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"HOW I GOT HOOKED ON WRESTLING"
and
"WHY I LOVE BEING A MARK!"

by Friends of Wrestling

Do you remember when you first discovered professional wrestling?
Can you recall the excitement you felt in those early days?
Share those memories with us and let us add them to these pages.


My family emigrated from England to Australia in 1964.  I went back and forth for quite some time (Aus. 64-72, England 72-77, Aus. 77-84, England 84-88, and then Australia from June 88 to the present) for various reasons.  (And, no. I'm not on the run from the law).
I probably started watching TV wrestling around the age of ten when we got our first television set.  At that time, I followed a lot of sports, particularly football (soccer), boxing and cricket, but wrestling became a particular favourite and has remained so ever since.  Initially being weaned on British wrestling, seeing the American version was a bit of a shock.  (This was the Barnett/Doyle Aussie promotion)  Punching, kicking, gouging, hair pulling, biting, wrestlers being attacked before the bell had rung, wrestlers starting and ending a quick bout in their ring jackets, and so on.  I was appalled, and yet, strangely attracted to the spectacle.  At first, the calibre of the wrestlers was a bit suspect, but then slowly, but surely, at first as a trickle, then eventually a flood, Australia became the world's pro-wrestling hot-bed.
I sooned thrilled to Mark Lewin vs Ray Stevens, Spiros Arion vs Bulldog Brower, Bruno Sammartino vs Waldo von Erich, Stevens vs Dominic DeNucci and Buddy Austin, George and Sandy Scott vs Brute Bernard and Murphy, Red Bastien vs Cyclon Negro and the Alaskan.  Then there were Killer Kowalski, Mistu Arakawa, Kinji Shibuya, Toru Tanaka, Skull Murphy, Billy Robinson, Luther Lindsay, Karl Gotch, Jack Brisco, Pepper Gomez, Roy Heffernan, King Curtis, Don Leo Jonathan, Cowboy Bob Ellis and ... well, need I say more?
As a young teen in England, I had always maintained wrestling was pure as the driven snow.  Watching the boys from the USA, I had to admit rather early on that I was wrong, but still I never missed the TV wrestling and made many trips to the Sydney Stadium (known as the 'Old Barn'), where you would splash your way in and out of the urinals.  Standing in a puddle alongside a group of males relieving themselves, I heard one say to another "Well, if it's good enough for Sinatra, I suppose it's good enough for us."
Of course, over the years, I was spending a lot of time back in Blighty and being enthralled once more by the likes of George Kid, who had the most unique style I ever saw, the great George Gordienko, Ricky Starr, Clayton Thompson, Tibor Szakacs, Tony Charles, Portz and Apollon, Mick McManus, Jackie Pallo, Adrian Street, Barnes. Les Kellet and Brian Glover were two of the funniest performers I ever saw, but who also actually showed off great wrestling skill.  Just too many to name.
Masked men?  Probably a bit lean for me as regards to the number I've seen, but the Spoiler (Don Jardine, great heel), Count Bartelli (British legend), Kendo Nagasaki (British legend), Zebra Kid, and the Assassins come to mind.
I count myself lucky to have seen most of those mentioned live, and although today's wrestlers are mostly great athletes, public taste has changed their performance (get in, do some high flying, bit of brawling, signal to those watching that the finish is coming u,p and bring out the next combatants).  Most of the British cards I saw had four matches on them.  The crowd would watch intently and, as they maded their way home, felt like they had gotten their moneys worth.  Now you have to sit through a giddy procession of wrestler after wrestler coming and going from behind the curtains.  Seven, eight, ten matches ... and how many appear to be the same?  You know what, though?  I still watch them and I guess I always will.
By the way, my son was introduced to the game at an early age and, at sixteen, I was pretty sure he would get into the squared circle as a worker.  Instead, he went the way of Brazilian Jui-Jitsu and now works as a teacher in Japan, and in his spare time, he spars with world-ranked martial artists.  Nuts.  I was hoping to tag up with him over here in the clubs!  In the next life, perhaps!
Cheers,

John Shelvey, Australia

I read your story on Brody.  When i was little, maybe about five or six years old   my mom and I were in Albertson's and I was running down the aisle.  I ran head first into a big, giant leg.  I stood and looked up ... and it was Bruiser Brody.  The man almost stepped on me.  He bought me a Pespi and gave my mom tickets to the next match, but he was killed before it took place.  That man was my reason to watch wrestling in the first place.
Angela Thomas

I started watching wrestling in 1969 when I was 5 years old.  One day, I was changing the TV channels and stumbled upon wrestling.  I was hooked from the very beginning, transfixed by the action in the squared circle.
Dick The Bruiser was my first wrestling hero.  Being from the Chicago area, it was easy to become a Bruiser mark.  Dick received the biggest push and everything seemed to revolve around him.  I remember cheering Bruiser on in his battles against the hated Blackjacks Lanza and Mulligan. I couldn't wait for the day Bruiser would get his hands on the Blackjacks' manager Pretty Boy Bobby Heenan.  Those were the days.  I remember them so fondly.
Bruiser wasn't the only wrestler I liked.  Other favorites of mine included Crusher Lisowski, Pepper Gomez [The Man with the Cast Iron Stomach], Wilbur Snyder [The World's Most Scientific Wrestler], and for some reason, the maniacal Sheik.  It was odd I liked a heel such as the Sheik because I liked almost exclusively fan favorites.  I just loved how the Sheik threw fireballs and carved up opponents with his trusty foreign object.
Chicago was a great wrestling city.  Bruiser's WWA and Gagne's AWA would combine for cards every three weeks at the International Amphitheatre.  With Bruiser being pushed as the top star even higher than the AWA champion, it should come as no surprise that Chicago was a blood territory.  Fans would chant "We want blood" at every Amphitheatre show.  The fans were never disappointed as Bruiser's opponent would juice like crazy.
In addition to all the blood, Chicago had its share of great workers too.  You had the veteran Verne Gagne, the great English star Billy Robinson, the acrobatic but still tough Red Bastein, the very smooth Wilbur Snyder and the best tag team I ever saw, Nick Bockwinkel and Ray Stevens.  So there was a great mix of brawling and scientific wrestling.
As the years went by, I became more of a heel fan.  I started rooting for Nick Bockwinkel, Baron Von Raschke, "King Kong" Bruiser Brody and the evil strongman Ken Patera.  I was still a MARK.  I just marked out for a different type of wrestler.
One thing I always tell people is, the day I stop being a mark will be the day I stop being a wrestling fan.  In recent years, the term mark has been viewed as an insult.  I've never seen it that way.  Being a mark is a good thing.  I still mark out every Monday night whether it be for the Rock, HHH, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Lance Storm, Booker T, Juventud Guerrera or Rey Misterio Jr.  Sure, wrestling has changed, but I can still mark out for my favorite wrestlers.  I guess "I get it".  LOL.
As my namesake Baron Von Raschke would say – "That's all the people need to know."

James Zordani
I first started watching wrestling back in 1978, then attended my first live show at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena not long after.  Getting there early and watching as the wrestlers drove up was fun.  Bob Backlund used to walk from the hotel to the arena.  After the shows, we'd wait for them, too.  We used to be able to get autographs.  Back then, you could even walk up to the ring during the introductions and get autographs.
Last week, my wife and I took my son and daughter to see Brian Christopher and Scott Taylor (CK??) at a local store where they had an autograph signing.  They didn't meet them because I wasn't paying twenty-five bucks to say hello, get an autograph, and take a picture.  That's ridiculous.
Bring back the good ol' days.  They should remember – if it wasn't for us fans, they wouldn't be making that money.

walrusispaul
Okay!  Here's the start of my markdom.  In the late 50's, my Granddaddy would be glued to the TV anytime wrestling was on.  It didn't matter if we had company or not.  Granddaddy was going to watch his wrestling.  As it turned out many years later, wrestling was the last TV show he watched before he passed away.
My first favorite was probably Mike Clancy.  I loved the way he would wind up before hitting the bad guy.  I thought he was the toughest man alive ... other than Grandaddy that is.  After that, I was a big Danny Hodge mark.  I didn't like them at the time, but Sputnick Monroe probably stirred my anger more than anyone else to that point.  Those, my friends, were the days!

Ed Propes
I started in the early seventies with Championship Wrestling from Florida.  My earliest memory was of Tim Woods defeating Bobby Shane for the Southern belt.  Shane actually beat himself.  He was concentrating so hard on applying an arm scissor hold to Woods, that he relaxed and left his shoulders on the mat and didn't notice the ref counting.  I still remember Gordo's reserved pleasure that the evil, arrogant heel, Shane outsmarted himself.  I grew up on the Funk-Brisco feud as well as Dusty's big face turn.  It was in a match with Pak Song against Eddie and Mike Graham.
I still remember getting ready for school one Thursday morning and hearing on my dad's radio that a plane had crashed in Tampa Bay with four pro wrestlers and that one had been killed.  I was depressed for days, even though I hated Bobby Shane.
In the late 70s, I met a tall, skinny kid in the gym named Jim Helwig.  I saw him several years later when he came back to the gym ... weighing about 250.  He was in his last year of chiropractic school in Atlanta.  He had stopped in to see my dad and I.  (The gym was ours by then.)  The next time I saw Jimmy was on WCCW and I "marked out" huge.  I couldn't believe I knew the Dingo Warrior.
A friend married a local guy named Aldo Ortiz and when he started "jobbing" for NWA when they were in town, I got in the back and met alot of the "boys" -- Barry Windham, The Road Warriors, and "Dr. Death" Steve Williams – just to name a few.
The more I learned about the business, the more I loved it.  I still watch Monday nights, but I am glad they go head to head.  I can switch channels when those 20 minute interviews start.
I met Les Thacher on the phone about ten years ago.  He was working for a gym equipment company I was dealing with and I recognized his name.  I used to call him and pick his brain about wrestling.  I am surprised he didn't get tired of me calling all the time.  Les and his Pilmman Memorial show have become a regular May event for me.  The highlight of my life as a fan took place last year at the Pillman.  I was trying to find a ride to the arena from the hotel and got into a limo with Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat.  What else can you ask for?  Thanks, Les.

Bill Kociaba
My first recollection of wrestling was when I was about 7-8 years old.  I saw Ed Carpentier do his patented somersault onto a prone opponent on a TV show from Montreal (1958-59) ... and I was hooked.
I attended school in England for two years (we'd moved to Labrador - no TV and no schools) where I watched wrestling every Saturday morning (if I recall correctly).  The British wrestler I recall most vividly from that era is Billy Robinson, who later had an illustrious career in Montreal, among other places.
When I came back to Montreal, it was Ed Carpentier, and of course, the Rougeau's, the BlackJacks, Buddy Roberts and Jerry Brown (The original Hollywood Blondes -- I saw them often at the old Verdun Auditorium, where a rather overweight lady who always sat in the front row would yell her head off when they started taking each other's robes and sunglasses off), Hans Schmidt, Baron von Raschke, the Vachons, the Leducs, Don Leo Jonathan (one of my all time favorites), Killer Kowalski, Yvon Robert -- the list is almost endless!!
One of my all-time favorite matches was Don Leo Jonathan vs. Killer Kowalski (around 1971, I think) at a packed Montreal Forum.  This was the blowoff to a long feud.  The match lasted around 45 minutes, and ended with Don Leo literally kicking Killer's butt around the ring before he pinned him, while the crowd went bananas.
I still follow wrestling on TV, but memorable matches are much fewer.  That was a little about me!

Mark Nixon
I have been sitting here browsing through your web site and getting a little teary as I went back to my childhood.  As a little girl growing up in Mobile, Alabama, Gulf Coast Wrestling was a big part of my life.  My mom and dad would gather up us girls on Wednesday nights and off to the matches we'd go.
Oh, man!  The heroes wrestling had back then!!!!!!  The line was clearly drawn between the good guys and the bad, unlike the wrestling of today where there is not a good, clean hero to be found.  The Dick Dunns, Fields Brothers, and Cowboy Bob Kellys are all gone.
I will never forget the night that Bob Kelly came to the ring wearing that beautiful white jacket.  I was ringside, begging for him to sign my book.  He lifted me into the ring, turned his back to me and said, "I will sign your book if you will sign my jacket."  Well, I could have been no more excited if I had met a movie star, and because he made me feel that I was important, that memory has stayed with me all my life.
I am now a 47-year-old, upper middle-class woman who still longs for the heroes of old.  When I had children, I took them to live matches and told them stories of the real wrestlers of Gulf Coast Wrestling.
My family still remain wrestling fans, holding onto WCW in the hopes that someone there will turn this thing around.  Our hopes are fading.  Thanks for the wonderful memories.

Gail Dixon
Do you remember when you first discovered professional wrestling?
Can you recall the excitement you felt in those early days?
Share those memories with us and let us add them to these pages.
 
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