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Mark Hewitt's Biographies of the Legends

Mark S. Hewitt was born and raised in the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC and has followed wrestling and boxing all his life.  Unable to find much written about the history of pro wrestling, he began doing research and writing about his findings.  He feels that pro wrestling is a big part of American culture and it's story needs to be preserved.  Of particular interest to Mark is the careers of John Pesek and Jack Sherry, local Washington area wrestlers like Joe Turner, Dutch Green, Joe Grant, etc., and the carnival athletic shows.  Mark has been married for twenty years and has two grown children.  He works as a masonry foreman for a remodeling contractor.


Tom Jenkins: Tough as Barbed Wire

Tom Jenkins was a one-eyed steel mill worker turned "rassler" back at the turn of the century.  He was the first great wrestling champion to specialize in the catch-as-catch-can style and receive both national and international recognition.  Earlier champs such as William Muldoon and Ernest Roeber were Graeco-Roman wrestlers.  Collar-and-elbow style, another early form of wrestling  was dominated by James McLaughlin and Duncan C. Ross.  Jenkins and his successor, Frank Gotch, popularized catch-as-catch-can wrestling, and it became the dominant form of grappling in the U.S.

Jenkins was born in Bedford, Ohio in 1872 of Welsh ancestry.  A rowdy youth, he was often in trouble with the police.  Young Tom was nearly killed when explosives accidently blew up in his face during a 4th of July celebration.  The injuries he received forced him to remain bedridden in a darkened room for nearly a year.  He lost one eye as a result of the accident and was ordered by the doctor never to read.  Jenkins wore a glass eye for the rest of his life.

He recovered and later found employment in the American Wire and Steel Mill in Newburg, Ohio.  Tom's job was a dangerous task called "roughing", which involved grabbing red-hot 100-lb. iron bars and bending them through rollers.   Jenkins once commented, "That job taught me to be quick ... it put a neck and arms on me and horny calluses on the heels of my hands."  During their noonday rest, the mill workers would wrestle impromptu matches and Tom soon gained a reputation as a tough guy to handle.

In 1891, the steel mill held a benefit for an injured worker in the town hall.  The program included singers, acrobats, cloggers and a wrestling match featuring Al Woods.  When Woods' opponent failed to show, the mill workers volunteered the eighteen-year-old Tom Jenkins.  Jenkins recalled, "... found myself in the ring with no experience and a pair of overalls ... It was cat and mouse, but when Woods caught me he couldn't throw me."  They wrestled to a draw.  The manager of the mill was so impressed with Jenkins' potential that he sent him to Luke Lamb in Cleveland for wrestling lessons.

A second match was soon arranged between Jenkins and a local pro named Pete Schumacher.  Jenkins won two straight falls in a little over one hour's time.  His steel mill buddies were so excited that they wrecked the club where the match was held.  The entire purse was taken to pay for the repairs.  Jenkins quit the mill and embarked on a full-time professional wrestling career.  Unable to read, he was swindled by a series of crooked managers.  That all changed in 1895 when Jenkins teamed up with George Tuohey, a well-known sports manager and promoter.  Together they would dominate the heavyweight ranks for several years.

In Cleveland in 1897, Jenkins was matched with Martin "Farmer" Burns.  The "Farmer" was generally acknowledged as the catch-as-catch-can wrestling champion of America after defeating Evan Lewis two years earlier.  Burns had agreed to throw Jenkins twice in sixty minutes, but failed to gain a single fall.  Several months later, Dan McLeod defeated Burns and claimed the title.  A month after that, Jenkins beat "Farmer" Burns.  Both McLeod and Jenkins boasted to be the champion, although McLeod had the more legitimate claim.

Dan McLeod at 165 pounds and "Farmer" Burns at 170 pounds were grappling wizards, masters at the rough-and-ready, American catch-as-catch-can style.  Jenkins weighed in at the 200 pound range, which was considered big for that era.  He was not as highly skilled a  technician as Burns and McLeod, but he utilized his weight advantage, his strength and his toughness.  Jenkins was adept at all the holds and pinning combinations, but he had a reputation as a "rough-houser".  He used his heavily callused hands to rub the skin off opponents.  Another one of his tricks was to throw a smashing forearm while feigning for a head hold.  When the strangle-hold was outlawed in wrestling matches, Jenkins developed a jawlock, which was little more than a disguised choke hold.

In 1898, Jenkins wrestled two of the giant "Terrible Turks" who invaded this country.  Yousouf Ismaelo was steam-rolling over all North American opposition.  Jenkins agreed to wrestle Yousouf in mixed-styles, Graeco-Roman and catch-as-catch-can, $1,000 a side.  Tom later described the contest saying, "I tried hold after hold.  You couldn't budge him with a team of horses.  Then I went to work on his legs... He kicked me and I protested to the referee.  This boiled up the Turk and he stormed out of the ring.  He did this five times and each time it took policemen, his manager, seconds and the ref to get him back ... He spun me over his head in an airplane whirl and threw me out of the ring.  I landed in the third row of seats."  The crowd was irate at the Turk's tactics and was ready to riot.  The referee quickly raised Yousouf's hand in victory and he was rushed to the dressing room for protection.

On November 5, 1898, Jenkins took on the second "Terrible Turk", a 305-pounder named Hali Adali.  This contest was billed for the world championship.  It lasted three hours and was declared a draw.  A couple of years later, Jenkins wrestled the third and biggest of the Turks, Noraolah, 6-foot, 6-3/4-inches tall and weighing 344 pounds.  Jenkins was thrown in two straight falls.  He lost nothing in his popularity due to his inability to defeat the "Terrible Turks" as they were looked upon as barely human.  In a modern pro wrestling ring or football field, these Turks would appear ordinary, but a hundred years ago, they were monsters.

In between big matches, which always included side bets and heavy wagering Jenkins toured the theatrical circuit taking on all comers and offering fifty dollars to anyone he couldn't throw in fifteen minutes.  Only one man, out of over two hundred challengers, ever collected the prize, and that was at Graeco-Roman style.

Professional boxing was banned in New York in 1900 and several of the leading heavyweight boxers turned to the mat.  Jenkins wrestled and beat two of them, Peter Maher and "Sailor" Tom Sharkey.  Sharkey had trained hard at wrestling and put up a valiant defense, but he was unable to stave off defeat.  Jenkins and Sharkey met again in a private, no-holds-barred "match fight".  Sharkey was a rugged fighter and he knocked Jenkins out cold as the wrestler closed in for a lock-up.

Jenkins defeated Graeco-Roman champions Charley Wittmer and Ernest Roeber in "mixed-style" contests.  A coin toss would determine the style of the first fall.  The next fall would be held under the alternate style.  If a third and final fall was necessary, the winner of the fastest fall was allowed to choose the grappling style.  Jenkins also once boxed a four-round exhibition with "Gentleman" Jim Corbett.

Jenkins' main rival was Dan McLeod of Ontario.  Both men had defeated Farmer Burns and both claimed to be the champion.  In their first meeting, McLeod failed to throw Jenkins the agreed two times in a one-hour handicap contest.  A rematch was arranged for November 7, 1901 in Cleveland.  The bout was to be "to a finish, all holds allowable, best two out of three falls, catch-as-catch-can, for America's championship."  The referee was Charley Wittmer.  Jenkins won two straight falls in forty-one minutes.  There was heavy betting throughout the match and the local newspaper called it "the greatest wrestling match ever witnessed in this country."  All parties agreed that this contest was "on the level".  Tom Jenkins was now the undisputed wrestling champion of America.  He gave his opponent credit saying, "McLeod is a wonder.  He is certainly the best white man I ever met.  Never have I had to work so desperately before."

One year and one month later, McLeod threw Jenkins and re-won the title, but not without controversy.  Jenkins had contracted severe blood poisoning in his left leg.  He had a special protective device made for his leg out of leather bandages, steel wires and brass buckles.  He wore the contraption into the match.  Jenkins won the first fall after a grueling fifty-nine minutes.  McLeod resorted to grinding the buckles into Tom's shin, causing him excruciating pain.  This softened Jenkins up enough for McLeod to pin him for the second fall.  The attending physician examined Jenkins and warned him to withdraw but he refused.  Jenkins went out for the deciding fall, but was nearly defenseless and his manager, Tuohey, finally threw in the towel.

Early in 1903, Jenkins had the first of a series of matches with a "comer" from Iowa by the name of Frank Gotch.  They met in Cleveland and the match-up was described as " one of the roughest mat battles in American history."  Jenkins emerged the victor from this encounter.  A couple of months later, Jenkins had a rematch with McLeod in Buffalo.  Tom actually trained for the contest by working in the old steel mill.  It was a fierce bout and both men freely punched and slapped each other.  Jenkins used his callused hands to tear McLeod's face, neck and arms.  Jenkins won and again held the title.

Jenkins lost the crown to Gotch, won it back and lost it again to him.  Out of eight contests between the two gladiators, Jenkins won three.  Each match, save for the last few when Jenkins was past his prime, were classics -- two of America's greatest wrestlers battling in all-out competition.  Gotch lauded his rival, commenting, "Jenkins was the strongest and roughest wrestler of his time.  His star was setting at a time when mine was in the ascendant."

Jenkins lost twice to George Hackenschmidt, the celebrated European wrestler; once in London and once in Madison Square Garden.  Jenkins toured the world and took along his whole family.  Unfortunately he spent most of his mat earnings by doing so.  President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Jenkins the boxing and wrestling instructor at West Point.  Jenkins held that position for thirty-seven years, retiring in 1942.  Tom Jenkins passed away in 1957.

Jenkins is largely overshadowed by Frank Gotch.  But more than one old-timer considered Jenkins the better of the two in their primes.  It is true Gotch twice beat Hackenschmidt, who twice defeated Jenkins, but Gotch resorted to all manner of foul tactics to do so and in the second contest, he even paid Ad Santel to injure Hack during training.  Jenkins chose to wrestle Hackenschmidt in a "straight" and "sportsmanlike" manner and was simply out-powered.  Neither did Gotch ever battle any of the giant Turks, whose explosive strength was said to be phenomenal.  Jenkins gamely met three of them.  (Note: Gotch did defeat Yussiff Mahmout and Yussiff Hussane, in fact they became members of his troupe, but they were both in Gotch's weight range.)

Tom Jenkins was held in high regard by all his contemporaries and Jack Curley once remarked that he "was the best I ever saw."

Note:  The Gotch-Jenkins contests will be covered in more detail in an upcoming article on Gotch's career.


Jack Pesek: When the Tiger Tamed the Olympian

In the early 1920's, Ed "Strangler" Lewis was the dominant force in professional wrestling.  Along with athletic superstars like Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, and Red Grange, Lewis' exploits were front-page headlines in the sports section of the major newspapers.  Lewis, along with his partner/manager Billy Sandow, maintained a powerful headlock on the heavyweight wrestling crown.  Along with their associates, they were cleaning up at the box office.  They kept "Tigerman" John Pesek on call as a "policeman" to ward off unwanted challengers and the so-called "trustbusters."  The trustbusters were maverick grapplers who refused to "play ball" with the promotional alliances and wanted to wrestle on their merits.

The most ballyhooed trustbuster was big Marin Plestina, the "Tarzan of the Mat."  Plestina was a Farmer Burns/Frank Gotch protege who relentlessly demanded a shot at the heavyweight title.  The sportswriters took up Plestina's crusade.  Bernarr MacFadden, the famous physical culture guru, backed Plestina's claim with $50,000.  Plestina was told that if he could get through Pesek, he'd get a championship match.  Strangler Lewis could hold his own with anyone, but in those "wild and wooly" days, anything was possible, and Billy Sandow was extremely cautious.  Double-crosses, gambling coupes, and the use of ringers and paid-off referees were common occurrences.

John Pesek had justifiably earned his "Tigerman" monker.  He was ferocious, fast, agile, powerful, and a master "submission-style" wrestler.  The deadliest weapons in his arsenal were the double-wristlock and the toehold, both bonebreakers.  Pesek also had a reputation for slamming opponents so hard onto the mat that they were knocked out cold.  His prime fighting weight, 185-pounds, was light for the heavyweight division, but it never affected his prowess.

Pesek and Plestina locked horns on November 14, 1921 at Madison Square Garden.  The Tigerman's fury was unleashed upon Plestina to such an extent that the referee disqualified him after repeated warnings.  Plestina, a bulky defensive grappler, stalled throughout the bout.  Pesek taunted him to "mix it up" and proceeded to give him the beating of his life.  Plestina needed hospitalization after the contest.  The state athletic commission withheld Pesek's money and banned him from wrestling in New York, but the mighty Marin Plestina had his claws pulled.

Pesek took the fight out of another "trustbuster," Armas Laitenen of Finland and left him with a broken arm.  The Tigerman once remarked about his years as a "policeman," "The bigger they were when they tried to get by me, the further they wanted to get away from the Lewis camp after the match was over."

At the 1920 Olympics, a new wrestling sensation burst on the scene ... National G. Pendleton.  While grappling for Columbia University, Pendleton won three Eastern Conference titles and two AAU national titles.  Supported by the prestigious New York Athletic Club, he represented the U.S. at the Olympic Games held in Antwerp, Belgium.  He competed in both the freestyle and the Graeco-Roman heavyweight competitions.  The final freestyle bout was between Robert Roth of Switzerland and America's own Nat Pendleton.  Roth was awarded a very controversial decision.  Pendleton actually won the referee's decision, but the judges overruled it.  Nat settled for the silver medal, despite all the ensuing objections and protests.

Nat turned pro under the auspices of New York promoter Jack Curley, but was unable to get the top matmen into the ring.  Strangler Lewis, Joe Stecher, and Earl Caddock all turned a deaf ear to his challenges.  As Pendleton's star rose, the services of the Tigerman would once more be called into action.

Curley distributed a circular in which Pendleton guaranteed to beat Lewis and any other wrestler on the same night.  It further stated that Nat could defeat Jack Dempsey in a no-holds-barred fight within ten minutes.  Curley and Pendleton sought to invade Boston, a hotbed of pro wrestling under the control of Paul Bowser.  Bowser was a veteran wrestler who was in cahoots with Lewis and Sandow.  Curley agreed to have the Olympic medalist "shoot" with Bowser's "Unknown" for side-bets and a winner-take-all purse.  Bowser boasted, "If my man doesn't give him all the wrestling he wants for the rest of his career, then I will take him on two weeks later."

Pendleton and Bowser each posted $2,000.  The management of the Grand Opera House, where the contest would take place, kicked in $2,000 and the whole sum was deposited with a local sports editor.  The winner was to receive the entire purse plus fifty percent of the gate.  The loser got nothing ... not even carfare home.

The rules of the match stipulated that the "Unknown" had to gain two falls within 75 minutes and could not weight over 190 pounds.  Pendleton's regular weight was a little over 200.  Bowser was so confident of his mystery man's abilities that he agreed to cover a $2,500 bet with $25,000.  As the arranged date, January 25, 1923, drew near, speculation abounded as to the identity of the "Unknown."  Tickets sold like hot cakes with large requisitions from New York City and Philadelphia.

Nat Pendleton had never had his shoulders pinned to the mat in either the amateur or professional ranks.  His only loss was the controversial Olympic point-decision.  He was arguably one of the finest wrestlers of his time.  To defeat the "Unknown," whom he would outweight by at least ten pounds, all Nat had to do was remain on the defensive.  The rules, "Police Gazette Catch-As-Catch-Can," would be strictly enforced by wrestler Cyclone Burns.  No foul tactics would be tolerated.  A disqualification would occur after two warnings.  If the combatants rolled into the ropes or off the mat, the ref would re-start them in the ring center.

Two days before the big match, Bowser announced the name of his "Unknown" -- none other than John Pesek.  Pesek was under the management of Max Bauman, who just happened to be the brother of Billy Sandow.  Pesek's task was a formidable one.  He had to throw his adversary, a world-class wrestler, twice in one hour and fifteen minutes.

Pendleton trained hard for weeks in preparation.  Pesek had a private gym on his Nebraska ranch and was always in tip-top shape.  Fans, wrestlers, and promoters alike, flocked to the Opera House to witness the epic battle.  Pendleton was the popular favorite.  When time was called, the Tigerman charged right into the Olympian, forcing him against the ropes, getting behind him, taking him down and going after his trademark double-wristlock.  Pendleton desperately tried to escape the hold and thrashed about the canvas.  Pesek stayed calm, wrapped his legs around Nat's head and continued working to secure a wristlock, now in a combination with a head scissors.

About thirty-five minutes into the action, Pesek hooked Pendleton's right foot.  Nat responded by latching onto Pesek's foot.  The Tigerman kicked free, doubled his opponent's leg over his own and put on the pressure.  In agony, Pendleton called "Stop! Stop!", thus forfeiting the first fall.  Another few seconds and his ankle would have snapped.  Pendleton limped to his corner and the two warriors took a ten-minute rest.

When the fray resumed, Pesek again plowed into Pendleton.  They rolled about the mat, grappling furiously, but the Olympic champ was done-in.  Pesek again quickly hooked the right foot and forced a second and final submission.  The total time of the battle was just under 41 minutes.  Another challenger had been declawed by the Tigerman.

It was a hard fought battle with both men feeling its effects afterwards.  Pendleton was nursing his right arm and ankle.  It turned out that the ligaments had been torn loose in his leg.  Pesek's right thumb was ripped open and bleeding.  Bauman defiantly stated after the match that Pesek "can throw all challengers ... any man that Curley can find."  Pendleton said, "I knew what I was up against ... However, I did not fear him.  I guarded against his pet holds and ... broke his wristlock several times ... I forgot my foot and that cost me the match.  I am satisfied that Pesek is not my master on the mat and later on will challenge him for another contest."

Pesek walked away with $8,000.  It's said that Sandow and Bowser cleaned up a whole lot more in bets.  Pendleton continued wrestling throughout the 1920's, then traded his mat career for Hollywood.  He appeared in 103 films.  The Tigerman stayed active in pro wrestling into the early 1950's.


Taking On All Comers: A History of the Carnival Athletic Show

The "athletic show" was the top attraction of many an old-time carnival.  "AT shows", as they were called, featured wrestlers and boxers taking on challengers from the crowd.  Large circuses also carried "AT shows" as part of their sideshow and as added attractions.  The tradition goes back to the Middle Ages when wandering wrestlers faced opponents in the ancient fairs and bazaars.  In America, the "AT show" dates to the post-Civil War era and ran right up until the early 1960's.  The athletic shows, often including female grapplers, also appeared on the old vaudeville stages and in burlesque theaters.

By the early 1900's, the "AT show" was a regular part of the county fair circuit.  In the spring, a showman would gather a troupe of capable wrestlers and fighters and send them out barnstorming.  Barnstorming is an old term used to describe touring entertainers and athletes that performed anywhere and everywhere.  Arriving at the fairgrounds, the "AT show" group pitched its tent along the midway with a stage out front called the "bally" and a regulation ring inside.  Large, colorful banners were displayed depicting wrestling scenes and boasting such slogans as "We Challenge the World" and "No One Barred".

The show involved meeting all comers from the audience, offering from five dollars on up to the challenger able to stay the time limit with the carnival man.  An "AT show" operator couldn't afford to pay out too many forfeits, so the wrestlers and boxers had to be both highly skilled and as tough as nails.

In its heyday, the athletic show produced a hardy breed of grappler; rough, ready and able to dispose of any challenger who stepped up from the spectators.  The challenger or "mark", as he was known in the business, could be anything from a husky farmer to the local bully.  George Drake, who worked "AT shows" out West in the 1940's, remembers his challengers as being "cowboys, wiseguys, drunks, college wrestlers and football players".

"AT show" bouts were time-limit handicap matches, with the "comer" attempting to stay for usually five minutes of wrestling or three rounds of boxing.  Often, as part of the show, one of the carnival wrestlers, referred to as a "stick", would be planted out among the crowd.  The stick would be worked into the program as all the "marks" were met and defeated in the beginning of the week.  Athletic show grapplers faced from two to a dozen or more challengers a day!  As the "marks" were weeded out, the stick would stay the limit with a couple of "AT show" men.  Then the big end of the week match would be the stick versus the carnival mat star in an exciting finish contest.  Other times, a local wrestler or amateur champion would be built up as a worthy contender.

Many of the top pro wrestlers of the past would take to the carnival circuit during the summer months, when the arenas closed.  Before the advent of air conditioning, the "AT show" was the only game available to matmen in the summertime.  Farmer Burns, George Bothner, Frank Gotch, Ed "Strangler" Lewis, "Tigerman" John Pesek, Jack Sherry, Ray Steele, Sputnik Monroe, Red Bastien, Bull Curry, Wild Red Berry and Angelo Poffo are among the many grappling greats of the past who worked "AT shows" during their careers.

The late Mildred Burke, world champion woman wrestler for twenty years, started out wrestling in carnivals in 1935.  Any man within twenty pounds of her weight who could pin her in ten minutes would be awarded twenty-five dollars.

Sputnik Monroe wrestled and boxed in carnival "AT shows" from 1947 to 1954, using the name 'Pretty Boy Rocque, the Hollywood Dandy'.  Monroe toured all over the western and mid-western United States with athletic shows.  Commenting on those days, Sputnik said, "I worked carnivals for 'Lover Boy' Barnard, Red Durham and, the daddy of athletic show operators, Jack Nasworthy ... I wrestled as high as thirty times in a day ... We tried to have as many shoots as we possibly could, and we always tried to get those handled on Monday or Tuesday, because the crowds would build towards the end of the week, and we'd have our own people there for the big crowds.  But anybody that'd come up, I boxer (or) wrestled ... Shooters or 'marks' that challenged got paid one dollar a minute for three three-minute rounds of boxing or five minutes of wrestling.  None ever stayed with the 'Pretty Boy'."

Among the wrestlers Monroe worked "AT shows" with include John Pesek, former world champion Everett Marshall, Jim "Goon" Henry, Buck Fanning and Jacob Levell Cagle.

Describing the challengers from the crowd he often faced, Monroe said, "That's the hardest kind of a guy to wrestle ... the guy that doesn't know how to wrestle, because if you wristlock him or something, he does the exact opposite of what you've trained yourself and learned to do in your career.  So there's a specialty in wrestling idiots.  You'd always try and give him your head or your hand ... You used 'marks' for referees, so they won't count the hometown boy out ... You always had to make them submit."

Red Bastien started out at sixteen years of age, taking on all comers in a carnival tent for Bodart Shows.  Red was taught grappling while working in a Minnesota lumber camp by an old-time mat man named Henry Kolln.  He was then recruited to work the carnival circuit in the late '40s.  He toured all over Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.  Wrestlers Red worked with in the "AT shows" included Gene Laska, Swede Oberg, "Dirty" Dick Evans, Joe Snyder and Frankie Colburn, who also boxed.

Red, and three or four others, would be out on the "bally" while the barker challenged the midway crowd.  After several "marks" stepped up onto the stage, they would be interviewed.  Then tickets would be sold, and the show would begin inside the tent.  The first night, the "AT show" wrestlers made short work of the "marks".  By the second night, Red recalled, the town bully would usually be brought around by the locals.  The "AT show" men would put him off for a while as if they were afraid, knocking off some more "marks" in the meantime.  As the excitement built up and the crowd grew, the final "AT show" match would pit the local "tough guy" against one of the carnival wrestlers.  Then, it would be on to the next town.

In reference to the "AT show" men, Red said, "Most of them were middleweights, but they would wrestle anyone ... These were old-time wrestlers ... They'd been around the mat world for years, so it wasn't likely that they were going to be beat, no matter how big the guy was.  They had what they called submission holds, and if he didn't give up, he'd get his leg broken."

Another veteran of carnival wrestling is Al Costello, of the world famous "Fabulous Kangaroos" tag team.  Al, a grocer's son in New South Wales, Australia, started his pro mat career in 1938.  To gain experience, he began wrestling and boxing all comers in the carnivals.  Al took on as many as twelve challengers a day.  He toured carnivals all over Australia with both Jimmy Sharman and with Roy Bell.  In 1945, he had his own Variety Boxing and Wrestling Entertainment Troupe.  The show featured, besides himself, three boxers and a half-aborigine wrestler known as "The Bronze Bomber".  Al remembers carnival wrestling as "a tough life and very little money ... but a ton of experience."

Al Costello recalled an incident that happened in Adelaide when he took on a big Dutch seaman in a two-out-of-three falls contest with a ten-minute time limit.  Al, an expert grappler, pinned the sailor for the first fall in thirty seconds.  He was about to repeat the performance when a shipmate of the Dutchman rushed onto the mat and kicked Al square in the head.  The seaman disappeared and Al was left with a fractured jaw.

A few wrestling bear acts still makes the rounds of American carnivals and country fairs.  I've heard that there's an "AT show", with wrestlers taking on all comers, operating in Blackpool, England; and that one last boxing troupe still tours the Australian outback, offering twenty dollars to anyone able to stay three rounds with one of its fighters.

The athletic show and its wrestlers, who literally "took on all comers", is a thing of the past.  Its legacy lives on, though.  Much of the showmanshipo associated with professional wrestling stems from its carnival roots.  Old-time carnival wrestling is an important, but largely forgotten chapter, in the sports' history.

The next time you stroll a carnival midway, let your thoughts turn back to an earlier day.  Imagine a large, colorful tent with four tough-looking hombres on a stage in front of it, and a fast-talking barker declaring the prowess of his men.  Listen, as the "AT show" grapplers taunt and aggravate the spectators, daring them to try and stay just five minutes.  Feel the excitement, as the whole country turns out to see their hometown hero try to best the carnival wrestler under the canvas tent.  Watch as "Pretty Boy Rocque" comes to grips with his challenger.  What's that the "AT show" wrestler says, standing over his defeated opponent?  "Nobody stays with the Pretty Boy.  Who's next!?"


 
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