Saturday, January 27, 2007

By Request-Big Time Wrestling

For those who like the history of this post, I have put in many links. Enjoy your trip in the time machine.

This post has been revised as of October 17, 2008. Click here to go to the revision,which includes a tribute to Jack Reynolds.

Pro wrestling has been a significant part of television since at least the 1950's. ESPN Classic used to show some bouts from the 50's with wrestlers like Gorgeous George, Sailor Art Thomas, and Angelo Poffo(father of "Macho Man" Randy Savage).

When I was in high school in the early seventies, my brother and I watched "Championship Wrestling" on WUAB/43. The announcer was Jack Reynolds, veteran radio personality in the Cleveland area. The North American Champion at the time was Johnny Powers. Every Saturday night at 7:00 we would hear the refrain from Mason Williams' "Classical Gas", along with the announcement, Championship Wrestling with Johnny Powers, and yours truly Jack Reynolds". At one time Johnny's chief rival was Waldo von Erich, who hailed fron Stuttgart, Germany. Other wrestlers who come to the channel 43 studios Lil Abner Osborne, The Love Brothers, Haystacks Calhoun, Beautiful Bruce Swayze, and a multitude of others.

Johnny Powers would later win the World championship, then lose it to von Erich.

Some things I remember from that time: Abdullah the Butcher made his debut, with Bruce Swaze as his manager, when he went into the ring at the conclusion of a Lil Abner match by throwing fire in Abner's face.

Pampiro Firpo, the wild bull of the Pampas, had long, stringy hair which would hang in his face. When he was being interviewed, he would be what appeared to be a shrunken head. He would say, holding the "head" towards the camera, "You know what this is? This is my inspiration".

Back in those days you also had Bruno Sammartino, who was a long time champion making frequent appearance in C-town. Dominic Denucci, the Sicilian Cannonball would thrill everyone with his moves off the top rope. Sitting next at times to announcer Ron Martinez harassing him as he was trying to call a match(He would refer to Martinez as "Mr. TV announcer") was Ernie "Big Cat" Ladd, former NFL player.

Those days there was some believability in the matches, and if you had the ability but not a way with words, you could still wrestle. Your "promos" were just handled by a manager.

The good guys, or "faces"(short for baby face), were good guys for a long time. The "heels", or bad guys, were those you loved to hate. A "face turn" or "heel turn" didn't happen often, and it was treated as a big event. I remember when Johnny Powers turned "heel" after years of being a "face" he started carrying around a bugle, because he was now "blowing his own horn". I also remember when Ernie Ladd turned face.

The wrestlers were at times retired football players, and none were the steroid enhanced human cartoons we see on WWE nowadays. Any women were there because they could wrestle, not because they looked good in silicone.


Mike Young said...

I remember Ox Baker with the heart punch and he attacked ring announcer MIKE MIHALKO AND STARTED STOMPING HIM IN STREET SHOES UNTIL POWERS RAN IN FOR THE SAVE AND TURNED FACE FOR THE REMAINDER OF HIS CAREER. Mike has his own photography store in Strongsville about 12 years ago I don't know if he still does.

newsnomore said...

Great memories WIXY.

I went to college with a guy who was a wrestling nut. He would always catch the bouts at the Akron Armory, which is now torn down.

One time, he showed me his scrap book. On one page was the blood of Bo Bo Brazil. He actually climbed up on the ring and wiped Bo Bo's head with his scrap book paper.

Can you believe that?

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Anonymous said...

Li'll Abner was my pop! RIP Dad.