Memphis/CWA #27 Page #2
Female stars Cora Combs, Judy Grable, Sara Lee, Rita Cortez were on some shows at this time. Midget stars Lord Littlebrook and Frenchy LaMont also worked various shows during this time frame.
A newcomer to the area at this time was Doug Lindsay. Lindsay would gain greater fame a bit later in other areas as Doug Gilbert. One of Lindsay's most successful runs in the business was in the state of Georgia where he worked as The Masked Professional. Later in 1966 for Gulas-Welch, Lindsay would pair with veteran Treach Phillips to form a tag team billed as Body & Brain, with Lindsay representing the Body moniker while Phillips represented the Brain moniker. He also worked for a time in Florida working as Redbeard.
Another area newcomer made his debut early in the year. Fresh from a stint with the Oklahoma-based Leroy McGuirk promotion, Oklahoma native Jack Brisco spent a few months working for Gulas-Welch. Brisco, of course, would become a legend in the business and is noted as one of the greatest NWA champions ever, as well as for his tag team with brother Jerry and his feuds with the Funk family.
On January 22, live TV wrestling debuted on Chattanooga's CBS affiliate, WDEF-TV. Televised wrestling had been on a couple of stations in Chattanooga over the previous few years. This show though, hosted by Chattanooga broadcast personality Harry Thornton, would continue with the station until September 1980. Thornton owned a piece of the weekly Chattanooga cards. At one time he also owned a piece of the cards held in nearby Cleveland, Tennessee along with Norm Veasey. Veasey often appeared on the Chattanooga TV show and at the weekly house shows at the Memorial Auditorium as ring announcer. Appearing on the first WDEF-TV wrestling show was the tag team of Haystack Calhoun & Jackie Fargo.
Title changes and controversies during January-March 1966
Big Thunder Gene Kiniski tops Lou Thesz in St. Louis to garner the NWA title.
A three tag team tournament is held in Nashville to crown new Southern tag champions. Len Rossi & Mario Milano win the tournament. Also competing were The Mysterious Masked Medics and Hiro Matsuda & Kanji Inoki
In Nashville, Rocky Smith loses the Southern Junior heavyweight title to Alex Perez.
Eddie Graham & Sam Steamboat drop the World tag titles to Hiro Matsuda & Kanjji Inoki in Memphis.
Kanji Inoki suffers a broken leg. The injury forces Inoki & Hiro Matsuda to vacate the World tag titles.
Tojo Yamamoto & Alex Perez down Len Rossi & Mario Milano in Nashville to cop the Southern tag titles.
Len Rossi & Mario Milano return to Nashville and regain the Southern tag titles from Tojo Yamamoto & Alex Perez.
Spotlight on Area Cards January-March 1966
Nashville Fairgrounds Coliseum, January 4
. Southern tag title match, NWA President Sam Muchnick on hand to present titles to winners: Hiro Matusda & Kanji Inoki<<no contest>>The Mysterious Masked Medics
. Alex Perez & Tojo Yamamoto over Danny Dusek
& Len Rossi
. Rita Cortez over Mae Goodner
. Frankie Cain over Gene Dundee
. Attendance: 4709
Chattanooga Memorial Auditorium, Thursday, February 3
. Hiro Matsuda & Kanji Inoki (World tag champions) over Len Rossi & Mario Milano
. Haystack Calhoun & Jackie Fargo over The Mysterious Masked Medics
. Tojo Yamamoto & Alex Perez over Frankie Cain & Jack Brisco
Nashville Fairgrounds Coliseum, March 30
. Russian style 'rassle royal. Winner: Haystack Calhoun
. Weingeroff handcuffed to Calhoun: Al Costello & Mario Milano with Haystack Calhoun by reverse decision over Karl Von Brauner & Erich Von Brauner managed by Saul Weingeroff
. Saul Weingeroff over Richard King
. Jackie Fargo drew with Alex Perez
. Tojo Yamamoto over Mack York
. Art Thomas over Matt Jewell
. Attendance: 4977
The World tag titles remained vacant until late May when a tournament was held to crown new champions. The team of Al Costello & Herb Welch won the Memphis tournament to win the titles.
Len Rossi & Mario Milano's grips on the Southern tag titles was firm during the second quarter of the year. In late June though, Tojo Yamamoto & The Great Higami won the titles.
Alex Perez dropped the Southern Junior heavyweight title to Al Costello in April. A few weeks later, Karl Von Brauner toppled Costello to win the championship.
Other wrestlers working the area at this time include Treach Phillips, Doug Lindsay, The Mysterious Masked Medics, Eric Von Brauner, Saul Weingeroff, Haystack Calhoun, Don Greene, Art Thomas, Matt Jewell, The Masked Assassins managed by Roy Heenan, Bob Hamby, Gene Dundee, Ken Hollis, Mack York, Corsica Joe, Chief Little Bear, Tamaya Soto, Gene Anderson & Lars Anderson, Danny Dusek, Al Greene, Luke Graham, Carlos Mendoza, Mario Galento, Chin Lee, Cyclone Atlas, Young Atlas, Steve Kovacs, Rocky Starr, Rowdy Red Roberts, Tom Drake, Charlie Laye, Tarzan Baxter, Johnny Long and more.
It is interesting to note that the area
had long been a haven of masked wrestlers, especially masked tag teams.
At this point a tag team billed as The Masked Blue Infernos debuted.
Earlier in the year in other parts of the southern U.S. a tag team
simply billed as The Masked Infernos with manager J.C. Dykes were
bringing in big crowds. Dykes, of course, had worked as referee and spot
show promoter for Gulas and Welch at one time, even as late as 1965. He
hooked up with Gulas veterans Rocky Smith and Frankie Cain who donned
masks to become the Infernos. Apparently, the success of Dykes' Infernos
led to Gulas and Welch creating their a similar set of masked meanies,
The Blue Infernos.
Title changes and controversies during April-June 1966
Al Costello gets past Alex Perez in Nashville to capture the Southern Junior heavyweight title.
Karl Von Brauner wins the Southern Junior heavyweight title in Chattanooga by defeating Al Costello.
A tournament is held in Memphis to determine new World tag champions. Herb Welch & Al Costello emerge victorious.
Len Rossi & Mario Milano drop the Southern tag titles to Tojo Yamamoto & The Great Higami in Birmingham.
Spotlight on Area Cards April-June 1966
Nashville, TN Fairgrounds Coliseum, April 20
. If Fargo & Costello lose, they throw $250 to crowd, if Medics lose, one losing pinfall will unmask: Jackie Fargo & Len Rossi (sub for advertised Al Costello) over The Masked Mysterious Medics-losing Medic unmasked as Pierre DeGlane
. Len Rossi & Mario Milano (Southern tag
champions) over The Masked Assassins
. Tojo Yamamoto & Tamaya Soto over Gene Anderson & Lars Anderson
. Attendance: 4355
Chattanooga Memorial Auditorium, Thursday, May 12
. Karl Von Brauner & Eric Von Brauner over Treach Phillips & Corsica Joe
. Doug Lindsay over Saul Weingeroff
. Len Rossi & Mario Milano (Southern tag champions) drew with Luke Graham & Chin Lee
. Cyclone Atlas & Young Atlas over The Mysterious Masked Medics
Nashville, TN Fairgrounds Coliseum, June 22
. Ten round boxing match: Jackie Fargo over Saul Weingeroff
. The Masked Blue Infernos over Al Costello & Charlie Laye
. Luke Graham & Chin Lee over Len Rossi & Mario Milano
. The Great Higami over Young Atlas
. Attendance: 5294
The World tag titles were captured by Karl Von Brauner & Luke Graham from Al Costello & Herb Welch. These four men were parts of many successful teams over the years. Von Brauner had teamed with "brothers" Kurt and Eric Von Brauner over the years. Graham would pair off and on with his fellow Graham "brothers" Jerry and Eddie, and later, Billy. In the area, Graham's 1970s teams with Don Duffy and Ripper Collins drew huge crowds to arenas. Al Costello had been part of successful teams with Roy Heffernan and Ray St. Clair as The Fabulous Kangaroos and would later revive that gimmick with Don Kent. Herb Welch had partnered many times with his real brothers, Jack, Roy and Lester. Von Brauner & Graham's reign lasted only a few weeks before the big combination of Moose Evans & Giant Evans won the titles.
Len Rossi & Mario Milano dropped the Southern tag titles to Tojo Yamamoto & The Great Higami in this time frame. Rossi & Milano would recapture the belts a few weeks later.
The Southern Junior heavyweight title was held at this time by Karl Von Brauner. Von Brauner though would lose the title to Jackie Fargo in July.
Stars working the area at this time include NWA champion Gene Kiniski, Gentleman Saul Weingeroff, Chin Lee, The Masked Blue Infernos, Steve Kovacs, Mack York, Corsica Joe, Charlie Laye, Joe Wolfe, The Mad Mongol, Gene Dundee, Johnny Long, Tamaya Soto, Giant Evans & Moose Evans, Tarzan Baxter, Jack Vansky, Eric Von Brauner, Lou Thesz, Ronnie Etchison, Chief White Owl, Tom Jones, Matt Jewell, Tom Drake, Jose Moto, Manuel Torres, Rowdy Red Roberts, Treach Phillips, Herb Larson, Prince Pullins, Professor Ito, Chuck Conley and more.
Female stars working the circuit at the time include Cora Combs, Donna Christanello, Judy Grable, Bette Boucher, Toni Rose, Mae Goodner, The Black Orchid, Princess Ubangi, Diamond Lil and Little Darling Dagmar.
One of wrestling's premier stars came through for a few appearances in the area during this time frame. Raw-boned Johnny Valentine, a smoldering machine in ring, worked some cities in the territory for Gulas and Welch.
The territory was chugging along quite well. Cities such as Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga and Birmingham all were drawing big crowds through the year. Making this more impressive is the fact that Memphis and Birmingham usually both held cards on Monday nights which meant the area had to have enough wrestlers on hand to fill out cards in both cities weekly. An example of cards held on the same night in two different cities, specifically Memphis and Birmingham, follows in the Spotlight on Area Cards in this section.
Title changes and controversies July-September 1966
Len Rossi & Mario Milano regain the Southern tag titles with a win over Tojo Yamamoto & The Great Higami.
Jackie Fargo whips Karl Von Brauner to win the Southern Junior heavyweight title in Nashville.
Karl Von Brauner & Luke Graham upset Herb Welch & Al Costello in Nashville to become World tag champions.
Moose Evans & Giant Evans win the World tag titles in a Nashville match by whipping Karl Von Brauner & Luke Graham.
Spotlight on Area Cards, July-September 1966
Bowling Green, KY, Thursday, July 28
. Mario Milano vs. Tojo Yamamoto
. Tamaya Soto vs. Len Rossi
. Corsica Joe vs. Great Athels
. Saul Weingeroff vs. Mack York
Birmingham, AL, Monday, August 22
. Mario Milano, Len Rossi & Tom Drake over Tojo Yamamoto, Tamaya Soto & The Mad Mongol
. Lou Thesz over Ronnie Etchison
. Darling Dagmar over Diamond Lil
Memphis, Monday, August 22
. Herb Welch vs. Charlie Laye
. Al Costello vs. The Masked Blue Inferno I
. Saul Weingeroff vs. Corsica Joe
. Jackie Fargo vs. Luke Graham
. Karl Von Brauner & Eric Von Brauner vs. Moose Evans & Giant Evans
Memphis, September 5
. Gene Kiniski (NWA champion) vs. Al Costello
. Jose Moto vs. Charlie Laye
. Herb Welch vs. Luke Graham
. Saul Weingeroff, Karl Von Brauner & Eric Von Brauner vs. Jackie Fargo, Moose Evans & Giant Evans
World tag champions Moose Evans & Giant Evans lost the World tag championship to Tojo Yamamoto & Tamaya Soto. Some controversy pops up at this point as it is clear Yamamoto & Soto win the tag titles but a few days later, Yamamoto & Professor Ito are billed as champions. Whether Yamamoto & Soto dropped the tag titles to another team before Yamamoto & Ito captured the titles or whether or not Ito simply replaced Soto or something else occurred isn't clear.
The Southern tag titles were held by Len Rossi & Mario Milano. This team though lost the belts to The Masked Blue Infernos. Rossi & Milano would regain the belts only to lose them to Corsica Joe & Chin Lee.
The Southern Junior heavyweight champion at this time was Jackie Fargo. The lineage of the title though falls into the shadows over the first part of 1967 and it isn't clear whether or not anyone else laid claim to the title in the area or not.
Other wrestlers in the area at this time include such stars as Al Costello, The Zebra Kid, Matt Jewell, Jose Moto, Chuck Conley, Karl Von Brauner, Tom Jones, Steve Kovacs, The Golden Nature Boy, Rowdy Red Roberts, The Mad Mongol, Chief White Eagle, Leon 'Tarzan' Baxter, Bronco Kelly, Young Anaya, Mack York, Bobby Whitlock, Pancho Rosario, Ray Gordon and others.
Female stars in the area at the time include Cora Combs and Sarah Lee (billed sometimes as Mrs. Corsica Joe and in all actuality the real life wife of Corsica Joe). Midget stars Fuzzy Cupid and Cowboy Bradley passed through the territory at the time.
It is interesting to note that some cities in the area often featured stars from other areas from time to time. At various times in the 1960s, Nashville often featured stars who also worked the circuit based out of Indianapolis. During the last three months of 1966, the Indianapolis-based U.S. champion Wilbur Snyder worked some Nashville dates. The Indianapolis-based promotion would often promote cards in the northern reaches of Kentucky, an area not yet associated with what would become known as the Memphis promotion.
A young wrestler who had garnered some attention in the mid-west worked some shots in the area at the end of the year. Harley Race, who had made a splash by holding the AWA tag titles with Larry Hennig, worked some shows in December. Race would have great success in the business reaching the highest level in the business by becoming a multi-time NWA champion.
No doubt as a reason to attract fans who might not otherwise plunk down money to see wrestlers settle their differences in the ring, Gulas and Welch brought in an interesting attraction for a brief time during this time frame. On these cards, Tuffy Truesdale would wrestle an alligator. Truesdale almost always won. This was no doubt an interesting part of the sideshow that wrestling has seemingly always had. Truesdale would also make money in the business over the years by traveling with a wrestling bear.
Title changes and controversies during October-December 1966
Tojo Yamamoto & Tamaya Soto down Giant Evans & Moose Evans in Chattanooga to win the World tag champions. Soto would be replaced in the tag team by Professor Ito.
The Masked Blue Infernos win the Southern tag titles with a win over Len Rossi & Mario Milano in Birmingham.
Len Rossi & Mario Milano regain the Southern tag titles.
Corsica Joe & Chin Lee win the Southern tag titles in Birmingham.
Spotlight on Area Cards October-December 1966
Chattanooga National Guard Armory Thursday, October 20
. Tojo Yamamoto & Professor Ito (World tag
champions) over Len Rossi & Mario Milano-2/3 falls
. Al Costello & Karl Von Brauner managed by Saul Weingeroff over Moose Evans & Giant Evans
. Saul Weingeroff over Jackie Fargo
. The Masked Blue Inferno I over Scufflin' Hillbilly Chuck Conley
Nashville Fairgrounds Coliseum, November 9
. The Masked Blue Infernos (Southern tag
champions) were DQed against Len Rossi & Mario Milano
. Saul Weingeroff barred from ringside: Tojo Yamamoto & Professor Ito (World tag champions) over Al Costello & Karl Von Brauner
. Jackie Fargo over Rowdy Red Roberts
. Steve Kovacs over The Golden Nature Boy
. Attendance: 5260
Chattanooga Memorial Auditorium, Thursday, December 22
. Tojo Yamamoto & Professor
Ito(World tag champions) managed by Saul Weingeroff over Karl Von
Brauner & Eric Von Brauner
. Corsica Joe & Chin Lee (Southern tag champions) over Len Rossi & Mario Milano
. Jackie Fargo over Harley Race (Chattanooga debut, advertised as Fargo vs. The Masked Golden Hawk)
. Chief White Eagle over Pancho Rosario
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