Pittsburgh/Buffalo/Cleveland #6 Page #2

In the fall of 1966, The Crusher was involved in a program with Bruno. He and Dr. Bill Miller were the key heels of the time and they were also instrumental in helping Battman get over as Bruno's right-hand man. One of the moments most remembered on Studio Wrestling came during a build-up for a Civic Arena match with Bruno. Bruno was away so his manager. Bill Cardille was interviewing Rudy Miller; Crusher intruded and suggested that Bruno was a coward who was afraid to show up in the studio. Rudy argued that Bruno had commitments as champion and couldn't be there. Crusher started arguing with Rudy, who was close to 70 at the time. Crusher grabbed Rudy and tore his shirt, which prompted a stream of profanity from Rudy. Cardille spent the rest of the show apologizing for Rudy's remarks.

The most memorable angle in Studio Wrestling History has to be the voluntary unmasking of Battman, which played out in September and October of 1968. The object was to get Tony Marino out of the gimmick, since the Batman TV craze had been dead for more than a year. Upon arriving in 1966, Battman had vowed he would take off the mask if anyone pinned him cleanly or made his submit. 

Battman was unique, being one of the few wrestlers to use ring entrance music (the Batman theme). At the September Arena show, Virgil the Kentucky Butcher (John Quinn) beat Battman via count out. Battman had bled after his head was run into the ring post and couldn't get back in the ring. The following night on Studio Wrestling, Battman had a special mask rigged that allowed him to show stitches in his forehead? He demanded a rematch with the Butcher. Quinn refused to give him a rematch unless he unmasked. He maintained that Battman had promised to take the mask off if anyone beat him. Battman's argument, of course, was that his loss was neither pin fall nor submission. This played out over several weeks with the fans wondering will he unmask?? Battman claimed to have had meetings with the state athletic commission and with WWWF officials, who told him there was no return match clause in the contract. His choices, Battman said, were either to unmask and get the rematch or leave the area since he couldn't get his revenge on Butcher.

Finally, he announced the decision to take off the mask. He specified it was for one match only and that the contract stipulated there were to be no newsreels or TV cameras allowed in the Arena that night. They followed up with a contract signing ceremony, presided over by Commissioner John J. Vaughn. The match was the semi-final on the October 1968 Arena card. The card didn't draw any more than the usual 7-8,000, which was standard then. 

Gorilla Monsoon was leaving the ring as Battman made his way down the aisle.  The two had a confrontation that ended with Monsoon throwing a chop at Battman. Battman entered the ring in his complete outfit. He began removing it, piece by piece, gradually revealing his bodybuilder's physique. The mask was secured in place with a cowl that tucked inside the jersey and straps that ran under his arms, which meant there was no chance it could be removed easily. When he was wearing the mask, white trunks and boots, Battman had the ring announcer tell the crowd that he wouldn't remove the mask until Butcher was in the ring. After Quinn arrived in the ring, the two got their instructions and Marino returned to his corner and removed the mask. Marino continued to wear the mask on television. As far as I know he never appeared on Studio Wrestling without it. He worked unmasked at all live shows.

On April 1st, 1967 the April Fools show started with a guest announcer Red Donley, the sports director at WIIC. He said he was filling in for an under the weather Bill Cardille. They went to the ring for the first match that was Ace Freeman vs. the Masked Marvel. Freeman back the Marvel into the corner and pulled off his mask to reveal commentator Bill Cardille who said April Fools and after the commercial break changed clothes and was back at ringside.

A 1971 Civic Arena chain match between Geeto Mongol and Bruno Sammartino, ended with a bloody loss by Geeto. On the next days TV show he challenged Bruno to a rematch. Geeto had his head reopened and blood was a rarity on TV. After Bruno won again, Geeto shook his hand, manager Lou Albano was not happy about this and Geeto ran him off. This would start a run with Geeto (then the promoter) as a baby. In December 1971, (after DeFazio cradled Tyler) Geeto would team with Johnny DeFazio to win the tag titles on TV from Crazy Luke Graham & Tarzan Tyler, that would again see Albano as manager of Graham & Tyler, upset about the loss and afterwards fired Tyler on TV and he walked off.

In 1972 after Geeto sold the territory to Pedro Martinez, Dominic DeNucci who was teaming with Bruno Sammartino in a feud with Johnny & Donnie Fargo dropped a bombshell on the TV crowd, that while Bruno was out of the area, he asked Waldo von Erich to be his partner. The Von Erich & DeNucci team eventually fizzled when Dominic refused to use illegal tactics.

By 1973 with the Martinez promotion running the territory down, Channel 11 trying to rid the station of the show moved it to 4pm, in those days NBC had Saturday afternoon baseball, which would run over and preempt Studio Wrestling. The show sometimes would only be a half hour. By this point Martinez brought Bruno back in for help, and Bruno worked an alliance with Dick the Bruiser's WWA and an exchange of talent saw Manager Bobby Heenan come in and was one of the most colorful interviews in the era of Pittsburgh TV. In 1973 Bill Cardille took a leave for heart surgery and was replaced by Bud Daum, a Channel 11 newsman, who new little about wrestling. This was a disaster. He mispronounced names and no idea who was who.

By 1974 the show was canceled off Channel 11 and briefly moved to Channel 53 with the shows taped at the Erie County Field House in Erie, PA. Bill Cardille continued to do the commentary. A highlight at this time was a great TV match between Billy Red Lyons and North American Champion Stan Stasiak. The match went to a curfew draw with Red Lyons having caught Stasiak in the sleeper hold just as TV time expired. By the end of 1974, the territory was closed and Studio Wrestling went off the air.

While those of us who remember some of the great and funny interviews and characters from this era, either already mentioned or like Wild Red Berry, The Grand Wizard, George Steele, Baron Scicluna, Ivan Koloff, Dr. Bill Miller, Bulldog Brower (who can forget this classic TV match with prelim wrestler Frank Holtz, after beating him Brower claimed "Where'd you find this guy, he was a giant, the best guy I wrestled since I got here.") and too many more to mention. There were classic matches like the Victor Rivera vs. Jos Leduc match, George Steele vs. Johnny DeFazio, Bruno Sammartino vs. Professor X, and more but there were lots of 2 out of 3 fall matches with Baron Scicluna vs. Rick O'Toole, Frank Durso vs. Jerry Dorsey, or Jerry Novak vs. Waldo von Erich, that weren't real compelling TV. Because the show was live and Bill Cardille didn't believe in videotaping, there are NO tapes of this territory. With nothing ever recoded, an important part of wrestling history, and a memory those of us from the Pittsburgh area can only fondly remember.

Many thanks to Terry Moore, Pittsburgh Plunge, Vintv, Monesson and Ken Jugan with help in remembering Studio Wrerstling.


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