Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Inside Wrestling, May 1969 / The Toughest Bout I Ever Had
OK, mat fans, up for your reading pleasure today is the last in this series of wrestling posts, a fun issue of Inside Wrestling from May 1969 in which a number of legends of the ring disclose "The Toughest Bout I Ever Had" in their own words. If that Weider Wrestling magazine from a few posts back was a dense read, Inside Wrestling in this era was quite the opposite with big type and a fast pace. I've picked up a few early issues of this magazine from this era, and they're a real hoot.
Get the full scan here!
The letters page in a magazine is always a draw for me and is often a good indicator of who is in fact reading a publication. In this issue, there's a whole page dedicated to divisive issue of inter-gender wrestling which I found pretty surprising, thinking that the subject didn't really come up until Andy Kaufman used it to kick off his career as despicable heel. But, indeed, there was some precedent apparently:
The bottom right letter mentions a "mixed match," wowsah, I'll have to keep an eye out for that issue to learn more. The first three letters reference some letters from early in the year, so apparently it's a subject that inspired a number of readers to write letters. I like these girls that are certain that they can lick the boys and find just as entertaining the men that insist such a thing isn't possible and are more than willing to prove the fact. Maybe a young Andy Kaufman got the idea from reading in these old magazines. A fun film regarding Andy's bizarre time in wrestling (which was terrible for his career and relationships, he must have been an intense personal desire to be a wrestler) is I'm From Hollywood (1989), check it out. Here's a couple of pertinent youtube clips. Probably the most famous clip regarding Andy's battling women, Kaufman baits Jerry Lawler as part of their famous feud with words and actions bound to incite:
And here's another clip I discovered this morning -not from I'm From Hollywood, I'm not sure where it comes from - but Andy reveals a little bit of his motivation and the ideas behind his career in wrestling:
Apparently, there's a whole book of letters from women written to Kaufman during this time, I guess he cherished them as keepsakes, oh my. Just this week, controversy surrounding inter-gender wrestling came up in high school competition in Iowa and made the national news. I pretty much applaud the behavior of all involved in this for doing their own thing:
Hell, I might even prefer if my little girl wanted to wrestle to her latest activity, cheerleading, but we don't get to pick our kids' pursuits, eh?
But on to the meat of the issue! After wrestling thousands of bouts, I can understand why it would be hard to pick just one, but a number of the wrestlers could pick a match immediately, while others might have made more sentimental or symbolic picks.
Edouard Carpentier had no troubling picking out his toughest match against Killer Kowalski who I wrote about a couple posts ago.
Carpentier, "The Flying Frenchman," died in October of last year. He is remembered as one of the first wrestlers to adopt the acrobatic style that is so popular in modern wrestling, especially among the luchador types, and he had a long and successful career in international wrestling. Greg Oliver wrote a nice obituary for him at SLAM! Sports which you can find here. The article also links to a nice photo gallery as well as a second article in which other wrestlers remember Carpentier. If you want to see some of his somersaults in action check out his finishing moves against Mike Valentino in this bout on youtube, good stuff:
Or here's Bobo Brazil's toughest bout, against the dastardly Fritz Von Erich, beware the claw!!! Von Erich ran a very succesful promotion in Texas, Big Time Wrestling which would switch to the name of World Class Championship Wrestling around the time the elder Von Erich retired in 1982.
And one more of these toughest bouts, an infamous match in the career of Gorgeous George and The Destroyer, Dick Beyer. "Mask vs. Hair" - if George lost, off went the golden locks, if The Destroyer lost, he'd be unmasked, equally terrible for a concealed wrestler.
The Destroyer has an excellent site here, order your Destroyer mask today - I am! The kids will love it (I think I'll have to go with the Dr. X incarnation). What a class act Beyer is, as evidenced by his choice of toughest bout and his explaination of it. It was a tough bout for him, you can tell, because of his reverence for George. And you can see him emphasizing how good of a technical wrestler George really was, sentiments I've seen echoed by Lou Thesz, Sputnik Monroe, and others. Watch some of George's youtube clips and you'll see some fantastic moves along with superb "selling" of the action. He was a very energetic wrestler and he could really broadcast what he was doing to the back rows as well as the TV audience through physical comedy and action. John Capouya's bio on George, which I've mentioned on my blog before, spends some time on this bout and casts it as George's swan song - a sad, yet brilliantly conceived, end to George's career, and it's apparent Beyer saw it this way too. George had a severe drinking problem, and by this point in his life, he was on the way out of the sport, his business (a bar) was failing, he had spent 10 days in the hospital for liver failure in early 1962, and two marriages had ended very badly for him. Desperately in need of money, George approached Beyer for the match even thought he knew that it meant losing his hair and quit drinking for the match's preparation and was back in old form in the build-up for what was a fantastic bout. The frenzied crowd grew quiet in the end, though, as Frank and Joseph, George's famed hairdressers, clipped his golden locks, and some fans even left the building, unable to watch proud George lose his hair. His fall would hasten in 1963, and he died destitute on Skid Row on the day after Christmas. Beyer had a long and successful career in the states as well as in Japan and went on to teach P.E. in public schools in New York and coach football, wrestling, and swimming. He's still around and inducted Gorgeous George into the WWE Hall of Fame on March 27th, 2010.
But, though the match above does seem a fitting swan song, it is fair to note that there was a rematch a month later (which was indeed George's last match) and also that this wasn't the first time George had clipped his hair. I'm in the middle of Joe Jares' most excellent and sadly out of print Whatever Happened to Gorgeous George? (which actually covers many topics of interest to the fan of old school wrestling, there is only one chapter on George), and Jares describes a series of matches in Toronto against Whipper Watson in which George put up his hair in 1959 and even has photos of the aftermath in which George seems able to still ham it up and is not as sullen as after the '62 bout. At first, George lost and welshed on the bet, enraging fans, but he would finally get his head shaved the following week after losing again. His second wife, Cherie, even underwent the same indignity, screaming all the while, when George bet her hair to Watson after having lost his own. Perhaps because these matches were in Canada, they are not as well known. It was much easier to re-use story lines in different territories before the sport went truly national with cable in the 80s.
And I can't resist posting another fun article from the issue. Remember folks, it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. An article on Pedro Morales and his experience tagging with midget wrestler, Lord Littlebrook (the small wrestlers had gimmicks, too, and were lords, indians, cowboys, etc). In our PC age, we don't allow such things, but midget wrestling was loved by fans and children and was a staple of the sport for many years. Morales seems sincere in his adoration of Littlebrook, and indeed these little men (and women) were capable of mighty feats of athletics and entertainment.
A couple more samples from the issue. Say it isn't so, Brenda!
Eye-gouging is a standard tactic for the heel, but this article describes the horror up-close and personal, egad.
Well, that's it for wrestling magazines for now, I hope you've enjoyed it mat-fans. At some point in the future, I'm bound to write more on wrestling and have really enjoyed typing these posts for y'all, but I've got to move on to other topics of interest. Coming up!!! - a definition of pulp, editing tips, my long-promised series of posts on the birth of the girlie pulps, a series on Bernarr MacFadden's earliest magazines and then his success and varied magazines of the 20s, the art of Matt Baker's romance covers, confession magazines, Western pulp, Jim Thompson and Master Detective, the circus!, The Youth's Companion and The American Boy, Dashiell Hammett and The American, The Chicago Seed, The East Village Other, a selection of magazines from the roller derby, McClure's and the turn-of-the-century magazine, hobo publications, and much, much more. I better get off my ass and type more often! Big thanks again to my man McCoy for the edit on today's issue. He did a fantastic job with this magazine considering the many, many joins and the uneven inks. He may be a silent partner here, but he works just as hard as I do on all this stuff, so it is appreciated!