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 - Rich Tate

Well, I’ve been absent from writing for Kayfabe Memories now for over a year.  Where shall I start?  Let’s see...


I had to stop writing for Vince Fahey early last year due to some personal time constraints, some of which were professional, while others were personal.  In addition, I was working on the preliminary stages of Georgia Wrestling History, which was also keeping me quite busy.  Now it appears things have settled back down, and Vince has asked me to take on the role again.  Hopefully, I can fit it in permanently this time, although Vince and I agreed that we would work on my schedule rather than the customary every month.  I will make every attempt to have something in every six weeks at the longest.


As I said, I have been busy with GWH, and since I got involved in that project, I have learned much more than I knew when I was originally writing these columns, so some of what I add during this tenure may be elaborating on what I’ve written before, or simply corrections to errors I may have made in the past.  Either way, I feel confident I have much more to offer to KM this time around than before.


I had previously written a column here about Gordon Solie, stating that no one could cover Georgia wrestling history properly without paying tribute to him.  However, one other person who rightfully deserves to be above Solie is Paul Jones.  Paul promoted wrestling in and around Atlanta for almost forty years, with one break of a little more than two years in the 1960’s.


Paul had wrestled in Georgia during his in ring career, and happened to be in the area in the autumn of 1943.  Having last wrestled in Atlanta in November 1943, he returned for the first card of 1944 on January 7.  By the time the next card occurred on the 14th, Paul is listed as the promoter, and maintained that title for the next eighteen years.


During Jones’ term, he managed to bring in some of the best talent from all over the wrestling world.  Names such as Al Massey, Babe Zaharias, Don McIntyre, Dick Lever, Tom Mahoney, Nick Carter, Jim Coffield, Al Galento, Johnny Long, Jack Dillon, Jack Kelly, Ben Bennicasa, Wally Greb, Jack Hader and Ralph Garibaldi.  For the most part, he made these men the foundation of Georgia wrestling through the remainder of the 1940’s.  Every week at the Atlanta City Auditorium, fans knew they would be treated to some great action involving them, making McIntyre, Massey and Carter their favorites, whereas Zaharias, Coffield and Dillon would receive the lion’s share of jeers.


Other names of note to make their way through the state during the decade were Bill Longson, Cowboy Luttrall, Bibber McCoy, Rudy Strongberg, Ray Villmer, Herb Welch, Joe Kirkland, Dan O’Connor, Chief Saunooke, Laverne Baxter, Tarzan White, Lou Thesz, Pete Managoff, Roy Lee Welch, Sky Hi Lee, Red Roberts, Tex Riley, the Golden Terror, Al Lovelock, Karl Davis and Freddie Blassie.


In 1949, after years of not having a high profile title, other than the inconsistently mentioned (or documented) Atlanta City Heavyweight Title, Jones arranged a tournament that reportedly lasted for about six months, although it is unclear exactly what matches made up this tournament when researching the cards and results reports.  Regardless, Tom Mahoney became the first Southern Heavyweight Champion in July, defeating the popular Al Massey in the “billed” finals of the tournament.


The title would go on to be the number one singles title as recognized by the Atlanta office for the next eleven years, although there were periods where the title was rarely mentioned or used.  Some of the men who wore the belt during that time were Don McIntyre, Freddie Blassie, Art Nelson, Ray Villmer, Jerry Graham, Red McIntyre, Kurt Von Brawner, Ray Gunkel, Dickie Gunkel / Steinborn and even “Gorgeous” George Wagner.


Jones had joined the National Wrestling Alliance after it’s “initial” formation in the fall of 1948, though there are reports that claim the NWA actually began in 1940.  I will try to cover that another day, as it is an entire column in itself.  Either way, Jones had become a member, and thus earned the right to bring in the World Heavyweight Champion as recognized by that organization.  However, it would be rare that this would actually happen.  During the 1950’s, Atlanta only saw the champion, Lou Thesz, put his belt on the line six times.  More...


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