Memphis/CWA #26 Page #2

The 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.

 

It 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.

 

1965

 

The 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.

 

Apart 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.

 

The 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.

 

Toward 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.

 

So 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 unmask.

 

Some 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.

 

The 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.

 

Right 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.

 

1964 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.

 

January, February and March 1965

 

The 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.

 

Others 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.

 

African-American 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.

 

Future 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.

 

As 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.

 

Title changes and controversies during January-March 1965

 

Early 1965

 

A 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.

 

March 2

A 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 Hirai.

 

Spotlight on Area Cards, January-March 1965

Glasgow, KY National Guard Armory, January 16, 1965

         Tojo Yamamoto & Mitsu Hirai vs. Jackie Fargo & Len Rossi

         Sailor Art Thomas vs. Tiger Conway

         Promoter: Carney Patterson

 

Paducah, KY, Tuesday, February 16

         Rocky Smith & Bob Hamby vs. Red Steiner & Gene Dundee

         Len Rossi vs. Gordo Chihuahua

 

Memphis, TN, Monday, March 8

         Return grudge six man tag match: Jackie Fargo, Donnie Fargo & Mario Milano lost to Saul Weingeroff, Kurt Von Brauner & Karl Von Brauner

         Alex Perez over George Grant

         Rocky Smith over Red Steiner

 

April, May and June, 1965

 

Crowd 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.

 

Also 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.

 

Others 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.

 

Meantime 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.

 

Title changes and controversies during April-June 1965

 

April 13

Jackie 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.

 

April

Some 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.

 

April 23

In 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 years ahead.

 

April 29

A 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.

 

May 6

A 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.

 

Spotlight on Area Cards, April-June 1965

Nashville, Tuesday, March 20

         Return match, ring enclosed in bull wire, one Von Brauner will wear a red tee shirt: Kurt Von Brauner & Karl Von Brauner managed by Saul Weingeroff (World tag champions) were DQed against Jackie Fargo & Mario Milano

         Len Rossi drew with Saul Weingeroff

         Rita Cortez over Chi-Chi Paris

         Bobby 'Hercules' Graham over Tony Nero

 

Chattanooga Memorial Auditorium, Thursday, May 27

         Danny Hodge (NWA World Junior Heavyweight champion) over Tojo Yamamoto-2/3 falls

         Indian strap match:  Alex Perez over Mario Milano

         Len Rossi drew with Gory Guererro

         The Scufflin' Hillbillies over The Masked Black Phantoms

 

Nashville, TN Hippodrome, June 8

         Lou Thesz (NWA champion) by DQ over Tojo Yamamoto

         Alex Perez & Gory Guerrero over Danny Hodge & Juaquin Corea (Corea replaced the injured Mario Milano during the match)

         Irish Mike Clancy & Frankie Cain drew with The Masked Medics

         Chuck Conley over Gordo Chihuahua

         Referee: Paul Morton

         Attendance: 5000+

 

July, August and September, 1965

 

Among 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.

 

One 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 team.

 

Veteran 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.

 

Title changes and controversies during July-September 1965

 

Summer, date unknown

The World tag titles appear to go undefended by Kurt & Karl Von Brauner in this time frame.

 

July 13

Irish 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.

 

July 27

Tojo 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.

 

September 10

In 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.

 

September

Eddie 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.

 

Chattanooga Memorial Auditorium, Thursday, July 29

         The 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.)

         Jackie Fargo over Johnny Rubberman Walker (advertised as Fargo vs. Tim Tyler)

         Chin Lee drew with Mario Milano

 

Nashville, Tuesday, August 31

         Battle of the brutes: The Mysterious Masked Medics over Tojo Yamamoto & Chin Lee

         Karl Von Brauner & Eric Von Brauner drew with Jackie Fargo & Mario Milano

         Tamaya Soto over Bob Hamby

         Len Rossi over Al Martinez

         Bull wire match: Terrible Ted the Wrestling Bear over Tojo Yamamoto

 

Memphis, September 6

         Lester Welch & Buddy Fuller vs. Karl Von Brauner & Eric Von Brauner

         Terrible Ted the Wrestling Bear vs. Saul Weingeroff

         Art Thomas vs. Prince Pullins

         Tojo Yamamoto vs. Gene Dubois

         Rocky Smith vs. Chin Lee

 

October, November and December, 1965

 

Among 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.

 

Boxing great Archie Moore made appearances late in the year as a special referee for some area matches.

 

Also 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.

 

It 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.

 

Title changes and controversies during October-December 1965

 

October 2

Tojo Yamamoto and new partner Tor Kamata capture the Southern tag titles with a Nashville win over Jackie Fargo & Len Rossi.

 

October 19

Jackie Fargo & Len Rossi rebound to dethrone Southern tag champions Tojo Yamamoto & Tor Kamata in a Nashville rematch.

 

November 25

Jackie Fargo & Len Rossi's second Southern tag title reigns ends in Chattanooga as The Mysterious Medics win the titles for the sixth time.

 

December 16

Southern 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.

 

December 20

With 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.

 

December 28

In 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.

 

Spotlight on Area Cards, October-December 1965

Memphis, TN, October 25, 1965

         Billy Wicks over Mack York

         Treach Phillips drew with John Apollo

         Tony Baillargeon & Len Rossi over Karl Von Brauner & Eric Von Brauner

         Eddie Graham & Sam Steamboat (World tag champions) over Alex Perez & Tojo Yamamoto

 

Nashville, Tuesday, November 30

         Title 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

         Tojo Yamamoto & Alex Perez over Jackie Fargo & Prince Pullins

         Bonita White Dove & Darling Dagmar over Judy Grable & Diamond Lil

         Kanji Inoki over Tony Baillargeon

         Len Rossi over Tor Kamata

         Attendance: 4877

 

Chattanooga Memorial Auditorium, Thursday, December 30

         The Mysterious Masked Medics (Southern tag champions) lost to Len Rossi & Frankie Cain

         No DQ, no time limit, special referee:  Len Rossi:  Rocky Smith (Southern Junior Heavyweight champion) over Hiro Matsuda

         Gene Dundee & Rita Cortez over Corsica Joe & Mrs. Corsica Joe

         Kanji Inoki over Chris Belkas (advertised as Inoki vs. Cousin Alford)

 

NEXT MONTH:

1966

 

Special thanks

Edsel Harrison and David Williamson

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