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[1950-06-21-Kohler Chicago] Verne Gagne vs Billy Goelz


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This was a seriously great match; naturally, these 1950s bouts have a high degree of intensity and struggle over basic holds, so it feels like you are watching a shootstyle match built around hammerlocks and headscissors. Then you also have Billy Goelz in the match, who looked like a master grappler in the vein of a Blue Panther or Ken Joyce, adding all these cool little touches. Such as turning himself into a turtle, constantly going for Verne's arm from any position, breaking Verne's arm over his own leg to keep control etc. The running and leapfrog spots where also fantastic, honestly. Verne is a former football guy, and Goelz would do these awesome bumps where it looks like Verne just ran right through him. At 20 minutes this also a pretty trim match, and they show a great sense for the subtleties of wrestling; Verne lands a big flying headscissor after being controlled by Goelz that gets a huge reaction, and the battle fiercely over the pinfall just as the time runs out. Excellent, pure wrestling match.

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  • 2 months later...

A fantastic technical bout. The vicious hammerlock that starts out the bout sets the tone. They are really grinding in the holds but always looking for an escape or counter. Then when they run the ropes, it looks wild and violent with Gagne's drop kicks being particularly good. Great match...I haven't seen enough of this era to call it a classic but, it really is timeless stuff by two greats.

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  • Loss changed the title to [1950-06-21-Kohler Chicago] Verne Gagne vs Billy Goelz
  • 2 years later...

Verne Gagne vs Billy Goelz - Chicago 6/21/50

Russ says Goelz is the Illinois Jr. Heavyweight Champion, I believe. This not hosted by the Chicago Film Archives, but apparently came out in 2009. It is a fantastic, single fall bout since this is NOT for the world heavyweight Championship. The quality on this is not the best, but young Verne looks nothing like old Verne in my opinion, if it didnt say Verne Gagne in the video I would not never have guessed it was him. 

The first ten minutes are a battle of the Goelz Hammerlock vs the Gagne headscissors. Verne only started wrestling in 1949 but not only has the technical/athletic part down pat, but even the theatrics. Verne gets two flashy takedowns out of some very competitive collar-elbow tieups. Goelz when he takes Gagne down with an armbar, he sticks with him and turn into a 4-5 minute tenacious hammerlock. They work the hammerlock fabulously. Verne is really good about his verbal selling and constantly trying to escape to keep this interesting. This takes an incredible gas tank to being working for the escape out of a hammerlock. It really shows how great of shape Verne is in. Goelz for his part is not only wrenching the Hammerlock, he is constantly trying to negotiate pinning predicaments with the hammerlock as his fulcrum. I really liked Verne going for the crotchhold (bodyslam) but Goelz disabuses him of this strategy by cranking the hammerlock more. Verne THROWS Goelz halfway across the ring on a snapmare that pops me. Goelz shows his dogged determination pouncing on the injured Gagne and going back to it. Verne goes back to the snapmare; Goelz hangs on but they are in the ropes. Goelz tries to get back to it and Verne uses the Bret Hart trick and bucks him off into the ropes. Verne applies a falling reverse headscissors and this begins his offensive run. Before we switch gears, I want to reiterate and emphasize how great Verne's verbal selling was during the hammerlock it really made that segment of the match special. 

Two things stood out about the headscissors, one on the first attempted break Goelz went right back to the bad arm, kneading with his knee only for Gagne to re-apply the headscissors. Excellent work. Goelz does this turtle tactic where he grabs his own knees and tucks them to his chin as if in the fetal position to render it impossible to apply a hold to him. I am sure that has been done in World Of Sport, but it was novel to me and if I was a pro wrestler I'd crib that. Verne switches to working a tight side headlock that Goelz slips out the back door occasionally. They trade big, meaty dropkicks. Goelz used a leg-vine version of a full nelson that I know I have seen once before but it is escaping me where. Goelz proves he is a proto-Anderson or proto-Murdoch by going back to the arm. He does the over the shoulder arm-breaker, the dropdown with all your weight arm breaker, the arm stretcher, all the staples of 80s arm work is being done in 1950. :) Gagne does the classic reversal of the arm stretcher rolling right up into a headlock. It is GRAND FINALE time...they work a super hot one minute stretch going into the draw, Verne gets this tremendous shoulder tackle and loses control trying to follow it up I loved his missed dropkick. Then it is a Goelz Boston Crab, flip out into a jackknife flipped into a cradle as time expired. Wild. That would not look out of place in the 80s at all and would be heralded as a red hot finish stretch. 

The Hammerlock vs Headscissors work was sublime and fantastic. Goelz would have fit right in as an Anderson or as a tag partner for Dick Murdoch. He was excellent at torturing the arm. Gagne was the best underneath 50s babyface I have seen so far. Technical clinic. ****1/2

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  • 1 year later...

Here’s another 50’s classic that impressed me, Gagne is a rookie in 1950 but he doesn’t look like one, his holds, especially the hammerlocks, feel really rough and actually meaningful in this match. Billy Goelz is the definition of a hidden gem, we have very few matches of him but what we have is very impressive, the way he sold Gagne’s offense in this bout was absolutely outstanding, his style was very unorthodox for the National Wrestling Alliance in the 1950’s, it’s closer to something France in 1956 and 1957 onwards, he wasn’t just another tough guy from this era, he was special.

As many might have guessed by now, the match took place in Chicago in June the 21st 1950. The Illinois Jr Heavyweight title is on the line, this means that it’s only one fall with a twenty minute time limit, Billy Goelz entered the arena as the champion.

The main plot point of the match was the battle between Goelz’s hammerlock against Gagne’s headscissors as Superstar Sleeze pointed out a few years ago. As I said before, both men’s work over their opponent’s limbs was sublime especially Goelz hammerlock, this was a thrilling match with a surprising amount of near falls considering the era. When they were close to the time limit, Goelz hit a dropkick and it legitimately felt like a match-ending move but it wasn’t Gagne kicked out in two, the match was declared a time limit draw protecting Gagne’s push to the top of the card and Goelz retaining his belt, very intelligent booking if you ask me.

An absolute timeless classic, if you aren’t a fan of the style that we associate with the 1950’s at least give this a try, I hope you like it as much as I did.

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