GCW #24 Page #2
Herb Welch defended his World Junior Heavyweight Title in the area two times, turning back the challenges of Red Roberts and Bill Canny. Women's World Champion Mildred Burke also stopped in the area, and successfully left with the title intact after defeating Mae Young and Rose Evans.
Al Massey, the local favorite, led the names working Atlanta this year, joined by Dick Lever, Jim Coffield, Nick Carter, Jack Hader, Bibber McCoy, Vic Emanuel, "Tiger" Joe Marsh, Don Lee, Don McIntyre, Jack LaRue, Tom Mahoney, Charlie Harbin, Johnny Long, Babe Zaharias and Ralph Garibaldi. Bill Collins, who made his debut in an amateur match in 1945, began working professionally this year. Other significant names who appeared were Laverne Baxter, Ben Bennicasa, Wally Greb, Herb Welch, Jack O'Brien, "Tiger" Joe Kirkland, Chief Saunooke, Roy Lee Welch, Tex Riley, Jack Dillon, Nell Stewart, the Cardiff Giant, Jack Welch, Ray Villmer, Tarzan White, "Wild" Bill Longson, "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers, Juanita Coffman, Toar Morgan, Celia Blevins (Mrs. Jack LaRue), Lozano Martinez, the French Angel (Maurice Tillet), Primo Carnera, Jules Strongbow, Dan O'Connor, June Byers, George Koverly, Mildred Burke and Rube Wright.
Although we have complete card listings for Atlanta since 1945, we cannot determine how John Mauldin lost the Atlanta City Heavyweight Title since he won it in March 1945. On January 26, he regained the title by defeating reigning champion Jack Kelly by disqualification. The title changed hands since there was a stipulation that a disqualification could not save Kelly's belt. As far as we can tell, this was the last time this title was used, as we can find no other defenses beyond this point.
World Junior Heavyweight Champion Herb Welch successfully defended his belt on January 18 in Atlanta by defeating Vic Emanuel. A rematch was scheduled for March 1, but Welch was in an automobile accident that left him unable to compete. On February 28, the title was declared vacant. Laverne Baxter subbed for Welch and went to a draw with Emanuel.
Tex Riley won a tournament to determine a new champion, and made five successful defenses in Atlanta the remainder of the year, defeating Gene Blakely, Red Roberts, Carlos Rodriguez (twice) and his predecessor, Herb Welch, who had recovered and returned to action.
National Wrestling Association World Heavyweight Champion "Wild" Bill Longson returned to the area to face the local challengers. Laverne Baxter, George Koverly and Nick Carter all were unsuccessful in their bids for the title. Women's World Champion Mildred Burke made one local defense and turned back Juanita Coffman.
Tony Galento came to Atlanta to act as special referee for a tag team match on April 19. The feud had gotten out of hand, and apparently a man like Galento was needed. If nothing else, it probably sold a ton of tickets. He made sure things didn't get too out of hand when Al Massey and Ralph Garibaldi defeated Jack Hader and Ben Morgan.
Massey became embroiled in a feud with Jim Coffield after the Galento-refereed match. On August 9, he beat Coffield by a knockout in the fifth round of a Boxing Match. It's obvious that a mix of wrestling and boxing was selling tickets in Atlanta, as Primo Carnera came through the area, Galento visited, Jack Dempsey had been in and out over the years, and numerous Boxing Matches would begin to take place over the next two decades.
It also appears that gimmicks were now becoming a necessity to draw fans. During a four week span in the fall, Carnera, the French Angel, the Cardiff Giant, and an alligator were all brought in to work in high card matches.
Atlanta fans were treated to the most solid year of great wrestling stars to this point. Along with the constant top names of Don McIntyre, Al Massey, Nick Carter and Tom Mahoney, fans witnessed grapplers such as Al Galento, Johnny Long, Babe Zaharias, Jim Coffield, Ray Villmer, Lozano Martinez, Ralph Garibaldi, Freddie Blassie, Laverne Baxter, Chief Chewacki, Earl Wampler, Herb Welch, Lou Thesz, Wally Dusek, the Blimp, Cherry Vallina, "Tiger" Joe Kirkland, Mae Young, Bibber McCoy, "Wild" Bill Longson, Eric Holmback, Jack Dillon, Nell Stewart, Strangler Lewis, Buddy Rogers, Don Lee, Helen Hild, "Tiger" Joe Marsh, Johnny Swenski, June Byers and Rube Wright.
The Atlanta City Heavyweight Title that had been sporadically documented seems to have last been utilized in 1946, leaving the territory seemingly without a local title of any kind. However, this didn't seem to matter, as NWA World Heavyweight Champion Lou Thesz made several defenses in the area, turning back the challenges of Ray Villmer twice, Jim Coffield and former champion, "Wild" Bill Longson.
World Junior Heavyweight Champion Herb Welch successfully defended his crown by topping Jimmy Lott. On the same card, taking place on December 26, local ringside fan Hiram King had a belated Christmas present he surely wished he could've returned. He was picked out of the crowd to face Al Galento, and faced defeat easily.
In what had to be a great match, Women's World Champion Mildred Burke retained her belt against Mae Young.
On March 14, Jack Dempsey returned again to act as a special referee in a match between the popular team of Don McIntyre and Nick Carter who squared off against Wally Greb and Wally Dusek. The crowd was pleased when McIntyre and Carter received the victory.
In another attempt to help keep rules intact, Strangler Lewis wore the stripes on May 10. Despite the fact, hated Jim Coffield beat Don McIntyre.
A special Independence Day card at the Auditorium saw the popular Ray Villmer defeat the Shadow. The masked villain's reign of terror came to an end, too, as Villmer was able to unmask him, identifying him as Cliff Knudsen. Knudsen only stayed and worked a few more weeks after being unmasked.
In August, Al Galento lost to Al Lamkin when he was unable to pin him within ten minutes.
Among the names who worked cards for Paul Jones this year were Jim Coffield, Tom Mahoney, Al Galento, Al Massey, Babe Zaharias, Don McIntyre, Bobby Roberts, Pete and Bobby Managoff, Charlie Harbin, Jack Ross, Jr., Nick Carter, Sky Hi Lee, Herb Welch, Natie Brown, Johnny Long, Don Lee, Bibber McCoy, Lou Thesz, June Byers, "Krusher" Karl Davis, Al Lovelock, Mae Young, Paul Stanlee, "Tiger" Joe Marsh, "Rowdy" Red Roberts, "Wild" Bill Longson, Juanita Coffman, Ralph Garibaldi, Laverne Baxter, the Blimp, "Tiger" Joe Kirkland, Nell Stewart, Chris Belkas, Dan O'Connor, Enrique Torres, Tarzan White, Ray Villmer, Mildred Burke, the French Angel, Joe Savoldi, Primo Carnera, Roy Lee Welch and Tex Riley.
Again this year, there was apparently no title dedicated on the local level, but the NWA World Heavyweight Championship was recognized several times during the year. "Wild" bill Longson turned back the challenge of Pete Managoff in June. Lou Thesz, after winning the title in July from Longson in Indianapolis, IN, successfully defended the title here three days later against Sky Hi Lee. Thesz would also deny Ray Villmer in September, and Don McIntyre twice in November.
World Junior Heavyweight Champion Herb Welch made Georgia a regular stop on his schedule. He was to face Paul Stanlee in March, but Chris Godkiss filled in when Stanlee was unable to compete for reasons unknown at this time. After retaining his belt in that bout, Welch disappeared from the territory for several months, but seems to have taken up residence in the fall, retaining his crown against challengers such as the Russian Lion, Bill Canny, "Rowdy" Red Roberts, Johnny Long and former champion Tex Riley. This version of the title would not be used again in the area after the Riley match.
Mildred Burke put her title on the line once, in October, and although the decision is unclear, she left the match with June Byers still recognized as the Women's World Champion.
Having lost the NWA World Heavyweight Title to "Wild" Bill Longson in November 1947, Lou Thesz began a new chase for the title. He made what was reported to be a classic match with Bibber McCoy one of his early bouts on his new run for the crown in January.
Jack Dempsey would make his way back to Georgia for more appearances as a special referee. In February, he officiated a match where Paul Stanlee defeated Tom Mahoney, and would return in the summer for two matches. On July 30, he worked a Don McIntyre victory over Babe Zaharias, and also a match between Jim Coffield and Jack Ross, Jr. Coffield had been involved in a pre-match brawl with Al Massey, and due to injuries he received during the incident, Dempsey stopped the bout, declaring Ross the winner.
Special referees seemed to be a popular event during this era, and this year would seem to be the one using the most. Max Baer was called in to handle a match in June, where Joe Savoldi beat Don Lee. Strangler Lewis would be summoned once again to call the bout between Jim Coffield and Al Massey. We do not know the decision of this match.
It is currently believed that the first Atlanta matches sent through the airwaves happened during this summer, as Fred Anderson supplied blow-by-blow action on WQXI 790 AM radio. They only aired the main event matches, but even that had to be quite interesting. As a sidenote, WQXI has undergone many changes throughout its history, but is still in operation, currently as a sports talk format, nicknamed the Zone.
For those interested, they have streaming audio on the web, and quite often can be found speaking with, either live or over the phone, with current professional wrestlers, although occasionally some older angles and stars are mentioned. Dusty Rhodes has even gone through recurring co-hosting duties on the station.
Don McIntyre, Nick Carter, Tom Mahoney and Babe Zaharias were the hardest working men in Georgia rings this year. Also spending the bulk of the year in the territory were Johnny Long, Al Massey, Dick Lever, Al Galento, Rex Mobley, Ralph Garibaldi, the Black Menace, Red McIntyre, Carlos Rodriguez and Joe Wolfe. Other wrestlers of note to work the territory included Earl Wampler, George Flynn, Abe Zvonkin, Lozano Martinez, Chris Zaharias, Jack Dillon, Roy Lee Welch, the Golden Terror, Charlie Harbin, "Tiger" Joe Kirkland, Dan O'Connor, Lester Welch, "Rowdy" Red Roberts, Juanita Coffman, Ray Villmer, Lou Thesz, Lillian Ellison, Mae Weston, Jim Coffield, June Byers, Mildred Burke, Abe Coleman, Danny Dusek and "Gorgeous" George Wagner.
A title specific to the territory would be introduced this year. The Southern Heavyweight Title was born through a multiple month tournament, although it is unclear as to what matches in our documented results were linked to this tournament. However, the final round was slated for July 15, and Tom Mahoney became the inaugural champion when he topped Al Massey. Hollywood actor, of western-genre fame, Sunset Carson was on hand to present the belt to Mahoney after the match.
Mahoney would drop the title to Don McIntyre in August. McIntyre's reign lasted until mid-September, when he dropped the belt for a week to the Black Menace. In the rematch where McIntyre regained the belt from the Menace, Paul Jones acted as special referee, in order to maintain that the evil Menace would follow rules. During the course of the fall, McIntyre unmasked the Menace, who turned out to be Bill Cazzell. Many resources list the Menace as the "Red" Menace, but all programs and results clippings show it as "Black."
McIntyre's second reign was ended by Dan O'Connor in November. O'Connor dropped the title to George Flynn in December, and Flynn lost to Ray Villmer one week later. Villmer's reign may have lasted into 1950, but it is April of that year before another defense is referenced, and at that point, Nick Carter is the defending champion.
Although the National Wrestling Alliance was formed in 1948, and Paul Jones was reportedly at the first member meeting, Atlanta continued to recognize the NWA World Heavyweight Title as observed by the National Wrestling Association, as it had been doing since 1930. Alliance champion Orville Brown never made an appearance in the area during his reign.
Lou Thesz spent most of the year as the Association champion, and made two visits to Atlanta to defend his title. In October he defeated Don McIntyre, and he returned to deny Hans Kampfer on November 25. This was two days prior to receiving recognition by the National Wrestling Alliance as its champion, finalizing unification of the two titles.
Women's World Champion Mildred Burke left Atlanta with her title intact after defeating Mae Weston in October.
Jack Sharkey was brought into the area to ref a bout between Thor Morgan and the Golden Terror. This version of the Terror was Bobby Stewart, and Thor was actually "Toar", who had also worked local rings under that name years prior. The Terror won the bout.
Former Atlanta promoter Thad Holt replaced Fred Anderson early this year covering the matches over 790 AM. Also, though not necessarily media yet, Ray McCay, eventually the TV announcer, began performing the ring announcing duties.
Among the stars appearing in the territory this year were Nick Carter, Don and Red McIntyre, Art Nelson, Tom Mahoney, Tarzan White, Buddy Knox, Babe Zaharias, "Lord" Finis Hall, "Rowdy" Red Roberts, Jack Steele, Bibber McCoy, Jack Hader, and Eddie Gossett. Also coming in for a few cards were Jim Coffield, Johnny Long, Earl Wampler, Chief Saunooke, "Irish" Jack Kennedy, Angelo Cistoldi, Bob Orton, Lou Thesz, Mae Young, the Blimp, Wladek Kowalski, Jack Dillon, "Tiger" Joe Kirkland, Lillian Ellison, June Byers, Mildred Burke, Tex Riley, the Great Togo, Jack Britton, Ralph Garibaldi, Lester and Roy Lee Welch, Ray Villmer, Pete Managoff, "Tiger" Joe Marsh, "Wild" Bill Longson, Johnny Swenski, Helen Hild and Cora Combs.
As noted in the 1949 section, the Southern Heavyweight Title was introduced and used heavily, but seems to have gone by the wayside after Ray Villmer took the crown from George Flynn in December. The first part of this year it seemed to have been forgotten, but would quickly resurface as a prestigious title for the man who wore the belt.
Nick Carter is billed in an April defense as the reigning champion, and turned away the challenge of Rebel Russell in that match. Again, the title is not referred to until Don McIntyre is billed as the champion in May. He would hold the title until a July loss to Art Nelson, who began a reign that would last most of the year.
Nelson was not beaten until "Lord" Finis Hall topped him in November. Two weeks later, however, Nelson reclaimed the belt when he defeated Hall in a rematch. The year would end with Nelson holding tightly to the crown.
Finally seeing proof that Paul Jones had become a member of the National Wrestling Alliance, Lou Thesz brought his NWA World Heavyweight Title to the area. He denied Bibber McCoy, Jack Kennedy and Babe Zaharias in his local defenses.
Mildred Burke came in twice with the Women's World Title at risk. She was able to still claim the title after beating Elvira Snodgrass and Mae Young.
Strangler Lewis made another visit to act as a special referee. He was summoned in November for a match between Art Nelson and Jack Kennedy.
Georgia fans were treated to another star packed year, including Don McIntyre, Art Nelson, Al Massey, Babe Zaharias, Nick Carter, Lou Plummer and Tarzan White. Also working local rings during the year were "Lord" Finis Hall, Eddie Gossett, Ben Morgan, Bobby Layne, Jack Steele, Lozano Martinez, Dan O'Connor, Mike Paidousis, Tom Mahoney, Benny Becker, the Golden Terror, Jack Curtis, Bob Orton, Rube Wright, the Great Scott, Mr. Moto, Mildred Burke, Baron Leone, Danny Plechas, Jim Coffield, "Irish" Jack Kennedy, Lou Thesz, Jack Dillon, June Byers, "Tiger" Joe Kirkland, the Great Togo, Lester Welch, Cora Combs, Kola Kwariani, Lou Britton and Tony Rocca.
Art Nelson began the year as Southern Heavyweight Champion. It was his second reign, the first having lasted over four months. He would be unseated by the end of January by the Golden Terror. The Terror would hold the title until March, when he not only lost the title, but was also unmasked. Don McIntyre was able to take the title, as well as remove the hood, and the former champion was identified as Danny Plechas.
McIntyre managed to maintain his grasp on the belt until Art Nelson beat him in July. The two men traded the belt back and forth for two weeks. This time nelson held the title until sometime in September or October, at which time McIntyre was suddenly being billed as champion. It is unclear at this time exactly how or when the title changed between them. This time, McIntyre's reign lasted the remainder of the year.
A Southern Tag Team Title was referenced for the first time in August. It is unclear as to what led up to the match, but Art Nelson and Jack Steele won the title when they defeated Al Massey and Farmer Jones. The title was not referenced again beyond this point, and it is unknown whether Massey and Jones were billed as champions coming in, or if the bout were to determine new champions. One suggestion is that it may have been the same version of the title as recognized by Nick Gulas in Nashville, since there is a gap in their lineage.
In what would be the last defense of the title for more than four years, Lou Thesz turned back the challenge of Danny Plechas in April to retain his NWA World Heavyweight Title. This leads to speculation that Jones' office may not have kept it's membership with the Alliance during the next several years, as many other versions of World titles would be used in the territory, including one that was specifically a Georgia version.
In a strange turn of events, a fan charged the ring during a match between Don McIntyre and Art Nelson in November. Nelson was injured by the blackjack-wielding attacker, and was carried from the ring, hospitalizing him briefly.
Among the usual suspects, consisting of Don McIntyre, Babe Zaharias, Al Massey and Nick Carter, Paul Jones gave Atlanta fans many other great names this year. Competitors such as Jack Steele, Mike Paidousis, Art Nelson, Danny Dusek, Mike Clancy and Sonny Kurgis. Also, two new masked heels made their mark - the Black Monster and the Brain. In addition, such wrestlers as Tarzan White, Lou Newman, Angelo Martinelli, Ike Eakins, Jack Dillon, Eduardo Perez, Eddie Gossett, "Sockeye" Jack McDonald, Argentina Rocca, Benny Becker, Kola Kwariani, Wally Dusek, "Doctor" Jerry Graham, Lou Plummer, Abe Coleman, Jack Curtis, Chief Kit Fox, "Lord" Leslie Carlton, Mayes McLain, "Tiger" Joe Kirkland, Cora Combs, Gene Stanlee, Jack Claybourne, the Mighty Atlas, Baron Leone, Lou Thesz, June Byers, the Great Togo, Jim Londos, Rudy Dusek, Tiny Mills and Tony Martinelli all made appearances.
Don McIntyre continued his reign as Southern Heavyweight Champion until Lou Newman, who would lose the title one week later to "Sockeye" Jack McDonald, beat him in March. Longtime local favorite Al Massey toppled McDonald for the belt in May. Six weeks later, Angelo Martinelli defeated Massey for the crown, but he would drop it in July to Art Nelson.
During a title match with Nelson putting the title on the line against McIntyre, the challenger was disqualified when he accidentally hit the referee. By the time the match was over, Nelson was bleeding badly, and needed six stitches to close the wound.
In September, Tarzan White unseated Nelson to become the champion. It is unclear at this time exactly what happened next, as Don McIntyre is billed as champion by the middle of the month. This time, McIntyre's term lasted well into the next year.
On two consecutive cards at the City Auditorium in September, shortly after beginning his reign as champion, McIntyre unmasked the Brain and the Black Monster. Both matches were "Title versus Mask" bouts. The Brain turned out to be Joe Stalin, and the Black Monster was identified as Tiny Mills.
Jack Dempsey returned to act as a referee in November. The combatants were Don McIntyre and Eduardo Perez. McIntyre'' Southern Heavyweight belt was at stake, but Perez had nothing on McIntyre in this match.
In another match for his title, McIntyre successfully kept his title by defeating "Lord" Leslie Carlton, when special referee Paul Jones disqualified the challenger.
Don McIntyre's brother Bill, now billed as "Red" McIntyre, returned to the territory. Together they dominated the heels, and became the most popular tag team to work in Georgia rings. Mike Paidousis, Tex Riley, Bobby Layne, Johnny Valentine, Tarzan Hewitt, Johnny Valentine, Danny Dusek and Mayes McLain also were among the top stars in the area. Jones managed to bring in other solid workers, including Jack Steele, Wildman Zimm, Nick Carter, Jack Dillon, Ray Villmer, Aldo Bogni, Karl Kowalski, Red Dugan, Donn Lewin, Al and John Smith, Jackie Fargo, the Swedish Angel, Buddy Rogers, "Iron" Mike Clancy, Argentina Rocca, "Doctor" Jerry Graham, "Lord" Leslie Carlton, Cora Combs, "Tiger" Joe Kirkland, Dan O'Connor, Mildred Burke, Herb Welch, Babe Zaharias, Tarzan White, Eddie Gossett, Kola Kwariani, Gene Stanlee, Baron Leone, Mr. Moto, "Rowdy" Red Roberts, "Gorgeous" George Wagner, Nell Stewart, Chief Chewacki, Bobby and George Becker, the Jungle Boy, Ray Gunkel and Verne Gagne.
"Gorgeous" George Wagner took the Southern Heavyweight Title from Don McIntyre in March. It is unclear as to how long Wagner was the champion, or how he came to lose the title, but McIntyre claimed the crown again before month end.
This time, McIntyre wore the belt until he fell to Ray Villmer in October. Villmer held the title at least until November, but again, there is a lapse in defenses for the title, as well as a gap in all documented title histories.
In September, Eastern States Heavyweight Champion Buddy Rogers and Southern Heavyweight Champion Don McIntyre met in a match for all the marbles. The bout ended in a double countout, so both men walked away with their titles. The Eastern States belt originated from what had once been the American Wrestling Association World Heavyweight Title, as recognized on the northeast coast area.
Also in September, "Rowdy" Red Roberts retained his Southern Junior Heavyweight Title in a match with Johnny Harmon in Atlanta.
The cake-in-the-face angle that was used throughout most, if not all territories, happened in Atlanta on June 19. In a celebration of Paul Jones' birthday, following a match where Don and Red McIntyre defeated Art Nelson and Bobby Layne, Nelson stayed in the ring and promptly threw the cake in the promoter's face.
A brutal bloodbath occurred at the card on July 3. An exhausted Nick Carter was declared the winner over Art Nelson. Reportedly, there were fights breaking out among the spectators during this match.
In September, Jack Dempsey made his now annual visit to Atlanta. He refereed a bout between Johnny Valentine and the Swedish Angel. It is unclear at this time who won, but one can only imagine this was a wild bout.
Red McIntyre, Chief Big Heart, "Doctor" Jerry Graham, El Toro, Don McIntyre and Jack Dillon led the way throughout the year. Georgia fans were also treated to great ring action including Art Nelson, Tex Riley, Argentina Rocca, Verne Gagne, Mike Paidousis, Nick Carter, Mildred Burke, Freddie Blassie, Lu Kimm, Reggie Lisowski, the Swedish Angel, Don and Dick Big Kettle, Karl Kowalski, "Iron" Mike Clancy, Babe Zaharias, Bonnie Watson, Hans Schmidt, Wild Red Berry, Yukon Eric, Ray Villmer, Donn Lewin, Cora Combs, Eddie Gossett, Nell Stewart, June Byers, "Wild" Bill Longson, Sky Hi Lee, Bill Melby, Kathy Branch, Pat O'Connor and Tinker Todd.
It is unclear as to whom held the Southern Heavyweight Title since Ray Villmer had held it last fall, but Freddie Blassie defeated Don McIntyre, billed as champion, in Birmingham, AL in February. Blassie was recognized as champion through June, when suddenly he and the title disappear. It has been reported that he took the belt elsewhere throughout the south.
Chicago promoter Fred Kohler's World Tag Team Title surfaced in Georgia this year. Reggie Lisowski and Art Nelson were billed as champions upon their arrival into the state. They made a few defenses of the belt, all against Don and Red McIntyre throughout the year.
The Women's World Title grabbed major national attention late in the summer. Champion Mildred Burke had already come into the area twice earlier in the year, and retained her belt both times. However, in August, some controversial events surrounding the title occurred, which would shake up the women's wrestling world in the near future.
Dating back to the 1800's, the very title Burke claimed had been the universally recognized championship for women. Burke had held the title since 1937, except for two interruptions with short-term losses to Clara Mortenson and Betty Nichols.
On August 20, June Byers met Burke in a match that has been reported as a shoot. Byers won the first fall, but the champion became to injured to continue wrestling. The State Athletic Commission halted the bout and was declared the winner and new champion. She held the title until 1964 when she retired from the ring.
Upset with the decision, Burke went to California and created the WWWWA, a women's promotion, and named herself as champion. She, like Byers, wore the belt until her retirement.
Also in August, the masked El Toro met Argentina Rocca in a "no time limit / no disqualification" bout. Rocca beat and unmasked El Toro, who turned out to be Bibber McCoy.
Georgia wrestling first began appearing on WLWA Channel 11 this year. Local fans had been treated to wrestling from Texas on television prior to this, but Ray McCay moved into the announcers chair so that local fans could now dial up their own stars.
The busiest grapplers in Georgia were Don and Red McIntyre, Andre Drapp, "Doctor" Jerry Graham, Freddie Blassie, Dizzy Davis, Roy Shire, Tokyo Joe, Eddie Gossett, Frank Taylor and Whitey Whittler. Adding to the excitement for fans were Tex Riley, Wild Red Berry, Farmer Jones, Billy Blassie, Chief Big Heart, Art Nelson, Danny O'Shocker, Hard Boiled Haggerty, Tarzan White, Roger Mackay, Mike Paidousis, Herb Welch, Chet Wallick, Jack Steele, Reggie Lisowski, Aldo Bogni, Charro Azteca, Larry Hamilton, Penny Banner, Nick Carter, the Swedish Angel, June Byers, Lou Thesz, Chris Averoff and Paul DeGaulle.
Freddie Blassie won the Southern Heavyweight Title back in February 1954, and seemingly held the belt at least until August of this year, where there seems to be some confusion based on a match with Don McIntyre. "Doctor" Jerry Graham actually beat Blassie in June, but the decision was reversed following the match.
McIntyre beat Blassie by disqualification in a title match, and two weeks later McIntyre was billed as champion in the next known defense. It can be assumed the match had been one in which the disqualification rule had been lifted, but at this point, it is only assumption. Regardless, McIntyre defended the title in September against Wild Red Berry and retained the crown.
It appears as though Blassie regained the strap from McIntyre in a Texas Death Match the next week, but the result of the bout is unclear. However, Blassie was defending the title the following week, so he may very well have won the match with McIntyre. He would claim the title until October, when Don's brother Red beat Blassie. Blassie won the title back from Red in October, and would remain the champion into the next year.
In September, a match was billed as being for the Georgia Tag Team Title. El Toro and Whitey Whittler were to square off with Danny O'Shocker and Farmer Jones in Atlanta. Toro and Whittler won the match, but the title wasn't referred to again for nearly thirteen years.
For the first time in over four years, the NWA World Heavyweight Title was brought into the territory. This makes it seem as though Paul Jones' group may not have actually held membership at this time. In addition, new "world" championships would make the rounds here for the next several years. Lou Thesz put his belt on the line against "Doctor" Jerry Graham. Thesz left the state with his title intact.
A match in June between Reggie Lisowski and Art Nelson, and the team of "Doctor" Jerry Graham and Dizzy Davis, would be billed as being for the World Tag Team Title. This was Fred Kohler's version again, and champions Lisowski and Nelson retained their belts.
Late in the year, a new title appeared, which was born on the local level. Apparently Paul Jones wanted more tag team title recognition, so the office created the World Tag Team Title. Freddie and Billy Blassie were billed as champions in the first known defense in the area. In that bout, Don McIntyre and "Doctor" Jerry Graham walked away with the belts. Two weeks later, the Blassie's regained the title, and wore them as the year ended.
June Byers returned to the city where she had won the Women's World Title, and flew back out still wearing the crown. She successfully risked her title by beating Penny Banner in April.
Roy Shire was the main man toward the end of the summer. He and manager Bobby Wallace were fast becoming a hated pair. A match between Shire and Dizzy Davis had to be stopped due to excessive bleeding from both men. Wallace even appeared in a tag team match with Shire as his partner. They defeated Davis and Wild Red Berry.
Ed Capral replaced Ray McCay as the TV announcer on WLWA. He would maintain that position until late 1972.
The year brought Don and Red McIntyre, "Doctor" Jerry Graham, Freddie and Billy Blassie, Jackie Nichols, Rocky Columbo, Eddie Gossett, Chief Big Heart, Ike Eakins, Bobby Weaver, the Zebra Kid, Art Nelson, Cyclone Anaya, Fred Atkins and Danny McShain to local rings. Other grapplers to enter the ring were Jack O'Brien, Bull Curry, "Dirty" Dick Raines, Jack Bence, Steve Stanlee, Roger Mackay, Paul DeGaulle, Chris Tolos, Tim Geohagen, Lou Plummer, Argentina Rocca, Whitey Whittler, Tarzan White, Mike Paidousis, Jack Dillon, Babe Zaharias, Bonnie Watson, Buddy Rogers, Bibber McCoy, Gory Guerrero, the Great Malenko and Rip Hawk.
Freddie Blassie's reign as Southern Heavyweight Champion continued until he dropped the strap to Don McIntyre in September. McIntyre held the title for two weeks, losing it to Art Nelson. Before month end, Bull Curry had won the title from Nelson.
Curry held the title until he lost to Blassie in mid-October. Bobby Weaver beat Blassie for the crown in November. Weaver wore the belt until he lost a "no disqualification" bout to "Doctor" Jerry Graham, who would end the year as the top man.
Fred Atkins and Ike Eakins were billed as the International Tag Team Champions when they came in October. This is believed to be a local title, as no origins could be traced elsewhere. In December, Red McIntyre and Chief Big Heart toppled them for the belts. The new champions wouldn't lose the title until the next year.
Freddie and Billy Blassie lost the World Tag Team Title to Roger Mackay and Jackie Nichols in January. Pierre LaSalle and Jack O'Brien unseated them in March.
LaSalle and O'Brien do not seem to have defended the belts after this, and in July, new champions are recognized. Eddie Gossett and Art Nelson wore the belts for some July and August defenses, but there are some confusing reports that show them putting the title on the line against Don and Red McIntyre, who somehow won the title. Before the month was over, the belts were once again around the waists of Gossett and Nelson, but not used again after that.
Promoter Paul Jones entered the ring again - albeit as a referee. He called a match between the McIntyres and the Blassies, in what had become a serious feud throughout the state. The McIntyres won the match, which took place in November.
Two new heels and a new favorite treated fans to some great wrestling - the Von Brawners, Kurt and Fritz, and a man who would become synonymous with Georgia wrestling - Ray Gunkel. Also in the fray were Don and Red McIntyre, Freddie Blassie, Mike Paidousis, Bill Melby, "Gorgeous" George Grant, Billy Red Lyons and Nick Roberts. Paul Jones also managed to bring in Wild Red Berry, Donn and Mark Lewin, Al Massey, Oni Wiki Wiki, Pierre LaSalle, Tarzan White, Jack O'Brien, Baron Gattoni, Babe Zaharias, George Drake, the Mighty Yankee, "Doctor" Jerry Graham, Chief Big Heart, Reggie and Stan Lisowski, Edouard Carpentier, the Great Mitsu, Marco Polo, Argentina Rocca, Jack Steele, Al Galento, Angelo Poffo, Bibber McCoy, Rip Hawk, Chris Averoff, Dick the Bruiser, "Lord" Nelson Royal, Paul Bunyan, Wilbur Snyder, Ike Eakins, Whitey Whittler, Penny Banner, June Byers, Lou Thesz, Verne Gagne, Juan Humberto, Jack Curtis and Bronco Lubich.
The year began with Chief Big Heart taking the Southern Heavyweight Title from "Doctor" Jerry Graham. The next few months would see many title changes, with the belt transferring from Big Heart to Graham to Red McIntyre to Kurt Von Brawner to Don McIntyre to Von Brawner to Don McIntyre to Von Brawner. Von Brawner's last win in June lasted until October, when he dropped the belt to Ray Gunkel, who would claim the title for the remainder of the year.
The team of Donn and Mark Lewin won the International Tag Team Title in February from Chief Big Heart and Red McIntyre. In March, Red teamed with his brother Don to win the belts. It is unclear at this time, but somehow they lost their claim, and in June, Kurt Von Brawner and Freddie Blassie were billed as champions.
They dropped the straps to the McIntyres in June. Again, their are gaps in documentation surrounding this title, and in September, Kurt and Fritz Von Brawner have a claim on the belts. In an October match, featuring George Curtis as referee, Don McIntyre and Ray Gunkel beat the Germans. Then there is more confusion regarding the title, as no further defenses are made during the year.
A Brass Knucks Title appeared in September. Although the result of the bout is unknown, Freddie Blassie met Kurt Von Brawner to determine a champion. There were no more references to a Brass Knucks title until 1960.
Lou Thesz returned in April with his NWA World Heavyweight Title. It had been two years since the title had come to Georgia. He denied Red McIntyre in a match in Atlanta for the championship.
It was mentioned in previous years that Paul Jones' office might not have actually been a full time member of the National Wrestling Alliance, thus the reason for lack of defenses of the World Title here. Or quite possibly, he was a member at the time, and perhaps that is the reason he recognized "world" champs from other affiliations in the 1950's and early 1960's.
Omaha promoter Joe Dusek had begun to recognize Edouard Carpentier as World Heavyweight Champion, after a controversial decision in a match with Thesz back in June of this year. Carpentier was brought in during the fall and successfully kept his title after turning back the challenges of Freddie Blassie twice and also Mike Paidousis. One of his defenses against Blassie was a "no disqualification match", with no referee, and a combatant could only win when the other submitted. The match was stopped when Blassie had suffered some serious injuries, with a gash opening and spilling blood from his head.
Fred Kohler's World Tag Team Title was once again used in the state. Champions Reggie and Stan Lisowski returned in the fall to meet Georgia's top tag teams. They defeated "Gorgeous" George and Wild Red Berry, Ray Gunkel and Billy Red Lyons, and twice won over Gunkel and Don McIntyre.
June Byers made her final Georgia defense of the Women's World Title in April by denying "Pretty" Penny Banner a reign.
In August, Bill Melby did local fans a favor by unmasking the Mysterious Link, but he could not be identified.
Freddie Blassie hated the Von Brawners. He even challenged them to a handicap match in September, and vowed to leave Georgia if they beat him. Blassie did leave, but returned before the end of the year.
Ray Gunkel's long run in Georgia really got rolling this year. He was joined by Freddie Blassie, Don Lee, Frank Townsend, Ronnie Etchison, Don McIntyre, Angelo Poffo, Jack Dillon, the Mighty Yankee, Chief Little Eagle, Bronco Lubich, Bob Shipp and Jack Pesek as the busiest stars in Georgia. The year also saw Kurt Von Brawner, Paul Anderson, Karl Heinkler, Billy Red Lyons, Chris Averoff, Rocky Columbo, Tarzan White, Dick the Bruiser, Ivan Vansky, Jackie Fargo, Boris and Niccoli Volkoff, the Skull, Al Galento, Ali Bey, Mike Paidousis, Marco Polo, "Doctor" Jerry Graham, Nell Stewart, the Jungle Boy, Angelo and Tony Martinelli, Charlie Harbin, Bibber McCoy and Lou Klein grace wrestling rings across the state.
Ray Gunkel's grasp on the Southern Heavyweight Title loosened when the Mighty Yankee beat him in January. The Yankee held the title until April, when Don McIntyre defeated him, in a bout using Paul Jones as the referee.
McIntyre's reign lasted until Freddie Blassie topped him in June. McIntyre vowed to leave the state if he did not win the match, and he did as promised, but was back by the end of July.
In late July, McIntyre regained the belt, but dropped it back to Blassie again two weeks later. At some point in August, Ray Gunkel won the title, apparently from Blassie, although documentation is vague.
Blassie would go on to take it back in September. He injured Gunkel in a match for the title that was billed as having an ambulance at the door. It is unknown if the ambulance was needed, and to what extent were the injuries to Gunkel. Gunkel would again unseat Blassie, this time in a Fence Match in November. He would remain champion for the rest of the year.
Gunkel and Red McIntyre had won the International Tag Team Title back in October of last year, but it is unclear what became of their reign. There is no reference to the title between that win, and a defense by Gunkel and Billy Red Lyons in April. They lost the straps to Don Lee and the Mighty Yankee, who subsequently conceded them to Karl Heinkler and Kurt Von Brawner in the same month.
Again, reports are lacking, as in June, Ray Gunkel and Ronnie Etchison win the title from Jack Dillon and Don Lee, who were billed as champions coming into the match. Gunkel and Etchison wore the belts until at least August, before the documentation disappears yet again.
Somehow, Gunkel and Nick Roberts had a claim on the title because they are seen losing the belts to Freddie Blassie and Bob Shipp in October. There is more confusion at this point, as just after the first of the next year, Ray Gunkel and Don McIntyre in claim the titles the next reported defense.
Although it is believed that the Atlanta office was a National Wrestling Alliance affiliate at this point, this next title makes it appear differently. Furthering speculation is the fact that the Alliance version of the title, though defended here before and beyond this point, was not brought in consistently until almost thirteen years after it's creation.
Paul Anderson entered the state, and was instantly billed as World Heavyweight Champion. It is believed this was strictly a Georgia version of a "world" title, and Anderson would be the only recognized champion for the duration. He successfully walked from matches with Don Lee and Dick the Bruiser with his title intact.
The Mobile office recognized a version of World Tag Team Champions. In August and September, Don and Jackie Fargo worked for Paul Jones' territory defending those belts. They were successful in beating Tarzan White and Frank Townsend, and also Freddie Blassie and Angelo Poffo.
In August, Ray Gunkel defeated and unmasked the Skull. The villain was discovered to be Nick Carter.
It was a year dominated by the likes of Freddie Blassie, Ray and Dickie Gunkel, Ed Sharpe, Adrien Baillargeon, Skull Murphy, Gypsy Joe, "Gorgeous" George Grant and Don McClarty, but some other great talent arrived to work around them. Big names such as Tony Marino, Doug and Johnny Gilbert, Johnny Weaver, Baron Gattoni, Don McIntyre, Ali Bey, Lenny Montana, Derrell Cochran, Paul Anderson, Jack O'Brien, Albert Mills, the Great Bolo, the Fabulous Moolah, Tokyo Joe, Gino Angelo, Tiger Conway, Nick Roberts, Mike Paidousis, Mickey Blassie, Angelo Poffo, Chief Little Eagle, Verne Gagne and Mae Weston made for some great matches during the year.
The year would be heavy with titles, but the Southern Heavyweight crown was still the most sought after. Freddie Blassie began the year by regaining the belt from Ray Gunkel. Ray's "brother" Dickie topped Blassie for the title in April. In the match where Dickie won the title, two rows of ringside seats were removed prior to the bout.
Blassie and Dickie Gunkel traded the belt back and forth more than once over the next few months, until Ray Gunkel stepped back into the picture by beating Blassie in October. However, somehow the title found its way back to Blassie by November, although it is unclear as to how. More confusion ensues, as Dickie Gunkel is suddenly billed as champion in December, when Blassie once again wins the title.
It is highly possible also to assume correctly that on a Christmas show, with a title match between Blassie and Gunkel, where the heel was billed as champ, that Gunkel won the title. It can only be assumed at this time, as the results are not clear, but Gunkel was the champion in early January 1960.
Although Freddie Blassie and Bob Shipp won the International Tag Team Title late last year, Ray Gunkel and Don McIntyre are the next team to defend the title in January. It is unknown as to how they came to claim the belts at this time. They were recognized into late March, but then the title is not referenced again until next year.
There was a series of matches in the fall for the Negro Men's Southern Heavyweight Title. Champion Willie Love continually turned away Tiger Conway to retain his title.
The Mountaineer entered the territory and was billed as the North Georgia Heavyweight Champion. After a few non-title defenses, he put the belt on the line and kept it as he defeated Charlie Harbin. As quickly as the Mountaineer came into the area, so went the title.
In March, Judy Grable came in and successfully defended her Women's Southern Title against Rita Cortez. It is believed that this title was the one from Cowboy Luttrall's Tampa office.
The United States Heavyweight Championship, as observed by the Minneapolis group, was brought into the area under a different name. Verne Gagne brought his belt in December and was billed as the United States Television Champion. He left the area with his title intact.
Paul Anderson continued to be recognized in Georgia as the World Heavyweight Champion. He only made a few defenses throughout the first half of the year. Again, it is more and more apparent that Paul Jones' territory was not a member of the National Wrestling Alliance at this time.
In strong contrast to that last statement, the Fabulous Moolah brought her NWA Women's World Title to the local rings. She made two different runs through the state, but always wore the belt from the ring.
In February, Paul Anderson not only defeated the Great Bolo, but also managed to remove his mask. Al Lovelock was suddenly recognized by all who were in the arena.
Professional boxer Joey Maxim was recruited in June to referee during a Dickie Gunkel and Skull Murphy match, which was a hot feud at the time. Murphy was clearly upset that Gunkel was declared the winner, so he issued a challenge to Maxim for the next Atlanta card. The following week, Murphy defeated Maxim in a "Boxer versus Wrestler Match."
Announcer Ed Capral even got in on the action this year. An October Handicap Match saw Freddie Blassie defeat Don McIntyre and Capral, although the announcer never got into the ring past the introductions. McIntyre had even vowed to retire if he tagged Capral.
Verne Gagne did work the rings around Georgia in December, but he no-showed a month earlier. A tournament had even been held the week before he was scheduled to appear, in which the winner would get the chance to face Gagne. Johnny Weaver won the tournament, and topped Gagne's substitute the next week, Lenny Montana.
Georgia wrestling fans were treated to a great year of mat mayhem in 1960. While the regulars provided most of the thrills, among the debuting stars were Leo Garibaldi, Bill Dromo, Bad Boy Hines and the Corsican team, Joe and Jean. The opening of the decade appears to be the swan song for such notables as Paul Anderson, Nick Roberts, Tokyo Joe and referee to be Farmer Powell. There were special appearances by such names as Pepper Gomez, Mitsu Arakawa, Don Leo Jonathan, Boris and Niccoli Volkoff, Hans Schmidt, Big Humphrey, Haystacks Calhoun and "Gorgeous" George Wagner, making his last appearance in the territory this year. In ring appearances by local favorite Don McIntyre continued to decline.
Lady wrestlers also made the scene this year. Women's Southern Champion Gloria Barratini defended her title. Mae Young made some appearances, as did "Pretty" Penny Banner, who made her last local appearances. One Banner match was as a partner her husband Johnny Weaver. She also served as a referee in a match between Weaver and the Mighty Yankee. Midget wrestlers Baby Cheryl and Darling Dagmar debuted and battled in a few encounters, their firsts of many in the area.
Freddie Blassie continued to headline many cards. A holder of the Southern heavyweight Title many times, Blassie won it from Dickie Gunkel in the Spring. His main competition was Ray Gunkel and Tiny Evans. One of his bouts with Evans saw the heel taken to the hospital with a back injury, while another saw Blassie win in the fourth round of a "Boxing Match." Other notable Blassie encounters were matches against Haystacks Calhoun and a no contest bout with former partner and equally villainous Eric Pederson. That bout ended when both men attacked the referee.
Ray Gunkel continued to be a main eventer and opposed Blassie on many occasions. Gunkel won the Southern Heavyweight Title from Blassie in the Summer. Another title held Gunkel billed the International Tag Team Title with the man as his "brother", Dick Steinborn. Gunkel feuded with the Mighty Yankee throughout 1960. Their final encounter was a "Barbed Wire Match" in which Gunkel vowed to leave forever if he was beaten. To the fans delight, Gunkel stayed and the hated Yankee departed, sans the mask.
Until the middle of the year, Georgia fans as Dickie Gunkel knew Dick Steinborn. His fans with the chant of "Go Dickie Go" usually cheered the speedster on. Among his matches this year were two victories over "Gorgeous" George Wagner. One of the wins was somewhat tainted though, as it was by disqualification when George's assistant Cherie sprayed perfume in Dick's eyes. Two wins over the Mighty Yankee were no less important to the youngster, who had debuted in Georgia last year.
From somewhere north of the Mason-Dixon Line came the Mighty Yankee. After an absence of a few years, the hooded heel returned. A number of his bouts ended in disqualifications, a result of his effort to keep his mask, which he put on the line many times. He topped Freddie Blassie in a "Loser Leaves Town Match" and took the Southern Heavyweight Title from Dick Steinborn. He also won a "Handicap Match" over Johnny Weaver and former partner "Gorgeous" George Wagner. His efforts to stay masked were finally thwarted in the Fall when beaten by Ray Gunkel. He turned out to be Roger Mackay.
Johnny Weaver appeared on many cards this year. The popular star began to be known as the New Johnny Weaver by the Fall. Around this time, the company he kept changed, and he embraced new heel tactics. He teamed often with "Pretty Boy" Roy Nelson and Freddie Blassie. A falling out saw Weaver leave after losing a "Loser Leaves Match" to Blassie.
Chief Little Eagle appeared on most of the cards during the year. He had debuted in Georgia two years ago, and was the most popular Indian star to appear in Georgia to this point. Though most of his bouts were low card, the Chief rarely failed to satisfy the masses, and usually employed his Bow and Arrow Hold to deny victory to his foes.
"Pretty Boy" Roy Nelson and his manager, "Sir" Reginald Gable, were thorns in the sides of many. Nelson's matches were mostly on the undercard, but he made many appearances throughout the area. Though the actual result is not known, his manager engaged TV announcer Ed Capral in a "Lights Out Match" on the year's final card in Atlanta.
"Gorgeous" George Wagner was beaten by Ray Gunkel on an August card and later the same night was taken to the hospital after intervening in a bout between Don McIntyre and the Mighty Yankee. The following week, he and the Yankee took on McIntyre and Gunkel, but ended up fighting each other. His last appearance in Atlanta was a "Handicap Match" with he and partner Johnny Weaver against the Yankee.
The year was a good one for grappling fans as they were treated to a variety of interesting matches as well as top-notch wrestlers both new and old. The year to follow would be no less entertaining. Familiar faces would be absent and new faces would make the scene. One of the most devastating tag teams in pro wrestling history would be born next year in Atlanta - the Assassins...
The wrestling scene in Georgia was another interesting one this year. There were a number of unusual gimmick matches, an array of new grapplers, the departure of a very familiar face, bouts by the old reliables and a most important debut not only for Atlanta, but all of professional wrestling.
Ray Gunkel was again the top favorite on local mats. To start the year, he whipped Freddie Blassie in a "Tuxedo Match", where both men literally donned tuxedoes. Gunkel also had many matches against Gypsy Joe. Among them were a "Loser Rides Jackass Match", a "Loser Gets Haircut Match" and a "Handicap Match" in which Ed Capral, TV announcer, served as Ray's partner - just who was handicapped here is questionable. "Doctor" Jerry Graham was also a constant foe to Gunkel over the course of the year.
Though they only appeared in preliminary matches, faces Guy Mitchell and Marco Polo appeared on most of the cards. Jack Bence was quite busy this year, both as a heel and a face. Chief Little Eagle was a frequent competitor again this year.
Among the other stars on Georgia mats were Wilbur Snyder, Yukon Eric, and Argentina Rocca. "Cowboy" Bob Ellis, Bobo Brazil, Matt Jewell and the Country Plowboy made their first local appearances. The Plowboy, billed at seven feet tall and 350 pounds, more than filled the void left by the absence of Haystacks Calhoun and Big Humphrey, who had made such a splash last year.
Local rings were also again a source of action for matches featuring women as well as midget grapplers. Rita Cortez, Peggy Allen and Cora Combs each appeared on several cards. Midget ladies Darling Dagmar and Baby Cheryl continued their touring feud while male counterparts Marcel Semard and Pee Wee Lopez dished out action, too.
The departure of Freddie Blassie after the year's opening Atlanta card probably lulled the area's "pencil-necked geeks" into a false sense of security. It would prove to be short lived, as Gypsy Joe, Skull Murphy "Doctor" Jerry Graham and Jack Dillon more than held their own as top heels. Other villains to visit the territory were Killer Kowalski, Angelo Poffo, the Viking, the Sheik, Dick the Bruiser and the Assassins.
The Sheik made his Georgia debut this year. One of his early encounters with Ray Gunkel ended with a brawling no decision that sparked a riot. Another bout ended with the Sheik being disqualified as Paul Jones and referee Charlie Harbin were burned by a fireball. He also had a series of matches with "Cowboy" Bob Ellis. Though his first run here was brief, it is doubtful that few who witnessed his madness would forget the experience.
Dick the Bruiser returned after a three-year absence. This time he was being billed as the AWA World Heavyweight Champion. In a match with Yukon Eric at Ponce De Leon Park, the Bruiser knocked out the referee, Farmer Powell. Against "Cowboy" Bob Ellis, the Bruiser slammed Powell to the mat, knocking him out. He also threw Powell from the ring in a bout with Argentina Rocca. In a "Boxing Match" with Ray Gunkel, the Bruiser was disqualified when Powell found a steel object in his glove. In an attempt to control the Bruiser, three referees were to call his match against Wilbur Snyder, but he just threw the two who were inside the ring out to the floor to join their partner.
Over the years, Georgia fans had seen many masked wrestlers. Some of those included the Red Devil, the Black Monster, El Toro, and the never-to-be-forgotten Mighty Yankee. While barred in some areas, it is hard to fathom the absence of a masked grappler on the local scene. The born-in-Atlanta tag team of the Assassins began their reign of terror late in the year.
In the Fall, a large masked man billed as being from "the Midwest" made his debut - the Assassin. He made his presence felt immediately by tearing through everyone put in front of him. He claimed on television that he wore the hood to conceal his identity from World Heavyweight Champion Buddy Rogers, and created a major stir in Georgia in early November. Retired local favorite Don McIntyre came back to do battle with the Assassin.
Enter - Assassin #2. In the Assassins first match as a team, they won the Southern Tag Team Title from McIntyre and Ray Gunkel. This was just the beginning for the Assassins.
It was quite a year - Freddie Blassie departed, a number of strangely designed bouts, new heels to hate and the birth of a team that would attain legendary status locally, around the country and abroad.
The major events in the Georgia territory included the retirement of promoter Paul Jones in Atlanta, the dominant new team of the Assassins and the return of Freddie Blassie.
Longtime area grapplers Jack Dillon, Tarzan White and Atlanta's own Ethel Johnson made their final appearances in the territory, but were replaced by the likes of Stan Nelson, Chief Crazy Horse, the Russian Crusher and many new teams consisting of Don Curtis and Joe Scarpa, Rito and Tito Carreon, Kurt and Karl Von Brauner with their manager Saul Weingeroff, and the Kentuckians - Jake Smith and Luke Brown.
The year also saw continuing appearances by Ray Gunkel, Dick the Bruiser, Eddie Graham, Dick Steinborn, Mr. Moto, the Assassins, Freddie Blassie, Chief Little Eagle. Pedro Godoy, Lenny Montana, Gypsy Joe, Johnny Walker, Bill Lawley and Andre Drapp. Many more women's matches occurred this year than in any prior, including appearances by ladies such as Tina Cole, Sweet Georgia Brown, the Fabulous Moolah, Virginia Franklin, Fran Gravette, Babs Wingo and Linda Horne.
Paul Jones stepped down during the spring after nineteen years as the promoter of Atlanta, and was replaced by Don McIntyre, who had co-owned the territory for many years with Jones. Jones would eventually return about two years later.
The Kentuckians, Smith and Brown, surfaced in the fall and were immediately main eventers. They made quite an impact, but would lose to Lenny Montana and Gypsy Joe in a match for the Southern Tag Team Title before leaving.
Dick the Bruiser returned, but without the AWA World Heavyweight Title he defended throughout the early part of last year. He and Freddie Blassie would feud throughout the territory, as well as him gaining victories over most of the men thrown his way.
Mr. Moto returned after a long absence, and seemed bent on destroying Blassie to get some revenge for Blassie's recent tour of Japan, where Blassie had run amok both in the ring and out.
Ray Gunkel continued to dominate matches and main events over the year, but mostly working with partners. He filled in for Eddie Graham on one card, pairing with Eddie Graham - Steinborn had been injured in Florida at the hands of the Great Malenko. He also teamed up with "Cowboy" Bob Ellis in a few matches against the Assassins. He did manage to topple his old nemesis Freddie Blassie in a Boxing Match, as well as getting some singles victories over Dick the Bruiser and Mr. Moto.
When Blassie returned to Atlanta this time, he brought with him the WWA World Heavyweight Title. The title was the version as recognized by the WWA in the Los Angeles office. It is interesting to note that although Blassie held this title, not one of his defenses here were during his legitimate reigns as observed by the office that owned the title.
The Assassins dominated the tag team scene, cemented with a victory over Dick Steinborn and Eddie Graham early in the year for the US Tag Team Title. They were booked in matches with such teams as Don Curtis and Joe Scarpa, Chief Little Eagle and Chief Crazy Horse, Jake Smith and Luke Brown, and even the heel duo of Taro Myaki and Tojo Yamamoto.
The most interesting bout was perhaps at Ponce de Leon Park in Atlanta against the Von Brauners - Kurt and Karl. A riot broke out during the match due to the antics of the Germans cane wielding manager, Saul Weingeroff. The Assassins actually found themselves being the crowd favorite for this match. Local police had to drive cars right up to the ring just so they could rescue Weingeroff and the Von Brauners from being harmed by the frenzied fans.
Don McIntyre continued as the successor to Paul Jones, and this would turn out to be his only full year at the helm. He did a credible job running the territory, maintaining continuity that kept the fans coming to the cards. Top stars from all over were still regular faces throughout the territory.
Some of the top names returning to the state after long absences were Tex Riley, Bronco Lubich, Cora Combs, Lou Thesz, Chief Big Heart, Tim Geohagen and Verne Gagne. Also coming back after brief stays in other places were Bobo Brazil, Bill Dromo, Derrell Cochran, Darling Dagmar, Johnny Weaver, Corsica Joe and Corsica Jean. This year would mark the final appearances in the territory by Gagne, Weaver and Gypsy Joe.
Some new faces found their way to Georgia, in manager Homer O'Dell, the Scufflin' Hillbillies, the Steve Boys - Steve Bolus and Steve Kovacs, Ivan Zukoff, the Bat, George Harris, Billy Hines, the Outlaw and Silento Rodriguez. Another person who would go on to be a major player in Georgia wrestling in the future debuted as well - Gene Anderson.
More and more cards began to become tag team heavy, dominated by the Von Brauners and their manager Saul Weingeroff. The debut of a new masked man would play a role, and went by the name of the Proud Rebel. Arriving in Georgia to avenge an injury to a friend at the hands of the Germans, the Rebel would eventually be unmasked as Joe Scarpa. Promoter Don McIntyre even became involved in the feud, as he found himself being handcuffed to Weingeroff to keep him from interfering in the action.
Freddie Blassie returned once again to defend the WWA World Heavyweight Title he had won on the west coast. This time, he truly was recognized as champion by the Los Angeles office at his time of arrival, as opposed to his appearances the previous year. However, by the time he lost the belt to Eddie Graham, Blassie had legitimately already dropped the title elsewhere.
However, the Atlanta office chose to recognize the title here as a world title, but not using the WWA name. Graham went on to lose the crown to Tarzan Tyler, who in turn would trade the belt with Dick Steinborn. During Tyler's second run, the NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Lou Thesz, returned to the state to unify his title, and did so by beating Tyler. After this bout, the NWA title became a mainstay in the territory.
Tyler would go on to team with Lenny Montana, and would eventually take the tag title from the Von Brauners. Tyler also was billed as Eastern Heavyweight Champion before dropping that crown to Chief Big Heart, who teamed with Chief Little Eagle to wrest the tag belts from Tyler and Montana.
This year saw many masked grapplers become heavily involved in the ring action, with the aforementioned Proud Rebel, the Bat, the Outlaw and the Mighty Hercules. Hercules debuted in the fall, and took the Eastern Heavyweight Title from Chief Big Heart in his first attempt. He would go on to challenge Lou Thesz for the NWA crown, Dick the Bruiser, and even square off in a boxing match with Ray Gunkel, where Archie Moore appeared as the special referee. His main rival was Eddie Graham, who ultimately toppled Hercules for the Eastern Heavyweight Title, and even unmasked him before the end of the year, identifying him as Bobby Graham.
Georgia wrestling fans were the beneficiaries of yet another year of top-notch wrestling thrills this year. Over 100 stars appeared during the year, the most ever in any year we have documented. Popular retired Georgia wrestling favorite Don McIntyre, who in 1962 relieved Paul Jones as promoter, stepped down and turned the helm over to Les Wolfe. Wolfe served only for a brief period before he was replaced by a face very familiar to local fans - Paul Jones. Jones held the title of promoter previously for about eighteen years.
Even though there was a plethora of mat stars present this year, it appears from available sources that this year would be the swan song for some. Among them, Chief Big Heart, who first appeared ten years earlier, midget star Pee Wee Lopez, the very popular Argentina Rocca, and bad man Lenny Montana, who would later appear in the film the Godfather. Veteran Tex Riley appeared in Georgia briefly from 1953 to 1955 and in this and the previous year. Riley died in Savannah following a match this year. Johnny Walker, "Cowboy" Bob Ellis and the Masked Assassins would leave in 1964 and not return for three, nine and four years, respectively.
There were a few grapplers who returned to the Georgia mat. Chris Tolos, who had been gone since 1956 returned briefly. This time his brother John accompanied him. Rip Hawk, absent since 1957, returned as well. The most noteworthy return would be that of strutting blonde villain Don Fargo. Fargo had last appeared in 1958 when he was paired with his equally nefarious brother Jackie. This time Don came in and was cheered.
Quite a number of wrestlers made their initial appearances this year. Dick Dunn, Wildman Phillips, Greg Peterson, Enrique Torres, Sam Steamboat, John Tolos, Frankie Cain, Rocky Smith, Danny Hodge, Buddy Fuller, Hiro Matsuda, Stan Stasiak, Fritz Von Erich, Mario Galento and Sputnik Monroe were the new competitors. Tag duos to make their initial appearances were the Bavarian Boys, the Mysterious medics and the Tolos brothers.
Leading the way in appearances on the undercard were George Harris, Greg Peterson, Frankie Cain and Dick Dunn. Both Cain and Dunn would appear locally a couple of years in the future as members of masked teams. Dunn's partner to be, Willie Garrett, appeared as Cousin Willie of the Scufflin' Hillbillies. Rocky Smith would later be Cain's partner. The duo teamed this year on at least one card.
Joe Scarpa had more Georgia appearances than in any previous year. Most of his matches were not main events, but he did do battle with Fritz Von Erich in a few top matches. Scarpa's main foe for the year would be Stan Stasiak. The duo had a serious of rough matches. One violent encounter saw Stasiak stomp Scarpa repeatedly after first turning over the timekeeper's table on him. Stasiak was sent packing following a Loser Leaves Match to Scarpa.
Mario Galento, the belligerent battler from New York, debuted in the fall. Though his appearances this year were few, he was quite an entertainer and would provide the Georgia fans with much to talk about for years to come. The wiry grappler was able to dethrone Georgia Heavyweight Champion Sputnik Monroe late in the year.
Don Fargo returned to Georgia after an absence of six years. This time he started out as a fan favorite. He became a popular fixture and had encounters with such stars as Lou Thesz and Hiro Matsuda, and he had a big win over Sputnik Monroe to win the Georgia Heavyweight Title. Although he won the belt, Monroe regained it a few weeks later. Fargo would later revert to his old ways. In December he teamed with Billy Strong, who had previously worked as the Destroyer until he was unmasked. Shortly afterwards, this duo became known as the Dirty Daltons. Fargo was Jack Dalton, and Strong was Bob Dalton. Fans were obviously puzzled at the sudden change of names.
Georgia wrestling history is rife with masked men. While the number of hooded duos has been few, the Mysterious Medics would have to rank among the top. The white clad hoodlums had a brief feud with the Scufflin' Hillbillies, bloodying Cousin Willie so badly on television that their tube appearances were briefly suspended. Among their other encounters was a victory over Eddie Graham and Sam Steamboat to win the Southern Tag Team Title.
Buddy Fuller became a popular addition in Georgia this year. The lanky grappler had wrestled elsewhere as "Cowboy" George Valentine. He possessed a deadly leg hold called the Inside Stepover Toehold, which hobbled a number of his opponents. Fuller had a big victory over perennial heel Freddie Blassie. His most frequent foe was Sputnik Monroe, but the twosome would later team up.
Sputnik Monroe, self-proclaimed owner of a gorgeous profile, was the top man of the year. Often accompanied by manager/brother Jet Monroe, the strutting Monroe debuted against Guy Taylor and beat him badly. Sputnik faced such top stars as Argentina Rocca, Hiro Matsuda and Dick the Bruiser. Sputnik won a tournament to crown the inaugural Georgia Heavyweight Champion by beating the Bruiser in the final round. His feat also earned him a brand new Cadillac.
Mario Galento started the year as the Georgia Heavyweight Champion and the Mysterious Medics were the Southern Tag Team Champions at the year's opening. While the usual mayhem took place, a unique idea unfolded as teams from different states did battle on occasion.
Returning after lengthy absences were Jesse James, Lester Welch and Bob Orton, all gone since 1951; Nick Kozak, absent for four years; and Corsica Jean, who returned after missing the previous year. Among the many to debut in 1965 were Lee Fields, Tony Borne, Bob Boyer, Roger "Rip" Kirby, Lord Littlebrook, Don Carson, Princess Little Cloud, Ken Hollis, Dutch Savage and Dale Lewis.
Tag Team warfare was again a major part of the year's cards. The Mysterious Medics had their title held up after a loss to Mario Galento and Buddy Fuller. They regained it in a tournament, but lost it to Fuller and Jesse James later. Joe Scarpa and Chief Little Eagle, Corsica Joe and Corsica Jean, Billy and Bad Boy Hines, Mario and Al Galento, and Nick Kozak and Dick Steinborn also held the title during the year. Kurt and Karl Von Brauner returned and appeared briefly, but late in the year it would be Karl and Eric on Brauner who made up the evil German team managed by Saul Weingeroff.
In March, a three man Georgia team wrestled a three man Florida team in singles matches - the first of two such encounters. Later, it was Georgia versus Alabama and Georgia versus Tennessee. The Florida team - Sam Steamboat, Eddie Graham and Dick Steinborn, would be the same at each event. The team from Alabama consisted of Dick Dunn, Randy Roper and Lee Fields. Tennessee's group was made up of Ronnie Etchison, Tony Milano and Lester Welch. Welch was part of the first Georgia unit with Buddy Fuller and "Rowdy" Red Roberts. The Georgia team changed each time out, and in addition to the aforementioned combination of Welch, Fuller and Roberts, were as follows in the order of the events: Fuller / Derrell Cochran / Pancho Villas, Ray Gunkel / Greg Peterson / Jesse James, and Gunkel / Peterson / Chief Little Eagle.
Babyface grapplers with the most appearances in low or mid-card matches were Greg Peterson, Dick Steinborn and Nick Kozak. Peterson, whose wife Bobbie wrestled here on occasion, was a tireless competitor who gave his all in his mat encounters. Steinborn was always a Georgia favorite. He appeared twice on the Florida teams battling the locals, but it was hard to root against him. In 1961, Kozak appeared primarily in tag matches here with his brother Jerry. He and Steinborn teamed to wrest the Southern Tag Team Title from the Hines Brothers. In addition to his mid-card matches he appeared in a few main events. Among his single encounters were victories over ruffians Dutch Savage, Bob Orton and Dick the Bruiser.
The teams of Corsica Joe / Corsica Jean and Dutch Savage / Dale Lewis were leaders in mid-card matches for the heels. Each of the villains appeared in a few main events as well. The Corsicans, according to an article featured in an Atlanta Ringsider program, were trained by Henri DeGlane and each man possessed over fifteen years of experience at the time the article appeared. In 1958, they had beaten the Gallagher Brothers in Knoxville for the World Tag team Title. The article said further that their hobbies were golf (Jean) and cooking (Joe). Savage and Lewis debuted later in the year. Savage, a man quite befitting of his name, had very few losses in singles bouts. Nick Kozak and Buddy Fuller were among the few to beat the bad man from Milwaukee. He frequently teamed with Mario Galento and Olympian Dale Lewis. Lewis, as arrogant a wrestler there ever was, was very much disliked by the fans. Equally hated men such as Freddie Blassie, Mario Galento and Dick the Bruiser received cheers when they faced Lewis. Lewis often offered $1,000 to anyone who could beat him in a specified time period.
Kansas City heel Bob Orton joined the Georgia mat wars in 1965. Although his appearances were few, he appeared in several main events in defense of his Southern Heavyweight Title. Orton was always a force with which to reckon. His favorite hold was known as the piledriver. It is believed the hold was barred here which resulted in several disqualifications for the blonde villain.
Buddy Fuller was number two man in main events in 1965. His main foe was Mario Galento. He and Galento won the Southern Tag Team Title from the Mysterious Medics, but Galento turned on him after their win. He and Jesse James held the title twice, beating the Medics on once occasion and the Corsicans on another. Important singles bouts for Fuller were against Bob Orton and Lou Thesz. On one outdoor card he beat Galento for the Georgia Heavyweight Title and a week later he out-boxed the former champion. Rocky Marciano refereed both bouts.
Unpredictable Mario Galento dumped many a man during the year in singles bouts. Until he teamed with Al Galento, he was not trusted by the other heels in tag matches. The duo won the Southern Tag Team Title, but a week later Al's leg was broken by Buddy Fuller. In the summer, Mario also had a successful run with Dutch Savage as his partner. Later in the year, to the surprise of many, he teamed with the popular Chief Little Eagle, who he had wrestled on many occasions. They fought the Von Brauners in a few matches and got along quite well.
An outstanding year of squared circle activity was witnessed by Georgia wrestling fans in 1966. Few of the Atlanta cards had less than six matches, and several of them featured seven or eight. Over one hundred grapplers again were on the mats.
Among the newcomers were the Von Stroheims, Les Thatcher, Dennis hall, Bobby Hart, Klondike Bill, Wildman Wehba, Bob Armstrong, Lars Anderson, Butcher and Mad Dog Vachon, Bobby Shane, Louie Tillet, Al Costello, Alberto and Ramon Torres, the Infernos and new NWA World Heavyweight Champion Gene Kiniski.
The top grapplers in number of appearances were the Mysterious Medics, the Red Raiders, Alberto Torres, the Infernos, Ray Gunkel, Butcher Vachon, Buddy Fuller, Mario Galento, Louie Tillet and Enrique Torres. Torres was the top main eventer, followed by Vachon, Galento, Tillet and the Infernos.
Youngsters Bob Armstrong, Bobby Shane and Lars Anderson debuted in 1966. Armstrong did not appear a lot, but made quite an impression in his inaugural year. Speedy Bobby Shane first appeared in March. Among his encounters was a win over Armstrong. In tag bouts he mostly teamed with Mario Galento or fellow speedster Dick Steinborn. Muscular ruffian Lars Anderson teamed with brother Gene to form a near unbeatable duo. Several bouts with the brothers Torres ended in draws or no contest decisions. Alberto and Ramon Torres joined brother Enrique to delight fans with their speedy and well coordinated moves, the likes of which had not been seen since Rito and Tito Carreon.
Mario Galento had fewer appearances than the previous year. Early in the year he beat Dale Lewis for the Olympian's $1,000 in a Money versus Hair Match, surrounded by a cage. He and Chief Little Eagle feuded with the Von Brauners and Saul Weingeroff, and was later joined with Bobby Shane to battle the Infernos. Mario served as referee in a wild fracas between the Infernos and the Medics. He later became involved in a feud with the Infernos manager, J. C. Dykes, with whom he also feuded in Florida. Mario's favorite finisher was the Hangman's Hold. He was none too pleased when Butcher Vachon came in using the same maneuver. The matmen met in several bouts.
Louie Tillet and partner Al Costello wrestled the World Tag Team Title from the Mysterious medics. After they lost it to the Von Brauners, Tillet turned heel. His main foe was Buddy Fuller. The Frenchman beat Fuller for the Southern Heavyweight Title, which seemingly replaced the short-lived Georgia title. In one loss to Fuller he was required to throw one hundred $100 bills to the ringside fans. A Texas Death Match loss to Fuller saw him lose out on a title shot with Gene Kiniski and have his leg injured to boot. Upon his return he became a partner of Butcher Vachon and an ally to referee Leo Garibaldi who also feuded with Fuller due to recent controversial referee decisions.
Butcher Vachon joined the local scene in July. The burly and vicious Canadian usually employed a stomp and the Hangman's Hold to subdue his foes. Vachon's Hangman differed from that of Mario Galento in that after hoisting his opponent onto his back, he spun him around. His main adversaries were the Torres brothers and of course Galento. Among his encounters was a victory over Alberto Torres in a Loser Leaves Match and a loss to Gene Kiniski. His infamous brother Mad Dog appeared to assist in a battle with the Torres brothers.
Enrique Torres, the eldest brother, debuted a couple of years ago and was quite popular. Being joined by brothers Alberto and Ramon did nothing to hurt his popularity. He and Alberto held the World Tag Team Title, the European Tag Team Title and the Southern Tag Team Title. He and Ramon also held the Southern Tag Team crown together. The Medics, the Red Raiders and the Anderson brothers were among their main foes. The Raiders, a dastardly duo known to use chloroform in the ring, were unmasked by Enrique and Ramon and were revealed to be Dick Dunn and Willie Garrett, a team who would later wrestle in Florida as the Medics. The main foe for the Torres clan was the masked duo known as the Infernos.
The Infernos, one of a handful of masked teams in Georgia history, debuted in March. The European Tag Team Champions wore blue masks and tights with long flowing blue or gold capes. One Inferno had a built up shoe to conceal a foreign object and the other had the ability to throw fire. Toss in a red headed whistle toting nuisance named J. C. Dykes and you had quite a colorful team. Their main opponents were Mario Galento and Bobby Shane, the Torres brothers and the Mysterious Medics. Their feud with the Medics was one of the wildest in Georgia mat history. At least two of their encounters ended with ripped masks and free flowing blood. Among the grapplers burned by the Infernos and Dykes were Bobby Shane, Ramon Torres, Mario Galento and Medic #2. The vociferous Dykes also destroyed the birthday cake of Bobby Shane prior to their July 1 bout on the night Shane was celebrating his 21st birthday. Few teams and managers could generate the hatred that the Infernos and Dykes did.
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