Tag Archives: Lou Thesz

Profile – Gene Kiniski

Holding the NWA World Heavyweight Championship for 1,131 days, former Canadian football star Gene Kiniski was one of the most successful champions in the record books.  In a time when champions were known as squeaky clean good guy wrestlers, with his aggressive nature and natural charisma, “Big Thunder” broke that precedent.

Kiniski was born on 23rd November 1928 in Lamont, Alberta, Canada before moving onto the nearby town of Chipman at an early age.  Times were hard financially for his family after the Stock Market Crash in 1929 and they moved to Edmonton by the time that Gene was 11.  By the time he was a teenager, At six feet tall with a robust build, Kiniski was a promising athlete practising amateur wrestling and football at St. Joseph’s High School.

By the time he was 20, Gene was recruited by the Edmonton Eskimos, sporting the number 50 and played defensive lineman in the Western Interprovincial Football Union, which was the predecessor of the Canadian Football League.  Quoted as making a paltry $200 a year with the Eskimos, Kiniski moved onto college at the University of Arizona and played lineman for the Wildcats and became a strong NFL prospect.  His aggression was highlighted after being chucked out of three games for unnecessary roughness.

While staying in Tucson, Gene and close friend Steve Paproski needed jobs and became working for wrestling promoter and Edmonton native Rod Fenton as ushers and selling programs at his events.  Kiniski became an asset at the events due to his size protecting the wrestlers from over-excited fans and began to start to work out at the local gyms with fellow wrestlers and Fenton and got involved in the basics of wrestling training.

It is rumoured that Kiniski and Paproski started wrestling in different towns under pseudo names so that the University would not find out, but eventually, their cover was blown and the Wildcat coach Robert Winslow demanded they immediately stop.  Later that year, although it was against the wishes of his family back in Edmonton, Kiniski decided to trade in the football pads for wrestling boots and was set to make his debut on Fenton show.

So, on February 13th 1952, donning the cover of the programs he used to sell, Kiniski made his in-ring debut at the Sports Center in Tucson defeating Curly Hughes in around 12 minutes. Gene went on to gain in-ring experience in Tucson, El Paso and Albuquerque working a few times per week.  Kiniski began working out with Dory Funk Sr. and Dory Jr. in a friendship that would work out well for both parties in the future.

By 1954, Kiniski was plying his trade in Los Angeles working NWA Hollywood TV shows frequently against a young Bobo Brazil before moving onto Hawaii to form a tag team with Lord Blears to face Japanese duo Kokichi Endo and Rikidozan.  Moving onto Dallas, Kiniski and his aggressive nature became a great draw, he was ruthless with sharp wit and possessed a mean streak.  With the vicious back-breaker as his signature move, fans were buying tickets to see Gene get beat up but much to the crowd’s dismay, Kiniski usually came out on top.

At the age of 29, Gene returned to Canada and received his first NWA Worlds Heavyweight Title shot against Lou Thesz and managed to hold the champ to a draw in front of thousands packed inside the Maple Leaf Gardens. Kiniski started to get massively over proclaiming himself as “Canada’s Greatest Athlete” and grappling with former world champions Bill Longson, Pat O’ Connor and “Whipper” Billy Watson. His trash-talking rogue persona started to turn promoter’s heads and he was booked across the States and Canada. Come 1960, Minneapolis promoters Wally Karbo and Verne Gagne broke away from the NWA and created the American Wrestling Association and they contacted Kiniski to headline their events.

Image result for gene kiniski lou thesz

Gene alternated between AWA and NWA promoted events and on 11th July 1961, Kiniski dethroned Gagne to win his first world championship, the AWA World Title.  Although the reign did not last long and less than a month later, inside the confines of a Steel Cage, Gagne regained the title.  Gene’s career went from strength to strength winning singles titles in various territories and received a WWWF title shot against top draw Bruno Sammartino at Madison Square Garden in November 1964 with over 18,000 in attendance. Kiniski believed he had pinned Bruno and left ringside with the title belt, but he was counted out. Gene kept the belt until a rematch a month later in which Bruno regained possession of his championship.

St. Louis promoter Sam Muchnick booked Kiniski to wrestle Fritz von Erich, Johnny Valentine and Dick the Bruiser. After clinching a win over former champ Pat O’Connor, Gene was awarded another shot at Lou Thesz’s NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship. The bout, booked by Muchnick was set to take place at the Kiel Auditorium on 7th January 1966 in front of a packed house and the NWA board voted to give “Big Thunder” a run with the strap.

In a best of three falls match, history was made. Thesz went ahead with the first fall but was disqualified for throwing Gene over the top rope tying up the bout at 1-1.  After less than two minutes inside the third fall, Kiniski pinned Thesz and referee Joe Scheonberger slammed his hand on the canvas three times and Gene had become the world champion. Kiniski was the first man in history to hold the AWA and NWA World titles.

Image result for gene kiniski lou thesz

In a true contrast to Lou Thesz, Kiniski was a natural bad guy and his heel behaviour made him a very successful touring champion. He drew big crowds in all the NWA territories including the JWA in Japan where he faced Antonio Inoki and Shohei (Giant) Baba, even challenging the latter for his NWA International Heavyweight belt.  However, like many champions, the schedule became exhausting to Gene and at the NWA convention in November 1968, he told the Alliance members that he wished to drop the title.  Being a close friend to the Funk family, Gene ended his three-year reign to Dory Funk Jr. via spinning toe-hold on 11th February 1969 in Tampa, Florida.

After resting up, Gene travelled back to Japan to win the International Heavyweight championship from Baba in Osaka for a short 16-day reign before failing to the big man in Los Angeles in a rematch.  Throughout the 1970s, Gene was still a profitable draw for the NWA promoters and received many title shots against Dory, Harley Race, Jack Brisco and Terry Funk but failed to clinch that second reign.  He started to book his own shows with Vancouver All-Star Wrestling promoter Sandor Kovacs, buying out his trainer Rod Fenton’s share, and he brought many World title matches to the British Columbia area.

Image result for gene kiniski

He vastly eased up his schedule by 1976 and climbed into the ring intermittently in the early 1980s until quietly heading into retirement come 1985.  Always being the athlete for all his life, Kiniski stayed fit later in life training daily. However, in early 2010, congestive heart failure hospitalised Gene and his weight massively decreased.  He had been secretly battling cancer for years and it had grown to his brain. He passed away with family at his bedside on April 14th 2010.  He was 81 years old.

Kiniski was a true champion, a true athlete and to fill his bank account, a true heel.  Fans paid to see Gene get beat and he didn’t.  For over three years he was World Heavyweight Champion and in his own words, Gene made sure that even if the fan went home sulking, they got their money’s worth.

As always, thanks for reading…

Will Burns

Source: Tim Hornbaker – National Wrestling Alliance, Steven Verrier – Gene Kiniski Canadian Wrestling Legend

Profile – Sam Muchnick

In the shady business of professional wrestling uniquely St. Louis wrestling promoter Sam Muchnick became known as “the honest wrestling promoter”. His influence within the National Wrestling Alliance was incomparable and many believe he was solely responsible for the success of the organisation.

Muchnik was born in Novohrad-Volynskyi in Ukraine on 22nd August 1905 and moved to St. Louis, Missouri at the young age of six.  Not soon after he was hooked by the sport of wrestling and even skipped his high school graduation to watch Wladek Zbyszko wrestle at the Odeon Theatre.

Sam left his first employment at the postal service in 1926 to join the sports staff of the St. Louis Times, earning $20 a week to write about Baseball team St. Louis Cardinals. In 1932, the newspaper merged with the St. Louis Star and Muchnick was subsequently offered a journalistic role there but declined.

As a journalist, Muchnick learnt great people skills and how to deal with media and politicians and working in sports had grown many connections.

After forming friendships with Ed “Strangler” Lewis, Lou Thesz and Ray Steele, Muchnick met Tom Packs, a wrestling promoter for the National Wrestling Association (the original NWA). Packs controlled the Association’s World title with Billy Sandow defending the strap in the Midwest area.

Packs offered Sam a job and his understanding of the wrestling business grew. Around nine years later, with experience under his belt, Packs entrusted Muchnick to essentially run the promotion.  Sam decided to promote his own shows and by 27th March 1942, he promoted his own card. However, his plans for wrestling had to be put on hold as World War II broke out. After a stint in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1945, Sam returned to St. Louis to try his hand at promoting professional wrestling shows, opening an office in opposition to Packs.

His shows really started to thrive. His ‘Sam Muchnick Sports Attractions’ shows would pull good money from the Kiel Auditorium by booking Steele and Lewis.  Seeing Muchnick as competition, Packs severed tie with Sam and used his connections across the country to blackball Muchnick’s promotion and the stopped the top talents from working his shows.  Muchnick was resorted to using veterans of the game, older stars while Packs booked all the young, popular stars.  Packs slaughtered Muchnick at the box office, virtually monopolising the St. Louis market.

But fortunately for Muchnick, Packs lost his wealth in the stock market and was forced to close his office. Muchnick shared his experiences and troubles in his own territory with several promoters and they agreed to form an alliance to combat this. This was known as the National Wrestling Alliance.

A meeting was held on 18th July 1948 in Waterloo, Iowa. Pinkie George (Iowa) invited Muchnick, Orville Brown (Kansas City), Maxwell Clayton (Omaha), Fred Kohler (Chicago) and Wally Karbo (representing Joe Stecher of Minneapolis) and they made an agreement to share talent within their promotions but now with anyone in competition to the Alliance. They also declared they would be one true World Champion.

Business picked up for the NWA territories and on 4th February 1949, Muchnick celebrated his first sell-out of the Kiel Auditorium which was headlined by “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers. This was a few months after Sam offered to unite companies with Lou Thesz, who had taken over Packs’ bookings.  Although Thesz declined at that time after he witnessed how successful Muchnick’s and the NWA’s shows were becoming, Thesz then offered to Muchnick to merge promotions.

Muchnick replaced Pinkie George as NWA president in 1950 and held the role for 22 years. He elevated the organisation to its greatest heights and helped it grow in numbers. It was an extremely tough role in managing the Alliance’s greedy representatives who were looking to improve their own wealth.  His pleasant professional attitude and diplomatic style with authority policed all the troublemakers trying to hinder the NWA’s future. Sam kept the stability of the professional wrestling business for over two decades and became one of the only promoters that were respected by the all in the business.

Muchnick was an amicable, smart businessman and he had the power to make himself rich and book good friend and World Champion Lou Thesz on as many shows as he liked, but unselfishly he assured that Lou was booked fairly across the territories.  Muchnick has to take a lot of credit for the credibility and prestige that the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship still holds today.

In 1959, Muchnick formed the St. Louis Wrestling Club while producing a new television program titled “Wrestling at the Chase” on Missouri station KPLR-TV, which ran for 23 years until September 1983 and produced over 1,000 episodes of the show.  The show, filmed at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis, holds the accolade of being one of the most popular local productions in St. Louis television history. The show developed professional wrestling into a nationally popular form of entertainment as it beamed the many stars of the NWA on the TV sets across the country.

By 1960, tired of dealing with wrestler demands and settling disputes between members of the group, Muchnick stepped down as NWA President. Although his hiatus did not last long and he was unanimously re-installed as president in 1963 until 1975, thus contributing a total of 25 years. During his second term as president, the NWA remained as wrestling’s supremacy and Muchnick expanded the Alliance globally by securing deals with territories in Japan, Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Sam continued to promote until New Years’ Day in 1982, which Mayor Vincent Schoemehl named “Sam Muchnick Day”.  Shortly afterwards, the St. Louis Wrestling Club was purchased by a consortium of Bob Geigel, Pat O’Connor and Harley Race.  A year later, the World Wrestling Federation struck an agreement with Muchnick’s long-time associate and ring announcer Larry Matysik which gave the WWF access to the former TV timeslot of “Wrestling At The Chase”.

Muchnick lived to the grand age of 93 years old as he passed away on 30th December 1998, in his home of St. Louis, the city out of which his wrestling empire grew. To the day he died, he was honest as the day was long, a trait that is very rare within the history of the professional wrestling industry. Sam was truly the godfather of professional wrestling.

As always, thanks for reading…

Will Burns

Source: Tim Hornbaker – National Wrestling AllianceLarry Matysik – Wrestling At The Chase, 

Round-Up: July 1980

It is July 1980 and this was a huge month for professional wrestling.  We have news on two huge upcoming shows in Florida and New York, numerous title switches and we follow the World Champions’ progress as the summer continues in the NWA affiliated territories.

NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race defended the World Heavyweight Championship coast to coast this past month, taking on all comers.

DATEEVENTRESULT
4/7/80Stampede Wrestling – Calgary, Alberta, CanadaHarley Race beat Hercules Ayala to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
6/7/80Georgia Championship Wrestling – The Omni, Atlanta, GAHarley Race and Tommy Rich went to a no contest.  Race retains the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
11/7/80Stampede Wrestling – Calgary, Alberta, CanadaHarley Race beat Archie Gouldie to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
17/7/80Central States Wrestling – Memorial Hall, Kansas City, MSRufus R. Jones beat Harley Race via disqualification.  Race retained the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
20/7/80Georgia Championship Wrestling – The Omni, Atlanta, GAHarley Race defeated Tommy Rich to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Former NWA champion Lou Thesz was the special guest referee.
21/7/80Georgia Championship Wrestling – William Bell Auditorium, Augusta, GATommy Rich defeated Harley Race via DQ.  Race retains the NWA World Heavyweight Title. Former NWA champion Lou Thesz was the special guest referee.
22/7/80Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling – Dorton Arena, Raleigh, NCHarley Race defeated Ric Flair via count-out to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
23/7/80Georgia Championship Wrestling – Municipal Auditorium, Columbus, GAHarley Race defeated Tommy Rich to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
24/7/80Georgia Championship Wrestling – Chilhowee Park, Chattanooga, TNHarley Race defeated Tommy Rich to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Title. Former NWA champion Lou Thesz was the special guest referee.
26/7/80Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling – Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte, NCHarley Race defeated Sweet Ebony Diamond to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
26/7/80Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling – Memorial Coliseum, Spartanburg, NCRic Flair and Sweet Ebony Diamond beat Greg Valentine and Harley Race.
27/7/80Big Time Wrestling (Texas) – Dallas, TXHarley Race beat El Halcon to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
28/7/80Big Time Wrestling (Texas) – Fort Worth, TXKerry von Erich defeated Harley Race in a special challenge match.
28/7/80Big Time Wrestling (Texas) – Fort Worth, TXHarley Race and Fritz von Erich went to a double count out. Race retains the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
29/7/80World Wrestling Federation – Agricultural Hall, Allentown, PAHarley Race defeated Paul Figueroa in a non-title match.
29/7/80World Wrestling Federation – Agricultural Hall, Allentown, PAHarley Race beat Kid Sharkey in a non-title match.
29/7/80World Wrestling Federation – Agricultural Hall, Allentown, PAHarley Race defeated Rick McGraw in a non-title match.

ALL-JAPAN PRO WRESTLING

The Summer Action Series 1980 got underway at City Center in Tsushima, Aichi (11/7) with Bruiser Brody, “Big Cat” Ernie Ladd, Pampero Firpo, Don DeNucci, Prince Tonga, The Davidson Brothers and David Sammartino joining the Japanese regulars on the tour.  Tonga (pictured above) is a youngster from NWA Polynesian Wrestling and has been tag-teaming with Giant Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta in tag and six-man action against Brody, Ladd and Firpo and has been impressive being successful in all matches bar one against The Davidsons when tagging with Rocky Hata.

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The tour is set to conclude on 7th August at Korakuen Hall with Tsuruta defending his NWA United National title against Bruiser Brody and Giant Baba will meet Ernie Ladd one-on-one in a double main event.

BIG TIME WRESTLING (TEXAS)

The NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race stopped by in Dallas (27/7) and Fort Worth (28/7) and defend the belt against El Halcon and Fritz Von Erich respectively.  Race was also defeated by young Kerry Von Erich in a special challenge match on the Fort Worth show.

CENTRAL STATES WRESTLING

The big monthly show at the Memorial Hall in Kansas City nearly saw a new NWA World Heavyweight Champion as Harley Race lost via disqualification to Rufus R. Jones in a tight contest.  Also at the event, Takachiho and Killer Karl Kox retained the Central States Tag Team titles against Ted DiBiase and Dick Murdoch.

CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING FROM FLORIDA

Eddie Graham is promoting “the greatest show in the history of Tampa” on August 3rd at Tampa Stadium, Tampa, Florida.  It is billed as “The Last Tangle in Tampa” and will feature Dusty Rhodes looking to regain the NWA World Heavyweight Championship against Harley Race with Fritz von Erich signed on as the special referee.  It will be a best of three falls encounter with no disqualifications and Dusty has vowed he will never wrestle Race again if he fails to regain the belt.  Bob Backlund will defend the WWF Title against NWA Florida Heavyweight champion Don Muraco and in a battle of the giants, Andre the Giant clashes with “Big Cat” Ernie Ladd.

Graham also promoted “Star Wars ’80 II” on 4th July at the Hollywood Sportatorium which hosted a one-night eight-team tournament for the NWA Florida United States Tag Team titles and $50,000 Challenge Cup.  In a shock result, Bugsy McGraw and Dusty Rhodes defeated Dory & Terry Funk to win the championships, the money and the trophy. They defeated Mr. Saito and Dick Slater and Ivan Koloff and Nikolai Volkoff on the way to the finals.

GEORGIA CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING

The ever-popular Tommy Rich has been chasing Harley Race’s World Heavyweight Title throughout the year and has come close on various occasions to become the new titleholder.  The youngster may never be as close as at the Omni on 20th July.  Although the bout only went just over 15 minutes, in front of a packed crowd and the legendary former NWA champion Lou Thesz as special referee, Rich went close many times and had the champion in a bloody mess.

Rich has also challenged Ole Anderson and here is the reason why…

The Omni 20/7 show also featured one of the most shocking angles in the history of Georgia wrestling.  A tag team cage match took place with The Assassins putting the Georgia Tag Team Titles on the line against Dusty Rhodes and Ole.  Two referees were assigned with Gene Anderson representing Ole and Dusty and Ivan Koloff for The Assassins.  Blood was flowing early on from Dusty’s forehead and he began wildly swinging and accidentally punched Gene.  Ole was tagged in and Dusty ended up taking a beating off all five men inside the cage.

The Omni crowd littered the ring with food, drinks and additionally a chair was thrown into the ring. Lars Anderson scaled the cage and ended up helping Dusty but he also ended up being outnumbered.  A truly odious act by Ole and Dusty vows to gain revenge on him, Gene, Koloff and the Assassins.  On August 1st at the Omni, he will get the chance to gain some retribution as he will face Ole and Gene Anderson – his partner will be Andre the Giant!

The Assassins lost the Georgia Tag Team titles ten days later by the team of Steve Keirn and Mr. Wrestling. The bout took place at the Municipal Auditorium in Columbus (30/7) again inside the confines of a steel cage.

Page 7 - Word's Strongest Men: 10 of the Strongest Wrestlers Ever

HOUSTON WRESTLING

Tony Atlas has secured another shot at the NWA World Title after a pinfall victory over the man holding the NWA American Heavyweight title, “Gorgeous” Gino Hernandez at the Sam Houston Coliseum on 18/7.  Promoter Paul Boesch has managed to secure Harley Race to appear in Houston on August 1st and Atlas will go one-on-one with the champion in a three falls encounter.

MAPLE LEAF WRESTLING

NWA United States Champion Ric Flair met in the ring with his adversary Greg Valentine at the Maple Leaf Gardens on the 20th July.  Valentine dominated the bout and repeatedly targeted Flair’s broken nose, but the champion retained after Valentine attempted to suplex the Nature Boy into the ring from the apron, however, Flair landed on Valentine and hold him down for the three. After the bell, they had to be pulled apart by members of the locker room on the ramp – the feud continues.

On the same night, the NWA Canadian Heavyweight Champion The Great Hossein Arab dropped his title to veteran Angelo Mosca. Arab will get a rematch on the next Gardens show on the 10th August.

MID-ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING

The crowds have been flocking and the tickets sales have been through the roof due to the arrival of Andre the Giant to the territory. The Frenchman has been teaming up with Ric Flair and Blackjack Mulligan in six-man tag team matches and typically, winning battle royals.

On the 1st at Dorton Arena, Raleigh, former NWA World Tag Team Champions Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood aimed to regain the belts from Ray Stevens and Jimmy Snuka but once Gene Anderson got involved, Steamboat and Youngblood lost their discipline and were disqualified.  There were numerous rematches across the month but Anderson’s Army is still in possession of the titles.

The war between Ric Flair and Greg Valentine has escalated this past month accumulating into the situation that Valentine is now the NWA United States Champion.

These two battled throughout the month, with matches at the Richmond Coliseum (4/7), Greensboro Coliseum (6/7) and at Greenville Memorial Auditorium on 7th July. Flair held the title until he was in front of his hometown fans on a big show at the Charlotte Coliseum on the 26th July.  Flair tried to plant the Figure Four leglock on Valentine, but Greg kicked Flair into the turnbuckle.  Flair rebounded and Valentine rolled Flair up for the 1-2-3.  The Coliseum crowd were far from happy from the ending of this one.

Flair started the chase to claim the title back on 28th back to Memorial Auditorium, Greenville and next night at the Columbia Township Auditorium, however, although he won both bouts by disqualification, the frustrated Nature Boy left without regaining his title.

NEW-JAPAN PRO WRESTLING

Antonio Inoki and Tatsumi Fujinami are set to travel to the States to appear on the WWF’s Showdown at Shea show next month.  Fujinami will defend his WWF Junior Heavyweight Title against Mexican superstar Chavo Guerrero.

The Summer Fight Series continued with the strong Stampede Wrestling contingent providing a great showing. One guy that really impressed was Bret Hart who was joined by his brother Keith on the tour, which they had some success also.  Meanwhile, Bret nearly took gold back to Canada but was narrowly beaten by Kengo Kimura in a match for the vacant NWA International Junior Heavyweight belt (23/7 – Kitakyushu, Fukuoka).  Despite that defeat, Bret gained some good victories against Kimura (2/7), George Takano (4/7, 13/7 and 19/7), Yoshiaki Fujiwara (8/7 and 21/7), Kantaro Hoshino (9/7) and Junji Hawata (14/7).

PACIFIC NORTHWEST WRESTLING

Huge news emerged out of the Portland Wrestling TV show on 26th July, that the current PNW Tag Team champions The Sheepherders, Luke Williams and Butch Miller, have announced they are leaving the territory.

After wrestling Ivan Volkoff and Fidel Castro to retain the titles, the New Zealanders announced they are leaving and wished to hand the tag titles to Roddy Piper and Rick Martel. Their rivals Buddy Rose and Ed Wiskowski appear and disputed the decision and protested that they should receive the belts. Piper and Martel stated they did not want any titles that they did not earn and suggest they face Rose and Wiskowski for the vacant straps on 2nd August.

The Sheepherders had a tough last month in Portland especially as they are embroiled in the feud with Rose and Wiskowski.  They took their feud into a steel cage on the 22nd in a Steel Cage Hair vs Hair bout.  Rose and Williams ended up climbing over the top of the cage and brawled outside. The Playboy gained an advantage and climbed back in to attack Miller to allow Wiskowski to get the pin.  Miller and Williams, who had their heads shaved last year after losing single bouts against Piper, were made to have their heads shaved again.

Jonathan Boyd has returned to the area to team up with the Sheepherders on the 19th but then faced Piper in a one-on-one contest on the 26th.  The match finished as a time-limit draw and Boyd offered to be Piper’s tag partner anytime after the match. Rick Martel is still the PNW champion.

STAMPEDE WRESTLING

Harley Race travelled up to Calgary this past month to defend the NWA World Championship against Hercules Ayala (4/7) and Archie Gouldie (11/7).

VANCOUVER ALL STAR WRESTLING

The Sheepherders-Buddy Rose and Ed Wiskowski war travelled north to Vancouver this past month in a Steel Cage Coal Miners Glove match on 16th July which the New Zealanders won, however, at the end of the month it was a different story.  Rose and Wiskowski defeated Miller and Williams in a Loser Leaves Town match (28/7) and the Sheepherders are now gone from All-Star Wrestling.

WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION

The big Showdown at Shea supershow scheduled to take place next month (9th) at Shea Stadium, the home of the New York Mets, is really starting to take shape.  Matches signed so far Bruno Sammartino vs. Larry Zbyszko in a Steel Cage match in a bout that should finally settle that feud.  Due to his actions in Japan last month, Hulk Hogan is set to face Andre the Giant.  Hogan attacked Andre in a New Japan Pro Wrestling MSG Series bout to cost the Giant his match against Stan Hansen, and now he must face Andre one-on-one. In a WWF Intercontinental Title match, champion Ken Patera will meet the tough challenge of Tony Atlas. WWF Junior Heavyweight title will be on the line as Chavo Guerrero challenges Tatsumi Fujinami. New Japan president Antonio Inoki will meet “Pretty Boy” Larry Sharpe for NWF Heavyweight Title and former IC champion Pat Patterson will go against the vicious Tor Kamata.  There are an estimated 30,000 fans due to attend this mega event.

WWF Champion Bob Backlund has been involved in a series of title defenses against Hogan, Zbyszko and Patera but is currently still the champion. He faced the undefeated Hogan twice and lost both times via count out so retained the belt.

NWA WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION

HARLEY RACE
NWA WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS

RAY STEVENS AND JIMMY SNUKA
1. Antonio Inoki1. Ricky Steamboat/Jay Youngblood
2. Greg Valentine2. Giant Baba/Jumbo Tsuruta
3. Ric Flair3. The Wild Samoans
4. Tony Atlas4. Matt Borne/Buzz Sawyer
5. Dusty Rhodes5. The Assassins
6. Tommy Rich6. The Sheepherders
7. David Von Erich7. Bugsy McGraw/Dusty Rhodes
8. Bob Backlund8. Roddy Piper/Rick Martel
9. Stan Hansen9. Bret and Keith Hart
10. Kerry Von Erich10. Mr. Wrestling/Steve Keirn

We don’t have a match of the month of sorts, but an angle.  Here is in full a clip from Georgia Championship Wrestling – July 26th 1980 edition with the footage of Ole Anderson’s shocking heel turn.  In addition, we hear an interview from Ole explaining his actions and a promo response from Dusty Rhodes. Enjoy.

All Japan: The Summer Action Series concludes and Harley Race is in the land of the rising sun for a series of NWA World Heavyweight title defenses.

Georgia: Ole Anderson has turned his back on Dusty Rhodes, his brother Lars and the fans. All three will be hoping for some retribution.

Florida: Can Dusty Rhodes dethrone Harley Race at the ‘Last Tangle of Tampa’?

New Japan: The 30-day Bloody Fight Series 1980 tour begins where Stan Hansen and Antonio Inoki will continue their feud in a series of bouts.

Portland: Now that the Sheepherders have left the territory, will it be Piper and Martel or Rose and Wiskowski that become the new PNW tag team champions?

WWF: We will extensively cover the huge ‘Showdown at Shea’ show with the truly epic Bruno Sammartino vs. Larry Zbyszko Steel Cage main event.  Keep an eye out for a full preview article in the next few days.

As always, thanks for reading…

Will Burns

Sources: Cagematch.netMid-Atlantic Gateway, MapleLeafWrestling.comWrestlingData, Joseph Shedlock’s ‘Wrestling 80’ Newsletters.

PROFILE: Paul Boesch

Paul Boesch left a legacy in Houston and Texas in general, as the heart and soul of professional wrestling to the thousands of fans that had witnessed his product. Through his efforts, Boesch had turned Houston into one of the best promotions in the territories era.

Boesch was born in Brooklyn, New York until him and his family moved twenty miles to Long Beach.  He went on to graduate from Long Beach High School in the summer of 1929 and Boesch was a natural athlete. To earn money, he got a job as a lifeguard on the Long Island beaches and during this time, he was lured by Jack Pfefer’s wrestling shows in New York.

Although he is build was athletic, he was never the biggest of guys but he started to train and he stepped into the ring himself on 25th October 1932 in Staten Island for a Pfefer show. He continued to build a good living and wrestled throughout the northeast and travelled to St. Louis on occasion.  Although never a headliner, Boesch was regularly booked and toured through Canada, California and the South Pacific.  During this time, he became good friends of Calgary wrestler and promoter Stu Hart, and Boesch had the privilege of introducing Stu to his future wife Helen, while the Canadian was wrestling in the New York area.

Once World War II broke out in 1939, his career came to a halt as he enlisted to fight in Germany.  Boesch was deployed over to Europe and serve for the States in the one of the fiercest conflicts of the war – “The Battle of Hürtgen Forest”.  Although he received some injuries, he returned home a hero and was awarded many medals including the Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Distinguished Unit Citation.  Boesch wrote and released Road to Huertgen: Forest In Hell later in 1962, which was his memoirs of the battle.

Missouri wrestling promoter Tom Packs invited members from Boesch’s Regiment to the wrestling program labelled “The GI Night” on 5th October 1945 at the Kiel Auditorium.  It was a tremendous tribute and honour for Boesch, who climbed into the ropes to defeat Dick Lever using judo holds in front of over 8,000 in attendance. In the crowd were 118 members of the Gray Bonnet Regiment and 26 convalescents from the Jefferson Barracks who had served with Boesch throughout his military career.

Paul “Bombshell” Boesch settled in Houston wrestling full-time for the Gulf Athletic Club under the leadership of promoter called Morris Sigel.  Just after the first World War, Morris’ brother Julius had started promoting wrestling shows at the City Auditorium, weekly on Friday nights to great success.  By 1929, Julius left Texas to promote shows in New Orleans and Shreveport in Louisiana, leaving the promotion in the hands of his brother.

Although Morris was inexperienced in the wrestling business, he steered the promotion though good times with his robust business wisdom and the likes of Jim Londos, Orville Brown, Lou Thesz, Wild Bill Longson, Buddy Rogers and Womens’ Champion Mildred Burke on his cards.  Sigel would surround himself with people capable of running wrestling shows and during this time, due to a horrific car accident, Boesch would ultimately become one of Morris’ employees.

On 22nd October 1947, Paul was travelling to Corpus Christi for a show with two other wrestlers, Frank Vallois and Miguel Guzman.  They did not make the show that night. A trailer truck had failed to break at a stop sign and crashed into Boesch’s vehicle on Highway 66 and Military Drive in San Antonio – all three were injured.  Boesch suffered a break in his right leg and numerous cuts on his head and face.  The injury to his leg was fatal to his wrestling career as doctors advised him never to compete in the ring again.

Paul reached out to Morris and Boesch took up administrative duties in the office and trained young wrestlers – he even taught Verne Gagne how to apply the sleeper hold.  This would then escalate into commentating on Sigel’s wrestling bouts on radio station KLEE and in January 1949, Boesch would present the first-ever televised wrestling show in Houston simply named “Houston Wrestling with Paul Boesch” – a show that aired for nearly forty years!

Boesch would also occasionally step back in the ring throughout the early 1960s and this spiralled into eventually booking his own shows when Morris sadly passed away on Boxing Day in 1966.  In early 1967, he purchased the promotion from Morris’ wife and held good relationships with both the National Wrestling Alliance and Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association, so he had a wealth of talent at his disposal.  Bringing the very best wrestlers to the Sam Houston Coliseum would elevate the venue as the home of Houston Wrestling.

This was the biggest arena in the area and for Boesch’s shows, the Coliseum would sell-out to nearly 10,000 fans.  The venue held some big championship matches, but it was never acknowledged by nationwide wrestling fans as a legendary arena in comparison to the likes of Madison Square Garden, the Kiel Auditorium and the Greensboro Coliseum.

Boesch caught the attention of the NWA which declared Houston “The Wrestling City of the Seventies” at their annual convention and it became home to many World Heavyweight title bouts but only one title switch happened at the Coliseum – Jack Brisco defeating Harley Race on July 20th 1973.

Throughout the years, Boesch formed relationships with many affiliates of the NWA with the likes of Joe Blanchard’s Southwest Wrestling but one of the most profitable connections was with Fritz von Erich’s Big Time Wrestling.  The Texan Fritz and his sons were huge draws for Boesch and this continued until they severed ties in 1981 as Fritz looked to expand his promotion.

In 1981, NWA world champion Harley Race failed to attend an event despite being heavily promoted, Boesch was dismayed that he felt he had let the Houston fans down. He took action and immediately informed the NWA that he was withdrawing his membership.

Boesch forged a relationship with Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling. Stars like Magnum T.A., Butch Reed, Steve Williams, Jim Duggan and tag teams like the Midnight Express and the Rock N’ Roll Express all ventured into the Coliseum and did tremendous business.Shitloads Of Wrestling — Tom Prichard & Paul Boesch [1982] What a ...

A young Tom Pritchard with Paul circa 1982As 1984 emerged, Boesch and Watts was forced into competition with Vincent K. McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation as the McMahon-owned Titan Sports invaded Texas and secured TV time on two independent stations KTXH (Houston) and KTXA (Dallas and Fort Worth).  The fans, that had only ever known Boesch’s product, took to the WWF programming well and Boesch, Watts and Von Erich merged to compete with Titan’s shows.

In early 1987, Watts sold his promotion to Jim Crockett Promotions and Boesch was forced to arrange a deal with the Vince McMahon to hold WWF shows in Houston.  This was a huge transformation from the city’s longstanding run with the NWA and Watts.  Professional wrestling was experiencing a transitional period and WWF was implementing a different style of the sport – a huge contrast to Boesch and his predecessors’ product.  The deal only lasted four months and Boesch eventually shut down his Friday night shows at the Coliseum. The end of Houston Wrestling.

Due to failing health, after 55 years of contributions to the sport as a wrestler, a referee, a radio commentator, a TV announcer and a promoter, Boesch decided to call it a day on 28th August 1987.  On that night, McMahons’ WWF hosted his retirement show at the Coliseum in his honour.  He had drawn a sell-out crowd one last time.

Boesch did temporarily return and made a deal with Crockett in 1988, so JCP’s stars would wrestle at the Sam Houston Coliseum and they agreed that Boesch would also have an on-air role.  However, like the WWF deal, this did not last long Crockett sold his promotion to Ted Turner in November of that year.

Aged 76 years, Paul sadly passed away on March 7th 1989, after suffering a heart attack at his home in Sugarland, Texas.

Boesch was not only a war hero for his country. Due to his lifelong commitment to the industry, he was a hero in many eyes in professional wrestling.

As always, thanks for reading…

Will Burns

Source: 

Profile: Lou Thesz

It is speculated through many in the professional wrestling business that the National Wrestling Alliance would not have excelled without the legitimate athlete Lou Thesz at the helm. He is arguably the most celebrated professional wrestler of the mid-20th century.

Born on 24th April 1916 and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Thesz’s love for wrestling began after his father took him to a match at eight years old and he was instantly intrigued by the sport. His father Martin, was a former Greco-Roman wrestler and coached his son some techniques, which he picked up in his native Hungary before emigrating to the States in the early 1900s.

This early experience in amateur mat wrestling gained Lou confidence and he began to enter professional wrestling competitions at aged 17.  He started competing in St. Louis’ and the city’s passion for professional wrestling was vivacious and all the wrestlers were cashing in under the pencil of Tom Packs. The promoter Packs had been keeping an eye on Thesz’s progress on the semi-pro circuit and he was noticing that young Lou was becoming an attraction.

Working under Packs was where Thesz would meet catch-as-catch-can grappler George Tragos, a legitimate shooter. A former three-time Olympic wrestler for Greece, was an expert in submission skills, he was well-known for stretching his young apprentices at his gym. Packs suggested to Thesz that he should join Tragos’ gym sessions to hone his craft. After all, Tragos had a great reputation nurturing young wrestlers with Joe Stetcher and Ed “Stranger” Lewis listed as former proteges of Tragos at the University of Missouri.

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Thesz trained seven days a week under George for two years and Tragos become a great influence. Lou continued to work for Packs along the way making a name for himself in St. Louis. However, through the relationship created with Tragos, Thesz met the legend of Ed “Strangler” Lewis and the young upstart challenged Lewis to a shoot contest. Thesz stated it his “longest 15 minutes” of his life. The then 46-year-old man mountain Lewis reportedly humiliated and beat up Thesz but Lewis saw the respect, determination and the willingness to learn in Thesz and “Strangler” became Lou’s mentor.

By the time December 1937 had rolled around, Thesz had hit the road touring around the likes of Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska and became the youngest World Heavyweight Champion at only 21 years old. After a career-making match against George Zaharias, Packs booked Lou into his first title shot. He defeated Everett Marshall via a count-out for the American Wrestling Association World strap and hundreds of fans climbed into the ring in celebration and lifted Thesz above their shoulders.

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Even though Thesz’s reign only lasted a matter of six weeks, he had become a major attraction. He continued touring across the United States claiming many titles in various promotions but in 1949 his world changed. The National Wrestling Alliance was set-up in 1948 (for the full story on this – read here) and Thesz was set to challenge Orville Brown for the NWA World Heavyweight Title. A title with plans to unify all belts and the titleholder becoming the single World Champion for professional wrestling. Unfortunately, Brown was involved in a car accident and could not compete and Thesz was awarded the title.

By 1953, the NWA expanded into 30 affiliates in the US, Canada and Mexico which gave Thesz many venues to conquer, and he held onto the NWA championship for six years, three months and 16 days, a record for a wrestling champion. On March 15th 1956, Thesz dropped the title to “Whipper” Billy Watson in front of over 15,000 fans in Toronto, Canada. Thesz took six months off to get a much-deserved rest and recover from an ankle injury, but he returned to claim the title back in November that year in St. Louis.

In June 1957, Thesz battled former gymnast, Edouard Carpentier in Chicago in a Best of Five Falls match. The match was tied at 2-2 when Thesz claimed a legitimate back injury and was unable to continue – Carpentier was declared the winner. However, as this was not an official win sanctioned by the NWA board, they chose not to recognise the title change, proclaiming that the belt could not change hands due to injured opponent.  Despite the NWA’s announcement, some promotions did continue to acknowledge the title change. Thesz defeated Carpentier by disqualification a month later in Montreal but only some territories backed Thesz as the champion again, although the NWA still does not recognise this linage.

Thesz gained massive notoriety in Japan as later that year he became the first wrestler to defend the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in Japan. He battled Japanese wrestling legend Rikidozan in a series of one hour draws. These matches vastly aided commercialise professional wrestling in the land of the Rising Sun and helped the sport gain acceptance throughout the Japanese public. Their first match can be found on our YouTube account here.

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With his newfound fame in Japan, and the money that came with it, Thesz asked the NWA board to regularly defend the title over there but the request was rejected. Thesz then wished to drop the title to friend Dick Hutton on 14th November 1957 and NWA sanctioned the change. This allowed Thesz to book his own tour of Europe and Japan, billing himself as the NWA International Heavyweight Champion, a title that All Japan Pro Wrestling adopted. During his time away from the States, Thesz became one of the only few men to wrestle in front of The Queen.  He wrestled to a draw at the Royal Albert Hall in England on 11th December 1957 against Indian wrestler Dara Singh. Thesz saw this is as a tremendous honour and one of the highlights of his career.

By the start of 1963, Thesz was back in possession of the World title dethroning long-time rival “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers in a one fall contest in Chicago. The wars with Rogers were unique for wrestling at the time. Thesz, a professional athlete, a world-class wrestler and submission specialist against Rogers, who oozed charisma, bleached blond hair, possessed great strength, tremendous physique and pure arrogance. Rogers was reluctant to drop the title back to Thesz so the threat was there that Lou could shoot on Rogers and make him give him up the title.

However, this was to be Lou’s final reign as three years later he dropped the strap to former American Footballer Gene Kiniski on a Sam Muchnick promoted show in St. Louis. Thesz was 49 years old but he was not ready to retire and wrestled part-time for the remainder of his career until his final match in 1990 in New Japan Pro Wrestling against protégé Masahiro Chono.

A wrestler in seven different decades, the truly fascinating life of Lou Thesz ended as he passed away at the age of 86 on April 28th in 2002. He had undergone triple-bypass heart surgery and aortic valve replacement just three weeks before his death.

Some experts claim Thesz to be the greatest professional wrestler of all time and rightly so. Today in professional wrestling, moves like the German Suplex and S.T.F. submission hold are massively integrated into the business. These were moves that Lou brought into the game and of course, there are a few guys that still use the ‘Thesz Press’.

In the documentary ‘Lou Thesz – An American Icon’, he stated that he only regretted one thing in his life… “I can’t do it again.”

As always, thanks for reading…

Will Burns

Source: Tim Hornbaker – National Wrestling Alliance, Lou Thesz – An American Icon 1993 Documentary, Lou Thesz and Kit Bauman – Hooker

Round-Up: May 1980

May 1980 was an action-packed month with new NWA World Tag Team Champions, NWA Central States Champion and NWA Missouri Champions all crowned amongst a whole host of others. Read on…Text

NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race was jet setting across the world this month appearing in Japan as well as coast to coast around the United States.  He still remains as our World Champion but had some close calls.

DATEEVENTRESULT
2/5/80Houston Wrestling – Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston, TXHarley Race and Tony Atlas went to a time-limit 60:00 draw at 1-1 in a Best of Three Falls Match.  Race retains the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
4/5/80Georgia Championship Wrestling – The Omni, Atlanta, GAHarley Race beat Austin Idol to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
4/5/80Georgia Championship Wrestling – The Omni, Atlanta, GAMr. Wrestling II beat Harley Race in an unsanctioned ‘lights out’ match. This was non-title.
5/5/80NWA Tri-State Wrestling – Tulsa, OKHarley Race beat Bruiser Brody to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
6/5/80World Wrestling Federation – Agricultural Hall, Allentown, PAHarley Race beat Steve King in a non-title match.
6/5/80World Wrestling Federation – Agricultural Hall, Allentown, PAHarley Race beat Frank Williams in a non-title match.
6/5/80World Wrestling Federation – Agricultural Hall, Allentown, PAHarley Race beat Angelo Gomez in a non-title match.
13/5/80Central State Wrestling – Helias High School Gym, Jefferson City, MSHarley Race beat “Bulldog” Bob Brown to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
14/5/80Central State Wrestling – Veterans Auditorium, Des Moines, IAHarley Race beat Bruiser Brody to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
15/5/80Central State Wrestling – Memorial Hall, Kansas City, KSHarley Race and Dick Murdoch went to a draw.  Race retains the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
17/5/80Central State Wrestling – Fieldhouse, Chillicothe, MSDick Murdoch defeated Harley Race by DQ.  Race retains the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
23/5/80All Japan Pro Wrestling – Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, JapanGiant Baba & Jumbo Tsuruta defeated Harley Race & Black Terror.
24/5/80All Japan Pro Wrestling – Masatake Pavilion, Kyoto, JapanHarley Race defeated Rocky Hata in a non-title match.
25/5/80All Japan Pro Wrestling – Fruit and Vegetable Market, Tokorozawa, Saitama, JapanJumbo Tsuruta & Tiger Toguchi defeated Buck Zumhofe & Harley Race.
27/5/80All Japan Pro Wrestling – Prefectural Gymnasium, Akita, JapanHarley Race defeated Tiger Toguchi by two falls to one to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
28/5/80All Japan Pro Wrestling – Nakajima Sports Center, Sapporo, Hokkaido, JapanHarley Race and Jumbo Tsuruta went to a time-limit 60:00 draw at 1-1 in a Best of Three Falls Match. 
31/5/80Championship Wrestling from Florida – Bayfront Center, St. Petersburg, FLManny Fernandez defeated Harley Race by DQ. Race retained the NWA World Heavyweight Title.

ALL-JAPAN PRO WRESTLING

Jumbo Tsuruta met Dick Slater in the finals of the Champions Carnival tournament in Fukouka on May 1st.  Slater was sporting an eye patch as a result of an attack from Abdullah the Butcher earlier in the tour so was at an obvious disadvantage against Tsuruta.  The match went around 25 minutes and the action got heated with Jumbo attacking Slater’s eye near the end busting the Texan open.  Jumbo picked up the win after a bridging German Suplex put Slater down for the three count.

The next night on the final date of the tour, Slater tagged with Terry Funk and after being mobbed by fans at ringside on arrival in Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, they faced off with Giant Baba and Tsuruta.  The crowd were hot for this one that ended the tour in style with the Japanese duo coming out on top after Baba pinned Funk.

Tsuruta was back at the end of the month challenging Harley Race for the NWA Worlds Title on Day Five of the Super Power Series at the Nakajima Sports Center in Sapporo on the 28th.  In a great encounter, neither man emerged victorious after the one-hour time limit expired at one fall apiece.  Race was also defending the championship a night earlier against Tiger Toguchi but won by two falls to one in Akita.

Gino Hernandez

BIG TIME WRESTLING (TEXAS)

“Gorgeous” Gino Hernandez had an indifferent month.  He was crowned the NWA American Heavyweight champion in Fort Worth defeating Kevin Von Erich on 19th of May before dropping the NWA Texas Heavyweight Title to Mark Lewin in the Dallas Sportatorium just six days later. 

Bruiser Brody has been crowned the NWA Texas Brass Knuckles champion for the seventh time pinning Toru Tanaka in Beaumont, Texas (15/5).

CENTRAL STATES WRESTLING

Although he had success in Texas winning the Brass Knux title, Bruiser Brody lost his Central States Heavyweight belt to Dick Murdoch on 22nd May at Memorial Hall, Kansas City.

CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING FROM FLORIDA

After defeating Jack Brisco and Jim Garvin, the team of Stan Lane and Bryan St. John regained the Florida Tag Team Titles on the May 1st at the Jacksonville Coliseum. 

The Fort Homer Hesterly Armory hosted another title change on the 6th as Florida Television champion Steve Keirn was defeated by Japanese suplex master Mr. Saito.  Keirn had a few opportunities to reclaim the title back in Jacksonville (22/5) and Fort Pierce (24/5) but Saito remains the champion.  One would argue his biggest challenge came from young Barry Windham, who took the man from Tokyo to the limit on a huge show at the Bayfront Center in St. Petersburg on the 31/5, but Saito emerged the winner.

In addition to the Saito-Windham match, in St. Petersburg the NWA World Champion Harley Race was defeated by Manny Fernandez via disqualification in a short 15-minute bout in the main event.

GEORGIA CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING

The Omni held three title matches on the 4th May with Harley Race successfully defending his NWA World Heavyweight Title against Austin Idol.  Rock Hunter’s Russian duo of Ivan Koloff and Alexis Smirnoff defended their Georgia Tag Team titles against the team they defeated for the belts, Tony Atlas and Kevin Sullivan and the Georgia TV Champion Tommy Rich beat Baron Von Raschke.

Last month (6/4 – The Omni), Mr. Wrestling II became the ‘Champion of Champions’ Cup holder after a title opportunity against NWA champion Harley Race.  Race and II battled in the Omni to a draw with three former champions as judges: Lou TheszDory Funk Jr. and Dusty Rhodes.  More information has been released regarding the scorecards. Thesz declared Race had won the bout. Rhodes had II as the winner. Funk threw his scoresheet away and stated Race was the winner but the sheet was retrieved and it did state that II had won the match and he should have been crowned champion. Bill Watts stated on TV that thousands of pieces of mail had been delivered from furious fans and he was presented the Champion of Champions Cup.  He defended this title on the big 4th show against Dory Funk Jr. no less. He emerged the winner and beat up Race to gain a little revenge on him at the end of the night in a non-sanctioned bout.

HOUSTON WRESTLING

Tony Atlas was unable to dethrone NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race once again at the Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston, Texas.  They once again went to a time-limit 60:00 draw at 1-1 in a Best of Three Falls Match.

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MAPLE LEAF WRESTLING

TThe Great Hossein Arab become the new Canadian Heavyweight champion on May 25th at the Maple Leaf Gardens. He defeated Dewey Robertson with a “loaded boot” which the referee failed to spot before making the three count. Also on the show, Blackjack Mulligan unmasked Masked Superstar #2 in a Texas Death match. Under the hood was long-time bitter rival John Studd.

MID-ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING

A new champion of the territory was crowned as The Great Hossein Arab defeated Jim Brunzell to become the new NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion on May 11th.  Brunzell and Hossein have had quite the history already in the territory since Arab’s arrival. The former champ Brunzell defended the title successfully five times before dropping it to the Hossein on the Iranian’s sixth attempt in Charlotte, NC.

Ric Flair is still the NWA United States Champion despite Jimmy Snuka’s attempts to regain the belt. The pair have waged war all over the Carolinas but Flair still wears the coveted red leather belt.  At first, Flair refused to give Snuka a rematch but the man from the Fiji Islands stole one of Ric’s robes until he received his rematch. The US Champ brought in a newcomer to the Mid-Atlantic area to help him in his war against Snuka, Hossein and their manager Gene AndersonSweet Ebony Diamond made his debut on the May 7th TV show defeating Billy Starr and he is set to join Flair in tag matches against Gene’s henchmen.

As discussed above in Maple Leaf Wrestling, Blackjack Mulligan unmasked Masked Superstar #2 to be John Studd and Studd has now left the promotion. The big Texan has vowed to unmask Masked Superstar #1 and run him out of the territory. Superstar #1 is the current NWA TV Champion. A newcomer to the area, Enforcer Luciano has declared he is in MACW for one reason and that is to collect the $10,000 bounty that has been placed on Mulligan’s head by the Superstar. Blackjack has retaliated by bringing in his cousin, “Crazy” Luke Mulligan to help him in the battle. As “Superstar #2” has now left the area, the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Titles, he held with Superstar #1 are now vacant and will be decided in a tournament on 2nd June.

Announcer David Crockett gained a referee’s license and officiated a series of NWA World Tag Team Title matches between champions “The Crippler” Ray Stevens and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and former champs Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood.  Last month you may remember we reported that Crockett was attacked by Valentine and the heels destroyed some video tape that casted shadows over their title win. On May 10th, Steamboat and Youngblood regained their titles in Richmond, Virginia in a Best of Two out of Three Falls match with Crockett as the ref.  Stevens and Valentine accused Crockett of , allowing an illegal man in the ring to capture the fall giving back the World Titles to Steamboat and Youngblood.

NEW-JAPAN PRO WRESTLING

The ten-man MSG Series League is well underway and the final will be contested in Kuramae Kokugikan in Tokyo on 5th June.  After an initial preliminary phase, the participants were decided as Antonio Inoki, Andre the Giant, Chavo Guerrero, Dusty Rhodes, Riki Choshu, Ryuma Go, Seiji Sakaguchi, Stan Hansen, Strong Kobayashi and Tatsumi Fujinami.

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The league has made for some great viewing and the tour holding some tremendous dream matches.  The current standings (as of May 3st 1980) sees Ryuma Go at the bottom of the pile losing all nine of his matches. Inoki tops the table with six wins over seven, Andre second with five wins out of seven and Hansen third with four wins. The 3rd of June in Nagoya sees Andre face Inoki in what should be a barnburner.

In Utsonomiya (21/5), Rhodes faced Inoki but was counted out after just nine minutes. Dusty suffered the same fate earlier in the month (16/5) against Stan Hansen.   Although partners during the tour, Rhodes and Hansen were involved in a vicious brawl after a tag team match in Hasama on the 23rd.  The two big Texans fought the team of Tatsumi Fujinami and Bob Backlund but the match ended as a non-contest after Dusty and Hansen had a disagreement and began to brawl across the arena.

Backlund defended the WWF title against Rhodes in Osaka on the 27th. The bout ended in controversy after Backlund won by DQ but Dusty was a bloody mess. A rematch is much anticipated between the two.  Hulk Hogan also joined the tour near the end of the month, in his first he headlines but was disqualified on the Hasama show (23/5) against Inoki.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST WRESTLING

As usual, wild happenings in Portland. Roddy Piper has spent the majority of the month trying to rip the mask off “Playboy” Buddy Rose’s head.  Rose who had his hair shaved last month is wearing a mask with blonde hair to cover his newly bald head.  Butch Miller and Luke Williams (The Sheepherders) defended the NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team Titles against Piper and Rick Martel at the Portland Sports Arena, on the May 31st.  In a wild three falls match, the match ended in Buddy Rose interfering and accidentally smashing Williams in the ring with a wooden flag pole.  After the match, Rose and the Sheepherders split up and Miller unloaded fists on Rose.

Prior to that, earlier in the month (17/5) the New Zealanders had helped out Rose in an NWA Pacific Northwest Title bout against champion Rick Martel.  Martel was about to wrap up the third and final fall with Rose locked in a sleeper hold but the Sheepherders hit the Frenchman in the back with the flag pole.

ST. LOUIS WRESTLING CLUB

Sam Muchnick promoted another huge night at the Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis in the middle of the month with two big title matches and a sixty-minute draw between Dick Murdoch and King Kong (Bruiser) Brody.  

WWF Champion Bob Backlund successfully defended his belt against the challenge of Roger Kirby while NWA Missouri Champion Kevin Von Erich was defeated in a three-fall match to WWF Intercontinental Champion Ken Patera by two falls to one.  Patera becomes the first man to hold major titles in the WWE and NWA simultaneously.

VANCOUVER ALL STAR WRESTLING

The Sheepherders’ war with Roddy Piper climbed into Canada again this month with a spectacular card in Vancouver (19/5).  Unfortunately for Butch Miller and Luke Williams it was not a nice trip North of the Border as they lost their NWA Vancouver Pacific Coast Tag titles to Piper and Rick Martel in a bloody Steel Cage match.  Former NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion Gene Kiniski was in action against the freshly shaved “Playboy” Buddy Rose in Victoria, British Columbia (22/5) and Kiniski walked out the victor to add to Rose’s woes.

WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION

The Bruno Sammartino-Larry Zbyszko war continued with a big match at the Boston Garden on the 10th with the veteran Bruno came out on top with a count-out win.  Due to the fact that Zbyszko hot steps it out of the arena once the going gets tough, this feud is only going to continue until Bruno gets revenge for the vicious attack and injuries, he suffered from his former protégé earlier this year.  There is rumour going around that the WWF is trying to book a baseball stadium in the New York area for a cage match between the two. Watch this space.

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The May 19th Madison Square Garden show was a fantastic show for Zbyszko as he came out on top of 16-man Battle Royal.  He outlasted top stars such as “High Chief” Peter MaiviaGorilla MonssonPat PattersonThe Samoans, and Tony Atlas on the way to the victory.  In the main event, WWF Champion Bob Backlund defeated WWF Intercontinental Champion Ken Patera in a brutal Texas Death Match.  The match went 23 minutes and Backlund pinned the Strongman with a crossbody off the top rope. The next MSG show will be on June 16th and to headlined by Backlund defending the title against Zbyszko.

NWA WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION

HARLEY RACE
NWA WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS

RICKY STEAMBOAT AND JAY YOUNGBLOOD
1. Antonio Inoki1. Giant Baba/Jumbo Tsuruta
2. Dusty Rhodes2. Greg Valentine/Ray Stevens
3. Ric Flair3. Roddy Piper/Rick Martel
4. Tony Atlas4. The Samoans
5. David Von Erich5. Ivan Koloff/Alexis Smirnoff
6. Mr. Wrestling II6. The Sheepherders
7. Giant Baba7. Tony Atlas/Kevin Sullivan
8. Bruiser Brody8. Mr. Hito/Mr. Sakaruda
9. Tommy Rich9. Jose Lothario/Tiger Conway Jr.
10. The Great Hossein Arab10. The Masked Superstars

This months match is the wild WWF Title match between champion Bob Backlund and Intercontinental champion Ken Patera under Texas Death rules.  It’s a wild one from Madison Square Garden in New York City on 19th May.

Mid-Atlantic: New Mid-Atlantic Tag Team champions are set to be crowned in an one-night tournament on June 2nd in Greenville, SC.

New Japan: The finals of the MSG Series will be decided at the beginning of June and the Summer Fight Series Tour will begin with Bad News Allen, Bret and Keith Hart, all from Stampede Wrestling all set to appear.

Pacific Northwest: With the Rose Army disbanded what will become of Buddy Rose’s future.  The Sheepherders are hot on his tail seeking revenge.

WWF: In June, we should be seeing matches booked for the big Shea Stadium show in Flushing, New York.

As always, thanks for reading…

Will Burns

Sources: Cagematch.netMid-Atlantic Gateway, MapleLeafWrestling.comWrestlingData, Scopitone2011 (DailyMotion)

Round-Up: April 1980

Another action-packed month in the territories of the National Wrestling Alliance. Today we take an extensive look at the Champions Carnival tournament in All Japan Pro Wrestling, especially reviewing the wild feud between Terry Funk and Abdullah the Butcher. More titles change in many of the federations, we catch up with Buddy Rose and Roddy Piper in Portland and we look at the mystery in the NWA World Tag Team Titles change last month between Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood and Ray Stevens and Greg Valentine in Mid-Atlantic.

But first let’s look at how Harley Race, the NWA World Heavyweight Champion, has got on in April 1980.

NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race had another busy month on the road defending his title no less than 13 times in April 1980 and it could be argued this was his toughest month yet in our journey. With Dusty Rhodes, Tony Atlas, Tommy Rich, David Von Erich, Ric Flair and Dick Murdoch as some of his opponents, it is very impressive that Race is still our champion.

DATEEVENTRESULT
4/4/80Georgia Championship Wrestling – Civic Coliseum, Knoxville, TNTommy Rich defeated NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race via disqualification. Race retained the title.
6/4/80Georgia Championship Wrestling – The Omni, Atlanta, GAHarley Race and Mr. Wrestling II battled to a 60:00 draw for the NWA World title. Dusty Rhodes, Dory Funk Jr. and Lou Thesz were all special ringside judges for the bout.
8/4/80Georgia Championship Wrestling – The Coliseum, Macon, GAHarley Race beat Tony Atlas to retain the NWA World Heavyweight title.
9/4/80Georgia Championship Wrestling – Municipal Auditorium, Columbus, GATommy Rich defeated NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race via disqualification. Race retained the title.
12/4/80Championship Wrestling from Florida – Key West, FLHarley Race retained his NWA World Championship via a DQ win against Dusty Rhodes.
13/4/80Maple Leaf Wrestling – Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario, CanadaHarley Race and Dewey Robertson went to a curfew draw for the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
14/4/80Georgia Championship Wrestling – Bell Auditorium, Augusta, GATommy Rich defeated NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race via disqualification. Race retained the title.
16/4/80Championship Wrestling from Florida – Convention Hall, Miami Beach, FLHarley Race beat Manny Fernandez to retain the NWA Worlds title.
19/4/80Championship Wrestling from Florida – Bayfront Center, St. Petersburg, FLIn a Steel Cage match, Dusty Rhodes beat Harley Race via DQ. Race retained the NWA Worlds Title.
23/4/80Central States Wrestling – Veterans Auditorium, Des Moines, IAHarley Race pinned “Bulldog” Bob Brown to retain the NWA World title.
24/4/80Central States Wrestling – Memorial Hall, Kansas City, KSHarley Race and Dick Murdoch battled to a 60:00 draw for the NWA World title.
25/4/80St. Louis Wrestling Club – Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis, MSHarley Race defeated Ric Flair by 2-1 to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
28/4/80Big Time Wrestling – The Sportatorium, Dallas, TXHarley Race and David Von Erich battled to a 60:00 draw for the NWA World title.

ALL-JAPAN PRO WRESTLING

One of the highlights of the wrestling calendar happened in Japan with the AJPW Champions Carnival.  The 8th annual tournament’s final will take place on the 1st of May in Fukuoka with NWA United National Champion Jumbo Tsuruta faces Dick Slater with both men tied on 19 points at the top of the league table. Slater goes into the match as the favourite, already holding a win over Jumbo on the 28th of April in Oita, Japan.

NAMEPOINTS
Dick Slater19
Jumbo Tsuruta (NWA UN Champion)19
Abdullah the Butcher18
Terry Funk18
Giant Baba (PWF Champion)17
Tiger Toguchi15
Ted DiBiase12
Ray Candy8
The Mysterious Assassin6
Rocky Hata4
The Great Kojika4
Motoshi Okuma2
Carl Fergie0

The biggest news story that has come out of the tournament and the tour is the feud between Terry Funk and Abdullah the Butcher.  It began with a series of attacks on Funk by Abdullah, usually using a utensil into Funk’s head and leaving him bloody.  After Funk defeated Ray Candy on 28th March in his opening match of the tournament, Abby jumped Funk after the bell and started jabbing Terry with his fork.

Funk had a great match with Tsuruta on the 4th ending in a time limit draw but previous to that bout, Abdullah had faced Giant Baba in a double count-out. It was an all-out brawl which Funk caught up with the Butcher.  The officials finally got the situation under control and the Funk-Tsuruta match was able to get underway.

The two rivals finally met in a tag team bout on Day 15 of the tour in Takanosu, Akita as Funk and Jumbo faced Abdullah and the Mysterious Assassin with the former coming out the winners.  They finally met in the tournament (18/4) in Osaka and battled to a double count-out in a bloody wild brawl.  Abdullah also got involved in a Baba-Funk match (24/4) standing at ringside near the end of the bout, the man from Sudan was teasing climbing into the ring before Dick Slater emerged and stopped him.  Abdullah retaliated by throwing salt into Slater’s eyes and Funk made the save. Funk failed to return to the ring on time and was counted out. After the match, a mass brawl broke out that saw The Sheik stabbing Baba with a fork.

Funk gained revenge on his adversary after he cost Abby a match against Tsuruta moments later, tripping the Butcher up to allow Jumbo hit a flying knee for the win.  Funk and Abdullah are due to clash in a tag team match on the 1st May. Funk’s partner will be Ted DiBiase and Abdullah will be tagging with Candy.

BIG TIME WRESTLING (TEXAS)

The Sportatorium was buzzing at the end of April for an NWA Worlds Title match between Harley Race and David Von Erich.  Unfortunately for the packed house, David failed to defeat Race within the sixty-minute time limit and the match ended as a draw.  We are sure that is this will not be David Von Erich’s last opportunity at the championship.

Bruiser Brody held the NWA Texas Brass Knuckles title for only a month as he was defeated by Toru Tanaka in Fort Worth, Texas on the 14th of this month.

CENTRAL STATES WRESTLING

A new Central States Champion was crowned as Bruiser Brody defeated “Bulldog” Bob Brown at the Memorial Hall in Kansas City (10/4).  It was a really bad month for Brown as a week later in the same building, the Central States Tag Titles changed hands as Brown and Dick Murdoch lost the belts to the Asian duo of Pak Song and Takachiho.

It wasn’t the best month for Brown’s partner Murdoch either as he failed to uncrown Harley Race for the Worlds Title going to a sixty-minute draw with the champ.

CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING FROM FLORIDA

Dusty Rhodes failed to regain the Worlds Title from champion Harley Race again this month.  They had a rematch from last month’s Steel Cage match at the Bayfront Center on 19th and St. Petersburg crowd were chomping for the Title switch.  However, Race got himself disqualified after he was punished by the referee for repeatedly beating Dusty’s head into the cage.

At the same event, Don Muraco retained the Florida Heavyweight Title against former champion Manny Fernandez despite seeing his opponent’s hand raised by a disqualification.  Muraco pinned Manny last month in Miami Beach to become the champion but “The Raging Bull” failed to claim the belt back at the Bayfront Center.

GEORGIA CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING

An eventful April in Georgia as the newly formed team of Tony Atlas and Kevin Sullivan managed to overcome The Russians (Ivan Koloff and Alexei Smirnoff) to win the Georgia Tag Team championships at the Omni on the 6th.  Their joy was short-lived when the Russians regained the Titles on the 26/4 edition of Georgia TV.

NWA World Champion Harley Race spent the majority of the month in the territory for some Title defenses.  At the 6th Omni show, He went sixty minutes with Mr. Wrestling II in a match that saw former champions Lou Thesz, Dory Funk Jr. and Dusty Rhodes as ringside judges. The match was declared a draw.  He also defended against Atlas and Tommy Rich but Race left the area as the titleholder.

On the 6th, Rich came close to clinching the Georgia Heavyweight Title from champion Austin Idol, but the “Universal Heartthrob” ended up getting disqualified and walked out as the champion.

MAPLE LEAF WRESTLING

The Gardens were packed on the 13th as NWA World Champion Harley Race was in town to face local hero Dewey Robertson. The Canadian champ Robertson held Race to a curfew draw on 32 minutes.

Andre The Giant was also visiting Toronto and the Frenchman defeated Ox Baker and Angelo Mosca pinned Gene Anderson in a handicap match with Jimmy Snuka tagging with Gene.  Mosca would meet Snuka again the night after in Brantford, Ontario as he tagged with Andre to face Snuka and Baker in a tag match. The good guys won.

MID-ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING

The biggest news coming out of Mid-Atlantic is that Ric Flair won the NWA United States Title for the fourth time. On the 9th April TV show, Jim Crockett Jr. declared that the title had been stripped off champion Jimmy Snuka as Flair had pinned him on the 6th at the Greensboro Coliseum. However, the official referee was knocked out and Johnny Weaver made the count.  A decision was made to settle the confusion that the title was held up and Flair and Snuka would meet in a rematch at the same venue on the April 20th.  Flair ended up winning the bloody battle pinning Snuka to settle any dispute. Flair was unveiled as the new champion on TV later that month and was attacked by Snuka, Iron Sheik and Gene Anderson with Flair’s pals Blackjack Mulligan and Jim Brunzell to make the save.

As promised last month, an update on the situation with new World Tag Team Champions Greg Valentine and Ray Stevens and former champs Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood.  The former champs asked Bob Caudle and David Crockett to play a video of the match from 29/3 at the Charlotte Coliseum where Valentine and Stevens won the belts.  The champs exploded and Valentine snatched the tape and hit Crockett on the head with it. Stevens then proceeded to pull out a knife and destroy the reel of film. Steamboat and Youngblood revealed that the tape would have shown the unlawful way that Valentine and Stevens had won the match and they anticipated a rematch as soon as possible.  They did not have to wait long and gained seven rematches throughout the month but by the end of the month, the heels still have possession of the belts.

The feud between Blackjack Mulligan and the Masked Superstars I and II continued. On the 9th April, the Superstars taunted Blackjack in regards to his injured hand, but Mulligan fooled the Superstars in signing contracts for matches throughout the month and then removed the cast proving that he is fit to return to the ring.  He wrestled both Superstars in singles action with great success.

NEW-JAPAN PRO WRESTLING

NJPW hosted a huge show as the penultimate event of their Big Fight Series 1980 tour on the 3rd of the month. Four titles were on the line as Tatsumi Fujinami successfully defended his WWF Junior Heavyweight Title against Ashura HaraGran Hamada defeated Baby Face to retain his UWA World Light Heavyweight championship. Riki Choshu and Seiji Sekiguchi beat the Iron Sheik and Super Destroyer to retain the NWA North American Tag straps. Finally, in the main event, Antonio Inoki defeated Stan Hansen after a suplex to win the NWF World Heavyweight Title.

On the final date of the tour (4/4), Florida native Mike Graham was defeated by Fujinami for the NWA International Junior Heavyweight Championship in Kawasaki City Gymnasium.

Before the month was out, the third annual MSG Series began (25/4) at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. The Madison Square Garden Series is a singles tournament in a round-robin league format that will run from 25th April until the finals on 5th June 1980.  We will have more news on this next month but so far, a mini preliminary tournament is underway to qualify for the tournament.  The winners of the preliminaries will join Inoki, Andre the Giant and Dusty Rhodes in the ten-man league competition.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST WRESTLING

The match finally happened.  After teasing for weeks, “Playboy” Buddy Rose met Roddy Piper in a Steel Cage Loser Gets Hair Shaved Match at the Expo Center, Portland on the 15th April.  Rose held Piper up for backbreaker only for the Scotsman to cradle Rose into a small package for three count.  Special referee Red Bastien and Sandy Barr shaved the “Playboy’s” head after the loss.  Bastien took great joy cutting into Rose’s hair as he himself had fallen foul to a past Hair vs Hair match with Buddy. A truly bad night for the “Playboy”.  The defeat to Piper meant that Roddy stayed in the territory and Rose had to also hand over the keys to his Lincoln Continental.

Once he returned back to the Sports Arena, Rose obviously embarrassed and wishing to hide his bald head, donned a mask with blonde hair attached.  Later in the month (26th), he faced Rick Martel in a Best of Three Falls non-title match in front of a hot crowd.  Rose was counted out during the final and third fall after Martel unmasked him and the Sheepherders ran out with a towel to cover Buddy’s head and ushered him to the back.

SOUTHEASTERN CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING

After defeating Ole Anderson last month to win the vacant NWA Southeastern Heavyweight title, Killer Karl Kox is no longer the champion.  At a big event in Knoxville (13/4), Ole gained revenge and defeated Kox in a Steel Cage match to claim the championship.

It was not the only title change as the NWA Southeastern Tag Titles found a new home.  The team of Steve Travis and Don Diamond beat The Manchurians (Tapu and Tio Tio) to take home the gold.

ST. LOUIS WRESTLING CLUB

Sam Muchnick booked another pair of big nights at the Kiel Auditorium during April. On the 11th, the main event saw Kevin Von Erich retain his NWA Missouri Title against King Kong (Bruiser) Brody. Kevin won via a DQ and Bob Backlund, the WWF Champion defended his title against Olympic strongman Ken Patera – they wrestled to a draw.

On the 25th, the NWA Worlds Champion Harley Race defended the belt against the NWA United States champion “Nature Boy” Ric Flair.  It was a close-fought contest that ended with Race defeating Flair by two falls to one. Kevin Von Erich beat Patera in a Missouri Title bout and Backlund was back defending his WWF title against “Bulldog” Bob Brown – Backlund is still the champion.

VANCOUVER ALL STAR WRESTLING

The Rose Army’s feud with Roddy Piper ventured up to Canada again this month as Piper recruited Steve Pardee and Sal Martino to beat Buddy Rose and The Sheepherders on the 21st in Vancouver.  A few weeks earlier (7/3) Piper defeated The Sheepherders with the help of Rick Martel.

WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION

The WWF promoted a huge show at the Philadelphia Spectrum on the 12th April which was shown live on the PRISM Network.  Bob Backlund defended his WWF Championship against “The Incredible” Hulk Hogan.  Hogan took Backlund to the limit, went nearly 30 minutes and defeated the champion by count-out so Bob kept the belt.  Bruno Sammartino clashed with rival Larry Zbyszko again with Bruno coming out on top in around 18 minutes.  However, the big news coming out the show was that Ivan Putski and Tito Santana lost their WWF Tag Team straps to the Wild Samoans, Afa and Sika.

The Federation hit Madison Square Garden on the 21st with another title change.  In just over 30 minutes Ken Patera defeated Pat Patterson to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship.  Bruno and Larry clashed again and Zbyszko had experienced enough punishment by the 15-minute mark and left the ringside area to take a count-out loss. One-half of the newly crowned tag champs The Samoan #1 took on Backlund for the WWF Title.  Backlund emerged as the victor around 17 minutes due to a roll-up into a bridge pin.  Hogan beat Frenchman Rene Goulet in quick fashion as did Andre the Giant against Bobby Duncum.

NWA WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION

HARLEY RACE
NWA WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS

GREG VALENTINE & RAY STEVENS
1. Dusty Rhodes1. Ricky Steamboat/Jay Youngblood
2. Ric Flair2. Giant Baba/Jumbo Tsuruta
3. David Von Erich3. Jose Lothario/Tiger Conway Jr.
4. Bruiser Brody4. Ivan Koloff/Alexei Smirnoff
5. Tony Atlas5. The Sheepherders
6. Dick Slater6. The Sheik/Abdullah the Butcher
7. Antonio Inoki7. Mr. Hito/Mr. Sakaruda
8. Giant Baba8. Terry Funk/Dory Funk Jr.
9. Jimmy Snuka9. Riki Choshu/Seiji Sekiguchi
10. Tommy Rich10. Tony Atlas/Kevin Sullivan

Our match of the month has to be the fantastic clash between Stan Hansen and Antonio Inoki for the NWF World Heavyweight strap from NJPW’s Big Fight Series (3/4) in Kuramae Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan.

All Japan: Jumbo Tsuruta and Dick Slater clash in the finals of the Champion Carnival and we will have a report on the Terry Funk-Abdullah feud.

Mid-Atlantic: Jimmy Snuka will aim to regain the US title back from the grasp of Ric Flair as will Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood strive to claim back the Tag Titles from Greg Valentine and Ray Stevens.

New Japan: The MSG Series continues throughout the month of May before concluding in early June.  We will report on all the happenings in the MSG league up until the 31st May.

Portland: Will Buddy Rose’s bald head be revealed and will Roddy Piper gain more revenge on the “Playboy” and his army?

WWF: The Bruno-Larry feud continues and how will new tag champs Afa and Sika and the new IC Champion Ken Patera fare in May 1980?

As always, thanks for reading…

Will Burns

Sources: Cagematch.netMid-Atlantic Gateway, MapleLeafWrestling.comWrestlingData, Puroresu.com

Profile – Orville Brown

Kansas born Orville Brown was the first-ever World Heavyweight Champion of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) after the organisation’s formation in 1948. This was a title he never lost as he was forced to retire just over a year later.

At the beginning of 1931, Brown met a local wrestling trainer called Ernest Brown, who persuaded Orville that there was a decent wage to made in the ring. He began training with a daily regime of running before breakfast, his day job of blacksmithing and gaining wrestling experience with Ernest in the evening. And by the time October rolled around that year, Orville made a winning debut that started an undefeated 72 bout streak.

With short legs and a long body, Orville was physically strong and he became a legend in the Midwest area and spent many years wrestling for the Midwest Wrestling Association (MWA).  Realising there was money to be made from professional wrestling, by Orville was the age of 32, he began promoting wrestling matches with Kansas City promoter George Simpson. The partnership worked well with Brown compiling the card and Simpson promoting these with the press.

At the time of the NWA formation, Orville was the MWA champion, a title he held eleven times. He was chosen by the NWA board (which he was a prominent member of) to become the first NWA Heavyweight Champion. Instead of creating a new title (shown below), Brown had two plates made to cover up the words ‘Midwest’ and ‘Association’.

However, much to the NWA’s displeasure there were many ‘world’ champions in circulation and these needed to be unified to recognise one champion. Plans were put in place for Brown to meet National Wrestling Association (yes, another NWA) champion Lou Thesz. The bout was due to take place on 25th November 1949 but it, unfortunately, was not to be.

Orville and in-ring rival Bobby Bruns were driving to a show on November 1st in a 1949 Cadillac Sedan. A semi-trailer truck stalled on the side of the road and Sedan crushed underneath the vehicle (see newspaper cutting below). Brown and Bruns were seriously injured. Orville suffered head injuries and paralysis down one side, and despite determined to make a comeback, sadly he never wrestled again. Thesz was awarded the NWA title.

However, Brown remained active in the wrestling business as a booker and promoter until retiring in 1963.  He lived with his wife Grace in Missouri until his passing in January 1981.  He was 72 years old.

Brown was a fantastic wrestler who held great achievements wherever he stepped into the ring, but he holds acclaim which no other human being can – he was the first-ever NWA Heavyweight Champion.

As always, thanks for reading…

Will Burns

Source: Wrestling-Titles.comTim Hornbaker – National Wrestling AllianceAntiques Roadshow (PBS): Orville Brown Wrestling Archive