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Ricky Jackson

"The Unpredictable" Johnny Rodz (aka The Jobber Thread)

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What started as Parv throwing me the scraps when it came to wrestler bios on Titans ("Kelly, I don't have time for DeNucci, would you mind...") has evolved into me becoming pretty excited when a new obscure name pops up on the docket to research for an upcoming show (coming soon...Rick Stallone!!!). If I'm fated to be remembered as the jobber expert, well, I'm going to be the best damn jobber expert out there.

 

I'm going to use this thread to work some things out, going where few fans dare tread, and hopefully retain my sanity. You can have your projects where you view the greatest matches of the 2000's or classic Japanese wrestling, that's easy. You can have your Flair's and Misawa's. I think it is high time the job guys, the guys who made the stars look good, get their due. Give me Scicluna, Doherty and Moooooose. *****? I'll be happy with *.

 

When it comes to jobbers, specifically WWWF/WWF jobbers of the 70s and early-80s, perhaps none is more fondly remembered than "The Unpredictable" Johnny Rodz. Rodz was basically the leader of the NYC jobber crew and, as mentioned by Tito during his interview with Parv and Pete, highly respected backstage. Recently, we watched a match between Rodz and SD Jones from 3/16/81 MSG and it was damn good, with Rodz looking fantastic as a total dick heel. This got me thinking, "what do we know about Rodz as a performer? Does he warrant examination?" I say yes he does. I'm going to start by looking at an earlier encounter between the two.

 

Johnny Rodz vs SD Jones - 8/7/76, MSG

 

Rodz is decked out in some of the most pimp 70s wrestling gear possible - Red and white striped trunks, with what appears to be a crescent moon symbol, over top red and green tights with striped boots. Kung Fu eat your heart out! Like their match from 5 years later, we start out with a snug mat exchange. Jones is very young, in great shape, and also quite green. Probably owing to that greenness, this match doesn't really go anywhere. Rodz works an armbar with Jones fighting and failing to escape, aided by Rodz taking shortcuts to maintain the advantage. We get the obligatory black stereotype spot where Rodz punches Jones on the top of his head and ends up hurting his hand. Jones' fired up comeback spot lacks polish, and overall Jones' offense here looks awkward and tentative. Not much heat. The finish has Jones winning with the "WWWF Special" - the double pin spot off a German suplex, where the suplexee gets their shoulder up before the three count and the suplexer is pinned.

 

Not much of a match, but it is interesting to see how far these two would come in 5 years as far as working a compelling match is concerned. Jones was definitely green, but Rodz was a solid performer in 76. He just didn't have much to work with here.

 

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Johnny Rodz vs Kevin Von Erich - 1/21/80, MSG

 

This was Kevin's one and only MSG appearance. At this time, with Vince Sr being a cooperative member of the NWA, it wasn't unusual for outside talent to work MSG. Besides Kevin, David and Kerry each worked a show at this time, as did Youngblood and Steamboat, Mike Graham, Tommy Rich and Roddy Piper (the latter three also against Rodz), among others. This match is interesting if for nothing else as a great example of two guys working together who didn't know each other, didn't really cooperate, basically just flailed away, and thankfully it comes off as gritty and somewhat like a real fight instead of a business exposing disaster. That's the best way to spin this match, because it's nothing special. The match begins with an awkward back and forth exchange with little selling and little structure, while Howard Finkel flirts with a young woman at ringside. Eventually things settle down with Rodz using the same armbar spot as with Jones. Kevin looks like a stud, especially compared to a lot of the talent in NYC at the time - young and athletic like Bob. Also like Bob, (and to the annoyance of Parv) Kevin is always struggling and doesn't sell or show much vulnerability. I've seen it written that many wrestlers considered Kevin a "crowbar" (hard to lead around the ring) and I definitely get that impression here. I also get the impression that Rodz wasn't too impressed with this young punk and accordingly doesn't go out of his way to make Kevin look good, but I may be wrong. Anyway, Kevin wins a Thesz Press.

 

Like I said, this was a bit messy, but in the hands of lesser performers it could have been much worse. Still, nothing to go out of your way to see. Again, Rodz didn't have a lot to work with, as Kevin wouldn't really allow Rodz to get any heat on him, and as a result we get a formless match

 

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Today: The J. Rodz Saturday TV Super Spectacular!!!

 

Johnny Rodz and Baron Mikel Scicluna vs Andre the Giant - 3/26/80, Hamburg, PA

 

Rodz and Scicluna teamed about 4-5 times in 1980, even participating in a tournament for the vacant tag straps in August 1980, losing to the short-lived team of Dominic DeNucci and Rick Martel. (Actually, according to Wrestlingdata.com, in his career Rodz only teamed with Jose Estrada more often than the Baron) Here, of course, they are sacrificial lambs to the Eighth Wonder of the World. The Baron was actually quite tall, towering over Rodz, and not terribly shorter than Andre, really. Andre seemingly emerges from the crowd, followed by a bunch of children, behaving every bit like the lovable friendly giant he was at the time. Match starts and the Baron immediately teases the hide-the-foreign-object spot, but it goes no further than that, although Bruno on colour unconvincingly attempts to make the point that Andre would be in trouble if the Baron could actually connect with the object. Pure comedy match, and the Baron is the star of the team in this respect. Rodz is just kinda there, besides bumping around pretty well for Andre. Hilarious spot where Andre bearhugs both men at the same time, releases them, and the Baron staggers comically before falling on top of Rodz like he is covering him for a pin. Eventually Rodz succumbs to the big boot-butt splash combo.

 

Fun stuff from the Baron (actually one of the better performances I've seen from him) and Andre, but Rodz was basically just along for the ride. It's a throwaway TV handicap squash, so it is what it is.

 

 

Next up,

 

Johnny Rodz vs Chief Jay Strongbow - 8/22/79, Hamburg, PA

 

Since these are more or less totally forgettable, nothing affairs, I'm going to start a Rodz Fashion Watch in order to amuse myself, because one of the most unpredictable things about Rodz seems to be his wardrobe. Here, pre-match, Rodz is decked out in a swank cape. To start, Rodz complains about Strongbow's leg brace to the ref (this was during the Chief's feud with Greg Valentine, where he was recovering from a broken leg at the hands of the Hammer) and uses this distraction to blindside him. This was basically a back and forth fight, but, being a meaningless four minute TV bout, of course lacking any emotion or drama. Rodz takes some nice bumps, bouncing off the ropes and staggering around. Rodz eventually succumbs to a throat chop after jumping off the top rope for the three count.

 

Rodz looked good in the short amount of time allowed. His bumping seems to be his calling card. His bumps are fun and unique...one may even say...Unpredictable

 

 

Lastly,

 

Johnny Rodz vs Tony Garea - 3/30/83, Hamburg, PA

 

A bit later here. This is the Tony Johnny adored as a young wrestling fan, on the cusp of a slide into irrelevance. This time, Rodz is wearing a green t-shirt advertising a gym of some sort, with yellow and green striped trunks. Vince on commentary considers this match a "pick 'em". Ray Stevens (?) on colour agrees, and then goes way over the top by proclaiming that both men are capable of beating any wrestler in the world any day of the week. Rodz works the old taking-the-padding-off-corner spot, which of course backfires. Garea gives Rodz most of the match, with Garea having several hope spot nearfalls. The ending sees Garea win with a bit of an awkward looking flying bodypress.

 

Rodz was fine, with some nice bumps again.

 

 

Okay, this wasn't much of a Spectacular. These matches are too short to really give Rodz a chance to do anything meaningful psychology or work wise, although the Baron was able to shine a bit in the handicap match in the short time allotted. Not saying Rodz was some hidden genius of the ring or anything, beaten down by having mind-numbing squash after mind-numbing squash. But MSG and Spectrum matches will provide me with a much better glimpse at Rodz as an overall performer. Just need to find the right opponent for him to shine in that setting. We'll see what I can dig up.

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It's too bad that we don't have footage of him as Java Ruuk in Los Angeles & Montreal or much of him as one of the Super Medicos in WWC with Jose Estrada. We got Estrada in that gimmick a good bit but not Rodz

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Johnny Rodz and Kevin Sullivan vs The Destroyer and Jumbo Tsuruta, 2 out of 3 falls - 6/13/74, Tokyo, Japan AJPW

 

So, this happened in 1974. Scholars of Japanese wrestling history know that nothing beats 1970s (and early-80s for that matter) AJPW for the most random and unusual pairings of wrestlers ever. Guys who would otherwise never team up in North America routinely worked tags in 70s AJPW. (Random example from the same tour - Gorilla Monsoon teaming with Mr.Fuji on 5/30) On this tour, Rodz also teamed with Monsoon, formed a six-man with Monsoon and Spiros Arion, and wrestled Jumbo to a time limit draw (!) on 5/25. This was one of two tours of Japan for Rodz, at least that I could find results for. (thanks Cagematch!) The other came in 1978, when The Unpredictable One went 1-27, with the lone win coming in a tag match on his last night in the country.

 

Starting off, Jumbo and Sullivan are very young, with Jumbo in particular likely nearly unrecognizable to the fan of early-90s AJPW. Sullivan had only been in the business for two years at this point. Rodz Fashion Watch sees Johnny decked out in full length red and black tights with "JR" and the symbol of a sword on the rear. This one goes about 15 minutes, with lots of action as far as working routines and spots goes, with really no rest holds, but in the end it isn't anything memorable. Rodz and Sullivan are total heels in this, constantly interfering, cheating and complaining to the referee. Rodz is constantly jawing with the referee and being vocal. He busts out his patented selling and bumping, and in general holds up his end of the match well. The Destroyer is of course the star of the match, always working in and out of the ring, and constantly adding all kinds of little touches that make him stand out from the rest. He has a million tricks in his bag, basically directs traffic and controls the flow of the match, and the crowd eats up all his comedy spots. Jumbo gets the pin on Sullivan for the first fall after a back breaker. 2nd fall starts out with total comedy. At one point, Rodz is blinded by a thumb to the eye from the Destroyer and is so discombobulated he goes after Sullivan and puts him in a headlock, while Jumbo, the Destroyer and the crowd react with amusement. Eventually, Rodz and Sullivan work over Jumbo for most of the fall. Not much heat, and this is where the match slows down. Jumbo rallies and begins to work on Rodz's leg, finally makes the tag, and the Destroyer comes in and immediately finishes Rodz off with a figure-four for a 2-0 win.

 

Some fun spots, the Destroyer is almost always great in my book, and the match is interesting from a historical viewpoint and for the sheer randomness factor. Overall, Rodz wasn't out of place in this match and he worked hard. His job is to make the stars look good, and in this respect he always succeeds. Thus far in this examination, the match with SD from 3/16/81 MSG is still the best I've seen from him. However, there are matches still to come that look promising.

 

Here's the match:

 

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xfy93o_jumbo-tsuruta-the-destroyer-vs-johnny-rodz-kevin-sulliva_sport

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Ok, another week, another Rodz...

 

Johnny Rodz vs Manuel Soto - 10/25/76, MSG

 

We haven't encountered Soto on Titans yet, but he had a very long run in NYC, spanning nearly twenty years from 1963-1982. He was from Puerto Rico, which at least partially explains his longevity in the territory, coming during a time when Vince Sr relied heavily on ethnic talent. In the 60s Soto was billed as "Cyclone", and he often teamed with his brother Roberto "Hurricane" Soto at that time. (and through the years) Soto worked many other territories - Florida, Central States, Texas, Tri-States, Georgia, NWF, LA, and the Carolinas - but always came back to NYC. He was pushed a few times, most notably Georgia in 1969-70, where he held the "Macon Tag Team Titles" with his brother (I believe Macon was a sub-territory within Georgia, similar to Columbus, that used the same talent, but had their own belts, angles, and even TV(?)), and LA in 1974, where he held tag straps with Porkchop Cash and had a one week reign with the Beat the Champ TV title. He wrestled Rodz frequently over the years, as early as 1970 and as late as 1982.

 

This match is the curtain jerker. If Bruno wrestled the most main events in MSG history, I wonder if Rodz jerked the most curtains in MSG history? Something to eventually research. Anyway, Rodz Fashion Watch kicks into high gear, with The Unpredictable One decked out in an extremely colourful vest, with a yellow towel around his neck and yellow trunks with black vertical stripes. Jack Lee is your ring announcer, different than the dude from 75 whose name escapes me, and only a few months before Finkel takes over. Soto has a pretty nondescript look. A fan at ringside yells "Hey Johnny, we love you" right after the bell. Man, I wish I could have been part of these MSG crowds back in the 70s. Scorsese should have made a film about wrestling in NYC back then. (there is your DeNiro as Bruno casting) Rodz stalls and avoids contact for several minutes before getting the advantage with a shot to the gut. Next is a flurry of cheating - kicks, chokes, eye pokes, using the ropes for leverage, etc. Rodz struts around the ring and brags to the crowd. Long beatdown on Soto. Eventually, Soto makes a so-so (or is it So-to?...sorry) comeback, but Rodz bumps around enough to make it look as good as possible. Rodz takes a MASSIVE backdrop, getting major air and almost doing a 360. Soto gets the win with a flying bodypress, and the ref makes Rodz look like even more of a loser by delivering a super slow count. A post-match brawl sees Rodz get tossed over the top rope, adding insult to injury.

 

This match isn't boring, but at the same time it isn't exciting, if that makes sense. It lacks any kind of psychology or purpose that could have made it something other than another dime a dozen curtain jerker . Some of the work was sloppy from both men, with a few mistimed spots, and Soto's punches in particular looked pretty weak. I'm still holding out hope that with the right opponent Rodz can produce another memorable match. The next one I plan on watching has Rodz take on a pretty well respected worker, so there is still reason for optimism.

 

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Never change Kelly, this shit is awesome.

 

throwaway TV handicap squash

it is what it is

totally forgettable, nothing affairs

meaningless four minute TV bout

lacking any emotion or drama

LMAO! Those should be the quotes on the poster.

 

I'm pretty interested in that tag match though. Like you say, the sheer randomness of it! And you make Destroyer sound phenomenal.

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Thanks for the praise guys

 

Today, Johnny Rodz: The Early Years, 1964-1969

 

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to locate any 1960s Rodz footage yet. Not sure if any is out there. Instead, I'll give you the next best thing: random historical facts accompanied with illustrations!

 

Rodz (Johnny Rodriguez) was born 5/16/38 in NYC. Wrestlingdata.com and Wikipedia list his wrestling debut as 1964. First results I could find online are from 1965. So he was a bit of a late entrant into wrestling (25-26) if the dates are accurate.

First result I have is 4/16/65 for the WWWF, losing to Arnold Skaaland in Trenton, NJ, at a place called Moose Hall

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The first evidence I could find of a Rodz victory was him defeating Hector Serrano (the future Black Demon from Titans #31) at a TV taping in Baltimore 10/2/65

 

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Other highlights: He defeated a pure jobber (someone who is so obscure you can't click on their name for further information on Wrestlingdata) named Jay Flores 5/7/66 at a TV taping in Baltimore. He lost to Ernie Bemis, one of the numerous men to wrestle under the Mr. Clean/Mr. Kleen gimmick in the 1960s/70s, 9/22/66 in DC

 

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Rodz debuted at MSG 7/31/67, defeating Frank Holtz in the curtain jerker

 

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I mentioned I would eventually research how many times Rodz jerked the curtain at MSG. The answer is 28 times, with the last coming on 1/22/83, defeating fellow longtime NYC job guy Pete Sanchez. Rodz jerked the majority of his curtains at MSG between 1974-1979. I'm not sure if 28 curtain jerks at MSG is the record, but I'd like to believe that it was, making Rodz the true anti-Bruno.

 

Another interesting MSG-related Rodz fact is that he very often wrestled guys who were in for only one shot, or a very rare appearance. This list includes:

Jumbo Tsuruta 4/1/74, Billy Robinson 11/17/75, Chavo Guerrero 12/20/76, Greg Gagne 1/17/77, Gino Hernandez 3/7/77, Carlos Colon 8/1/77, Dick Murdoch 3/26/79, Roddy Piper 7/30/79, Mike Graham 12/17/79, Kevin Von Erich 1/21/80, and Tommy Rich 2/18/80. Rodz also put over Curt Hennig in his MSG debut 6/8/81, and (w.Rene Goulet) the British Bulldogs in their MSG debut (and Rodz's last MSG match) 4/22/85. I think the fact that he was repeatedly chosen to work with wrestlers who the MSG crowd didn't know is an excellent example of the high amount of respect Rodz received backstage as a worker who could make guys look great in the ring and help get over.

 

Rodz often wrestled and defeated a young Carlos Colon during Colon's days as a WWWF JTTS in 1968/69. Colon's early days are interesting. He wrestled as a mid-carder in Calgary and Portland as Carlos Belefonte between 70-74. He once wrestled as Chief Black Eagle in 1971 IWE (Japan). And he also wrestled for outlaw All South in 1974 Georgia, just before becoming a major star in Puerto Rico

 

One last note on Rodz in the 1960s. On 3/3/69 in DC he lost to a pure jobber named Cecil February. This doesn't mean anything other than I think Cecil February is one of the greatest names I've ever heard, wrestling or otherwise. Alas, he is a pure jobber and I can't click on his name to learn more....

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This time, a rare look at babyface Rodz. This is also the match I alluded to earlier as one that looked promising due to Rodz's opponent.

 

Johnny Rodz vs Mr. Saito - 5/22/82, Philadelphia Spectrum

 

While he was usually a heel in NYC, Rodz did play face from time to time. Basically, a lot of WWWF/WWF job guys went back and forth between heel and face - Jose Estrada is another who comes to mind - with no rhyme or reason, and often switching from month to month and show to show. Rodz himself wrestled heel the previous month in Philly. In general, it seems Rodz played face more often in Philly than he did at MSG, fitting for a traditionally heel-loving audience, wrestling guys like Tor Kamata, Larry Sharpe, The Baron (only days after teaming with him in a tournament for the vacant tag straps), Frank Savage and the Hangman (from Titans #28).

 

Also, to build upon research from last time, Rodz jerked the curtain 22 times at the Spectrum between 1976 and 1985. That is less jerks than MSG, but he appeared on far less Spectrum shows overall, as the venue didn't host wrestling cards until 1974 (Rodz began wrestling at MSG in 1967), so the ratio is higher.

 

The video starts with an absolutely ancient ring announcer introducing the match. We haven't encountered this man before on Titans, as this is usually Cappetta's turf, but it turns out it is legendary Philadelphia sports public address announcer Dave Zinkoff. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Zinkoff

 

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This guy is awesome. He gives Joe McHugh a run for his money in the "guys who have been announcing since the Roaring Twenties" department. His voice is great, and he introduces the ever fashionable Rodz as wearing "Kelly Green trunks". The referee is slightly younger than Zinkoff, only being active since the Great Depression. Anyway, Dick and Kal are of course on commentary and have nothing but praise for Rodz. Warning for those easily offended: the Japanese wrestler delivers a "Pearl Harbor" attack on Rodz to start the match. Rodz unloads a fired up comeback with the crowd loving it. He still fights dirty - blatantly pulling Saito's hair - and the match is actually more a battle of heels, with Rodz as de facto face, which makes things more interesting. Rodz does the row-row Backlund-style headlock spot, and both men work the headlock well. I've come to really be a mark for a well-worked headlock spot. Man, I MUST be getting old. Saito sells great for Rodz, making him look like a world beater. Rodz lays in some pretty good punches, and for a brief moment this was looking like a possible contender for Best Rodz Match. Unfortunately, after a hot start, things slow down a bit, and then they rush to the finish, which has no impact. (SPOILER: Saito wins, if there was any doubt)

 

Man, this was kinda frustrating, as the match had promise at first, but then went nowhere. Honestly, I really wanted to discover a hidden gem with this one and have people be like "Hey, you need to check out this Rodz match, man". Oh well. The first few minutes were fun and seeing babyface Rodz is pretty cool, but still nothing to recommend. The search continues...

 

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This time, a supplement to a match we looked at on Titans #39 (yeah, I'm lazy today)

 

Johnny Rodz vs Mil Mascaras - 4/7/81, Allentown, PA (checking the results, this match may have actually happened 6/30/81)

 

Rodz is rocking the Kelly Green trunks again, but other than that, a disappointing Fashion Watch this time around - no shirt, cape, jacket, towel, etc. Guess I have to focus on the match. His opponent is Mil "Mr. Fancy Pants" Mascaras, a worker who has a rep for being all flash (and not even good flash) and no substance. He doesn't really do much to dispel that notion here, and he is also surprisingly not over at all to the Allentown crowd. (Mascaras had just returned to the territory after an absence of almost 3 years, so maybe he was seen as yesterday's news) On the other hand, Mascaras also has a rep for not selling much, but he sells for Rodz a fair bit. Does this speak to the respect Rodz commanded from the other wrestlers? I don't know, but I would like to believe that Mil knew better than to pull his no-sell bullshit with Rodz. The two have a nice little matwork spot at the beginning. From what I've seen, Rodz was actually pretty good working the mat. Rodz actually gets a lot in on Mascaras before Mil takes it home with two of his patented flying tackles (the first one barely grazing Rodz) and a lighting-fast three count from the ref.

 

Again, some nice matwork from Rodz here, but the match was too short for anything of real substance

 

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xl78o1_mil-mascaras-vs-johnny-rodz_sport

 

Hell, since I have nothing better to do, why not another look at these two...

 

Johnny Rodz vs Mil Mascaras - 9/23/81, Hamburg, PA

 

Not the most constructive use of five minutes, but whatever. This one is JIP. Back and forth action at the start. Personal favorite Rodz moment in this match, as he escapes from a Mascaras submission hold by biting him in the back. Another super quickie with the same finish as the previous match, complete with a fast count from the ref. I love how they consistently maintained the "ref screws over the bad guy by giving a fast count" motif throughout the Vince Sr years. Things pick up post-match, as Rodz blindsides Mascaras, Mascaras chases Rodz outside the ring, but the Unpredictable One escapes and does the cheeky "point to head, I'm smart" sign with a big smirk on his face. Mascaras stomps around enraged. Nice to see Rodz come away with some heat at least.

 

Some nice moments, but a lot of these TV bouts offer little to really sink ones teeth into.

 

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xy81yk_wwf-all-star-wrestling-mil-mascaras-vs-the-unpredictable-johnny-rodz_sport?from_related=related.page.int.gravity-only.b38f304acc069aabe96cacb66f5a57bd141823661

 

 

Next time: Johnny Rodz - tag team specialist!

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2014 ends with a double dose of Rodz-erific tag team action!

 

Johnny Rodz and "Big" Joe Nova vs The Flying Tigers (Manuel Soto and Pete Sanchez) - 1975, Philadelphia Arena

 

Couldn't nail down an exact date for this one, but almost 100% sure of the year and the place. On first glance this looks like a rare jobber vs jobber match, and a tag one no less. But closer inspection, mainly from (far from perfect but still a pretty good resource) Wrestlingdata.com, reveals that Soto (who we've seen before) and Sanchez (from Titans #6 I believe - and I confuse him with another Pete Sanchez during the bio) were a regular lower-mid card team from 74-77, who routinely challenged the tag champs on smaller shows. So shame on me for chuckling when the ring announcer introduces them as "the popular" Manuel Soto and the "equally as popular" Pete Sanchez. As far as the Flying Tigers name goes, they are never referred to as such during this match, but that is what Wrestlingdata calls them, and I dig it, so the Flying Tigers they shall be.

 

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X-Mas themed Fashion Watch here, with JR decked out in full-length red and green tights. Crowd in Philly super hot for the Tigers, Vince is enthusiastic on commentary, and everyone actually works hard and looks good, particularly Sanchez, who has a bit of a Tito Santana vibe to him. As far as Rodz goes, he shows off some pretty good punches and makes the faces look good as always. As a match, while the participants are energetic and the crowd is hot, technically there isn't much to write home about. Sanchez picks up the win for the Flying Tigers with, appropriately, a flying bodypress.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NfnlgyOL_Q&list=PLV6RCTo_Cd0CJA6wxD_Y_EpgpVQQEW9Ij&index=12

 

Johnny Rodz and Frank Rodriguez vs Andre the Giant and Johnny Rivera - 10/18/77, Philadelphia Arena

 

Some classic pre-match stuff here, as GMC announces that Rodz is going to do some "unusual feats of strength". The Unpredictable One is carrying a basketball and his partner, Rodriguez (who regularly jobbed in the territory in the 70s and early 80s, and who is also decked out in some sweet garb, befitting his nickname "Gypsy") is carrying a "steel rod". In another personal career highlight, Rodz comically attempts to burst the basketball by giving it a headlock.

 

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When this proves unsuccessful, Rodz moves on to the rod and attempts to bend it over his neck, failing miserably of course

 

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At this point, Andre and tiny Rivera (not to be confused with Victor or Mac/Jose Luis, and with a bio also featured on Titans #6) enter the ring and watch in amusement as Rodz struggles. Finally, Andre steps in and easily bends the rod around Rodz's neck like in an old cartoon. And then comes the cherry on top of this sundae and one for the 70s blooper reel, as Andre hilariously attempts to burst the basketball with first a headlock and then by squeezing it with his knee. He fails spectacularly, and the ball rolls out of the ring, unconquered by man.

 

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Oh yeah, there was a match. Vince himself flubs, as he starts to refer to Rodriguez as "Jose Estrada" over the course of the match (those job guys all look the same to you, eh Vince). Mishap with the basketball excluded, Andre always looks awesome in these TV settings, towering over everyone and enhanced by the smaller ring they used back then. Rodz bumps around and makes Andre and Rivera look like a million bucks. Andre pins not-Jose Estrada for the win

 

The pre-match feats of strength were gold. With the bloopers and mistakes, coupled with the unglamorous local of the Philadelphia Arena, this is about as far removed from Vince Jr's vision of micro-produced Sports Entertainment as you can find. I love it

 

 

 

Next time: The legend of Java Ruuk!

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The Legend of Java Ruuk, Part 1

 

So far I have examined the persona the man born Johnny Rodriguez is most remembered for, that of long-time NYC enhancement talent, Johnny Rodz. However, Rodriguez crafted another persona during his time as a professional wrestler (well, two of them, but one story at a time), one that existed almost in an alternate reality, observed by the Watcher and known as "What If Johnny Rodz Wasn't a Jobber?". Yes, in this other world, the man known for curtain jerking and staring at the lights won matches regularly, triumphed in a major battle royal that included Andre the Giant, and was a champion. His name still featured the initials "JR" (why waste money on new wrestling gear after all?), but this man was a beast. This man would've popped that fucking basketball and bent that rod in an instant. This man was....."The Arabian Wildman" Java Ruuk!

 

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It seems the Java Ruuk story begins in Pittsburgh in 1971. At the time, Pittsburgh was an independent wrestling city with its own TV show known as Studio Wrestling. Hometown boy Bruno Sammartino owned and booked the promotion between 1966-1970, at which time he sold to Geeto Mongol (Newton Tattrie) of the Mongol tag team (w. Bepo Mongol, aka Nikolai Volkoff, and the top tag team in the WWWF at the time). Because of the men involved and geographic proximity, Pittsburgh used a lot of WWWF talent over the years. I don't know the exact circumstances, but in 1971 Rodz began wrestling in Pittsburgh as Java Ruuk, basically a rip-off of the highly successful gimmick of The Sheik. The earliest result I have of Ruuk in Pittsburgh is 5/29/71 for a TV match where he triumphed over Terry Yorkston. Soon he was working against local star Johnny DeFazio, arguably the number two man in the city after Bruno. Ruuk would work several matches against some of Pittsburgh's top stars throughout the summer of 71.

 

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The last match I have in Ruuk's 1971 Pittsburgh run is 8/13 at the Civic Arena, teaming with the amazing Tony Altimore in a losing effort against the babyface superteam of DeFazio and Dominic DeNucci (Dom was a Pittsburgh mainstay). Ruuk also wrestled for the old Cleveland-Buffalo NWF promotion in 1971 (which by 1972 would also include Pittsburgh, after Geeto sold to promoter Pedro Martinez. Pittsburgh would finally join the WWWF in 1974 when the NWF closed down), but then vanishes from the records. This is where my limited resources hurt, as there is obviously more to the story here. Between 5/71 (when he started as Ruuk) and 11/73 I cannot find any results for Rodz in the WWWF or elsewhere, and after the 8/13/71 match, none for Ruuk either. So there is basically a two year plus gap between 71-73 with no results for Rodz or Ruuk. Surely he kept wrestling somewhere as somebody. If anyone knows more please let me know. I'm assuming he may have wrestled as Ruuk in the NWF in 1972 and 73, but who knows. No footage of Ruuk in Pittsburgh or the NWF exists that I'm aware of, but that is not to say there isn't some available somewhere.

Next time: Ruuk goes to LA, attains a major victory, and plays a significant role in the development of a legendary star

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Damn bro, I wasted my entire lunch today reading through these…phenomenal shit..cant wait for more...

 

As for Rodz / Ruuk, any chance he went South to Amarillo or another SW promotion for more "Seasoning" on his way out to LA? I'd imaging if he was in Mid-Atlantic or Fla, it would be more known….

 

A quick look only shows 1 match in 72 and one in late 1973 in NY…I wonder if he took time off?

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The Legend of Java Ruuk, Part 2

 

The next chapter in the Ruuk story takes place in Los Angeles in 1976. The first result I have for Ruuk in Mike LaBelle's California territory is 1/6 in San Diego, defeating Tony Rocco. The next night, he wrestled at the legendary Olympic Auditorium for the first time. Nine days later came perhaps the biggest moment of Rodriguez's career, at least from a kayfabe standpoint. On 1/16 at the Olympic Auditorium, Ruuk won the prestigious annual battle royal. At this time, the Los Angeles battle royal was one the most hyped matches of the year, not just in LA, but also nationally in the magazines. Previous winners included Rocky Johnson, Bruno Sammartino, Victor Rivera, and Andre the Giant. I thought there was footage of this battle royal on You Tube, as there is a video listed as "1976 Los Angeles Battle Royal - Andre the Giant, Java Ruuk". Alas, after watching and being confused by the finish where it was clear a fiery babyface appeared to win before the footage cut off, a little research revealed that the video is actually of the 1974 battle royal, not 1976. (The fiery babyface was Victor Rivera, and he actually didn't win - Black Gordman did after blindsiding Rivera with a chair and tossing him out)

 

Winning the battle royal would seem to indicate big things were planned for Ruuk, but looking at the results, he lost the next week at the Olympic, and after a 2/10 result in San Diego he is absent from the territory for three months. However, during this short initial stay in LA Ruuk did play a significant role in the emergence of one of the all-time greats of wrestling. Roddy Piper, heretofore mostly used as a JTTS in the AWA and Texas, among other places, arrived in LA around the same time as Ruuk. I'm not sure of the exact story, but a popular version, and the one told by Piper and fans from the time, is that he debuted in the territory as a babyface JTTS. Shortly after, booker Leo Garibaldi decided to turn Piper heel and give him a push. To do so, he booked Piper to be absolutely destroyed by Ruuk on TV. The next week, Piper came out as Ruuk's manager, explaining if he couldn't beat him he would join him. He would tag with Ruuk often as well. From this point on, Piper of course got over huge as a heel in LA, and would do so in every subsequent territory he wrestled in, on his way to a HoF career.

 

Based on the image of the program I posted previously, I'm guessing they ran an angle where Ruuk was suspended in February and that suspension was lifted in May. Clawmaster's results on the wonderful Sports & Wrestling site http://sportsandwrestling.mywowbb.com/forum2/14053.html have Ruuk wrestling in May and nothing further. Again, there seems to be a missing piece to the Ruuk puzzle. I did stumble upon an interesting piece of history from this time though, a Village Voice review of LA wrestling by Richard Meltzer, Dave's rock critic uncle, from May 17, 1976. https://classicwrestlingarticles.wordpress.com/2014/06/14/this-may-be-the-nadir-but/#more-4661 (My fellow Titans Parv and Pete will likely get a kick out of his scathing opinion of 1976 WWWF)

 

However, Ruuk did return to LA for one last run in 1978. Online records from this time are sparse. Ruuk did resume his partnership with Piper and was involved in his lengthy and legendary feud with Chavo Guerrero. Here is the only footage of Ruuk from LA I could find online, from his 78 run:

 

 

I have no idea how long Ruuk's 78 LA run lasted. Clawmaster has him losing a loser leaves town match to Piper on 9/21 in Bakersfield, CA, so it appears he was turned babyface near the end of his run.

 

This was not the end of Ruuk though. He had one last run in him, in Montreal in 1980. Next time I will attempt to document this run, which may prove difficult because of lack of resources. One thing is for sure about this run though...the Unpredictable One gets to wear gold!

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Johnny Rodz vs SD Jones - 8/7/76, MSG

 

Rodz is decked out in some of the most pimp 70s wrestling gear possible - Red and white striped trunks, with what appears to be a crescent moon symbol, over top red and green tights with striped boots. Kung Fu eat your heart out! Like their match from 5 years later, we start out with a snug mat exchange. Jones is very young, in great shape, and also quite green. Probably owing to that greenness, this match doesn't really go anywhere. Rodz works an armbar with Jones fighting and failing to escape, aided by Rodz taking shortcuts to maintain the advantage. We get the obligatory black stereotype spot where Rodz punches Jones on the top of his head and ends up hurting his hand. Jones' fired up comeback spot lacks polish, and overall Jones' offense here looks awkward and tentative. Not much heat. The finish has Jones winning with the "WWWF Special" - the double pin spot off a German suplex, where the suplexee gets their shoulder up before the three count and the suplexer is pinned.

 

Not much of a match, but it is interesting to see how far these two would come in 5 years as far as working a compelling match is concerned. Jones was definitely green, but Rodz was a solid performer in 76. He just didn't have much to work with here.

 

 

One advantage to jobber matches is that if you don't like what you are watching, its probably going to be over in less than 10 minutes and you can get on with your life. In this instance, you want to back away slowly backwards from SD Jones while juggling up with some cuddly, snuggly Johnny Rodz. Rodz's opening mat control segment is surprisingly snug and well executed as he keeps the stronger Jones down and off the canvas. The major flaw here is that Rodz will sit in holds a bit without really cranking down on them. This is especially evident during the arm bars where he is more just holding onto SD's arm than applying pressure. To be clear, when I say 'major flaw' I mean with Rodz' work because Jones is a walking talking weird punching flaw that ain't no one going to be able to cover at this point. Rodz is sure to get over that he can't outfight Jones and goes to cheap shots a lot to transition but can never maintain the advantage he had at the onset. Rod has some good B-level heeling work here which wouldn't overshadow anything especially dastardly theoretically down the card. Sounds like jobber behavior to me.

 

I give this 2 1/2 Larry Santos.

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Johnny Rodz vs Kevin Von Erich - 1/21/80, MSG

 

I think the main responsibility of a jobber is ultimately to make his opponent look better going out than coming in and in this match, Rodz absolutely fails in this charge. It seems there is an early exchange where Kevin ignores something Johnny does on the early mat section and Rodz decides to sink the match as a result. He escapes very early on a head scissors reversal and basically ignores all of Kevin's attempts to rally until the finish. If anything this match makes both guys seem worse and that's not the jobber way.

 

I give this 1/2 a Larry Santo

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Johnny Rodz vs The "Incredible" Hulk Hogan - 12/17/84, Mid-Hudson Civic Center, Poughkeepsie, NY (aired 1/19/85)

 

Alright, it's April Fools Day, so you would think I would look at a match where the Unpredictable One actually emerged victorious, right? Well, I can't find one. Anyone out there know of one available online, let me know, it needs to be celebrated like the rare jewel it is.

 

Instead, we will look at Rodz in one of the more high profile matches of his WWWF/WWF tenure, vs the champ himself, Hulk Hogan. Now, fans of the era know that this Hulk Hogan, say prior to 1986, is slightly different than the Hulk Hogan most know, the "classic" version of yellow and red, "Real American" and a formulaic, but still fun, match structure. The Hulk Hogan that Rodz faces in this match is what I call "Earth 2" Hulk Hogan. Fans of comics know that Earth 2 is where Superman began fighting crime in the late-30s, worked for the Daily Star instead of the Daily Planet, the "S" on his costume was slightly different looking, and his Kryptonian name was "Kal-L" not "Kal-El". Earth 2 Hogan wears blue tights (sometimes white, sometimes red, and black in Japan), comes to the ring to the always awesome "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor, wears a WWF belt that resembles the old NWA TV title, and wrestles in a much less predictable manner than his Earth 1 counterpart. Earth 2 Hogan is awesome. Oh, and he also bleeds a lot too.

 

Prior to the match, Rodz is sporting a sweater with what almost looks like the New Japan logo on the back, but it is hard to tell for sure. Looking at his records online, I can only find All-Japan results for Rodz, but who knows, he may have wrestled for them and it isn't documented, or maybe he was given the sweater as a gift by another wrestler. Anyway, Hogan storms to the ring to "Eye of the Tiger" and an orgasmic explosion from the Poughkeepsie faithful. Rodz bumps around like a champ for the Hulkster early. Brutus Beefcake and Johnny V come down to ringside to apparently taunt Hogan, but nothing actually comes of it. Weird. At one point, Hogan works an arm-bar spot, something Earth 1 Hogan would never do. Rodz actually gets in a bit of offense and takes Hogan down. This is short-lived though, as Hogan hits a clothesline-elbow-drop-legdrop combo for the pin.

 

This was quick and fun. Hogan at the time is an unstoppable force of nature, full of youthful enthusiasm and vigor. Rodz was in the twilight of his career here, but still able to make his opponent look like a million bucks.

 

Next time: The Thrilling Conclusion of the Java Ruuk Saga!

 

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