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Posts Tagged ‘Verne Gagne’

One on One with “The Voice of Minnesota Wrestling” Ring Announcer Mick Karch

Posted by flairwhoooooo on May 13, 2015

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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.

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With Terry Taylor and Missy Hyatt, my broadcast colleagues in the American Wrestling Federation Warriors of Wrestling.

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?

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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?

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Former AWA World Champ Verne Gagne by the Artist of Champions Rob Schamberger

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?

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With Nick Bockwnkel, 1982.

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?

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With AWA/WWF announcer Ken Resnick, 2015

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.

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At Cauliflower Alley Club with Sir Oliver Humperdink.

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?

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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?

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With Bruiser Brody, 1987

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 !!

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On the set of “Saturday Night at Ringside,” with Stan Kowalski, Baron Von Raschke, Larry Hennig, Al DeRusha, Wally Karbo and Mad Dog Vachon (1990.)

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.

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Hosting Steel Domain’s “Championship Wrestling from the Twin Cities” program with promoter Ed Hellier, 2015.

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!!

hss

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Once It’s in Your Blood… By Matt Murphy

Posted by flairwhoooooo on February 19, 2011

Just a few months ago, I was content with my role as a passive wrestling fan. I watched WWE programming once in a while with lukewarm interest, mostly to see how a few of my friends were doing and what storylines they were involved with.

An old friend said I was getting bitter towards the wrestling business. He couldn’t have been more wrong. I love wrestling, always have and always will, but I had already struck out with WWE as a writer didn’t see any future for myself in the business. I thought it would be best for me and for my family if I just stayed away from wrestling.

And I tried. I pushed wrestling to the back of my mind did what I could to leave it there. My wrestling DVD library started to collect dust. And as I finished the first draft of my latest book, The Somebody Obsession: A Nobody’s Desperate Journey to Stardom, I wrote about my relationship with wrestling as if (and believing) I’d found closure.

My passion for wrestling never died and I could still feel it inside, but I dismissed it as indigestion and moved on with my life.

It had been more than a year since I’d done an interview when some old friends invited me to appear as the guest on their Squared Circle Round Table wrestling talk show on JCTV in Jefferson City. I wasn’t nervous or excited when the interview started, but I surprisingly had a blast talking wrestling with them. We filmed a pair of one-hour episodes and I felt like could have sat there and talked wrestling all night.

At Christmastime, I was adding items to my Amazon wish list to make my wife’s gift-buying as painless as possible. I thought it might be fun to kick my son’s butt at some WWE Smackdown vs. Raw on the Xbox 360, so I added that game to the list. On Christmas Eve, we let Hunter open one present. In turn, he insisted that I open one as well and he picked out the wrestling game to be that early gift. Minutes into my first match against Hunter, I could see that he was going to get hooked on wrestling.

During the next month, I watched and worried as Hunter’s obsession with wrestling grew. He staged matches with his rapidly growing collection of action figures, wrestled with his giant stuffed Batman on the dining-room floor, watched my Wrestlemania anthology and other wrestling DVDs (ever seen a five-year-old choose to watch a Verne Gagne vs. Baron Von Raschke match?), and played that wrestling video game so much that I had to buy a kitchen timer to make sure he still made time for other activities.

I had always said I would support my son’s interests to the best of my ability, no matter what those interests were, and he was putting that promise to the test.

Wrestling was a big part of my past that I expected to stay in the past, but he pulled me back in. And despite my uncertainty as I felt it happening, deep down I was glad.

I started looking for ways to contribute to the business again.

I’ve been called both a hack and a genius when it comes to the wrestling business. While the truth probably lies somewhere in between, I’ve always felt like I had something special to offer.

Many people who leave the business miss the camaraderie among the boys most of all. I miss it, of course, but more than anything I miss the thrill of feeling my creative wheels constantly turning, of scribbling down ideas for gimmicks and storylines and match finishes as fast as I could before they were lost forever, and that sense of accomplishment when I watched one of my ideas played out in front of a live crowd. Those are feelings I’ve never experienced in a “real” job and I miss them.

While browsing Facebook, I came up with an idea to create a networking site similar to Facebook but exclusively for those working in the business. Instead of piling that idea on the growing heap of ideas I’ve had in the last couple years that never made it a step further, I created the site that night. After one week, Kayfabe Connect has almost 80 members. I hope to see that number grow to 250 members in the next three months.

I didn’t watch Raw on Monday night but I heard about the Rock’s return soon afterwards. I found it on YouTube and watched in awe, forgetting about all my successes and failures in the business, and got completely engrossed in the segment once again as a fan. For the first time in I-don’t-know-how-long, I can’t wait until next Monday night.

A few nights ago, I went into the Harley Race Wrestling Academy for the first time in more than a year. I spoke briefly with Harley, who I’d only seen once during that time, and stood beside my old friend Trevor Murdock as we watched our sons, who are two months apart in age and are best friends, wrestle around. Since then, Hunter can’t stop begging me to take him back there. It seems that wrestling is in his blood, just as it’s in mine. Maybe this is just a phase and he’ll lose interest, and it’s okay with me if that happens, but for now I’m having fun watching him get wrapped up in wrestling the same way I did when I was a kid.

I don’t know what the future holds for me in wrestling. I know only two things: 1.) I want to work in the business in some capacity again, and 2.) I don’t expect to make profit in wrestling, but I owe it to my family to make sure I don’t take a loss, either.

No matter what happens between me and the wrestling business in the future, it feels pretty damned good right now to feel that fire rekindled.

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2010 MWR Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Mike Chapman

Posted by flairwhoooooo on January 1, 2011

History should
be studied
because it
is essential to
individuals and
to society, and
because it
harbors beauty.

Pro Wrestling fans are passionate about their love of the drama and action inside the squared circle. In a sport where the desire for us, the fans to know more about our heroes and villains more than ever, we are very fortunate to have websites, shoot interviews, movies and documentaries to fall back on.

Growing up I dreamed of a Hall of Fame for the stars that I saw in publications such as Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Wrestling needed a Hall of Fame just as baseball has Cooperstown New York and the NFL Canton Ohio. Sure, many magazines had a Hall of Fame on paper but I wanted more. I wanted to see the championship belts, photos and posters from past shows.

To be honest, coming from a boom time for pro wrestling in the 80’s with “Rock and Wrestling”, I still lived in a small town in the Midwest where there were still many that did not understand my love for wrestling. I thought that if a Hall of Fame was to exist I would have to make my way to New York or California to see such a wonderful museum.

Thankfully, we have one of the leading authorities on wrestling history in Mike Chapman living right here in the Midwest. Mike took his passion for amateur and pro wrestling and parlayed his talent to provide wrestling fans around the world a chance to gather to celebrate the accomplishments of our heroes.

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Mike and Bev pose for a photo in the ring in the Pro Wing of the Museum. (Photo Courtesy of Mike Chapman’s website)

Now fans young and old can come together to look back and remember the stars of yesterday at the The Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum in Waterloo Iowa. Mike Chapman founded the museum in 1998. With several years of hard work he retired from the museum on October 31, 2009 to devote full time to his new magazine, Iowa History Journal, and to write books.

Mike has represented the Midwest and the wrestling world with class and honor by promoting the sport as a public speaker, an author of 21 books (14 about wrestling) and his work has appeared in dozens of national and regional magazines.

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In his books wrestling fans are able to take a trip back into time to look back at the incredible careers of Frank Gotch in “Frank Gotch: His Life and Legacy” and one of my personal favorite wrestlers and human beings Dan Hodge in “Oklahoma Shooter: The Dan Hodge Story”.
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Fans of today are well aware of the talents that the collegiate wrestling world has as many in wrestling such as Bill Miller, Jack Brisco, Bob Geigel Brock Lesnar, Ken Shamrock, Steve Williams, Bobby Lashley, LeRoy McGuirk and of course Kurt Angle . Each of these men have all become important wrestlers in the pro ring at one time or another.

If some of these names are people that you may not know, I urge you to check out the museum or look them up, each a champion in their own right.

Let’s look at just a small part of his resume.

Mike is the founder of W.I.N. Magazine, considered by many the nation’s top amateur wrestling publication; the WIN Memorabilia Show, which draws 8,000 fans each year to the NCAA Championships.  Mike has been important in the jumpstarting the “Dan Hodge Trophy,” which goes each year to the top college wrestler in the United States. It has been called “the Heisman Trophy of wrestling.”

Mike has earned the respect of many in the sport by being named in six Hall of Fames the AAU National Wrestling Hall of Fame. In 2002 he  received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cauliflower Alley Club (CAC), an organization of boxers, wrestlers and movie actors. In 2007 he received the Order of Merit for lifetime achievement from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and the President’s Award from the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association.

As a reporter, he has attended 38 NCAA wrestling tournaments, two Olympics and two World Championships. He has won numerous awards for journalism and writing. He has been named National Wrestling Writer of the Year five times, by four different amateur wrestling organizations.

He has met and interviewed such people as Ronald Reagan, Muhammad Ali, Robert Redford, Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk from TV fame), Denny Miller (Tarzan actor and star of “Wagon Train”) and many other famous stars of movies and sports.

Mike has appeared on numerous TV shows –including the networks ESPN, A&E, Fox Sports, Iowa Public Television and Fox and Friends. He has been the guest on over 200 radio talk shows. He has produced three wrestling videos and has two screenplays in Hollywood, including “GOTCH: An American Hero.” The movie rights are owned by Empire Film Group and it is currently in pre-production.

As an athlete, he competed in wrestling, judo, sombo and bench press contests. He once bench pressed 440 pounds at a bodyweight of 205.

I first had the pleasure of meeting Mike Chapman in Newton Iowa, the original home of the Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum several years ago during an annual Hall of Fame. Several of my heroes from years past where in attendance in 2005 along with theInduction of Harley Race to the HOF.

Terry Funk, Verne Gagne and Larry Hennig were just a few that where there to sign autographs for the each and every one of the fans in attendance. Still one of the fondest memories that I had of that trip to Newton Iowa was how nice this guy that worked for the museum was towards Dubray and I. He spoke to us just like he had known us all of his life, telling stories of the displays and the posters on the wall.

We left that day in Newton with the perception that he just worked there and enjoyed what he done. I would later find out that that worker was none other than Mike Chapman, the founder of the museum, a man who had rubbed elbows former World Champions in Boxing and wrestling, Presidents of the United States, and some of the top Hollywood stars.

At Mike’s website this quote was stated

The mission of the Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum (DGIWIM) is to preserve, maintain and promote the long and illustrious heritage of mankind’s oldest sport in a manner which will benefit the sport, educate and entertain the public, and to inspire youth to dream big and work hard.

Mission accomplished Mike, this Lifetime Achievement Award is a thank you from the fans of the Midwest and around the world.

Editors Note: Please come back to MWR in the future for updates on the progress Mike latest project as he has been working with a committee in Humboldt, Iowa – the hometown of Frank Gtoch – to build an eight-foot statue of the world heavyweight champion (1908-1915) in the center of town.

If all goes as plan we hope to cover this historic occasion at Missouri Wrestling Revival
Please take the time to check out more information of Mike Chapman at his website here.

Fans of wrestling should check out the Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum website here and make plans to see it live in 2011.

Brian Kelley
Missouri Wrestling Revival

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CATCHING UP WITH GREG GAGNE INTERVIEWED BY BILL APTER

Posted by flairwhoooooo on July 26, 2010

Thanks to Darla Staggs Taylor for the info on this great interview

Greg Gagne

High-Flyer” Greg Gagne talks about his legendary father Verne, the WWE, AWA, and more

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Gene Kiniski- One of last links to the past is gone but not forgotten

Posted by flairwhoooooo on May 20, 2010

By Brian Kelley

There is no one today that compares to “Big Thunder” Gene Kiniski , stated legendary St Louis announcer Larry Matysik. At 6”4 272 pounds Eugene Nicholas “Gene” Kiniski quickly made an impact with his size and energy that would not stop.

Born outside of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Kiniski was a natural athlete earning him a scholarship to the University of Arizona . After collage he played with the Edmund Eskimos football team. An injury would force his football to come to an end.

Pro Footballs loss was Pro Wrestling’s game. Kiniski would train with Dory Funk JR and Tony Morelli. He quickly earned a chance at the NWA title held by the great Lou Thesz.at the Olympic Auditorium on November 3, 1954. The veteran Thesz would defeat Kiniski in two straight falls but this would not be the last time these two would meet. .

After earning a reputation in the states at one of the top bad guys, Kiniski would return home finding one of his main rivals in Whipper Billy Watson. The two were would enjoy television exposure on CBS where their exciting feud was often featured.

Kiniski’s rival Watson would end Thesz’s 6 year stranglehold on the NWA title on March 15, 1956 in Toronto . Kiniski was a true threat to the NWA championship for the remainder of the decade.

In the Midwest Kiniski was often involved in the hottest feuds in Sam Muchnick’s Wrestling at the Chase. Wild Bill Longson would wrestle his last match in a tag team war with partner Whipper Billy Watson after Kiniski slammed Watson on the outside allowing Rip Hawk to get the pinfall.

In front of a sellout crowd at the Kiel Auditorium Kiniski would get a huge win against arch rival Whipper Billy Watson in the very first Texas Death match in St Louis . A back and forth battle that saw Kiniski get the win after 6 falls…yes 6 falls when Watson could not continue after the devastating backbreakers of Kiniski. This win led to him getting two opportunities at the NWA World title then held by Pat O’ Connor in St Louis.

Kiniski would be unable to defeat O’ Conner but he would go on to win titles wherever he went, enraging fans with his sarcasm and referring to himself as “ Canada ’s greatest athlete”.

On July 11 1961 he would win his very first world title by defeating American Wrestling Association Champion Verne Gagne. His title would be short lived as Gagne would regain it 28 days later. Kiniski continued to Main event wherever he went because the promoters knew he could deliver. The remainder of the 60’s Kiniski traveled the world challenging the best wrestlers of his day.

In Japan he headlined with wrestling legend Shohei “Giant” Baba while trips to the then WWWF (WWE) had him going against Bruno Sammartino in the historic Madison Square Garden .

Back in St Louis a young Nick Bockwinkel was set to debut in St Louis against Kiniski but Fritz Von Erich attacked Kiniski with the deadly claw thus keeping him from taking on the future world champion. Bockwinkel would go on to meet Don Plechas and win his first match in 2 out 3 falls. On May 14th 1965 Kiniski would get his revenge from Von Erich in a Texas Death Match at the Keil Auditorium

St Louis would also be the place that Kiniski would get his biggest career win on January 7 1966 when he defeated NWA World Champion Lou Thesz in two out three falls. Matysik recalls it as such Thesz won the first fall, Kiniski was awarded the second fall by DQ when Thesz threw Kiniski over the top rope. The St Louis wrestling fans were very respected and educated just as the St Louis Cardinals fans are today. At first the crowd booed because Kiniski was so hated but it quickly became cheers because they knew how special a NWA Title change was. Lou Thesz would show respect by shaking the new Champions hand cementing the special occasion.


NWA World Championship (Atlanta, GA 4/14/67) NO SOUND

Kiniski would be a fighting champion traveling around the world from his home country in Canada to Japan and throughout the states taking on the best in Thesz, Dick the Bruiser, Terry and Dory Funk Jr and many more during his three years of greatness.

It would be Dory Funk JR. that would defeat Kiniski in Tampa Florida on February 11, 1969 to end his title reign. Kiniski would continue to headline around the world winning titles and drawing big houses.

After Kikiski’s days were long gone, Kiniski and Matysik was driving by the Kiel Auditorium, they spoke of the changes of wrestling throughout the years. Kiniski put it in perspective “I don’t begrudge anyone in the business making money but be sure to let the fans know there was matches in that building that will never be done again.

The loving father of two sons, Nick and Kelly who followed in their dads footsteps to become pro wrestlers. Kiniski referred the main event of the inaugural NWA Starrcade (Ric Flair vs. NWA World Champion Harley Race in a steel cage) in 1983.

Special referee Gene Kiniski (a former NWA World Champion himself) checks Ric Flair for foreign objects. Kiniski has been brought in to guarantee a fair match(Photo WWE)

Kiniski was inducted into the Tragos/Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in Newton, Iowa in 2004 and a member of the St. Louis Wrestling Hall of Fame – Hall of Fame [2007].

On April 14, 2010 Kiniski at aged 81, passed away from cancer at his home in Blaine, Washington.

~~~~Special thanks to Larry Matysik for his words of wisdom and allowing me to use his wonderful book From the Golden Era- The St Louis Wrestling Record Book 1959 to 1963 .If you would like to buy this wonderful treasure back in time click here.

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The Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum team up with WLW for the Hall of Fame.

Posted by flairwhoooooo on July 6, 2009

By Brian Kelley

This week I am excited to take the trip to Waterloo Iowa for the annual George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. A wonderful weekend set aside for wrestling fans old and alike to pay respect to the sport that they love.

On Friday July 10, Harley Race’s World League Wrestling will excite the fans with a Night of the Legends pro card at Young Arena. This is one event every year that I mark on my calander and so should you.

Thanks to World League Wrestling I was able to catch up with rising star “The Vietnam Phenom” Bao Nguyen eariler this year.

Nguyen is scheduled to be at the Night of the Legends card along with WLW Stars “King of the 450” Steve Anthony, Brian Breaker, Curt Hennig’s daughter Amy, Ricky Steamboat Jr, Darin Waid, Jason Jones and WLW Champion “Superstar” Steve Fender.

The pro hall of fame is located inside the Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum. The museum was nearly destroyed by the historic flood of June 10, 2008, but re-opened this month.

The 11 th class is comprised of living wrestlers Nick Bockwinkel, longtime world heavyweight champion in the AWA; Ricky Steamboat, a superstar in the WWF, and Fritz Von Goering, who wrestled many of the top stars of the 1950s and ‘60s, and all five of the other inductees at one point in his long career.

Three deceased wrestlers are also being inducted: Bronko Nagurski, Luther Lindsay and Karl Gotch.

NICK

Bockwinkel was the son of former pro star Warren Bockwinkel and was a top college football prospect at Oklahoma University before injuries put him on the sidelines. He then turned his attention to pro wrestling full time, early in the 1950s. Over the next 30 years, he wrestled every major star in the business and held the AWA world heavyweight title for nearly seven years, as well as dozens of lesser belts. One of the most popular heels in wrestling history, he has been president of the Cauliflower Alley Club (CAC) for the past several years and resides in Las Vegas.
ricky-steamboat
A native of Hawaii, Steamboat was an amateur wrestler in Florida before entering the pro ranks in 1976, for Verne Gagne’s AWA. He entered the WWF in 1985 and became known as The Dragon and often struck karate poses in the ring, and electrified the crowds with his skills and antics. His title bouts with Ric Flair are among the best matches of the past two decades. Ricky captured the NWA world championship in 1989. He retired 1994 and lives today in Denver, N.C., working for the WWE.

FRITZ

Von Goering was a street-tough kid from Chicago when he turned pro in 1950. He learned the business the hard way, traveling around the country to take on the biggest names in the industry and learning all he could. He spent gym time with pure wrestlers like Dick Hutton, Lou Thesz and Luther Lindsay to learn the craft and today is one of the last from his generation. He won numerous regional titles in his 27-year career. He lives in Campbell, California.

From northern Minnesota, Bronko Nagurski is one of the greatest football players of all time, and is a member of both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Professional Football Hall of Fame. While starring with the Chicago Bears in the late 1930s, Nagurski approached Lou Thesz about wrestling in the off-season and used his great athletic skills to become a huge draw in wrestling, holding the world NWA title several times in the late 1930s and early 1940s. He died in 1990, at age 82.

Lou Thesz was one of many who considered Luther Lindsay the best African-American wrestler of all time. Big, powerful and fast, he played football at Hampton Institute in Norfolk, VA, and later in the Canadian football league. He then turned to pro wrestling and was trained by Stu Hart in the art of hooking. Well known for his skills and athletic abilities in the ring, he was popular outside the ring as well. He died from a heart attack during a match in 1972, at the age of 47.

Karl Gotch holds a near mythical spot in the history of wrestling. A native of Belgium, he made the 1948 Olympic team at age 18. He then moved to England, where he trained in the legendary Wigan “Snake Pit,” learning hooking and ripping techniques that made him one of the most feared wrestlers of all time. He was an absolute legend in Japan and all places were shooting ability is revered. He died in 2007 at age 82 in Florida.

The induction ceremony is the key part of the big weekend. It begins with a Celebrity Golf Tournament at noon Friday, July 10, and continues with a big pro card at Young Arena on Friday night, starting at 7. Harley Race and the WLW are putting the event together for the third straight year.

The official inductions will take place at noon on Saturday in the Gable museum. After the ceremony, fans will be able to meet with the inductees and former hall of famers in attendance.

The induction banquet takes place at 7 p.m. at the beautiful Five Sullivans Convention Center two blocks from the museum. Seating is limited and tickets are $60, and includes the souvenir program.

Dan Hodge, Class of 2000, and the only man to ever win national titles in both boxing and wrestling; he will be signing copies of his new book, “Oklahoma Shooter: Than Dan Hodge Story;
Harley Race, Class of 2005 and eight-time NWA world heavyweight champion;
Baron Von Raschke, Class of 2002, great star of the 1970s and ‘80s, who was third in the World as an amateur wrester;
Bob Geigel, Class of 2002, former wrestling star and legendary Kansas City promoter;
Mad Dog Vachon, Class of 2003; a former Canadian national amateur champion who wrestled in the 1948 Olympics before becoming a pro icon
Larry “The Axe” Hennig, Class of 2006 and father of the late Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig, Class of 2007.

FRIDAY, JULY 10
10 a.m. – Museum opens (until 5 p.m.)
Noon – Celebrity Golf Tournament at Irv Warren Golf Course.
7 p.m. – Night of the Legends pro card at Young Arena
WLW JULY

SATURDAY, JULY 11
10 a.m. – Museum Opens (until 5 p.m.)
Noon – Official inductions at museum, fan festival afterwards
7 p.m. – Banquet at Five Sullivan Brothers Center (advance tickets mandatory)
SUNDAY, JULY 12
9 a.m. – Museum opens (until noon

For more information, persons can contact Kent Sesker, marketing director, at 319-233-0745.

For more information on theThe Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum go here

To find out where you can check out more World League Wrestling. go to their website here.

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