Dedicated to Gordon Solie
January 29, 1929 - July 27, 2000
In this edition of the newsletter John Cross is back with the Crossface Connection, and we have Part 2 of a special edition of our Classic Wrestling Articles series from J. Michael Kenyon's WAWLI Papers, concerning the period when Pro-Wrestling went from a sporting event to an entertainment form, plus my own TV Reports and topical rants.
ARTHUR THOMAS (SAILOR ART THOMAS), 79, died Thursday, March 20, 2003, in Fitchburg WI at the Don and Marilyn Anderson Hospice Care Center. The former body builder, who wrestled all over North America and Japan during a nearly 30-year career on the mat, was claimed by cancer, first diagnosed only a month before his death. Thomas called Madison WI home, off and on, for some four decades. He came into wrestling after a stint in the U.S. Navy. One of his seven children, Rita Adair, remembers him "as a humble, traditional, religious man with the patience of a saint. He never spanked us. He made sure we saw him get down on his knees and pray every night before he went to bed." Born in Arkansas, Thomas came to Wisconsin as a young boy and, when his mother died, he wound up in a Sparta orphanage After Navy service, he and two other weightlifters, Bud Fuller and Rusty Moran, toured the country with carnivals. Madison promoter Jimmy Demetral then began using Thomas on house shows and a ring star was born. One web site devoted to pro wrestling offers this description of Thomas: "One of only a handful of big name black stars in pro wrestling from the '50s through the early '70s. Known for his crushing power, foes feared his bearhug, which usually spelled defeat." In fact, Thomas was a headliner well into his 50s and worked until the early 1980s. Private burial at Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison was scheduled after services at Faith Community Christian Church, also in Madison.
I am pleased to see that you posted Sailor Art's obit. I live in Madison, saw our local paper's official obituary this morning and was very saddened by the news. Growing up I went to a couple of Jimmy Demetral shows at Breese Steven's Field. Sailor Art was always a main attraction, a fan favorite. He radiated goodness and you cheered for him enthusiastically.
I thought I would add a couple of things from our paper's obituary: An amateur wrestling career began at this time and then quickly evolved into a professional one. That career path spanned from 1961-1978 and took him across the United States, Canada, Japan, the Bahamas, and South America. A strong desire to be with his family on a daily basis versus the separations brought on by all the traveling led him to return full-time to Madison. A new career began for him at Oscar Meyer, which lasted for 19 years. He continued to wrestle on a professional level off and on throughout this time. Some of the many awards Art received throughout his lifetime were the World Wrestling Heavyweight Championship, city of Madison award for contributions to the Black Community and a Proclamation from the city of Madison for "Sailor Art Thomas Day."
Thank you Sailor Art! You lived a very good life brought happiness to me and a lot of other people. If a person is to gain access to Heaven by doing more good than harm during their life, then I know Sailor Art is in a good place.
A new and mysterious figure made a dramatic entry into the "Wrestling Scandals of 1931" yesterday, and then vanished as mysteriously as he appeared.
Gus Larson was the surprise witness, and he told such an interesting story to a member of the commission which is sifting charges that wrestling here is not conducted on a sportsmanlike basis, that the body decided to continue its hearing next week. "I'm a former associate of Ted Thye," Larson said before the commission went into session. "I want to tell a few things about wrestling that you will be interested in learning." When Larson was invited to appear later he consented.
A dramatic interruption of the hearing occurred when Ted Thye was being questioned by the commissioners. The telephone rang, and the call was for Mr. Thye.
According to a member of the commission, Thye told the man not to talk to anybody until he had seen him. A few minutes later, upon being questioned by John J. Sullivan, Thye admitted that the man on the telephone was Gus Larson. An effort to locate Larson at his hotel was met with the reply that Mr. Larson had checked out.
Phil Cook, chairman of the commission, announced that the body will meet next monday to hear Larson's testimony, if he hasn't changed his mind.
Ted Thye denied that wrestlers who work for the Coast Athletic Club are cut 25 per cent of their winnings. Manager Musgrave had made that charge in a previous hearing.
Asked by Jack Sullivan why it was that he won nearly all of his matches in Portland, his home, and lost so many away from his home, Thye stated that he had lost some matches in Portland.
Chairman Cook asked this question: "In a recent match, Kruse vs. Freberg, Kruse elbowed twenty-nine times, stamped on Freberg's toes fourteen times; Freberg chased him out of the ring five times, down the aisle once. Freberg got tangled up in the ropes once with his feet, and while in that position Kruse jumped on him and slapped his face. And in chasing Kruse around the ropes, Freberg fell out of the corner and fell in the aisle. In your opinion, Mr. Thye, most of that would be exhibition stuff?"
Thye answered that he thought stamping on a man's feet should be barred.
In a statement after the session, both Thye and Virgil Hamlin denied all of the charges that had been filed against them earlier in the hearing. Thye declared that he had not tried to get Bill Beth to lay down in his match with Koloff, but that Beth would not go on because he was not to wrestle in a main event. They also said he knew nothing of the charge of George McDowell that the company's representative asked McDowell to throw a recent match.
These were the findings of the Seattle athletic commission, announced yesterday, after ten days of investigation of the mat game here.
In addition to ruling that wrestling here has not been on the square and that many of the performers have competed "with the handcuffs on" as these affairs are known in sports circles, the commission made the following findings:
-- That it is physically impossible for wrestlers to perform from two to five times a week and "give the best that is in them."
-- That wrestling on the Coast is alleged to be under the control of Ed Lewis, Billy Sandow and others.
-- That there has been a policy known as "building up by propaganda" in vogue in Seattle.
-- That the referees have been siding in the show and entertainment by antics "not conducive to the best interests of the sport."
At the same time, Robert Hamlin and Calvin Hellig, officers of the Coast Athletic Club, were exonerated of any wrong doing. Regarding the charges against Ted Thye, who was accused by Abe Kubey, one of the comapny's referees, and Gus Larson, alleged betting commissioner for Thye, the commission was of the opinion that "these charges have not been proven."
It ruled that the testimony of Kubey was capable of two constructions, and that it could not legally rule against Thye.
The decision regarding Jack Rutledge, the most far reaching of the findings, is announced as follows: "The committee believes the testimony of George McDowell, a wrestler and student at the University of Washington, to the effect that he was approached by a representative of the Coast Athletic Club in Tacoma, a Mr. Jack Rutledge, who suggested that he allow his competitor to win in order to build him up in his own town, has been uncontradicted. And because the commission believes that McDowell would have no reason for telling an untruth, and has impressed the commission as having told a straight-forward story, and as Mr. Jack Rutledge has not seen fit to appear before the commission to refute this story, and to allow the ommission to judge the issue of veracity as between himself and Mr. McDowell, the commission is of the opinion that the actions of Mr. Rutledge, if true, were incompatible with the best interests of wrestling as a sport. He is therefore suspended from having anything to do with wrestling or any other sport in Seattle."
The charges not only pertain to local conditions, but they involve the claimant of the world's title, Don George, and Gus Sonnenberg, former champion.
The commission finds that a Tonnemann, who refereed the Sonnenberg-Sarpolis match here, was later introduced to Jack Sullivan as Sonnenberg's manager.
Further than that, Tonnemann is alleged to have later accompanied Don George to the Northwest as his manager. In Portland, Tonnemann refereed the match in which Ted Thye and Don George were the principals.
The commission refused to permit Tonnemann to officiate in the Lewis-Sonnenberg match here, and Harry Listman was substituted at the last minute.
The testimony of Musty Musgrave against the Portland group "was general in its character," the commission decided, and declined to make any findings on Musgrave's charges against his employers. Musgrave has represented the Portland body as its Seattle manager.
Concluding its findings,t he commission ruled that both the Coast Athletic Club and the Seattle business group headed by J. Von Herberg, William Edris and Joe Gottstein be allowed to stage wrestling in Seattle, provided they are called exhibitions.
The members of the commission are: Phil Cook, chairman; John J. Sullivan, Dr. James Moriarty, F.F. Heater, and James J. McGinley.
As you would expect, the War in Iraq has taken a huge chunk out of my time, and there is nothing in my life that it hasn't affected.
I am basically glued to the television and radio. Are you? Of course, there are many people who are purposefully ignoring the battle scenes and the news headlines. That is perfectly fine, just as long as I have access to them. In fact, I'll take their place in front of the TV.
However, in times like these, one must have a bit of an escape. So, I turn to computer blogging and professional wrestling.
As Earl himself said last week, Wrestlemania is actually looking to be a pretty good show. Kurt Angle, through his pain, is going to face off with Brock, and that is a brave thing. Brock is very new to the sport, and his style is inherently stiff, so Kurt will have to be as careful as he can, and hope for a nice dollop of luck, so he can get out of the event, and get fixed for next year.
You know what...let's just do this:
JOHN'S WRESTLEMANIA ISSUE!
HHH against Booker T: This match has only one conclusion in my head that will work, and that is Booker winning the World Title for the 6th time. If he does, that would mark the smartest move that Raw has made in the last eight months. Booker is in a nice face push right now, and I think that this move would do nothing but mix up the stratification that now exists in the Raw Brand. Now, what will happen? Well, I expect Booker to win, actually. However, don't put it by HHH's backstage politicking to get a dirty win, or somehow put HHH over. We'll see.
Rock against Stone Cold: This match, though full of heat, is one of the most thrown-together match-ups in the whole event. These two have done this several times now, and I think it is getting tiresome. Watch for multiple false falls, look for Rocky cheating, and I look for Austin winning. This is all about putting Austin back over, and more firmly attaching Rock to the heel side. Actually, think of it as Rock's swan song for Wrestlemania.
Brock Lesnar against Kurt Angle: I love Kurt. I want to meet Kurt Angle. I want to tell him that he has been the exemplar for the rest of the WWE cast and crew. However, that will probably never happen, and the man will go off for a year to heal a bad neck. This match would have been a clinic on what was good in professional wrestling today; two talented WRESTLERS going at it in the ring. However, there will be a couple degrees taken out of this match, and Lesnar is gonna win this one, injuring Angle badly to explain his absence. I would almost say that something will happen to turn Kurt during the match, near the end, maybe costing him the match. Maybe a screwjob?
Hulk Hogan against Vince McMahon: Or, The Battle of the Egos, as it were. What the heck will happen there, I have no idea. I can't see Hogan losing clean to Vince. I just can't see it. Now, I really doubt that Vince will do a clean job to Hogan, but the chances of him falling to Hogan are much greater than Hogan doing the same. This match will be full of run-ins, cheating, eye-rakes, and the like. Not a lot of technique.
HBK against Y2J: The battle of the initials. OK, this match could actually be a barn-burner, if the bookers let them go all out. I still haven't seen Chris Jericho turned loose to do what he has shown he is able to. HBK is older, and he isn't what he once was, but he can still stir up the crowd. If he performs well, this match could be a great one. If we see the same Jericho and HBK, the match becomes a standard match, five minutes too long.
Taker-Jones against Show-A-Train: OK....the four behemoths of the Smackdown brand get together to put Nathan Jones over. The question I have is, "When will Nathan Jones turn?" I say at WM19, and to end that match. Then, ol' Taker will have to put over Jones at the next PPV. This tag-team match is just to allow the Undertaker to lose, while not getting his streak of singles wins affected. I am also ready to see how good Nathan Jones is, especially with Albert and Show. If he sucks here, look for the Steiner Treatment, where he will fade quickly into the high mid-card.
Tag-Team Championship: This will probably be the match of the night. There are six big-time performers in this match, and there is no possible way that we aren't going to see wild and wooly action in this match. I don't have any idea who will win it, either, simply because all the teams seem to be over, be it as heels of faces.
Women's Championship: Victoria is gimpy, and I can't see her keeping the belt through the evening. She needs time to rest...and, if you have noticed, she hasn't done much wrestling for a while. Jazz has looked stronger than ever, and Trish can't match up to her. Jazz should walk out with the title, and that will be the way it will stay, until Lita makes her way back into the mix.
No real slouches in this arrangement, are there? Though the Undertaker match may be a slower affair, it is just because of the size of the participants. That match will be a power-fest. Everything else seems to be acceptable.
Now, I want to do some shameless self-promotion. Please visit the Bodyslam Blog. It isn't wrestling related, and just take a read and let me know what you think. Now, if you wish to stay on task, keep it here, and go on odd days to bodyslam.cc, for all your wrestling needs.
See you next week for another Connection.
SmackDown! came to us on tape from the Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky and as the first American and British casualties were being reported in IRAQ, the program opened with a Star Spangled Banner medly from various WrestleMania cards intermixed with photos of the stars of the WWE mingling with the troups overseas. This was followed by a video recap of the latest shennanigans between Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle.
Team Angle went to the ring for the first match, which pitted Charlie Haas against Rhino. Rhino got the fight started as soon as he hit the ring forcing both members of TA out of the ring then dragging his opponent back inside. Chris Benopit came down to open the odds and was drawn into it almost immediately as Shelton Benjamin started intefering in the action. Haas went after Rhino's left knee right off the bat and did some damage, although Rhino's superior power offered some compensation. As Rhino went for what would have been the final gore - Benjamin grabbed him and tripped him from the outside. He then threw a title belt to his partner, who used it as a weapon right in front of the referee, thus causing a DQ.
Pretty weird to see Bob Costas commenting on the upcoming grudge match between Hogan and McMahon as if it is a major sporting event...
Backstage, Stephanie dressed Brian Kendrick down for sneaking onto the program and doing other outragious things - then she offered him the chance to join the roster if he can defeat Shannon Moore tonight.
Another stupid RAP from Vanilla Lite...
...followed by another racist Los Guerrero skit.
The Guererros and Rikishi took on the FBI in the next contest. This was a great opening match with plenty of action. Rikishi eventually took the pin with with a sidekick on Chuck Palumbo as he came charging out of the corner.
As we went to the break, Hulk Hogan was spotted arriving at the arena.
In a promo, an obviously ailing Bobby Heenan commented on the upcoming McMahon/Hogan matchup.
Rey Misterio faced the former Cruiserweight Champ, Jamie Noble (and his girlfriend) in the next match. Nidia got a bit more physically involved then we have seen her in the past when she hit Rey Rey with a credible clothesline out on the floor. A little later Misterio got revenge by splashing Nidia over the top rope to the floor - but the distraction almost cost him the match. He made a come back moments leter with a quick 619 and then hit the Frankensteiner to take the pin.
Backstage the Angle brothers were headed to the ring to give Brock Lesnar and the WWE fans a "piece of their mind..." Eric was on crutches.
The brothers went to the ring to do their rant. They agrred that Kurt doesn't suck...and Brock does. Kurt demanded Lesnar come out and apologise for his actions last week, but instead they were joined by Stephanie, who told Kurt that he was not going to get out of facing Lesnar at WrestleMania, and whats more, if he gets himself DQ'd, or counted out, or if there is any interference, he will lose the title! He came back with bravado, claiming to "want Lesnar" right now. Stephanie then said, "well, then, here comes the pain..." Lesnar came down and went afte Kurt, who shoved his brothert into harms way as he ducked out of the ring. Kurt the used of his brother's crutches to execute a sneak attack on Brock. Back in the ring, Kurt then put an Angle Slam on Lesnar...onto a chair.
The Undertaker faced Bill DeMott in the next match. At last some competition for the Tough Enough trainer! As could be expected, DeMott gave the Dead Man a pretty good fight, but in the end, was no match for the veteran.
Backstage, after the break, Brock Lesnar refused medical attention.
Shannon Moore came to the ring accompanied by Matt Hardy for his challenge match against Brian Kendrick. These guys were pretty evenly matched so the contest was quite competitive with plenty of false endings, then Hardy got involved, dropping Kendrick's face onto the ring steps at one point. Moments later, Rey Misterio ran out and took Hardy out of the game long enough for Kendrick to win the match...and a job.
Backstage, Mr. McMahon went over his contract to meet Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania one more time with his lawyer.
Chris Benoit took on Shelton Benjamin in the other half of that tag team rivalry.
In the next segment, Mean Gene Okerlund made what I belive was his first in-ring appearance on TV since he returned to the WWE last year. He was there to introduce the participants in the contract signing for one of the WrestleMania main events - Hulk Hogan vs. Vince McMahon, with Hogan's wrestling career on the line. Hogan came down first and made a speech stating that the Hulkamaniacs made Vince McMahon, not the other way around. Backstage, McMahon was headed for the ring and making a point to tell everyone he encountered on the way out to keep their eyes on the TV because they wouldn't believe what they were going to see. Suddenly he appeared in the ring and hit Hogan several times with a chair! The scene in the back had been on tape!! He then signed the contract, then strolled over to where Hogan lay on the mat - and stabbed him with the pen! He used Hogan's own blood to sign his name to the contract!!!
In a short mixed tag match, Jeff Hardy and Trish Stratus defeated Victoria and Steven Richards. Afterward, Jeff tried to make his move on Trish, but Jazz attacked her, then Richards attacked him.
Backstage, Goldust struggled to get out a congratulatory speech for his friend, Booker T. Meanwhile, the Coach summoned Bischoff back to the Security office to observe that Austin was still hanging around at the "South entrance". The security guy said there was nothing they can do about it as long as he doesn't enter the building. Bischoff ordered Coach to go out and send Austin on his way under the threat of dismissal (for both of them - Coach if he doesn't deliver the message - Austin if he doesn't leave the area).
Scott Steiner took on a hapless Christian in the next event. We haven't seen much of Steiner lately - it's like after his big World Title match he just faded away for a while. He dominated the beginning of this contest, then Christian used subterfuge to grab the initiative for a while. Christian immediately got cocky, of course, and ran right into a belly-to-belly suplex to turn the tables. It was all downhill from there for Christian.
Outside, Coach approached Austin and delivered the message, then skedaddled in a flash.
Backstage, Chief Morley announced that because of Steven Regal's illness, the Tag Titles haven't been defended in the last thirty days, therefore the title had been vacated - he then appointed himself and Lance Storm to fill the vacancy! Rob van Dam and Kane showed up and demanded a title shot at WrestleMania. Morley said that he was giving that match to the Dudleys - so Kane suggested that they take on the Dudleys tonight for the title shot at the PPV. Morley agreed.
Booker T and Goldust took on Triple H and Ric Flair in the next match. In this one, Flair was everyone's goat - but he got his revenge by pulling out the cheap shots at every opportunity. HHH was clearly out to injure his opponent at the PPV, and Flair was right their to assist in that endeavor. Booker battled back from adversity and had both opponents on the ropes - eventually pinning HHH after a Scissors Kick.
Backstage, after the break, Flair tried to give HHH a pep talk, but the Game was looking definitely worried about his title on Sunday.
The Millennium Bugg came to the ring to toot his own horn and complain about something...as usual. He directed his rant at Shawn Michaels, requesting a face to face meeting to "talk". HBK came to the ring and Jericho actually admitted that he patterned himself after Michaels when he started in the business. He even showed video of himself doing Micheals' moves and trying to look like HBK. But now, according to him, he has replaced Shawn in the business, and that he intends to beat him and embarrass him on Sunday. Then he hauled off and slapped him. Michael's reaction was to laugh at him! Then he slapped him back. They went nose to nose - grinning at each other and talking trash as we cut to commercial.
Backstage, the Rock told Bischoff that he has a great idea - which put Bischoff off a little, considering what happened last week when Maivia had an "idea". The Rock's suggestion was that Bischoff put some speakers out in the parking lot so that Austin can hear the "Rock Concert".
Backstage, Kane and RVD headed to the ring to face the Dudleys for their Wrestlemania Tag Team Title shot.
The match itself was fast and furious. In the middle of it, the new Tag Champs showed up to interfere, but their actions backfired and actually helped kane and RVD to win the match, and the title shot at WrestleMania.
Outside, some stagehands set up some gigantic speakers for Steve Austin's benefit. Steve took a phone call as we cut to commercial. He answered the phone, "Hello? This is Stone Cold Steve Austin..." like he was on an answering machine or something.
After the commercial, the Rock came to the ring and out on his concert. His first selection was a take off on "Kansas City" called "Sacramento" - an insult directed at the local fans. He then swung into a song dedicated to Austin - "You ain't nothin' but a Redneck". He then did his impression of Willy Nelson - singing "Gonna Whip your A$$ Again..." His final selection was his own version of "My Way". As he finished we saw an ambulance coming toward the building - then Austin pout his truck in gear and took off toward the building! Mavia called the cops to the ring, and we noticed that they lined up on either side of the ring, leaving a wide path...as the Austin pick-up truck drove into the arena...driven by the Hurricane! he was hauled away, which took the security guys out of the pictures. Once they were gone, Maivia went back to singing...and Steve Austin emerged from under a blanket in the bed of the truck!! he attacked the Rock and drove him from the ring, then threatened to smash the Rock's Willy Nelson signed guitar. He dropped it on the mat, then as Maivia approached, Austin put his foot through it!!
The evening continued past the 11:00 hour with a replay of the Hogan/McMahon contract signing fiasco, plus a live appearance by Vince McMahon in the ring. Vince made a little speech about being proud to have created Hulkamania and being proud to destroy it on Sunday at WrestleMania.
After another commercial they replayed the Angle/Lesnar incident from last week on SmackDown before signing off. Wrestlemania should be a good show...
At least that's the way I see it...
Editor, Solie's Wrestling Newsletter
for great wrestling discussion.
Copyright 2001 - Jump City Productions