Friday, June 29, 2018

BOLO'S BACK

July 7, 1958

60 Years Ago

                      CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA


The return of the infamous masked man of wrestling, the GREAT BOLO, will headline the wrestling program set for tonight at PARK CENTER.

The GREAT BOLO, the vicious masked man who has withstood all efforts to defeat and / or unmask him, has been matched tonight against GORY GUERRERO.

The handsome GUERRERO was BOLO's first victim in Charlotte some two months ago, and GORY has been aching for a rematch ever since. He'll get one hour and two-out-of-three falls to gain revenge.

Also getting co-feature status is a best-of-three-falls, one-hour tag match with Indian stars BILLY TWO RIVERS and CHIEF DON EAGLE taking on ruffians IKE EAKINS and HANS SCHNABEL.

Promoter JIM CROCKETT figures this one to produce some of the wildest and wooliest tag team action seen here in months.

The prelim card has two singles bouts, with one sending fan favorite 'IRISH' MIKE CLANCY lowering the boom against 'BAD' BOB CORBY.

The opening contests matches GYPSY JOE against TINKER TODD. Neither of these men respect the rules of wrestling, so anything could happen in this one.

The first bout in the AIR-CONDITIONED PARK CENTER gets underway at 8:15 p.m.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

THE 1966 STATESVILLE SUMMER OF WRESTLING - PART THREE

September 2, 1966
STATESVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA




CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE


Time for one more outdoor wrestling card before Jack Frost starts to appear.

The third and final JIM CROCKETT PROMOTIONS wrestling show of the summer, again sponsored by the COMMUNITY BASEBALL CLUB, came to town Labor Day weekend.

And what a treat for the locals...a true legend in all sports...LOU THESZ, multiple-time WORLD'S HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION.

On this night, THESZ, then fifty years of age, showed those of us in attendance, that he could still go at full throttle.

And he and partner ABE "Kiwi Roll" JACOBS would have their hands full, as their opponents this night were two devious ruffians in THE MISSOURI MAULER and THE GREAT MALENKO, one of the top heel teams at the time.

Not surprisingly, the two combos split the first and second falls. Jacobs took the loss for his team--no way Thesz is going to lose a fall clean. At the climax of the third fall, just as Thesz took the "hot tag" and was cleaning up the ring with the "M &M" boys, Malenko pulled the referee in front of him, and Thesz dropkicked the referee, causing an immediate disqualification.

MAULER and MALENKO made a fast exit through their dugout to their dressing room, and I assume, spun out of the Statesville Senior High School parking lot heading back for Charlotte on that pre-Interstate 77 highway night.

Earlier in the evening, KLONDIKE BILL, getting a major push by JCP, took the toll of GEORGE "TWO TON" HARRIS in what was billed as a BATTLE OF THE MAT GIANTS by big-splashing "Bunk" before "Bunk" could big splash him. Oh well, "do unto others..."

Veteran IKE EAKINS crushed KEN HOLLIS and a young BOBBY SHANE (just getting started in the wrestling business) pinned a much-larger "BIG BOY" BLONDELL.

Another great crowd...another great night...another great summer of wrestling in my home town.

Monday, June 25, 2018

THE 1966 STATESVILLE SUMMER OF WRESTLING - PART TWO

August 12, 1966
STATESVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA


CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE


Just three weeks after drawing a crowd of nearly 1400 fans, Statesville, North Carolina, hosted it's second of three JIM CROCKETT PROMOTIONS wrestling cards of the summer.


There was a minimum of two objects which would be at the baseball park behind Statesville Senior High School this night...a wrestling ring at home plate and...me.

Fortunately, I had lots of company. Another large crowd was in attendance this night to add to the coffers of both JIM CROCKETT PROMOTIONS and the COMMUNITY BASEBALL CLUB, which sponsored the event.

The SOUTHERN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP was up for grabs (we thought) this night. Of course, a key championship was not going to change hands in a hamlet the size of Statesville, but the participants had us all believing that it could happen.

Champions BOGNI and LUBICH and challengers McKENZIE and ROYAL were in the third and deciding fall. TEX and NELLIE were on the verge of capturing the titles when that low-down, unscrupulous manager HOMER O'DELL wacked ROYAL with his cane (in the referee's vision), causing his team to be disqualified, thus enabling BRONCHO and ALDO to leave the "City of Progress" with the belts which had accompanied them to our fair town.

Disappointment? Sure, but we had definitely witnessed a great match which made us all "believe" - something rare in today's "sports entertainment."

The MINNESOTA WRECKING CREW, i.e., the original incarnation of the name, wrestled separately this night. LARS took the toll of ABE JACOBS, and GENE toppled youngster PAUL DEMARCO.

KEN HOLLIS pinned CORSICA JEAN to open the show, but this was not a big deal as my grandmother probably could have pinned CORSICA JEAN.

Regardless, any time "many of the top TV wrestling stars" came to town was worth plopping down the two bucks to sit two hours in a hard-on-the-bottom steel chair in the infield dirt of the ball park.

And in just three more weeks, the stars of JIM CROCKETT PROMOTIONS would return again.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

THE 1966 STATESVILLE SUMMER OF WRESTLING - PART ONE

Statesville, North Carolina wrestling fans (and I was one) were treated to THREE nights of JIM CROCKETT PROMOTIONS wrestling shows during the summer of 1966.

A perfect location for wrestling during the summer months...the wooden grandstand ball park similar to that in the movie BULL DURHAM. Sponsored by the COMMUNITY BASEBALL CLUB, who also gave us DOUBLE A BASEBALL at the same site. The ring was set up at home plate, surrounded by metal ringside seat chairs all around. The grandstand served as the General Admission area. The wrestlers entered the ring from the two dugouts.

No rainouts during the summer of 1966. THREE shows in TWO months.

As a fifteen-year old 'rasslin' fan, I found myself at all three shows parked in my $2.00 ringside seat.

This was the first card of the 1966 summer...



CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE





The match results are shown above.
-
For whatever reasons (maybe analysis would reveal why), two memories come back to me about this night.

(1) My cousin, who attended with me, spilled a cup of Coca-Cola on himself during the matches.

(2) One of The Masked Red Demons (either Billy or Jimmy Hines) came out of the dugout for the main event smoking a cigarette (through the mask), discarding it as he approached the ring. I thought to myself - "Athletes aren't supposed to smoke." Give me a break, I was a naive fifteen year-old who was reading FAMOUS MONSTERS and wrestling magazines, instead of PLAYBOY, at the time. (Don't worry, the PLAYBOYs came later.)

Regardless of my mental stability, I remember the evening fondly.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

THEY "ENHANCED" THE SHOW

Not every wrestler who worked for JIM CROCKETT PROMOTIONS could headline a wrestling card.
Someone had to work underneath at mid-card or lower level to fill out a show.
But that certainly didn't mean that these guys didn't give their all, night after night, to give the audience their admissions' worth.
And because of their great efforts, I would like to give recognition to some of the many guys who fit into this category, at least, during their tenure with JCP.


RANDY CURTIS
Worked in JCP during his rise in the business, achieved higher success in other territories.

LUTHER LINDSAY
Very popular with the fans. Often teamed with ABE JACOBS or GEORGE 'Catalina' DRAKE in tag team action at mid-card level, or worked as a single lower down the card. Did headline some lesser cards in tag matches in the smaller towns. Sadly, Lindsay died immediately following a match at Charlotte's PARK CENTER.
LES WOLFF
Also was a mid-card tag partner with ABE JACOBS and one of the better "young lions" (as David Crockett would say). A semi-final singles competitor as well.

'Big' JIM GRABMIRE
Never really got any push at all with JCP, worked in single and tag matches. I'm sure I saw Grabmire in person and on TV fifty times, and he never got his hand raised. But he always did a great job of selling and losing to guys much smaller than he.
THE VIKING
Many may not know or remember that this man worked as a tag team partner with 'Sir' NELSON ROYAL when Nellie first came to JCP in the early-mid sixties. Royal did his 'babyface' turn while tagging with THE VIKING. With or without ROYAL, THE VIKING was a good mid-card heel, either in singles or team contests.

'LEAPING' LANNY POFFO wrestled as a single and tag teamed with his brother RANDY POFFO.
(Randy, of course, went on to become a superstar in that northern wrestling company as 'Macho Man' Randy Savage.)

KILLER KARL KRUPP
(a face only a mother could love)

PAUL DEMARCO
went on to become a big-time performer, but paid some undercard dues in JCP in the mid-1960s on his way up, teaming often with Bobby Shane.

GEORGE 'CRY BABY' CANNON
wrestled in JCP in the early 1960s. Had a few smaller town main events teaming with George 'Two Ton' Harris, but mostly was undercard. Later went on to become a very successful manager.

MR. X # 1 & # 2
(Gordon Nelson & Geoff Portz)
Great mid-card team in the late 1970s, great workers who were always entertaining.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

SUPER STARS / SUPER ACTION

KIM DUK battles WAHOO MCDANIEL

PAUL JONES has the better of BARON VON RASCHKE.

JACK BRISCO ties up GREG VALENTINE with a rear chin lock.

The end is near for his opponent as DINO BRAVO begins his airplane spin.

THE ASSASSIN manhandles an opponent.

DUSTY RHODES deals with both OLE and GENE ANDERSON.

BLACKJACK MULLIGAN arm bars PAUL JONES.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

GEORGE BECKER VS JIM CROCKETT

Today's entry is a bit of a stretch, considering this blog is a tribute to JIM CROCKETT PROMOTIONS. However, the center of the story is GEORGE BECKER, the wrestler who was one of the top performers in JCP for twenty years, so I hope you will indulge my expanding the limits.

Popular GEORGE BECKER left CROCKETT PROMOTIONS in 1971, but as it turned out, he did not leave the wrestling business.

"For many years, GEORGE BECKER has been one of professional wrestling's biggest stars. This fact is attested to by thousands of the sport's fans who have sent in votes for BECKER since his retirement a few months ago requesting GEORGE be inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame.

BECKER, though retired from the mat, has not quit the wrestling business. He has become a promoter. He and MIKE GALLAGHER, another retired grappler, recently began their own wrestling company through an association with the SHAKEY'S PIZZA chain. Their small independent shows started up a few weeks ago (in and around Charlotte, North Carolina), and whether the two will be successful or not, is not yet known."

from an article by GENE GORDON in the July1972 issue of WRESTLING REVUE



Even though the promotion did not last very long, I thought you might enjoy these rare glimpses of the BECKER / GALLAGHER promotion and some of the wrestlers on their roster.

Referee BUDDY WAYNE, wrestlers BILLY BLUE CLOUD and CHARLIE COOK.
COOK was a former Pittsburgh Steeler who previously had a successful run in Florida, often teaming with Jack and Jerry Brisco.

Action featuring BILLY BLUE CLOUD and THE BLACK MEDIC.

OX THE RIPPER choking CHARLIE COOK.
This match occurred in Kings Mountain, North Carolina.

THE VALENTINE BROTHERS
JERRY and JIMMY


MIKE GALLAGHER during his in-ring career.

MIKE and brother DOC formed a potent heel team in JCP during the late 1950s and early 1960s and often feuded with BECKER at the time.

Throughout his wrestling career, GEORGE appreciated his fans and was always accessible to them.

BECKER / GALLAGHER PROMOTIONS six man team of DIZZY McSHANE, ROCK RIDDLE and THE CONVICT.

DALE STARR works on the leg of DIZZY McSHANE in a match held in Gastonia, North Carolina.

McSHANE, RIDDLE and THE CONVICT do battle with DALE STARR and the VALENTINE BROTHERS, JIMMY and JERRY.

Going up against JIM CROCKETT PROMOTIONS in their hometown of Charlotte was a mountain too high to climb.

Friday, June 15, 2018

FROM CHARLOTTE AND BROOKLYN




Southern wrestling audiences heard many times, during his ring introductions, that GEORGE BECKER was born in Brooklyn, New York. And that was true. He became interested in amateur wrestling, going to the Cooper Athletic Club in the same city. Training long and hard, he excelled in the sport during the Great Depression. During one tournament, BECKER wrestled eight matches in one day, winning the first seven and dropping the eighth to a more experienced competitor.

BECKER's place of employment, an aquarium in New York City, went out of business during the difficult economic times, so the young GEORGE decided to turn professional, making his debut at the Ridgewood Grove Arena in 1934.

In the later years of his long career, George often told the story that he had to laugh when some of the new wrestlers complained that they were not getting paid what they thought they should. "One night in 1938, while I was in Alabama, I wrestled four times in one night and was paid a total of $3.40. And while I was taking a shower after the matches, somebody stole the $3.40 out of my pants."

In 1936, BECKER had one of the most important matches of his young career at the Ridgewood Grove in hometown Brooklyn. His opponent was a highly-touted lad by the name of Lou Thesz, who soon became the World Heavyweight Champion. "I learned a lot about wrestling that night," George told folks.

BECKER was in Philadelphia when World War 2 broke out, so he joined the Coast Guard, but continued to wrestle when he could get any leave time. When the war ended, GEORGE headed to California to wrestle full-time, becoming a big hit in the Golden State. It was out on the west coast where he teamed up with 'brother' BOBBY BECKER, and the two became the tag team champions.

The wrestling matches from California were being filmed and soon were being shown all over the country, including the Carolinas and Virginia, on that new device called television. The demand for the BECKER brothers was so intense that Bill Lewis, then wrestling promoter of Richmond, Virginia, convinced the two to leave California and come to the east coast in 1951, where they began wrestling under the banner of JIM CROCKETT PROMOTIONS.

They immediately became the top drawing wrestlers in the then twenty-year history of JCP, which was established back around 1932. But tragedy struck in 1954 when BOBBY BECKER (real name John Emmerling) died of leukemia.


GEORGE with 'brother' BOBBY BECKER.



GEORGE with frequent mid-1950's tag partner JACK WITZIG. In 1956, they were the SOUTHERN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS.



GEORGE with DICK STEINBORN. The two often teamed in the late 1950s and early 1960s.



GEORGE in a posed publicity shot - 1951.




They were at their peak, the toast of the wrestling world. BOBBY had been sick for some time, but other than GEORGE and his immediate family, nobody in the business knew anything of his illness. During the middle of November, 1954, GEORGE and BOBBY wrestled a match with HANS SCHNABEL and MRMOTO in Greenville, S.C. The next day, BOBBY went to his Charlotte doctor, who transferred him to a New York hospital. Two days later, he passed away.

BOBBY's final Charlotte match was during the previous month, at Griffith Park, with boxing legend JACK DEMPSEY as special referee.



In the early 1970s, BECKER poses with his son, CRAIG, then two years of age.
During his career as a student at CLEMSON UNIVERSITYCRAIG would be a three-time All-American swimmer. Becker had three other children with his first wife, who died of cancer.



The team of GEORGE BECKER and JOHNNY WEAVER was idolized by the wrestling fans.



Mr. and Mrs. GEORGE BECKER with wrestler VICKI WILLIAMS.
JOYCE BECKER teamed with WILLIAMS when she was JOYCE GRABLE before her marriage to GEORGE.



'Big' JIM CROCKETT (the man who built a wrestling empire) and his top wrestler for twenty years.


GEORGE stopped wrestling for a while after BOBBY died. "It just didn't feel right without him."

After some time, GEORGE returned to the ring. He had found a young college student from Wisconsin named JACK WITZIG, who had turned professional and was doing well as a single. The two teamed up, and during their run as a combo, GEORGE and JACK won the SOUTHERN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP and were recognized as WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS as well. Out of nowhere, WITZIG decided to quit the business and go back to school. He became a dentist.

It was, at this point, that GEORGE began teaming with young DICK STEINBORN, the son of wrestler / promoter MILO STEINBORN. For about two years, the BECKER / STEINBORN team was the top combo in the territory.

BECKER then worked with a number of partners off and on, including SANDY SCOTT (the two were SOUTHERN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS), ENRIQUE TORRES,
BOBBY RED CLOUDARGENTINA ROCCA and BILLY TWO RIVERS. Quite an impressive list.

Another milestone in BECKER's career occurred in 1962. A youngster named JOHNNY WEAVER came to JIM CROCKETT PROMOTIONS (we can thank RIP HAWK for it happening). GEORGE and JOHNNY soon began to work together, and this relationship blossomed into a decade-long run in the MID-ATLANTIC territory. GEORGE and JOHNNY were the top team in the company, hands down. The fans loved them (and that is putting it mildly). Any 'heel' team of the 1960s and early 1970s, to succeed in JCP, had to go through BECKER and WEAVER. The two were the yardsticks for which everyone else was measured.

GEORGE BECKER left CROCKETT PROMOTIONS in 1971, ending an incredible twenty-year run that was never equaled by any other wrestler. He briefly started his own wrestling promotion and then retired.

He passed away at the age of 85 on October 25, 1998, in Florida, where he had lived for the last twenty-five years of his life. Death was due to Alzheimer's Disease, which he had suffered from its effects for seven years.

Mike Mooneyham had this to say at the time of BECKER's passing, "No wrestler in the pre-Flair era was more popular in the Carolinas than GEORGE BECKER. He was a wrestling icon before the word became commonplace and overused."