Wednesday, July 31, 2019

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."

Monday, July 29, 2019

CROCKETT GAVE US THE BEST


RIP HAWK shows he could wrestle as well as break the rules.

JOHNNY WEAVER in control of his match.

Russian "bad guy" NIKITA MULKOVICH prepares for battle.

SKULL MURPHY having a bad day at the office.


A bloodied GREG VALENTINE and partner RIC FLAIR puttin' it to RUFUS R. JONES.


GENE ANDERSON and DUSTY RHODES trading blows.

The match over, RIC FLAIR hops into his Caddy and heads back to Charlotte.


ED CAPRAL interviews #1 PAUL JONES on TV's WIDE WORLD WRESTLING.

Referee SONNY FARGO tries to get GREG VALENTINE and RIC FLAIR off WAHOO McDANIEL.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

EXPLOSIVE AS THE PLANET KRYPTON

The MID-ATLANTIC WRESTLING rings were always loaded with dynamite, and the explosion usually occurred !

TIM WOODS applies a headlock to his opponent.

RIP HAWK attempts an old-fashioned hanging on NELSON ROYAL.

LARS and GENE ANDERSON demonstrate their double-knee drop on GEORGE BECKER.

THE ASSASSIN (JODY HAMILTON) is caught in an abdominal stretch.

Big SWEDE HANSON does some dental work on one of the VON STROHEIMS.

One of THE INFERNOS goes for a ride.

PAUL JONES is about to feel the wrath of GREG VALENTINE's 'hammer'.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

RETURN OF THE DEMONS

July 2, 1966
LEXINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA



Two new tag team combinations will be seen in action against a pair of established duets on tonight's LEXINGTON YMCA pro wrestling card.

Action kicks off at 8:15 p.m.

Popular GEORGE 'CATALINA' DRAKE and LUTHER LINDSAY will combine their talents for the first time to meet the rugged twosome of THE MISSOURI MAULER and THE GREAT MALENKO. DRAKE and LINDSAY are quick and agile and wrestle by the rulebook. Across the ring, MALENKO and the MAULER are both rough wrestlers and have never heard of a wrestling rulebook.

Polished operators PAUL DEMARCO and KEN HOLLIS, both young guys loved by the fans, will join ranks to face off against the MASKED RED DEMONS in the other tag contest of the evening. The RED DEMONS continue to create problems for their opponents. In the short time they have been wrestling in LEXINGTON, they have taken both GEORGE BECKER & JOHNNY WEAVER, as well as GEORGE & SANDY SCOTT to the limit, one match by a double disqualification, the other a sixty-minute draw. Their identities remain a mystery.

Both tag matches are set for the best two-out-of-three falls.

Two singles matches, both promising lots of action, will send KARL GOTCH against big JOHN GUDISKI and popular STEVE BOLUS facing the veteran CORSICA JEAN.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

HOMER O'DELL'S NEW TAG TEAM

April 13, 1963
LEXINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA

56 Years Ago



The immensely popular tag team of GEORGE BECKER and BILLY TWO RIVERS returns to the LEXINGTON YMCA tonight to battle the rugged villainous duo of ALDO BOGNI and BRONCHO LUBICH in the two-out-of-three falls main event that headlines this week's wrestling card.

BECKER and TWO RIVERS are well-known as a team. The LUBICH and BOGNI combo is a fairly new combination but has been very successful since teaming up. Perhaps part of that success is due to manager HOMER O'DELL, who is always in the corner of the bullies.

GEORGE and BILLY will have to keep their eyes on O'DELL, as well as BOGNI and LUBICH, as the tuxedoed manager tends to become involved in his men's matches. And that wooden cane he carries has found its mark on opponents' noggins.

Asheboro's own rising wrestling star, LARRY HULIN, faces a tough test when he meets big SWEDE HANSON in the week's best-of-three fall semifinal encounter.

In the night's prelim matches, JOHNNY 'RUBBERMAN' WALKER meets rough JAN MADRID, and DOUG KINSLOW squares off against MARK STONE in the 8:15 opener.

--

JOHNNY 'RUBBERMAN' WALKER later wrestled under the hood as MR. WRESTLING 2.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

COWBOYS AND BOMBERS

May 21, 1966
LEXINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA

53 Years Ago

Wrestling fans will get a chance to witness a rematch between the teams of TEX McKENZIE / NELSON ROYAL and RIP HAWK / SWEDE HANSON at the LEXINGTON YMCA tonight.

Demands for the return came after the popular Texans lost a disputed match to the BLONDE BOMBERS last Saturday night. It has been contended that HAWK used the ropes in an illegal manner to produce the decisive fall when ROYAL was in position to win it all for his team.

The two-out-of-three falls tag match highlights the card which also contains the following other matches:

Newcomer PAUL DEMARCO meets veteran tough guy IKE EAKINS in the semifinal.

KARL GOTCH takes on CORSICA JEAN, while two other newcomers, RAY GARDINI and KEN HOLLIS, clash in the 8:15 opening match of the evening.

Friday, July 19, 2019

MORE WITH WRESTLING'S "ROYAL COUPLE"

JOHNNY WEAVER and PENNY BANNER were the KING and QUEEN of JIM CROCKETT PROMOTIONS as far as the wrestling public was concerned.

Enjoy these photos of them out of the wrestling ring...

Having fun for the camera...

Daughter WENDI letting Mommy in on a secret...

Fun on the links...
("Just pretend you see HOMER O'DELL's face on the ball.")

A little fun at the dinner table...
(I see a pet dish in the photo. WENDI, was it a dog or cat?)

I love this picture of PENNY and WENDI.

PENNY poses...

JOHNNY always took the time to spend with his fans.

PENNY was an avid horsewoman, whose love of the sport was passed down to daughter WENDI.

Monday, July 15, 2019

SCOTTS BATTLE DEMONS

June 25, 1966
LEXINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA

53 Years Ago

A big tag team battle, matching two swift-moving teams against one another, headlines tonight's four bout card at the LEXINGTON YMCA starting at 8:15.

The FLYING SCOTTS, GEORGE and SANDY, will take a crack at the hooded terror duo of THE MASKED RED DEMONS.

The SCOTT brothers are known for their fantastic aerial maneuvers, while the DEMONS are gaining a local reputation for having no regard for law and order. They conceal their identities behind scarlet masks and have been racking up a huge win streak since arriving in this wrestling area. GEORGE and SANDY will try to derail this runaway freight train in the best two-out-of-three fall contest. They have a one hour time limit to do it.

JAN MADRID, a strutting bully, returns after a long absence to run head-on into the able ABE JACOBS in tonight's semi-final match.

GEORGE 'CATALINA' DRAKE meets ALEX MEDINA in a one-fall encounter.

KEN HOLLIS battles TONY NERO in the evening's first match.

CROCKETT'S ROYAL COUPLE

Had JIM CROCKETT PROMOTIONS held an AMERICAN IDOL-type contest voted on by the fans to determine the company's top male and female personality, I (and, I'm sure most other MID-ATLANTIC WRESTLING fans) would have cast my ballot for PENNY BANNER and JOHNNY WEAVER.

And, what many fans at the time did not know, PENNY and JOHNNY were in everyday life, married to one another.

I can't remember exactly when this fact came to light for me, but I was aware of it at a point when each of PENNY and JOHNNY's careers were still active.

I have seen photos in which PENNY and JOHNNY worked together in mixed tag matches, although I can't recall any personal memories of such in JCP, not to say it didn't happen.

PENNY and JOHNNY consented to do a layout for WRESTLING REVUE's August 1963 issue, which is the source for the following photos.

Daughter WENDI supervises the chess game.

A night on the town.
(WENDI still has JOHNNY's fedora.)

Making one of JOHNNY's ring jackets.

Suppertime.
(I like JOHNNY's WARD CLEAVER-type dinner attire.)

A little TV watching after dinner on a rare night off from wrestling.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

SCOTTS BATTLE BOLOS

LEXINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA
JANUARY 5, 1963

THE FLYING SCOTT BROTHERS - SANDY and GEORGE

THE GREAT BOLO and BOLO

P.Y. CHUNG

A four match card returns professional wrestling to the LEXINGTON YMCA tonight following a two week holiday layoff.

The Canadian duo of GEORGE and SANDY SCOTT, known in wrestling as THE FLYING SCOTTS, return as a team after a very long abscence. They have a tall order ahead of them as they are paired against the masked terror combo of THE GREAT BOLO and BOLO in the evening's best-of-three falls main event.

Midget stars will also be on hand in a special event when LITTLE BOY BLUE faces PEE WEE LOPEZ.

Two single bouts are also scheduled with the Oriental craftsman P.Y. CHUNG meeting DON WHITTIER, and JOHNNY HEIDEMAN tackles EDUARDO CASTILLIO in the 8:15 opener.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

60 YEARS AGO IN CHARLOTTE

August 11, 1959
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

MR. MOTO


DUKE KEOMUKA


GEORGE BECKER


BILLY TWO RIVERS


THE GREAT BOLO

PAT O'HARA


LARRY 'CRUSHER' HAMILTON


DANNO O'SHOCKER

REGGIE PARKS

CYCLONE ANAYA

MR. MOTO and DUKE KEOMUKA will face another top challenge for their SOUTHERN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP in the headline bout of tonight's pro wrestling card at the PARK CENTER here in CHARLOTTE.

The Japs, who have protected their crown against all comers for the past month, will defend their belts against the clever and immensely popular tandem of GEORGE BECKER and BILLY TWO RIVERS. The championship match is set for two-out-of-three falls with a one-hour time limit.

The semi-final tonight squares off fan favorite PAT O'HARA against the dreaded masked man, THE GREAT BOLO. Perhaps tonight will be the lucky night for the Irishman in his quest to unmask the hooded ruffian. It's also two-of-three falls.

The top prelim will send the rugged LARRY 'CRUSHER' HAMILTON against young DANNO O'SHOCKER, and the 8:15 opener, set for one fall, twenty minute limit, has the handsome Canadian scrapper from Ontario, REGGIE PARKS, against the very tough CYCLONE ANAYA.