It was interesting to watch Lou Thesz’s UWA promotion from the seventies last week, so I was similarly pleased to discover some of the WWWF programming from the sixties and immediately spotted a familiar face, so let’s have a look at that.
The opening is a static shot of the ring with a superimposed title, no music audible, before switching to a sound track with commentator Ray Morgan, with a cigarette on the go, welcoming everyone to the second half of the card and running down the card. For context, we’re two years into Bruno’s first reign as champion, only just a quarter of the way into his run. Smilin’ Sam Mason is the ring announcer, who promotes the upcoming card at the Washington Coliseum, with guys like Dr. Jerry Graham, Waldo Von Erich, Haystacks Calhoun and Wahoo McDaniel appearing. Top spot with one of the guys in the upcoming match against Bobo Brazil plus a bonus match of Wild Red Berry against Arnold Skaaland, which I’d have to think in the case of both was a manager’s match.
Long static block for a few minutes for a commercial insert before we get to the first match.
Tomas Marin vs. Cowboy Bill Watts
Yes, it’s the Cowboy, with his big, smug face as a heel, having turned on Bruno prior. He attacks from behind and knocks Marin out of the ring with a punch. Watts slams him back into the ring and drops a knee on the throat and poses before stomping away. I’ve not heard Morgan before, but he’s pretty energetic for the era, not falling into the habit of just letting a stentorian voice dictate a pace or way of speaking. Bill is facing Bruno at MSG too, which Ray adds is AIR CONDITIONED! Also Wahoo takes on Gorilla Monsoon! Watts does the cool deal where he places the throat against the ropes and then kicks the opposing side to guillotine it. Marin gets his first shots in after five minutes, but misses a one-legged dropkick. Bulldog, or bulldozer as Morgan calls it, which looks to finish, but he pulls him up. You can tell where Vince got his hyperbole from, as Morgan talks about thunderbolts striking through Marin. A second bulldog finishes. Just an extended squash, but Watts oozes charisma even as a heel, so it’s more exciting than you’d think if you just listed the moves.
Tony Newbury vs. Chief Big Heart
Newbury is a big guy with long hair from Canada, strangely wrestling with his t-shirt on given the era, but would go onto greater fame as Geeto Mongol, teaming with Nikolai Volkoff and Bill Eadie. He attacks Big Heart to start, but get his top pulled over his head and punched out of the ring. He gripes about that before returning and getting it pulled over him again before it’s ripped off. Big Heart chops the throat – Morgan: “That Adam’s apple is bouncing up and down like a yo-yo!”. Newbury takes another trip outside and looks to get something from under the ring as a weapon, some sort of small stick, which he stabs with. Big Heart quickly cuts that off and has him sitting on his arse again soon. From the mat he trips the Chief and applies a toe hold and heckles and complains very loudly. Morgan takes a moment to read letters from fans, talking about how manager Bobby Davis is in Columbis, Ohio, where I believe he set up a chain of fast food restaurants. Back to their feet, the Chief regains controls with chops, but gets his eyes scratched. Morgan’s making more scalping references than you’d even dare think of trying these days. The story is that if it’s a clean fight then Big Heart is in control, but if it’s cheating then Newbury has the lead. Big Heart comes back with tomahawks chops and gets a submission with the bow and arrow, which I realise is the first time I’ve ever actually seen a Native American wrestler use that. All pretty decent.
Bob Boyer vs. Argentina Apollo
Apollo, unsurprisingly, is cut from the same cloth as Antonino/Argentina Rocca, with the bare feet and high flying. I was trying to think about where I’d in recent years recalled Boyer’s name from, and it’s actually from doing WWF jobs as late in his career as twenty years after this one! Boyer headscissors into an Apollo headstand and spin out, although a second one just ends up in a 69 position, although Apollo impressively lifts Boyer up backwards into a tombstone position and just sets him down on the top rope, adding a patronising pat on the face. They continue with a sequence into an O’Connor roll, called as a jackknife by Morgan, although that’s more commonly used these days for the Mexican roll move. I should add that the shots of the ring are fairly unvarying, just a main camera focusing on the ring, sometimes panning left and right and up and down with occasional zooms in and out. The guys trade back drop and big splashes before Apollo takes a surfboard. Ray goes into reading a prepared piece on staying healthy and keeping fit, which is a bloody cheek given the size of him and the smoking at the start of the show. Apollo takes an Indian deathlock and hooks an arm before turning over into a pinning attempt, looking like something face Konnan would’ve tried to roll out in ’96. After the pinfall try, it’s more like a modified figure four. Rope break, but it doesn’t really go anywhere for a moment as they’re so tied up that nobody will let go first. Another cheeky pat on the arse from Apollo, who then tries to rub the leg better for Boyer. Boyer looks like he’s telling him to go fuck himself, quite rightly so.
Test of strength into a pinning position. Apollo turns that into a single leg Boston crab, so Boyer pats him on the back akin to the ref to trick a break. Boyer attacks the back with stomps and knees, then goes for a pin with a snapmare. Apollo tries to bridge out but doesn’t have enough space. Boyer smothers him and gets two jawbreakers (knees to the jaw, rather than the Terry Taylor version). Apollo gets a flying body block out of nowhere for the win. They keep fighting seeing as it went from clean to rough, but eventually quit it. Pretty good match, Apollo was showing off the goods and it told a story.
Steve “Mr. America” Stanlee vs. Chief White Owl
Steve is the older, less famous brother of Gene Stanlee, who I looked at in one of the Icons of Wrestling shows a while back. Blonde hair, tan, great gear, heelish demeanour. White Owl is a heavyset guy, unfortunately named George Dahmer. Stanlee pounds away with awkward blows, leading to White Owl going on the war dance. Chop when he’s got Stanlee thinking he won’t hit. Stanlee gets some weak as piss kicks in on the ropes. I don’t think his brother was much better in the ring but at least looked more like a movie star. In black and white, Steve just looks like someone’s grandad. Eye rake along the top rope. Chief comes back with two dropkicks, and then they just go back and forth until curfew, not that many were left in the audience at this point, with lots of visible empty seats. White Owl gets the decision as he got a visual pinfall on Stanlee. Not much of a match here, White Owl was alright but Stanlee was the shits.
Morgan then talks to an old fella on his walking stick after everyone else has left. I’d say the pensioners are the forgotten fans, but don’t the demos have it that they’re likely the only ones watching some shows these days?
Melting it down: The WWWF and the McMahon Sr. era sometimes gets a rep of being an action-less promotion and TV show, but you could see that they were putting some effort into giving the show a bit of a buzz, as primitive as it was. Fun to watch, will look out for more.