

One of the roughest wrestling matches that has been seen in Minneapolis for some time resulted last night in the disqualification of Cora Livingston, the woman champion, in the contest with Louise Harris. The women were to wrestle to a finish, but after 11 minutes of fast work Miss Livingston was disqualified by the referee for using the strangle hold. She had been warned previously. The referee was chosen from the audience at the Dewey Theater where the match was held.

For the first few minutes the female grapplers wrestled carefully, but lost their heads after a time, and rough work was very apparent.


(Minneapolis Tribune, February 10, 1910)

Zbyszko, champion of Poland and conqueror of Henry Ordeman, failed to dispose of Chris Pierson of Duluth in a 15-minute handicap wrestling match at the Dewey Tehater last night. The Duluth man made a good showing but was clearly outclassed by the Polander.

Tonight Zbyszko will take on three men, the victims being Joe Carr, John Carlson and Robert Frederick, the latter being Billie Botts’ Wisconsin find. Frederick is said to be a comer in the mat game and should furnish an interesting encounter. Zbyszko will undoubtedly have his hands full.


(Minneapolis Tribune, February 11, 1910)

Wrestling fans are likely to see some excitement tonight when Jess Westergard, the Iowa grappler, goes on with Zbyszko in a handicap match at the Dewey Theater. Zbyszko will try to throw the Des Moines man in 30 minutes and if he doesn’t succeed Jack Herman, the Pole’s manager, will have to come over with another wad of coin.

Westergard wrestled Zbyszko earlier in the week and made a good showing. He believes that he can stay the 30-minute limit tonight.

Last night Zbyszko took on a trio of ambitious youngsters. He spilled the first one, an unknown, in 3 minutes, and threw Joe Carr in six minutes. Robert Frederick of Rhinelander, Wis., stayed 12 minutes with the Pole, and Zbyszko afterward remarked that the big youngster was possessed of all sorts of promise. He said Frederick was the strongest man of his age he had seen.

(ED. NOTE – The above articles were discovered in 1998 researches by Don Luce, probably the most significant and among the most ambitious of all professional wrestling historians in the past 25 or 30 years. Previously, also according to research done years ago by Luce, the earliest printed reference to the career of Ed "Strangler" Lewis, aka Robert Frederick, had been 1913 in Kentucky . . . although other bouts had been alluded to in various sources. This clipping, which definitely shows Frederick as a young professional, with a manager – Billie Potts’ brother, Jimmy, was to operate a gymnasium in Minneapolis during the 1930s and ‘40s – now takes the legendary career back to February 10, 1910. And, obviously, if he was good enough at that point – either 18 or 19 years old, depending upon which of the Ed Lewis birthdates you believe – to last 12 minutes with Stanislaus Zbyszko, then in his prime, he must have been toiling for some time previous to that. Fast forward to February 14, 1936: that is the day Ed Lewis, admitting to 44 years of age – which would establish his June 30th birthdate in 1891, not 1890 as some sources have it – tells Seattle Times sports columnist George Varnell that he has wrestled 6,000 bouts in 27 years, in 50 countries, on five continents, and that he has flown 1.3 million miles, at a cost of $70,000, and drawn gates exceeding $15 million. With the evidence supplied by Luce’s 1998 foray into the old Minneapolis Tribune files, it now appears that Lewis was not in the least fudging the truth in his declaration to Varnell.)


(Minneapolis Tribune, February 20, 1910)

Despite his defeat by Yussiff, "Kid" Cutler is another one who looks good. Jess Westergard is one big fellow who has shown much promise. Since his excellent work against Zbyszko at the Dewey theater here in two handicap matches, reports have it that Westergard believes he has "arrived." To prove it he wants to meet Ordeman in Des Moines. At the present time Henry has no matches on his program and if a bout can be arranged with Westergard the big Norse is open to offers.

Although the wrestling game has gradually come to the fore in sports until now it is one of the most popular of all scientific contests, supplanting boxing in the public regard by reason of the many laws passed against the self-defense art, there are not many followers of the game who have a thorough knowledge of the rules which govern it. For the benefit of the supporters of the mat contests the full code of rules is given herewith:

Opponents may grasp any part of each other’s body. No form of strangling is permitted, unless especially agreed to by the principals. Before each match the announcement is usually made "strangle hold barred." Neither contestant is allowed to rub any oil or grease on his body. Seconds must not touch their man during a bout. Neither shall they give him advice until a resting period is reached.

The stakes go with the referee’s decision in every event. Contestants shall be allowed ten minutes’ rest between each bout. A fall is scored against a man when both shoulders touch the mat at the same time. A single arm may be pressed against an opponent’s throat, but the free arm or hand must not touch any part of the opponent’s head or neck.

The referee shall slap on the back or shoulders the wrestler securing a fall, so that the under man will not be strained by being held too long in a possibly painful position. When a wrestler refuses to continue a contest at the referee’s command, the decision and stakes shall be awarded his antagonist. When wrestlers roll off a mat, under the ropes, or foul the boundary lines in any way, they shall be ordered to the middle of the mat by the referee and ordered to resume the holds they had obtained when moved. (In some bouts the men are allowed to stand and begin anew in this emergency.)

Biting and scratching are fouls. The timers shall announce when limited time bouts are within three minutes of the end, and then shall call off every minute. The timers may divide the last minute into halves or quarters, if they so desire. Rolling falls do not count. The referee shall decide all questions that are not covered by these regulations.


(Pacific News Service, March 13, 1916)

SAN DIEGO – Frank Gotch, world’s undefeated champion wrestler, came back in good form yesterday and easily defeated herman Strech, army and navy champion; Sam Clapham, the "British Lion," and Jack White, of San Francisco. The matches were staged at the Savoy theatre before 1,500 fans.

Strech grappled with Gotch first. The soldier adopted a defensive attitude and put up a good struggle. Fourteen minutes and 30 seconds after the start, however, the champion secured a scissors hold on Strech and put him to the mat.

Clapham put up a game battle but Gotch increased his speed and took the first fall in nine minutes. White was the easiest of the three and lasted but seven minutes and 30 seconds. His downfall was caused by a head scissors and bar lock.


(United Press, March 28, 1916)

SAN FRANCISCO – Frank Gotch will get an opportunity to explain in court, Promoter Harry Foley announced today, why he failed to wrestle Ad Santel in this city February 22, after entering an agreement to do so.

Foley has filed suit in superior court asking $5,969.90 from the world’s wrestling champion, this sum covering the money Foley spent in advertising the match and also $5,000 damages.


(Pacific News Service, March 28, 1916)

LOS ANGELES -- Frank Gotch, world’s heavyweight wrestling champion, is not worried over any legal action that may be taken against him by Harry Foley, the San Francisco promoter.

"When I refused to wrestle Santel," said Gotch, "I did so because I was not in condition for a match, and any reasonable promoter would have taken my view of it. The idea that he was damaged to an extent of more than $5,000 is ridiculous."


(Unidentified wire service, May 1, 1916)

NEW YORK CITY – It would seem that the wisest course for Frank Gotch to pursue is to remain in retirement as far as a wrestling match with Joe Stecher is concerned.

Gotch is 35 years old, far beyond his wrestling prime, and "rusty" because of years of mat idleness. Stecher is 22, in the full bloom of his young manhood, and practically at the crest of his meteoric career. It is doubtful if Gotch, in the days of his greatest prowess, was as wonderful a wrestler as Stecher is today.

By remaining in retirement, Gotch retains during all the rest of his days the glory that belongs to an undefeated champion; to an athlete who met – and beat – the strongest foes pitted against him before age came on. By coming out and trying conclusions he probably will do a Jim Jeffries.

No one justly would accuse Gotch of displaying a white feather by refusing to meet Stecher now. His alibi is good. He’s beyond his prime and out of wrestling condition.

Yes, Gotch would gain $25,000 or so by grappling with Stecher. But Gotch isn’t money mad, $25,000 doesn’t mean much to him now. He’s worth upwards of $250,000. What is $25,000 to him compared with the probable loss of his priceless treasure – the championship?

If the Gotch of today were the Gotch of five or eight years ago, then a mat bout with Stecher would be worth going a thousand miles to see. It would be the grapple of the century. But, alas, Gotch is 35 – and Stecher is 22. Stecher is coming – and Gotch went long ago.

What’s the answer?


(Arizona Republic, Phoenix, February 13, 1922)

By Billy Evans

Jack Dempsey is the world champion heavyweight fighter.

Dempsey is 6 feet 1 inches tall, and weighs about 190 pounds in the best of condition.

Stanislaus Zbyszko is the champion heavyweight wrestler of the universe.

Zbyszko is 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 226 pounds. While he looks a bit fat at that poundage, he says it is his best wrestling weight.

Jack Dempsey has been fighting only seven years. Zbyszko has been wrestling 24 years.

What would happen if Dempsey and Zbyszko were turned loose in the same ring, with no holds or punches barred?

Who would you pick to win, if the two champions engaged in a rough and tumble battle to determine the better man?

Jack Dempsey has always been of the opinion that he can defeat any man that he can hit.

Zbyszko is of the belief that once he gets one of his favorite holds on an opponent all bets are off.

The question was recently put to Zbyszko after he had polished off his opponent on a barnstorming tour that he is now making. Zbyszko is a very modest chap, and was rather reluctant to express an opinion.

"All things being anywhere near equal, the wrestler has a decided advantage over the fighter in what you call a rough and tumble fight.

"In boxing or fighting, an athlete, in order to do his best work, must retain his footing. In wrestling, a wrestler does his most effective work while prone on the mat.

"Dempsey is a wonderful fighter. If put in the same ring with him, I wouldn’t waste any time on my feet. I would immediately force Dempsey to the floor. That would enable me to get in my deadly holds and would render his best punches far less effective.

"It is a very easy matter to break the arm or leg of one who is not up in wrestling. If a wrestler was pitted against a fighter he would tie up the fighter’s arms at once, since that is the fighter’s main weapon of defense.

"With all admiration for Dempsey, I feel in a rough and tumble affair, a fighter would always be forced to bow to the wrestler."

Zbyszko is much more modest than Dempsey as to his chances. The world’s greatest fighter figures the world’s greatest wrestler would be soft picking for him. Dempsey wore a broad smile at the suggesstion of being turned loose in the same ring with Zbyszko.

"I’ll knock out Zbyszko and a half dozen other champion wrestlers in the same ring on the same night," says Dempsey.

"It wouldn’t be necessary to pick me to represent the fight game against wrestling. Johnny Kilbane, Benny Leonard or Jack Britton pitted in the same ring with the wrestling champions at their weight would prove the superiority of boxing as quickly as I would over Zbyszko.

"All that would be necessary for me to do to trim Zbyszko would be to sink a couple of punches in that bay window of his, cross a couple of right-hand punches to the jaw, and it would be all over.

"A good wrestler has not a chance with an equally good fighter. Every jiu-jitsu expert who has combatted a boxer has come out second best."



(Wichita Eagle, Thursday, Jan. 29, 1925)

Wrestling matches will fall thick and fast in Wichita soon, if a plan announced yesterday by the American Legion goes through. Frank Priest and Glen Thomas, members of the Legion athletic committee, state that they are working on an arrangement whereby the Legion will assist in the promotion of wrestling matches. "Doc" Reed, well known referee from Kansas City, will be the matchmaker. Reed stated yesterday that he would use Eustace, Zbyszko, Lewis and other men commonly referred to as the "trust."

Reed also stated that he would endeavor to line up other matches here. "I am not connected with the wrestling trust as controlled by Sandow," stated Reed. "However, I will use some of these men, in fact will use any wrestler I can get. We intend to open up the game."

Since last spring the "trust" wrestlers have not appeared in Wichita. Since then there have been efforts made to bring Lewis, Mondt, Pesek and others here. William Floto of the Floto Motor company is also interested in the proposition of getting Lewis and other wrestlers here, but states that he is not connected with the move in a financial or any official capacity.

The first match will probably be held within the next three weeks, possibly either immediately before or after the Shrine circus. Alan Eustace, who helped persuade "Doc" Reed to come to Wichita, will be on the main event of the first card, in all probability.

Frank Priest, in explaining the Legion’s connection with wrestling, said that there was no inclination to take part in any wrestling war. "We are interested in it solely from a financial standpoint," said Mr. Priest yesterday. "We are not making the matches but hope that the game is held open. In fact we have insisted that all comers be used on the cards and not just ‘trust’ men."

Tom Law, local wrestling promoter, when questioned yesterday on the statement that he would not bring a certain faction of wrestlers here and that this had led to another promoter coming to Wichita, issued the following statement:

"It is true that I have not used Sandow’s men here this year. It is not true, however, that I refused to use them. In fact I have been working hard on a Pesek match with Stecher. Pesek is a member of the ‘trust,’ managed by Sandow’s brother. I have insisted upon the ‘trust’ wrestlers meeting men I selected for them. I have been in the wrestling game for 15 years and know that Sandow will not permit his wrestlers to meet any one outside the ‘trust.’

"However, if anyone here or elsewhere can get them together I would be more than pleased to cooperate. I will give the Legion or any other organization 10 per cent of the gross receipts if they will agree to have Eustace, Mondt, Lewis, Zbyszko or Munn meet Stecher or Ad Santel here. I have tried all year to get some of these men to meet Stecher, Santel, Howard or others. I have no connection with any of these men in any way. The only man I am connected with is Jim Browning, whom I manage."


(Associated Press, Friday, January 4, 1929)

BOSTON – Gus Sonnenberg, Dartmouth football star, won the heavyweight wrestling championship of the world from Ed (Strangler) Lewis here tonight, when the latter was disqualified after refusing to return to the ring after being butted out seven times.

Sonnenberg won the first fall with his famous "flying tackle" in 29 minutes and 46 seconds. When the wrestlers returned to the ring, they battled each other for about five minutes, with the champion on the offensive. Then Sonnenberg started butting Lewis in the abdomen. The champion fell or crawled out of the ring seven times. Referee Leon Burbank warned Lewis each time he went outside and finally started to count on him. After the seventh butt, Lewis failed to step back in before the count of ten and Burbank awarded the decision to Sonnenberg. The time of the fall was eight minutes and 20 seconds.

A crowd of 20,000, which taxed the Boston Garden to its capacity, received the decision enthusiastically and tendered Sonnenberg a wild ovation when he left the ring.

Sonnenberg had gained the first fall after breaking away from a series of vicious headlocks applied by Lewis in rapid succession.

To that point Lewis had carefully avoided offering his abdomen as a target for Sonnenberg’s butting. As the latter broke the fourth headlock, Lewis stood upright, regained his breath, and before he had a chance to step back or aside, Sonnenberg sprang.

Sonnenberg butted his stomach mercilessly and, as Lewis squirmed in agony, grabbed him by both legs and flung him to the mat. He had Lewis’ shoulders touching before the champion could make a defensive move.

Previous to this fall, Lewis indicated that he intended to try to regain his title by downing the challenger with his famous headlock. He moved about Sonnenberg, stepping sideways with an arm guarding his side, and tried to work this hold at every opportunity.

Sonnenberg tried all his other moves during the early stages of the match and set himself to launch his "flying tackle" when the champion eluded all else. When his chance came, he appeared in distress from the frightful pressure which Lewis had applied to his head.

His actions evidently deceived Lewis, who then gave him his first opportunity to use his butting and tackling tactics.

When the wrestlers returned to the ring after their rest period, Lewis was extremely cautious. He sparred with Sonnenberg for fully five minutes and then tripped the challenger to the mat, where he applied a headlock. Sonnenberg freed himself with a desperate squirm and got an arm lock on the champion.

Sonnenberg tried a headlock and then another armlock before starting his butting attack. The first butt, which struck Lewis in the pit of the stomach, knocked him out of the ring. As he stepped back in, Sonnenberg met him with another butt and Lewis crawled out of the ropes.

This action was repeated five times more before the referee counted the champion out. After the referee raised Sonnenberg’s arm as a gesture of victory, Paul Bowser – promoter of the title bout – came into the ring to present him with the bejewelled championship belt, awarded to Lewis when he defeated Joe Stecher for the title last year and which he posted as forfeit against his defeat.


(Los Angeles Times, Sunday, Oct. 5, 1930)

Don George, former national amateur champion and only undefeated top-notch heavyweight grappler in the game, yesterday asked Promoter Lou Daro for a chance to meet some of the nationally known first-raters here.

George is anxious to get action. He has been in Southern California since the first of May, and in that time has had eight matches and won them all. He has beaten Dan Koloff, Stanley Stasiak, Moose Norbeck, Nick Lutze, twice, Joe Malcewicz, Lee Wyckoff and Don De Laun. Now he would like to appear in the feature event of the mat show planned for the Olympic the 15th inst.

In the five months he has been on the Coast mat critics declare the former University of Michigan mat star has improved at least 50 per cent in his wrestling work, as shown by the smashing way in which he disposed of De Laun in less than six minutes. To many of the fans it appeared that George was unusually rough in that battle, but those who are considered experts and had watched De Laun in training, the young Long Beach grappler had shown great strength and ability in his workouts. Some of the experts stated afterward that De Laun feigned an injured leg in an effort to catch George off guard.

George’s backers believe that the former Michigan mat star could have defeated either Marshall or champion Gus Sonnenberg on the respective showings of these two at the Olympic Wednesday night. George, these declare, is faster and can be rougher than either of them. His style of wrestling is so different than anything ever shown here that his foes have found it hard to figure out his style.


(Los Angeles Times, Sunday, Oct. 12, 1930)

Don George, former University of Michigan mat star, and twice winner of the national amateur grappling title, is being picked to beat Bob (Bibber) McCoy, flying tackle exponent, when they clash at the Olympic Wednesday night in the finish feature event of "Carnation" Lou Daro’s all-star wrestling show.

The rivalry between this pair of young stars is so keen that their meeting is expected to produce some of the most spectacular wrestling seen at the Olympic this year.

Both George and McCoy established great records in the amateur ranks before entering the game as professionals. McCoy was a sensation in the light-heavyweight division in 1924-25, while George’s best years were 1928-29.

McCoy began wrestling as a pro in Boston last summer, and within four months he was meeting the best in the game. George began his pro mat career in the Hub City, and he wrestled in one of the preliminary bouts of a card in which McCoy appeared as a main-eventer.

At that time the two young grapplers were friends. McCoy had never expected George to reach the rating of a topnotcher. When the Irishman arrived on the Coast for his battle with Everett Marshall, he found that George had developed into one of the best young heavyweights in the game, and was threatening his position as one of the foremost contenders for a world’s title match.

When George issued a challenge here last week in which he declared he was ready to meet any topnotcher in the game, McCoy begged Promoter Daro to give him the bout so that he could put the Michigan Wolverine in his place. Knowing that this pair had been "ribbing" each other for two weeks previous, Daro immediately closed the bout.

While this match is expected to be rough, fast and packed with action, the battle that will precede it, bringing together Joe Malcewicz, the elbow-swinging mat panther, and Jose Dominguez, a 215-pound easterner who has been a sensation in the East during recent months, may run it a close race for the spotlight that night.

Dominguez is a former fighter and is well versed in the use of his hands in the clinches. He has demonstrated his ability to outrough roughers in his eastern matches and he is being counted upon to give the Utican a lesson in this style of wrestling should the latter use the same tactics against Dominguez that he did against Marshall here recently.

This bout also will be to a finish. Dominguez, in local workouts, appears to be much the same style of wrestler as Malcewicz. He is fast, shifty and powerful and has demonstrated his ability to clamp on holds from almost any position.

Nick Lutze, the local mat idol, will appear in the opener. His foe will be Moose Norbeck of Canada, who is known as the "Bull of the North Woods." Norbeck has met nearly every topnotcher in the game with the exception of Ed Lewis and Sonnenberg.


(Chicago Tribune, Sunday, August 6, 1933)

MARSHFIELD, Wis., Aug. 5 – (Special) – Fred Beall, 57, ex-champion world’s heavyweight wrestler, was killed today by four bandits who robbed the Marshfield Brewing company’s offices. He was acting as policeman on night duty.

Art Schroeder, who lives next door to the brewery office, gave the alarm and wounded one of the bandits as they fled after a battle with sawed-off shotguns and pistols that aroused the neighborhood. Patrolman George Fyksen also wounded one of the robbers.

The murderers fled north in Officer Beall’s car, but abandoned it, blood-stained, a mile north of the city to use their own after escaping with $2,500 in revenue stamps.

Sheriff Martin Bey and posses are searching the county for trace of the murderers.

Beall was world’s champion in 1906, and had the distinction of being one of the few men to throw Frank Gotch. He was a Spanish-American war veteran. He was born in Germany and came here at the age of 4.


(Portland Oregonian, Sunday, Sept. 18, 1938)

Jim Londos, ex-heavyweight wrestling champion of the world, made an auspicious start in his first appearance in the international wrestling tourney at the Ice Coliseum last night, defeating Terry McGinnis.

Londos, weighing 202, was forced to go 1:52 minutes of the way through the fifth round before pinning McGinnis, 217, with an airplane spin.

Tusko Kennedy, 475-pound mammoth from San Francisco, was eliminated from the tourney last night by Darrell Kunkel, 205, after 7:38 minutes of grappling in the first round. Heinie Olson, 215, of Portland, pinned Chief Thunderbird, 210, British Columbia Indian, with a body slam 2:35 minutes of the way through the third round.

Bob Wagner, 225, after going to the penalty box for one minute before the end of the first round for rough tactics, came back in the second to down Rudy Brenner, 210, in 4:14 minutes of the second round with backbreakers.

In the nightcap, Prince Bhu Pinder, 218, of India, defeated Cliff Thiede, 213, Los Angeles, with a series of double wing locks 2:37 minutes after the opening of the fourth round.

Headed by Jim Londos, international champion, the list of those remaining in the tournament are as follows: Londos, Chief Little Wolf, Del Kunkel, Chief Thunderbird, Otto Kuss, Thiede, Bhu Pinder, Bob Kruse, Jumbo Kennedy, Dyke Nakamara, Bob Wagner, the Purple Shadow, George Godfrey, Terry McGinnis, Heinie Olson, Larry Bennett, George Kitzmiller, Rudy Brenner and Jack Forsgren.

Already eliminated and many of them on their way back home are: Tom Mahoney, Hank Metheny, Count Marino, Joe Pazandak, Cardiff Giant, Lou Newman, Hal Dougherty, Sailor Franz, Herman Olson, Len McLeod, Ken North, Otto Jerrick, Benny Ginsberg, Vary Cutler, Art Shires, Jock Malone and Bull Elk.

Winners against winners mark the reopening of the tournament Tuesday night. A feature will be the entry of George Godfrey, the first Negro heavyweight ever to wrestle in Portland. By the end of this week only eight grapplers will remain in the tournament which runs until September 30th.


(Portland Oregonian, Sept. 19, 1938)

George Godfrey, Negro, whose huge figure was a threat for years in the heavyweight boxing ring, and who just returned from three years of wrestling in South America, arrived in Portland today to become a late entry in the international wrestling tournament.

Godfrey will wrestle his first tournament exhibition Tuesday night when he goes up against the Purple Shadow, California mystery man, who is already a two-time winner in the tournament. The huge Negro weighs 285 pounds and stands 6 feet 3 inches tall.

The reopening of the tournament tomorrow marks the halfway mark, with two weeks to go, as the final is scheduled for Friday night, September 30. With the exception of Godfrey, who arrives today, Sandor Szabo and Ivan Rasputin, due later, there will be no new entries.

Besides the regular tournament exhibition there will be several added attractions tomorrow, one of these a special event between the two "bad men" of the tournament, Baron Ginsberg and Vary Cutler. The program follows:

Little Wolf vs. Kunkel; Bhu Pinder vs. Thiede; Thunderbird vs. Olson; Wagner vs. Brenner; Godfrey vs. Purple Shadow; Cutler vs. Ginsberg; McGinnis vs. Newman, and Kuss vs. Kennedy.



(Tacoma News Tribune, Friday, Aug. 13, 1954)

Frank Stojack won the main event on the mat card at the Crescent Ballroom Thursday night when Violent Red Berry was disqualified.

A turn-away crowd saw Berry win the first fall in 15 minutes and 17 seconds with a gillikin twist and a shoulder press. Stojack came back fast with a swing and a full Boston crab hold to which Berry conceded in 34 seconds.

Guest referee Orville Brown awarded the third fall and the match to Stojack at 10:28 when he disqualified Berry for rough tactics on Stojack and the referee himself.

The semi-final bout between Roger Mackay and Henry Lenz was declared no contest when, after two falls, the grapplers fell from the ring onto the floor and began to mix things up there. Lenz had won the first fall with a full nelson, while Mackay used a leg cannonball and shoulder press to subdue Lenz in the second.

The special event was a rough bout that ended in a draw. Referee Cliff Olson apparently had disqualified Ivan Kameroff for gouging Matt Murphy’s eyes, but it was discovered later that the bout had already ended.

Scotty Williams won the opener in 11:48 when John Gilbert was unable to make it back into the ring after being dropkicked to the arena floor.


(Tacoma News Tribune, August 20, 1954)

Buddy (Unmasked Marvel) Knox took two of three falls from Wild Red Berry to win the main event of Thursday’s grappling card at the Crescent Ballroom. Knox came back to register the win after Berry had won the first fall with a "Gillikin twist" and shoulder press.

Knox took the second fall with a back-breaker and a semi-body press. He clinched the match with a shoulder butt while coming off the ropes and a semi-body press.

In the opener, Johnny Demchuk and Bob Cummings fought to a draw in 20 minutes. Matt Murphy won the special event from Danno McDonald with a series of elbow smashes and a semi-body press.

Dr. Lee Grable won the last two falls from Henry Lenz in the semi-final. Grable used a full body press for the final fall after a full nelson by Lenz backfired.


(Los Angeles Times, Saturday, April 28, 1956)

Valley Gardens fans in North Hollywood get a wrestling natural tonight when Leo Jonathan, Navajo Indian from Utah, clashes in a showdown match with Rocky Valentine, roaring cowboy from Lubbock, Tex.

Other bouts are John Tolos vs. Nick Bockwinkel, Pat Fraley vs. Chief War Cloud, Jesse James vs. Giuseppi Diadone.


(Los Angeles Times, Saturday, April 28, 1956)

Primo Carnera, former boxing champion of the world turned wrestler, yesterday sent a telegraphic challenge to Joe Louis, another former boxing champ turned wrestler, to a wrestling match here.

Carnera’s wire was sent through his agent, Guido Orlando. Carnera agreed to turn his share of the purse over to the Olympic Games Fund.

"Louis’ share already is spoken for," Carnera added, meaning, of course, that Internal Revenue agents get first count on any income Louis might earn.


(Chicago Tribune, Friday, April 26, 1957)

Reggie and Stan Lisowski will meet Verne Gagne and Edouard Carpentier in an Australian tag team match which will be featured on tonight’s wrestling program in International Amphitheater.

Another match promising plenty of action will bring together Wilbur Snyder and Dick the Bruiser. Tonight’s card:

Edouard Carpentier and Verne Gagne vs. Reggie and Stan Lisowski, Australian tag team match, 2 of 3 falls, one hour limit.

Wilbur Snyder vs. Dick the Bruiser, 2 of 3 falls, one hour limit.

Angelo Poffo vs. Jerry Christy, 1 fall, 30 minute limit.

Sheik of Araby vs. Bill Melby, 1 fall, 30 minute limit.

Miss Caroline Bennet vs. Baby Doe, midgets, 1 fall, 30 minute limit.


(Chicago Tribune, Saturday, April 27, 1957)

Verne Gagne and Edouard Carpentier, two of the finest straight men in the wrestling business, defeated villains Reggie and Stan Lisowski in an Australian tag team match featuring last night’s show in International Amphitheater.

Carpentier gained the only fall in the encounter, booked for two of three falls, when he pinned Stan with a reverse cradle hold in 56 minutes. When time expired four minutes later, Reggie had Gagne in a most uncomfortable position with a full nelson.

The crowd of 9,130, which contributed to a gross gate of $23,642.44, cheered vociferously when Gagne was saved by the bell. Other results:

Wilbur Snyder won from Dick the Bruiser by disqualification; Angelo Poffo beat Jerry Christy, 9:27; Sheik of Araby and Bill Melby drew, 30:00; Miss Caroline Bennet beat Baby Doe, 7:18; Billy Goelz beat Zack Malkov, 20:04.


(Wall Street Journal, Monday, July 19, 1982)

DALLAS – Before Fritz Von Erich finally pinned King Kong Bundy in their June 6 American heavyweight championship match, he softened him up with a maneuver popular in Texas professional wrestling. He brained him with a metal chair.

Mr. Von Erich thus regained the crown in a way that may violate the state’s ambiguous rules of wrestling conduct, but Texas wrestling inspectors long have looked the other way. As a result, wrestling can get pretty rough in the Lone Star State.

Earlier this year, in San Antonio, Wahoo McDaniel squared off with another wrestler outside the ring, then decked a fan who tried to intervene. The spectator, who is suing over it, took a punch that the wrestler had ducked.

Such rowdiness constitutes entertainment, promoters believe. And, besides, much of the violence is faked. But Lias B. Steen, as commissioner of the Texas Department of Labor and Standards, is not amused. He is pushing for tamer fare, enforced by new regulations that are to go into effect today. They include a ban on wrestling outside the ring and suspension for any wrestler who injures an opponent with a "foreign object."

"I got pictures in magazines of wrestlers throwing chairs around, with blood shooting out of their eyes and ears," says Mr. Steen, who isn’t a fan but who sometimes watches matches on television. "Now what’s to keep a guy in the crowd from picking up a chair, too, and hurting Mojo Bojo or some other wrestler? The fans don’t know how to hit or hold back."

It isn’t surprising that Mr. Steen’s efforts are causing a ruckus among fans and promoters who argue that the new rules will turn wrestling genteel. "It has been a nice relationship all these years" that wrestling has had with its regulators, says Joe Blanchard, a quondam wrestler who now owns Southwest Championship Wrestling in San Antonio. "But strict enforcement, that’s a frightening thing."

Adds William Arnold, a San Antonio attorney and part owner of Mr. Blanchard’s promoting business: "This could completely destroy wrestling in Texas." Mr. Blanchard and Mr. Arnold are threatening to file law suits contesting the new regulations.

No doubt, some classic wrestling attractions here would be jeopardized if the rule against the use of foreign objects is enforced. What, for instance, will become of the dog-collar match, in which opponents grapple with each other while chained together at the neck? And whither the "street fight" events in which wrestlers enter the ring fully clothed and flail each other with boots and belts? Metal-chair bashing clearly will be out.

"What are foreign objects?" asks Mr. Blanchard, who says he is distressed by the ambiguity of the new rules. "Is a chain in the (dog collar) match a foreign object? We just don’t know," he says. Moreover, he says, strict regulation isn’t needed because actual wrestling-related injuries are so rare.

Mr. Steen and the regulations in his corner say promoters are just overreacting to get publicity and hype attendance at matches. Texas wrestling will probably generate revenues of about $3.8 million this year, regulated or not. "We don’t want to take the show away from it," says assistant commissioner Robert Busse, "but if you’ve got rules, you have to enforce them."

The promoters, oddly enough, were supporting Mr. Steen 18 months ago when he began examining the industry. At the time, they were seeking to throttle competition from unregulated nightclub bouts of mud wrestling, Jell-O wrestling, even tapioca wrestling. While looking into the promoters’ complaints, Mr. Steen discovered that his inspectors weren’t rigorously enforcing the rules of conventional pro wrestling. The revised rules will cover the nightclub matches while curbing also some of wrestling’s most flagrant violence, says the commissioner, a former Cuero, Texas businessman who has been in office for three years.

Violence – real and pretend – isn’t new to Texas wrestling. In 1980, for example, inspectors urged Mr. Blanchard to restrain a wild wrestler named Gran Marcos who often ran into the audience to engage spectators in shouting matches. "He was really hard to handle," recalls Mr. Blanchard. One night the wrestler was stabbed by a drunken fan while Mr. Marcos was involved in audience byplay in Corpus Christi. Mr. Marcos recovered from his wound but no longer wrestles in Texas.

Despite such incidents, fans are divided on the question of stricter regulation. "I think when they fight out of the ring they ought to be disqualified," says Bootz Powell, the owner of a Fort Worth beauty salon. She is a weekly regular at Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth. And Joyce Hill, a fan for nine years, says, "I like them to get down and dirty. I want them to do it, but I’ll keep coming if they don’t."

Others, who say they will stop attending if regulations are enforced, are fighting mad. Mr. Steen "ought to be thrown in the ring and bounced around on his head about 10 times," says Jerry Moon, a Fort Worth wrestling fan for 35 years. "He’s trying to end wrestling like we like it." Mr. Moon will boycott matches if wrestling is changed, he says, and he has written the commissioner a letter saying so. Another wrestling aficionado, in a guest column in the Dallas Morning News, wrote that what Mr. Steen is doing "is like regulating the star off the Christmas tree."

Professional wrestlers in popular parlance are classified as "heels" (the villains) and "baby faces" (the good guys). Mr. Steen has some unexpected support from a heel named Gary Hart, who brandishes an ugly scar on his bald pate, evidence of a gash made by a protruding nail at ringside.

"I don’t think fans come to see winners and losers," he says. This is the same Gary Hart, by the way, who recently upset fans when he clubbed two baby faces with a blackjack.

Baby-face Scott Casey, who has wrestled for 10 years, disagrees. "People are just like the Romans," he says. "They want to see blood. If they make us keep it all in the ring, you’re going to kill everything we’ve worked for all these years. Hey, this thing is hurting my pocketbook, and that gets me a little excited."

Mr. Steen’s rules buck a national trend toward deregulation of professional wrestling. Alabama, Colorado, Kansas and Tennessee all have deregulated in recent years, and other states never regulated the industry at all. In contrast, California forbids "dangerous conduct," although budget cutbacks have forced inspectors to enforce the rules selectively. Nevada bans what Texas is about to ban, and the state fines wrestlers who flout the rules.

Getting tough with Texas wrestling will be difficult, state officials say. Mr. Steen’s department doesn’t plan to increase its staff of 10 inspectors who have about 600 matches a year to contend with. The same inspectors also watch over child labor, auctioneers and manufactured housing, among other things. Larry Kosta, who heads the department’s licensing division, says that his inspectors attend 70 per cent of the matches now. Wrestling promoters dispute that, saying they see inspectors at barely half the events. And even then, "all they do is sit in the ticket office and count tickets," sneers Mr. Arnold. "They’re worthless as teats on a bull."

Mr. Arnold says that he will sue the state for every match where no inspector is present to enforce the stricter rules. He thinks inspectors may be lax in enforcing regulations against promoters who haven’t opposed them.

Mr. Arnold and Mr. Blanchard plan to join Houston promoter Paul Boesch in lobbying the Texas legislature in November to deregulate wrestling. The three men argue that fans are the best regulators of wrestling.

Ironically, the promoters have an ally of sorts in their nemesis Mr. Steen, who believes in enforcing the letter of the law so long as it remains on the books but wouldn’t mind in the least having wrestlers out of his hair. "Deregulation," he says with a little laugh, "would be a hell of a good idea."



(Tacoma News Tribune, circa 1986)

By Eve Dumovich, News Tribune Theatre Critic

Good battled evil, Russian and Iran whupped the United States and love tamed an animal for a moment.

All of this, and more, happened during one slampacked evening of World Wrestling Federation events in the Tacoma Dome Tuesday.

It was fascinating. Each of the seven matches had a plot, characters and a certain amount of suspense. The good guys didn’t always win – but you knew they should have by the crowd’s vocal and most disapproving reaction. There was music, dance and high drama.

The first bout between one Rene Goulet, a delicate-mannered moose from France who weighs 236 pounds, and Siva Afi, 240-pounder from the Fiji Islands, was a sort of opening duet of class versus crass. In this one Goulet was the bad guy and Afi the good guy. The good guys usually slip into the ring quietly, the bad enter the arena with a procession to a chorus of enthusiastic boos.

The opening segment of the bout was quiet. Then things started to go badly for the good guy. Goulet did a lot of bad things to Afi, who despite all odds, recovered himself and found some energy. He threw the Frenchman over his shoulder, climbed on the ropes and jumped on Goulet’s conveniently prostrate form. It was all over, the crowd cheered. The right man had won. The loser, as seemed traditional, stayed in the ring and bowed to the angrily shouting audience.

This little ballet set the tone for the ensuing matches. The next bout between Cousin Luke and Mr. X had similar form, but the costumes were more interesting. Cousin Luke from Hog Waller, Tenn., weighs a mere 270 pounds. He wrestled in overalls. His opponent was a red-garbed Mr. X from parts unknown (all of these facts are from the program which fans buy for $3), whose weight was also not listed. Mr. X looked like spider man. He leapt all over the ropes and was obviously a well-trained athlete. But he was a bad guy.

Cousin Luke entered the ring to country music and cheers. He spent a lot of time lying on the smaller Mr. X. Mr. X bounced off Luke’s large derriere and stomach with enough force to be propelled from rope to rope.

But Mr. X was mean and evil. He dumped Luke a few times and the whole ring shook. Finally Mr. X had Luke in a head hold. X threw Luke out of the ring, but Luke came back, tossed Mr. X to the ground and sat on him – and won. Luke left the ring to the country strains of a polka and X was left lamenting on the ropes.

The next match was even more theatrical. Adorable Adrian Adonis, the bad guy, is a 294-pound, pink-garbed, blonde-headed, effeminate mountain of jelly. He had a pink rose in his curly blonde hair and pink socks. His opponent was the masculine-looking George Wells from Oakland, Calif. Adonis, who everybody hated and at whom profanities were screamed, won this match. But not without making obscene gestures at the crowd and being totally obnoxious.

The crowd did not like this one at all. Nonetheless, in this match they were given the chance to vent all the hostility they had felt all week. It was vocal, negative and yet seemingly extremely satisfying.

Then came the main event between 288-pound George (The Animal) Steele and Randy (Macho Man) Savage. In past matches, the 288-pound Animal, who is known to be extremely wild and extremely stupid, had shown an infatuation for the beautiful Elizabeth. Elizabeth is none other than the manager of 238-pound Savage.

Captain Lou Albano is Animal’s manager, and his main job, according to the press releases, is to keep Animal’s small mind on the match and not on his attraction for Elizabeth.

Animal was true to form. He ran around the ring shaking his fists at everybody but every once in a while was struck dumb by Elizabeth – who by the way was the first one to enter the ring.

It was a fast match, too short for many fans. Savage and Animal threw each other in and out of the ring, jumped on each other and pounded on each other. They chased each other with chairs. It was a fast-paced number but most of the action seemed to be out of the ring and hard to see for most of the audience. Suddenly it was over. Animal had been disqualified. An 8-year-old boy told me it was because he stayed out of the ring too long.

The heavy international drama followed and cheered everybody up. In this, flags flying, came the tag teams of The Iron Sheik from Iran at 258 pounds and Nikolai Volkoff from Russia at 313 pounds (that’s one heck of a lot of boiled potatoes) versus camouflage-garbed Corporal Kirchner, who weighs 240 pounds and entered waving the American flag, and blond Dan Spivey, a 270-pounder from Texas.

This was an audience-participation event. People chanted "U.S.A." over and over again. Some waved signs reading "Nuke Iran." It was enough to give one the red, white and blues. Alas, patriotism was not enough. In the last moments, just after the corporal had bashed his opponents’ heads together, somehow the American hero ended up against the ropes and one of the bad guys bashed him with a chair. The referee was looking elsewhere at the time, claimed the angry fans behind me.

After the intermission, Hercules Hernandez, a 265-pounder from Florida, took on S.D. Jones. This was the battle between the gladiator and the pagan. Everybody wanted the leather-garbed Hercules to lose. This was a well-paced, well-orchestrated match with a lot of drama. Both wrestlers used mime to indicate when Hercules was complaining about having his hair pulled.

Fans shouted instructions to S.D. In one particularly well-choreographed moment, S.D. pummeled Hercules with a series of hard punches, but Hercules recovered well enough to get S.D. into a back-breaker and win.

The final match featured the dancing talents of The Junkyard Dog, a 260-pounder from Charlotte, N.C., who entered swathed in golden chains, and Terry Funk, a 265-pounder from Texas. Junkyard, with the word THUMP emblazoned across his backside, was by far the favorite. This was almost a vaudeville routine, with Funk staggering with pain and falling out of the ring. Things looked bad for Junkyard for a while, he was on the ground and looking bleary. Funk swung at him, pounded at him – and just as suddenly was down for a quick count. The last people in the ring were the victorious Junkyard dancing with a small child. That was a nice touch.

The fans, some 10,442 of them, left smiling.


(Associated Press, Wednesday, April 16, 1997)

AUSTIN, Texas -- Pro wrestling would be exposed as a possible fake in the world of sports under a bill that would impose a tax on closed-circuit telecasts of boxing and wrestling events.

The measure by Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, would bring pro wrestling under state regulation for the first time.

"Participating wrestlers may not be required to use their best efforts in order to win, the winner may have been selected before the performance commences and contestants compete for valuable consideration," the bill says.

Nobody from the wrestling industry showed up to question the definition.

Oliveira said the is-it-fixed question is "one of the mysteries of the universe for me."

The explanation seemed to satisfy the committee, although House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee Chairman Ron Wilson, D-Houston, was moved to ask, "You don't intend to question the integrity of the tooth fairy as well?"

"The tooth fairy is something I still believe in," replied Oliveira, "just like wrestling."

Texas would not be the first state to certify that pro wrestling may not be sport in its purest form.

New Jersey also puts pro wrestling in the entertainment, rather than sports, category for regulatory purposes.

The bill was approved by the committee and now goes to the full House for consideration.


(Portland Oregonian, Friday, June 27, 1997)

By Tom Hallman Jr.

In those last moments, as the preacher preached and friends laughed about the old days, it was easy to remember the deceased as "The Crusher." The truth was revealed at the end, though, when attendants opened the casket and displayed an old man whose body had betrayed him.

A couple of days ago, deep in the heart of St. Johns, they held a funeral for Stan Stasiak, a professional wrestler and a link to a past more innocent and raw.

Before the Blazers and Clyde, before golf and Tiger, before Nike and Phil, before cable television and compact discs and the assault of Internet entertainment, there was Portland Wrestling and The Crusher.

Bouts were held on Saturday nights in the Portland Armory. For a time they were broadcast live, in prime time, on KPTV. As the times shifted, so did the program and the sport – to tape-delay and to the Portland Sports Arena in North Portland.

The product – and that’s what it was, without apology – was managed by Don Owen, a fast-talking, down-in-the-trenches promoter. He knew his trade. Crowds of 4,000 were not unusual – kids, little old ladies, young toughs, wannabes and lots of cigarette smoke.

Weekdays, Owen took his show on the road. Wrestlers barnstormed the state, hitting the hinterlands with glitz and guts and grudge matches.

Patrons got their money’s worth at Portland Wrestling. Stars didn’t lip off to the coach or refuse to play. No one showed disdain for the fans. For about two hours of an evening, good and evil battled it out in the ring. Fans roared their approval, except when one of those boring college wrestlers – "scientific" grapplers, they were called – trotted out.

At the center of this whirlwind stood Stasiak, variously known as Stan "The Man" Stasiak or Stan "The Crusher" Stasiak.

He was one of the good guys.

Tough Tony Borne, Beauregarde, the Von Steigers, Lonnie Mayne and Haru Sasaki – they were the villains. Their talents leaned to hair-pulling, eye jabs, sand in the face and karate chops.

With memories of World War II still fresh and the Cold War in high heat, the bad guys were often cast as German or Japanese.

"People hated the Japanese," Sasaki recalled. "I got booed all the time. I got death threats, and in some small towns I had to leave hidden in a trunk. Even if I was a nice guy, I wasn’t going to get any respect, so I figured I might as well be a bad guy."

Tough Tony Borne relished the bad-guy role, although in later years he became something of a revered elder statesman of the ring.

"I was not in there to make friends," said Borne, whose trademark was to grind his beard in an opponent’s face. "I was in there to make money.

"Some guys got a flat guarantee, but most wrestlers fought for a cut of the gate. You had to have ring color. You had to be liked or disliked."

Shag Thomas was the lone African-American in the ring, a quiet man who seemed to sense how far he could go, or what he could say, without turning people against him.

Each match was one fall, except for the main event, which was upped to two-out-of-three falls or to a "TV time limit." A TV announcer interviewed the wrestlers during breaks. Threats and insults would be hurled their way, prompting a melee – all part of the show. Lonnie Mayne ate light bulbs on camera.

And when one of the bad guys got out of hand, or ganged up with his dirty pals to pummel some poor sap, it was Stasiak who rushed to the rescue.

He would charge out of the locker room, cheers propelling him onward. He used his fists, his feet, sometimes even a metal folding chair, to restore order. His big weapon was the dreaded "Heart Punch," a blow so severe that it was rumored to send behemoth men to the hospital, where they pondered a safer career, such as selling shoes.

So it was especially ironic that, when Stasiak died last week, it was because his heart gave out.

Congestive heart failure.

Age 60.

His real name was George Stipich. He left behind a wife and two grown kids. Although his family roots reach back to Croatia, he was born and raised in Quebec and was a good enough hockey player to be signed by the New York Rangers.

Instead, at age 21, he drifted to professional wrestling. He was spotted by a promoter, who said he looked like the original Stan Stasiak, a big-time wrestler from the ‘20s, and told him to change his name. He was a big man – 6-5, 270 pounds – and began his career as a bad guy. For a short time he even wore a mask, which made him a really bad guy. He was working the circuit in Texas when Owen discovered him and brought him to Portland.

"He wrestled rough at first," Owen said. "Then he had people cheering for him all the time.

"Here was a guy who never missed a booking. He tended to business. If he had to be in Klamath Falls, by God, he was in Klamath Falls. He did his stuff."

During the heyday of Portland Wrestling, in the 1950s and ‘60s, Stasiak won the Pacific Northwest title 15 times. His prowess gained him national celebrity and meetings with President Kennedy, Morey Amsterdam and Moe Howard of the Three Stooges.

He moved up to the World Wide Wrestling Federation, before Hulk Hogan made it famous, and was the house bad guy in Madison Square Garden. In 1973 he won the world title during a bout in Philadelphia, held it for three weeks, then lost it to good guy Bruno Sammartino back in the Garden.

He returned to Portland. But by then, local wrestling was on the wane.

"It was that damn WWF bunch," Owen grumbled. "For a time in Portland you could get cable wrestling from Mexico and all over the damn country. You could see all of that for nothing until your belly was full. Who, by God, was going to pay $7 to see my stuff?"

So Stasiak did some color commentary for Portland Wrestling. Then Owen got him a job selling cars.

"I told him because of the commentary he’d be the best-known damn salesman in town," Owen said. "He did that for six months, and then I didn’t hear from him."

Stasiak’s health began to fail about 10 years ago. First the heart, then a minor stroke. He divided his time between hospital and home. He became a religious man – read the Bible daily and prayed for his friends.

Until the very end, he showed up and fought the good fight.

The crowd at his funeral numbered about 100, a smattering of colleagues, fans and relatives who seemed to miss those old days.

"They don’t come any better," Borne said. "Not as a man, not as a wrestler."

"He believed it was an honor being a Portland wrestler," nodded Johnny Eagle, who did battle with Stasiak in the ring back in the ‘60s.

Clifford Swiggum, 67, came to pay his respects to the man who had entertained him and his mother for decades of Saturday evenings.

"My father didn’t care for it," Swiggum remembered. "But Stan was one of my mother’s favorites."

His mother’s devotion to the sport was deep. She was at a match the night she died, Swiggum said. She had excused herself to use the bathroom before one of Stasiak’s bouts. Soon after she returned to her seat, she slumped over and never regained consciousness.

"It wasn’t the excitement of the match that caused it," Swiggum assured. "She had heart problems."

The preacher preached then, about being with God in the life beyond. Borne said it was an honor to call the departed his friend. They played a country song.

And it was over.

No one wrestles here anymore.

Portland Wrestling folded. The armory was absorbed by a nearby brewery. The Sports Arena was bought by a church that needed room to expand.

Beauregarde is rumored to be living the high life somewhere on the East Coast. He hasn’t been heard from in 20 years, but it’s a nice thought.

Tough Tony calls himself "Not So Tough Tony Borne." He will soon be 71 and has his aches and pains. He putters in his garden and plays with his four grandchildren.

Haru Sasaki is a baker’s helper at a Lake Oswego grocery. He counts day-old bread and stacks boxes.

Lonnie Mayne went out like everyone expected – a spectacular head-on wreck on a California freeway.

Shag Thomas died quietly in his sleep.

And on Wednesday, they held a funeral for The Crusher.


(Charlotte Observer, February 13, 1999)

By Ken Garfield

GASTONIA, N.C. -- In the strange world of professional wrestling, George South may be the strangest character of all.

With a snarl and straggly hair, he’s a hit-below-the-belt kind of guy who fills the small-town gyms of the Carolinas with a thousand boos. If it’s Saturday night in Gastonia, this must be the National Guard Armory, and the bad guy in the ring calling the sweet old lady in the front row "Big Mouth" must be George South.

That’s not the half of it. He proceeds to call Gastonia "a stinkin’ redneck town" before kicking and gouging his opponent, The Italian Stallion, from head to toe. Not to worry, though. South gets what’s coming to him, namely a boot upside the head. He’s about to go down 1-2-3 when a dozen wrestlers rush the ring, all heck breaks loose and the weasel skulks back to the dressing room to fight another day.

But wait! That’s not who George South really is.

The real George South is a devoted Christian from Concord, N.C., who wears his real passion not on his sleeve but on the back of his wrestling trunks -- "John 3:16" declares this unlikely place. And even if some fans think his name’s John and his birthday is March 16, that’s OK. South has come down the back roads to the small gyms to tell us what it means.

It means that God loves him and you and me and even that sweet old lady in the front row whom he just insulted.

It means that God put all of us on this big, troubled earth to spread his love.

And it means that God wants us to use the gifts he gave us to get the job done, even if those gifts involve body slams and pile drivers.

The real George South wasn’t the guy telling a kid in the front row, "Shut up, boy." That’s just an act to get people’s attention. The real George South was the guy who, three days earlier, told 350 students at Hickory Grove Baptist Christian School to shine a light for Jesus.

That’s what South does every day of his zany life.

"When you think of old George South, don’t think that he’s a wrestler," he preached to the Hickory Grove kids. "Think that he loves Jesus. Kids, you can change the world for Jesus."


Jesus -- and wrestling -- changed the world for South.

The youngest of 13 kids born to Troy and Unabell South, he was raised in the country outside Boone -- until his mother and father were killed in a wreck coming home one night in 1969. South was 6; he can’t remember what his parents looked like.

The kids were farmed out to relatives -- in his testimony, he likens it to splitting up a litter of puppies. He wound up with older brother Bob in Gastonia.

South, now 36, talks about all this with the calmness of a man who learned early to roll with the punches. The only time he shows emotion is when he talks about the two loves that have helped him up every time life knocked him down.

Wrestling was the constant in his childhood. He doesn’t have a photograph of his parents, but he has an autographed picture of "No. 1" Paul Jones, one of the heroes and villains who came into his home each week. Those Saturday morning matches with Jones and Blackjack Mulligan and Wahoo McDaniel were his security blanket, his best memories of growing up. Twenty-five years later, South still cherishes his Paul Jones autograph: "I have that sucker framed at home. I’ll put that in my casket with me."

South was 13 when Jesus arrived in his life.

He was coming down Brown Mountain near Boone when his big brother, Bill, started talking to him about being saved. The change that came with Jesus didn’t mean he had to be struck by lightning. He just opened his heart, let Jesus in, and life was somehow different.

To this day, that’s the principle that guides him, the belief that you can be a banker or bus boy and be elevated by Jesus. That you can go to church or the wrestling matches and be someone special. That you can bask in God’s light no matter who you are.

At 13, the message hit South square between the eyes: "I didn’t know you could be what you are and still be with Jesus."

It didn’t take long after he graduated from North Gaston High in 1980 for South to realize that wrestling for a living beat some of his other jobs, like driving a truck. He started getting the tar beat out of him at age 19, moving up to the major wrestling outfits to become fall guy for the likes of Ric Flair and Ultimate Warrior.

Some athletes brag about their trophies. South brags about the time he spent 20 minutes on WTBS, getting thrashed by Flair in front of a national TV audience. "I got that on tape," South said. "It was a thrill. They carried me out of the ring."

About the only thrill that comes close is the time he handed one of his Christian tracts to Hulk Hogan backstage. The bleached blond superstar accepted it, thanked South and admitted that maybe he needed it.

You won’t see South much these days on any of the dozens of wrestling shows that dominate cable TV.

South is happy to let the more famous wrestlers profit from their wildly popular, profane brand of play-acting. The World Wrestling Federation, for example, staged a mock crucifixion of its superstar, Stone Cold Steve Austin, who wears "Austin 3:16" on the back of his leather vest.

South is content to run his little outfit, the Pro Wrestling Federation, and fight archrival (and close friend) Gary "The Italian Stallion" Sabaugh 200 nights a year in towns such as Jefferson, Mooresville, Taylorsville and North Wilkesboro.

We’re not talking the Superdome here. There were 80 fans in the Gastonia armory, none of whom saw the wrestlers luxuriating in their pregame meal -- Kentucky Fried Chicken in a bucket.

Sabaugh, also an ardent Christian, looks around the dressing room. In one corner is a wrestler in what resembles a bathrobe. He’s "Super Ninja." In another, a woman cuddling an infant is actually "Stardust," a wrestler about to fight a masked man who is actually her boyfriend.

Sabaugh laughs: "Welcome to ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’ "

This it what puts food on the table for South’s wife, Missy, and their five children under age 14.

It’s what allows the wrestlers to pay for those $20-a-night motels on the road. Five jammed into a room recently at the Hilltop Inn in Martins Ferry, Ohio, where "American G.I." and "The Bodyguard" discussed the Bible after beating each other silly.

And, best of all for South, wrestling is what gives him a pulpit. Even if the pulpit is a ramshackle ring.

Said South: "It ain’t like seeing the same people in church every Sunday. The Lord brings the people to me."


George South is one happy soul.

His wife just gave birth to John Garrett, who came in at a whopping 10 pounds 10 ounces. Throw a mask on the boy and point him to the nearest squared circle.

He teaches the Sunday school class for young couples at Reedy Creek Baptist off Harris Boulevard in east Charlotte. A recent lesson was on Michael Jordan and how we shouldn’t make athletes out to be God.

Between Sundays, he spends the best days of his life spreading the gospel in a way that only he can.

At Hickory Grove Baptist Church Christian School, he urges the kids to share their faith no matter what job they do in life. He pulls out a wrestling mask and counsels them not to hide their convictions. He shows them his championship belt and says he’d rather have his beat-up old Bible. He tells them how "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert found God just before he died one night after wrestling in Puerto Rico.

"Treat every day like it could be your last," he preaches.

Three nights later at the armory in Gastonia, he leads his troupe of wrestlers in prayer, asking God to help them reach those in the crowd who might not know Jesus. Then he pokes his head out of the dressing room and looks out at the people he has come to touch.

There’s Cheryl Simons, a third-shift stocker at Wal-Mart in Gaffney, S.C. They’ve talked about their families before, and she appreciates South’s counsel. There’s Starr Justice, a cook and waitress at the Waffle House. He’s handed her a tract entitled "DO YOU KNOW JESUS?" There’s Alton Windsor, a dairy and frozen food manager at Harris Teeter. He has seen South wrestle enough to know that the real man isn’t the guy kicking The Italian Stallion when he’s down.

"What he acts like in the ring," Windsor says, "ain’t nothing like he is."

The 235-pound man with "John 3:16" emblazoned on his backside struts to the ring and yells to a young fan that he has a big mouth. He taunts The Italian Stallion until someone screams "Shut up and rassle." He wrestles until the scars on his forehead pour blood. Then he flees to the dressing room before he can be pinned, helps fold up the ring and heads home until the highway calls him to wrestle and minister again.

For George South, the highway always calls.