Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Waldo Von Erich dies - notes on his WWWF runs

Waldo Von Erich portrayed himself as a nasty German.

Here are notes on his key runs in the WWWF in the 1960's and 1970's, with a focus on Maison Square Garden, and champion Bruno Sammartino.

-- 3 major runs against Bruno Sammartino for title -- 1964, 1969, and 1975

-- 1964

· Went to an 81:00 minute draw against Sammartino at Madison Square Garden, on Aug. 22nd, 1964; not quite a sellout. Von Erich wore a Nazi arm band and carried a riding crop; spoke of Bruno as being from an “inferior race”, as he was Italian (they held back nothing on ethnicities in NY in those days). Crowd: 16,958, not quite a sellout.

· Sept. 21st, 1964 – rematch in front of 14,915; Bruno wins on countout.

· Oct. 19, 1964 – sold out for the blowoff, with 18,722 seeing Bruno defeat Von Erich solidly in a Texas Death Match.

· Von Erich, for the next year, had high profile time limit draws around the circuit, with 2 major faces: Johnny Valentine, and Bobo Brazil. He teamed for a while with Smasher Sloan, a midlevel heel, who would do the job when they lost.

· Then teamed with Gene Kiniski to win U.S. Tagteam Championship, in 2 straight falls, from Dr. Jerry and Crazy Luke Graham, another heel team,, on Washington, DC TV. Luke was “hurt” during the match; Kiniski and Von Erich isolated him, and took two straight falls from Luke, with Jerry never getting into the ring. Shortly after, also on Washington, DC TV, Von Erich two took straight falls in a solo match from Luke Graham, and Dr. Jerry announced after the match that he was sending Luke “back to the farm” for a rest (actually, he left the territory to head to the west coast).

· As champs, they headlined MSG losing via disqualification to Bruno Sammartino and Bill Watts in the 3rd fall, on January 29th, 1965. This match was the beginning of a Watts heel turn on Bruno.

The Grahams had never gotten a rematch; Dr. Jerry Graham had a clause in the contract that called for “The Graham Brothers”, not specifying first names. Kiniski and Von Erich defeated Jerry & Eddie Graham on Feb. 21, 1965, at MSG, in a rare 1 Fall match, to retain the titles. Same deal: they beat Eddie with Jerry never getting into the ring. Eddie had been in for a handful of WWWF appearances in the prior months.

Kiniski and Von Erich subsequently lost the belts to another
heel team, Bill Watts & Gorilla Monsoon. This was also in
Washington, DC, but as a “dark match”, not on television. The
result was announced to viewers, which was a rarity, but an
obvious necessity.

· Von Erich’s first farewell to the WWWF was putting over a new heel, Baron Mikel Scicluma. Scicluma pinned him in just 5:51, clean, at MSG on Dec. 13, 1965, to set up Scicluma for his run against Sammartino. Bruno noted on TV to announcer Ray Morgan that he was “shocked” to see Scicluma beat Von Erich, who had held Bruno to “an hour and a half draw”, in under 6 minutes.


· Oct. 1, 1969 – wins on DQ over Sammartino at MSG.

· Oct. 27, 1969 – Bruno pins Waldo in the rematch.

· Jan. 29, 1970 – with Killer Kowalski, loses to International Tagteam Champions Tony Marino and Victor Rivera when the heels start fighting each other. Von Erich pinned Marino for the first fall; Marino pinned Waldo for the 2nd fall. Waldo blamed Kowalski for the loss; Kowalski blamed Waldo; they started slugging it out to the delight of the crowd.

Von Erich and Kowalski fought on March 9, 1970, in a heel match where Kowalski was cheered to the roof; Von Erich incredibly booed. The match was under 10 minutes, and had amazing heat, until a weak ending where both men tried to grab Von Erich’s riding crop and started a tug of war, and the ref called for a double dq.


-- Von Erich returned for another run at Sammartino, although was a bit overshadowed by Spiros Arion, who was red hot as a heel, having turned on Bruno.

-- Von Erich beat Chief Jay Strongbow at MSG in 25 seconds, via countout, on April 14, 1975. Von Erich attacked Strongbow from behind before the bell, and threw him out of the ring. At the time, it was a rare loss for Strongbow.

-- Von Erich had two matches against Sammartino, getting a shallow count out win on May 19th at MSG; losing quickly in a rematch on June 16th, in just 4:12. For the rematch, Bruno had been legitimately injured, so the match was kept short. It was thus not a great match, but had amazing heat. This match is available currently on YouTube.

-- Von Erich subsequently teamed with Spiros Arion.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

John Tolos/The Tolos Brothers

The Tolos Brothers were a top tagteam wherever they went, in the
1950's and 1960's. The recent death, at the end of May 2009, of John Tolos, conjures up memories.

The Tolos Brothers were usually heels (bad guys), usually won, and were talented
wrestlers. John Tolos went on to be a top singles' star in the 1970's, dominating California action.

The Tolos Brothers won the WWWF U.S. Tagteam Championship in the Teaneck Armory (NJ),
in December 1963, from another heel team, Gorilla Monsoon and Killer Kowalski.
Prior to the match, the brothers did an interview on Washington, DC TV with announcer
Ray Morgan, basically in a rare babyface (good guy) role, noting that they had " a lot of fans in Teaneck".

On the night of the match, the Tolos Brothers were cheered through the roof.
For the first fall, all 4 men piled on Gorilla Monsoon, and the ref counted a pin anyway. Monsoon protested the loss, and left the arena. It was now 2 on 1, and the Tolos Brothers pinned Kowalski to take the second fall and the belts.

There was a rematch held in the Paterson, NJ Armory in early 1963, but it was a 3 fall curfew draw, and the Tolos Brothers retained the belts.

The title reign was short lived, as the Tolos Brothers took an opportunity down South. They dropped the belts in February 1964 in 2 straight falls, to the team of Argentine Apollo and Don McClarity.

They were known by many names, including "The Greek Canadian Wrecking Crew".

Friday, May 15, 2009

"Then" vs. "Now"

Once upon a time wrestling was "territory" business in the U.S.
Each promoter controlled their own geography; they exchanged talent;
and used TV as the driver to get their big pay-offs, which was a live gate.

Today, the U.S. is dominated by World Wrestling Entertainment, with story lines to promote the big pay-offs, which are now pay-per-views and merchandising.

When Buddy Rogers and Pat O'Connor had their classic 1961 2 out of 3 fall title
match, you basically had to be there, and the promotion money was the live gate.
In 2009, if the match were held, it still would have had the huge crowd, but
also pay-per-view revenue that the combatants could never had imagined.

In 2009, wrestlers periodically defeat each other, and title belts switch
constantly. Buddy Rogers held his title close to two years, defending it all
over the country (although more in the Northeast as Vince McMahon Sr. controlled
his schedule); Bruno Sammartino had 8 and 3 year reigns respectively; etc.
It is unlikely that a multiple year reign will occur again, unless the make-up of pro wrestling changes once again.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The first Sammartino-Gorilla Monsoon match

In 1963, Bruno Sammartino was WWWF champion. A new monster heel, the 401
pound Gorilla Monsoon, was brought in by Bobby Davis, "Manager of Champions".

Monsoon demolished opponents on television weekly, finishing them off with a
giant swing, Manchurian Avalanche (big splash), and pin.

When Buddy Rogers retired prior to a big rematch set for Roosevelt Stadium, in Jersey City, a tournament was held on television in association with "Ring Wrestling" magazine. In the final match, Monsoon pinned another major heel, Killer Buddy Austin,
in less than a minute, to get the title shot.

Thus, the first meeting of Monsoon and Sammartino was now set for Friday, October 4th, 1963.

Little known trivia is that Gino Marella (Monsoon's real name) and Sammartino had previously fought in Canada -- however, this was the first time Bruno met "Gorilla
Monsoon", who Bobby Davis had discovered wading nude in a mountain stream in Manchuria.

Monsoon won the first meeting via disqualification, and they had a series of rematches at Madison Square Garden. Bruno finally vanquished his huge (billed at 401 pounds) opponent.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bruno Sammartino's early days as champ

When Bruno Sammartino won the WWF title from Buddy Rogers, he
quickly went after Rogers' associates, Handsome Johnny Barend and
Magnificent Maurice.

Then came Hans "The Great" Mortier, with manager Wild Red Berry, and with
rippling stomach muscles. Mortier had a powerful full nelson, called "The Guillotene", which made opponents lose consciousness.

Sammartino defeated Mortier in Madison Square Garden -- his first opponent after

Rogers wasn't quite done. With partner, Handsome Johnny Barend, he teamed in the
Garden to take 2 out of 3 falls from Bruno Sammartino and Bobo Brazil. Rogers pinned
Sammartino in the 3rd and deciding fall, to take the match.

Rogers was set for a return match with Sammartino, on Friday, October 4th, 1963,
at Roosevelt Stadium, an outdoor venue,in Jersey City, NJ. The tickets were printed with Rogers vs. Sammartino noted. However, Rogers retired before the match took place, and a new replacement emerged -- Gorilla Monsoon.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Enter Bruno Sammartino

Bruno Sammartino was the "Italian Strongboy" from Abruzzi, Italy.
He had numerous title bouts with Buddy Rogers, but never at Madison
Square Garden.

His time came in 1963. Sammartino put up $1,000 of his own money
to wrestle Buddy Rogers, on Washington, DC TV. The match never got started.
Rogers turned around to attack Bruno before the bell (Rogers later said
"I just wanted to shake the man's hand"), but Sammartino was ready. He quickly
demplished Rogers before the bell. The match was ruled a "no contest".

Announcer Ray Morgan, who had been holding the checks, gave them to Bruno.

The big title match was then set for Madison Square Garden, on May 17, 1963.
Sammartino won in less than a minute, in front of a packed house, and became
the new Worldwide Wrestling Federation Champion.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Buddy Rogers' title reign

Buddy Rogers was the ultimate heel -- probably the best of all time,
as far as can be determined. People really hated the guy, and wanted to
see him beaten.

Rogers had strong wrestling skills, and terrific showmanship. The strut, the
figure-4 legvine (submission hold), the arrogance. He was very cowardly when fan favorites were coming after him, and often didn't want to defend the world title
against the challengers with momentum. However, when the match ultimately came,
he would prevail.

Rogers won the NWA world title in Comisky Park, Chicago in June 1961; lost it in
January 1963 to Lou Thesz in Toronto, Canada. However, eastern promoters
(Vince McMahon Sr.) didn't recognize the title change, and Worldwide Wrestling
Federation President (new organization ath the time) "returned" the belt to Rogers
on Washington, DC television.

While NWA champion, Rogers teamed with Handsome Johnny Barend to win the
U.S. Tagteam titles.

When Rogers won the NWA title, in his first interview, in the ring after he defeated
Pat O'Conner, his comment was "To a nicer guy this couldn't have happened." And the fans booed.