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Billy Goelz and other 50s finds

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Next up was Ilio DiPaolo brawling with The Masked Marvel in quite a gimmicky sort of bout. The Marvel was unmasked at the end and the commentator rather sheepishly recognised him as "Bull Wright," a journeyman type the crowd didn't seem to remember or care about much.

 

Following that was an old silent film from the mid-30s with "Mexican Champion" Vincent Lopez taking on Man Mountain Dean in a classic big man vs. wrestler bout. They duked it out in entertaining fashion. This match was also historically important as Lopez won Lou Daro's Los Angeles version of the World Heavyweight Championship amid some pretty intense politics -- http://www.wrestling-titles.com/personalities/lewis_ed/bio/lewisbio25.html

Doc and Mike Gallagher vs. Johnny Barend and Billy Red Lyons was another look at the Gallagher stooges. Doc Gallagher's head was completely shaved here. He looked like he'd been in a hair match somewhere south of the border but the commentator said it was because he delights in going into steam rooms in the various athletic clubs around the country, and when the fellas all look at his fine physique he says "I'm 67," which the old boys get a kick out of. Alrighty then. I was interested in getting a look at Billy Red Lyons here as his friend the Destroyer likes to put him over in shoot interviews, but this isn't the type of bout where you can get a good look at the babyfaces as they're really just foils for the bigger name heels. The match was decent without anything really spectacular happening.

Lindy Lawrence vs. Jacque LaMonte was the first ladies match I've seen from the 50s. Now I'm not going to lie, I thought it would be a bunch of hair pulling and cat fighting. That was just the stereotype I had in my head. Instead, it was a serious wrestling match with real holds and tremendous intensity. They did end up pulling the hair, but they did it while fighting for holds and that made it seem like the match was on a knife edge. Like Lewin vs. Garibaldi, this would make my personal list of the best matches from the 50s.

June Byers vs. Cara Combs was closer to my stereotypical idea of 1950s female wrestling. It was actually a bit of a disappointment considering these two are far bigger names than Lawrence and LaMonte. This was Moolah level stuff for the most part, but the jury's still out and I'll try to keep an open mind about upcoming ladies stuff.

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All right, here we go...

 

June Byers vs. Penny Banner was slightly better stuff from Byers, but it was just highlights so who really knows. Lindy Lawrence vs. Lynn O'Connor was another solid performance from Lawrence. The match wasn't as good as the bout against LaMonte but the focus was on wrestling and not hair pulling, fortunately. The commentator drove me nuts, though. I think he broke some kind of record for how many times you can refer to a wrestler by their full name. And when he wasn't mentioning them by name he was using their nicknames, "Gorgeous" Lindy Lawrence and the "Battling Ballerina" Lynn O'Connor. The full monty was using both and boy did he go for the full monty a lot.

 

Ilio DiPaolo vs. Sato Keomuka was another gimmick match for DiPaolo. This time a Judo Jacket match. Eh.

 

Right after that was Ed "Strangler" Lewis vs. Dick Shikat from 1932. Shikat looks very much like a German wrestler and works like one too. You can see a lot of Horst Hoffman in him, or a lot of Shikat in Hoffman. This was the first time for me to see Lewis wrestle, so I don't have much to go on, but aside from a powerful looking headlock and a sharp side headlock takedown he didn't really show me much. Admittedly, it was only the highlights of an hour plus match (the commentator actually referred to "high spots" at one point), but Shikat appeared the more talented of the two. Good match but not as good as the Londos/Nagurski fight.

 

The clips of Ramona Isabella & Ethel Johnson vs Babs Wingo & Marva Scott were interesting as they were a troupe of Black female wrestlers who toured around the country wrestling each other. I also saw a clip of an old women's match between Olga Baranoff and Hanka Kavetzka but that was very much your cliched slapping and hair pulling.

 

Clips of Abe Coleman vs. Lou Plummer, Jim Londos vs. Ray Steele and Man Mountain Dean vs. Howard Cantonwine all look good, especially the first two match-ups. Man Mountain Dean is the undiscovered fatboy worker of the 30s.

 

Next, I watched some old damaged film of the 1920 Earl Caddock vs. Joe Stecher fight. I believe this match marks the end of the catch-as-catch-can era of professional wrestling and that there has been much debate over the years as to whether it was a work or shoot. I'm not smart enough or well-read enough to enter that debate, but work or shoot it reminded me of shoot style, which should come as no surprise given that catch was one of the foundations of the UWF style. Much of the fight (at least what is shown in the film) is Stecher going for his body scissors hold and Caddock fighting his way out of it and Caddock trying to pin Stecher's shoulders to the mat. In newsreel form it's intriguing but I can't imagine what two hours of it was like.

Finally, we have the complete opposite -- The Beast vs. Argentina Rocca. Well, you might think it's the complete opposite but my God does Johnny Powers go to great lengths on commentary to put this over a legitimate sporting contest even when the Beast is doing comedy spots. The Beast has to be on the short list for hairiest men in (wrestling) history. I'm not a fan of Rocca but the Beast has a knack of making mediocre stars tolerable and there's a novelty to his bouts that hasn't worn off yet. Go the Beast.

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Ida Mae Martinez vs. Terry Majors was fairly typical heel vs. babyface stuff, but Ida Mae was a plucky babyface and I started to get behind her as the match wore on.

 

Next up was a clip of Argentina Rocca taking on a young Johnny Valentine. Unfortunately, it was mostly a showcase of Rocca's biggest offensive moments in the bout and we didn't get to see much from Valentine.

 

Ricki Starr vs. The Zebra Kid also showcased Starr over his opponent. I've always been interested in Ricki Starr, particularly his run in England in the 60s, but I wonder if the novelty wore off after a while. It would be interesting to know if he had many variations on his standard match structure. The Zebra Kid is even more intriguing. It's impossible to know if he was any good from watching this footage, but like the classic luchadores his mask creates an almost instant folklore.

 

You know what was good? Dick the Bruiser vs. Pepper Gomez. I saw them work a grudge match where their styles fit each other perfectly. It was simple kick/punch stuff but with plenty of intensity.

 

The Original Sheik of Araby vs. The Mighty Jumbo, on the other hand, was the most cartoonish thing I've seen on the channel and proof that promoters have long peddled this sort of wrestling.

 

Rita Martinez vs. Maria Gernaldi was another semi-decent women's match. It's noticeable that all the girls who wrestled out of Hollywood have the same type of haircuts that the starlets had during the 50s. The commentator makes a point to refer to them as "beauties" over and over again as well, creating even more thinly veiled attempts at sex appeal.

More Argentina Rocca, this time tagging with Miguel Perez against Jerry and Eddie Graham. Worth watching to see the Graham brothers in action as well as Perez, but the appeal of Rocca is lost on me. You can also see Rocca and Perez in six man action against the Graham brothers with Haystack Calhoun and the Original Sheik of Araby joining the fray. Again, pretty legendary workers but only a few minutes of clips.

 

"Dropkick" Murphy & Nick Lutze vs. LaVerne Baxter & Hardboiled Haggerty is this kind of primitive form of tag wrestling where there are no tags and all four men are in the ring at the same time like a tag team version of a Fatal Four-way. It's a good thing this form of tag wrestling didn't take off as it looks like an ugly battle royal for the most part. There are some neat and inventive spots and Murphy is a bundle of energy, but it's ultimately a bit too weird. Kind of like watching wrestling without corner posts and ropes or in a circle instead of a square.

 

Midgets! Sky Low Low & Billy the Kid vs. Brown Panther & Red Feather. The minis were obviously there to be laughed at and provide the same kind of entertainment as clowns in the circus so I'm not exactly hoping for a minis classico or anything. The heels' gimmicks were a bit racist too, making this an inauspicious start to the minis footage.

 

Lastly, Gene Kiniski vs. The Mighty Ursus. I don't get the appeal of Kiniski at all. Yeah, he's a big strong guy who dishes shit out, but I don't see why he was seen as a champion calibre wrestler. Ursus was a Mexican strongman and so this had a lot of strength holds, and Kiniski powering his way out of holds, but it was nothing special. I kind of wanted to see Kiniski to manhandle Ursus a bit and show me he was a badass, but he's not been the type of guy to ratchet up the intensity thus far.

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Here's the next batch of matches:

 

Skull Murphy & Brute Bernard vs. The Bavarian Boys, Rudi Jacobs and Harry Wenzel was two gimmicked tag teams well before the days of The Killer Bees and the Bolsheviks, and so on. The match was deathly dull despite the fact that the Bavarians were German wrestlers and anybody who knows me knows that Euro wrestlers pique my interest. It's not really a knock on the wrestlers as such, it's just that matches where the heels are overtly cheating is not high on my list of what I want to see from Golden Era pro-wrestling.

 

Nick Lutze vs. Pio Pico from 1937 is a wrestler vs, boxer match long before the Japanese ever thought of it. Proof positive that there's nothing new under the sun. Ali Baba vs. Dick Lever was amusing since the footage was sped up and the voice over narrator had to try and follow the action as best he could.

 

Moose Cholak & The Mighty Atlas vs. The Fabulous Kangaroos, Roy Heffernan & Al Costello, was interesting. It was another wild brawl but Cholak made it memorable by working the Navy boys in the crowd and doing this weird spot where he tried to make a moose sound and charge at his opponent. The Gallagher Brothers vs. Bobo Brazil and Billy Red Lyons was more of the same with cheating heels and the babyfaces suffering injustice after injustice. No doubt it was what the paying customer wanted to see, but it means very little to me today.

 

Bronco Nagurski vs. Vincent Lopez from 1937 was the most excited I was during this footage. Nagurski looks like he was a fine wrestler. I read a piece by Steve Yohe recently that said that Lopez couldn't really wrestle and perhaps that was the case here. He hung on for dear life during the hook-ups but Nagurski ended up knocking him silly. I don't know how much Lopez was selling as they carried him away, but if it was acting there hasn't been a better sell job on a TKO since 1937.

 

Next was some film of Don Evans vs. Jim Corbett and Primo Carnera vs. Laverne Baxter. I didn't like the smart ass narrator on this newsreel. In the first match he shat all over kayfabe by explaining the psychology behind wrestling and in the second he shat all over Carnera's boxing career. Whether Carnera's boxing career is something that deserves to be shat over, I couldn't say. but Carnera was tried pretty poorly here and it definitely wasn't a star turning number from anyone involved.

 

Sweet Daddy Siki & Sailor Art Thomas vs. Lou Albano and Jack Owens was the first time I have seen Captain Lou Albano wrestle. I guess I can tick that off mybucket list. He wasn't too bad actually, but this bout was all about Sweet Daddy Aki looking like a Sweet Daddy. Afterward, he had a medallion on and was presented with a gift from the official Sweet Daddy fan club. It was a personalized Sweet Daddy shirt that the members had chipped into have made. Siki cut an awkward response and suddenly the Kangaroos showed up to take a look at the jersey and tear it into shreds. Sweet Daddy couldn't string together a coherent promo after his shirt was torn but it was an awesome segment nonetheless.

 

More clips from the 30s and 40s. The most interesting clip was a compilation of newsreel stories about wrestling from France, the US, Germany and Australia. Early French wrestling was interesting to say the least. Following that was a match between Pat O'Connor and Jack Wilson. I'd seen this before, but O'Connor is a New Zealander like myself and a pretty wrestler to watch. The best thing about it was the promo the commentator cut between falls about the NWA World Heavyweight belt. That was awesome.

 

Howard Martin vs. Angelo Poffo wasn't notable for Poffo as such as it was for his manager Bronco Lubich. Yeah, that same Bronco Lubich who was a ref in Wiorld Class. He had a black suit and bow toe and tried interfering with his cane ala Sir William. Almost surreal if you've watched any amount of World Class.

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I decided to watch Bobo Brazil vs. Fritz Von Erich again. This was different from a lot of the Fritz we have on tape. Usually, he's the one in control of the bout, bending the rules and abusing his opponent, but Bobo beat him from pillar to post and he had to sell a lot. I'm not sure if that's because Bobo was a bigger star than Fritz in the Buffalo territory or because Bobo knew which side his bread was buttered on (i.e. offense, attack.)

 

I also rewatched the Millers/Kangaroos tag, partially because I'm more familiar with the Kangaroos now, but also because the guy who runs the channel says it's one of his all-time favourite tag matches. I liked the match, and thought it was one of the better Southern-style tags from its era, but it's not a style of wrestling that I gravitate toward. Fans of the Southern style would most likely enjoy this early example of the style done right.

 

Bob Orton Sr. vs. Adrien Baillargeon was Orton's debut in the Buffalo territory and put over his technical brawler style nicely.

 

Next up was Lord Leslie Carlton vs. Juan Zepeda from Los Angeles. Carlton played an arrogant aristocrat similar to Lord James Blears and mixed technical wrestling with brawling and rule-bending, making him an outstanding prototype of Lord Steven Regal. But even better than Sir William was his second -- a man-servant from Calcutta named Singh. By time Regal came along, the Empire had well and truly crumpled, but Carlton's gimmick still had some bite to it. This entire segment was tremendous, beginning with a fun TV match and continuing in the locker room with a wickedly entertaining interview. Carlton and Singh do a poor job with their accents, but if you can excuse that the adlib they do throughout is brilliant. The segment tells this brilliant little story of what Lord Carlton thinks of American wrestlers and American wrestling crowds and why he's come to the United States. Carlton fires off some of the best lines I've heard in a long time. Superb character work. Really clever stuff. Definitely one of the the best things I've seen from the 50s:

 

Coming off that high was an action-packed and entertaining six-man match between Dory Dixon, Art Thomas and Bobo Brazil vs. Buddy Rogers, Magnificent Maurice and Johnny Barend. Dixon is a guy I'm interested in since he was a notable figure in lucha. He was a real live wire in this and had an interview afterward where he claimed Rogers was running scared. Some nice action in this.

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Next up was an Ilio DiPablo marathon of sorts. It's basically Ilio kicking ass and taking names in the Buffalo territory. There's some fun stuff against the Miller Brothers, Dan and Ed, that I believe sets up the Bill Miller match that was discussed earlier in the thread (or possibly another match between them.) Marvel as Ilio puts big Man Mountain Cannon in his airplane spin and watch 'im knock "em dead as he out slugs ex-prize fighter. Killer Joe Christie.

 

See, I'm getting into the spirit of the some of the corny voice over commentary on these 50s shorts. Like the Lou Klein vs. Gene Dubuque bout where the commentator tells more jokes than a stand-up comic. Don't let it get in the way of a solid look at both men, though, especially Dubuque, who went on to become The Magnificent Maurice. Klein would later team up with Red Bastien in a successful run as half-brothers.

 

Also in this batch of the footage was a look at an early all-in tornado tag team match. I'm glad wrestling shifted away from this sort of tag wrestling as it was pretty much organized mayhem.

 

Lastly, was my first ever look at Mildred Burke in her prime from the Lipstick and Dynamite short. The match that's shown is Mildred Burke vs. Mae Weston from 3/20/47; a nice mix of brawling and technical wrestling. Burke has the most incredible physique of any female wrestler I've seen. There's your legit women's champ right there. Worth watching if you've never seen Burke. Definitely the real deal.

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The next match was Argentina Rocca vs. Killer Kowalski from Chicago. When I first saw what was next, I immediately thought: "that's like 10 Hail Marys for penance." Then I stated thinking maybe it could go the other way and they'd surprise me, and sure enough that's what happened. It was Rocca's first match in the Chicago territory so he couldn't coast along on star power alone. He needed to make an impression on folks and he did it by dancing around like a barefooted MMA fighter and peppering Kowalski with kicks to the face. Kowalski responded by trying to ground Rocca with powerful looking headlocks, crunching sidemares and vicious looking kneelifts. Not adjectives I'd usually associate with Kowalski, but he was as good in this bout as I've ever seen him. The booking stopped the bout from being truly special, but it was far more entertaining than I expected and the first time I've really liked a match from either man, and that's a win right there.

 

Bearcat Wright vs. Bulldog Bob Brower had some fun brawling. Brower did a gimmick where he'd get a look in his eye and lose all control of himself. They had to get some cops to pull him off Wright at the end of this one. Also from Buffalo was Fritz Von Erich vs. Big Ed Miller. This was heel vs. heel and pretty much two big guys beating the crap out of each other. A bit slow at times, but I loved the finish where Von Erich tried to put the claw on a bleeding Miller and Miller fought out of it and began kicking the crap out of Fritz until the ref called the bout off. Again there were cops involved. At least I think they were cops. They might have been security guards. In any event, I like how Buffalo has cops with nightsticks breaking things up.

 

The theme of heel vs. heel continued with The Gallagher Brothers vs. Johnny Barend and the Magnificent Maurice. Apparently, Barend and Maurice had split after a falling out between the two and this was their first match teaming together after Maurice had made some save in a match Barend was losing. Anyway, it doesn't take long for them to fall out again and Barend ends up fighting three guys. Note that Maurice and Barend's manager here is Ernie Roth doing an early gimmick of his called Mr. Kleen.

 

Next I watched the Wrestling Workouts show from Hollywood. What a strange format for a wrestling show. WW was mostly made up of workers doing workouts with each other and practicing their offensive and defensive moves. That's interspersed with short newsreel footage of the workers having actual matches. Sometimes tempers flare in the workouts, and occasionally they set up matches later on, but mostly they're a fun way to see your favourite grapplers working holds and a chance to see more folks like Blears and Joe Blanchard.

 

The Mighty Atlas vs. Mr. Moto is not exactly a battle of my two favourite guys, but they managed to work an entertaining twenty minute, no fall contest. There were some cute spots in this, like Moto hurting his hand trying to chop Atlas' flexed muscle and Atlas taking Moto down by his fu manchu beard. Mostly strength holds in this one but never boring.

 

Finished up with The Crusher vs. Hank Lane. Poor Lane didn't stand a chance.

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Can you even fathom that Mighty Atlas Morris Shapiro worked a lot of really small time shows in Upstate New York in the 1930s when he was still in the army? They really put an emphasis on that background as if it were a more modern gimmick like Sgt. Slaughter. I assume that the style was rather scientific, as all the places with lots of local wrestlers and few touring wrestlers were. Well, if they were able to avoid the carny problem, which means that their training wasn't that good from a modern perspective and that they basically just knew one or two holds and otherwise were pretty much lacking.

You mentioned Mighty Ursus Jess Ortega, I expect that he was from the Argentina circuit and he quite possibly never wrestled in Mexico. Recently I found the shipping papers of the boat that Ramon Cernadas and Hombre Montana (Leon Finkelstein, not Harry Finkelstein who was also Harry Lewis) used to get to America at the very beginning of 1951 from Buenos Aires.

 

Keep up the good work

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June Beyers vs. Betty Hawkins was more catfighting with terribly unfunny voice over narration. So many bad puns, and Beyers still hasn't shown me much.

 

Dick the Bruiser and the Crusher vs. Johnny Diamond and Jim Eskew is a squash match from the Bruiser's WWA promotion. The most interesting thing about it is that it has these two commentators that are EXACTLY like those local basketball commentators you get on games that aren't nationally televised. It was kind of amusing to learn that type of commentary existed back in the 60s when so much of the commentary from this era is colour stuff with terrible jokes (makes you appreciate Russ Davis more, actually.)

 

Nick Bockwinkel vs. K.O. Matt Murphy is a short squash match but the post-match interviews with Jules Strongbrow show you how thoughtful Bockwinkel was with his promos even in his youth.

 

Next up were a couple of Gallagher Brothers' bouts (vs. Billy Red Lyons & Frank Townsend and Guy & Joe Brunetti.) The Gallagher Brothers are a team that I think a lot of people would enjoy if there was more interest in this era. Solid stooge types that have fun shtick and draw a ton of heat. I just wish their offense was a bit more interesting.

 

Argentina Rocca & Perez vs. Karl von Hess & Skull Murphy was another showcase of Rocca's leaping ability and "leg-based" offense. I have to admit, I'm getting used to the Rocca show and it's becoming clearer why he was such a big draw in the 50s. The biggest, in fact.

 

Dick the Bruiser vs. Bob Orton Sr. was like vs. like (aside from the height difference.) Slow, grinding bout. Bruising at times but too much like for like. Finish was a weird upside down bear hug.

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First up is a squash match from Buffalo between Bearcat Wright and Cyclone Smith. Can't say I've formed an opinion about Wright one way or another. He does have long, spidery limbs, which gives him the potential to be an interesting submission worker, but we'll see.

 

Nick Lutze & Tiny Roebuck vs. Vincent Lopez & El Pulpo was more chaotic tornado tag wrestling. The more tag wrestling I watch from the past, the more I'm convinced that tag wrestling didn't come into its own until the 80s.

 

Ilio DiPaolo vs Fritz Von Erich was disappointing given the names involved, but I haven't really enjoyed watching most of Fritz' matches a second time. Too often they're slow, plodding affairs instead of the out and out vicious brawls he was capable of. Magnificent Maurice vs. Fritz is another example. It's heel vs. heel, which the Buffalo territory seemed to run a lot of, but instead of being a kickass heel vs. heel bout it drags on forever until the curfew. Mind you, Fritz isn't new for me so maybe I'm bored of rewatching him. And I'm not that high on the Buffalo territory, either. Reggie & Stan Lisowski vs. Bobo Brazil & Yukon Eric was another slow brawl from the same territory. I suppose what I consider slow others would describe as drawing heat. I guess I don't like traditional heel vs. babyface match-ups that lead nowhere.

 

Benito Gardini vs. Bobby Bruins was fun. Gardini was a comedy worker with just enough grappling know-how to remain credible in the ring. Fun worker. Almost like a slimmed down Italian Super Porky who's serious about notching up wins but is outmatched all the time.

 

I really enjoyed Cowboy Karl Davis vs. Terry McGinnis, which was a short film from 1940 (I believe.) Karl Davis would go on to do either a killer or crippler gimmick, but the awesome thing about this was that he was working like a "killer" already while playing a cowboy. Can you imagine how cool it is to see a cowboy work like a killer? And Terry McGinnis played a great fighting mad Irish man. Great finish, and McGinnis did a tremendous job of losing it after the bell. Neat short.

 

Next up was Chief Don Eagle vs. Marquis de Paree. I really like the way that Don Eagle moves in the ring. It's so stylish. de Paree was a great foil for him and helped make him even more mesmerizing. Loved the war dance. LOVED the deathlock finish. I am now a Chief Don Eagle fan.

 

I'll tell you this -- Dick the Bruiser has never been as intense or as vicious as he was in squashing Emile Dupree. Not since his days on the football field was he that mean. If he worked like that all the time, he'd be a legend who lived up to his name. Bad ass.

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Next off the rank was my boy Chief Don Eagle making short work of Don Noble. I've read a lot about what a sensation Billy Two Rivers caused when he showed up in the UK, and I guess this is the closest I'll get to watching a Native American wrestler work at a time when Western films and "Cowboys and Indians" were at the height of the public imagination. Again, the Chief looked good.

 

Riki Starr, Argentina Rocca & Miguel Perez vs. The Fabulous Kangaroos & Dr. Jerry Graham was a comedy reel as you might expect with Starr involved. The star power looked better on paper than the action they produced in the ring, but it as only a short reel. Another short clip saw Mark Lewin's brother, Donn, make short work of Crybaby Bob Corby. Can't beat a good crybaby gimmick.

 

Argentina Rocca vs. Karl Von Hess was the bout that followed the famous Rogers vs. O'Connor title fight. That's a tough act to follow and it was a fairly tepid effort. Mostly a showcase for the ever-popular Rocca, perhaps designed to send the fans home happy after Rogers won the belt?

 

Killer Kowalski vs. Pete Managoff was a slow heavyweight contest with some poor overdubbing that didn't capture the heat (if there was any.) I really want to like Kowalski. He has a few good holds and a few moves I like, but he's not vicious enough and doesn't stay on his man like I want to see from a man named "Killer Kowalski." He's more infamous these days for training Triple H, and I remember Harley Race called him the shits. I'm not convinced that he's "the shits" yet (Harley said the same thing about Gagne, too), but so far I've only seen the one good fight against Rocca.

 

George & Bobby Becker vs. Wild Red Berry & Tony Marelli is one of the better tag matches I've seen from the 50s. The Beckers are no-nonsense, hard-working babyfaces who prefer a good, clean fight but aren't afraid to dish it out if the other team get fresh, and Wild Red Berry and Tony Marelli are a pair of stooge heels par excellence. Think Sid Cooper, Jim Breaks, Tally Ho Kaye... they all belong to the same gentlemen's club for stooge heels. Wild Red Berry is one of the great heel acts of the era in my view. The Los Angeles crowd are almost fanatical toward him and it's just a regular tag bout like any other season. Great heat, great blue-collar faces from Brooklyn providing the foil for the LA razzle dazzle, great comedy spots, neat holds and wonderful commentary from one of the best in the business, Jack Little.

 

Los Angles vs. Chicago is a really interesting comparison in terms of footage. I might give LA the edge at this point, but it's close.

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I was impressed by Vic Christy vs. Hans Schnabel. Up until now Schnabel hadn't shown me much. I wouldn't have even acknowledged him as a journeyman based on the footage I'd seen. But he did a great job of working a 20 minute draw with Christy. I thought they struck a nice balance between working holds and playing to the gallery, and since Los Angeles had some pretty great crowds throughout the 50s, the latter was entertaining stuff. Add to that some more super commentary from Jack Little and you had yourself a brisk and enjoyable bout.

 

Next up was The Sheik & Reggie Lisowski vs. Ski Hi Lee & Rudy Kay from Chicago. A really long match. Lots of basic cheating and retaliation. I suppose you could call them pro-wrestling staples if you were being nice. They did draw continuous heat. Ski Hi Lee was a big guy (as the name suggests) with huge mutton chops that didn't seem to match the decade that the match was from. He was a pretty awkward big man, but the kind of guy -- and I say this with love -- that I can imagine people pushing as "effective at his role" if he were around today. I'd say the main reason for watching this is to see a match with a younger Sheik. He was a pretty decent worker even if he wasn't doing anything truly spectacular. It's kind of neat seeing him in his pomp as opposed to the aging version with the graying hair and cut up forehead. He had that whole Shakespearean villain look going on. A bit like the Master from Dr. Who.

 

Bobby Managoff & Pepper Gomez vs. Duke Keomuka & Danny McShain was more of the same albeit this time from Texas. There's only so much of this "wild" brawling that I can take, but crowds loved the all-in style and it was very much the style of the day.

 

Fritz Von Erich vs. Reggie Parks was a squash from Buffalo with nothing much more to add. Lord Layton vs. Pepe Pasquale was also a squash. I hadn't really clicked how tall Layton was. He was billed at 6'7, which was pretty big for an athlete in that era.

 

Of more note was some rare footage of "Killer" Buddy Austin (vs. Dave Cox.) Austin was a heel of note in the Los Angeles and San Francisco territories during the 1960s. He also worked a lot in Japan and Australia. I can't say I've heard of him, but if you're more familiar with US wrestling history and the territories then this may be of interest to you. I didn't think he was overly special but I may be in a crabby mood from all this brawling.

 

The best thing about Rip Miller vs. El Bandito is that the ref is the legendary Gene LeBell. The match itself was fairly poor.

 

Phew. If that run of matches taught me anything it's that Schnabel vs. Christy was even more of a gem than I thought it was.

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It's been a long time since I watched some of these matches, so let's see what I remember.

 

Alberto & Ramon Torres vs. Art Mahalick & Mike Sharpe was a fun tag match. I think I've mentioned this before, but the Torres brothers strike me as a Golden Era version of the Guerreros.

 

Sonny Boy Cassidy vs. Farmer Pete was an interesting clip. It was a midgets match between the "undisputed champ of the little men," Sonny Boy Cassidy, and the rugged Kentucky hillbilly, Farmer Pete. You can imagine how the crowd and the commentator treated this one, but there was some cool midget brawling on the outside and plenty of kneelifts to the gut from Cassidy, who at the end remained the "undisputed champ of the midgets."

I think I watched Hard Boiled Haggerty, El Shereef & The Preacher vs. Mr. Moto, Paul Diamond & Enrique Flores, but it can't have left much of an impression on me. One for the re-watch pile.

 

The Great Togo vs. Zach Malkov I definitely remember watching. The main takeaway I had from the bout was it's a shame that 50s Japanese heels were closer in spirit to Mr. Fuji than Masa Saito or Killer Khan. This was a long bout that was most fought in the clinch. It wasn't a bad match if you have patience for that sort of thing, and I would rate Togo above Moto, but these Hawaiian Japanese guys aren't the best workers.

 

Watching Woody Strode vs. Eric Pomeroy, I couldn't believe that this was the Woody Strode I've seen in a ton of films. It wasn't until the commentator mentioned that he'd recently starred in Spartacus as the gladiator that Kirk Douglas fights that it clicked for me that I've seen Strode in numerous films. Unfortunately, he didn't look like the greatest worker here. Perhaps he was better suited to film roles. I suppose time will tell.

 

Angelo Pollo vs. Jerry Christy was a squash match, but it's always interesting to see the Macho Man's dad and study how much of his act resembled his sons.

 

The Sheik vs. Bobo Brazil promised to be the grudge match to end all of grudge matches but apparently it wasn't that much of a grudge as the match never lived up to those expectations.

 

Finally, we had Sandor Szabo vs. Louie Miller & The Great Bolo. This was an interesting gimmick match from the Los Angeles territory. It was basically a winner takes all match where Szabo had to defeat Bolo and his manager Miller within one hour or lose his purse. Szabo was an ex-champion of the world. For the first time since he appeared in this 50s footage, he looked every bit the grizzled vet. Instead of begging off, Miller went hard at Szabo to begin with in an effort to wear him down. Szabo dealt with Miller eventually and Bolo was next. Bolo wasn't the greatest worker in the world, but they ground out the storyline and worked through to a schmoz at the end. Interesting gimmick match. Jules Strongbow's expert comments added a lot to the presentation, and Szabo came out of the match looking tough despite the cheap finish.

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I ended up rewatching Hard Boiled Haggerty, El Shereef & The Preacher vs. Mr. Moto, Paul Diamond & Enrique Flores, It was actually quite a fun match. Not so dissimilar from a lucha trios match and with the usual hot LA crowd. The heels were big bruiser types and ran some fun FIP spots with the smaller Enrique Flores. More fun than the usual heel vs. face skullduggery.

 

Next up was another Lord James Blears showcase. This time against Ivan the Terrible. If you wanted any more proof that Lord James Blears was the Lord Steven Regal of his era then look no further than this match. Ivan the Terrible wasn't the most technically skilled opponent that Blears could have faced but Blears worked around Ivan's limitations and ensured they both put their best foot forward. Quite a pro this Blears.

 

Dory Funk Sr. vs. Abe Kashey is apparently the only footage of Dory Sr. there is. He was working heel in the match. Think Dory Funk acting like Terry and you'll have a pretty clear picture of what it was like. The footage of Duke Keomuka vs. Black Guzman was too brief to gain much of an impression but it was interesting to see some Texas stuff.

 

Chief Don Eagle vs. Dan Miller was my boy doing his thing this time against the "Spike Dudley" of the Miller brothers. Match ran for longer than the usual Eagle showcase since Miller had more cred than the usual job boys but the result was the same. Nobody can survive the Indian Deathlock.

 

The Great Togo & Tony Morelli vs. Ernie & Emil Dusek was heel vs. heel. Togo is starting to grow on me. The only thing he's really good at is working aggressively in the clinch and smacking people in the chest with chops but he's hardnosed about it which I like. It worked well against the Duseks, who were hard as nails. There are heels and then there are bad men and the Duseks were a pair of bad men. They enjoyed taking Togo's chops and dishing out their own punishment. The match had a gritty edge to it and nobody calls a strike quite like Jack Little. Originally, it was supposed to be Red Berry with Togo but Morelli was a last minute replacement. Berry would have made the match more comedic, though they did work some miscommunication spots and the match ended with the pair bickering, which is how the Berry version would have played out, I'm sure. Decent bout.

 

Roy Asselin vs. George Temple is a short squash match that's notable for the fact that George Temple was the brother of Shirley Temple. Didn't help him much s he dropped the bout.

 

Finally, Leo Garibaldi vs. Billy McDaniel was a nice clean technical match with some great holds. I particularly enjoyed the second fall which I thought had some excellent wrestling. Some idiot in the crowd kept pretending to be Woody Woodpecker, which was distracting at times, but the work between Garibaldi and McDaniel was pretty classy for a middle of the card type contest. If you like the 50s technical style this is one I'd recommend if you want to see it at the midcard level.

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The Miller Brothers vs. Whipper Billy Watson & Bobo Brazil was a typical Buffalo match. Not a territory I'm particularly crazy about but it's consistent. You know what you're getting when four big men square off like this, especially when it's the Millers and Bobo Brazil: a bunch of roughhousing, underhanded tactics and retaliatory headbutts. For many people, that's what they paid to see. You could imagine the highlights of this match pieced together for some matinee newsreel with circus music and some corny commentary. To me, it's the most generic pro-wrestling possible but it may also be the most quintessential. In any event, it lacked the intensity that is needed to make a match like this stand out for me.

 

II'll you a match that surprised me, though, and that was Jesse James vs. Al Costello of the Fabulous Kangaroos. At first, I thought: "ah, the Kangaroos are involved. This is going to be filled with cheating and shit." But right from the get-go, Costello was outstanding. He looked to impose himself physically rather through underhanded methods and showed a ton of wrestling skill that you'd never guess at if you were only familiar with his tag work. There were times when James would cop a right hand to the mouth from Costello and James gave him a bit of payback throughout but that made the bout seem like more of a fight than the Bobo stuff. They were working so hard on the mat that sometimes they punched one another. How cool is that? You've gotta love that sort of thing if you like bare-bones, minimalist wrestling. Great bout. One I'd recommend without hesitation.

 

Watched a bunch of Londos footage. Londos was small but he had a low centre of gravity and was a beast in the ring. Most of the newsreel clips of him show the finishes to his bouts where he typically throws his opponent a couple of times before hitting an airplane spin or a bodyslam and pinning him with a full body press (none of this hook the leg malarky.) Londos' attacks are violent and intense. The best finishes are the ones where his opponent fights the body press but almost everyone succumbs in a fashion that makes it seem like Londos was your typical formulaic star. But longer footage like the match against Shikat shows what a talented wrestler he was and how intense he was during the smallest exchanges. The man had a huge engine and was constantly taking the fight to his opponent. Shikat is wonderfully European. You watch him and see a spiritual heir to Horst Hoffman or Volk Han. A wonderful piece of footage, though it did look like Shikat lay down for Londos at the end without trying to make it look good. Perhaps it was my imagination.

 

There's another Blears match online. This time it's a technical showcase against Enrique Romero. Some really nice wrestling from his Lordship. It's too bad that the LA crowd seemed disinterested but Strongbow talked us through it at home and we got to see some nice holds from Blears.

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Finally got to see my boy Chief Don Eagle have a feature length main event. Some clipping here and there but we got the lion's share of a one hour draw with Dangerous Danny McShain. As you would expect with a one hour draw there was a lot of time spent in hammerlocks and similar holds with McShain using a lot of punches and inside moves. But despite there being a lot of down time, the match was fluid and enjoyable to watch. McShain was a great heel and Eagle more than held up his head on the babyface side. It took a long time for Eagle to do the war dance but when he did it was a good 'un.

 

Back to Chicago now. Great Karpozilos vs. Great Yamato was better than I expected. Karpozilos was a short Greek wrestler with huge muscles and Yamato was another of the 50s Japanese heels. As with other Japanese heel workers, they didn't spend a lot of time on the mat as most of the "action" took place in the clinch. Yamato was a decent worker but it's hard to tell with these Japanese American workers as they're playing to type.

 

I think I've seen Angelo Poffo vs. Jerry Christie before. It's easy to lose track of what you've seen across these 50s YouTube channels especially when there are multiple versions of the same films. The crowd got right behind Christie in this fight so Poffo must have done something right.

Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting... the midgets. Actually, Ivan the Terrible was a dwarf and Tiny Roe was a midget. They worked a fairly straight forward match and avoided many of the comedy trappings of midget matches. Instead, Russ Davis mostly took digs at the Russians. Not bad. The match that is.

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That Al Costello vs Jesse James match was pretty good.

Same opinion as you on the Kangaroos as a team (I have to rewatch as it's been a while I saw those matches).

 

On that card, the semi-main was Dick Hutton vs Roy Hefferman. I hope it was taped because a Hutton bout is the Holy Grail.

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More wrestling from Chicago:

 

Mr. Moto vs. Ivan Rasputin had all the makings of a terrible match but it wasn't that bad actually. It was fought in the clinch like most of the Moto and Togo matches and there were some nice looking blows throughout. Ivan was a big Russian bear who threw a commanding forearm smash. He reminded me a bit of the British wrestler John Elijah in terms of being a robust power guy. Some of the commentary was inane but the match itself was worlds better than I expected.

 

Jim Dobie vs. Lou Britton was a great match. This was right up my alley. It was a technical match with cheating so you got the best of both worlds, heel/face stuff for the crowd and mat wrestling. Lou Britton was completely awesome. A great wrestler and fine technician with a wonder Mexican moustache that was perfect for his role as role as the wrestler looking to take short cuts. I have no doubt he would be one of the finds of the 50s if there were more footage of him. Dobie was good too but Britton stole the show. Definitely a guy I won't be forgetting in a hurry.

 

Fuzzy Cupid was a great dwarf heel. He had a bit of a Lord James Blears gimmick going on and amazingly fuzzy hair. He took on an Ethiopian dwarf named Haile Selassie, who was really some guy from Philly. Quite a good match. The crowd were really into it and showed their support for the wrestlers. It was nice to see the midgets taken seriously as entertainers. Definitely the best midget bout so far.

 

Carl Engstrom looked like a decent young talent but he was stymied by having to work with Matt D's boy, The Mighty Atlas. Some nice holds here and there but too much of Atlas' strongman shtick grinding everything to a halt. I enjoyed the short Bozo Brown vs. Jim Graham match more. Brown was a fat boy wrestler with solid brawling skills and worked a good match before succumbing to a soft count out. Hope to see more of him in the future.

 

All in all, quite good variety in these Chicago Archives. You really get a sense of how Fred Kohler promoted his cards from top to bottom. Valuable stuff. It's just a shame they ran out of money and didn't convert the rest of the collection.

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Violet Viann vs. June Byers was a decent match. Viann was this sassy, diminutive worker who kept chewing gum the entire bout and Byers, while lacking in charisma, looked better than in any of her other bouts. I think it was because she was working in favour of her size advantage instead of just looking to brawl and draw heat. Apparently, some of the modern WWE women watched this match and borrowed one of Byers' signature moves. Mechanically, she was strong in this.

 

Next up was the Zaharias Brothers vs. Rudy Kay & Al Williams. This was a short brawl between four barroom brawler types. FIne while it lasted. Vittorio Apollo vs. Miquel Torres was a short squash match designed to introduce Chicago to the latest Argentinian sensation. Apollo worked just like Rocca and bounced all over the show. One Rocca is probably enough for my money.

 

Also on the short side were Johnny Gilbert vs. Jack Terry and Bearcat Wright vs. Big Moose Cholak. Terry was an old campaigner with a busted nose and cauliflower ears that kept giving his opponent judo "licks" while Gilbert was a younger, flashier opponent who liked putting Terry in a head-scissors and smashing his face into the canvas. Wright wasn't a great worker and Cholak was a huge lug who drew good heat but their bout was interesting enough for the time it last.

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Ramona TeSelle vs. Sharon Lass was a fairly generic 50s match with the heel cheating until she won. Russ was depressed by the result but hoped we liked it. Oh yeah, Russ, we're pumped.

 

Billy Darnell vs. Hans Hermann was another match with endless cheating. Matches like these never get started. The heel cheats, the face retaliates and you get the occasional flash of offense. Darnell looked like a decent worker but they were taking it pretty easy.

 

Dick Afflis vs. Ivan Rasputin was apparently Afflis' debut in the territory as Davis knew nothing about him. Afflis was a mean bugger but the only time his work is compelling is when there's an extra edge to it like in the Gomez fight. Rasputin continues to be a fun worker. If you have an appreciation for journeymen you'll dig Rasputin.

 

Great Yamato vs. Len Rossi was long but somehow Yamato manages to work decent matches with very little wrestling involved. That takes a fair amount of skill, I guess. It helps that he's a short, stocky guy who hits hard and like Rasputin looks like he has a strong center of gravity. Both of them look immovable which is a cool trait for a wrestler to have.

 

Tom Thumb vs. Little Beaver was a neat midgets match. Little Beaver looked like a minis version of Chief Don Eagle and knew how to work a hold. Competitive bout with both men working hard, There was a lot of niggle in the clinch as there often is in 50s wrestling but it was gritty and tough. The midgets represented.

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Chest Bernard vs. Tarzan White was a typical 50s heel vs. face bout with plenty of rule bending. Some nice comedy spots from Bernard but fairly run of the mill.

 

Angelo Poffo vs. The Mighty Atlas seems like it would be Matt D's favourite 50s match. They don't seem to do much of anything but got tremendous heat for it.

 

What followed was a run of Atlas matches. Bill Melby & Billy Darnell vs. The Mighty Atlas and Bob Orton was notable for the fact that it was in colour. If you've watched a ton of older footage you owe it to yourself to watch a match in colour even if the tones are too dark. The coolest thing about the match is Melby working toe holds where he teases poking the guy in his eye with his own foot.

 

Atlas did a strongman exhibition where he snapped a 3/4 inch rope in half with his leg strength. Then I watched him have a long match with Chief Lone Eagle. Lone Eagle worked like a dumb savage who had a "squaw" who beat a "tom tom" drum to motivate her man. They cut a decent pace but Davis was over the top with his mock "brave" imitation.

 

Rose Roman & Lorraine Johnson vs. Shirley Strimple & Ramona TeSelle was the first gal tag match I've seen and it surprised the shit out of me. Instead of being the usual rule bending affair they worked a straight up tag match that showcased how gals could wrestle too. Davis commented that TeSelle behaved like Katherine Hepburn which I dug but the focus on wrestling instead of the heel/face dynamic made this match stand out to me.

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June Beyers vs. Penny Banner was one tough wrestling match. If you had asked me a few years back what I imagined women's wrestling was like in the 1950s I would have said catfighting and hair pulling. But these women could wrestle. And not only that, they worked at a faster pace than the men and took bigger bumps. For some reason, Russ Davis was extremely dismissive of "gal wrestling" but it's been some of the more enlightening footage from the Chicago region.

 

Next up was Angelo Poffo vs. Maurice Roberre. Poffo isn't really a favourite of mine but he did more wrestling here than usual even if it was mostly grinding away at a hold. Roberre showed some nice agility for a big man and looked like he had more to give. I'll keep an eye out for him in other matches.

 

Finally, Lorraine Johnson vs. Shirley Strimple was another hard-fought women's bout. The women's matches may not be the glamour pieces of the Chicago collection but they're consistently good and some of the best footage from the Archives. Both women's wrestling and midget wrestling have been a revelation for me thus far. It seems Kohler was intent on presenting both styles as serious wrestling and not a sideshow. There's still a fair share of xenophobia in the promotion and a lot of casual racism but the girls and he midgets shatter any stereotypes you may have of 1950s wrestling.

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It's been a while since I've watched any 50s stuff.

 

The VQ on Paul Anderson vs. Bozo Brown is just about unwatchable but Anderson is an interesting worker as he was an Olympic gold medalist powerlifter and recognized at the time as the strongest man in the world. Not much of a match but Anderson is quick on his feet for a fat dude.

 

Bronko Lubich vs. Jack Allen was a neat little bout. Lubich was a good worker. One of my favourite things about 50s wrestling is seeing the actual wrestling careers of guys like Lubich. He was a junior heavyweight heel with some nice in-ring tricks that drew plenty of heat from the crowd. Like most of his contemporaries, he knew his way around a hold. And he had a great look with that mustache of his. I hope we get some footage of his tag team with Aldo Bogni as he looked like a promising worker.

 

Billy Darnell vs. The Great Yamato was what you'd expect from those two. Darnell wanted a good clean bout but Yamato kept using illegal moves to gain the advantage. The majority of the fight was cat and mouse stuff until Darnell got pissed after one inside move too many. You know the formula. The last few minutes had some heated action as the bout broke down and Darnell began to cut loose. This was an early Yamato TV match and he didn't have quite as forceful an impact on offense as in later matches. But even without the stiffness, it was decent stuff for a Japanese heel bout. Davis is at his worst whenever foreign heels are involved, though, so you have to live with that for 30 minutes. Pretty good match even if there was a lot of time killing to start with.

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