It is a pleasure today to be joined with “The Voice of Minnesota wrestling” Mick Karch for this edition of Missouri Wrestling Revival’s One on One. MWR fans will have a special oppurtunity to get to meet Karch in East Carondelet, Illinois on May 16th during the SICW “Bruiser Brody Memorial” event that will also include the afternoon “Meet and Greet” with several Wrestling Legends including Brody’s lovely widow Barbara Goodish, former American Wrestling Association (AWA)Champion Stan Hansen, Wrestling at the Chase announcer Larry Matysik, Wrestling superstar “Cowboy” Bob Orton, the first ever WWE (Then known as the WWF) female ring announcer Mike McGuirk starting at 3:30pm that will conclude with a memorable night of action featuring the stars of SICW.
Please note: All photos courtesy of Mick Karch.
Brian: Mick, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us at MWR today.
Mick: Brian, it’s my pleasure. You do a terrific job.
Brian: Today’s wrestling fans have many opportunities to discover wrestling through the WWE on the USA Network, TNA on Destination America, Ring of Honor on Sinclair as well as various outlets on the internet including Youtube and promotions own websites. Yet, as a man that started his career in the 70’s, I have to ask what was your first exposure to the sport as a fan and who was it that created that spark for the love of pro wrestling?
Mick: I did behind the scenes print publicity for the AWA from 1973-1986. In 1987, I was hired on as their ring announcer and occasional color guy for their ESPN tapings at the Showboat in Las Vegas. It is so ironic to have eventually worked for them, because my hero as a child was Verne Gagne. I was flipping through the TV channels at the age of nine, and I saw big Tiny Mills, a 6’3″, 275 pound lumberjack, pushing around the TV announcer, Marty O’Neill. Marty was all of about 5’6″. Tiny was ranting and raving about wanting a match with Verne Gagne.
I saw my first live event May 17, 1960, in Minneapolis, and Verne was in the main event, teaming with football and wrestling star Gene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb to face Mills and Stan “Krusher” Kowalski. I was hooked on wrestling for life.
Brian: You entered the business during a time that it was hard to break in due to the laws of Kayfabe being enforced. At what point did you realize that the matches were predetermined and how were the doors open for you to be included among the circle of people that were involved in the sport?
Mick: Like any kid from that era, I refused to listen to my parents and siblings, who told me that wrestling wasn’t on the “up-and-up.” Of course, I refused to believe it—for a while. As time went on, I began to pick out certain things that didn’t seem quite right. When I ventured down to the Dyckman Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, which housed the Minneapolis Boxing & Wrestling Club (AWA) a few years later and saw Reggie Parks and Moose Cholak standing by the elevators, laughing and joking, the light bulb went off. Parks and Cholak were in the midst of a “feud” at the time. Now it all made sense.
You are so correct that this was the “kayfabe” era, and the wrestling business was protected to the hilt. No one was automatically allowed even remotely close to the inner circle. I literally hung around the TV tapings and the arena matches for years before I was semi-trusted. That is certainly a far cry from today’s scenario, when it seems just about anyone can finagle their way into a locker room or back stage.
Brian: Before we go any further with the AWA we have to mention the great Verne Gagne. Last month on April 27th , Gagne passed away at the age of 89, but his contribution to the sport of wrestling as a Champion, promoter and trainer defined an era of wrestling that continues to this day. What were your memories of Verne Gagne and out of those three different aspects of wrestling do you feel was his biggest accomplishment?
Mick: As it relates to Verne Gagne, I don’t think his impact and imprint on the business can be overstated. His influence was monumental, going back to the mid-1950’s when he was really the first national “babyface” wrestler on the old Dumont Network. Televised pro wrestling was an absolute mainstay back then, and Verne was its original big star. As the years went on, his star shone brighter and brighter. He was the epitome of a champion: good looks, tremendous conditioning, smart, articulate, and always the ultimate professional. As a promoter, he had a keen eye for talent and he ruled with an iron fist. Verne was first and foremost a WRESTLER, and you damn well better know how to wrestle if you worked for him. The AWA had its share of off the wall characters, too, but nothing like the circus “sports entertainment” that the WWF/WWE foisted on the world.
As a trainer, there were none better than Verne. Look at the roster of guys he turned out: Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Sgt. Slaughter, Greg Gagne, Jim Brunzell, Scott Irwin, Bob Backlund, Khosrow Vaziri, on and on. Amazing.
Brian: The AWA was filled with several larger than life characters throughout the years that thrilled fans with exciting action in the ring and memorable interviews that drew huge crowds night after night. Men such as a Nick Bockwinkel , Mad Dog Vachon, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Dick the Bruiser, Larry Hennig and Baron Von Raschke just to name a few. Who were your favorites to work with personally and can you share a story with the MWR fans of one of those stars?
Mick: My favorite wrestlers over the years tend to be the “heels.” My all time favorite, bar none, is Nick Bockwinkel. I honestly believe that he was the standard bearer for the wrestling business in the 1970’s and early 80’s. I was also a huge fan of the late Dr. Bill Miller, Dick (Dr.X/Destroyer) Beyer, Stan “Krusher” Kowalski, and Bobby Heenan. The stories about these guys could fill a book, but I’ll share one kind of bizarre and scary one.
Dr. Bill Miller wrestled in the AWA under a mask as “The Mysterious Mr. M.” He won the AWA title from Verne in January 1962. In August of that same year, Verne won the title back in Minneapolis. The end of the match saw Verne twist the mask so Miller couldn’t see, then he dropkicked and pinned him. The stipulation was if Miller lost, he would unmask, which he did right after the match. On his way back to the locker room, a crazed fan leaned over the railing of the balcony and viciously hit Miller over the head with a 2 x 6 board with a 1/8″ steel spike on the end. A nearly unconscious Miller was assisted back to the locker room.
Some 12 years later, Miller returned for a short stint in the AWA and I spoke with him at the TV tapings. We discussed the incident, which Miller said he remembered like it was yesterday. He explained that when he went back to the locker room and was regaining his senses, he could actually put his pinky finger into the top of his head a feel his brain! Miller was a veterinarian and he knew how serious it was. He showed me the scars which were still clearly visible. The perpetrator, by the way, was never caught.
“The World’s Most Scientific Wrestler” Wilbur Snyder teams with “The Man With The Cast Iron Stomach” Pepper Gomez, to go against the feared master of the heart punch Ox Baker and Dr. Big Bill Miller. This is the first of a two fall battle.
Editors note: SICW fans were fortunate enough to meet OX Baker in 2014 at the East Carondelet Community Center , before he passed away months later.
Brian: Here at Missouri Wrestling Revival, we work with many ring announcers throughout the MWR coverage area. What would be your advice to someone that is looking to become the best ring announcer that they can be?
Mick: To aspiring ring announcers, here’s a few tips. Take a deep breath and relax. The audience will pick up on it right away if you are nervous. Do your homework. Make sure you are clear on all the weights, hometowns, and match stipulations. Most importantly, don’t be too overbearing. Deliver your intro forcefully and clearly, but don’t try to be flamboyant and outshine the wrestlers. Remember, it’s about them, not you.
Brian: On December 29th, 1985 Stan Hansen defeated Rick Martel to become the AWA World Champion? Hansen was also a Mega Star in Japan with his good friend and partner Bruiser Brody who is set to be honored next week at SICW with the Bruiser Brody memorial event in East Carondelet Illinois. As a fan that Grew up in the 80’s, Hansen’s version of the clothesline, the Lariat was a feared move that every wrestling fan “knew” had broken WWWF Heavyweight Champion Bruno Sammartino’s neck in the 70’s. I don’t remember a match that involved Hansen that the commentator put over the fact that he could win the match with the lariat if he was able to land the move. Who and what were some of your favorite finishers to call during a match while you did color commentary?
Mick: My favorite finishing maneuvers to call play by play on? Wow, that’s a tough one. I would say Bruiser Brody’s boot to the face and flying knee drop, Greg Gagne’s sleeper hold, Jerry Blackwell’s big splash, and Mad Dog Vachon’s piledriver rank right up there. It’s sad how the business has changed and the finishers I’ve mentioned are just another move in the matches these days, and usually the opponents kick out at least once.
Brian: Fans of today can relive the AWA through the WWE DVD release WWE: The Spectacular Legacy of the American Wrestling Association. Was this a worthy look of the AWA, and what would you have liked to have seen showcased more or less on the DVD?
Mick: I thought the AWA DVD was pretty decent, especially when you consider it was a WWE release. Watching some of the old footage is particularly great to an old school fan like me. If there is anything I had a problem with it would be how much emphasis was placed on the erosion of the promotion. I guess that’s to be expected, but the AWA had 50 years of greatness before the wheels fell off the bus.
Brian: Recently you and I had the pleasure of spending time in Las Vegas at the 50th Anniversary of the Cauliflower Alley Club. The event was filled with memories and moments that will last a lifetime including what I felt was one of the most entertaining acceptance speech’s of All-time when one of my heroes, Harley Race presented Hennig the “Iron” Mike Mazurki Award. The two, along with Hennigs’ wife Irene could easily take their show on the road as they delivered laughs and good times that exhibit what the CAC is all about. This is a multi-part question, how long have you been a member of the CAC, what have been your highlights of attending the reunion and why should a wrestling fan join a club that we feel so passionate about?
Mick: I have been attending the CAC reunions since 2000. There is no way to describe the feeling you get rubbing elbows with the legends of the business. I have met so many amazing people. Since I started going there, I have seen the likes of Steve Austin, Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat, Antonio Inoki, Pat Patterson, the Vachons, Hard Boiled Haggerty, Tex McKenzie, Kurt Angle, Sputnik Monroe, Larry Hennig, Harley Race, Lou Thesz, Bobby Heenan, The Crusher, Jim Cornette, JJ Dillon, Nick Bockwinkel, Terry Funk, The Fabulous Moolah, Mae Young, Judy Grable, Stan Hansen, Tim Woods and Johnny Walker (“Mr. Wrestling” 1 & 2), Ox Baker, Superstar Graham, Jimmy Valiant, on and on and on. Hundreds of superstars. I would tell anyone who is truly passionate about the wrestling business, you NEED to attend at least once. You owe it to yourself. I would also say, don’t wait. Many of the people I just mentioned have passed away. You just never know.
Brian: As we prepare for an exciting weekend built around the memories of Bruiser Brody at the show of the year for SICW, what were your memories of Bruiser Brody?
Mick: My memories of Bruiser Brody. God, so many. I was a fan of his long before I ever saw him wrestle in person. Watching him on various syndicated wrestling programs and reading about him in the magazines, I always looked forward to seeing him. When he first arrived in the AWA area, it was incredible. His aura, his mystique, his sheer presence. I don’t know if I have ever seen a feud to match the one he had with Jerry Blackwell. In 1986, I had the tremendous honor of doing two television interviews with him at a show in Winnipeg, Canada. Bruiser main evented against the guy I know many fans in this area are very familiar with, “Bulldog” Bob Brown. Their match was a war and spilled out into the crowd. Even though I had been announcing for a couple years at that point, Brody was my first “big time” interview, and needless to say I was initially scared to death. But he spoke with me beforehand, laid down a few guidelines, and the promos went perfectly. When he thanked me for a job well done, I felt as if I had truly arrived as an announcer in the wrestling business. I will never forget that.
Brian: Since AWA has closed doors you have stayed active in the world of pro wrestling. Please tell the fans what you have been up?
Mick: During the time frame that the AWA was shutting down, I left there and became host of a four-hour wrestling block in the Twin Cities called “Saturday Night at Ringside.” Joe Pedicino and Paul Heyman were instrumental in getting me the job. Besides carrying NWA Worldwide, World Class, Pro Wrestling This Week, and Windy City Wrestling, I incorporated localized tie-ins for independent wrestling shows, brought in both local and national wrestlers, created angles and storylines, did trivia contests, answered viewer questions, and had fans appear as a “Ringsider of the Week.” In fact, the famous lady wrestler “ODB” was a “Ringsider” on my program at the age of 8 !!
I have worked for the American Wrestling Federation “Warriors of Wrestling” under the direction of Sgt. Slaughter and Tito Santana; I have done television for literally dozens of independent promotions in the United States, Canada, and Australia. For the past 17 years, I have been lead booker and TV host for Ed Hellier’s Steel Domain Wrestling, based out of Minnesota.
In the early days, SDW had future world champions C.M. Punk, Adam Pearce, Colt Cabana, Ken Anderson, Shawn Daivari, and Austin Aries on the roster AT THE SAME TIME!!!
Brian: Mick, thank you so much for taking the time with Missouri Wrestling Revival and we look forward to seeing you at SICW’s Bruiser Brody memorial event that starts with the 3:30 Q and A. Do you have anything that you would like to mention as we end this interview and prepare for such an exciting weekend?
Mick: I would like to extend my most sincere thanks to you for the opportunity to share part of my story, and to Herb Simmons and Larry Matysik for inviting this old AWA guy to such a wonderful event!!