Monday, January 9, 2017

Under Those INFERNOS Hoods

To my knowledge, THE INFERNOS were never fully unmasked in the ring, nor were their identities revealed to the fans.

Jim Crockett actually offered J.C. Dykes and THE INFERNOS a huge bonus to be unmasked all around his territory before they headed for other areas, but the trio refused the cash offer.

Actually, there was more than one team of THE INFERNOS, not uncommon for someone who was THAT hot (pardon the pun) in the business to have their ring personas ripped off. (Just try to imagine how many masked ASSASSIN teams there have been. Actually, there are STILL masked ASSASSINS wrestling in local indy outfits all over the country.)

But, back to THE INFERNOS, that is, the original ones.

If you have read some of my previous postings, it should be apparent that THE INFERNOS and J.C. DYKES were (and still are) at the top of my all-time 'heel' team list, and I've have been a pro wrestling fan now for over fifty-five years.

When THE INFERNOS burst upon the JIM CROCKETT PROMOTIONS wrestling scene back in the mid-1960s, they were an immediate sensation. They quickly joined BOGNI & LUBICH, HAWK & HANSON, MAULER & MALENKO and BERNARD & MURPHY as main event nasties. They immediately were causing in-ring trouble for BECKER & WEAVER, McKENZIE & ROYAL, the SCOTT brothers and all our other favorite babyfaces.

All of a sudden, J.C. DYKES was generating as much heat as a manager as his peer HOMER O'DELL (and that is saying plenty).

J.C. had his metal canteen (which he often used as a weapon) and that blasted whistle, playing it like a trumpet to signal his men during their match.

Add to that the fact that mysterious 'fireballs' appeared from time-to-time scorching the faces of some good guys (you can ask LES THATCHER about that) and, of course, that dreaded built-up wrestling boot (which many wrestlers claimed contained items varying from horseshoes to the kitchen sink).

These boys were so 'hot' in the territory that when they faced other heel teams in ring battles, the RIP & SWEDEs and the BRUTE & SKULLs drew the cheers of the crowd (at least for that one night).

THE INFERNOS took their ring gimmick to other territories besides JCP (such as Florida and Texas), and did the same blockbuster business there as well.

Over the course of their long run, some changes occurred within the group. The originals were FRANKIE CAIN and JIMMY 'ROCKY' SMITH. At one point, ROCKY had a heart attack (down in Texas, I believe) and how to bow out for a while, but returned later. FRANKIE eventually left to become wrestling's GREAT MEPHISTO and was replaced by ROCKY's brother CURTIS SMITH. Other INFERNOS included DOUG GILBERT, RON GIBSON, STAN PULASKI and KARL VON BRAUNER.

Then, of course, there were the copycats. When DYKES and his boys left Florida, Eddie Graham put two guys together and tried to pass them off as the originals. And to this day, like THE ASSASSINS, one can find masked men in indy outfits wrestling as THE INFERNOS.

FRANKIE CAIN is still with us. J.C. 'JIMMY' DYKES passed away in 1993. ROCKY SMITH is also gone.

But I still remember THE INFERNOS.

THE original INFERNOS
ROCKY SMITH (left) and FRANKIE CAIN (right)

A bloodied (and nearly unmasked) FRANKIE CAIN is checked out by manager J.C. DYKES.

DYKES consoles one of his men during a wild match.

Why the headgear on INFERNO ROCKY SMITH? It's because boxing champion JOE LOUIS was refereeing the match.

THE INFERNOS fall victim to GEORGE BECKER & JOHNNY WEAVER's "row your boat".

J.C. and the boys celebrate another victory.

During their Florida campaign, J.C. and ROCKY took issue with JOSE LOTHARIO's being on the wrestling program instead of THE INFERNOS.

Another bloody night in the ring.

J.C. DYKES submits to an interview, but refuses to disclose his men's identities.

A young TERRY FUNK gets an INFERNO boot to the face.

INFERNO FRANKIE CAIN unmasked.

INFERNO ROCKY SMITH unmasked.

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