Memphis/CWA #26 Page #2
large territory also enabled Gulas and Welch to do a number of things
that when pieced together can seem somewhat baffling. Sometimes, the
promotion would recognize different sets of champions in the same time
frame in different cities. For instance, the promotion might recognize
The Yankees as Southern tag champions in Memphis but in Birmingham on
the same day Len Rossi & Tex Riley might be recognized as Southern
tag champions. With news about area championships changing hands
traveling slowly at the time, fans in different cities finding out about
two sets of champions at the same time was not a major concern at this
time and seems likely a method of helping business as opposed to the
later days when news began traveling faster and such shenanigans exposed
the business even more.
should also be noted at this juncture that this writer has made great
effort to make certain championships were held at the times stated
although with the territory being so large it has been extremely
difficult to gain a definitive list of champions since much of the
history of professional wrestling lies unresearched in many cities in
this (and other) territories. Until this is completed the list here,
gathered from personal notes, programs, newspaper clippings and reliable
fans and friends as well as the invaluable Duncan & Will's Wrestling
Title Histories and The Great Hisa's title histories web site, will
no doubt be added to and revised many times before being anywhere close
to being really completed.
Gulas-Welch promotion in 1965 was a member of the National Wrestling
Alliance. The NWA recognized a World champion and a World Junior
Heavyweight champion at the time. Both championships would be defended
in the area during the year.
from the governance of the NWA, the promotion recognized several major
championships at the time. The most prestigious at the time was the
World tag team championship. With a number of tag teams working the area
the previous decade such as The Fabulous Fargos, Corsica Joe &
Corsica Jean, Mephisto & Dante, Don & Luke Fields and Don &
Al Greene, the wild action tag team wrestling provided was Gulas' main
attraction and the World tag title was the area's main prize.
Southern tag titles were second in line in importance in the area in
1965. It should be noted though that often the World tag titles would be
defended in one series of cities for a time while in another series of
cities in the area the Southern tag titles would be defended. Using this
method, the Southern tag titles no doubt were often perceived by some as
being as worthy as the World tag championship.
the end of 1965, the Southern Junior Heavyweight championship reappeared
in the area. It should be considered 1965's top singles championship in
the area. The fact that much of the lineage of the title in 1965 remains
apparently dormant should point out the reliance of Gulas at the time of
tag team feuds. Also note that the championship that came to be
recognized as the crown jewel of the promotion during the late 1970s and
beyond, the Southern title, isn't listed as such in 1965. In 1974, the
Southern Junior Heavyweight title, the area's major singles title in
1965, was renamed the Southern Heavyweight title.
many of the tag team feuds in the area were heel-driven. While the fans
had their favorites especially Jackie Fargo, Len Rossi and Tex Riley,
among others, it was often the bad guys who angered area fans enough to
make Gulas and Welch successful promoters. Many of these teams were
masked teams such as Mephisto
& Dante and The Masked Medics. These teams would wrestle the area
for months creating havoc and often barely escaping losing their masks
in matches. Losing that mask, which hid a true identity from the fans,
was the thing that the masked wrestling tag teams feared most. This made
it logical that a masked tag team actually being unmasked would be the
eventual payoff. Getting to that payoff though was the fun although to
the interested fan it was a rumbling-tumbling roller coaster ride. In
most every case, payoff was sweet for those patient enough to keep
interested. Usually after close to a year (give or take some time) of
nefarious deeds the masked team would be forced into putting their masks
on the line and most always they would lose the match and be forced to
of the teams were also stereotypical ethnic heels. Kurt & Karl Von
Brauner were billed as evil Germans along with their manager Gentleman
Saul Weingeroff. Japanese star Tojo Yamamoto was often paired with other
Japanese stars to form a team no doubt labeled as a 'sneaky Oriental
combo'. Coming less than twenty years after the end of World War II, the
generations that followed were conditioned to dislike what had caused so
much grief not all that long ago and what came to be symbolized in the
wrestling ring by such stars as The Von Brauners, Weingeroff and
Yamamoto. Meantime, falling somewhere in the middle were homegrown
baddies Don & Al Greene.
flip side of the bad guys were the area's fan favorites. Ironically, the
area's most popular star was once the most despised. Jackie Fargo was
the brawler who could stand toe-to-toe with any bad guy who came along.
In 1961, Fargo rescued Len Rossi from a beating at the hands of Mephisto
& Dante and became someone the fans adored. As a heel Fargo was a
self-assured bad man, complete with his own cocky strut which infuriated
fans. As a fan favorite though the only thing that Fargo seemed to
change was his dressing room as he remained self-assured but in such a
way that the fans identified with him and counted on him to take care of
the villains that came down the pike.
behind Fargo in popularity was Len Rossi. The New York native had
debuted in the area in the late 1950s and had worked near the top of
area cards from the very beginning of his entry into the area. A
talented junior heavyweight with above average mat skills, Rossi fit the
mold of a typical quintessential babyface, one who understood and
followed the rules, moreso than the redeemed heel Fargo.
saw Gulas lose one of his major draws ever when Tex Riley passed away.
Riley had worked the area for years and at times was the area's top fan
favorite. Riley had held every area championship at least one time. He
has also formed memorable tag teams with both Fargo and Rossi, among
others. After his passing, a number of talented wrestlers attempted
standing in the gap left by his absence including Mario Milano, Joe
Scarpa, Steve Kovacs, Johnny Walker and more.
February and March 1965
territory was privileged to see a host of great talent come through the
area during the first three months of the year. Included in that number
would be Ronnie Etchison. Etchison came to be known late in his career
for mostly working in the Central States area and often appeared on
cards in St. Louis promoted by NWA president Sam Muchnick. Etchison
though had a long successful career spanning parts of six decades and
worked many of the various territories over the years. Another man who
made his presence known at the time was Jerry Miller. Miller also worked
many of the territories and likely was better known by some fans as The
Duke Jerry Miller or simply as Duke Miller.
in the area at this time include Red Steiner, Lester Welch (brother of
Roy Welch), Alex Perez, Tojo Yamamoto, Mitsu Hirai, Jackie Fargo, Mario
Milano, Len Rossi, Rocky Smith, Kurt & Karl Von Brauner, Saul
Weingeroff, Jack Rico, George Grant, Herb Larsen, Gene Dundee, Gordo
Chihuahua, Don & Al Greene, Don Fargo, Pat O'Connor, Sonny Myers,
Pepe Rocco, Wilbur Snyder, Dick the Bruiser, Tiger Jack Daniels, Frank
Hickey and others including Judy Grable and Bette Boucher.
stars Art Thomas, Luther Lindsay, King Toby and Tiger Conway also worked
the area at this time but more often than not only worked matches
against each other as the race barrier was still one that held sway in
the area at the time. Thomas though did work some tag matches as a
partner to Jackie Fargo and Mario Milano.
superstar-to-be Roger Kirby also worked some in area rings. NWA champion
Lou Thesz also worked some in the area defending the top title in the
industry at the time.
the year began, Kurt and Karl Von Brauner with manager Gentleman Saul
Weingeroff held the World tag titles while the Southern tag titles were
held by Tojo Yamamoto & Mitsu Hirai. Rocky Smith began the year as
Southern Junior heavyweight champion.
changes and controversies during January-March 1965
match pitting World tag champions Kurt Von Brauner & Karl Von
Brauner and their manager Gentleman Saul Weingeroff against Jackie Fargo
& Wilbur Snyder ends with titles being held up.
three tag team tournament is held in Nashville with the winning team
receiving the held-up World tag titles. Jackie Fargo & Mario Milano,
former three time Southern tag champions, would win the round robin
event by getting past The Von Brauners and Tojo Yamamoto & Mitsu
on Area Cards, January-March 1965
KY National Guard Armory, January 16, 1965
Yamamoto & Mitsu Hirai vs. Jackie Fargo & Len Rossi
Art Thomas vs. Tiger Conway
KY, Tuesday, February 16
Smith & Bob Hamby vs. Red Steiner & Gene Dundee
Rossi vs. Gordo Chihuahua
TN, Monday, March 8
grudge six man tag match:
Jackie Fargo, Donnie Fargo & Mario Milano lost to Saul Weingeroff,
Kurt Von Brauner & Karl Von Brauner
Perez over George Grant
Smith over Red Steiner
May and June, 1965
pleasers The Scufflin' Hillbillies passed back through the area for some
shows in this time frame. The Hillbillies had last worked in the area
one year earlier when they worked a brief feud against the team of Tojo
Yamamoto & Alex Perez.
making his presence known in the area was Mexico's Gory Guerrero. A
talented veteran who worked many of the territories, Guerrero often
worked tag matches in the area teaming with Alex Perez, Gordo Chihuahua
and Joaquin Corea, who had worked the area previously as one of the
Masked El Olympicos. Gory's presence in the business would be felt for
years to come as sons Chavo, Armando, Hector and Eddie, along with
grandson, Chavito (Chavo, Jr.) would all have successful careers
beginning in the 1970s and stretching into the new millennium.
making their presence known in the area at the time included Bobby
'Hercules' Graham, Kurt & Karl Von Brauner, Saul Weingeroff, Tojo
Yamamoto, Mitsu Hirai, Mario Milano, Chuck Conley, The Masked Big Heads,
Chief Crazy Horse, Ronnie Etchison, Eddie Graham, Sam Steamboat, Oni
Wiki Wiki, Tim Tyler, Tom Bradley, Lester Welch, Jackie Fargo, Gordo
Chihuahua, Len Rossi, Chief Crazy Horse, The Masked Black Phantom, Tony
Nero, The Mysterious Masked Medics, Buddy Fuller (son of Roy Welch),
Alex Perez, Herb Larsen, Jack Rico, Mickey Sharpe, Ronnie Paul, Pat
O'Connor, Frankie Cain, Irish Mike Clancy and Darrell Cochran, among
others including Rita Cortez and Barbara Galento.
NWA champion Lou Thesz again made some appearances in the area. NWA
Junior Heavyweight champion Danny Hodge also worked several weeks in the
territory. Interestingly enough, Hodge made some title defenses in the
area against The Masked Black Phantom. Historically speaking, The Black
Phantom was a major masked heel in the early 1950s in the area and even
held a version of the World Junior heavyweight championship. In the
1950s, veteran Art Neilson worked under the mask.
changes and controversies during April-June 1965
Fargo & Mario Milano lose the World tag titles to the Von Brauners
in Nashville. The win is the fifth time the Von Brauners had held the
World tag titles in the area.
controversy appears as some cities do not recognize the Von Brauners as
World tag champions. It appears as if there are a few weeks when the
World tag titles are vacant in the area.
Tulsa, Danny Hodge downs Angelo Savoldi to win the NWA World Junior
heavyweight title. Later in the year, Hodge would drop the title to
Lorenzo Parente, who would work in the Gulas-Welch territory in the
three tag team tournament is held in Chattanooga with the winning team
laying claim to the World tag titles. Tojo Yamamoto & Mitsu Hirai
win the tournament which also included The Von Brauners and Jackie Fargo
& Mario Milano.
week after the tournament win, Tojo Yamamoto & Mitsu Hirai battle
The Masked Big Heads in Chattanooga. Despite winning the match, the
titles are held up and taken from Yamamoto & Hirai. Without any
clear clarification, the following week the World tag titles are in the
possession of the Von Brauners. Research at this point has not
determined if a tournament was held with the Von Brauners winning or if
some other method determined the Von Brauners as champions.
on Area Cards, April-June 1965
Tuesday, March 20
match, ring enclosed in bull wire, one Von Brauner will wear a red tee
Von Brauner & Karl Von Brauner managed by Saul Weingeroff (World tag
champions) were DQed against Jackie Fargo & Mario Milano
Rossi drew with Saul Weingeroff
Cortez over Chi-Chi Paris
'Hercules' Graham over Tony Nero
Memorial Auditorium, Thursday, May 27
Hodge (NWA World Junior Heavyweight champion) over Tojo Yamamoto-2/3
Alex Perez over Mario Milano
Rossi drew with Gory Guererro
Scufflin' Hillbillies over The Masked Black Phantoms
TN Hippodrome, June 8
Thesz (NWA champion) by DQ over Tojo Yamamoto
Perez & Gory Guerrero over Danny Hodge & Juaquin Corea (Corea
replaced the injured Mario Milano during the match)
Mike Clancy & Frankie Cain drew with The Masked Medics
Conley over Gordo Chihuahua
August and September, 1965
the stars coming through during these three months included Danny Hodge
(NWA World Junior heavyweight champion), Alex Perez, Tojo Yamamoto,
Mitsu Hirai, Mario Milano, Frankie Cain, Irish Mike Clancy, Jackie
Fargo, Gory Guererro, Oni Wiki Wiki, Lester Welch, Saul Weingeroff, Sam
Steamboat, Buddy Fuller, Eddie Graham, Pat O'Connor, Tor Kamata, Johnny
Walker, Dick the Bruiser, Prince Pullins, Rip Collins, Rocky Smith, Gene
Dubois, Chin Lee, Prince Pullins, Tony Baillargeon, Len Rossi, Wilbur
Snyder, Sonny Myers, Bob Hamby, Bob Griffin, Rocky Montero, Chico
Cortez, Bobby Whitlock, Jim Webba, Tor Kamata, Tamaya Soto, Joaquin
Corea, Rowdy Red Roberts and Art Thomas. Terrible Ted the wrestling bear
was also a draw during this time.
of the hot feuds of the summer featured the Scufflin' Hillbillies
against The Mysterious Masked Medics. The Medics were one of the top
heel teams in the area beginning in 1962 having held the Southern tag
titles on several occasions. Under the masks the Medics at this time in
this area were Tony Gonzales and Donald Lortie. As the summer moved on,
the Medics would compete with the Von Brauners as the area's lead heel
Red Steiner paired with Karl Von Brauner for several months beginning in
this time frame due to an injury to Kurt Von Baruner. Steiner began
being billed as Eric Von Brauner.
changes and controversies during July-September 1965
World tag titles appear to go undefended by Kurt & Karl Von Brauner
in this time frame.
Mike Clancy & Frankie Cain defeat Tojo Yamamoto & Mitsu Hirai to
win the Southern tag titles in a Nashville match. Cain would achieve his
greatest fame as a singles wrestler as The Great Mephisto although he
was also successful wrestling under his own name and also as one of the
infamous masked Infernos.
Yamamoto teams with Alex Perez to down Irish Mike Clancy & Frankie
Cain for the Southern tag titles in a Nashville match. Yamamoto &
Perez had teamed off and on for over a year and this win began their
fourth Southern tag title reign.
Jonesboro, Arkansas, Tojo Yamamoto & Alex Perez drop the Southern
tag titles to Jackie Fargo & Len Rossi. Fargo had held the tag title
numerous times with a variety of partners that included brothers Don and
Sonny, as well as Mario Milano and Lester Welch. Rossi had held the tag
titles on several occasions over the years but with only one partner,
veteran Tex Riley, as they formed one of the more popular area tag teams
in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Meantime, Jackie & Riley had a
two week run as Southern tag champions in 1962.
Graham & Sam Steamboat make appearances throughout the territory
billed as World tag champions and it is announced that they claimed the
titles after winning a
tournament in Tampa. Graham's entry into the area was a homecoming of
sorts as he originally hailed from Chattanooga.
Memorial Auditorium, Thursday, July 29
Mysterious Masked Medics over Irish Mike Clancy & Frankie Cain
(advertised as Clancy & Cain defending Southern tag titles vs.
Medics in a no time limit, no DQ match with titles vs. masks but
according to a newspaper report Tojo Yamamoto & Alex Perez won the
belts "Wednesday in Memphis", although a title change did
appear to occur two nights
before in Nashville.)
Fargo over Johnny Rubberman Walker (advertised as Fargo vs. Tim Tyler)
drew with Mario Milano
Tuesday, August 31
of the brutes:
The Mysterious Masked Medics over Tojo Yamamoto & Chin Lee
Brauner & Eric Von Brauner drew with Jackie Fargo & Mario Milano
Soto over Bob Hamby
Rossi over Al Martinez
Terrible Ted the Wrestling Bear over Tojo Yamamoto
Welch & Buddy Fuller vs. Karl Von Brauner & Eric Von Brauner
Ted the Wrestling Bear vs. Saul Weingeroff
Thomas vs. Prince Pullins
Yamamoto vs. Gene Dubois
Smith vs. Chin Lee
November and December, 1965
those who worked in the area at this time included NWA champion Lou
Thesz, Tony Baillargeon, Eddie Graham, Sam Steamboat, Mario Galento, The
Kentucky Colonel Rip Collins, Tom Jones, Kanji Inoki, Johnny Apollo,
Mack York, Hiro Matsuda, Jackie Fargo, Len Rossi, Billy Wicks, Dick the
Bruiser, Chief Little Bear, Wilbur Snyder, Prince Pullins, Johnny
Heideman, Wild Man Phillips (best known as Treacherous Phillips), The Ox
(billed as 6'7", 300 pounds), Corsica Joe, Tor Kamata, Tojo
Yamamoto, Alex Perez, The Mysterious Masked Medics, Gene Dundee, Bob
Hamby, Saul Weingeroff, Karl Von Brauner & Eric Von Brauner, Frankie
Cain, Danny Dusek, Johnny Walker, Kenny Mack and others. Veterans Don
Greene, Al Greene and Corsica Joe also worked the area at this time.
great Archie Moore made appearances late in the year as a special
referee for some area matches.
working some in the area at the time were female stars Little Darlin'
Dagmar, Diamond Lil, Bonita White Dove, Judy Grable, Cora Combs, Kathy
O'Brien, Jessica Rogers, Mae Goodner, Mrs. Corsica Joe and Rita Cortez.
is also interesting to note that a couple of referees in the area would
make a big hit in the business in time. Jimmy Dykes and Eddie Marlin
often worked cities around the circuit as referees. Dykes would soon
leave the area and be billed as Esquire J.C. Dykes and manage the tag
team known as The Masked Infernos. Marlin would begin a more full time
wrestling career best known for a long-running successful team with
Tommy Gilbert in the 1970s.
changes and controversies during October-December 1965
Yamamoto and new partner Tor Kamata capture the Southern tag titles with
a Nashville win over Jackie Fargo & Len Rossi.
Fargo & Len Rossi rebound to dethrone Southern tag champions Tojo
Yamamoto & Tor Kamata in a Nashville rematch.
Fargo & Len Rossi's second Southern tag title reigns ends in
Chattanooga as The Mysterious Medics win the titles for the sixth time.
Junior heavyweight champion Rocky Smith would battle Hiro Matsuda in
Chattanooga. The match would end in controversy and the title would be
held up. Smith and his brother Curtis would work the territory in
various incarnations over the years.
the Southern Junior heavyweight title held up, a Chattanooga rematch saw
former champion Rocky Smith upend Hiro Matsuda to lay claim to the title
again. Despite his loss here, Matsuda was already an accomplished star
in the junior heavyweight ranks. Matsuda had won the prestigious NWA
World Junior heavyweight title from Danny Hodge in 1964. His four month
reign ended at the hands of former champion Angelo Savoldi. In 1975,
Matsuda regained that title by defeating Ken Mantell. Matsuda would have
a near nine month reign on top before Hodge avenged his 1964 loss by
regaining the title. Matsuda would settle in Florida and over the years
would work with many of the young talent that filtered through the area.
Nashville, the Southern tag titles are held up after a match between
champions The Medics and their opponents Hiro Matsuda & Kanji Inoki
ended in controversy. Inoki, under the name Antonio Inoki, would become
legendary in time in Japan as the lead star for New Japan Wrestling. In
the mid-1960s though, Inoki was working a number of the burgeoning
territories in the United States.
on Area Cards, October-December 1965
TN, October 25, 1965
Wicks over Mack York
Phillips drew with John Apollo
Baillargeon & Len Rossi over Karl Von Brauner & Eric Von Brauner
Graham & Sam Steamboat (World tag champions) over Alex Perez &
Tuesday, November 30
vs. mask, No time limit, no DQ, special referee: Archie Moore:
Wilbur Snyder (US champion) over The Masked Destroyer-Destroyer unmasked
and revealed as Joe Vargo
Yamamoto & Alex Perez over Jackie Fargo & Prince Pullins
White Dove & Darling Dagmar over Judy Grable & Diamond Lil
Inoki over Tony Baillargeon
Rossi over Tor Kamata
Memorial Auditorium, Thursday, December 30
Mysterious Masked Medics (Southern tag champions) lost to Len Rossi
& Frankie Cain
DQ, no time limit, special
Len Rossi: Rocky
Smith (Southern Junior Heavyweight champion) over Hiro Matsuda
Dundee & Rita Cortez over Corsica Joe & Mrs. Corsica Joe
Inoki over Chris Belkas (advertised as Inoki vs. Cousin Alford)
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