Dedicated to Gordon Solie
January 29, 1929 - July 27, 2000
You can get more of the latest news and rumors by listening to this week's Solie's Wrestling Radio report.
By Jeremy Quittner
NEW YORK - People love to tell the story of how, 10 years ago, when Abe Coleman was 80, the former professional wrestling star was taking a walk and was jumped by two teenagers who tried to mug him in Forest Hills. He gave one guy a right hook and the other guy a left hook and knocked them both unconscious. "They didn't know what they were getting into," snorted Lawrence Weinman, 75, of Forest Hills. True, Coleman could hold his own in any fight, but it's his humanity that his friends like to remember. "He's got more love in his little pinky than everyone put together. He's pure love and he's loved," Weinman said. Yesterday at Coleman's 90th birthday party at the Torath Emeth Jewish Center in Flushing, nearly 100 relatives and friends poured out their own expressions of love as they paid tribute to Coleman as a legend and as a friend.
"I don't believe I'm 90," Coleman said. "I still weigh 200 pounds." Coleman was dressed in a gray pin-striped suit. A doting cousin buttoned down his collar and straightened his tie when he walked in. Conan the Barbarian dolls held balloons in the center of tables laden with baked goods like rugelah and challah. The Johnny Love Trio, minus Johnny Love, played Elvis Presley songs and "Hava Nagilah."
Many of Abe Coleman's old wrestling buddies were on hand to celebrate his birthday, which is actually Wednesday. Although no two people told the stories the same way or remembered the exact location of where things took place, the names echoed with the bygone sounds of the wrestling ring. "He fought Jim Londos in Mexico City for two hours; it ended in a draw," said Al Samson, who was born with the surname Vass but was known during his brief wrestling career as "Mr. Brooklyn."
Names such as Joe Savoldi, the Dusek brothers, Ed (Strangler) Lewis and the Garibaldi brothers still seemed to be mixing it up in the Coney island Velodrome as they passed from people's lips. "You look at Abie's cauliflower ears," said Samson, 60. "That happens from the headlocks, all the blood is forced into your ears."
At 5-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Abe Coleman was dubbed the "Jewish Tarzan" and the "Hebrew Hercules" by sports publicity people in the 1930s. He was born in Zychlin, Poland, in 1905 as Abba Kelmer, one of 16 children, some of whom were killed during the Holocaust. He came to the United States in 1925. He has lived in Queens since 1941.
Coleman said his first professional wrestling match, fought in Brooklyn in 1929, earned him $25. Later in his career, he earned about 10 percent of the profits, or $10,000 to $12,000 for a match. He worked consistently throughout the Depression and had a reputation for helping his family and friends. "During the Depression, he supported the family," said Harold Coleman, 75, Coleman's nephew from Princeton, N.J. "He was the fountain of wealth for anybody who needed help. And we had a large family." Coleman also was known for bringing the drop-kick to the United States wrestling world and for perfecting a double-wristlock.
"I went to Australia in 1930. I used to watch the kangaroos kick," Coleman said. "Then I used it in the ring. They called it the drop kick." He married his wife, June Miller, in 1936, and he loves to tell the story of how they met.
"I was wrestling at Madison Square Garden in the spring of 1936. I was thrown out of the ring and landed right in her lap," he laughed. Friends said Miller died some time ago but were not certain of the date. They had no children.
Family and friends talk worshipfully about Coleman's physical prowess, remembering the time in Long Beach, for instance, when his car got blocked in and he supposedly picked it up and moved it by hand. But the stories seemed part of a past that has mostly vanished. "Wrestling in those days was very different," said his niece, Ruth Caster. "They won honestly. It wasn't theatrical like it is today."
The bleacher area became an unhealthy place for Canadian heavyweight Doug Donnan last night when several chair-wielding spectators sought to even scores for their favorite Bill Fletcher in the mainliner match at Pasco Airport Arena.
The near riot erupted after Donnan crippled Fletcher with a knee jab attack, then punished him with a series of whip-snappers. Ringside sympathizers took up Fletcher's cause with folding chairs and drove the Canadian from the roped area. The chair onslaught continued until fellow wrestlers came to the rescue.
Following the crowd fracas, Fletcher took the deciding fall from Donnan by an uppercut and shoulder press amid cheers of approval.
Earlier, Donnan took the Boise contender for fall No. 1 by a series of muscle bruising knee jabs, two body slams, a throat stomp and a fancy stepover toehold in 17:03. The second fall was Fletcher after he sidestepped a Donnan body block and allowed the Canadian to catapult himself into the chair section, then prostrated him with a dropkick and body press in 9:20.
The semi-final 45-minute ruckus mated Frank Faketty of Omaha, Nebr., against the Boston Brown Bomber, Don Kindred. The first encounter saw Kindred tee off with an aerial head scissors before Faketty laced him in the ropes and bruised the Bomber with a body block barrage. Angered over a bomber-style head butt, Faketty hoisted the invader and paralyzed him in 22:35 with his famous special sidewinder.
In the second period, Kindred loose a head banging attack that had his opponent bleeding before referee Lone Eagle handed the laurels to Faketty on a default.
A real crowd-pleasing display of classy collegiate wrestling featured Jim Morgan of Minneapolis and Chico Bonales, Chihuahua, Mexico, matman, in the 30-minute, one-fall prelim.
Morgan, who maltreated his ringmate in opening minutes with persistent hammerlocks, was paid off by a frontal surfboard twist by Chico and had Bonales groaning from a horizontal leg split and belly bunt. As final seconds ticked off, the pair threw every trick of their calling into the fray and climaxed the half-hour set-to with a draw decision.
ED. NOTE -- The Frank Faketty above became more widely known as Karl Von Hess, a few years later, after climbing aboard Vince McMahon's eastern wheel. Bill Fletcher found last fame in the South as Rocket Monroe, "brother" to Sputnik Monroe. Doug Donnan became Doug Donovan and, eventually, one of the Von Brauner brothers.)
by Earl Oliver
SmackDown was taped Saturday at the TD Waterhouse Centre in Orlando, Florida, and opened with a Tag Team match featuring the Dudleys (w/Stacy) vs. Spike Dudley and Tazz - a direct result of the Santa vs. Santa match on Monday night. The latter team had both a size and experience-as-a-tag-team disadvantage. The highlight had to be Stacy strutting her stuff on the apron until Spike took a bite out of her butt! In the end, Tazz went to town on both opponents with multiple suplexes, then Spike pinned D-Von while Tazz held Bubba back with a Tazzmission.
Backstage, Vince McMahon arrived, only to be told of the upset that had just taken place. He announced to a referee and Perry Saturn that he would make a public statement a little later, and told them to let Ric Flair know.
GOD! I am getting tired of the word "What?" Mr. McMahon took the ring for his rant, punctuated by the word, shouted at him every time he finished a sentence. Vince threatened to leave without finishing his New Years Resolutions - but he came back and made various promises, until he was interrupted by the arrival of Ric Flair. Vince told Flair he would knock him on his butt, if he didn't leave. Flair launched into a speech of his own, detailing his history with the WWF, back in the late 80's, when he became the WWF Champ. He recalled being in the main event at WrestleMania against Randy Savage. He reminded Vince of what he said to Flair after that match, "Every time you get close to greatness, you do something stupid and take a step back...", then he shouted in Vince's face, "Who are YOU, to tell RIC FLAIR how to wrestle a match???" Finally, he brought up the fact that Vince is listed on the roster as Owner/Wrestler - and informed him that he was hereby booked into a match at the Royal Rumble! Vince inquired as to who his opponent would be...and Flair decked him by way of an answer!! Flair vs. McMahon at the Royal Rumble!!!
Rikishi took on Christian in the next match for the European Title. This one was over almost before it started, by countout. In a segment that lasted longer then the match, Kurt Angle and Lance Storm met backstage to promo their tag team match against the Rock and Rob Van Dam. Next we caught up with Chris Jericho, pool side, with the night off, posing with his title belts and talking about how great he is, yadda, yadda, yadda...
The big tag match was next - RVD/Rock against Angle/Storm. This was a pretty good match-up - both teams going all out. As the fight developed, it seemed to be the heels' strategy to isolate the Rock. They were quite successful at it. When RVD finally got into the match he dominated Angle and even got the Frog Splash on him - but Storm came off the top to break it up. Both guys tagged out and the Rock went ballistic on both opponents. After knocking Angle to the floor, he hit the elbow drop on Storm and took the pin.
Trish Stratus defended the Womens' Title against Mighty Molly Holly. Of course, normally, Trish wouldn't have a chance against a wrestling veteran like Molly...but this is the WWF. In fact, Molly did manage to dominate the battle, but in the end, Trish slithered over the top of her opponent and used a Sunset Flip to get the pin. Immediately after the match, Jazz ran in and attacked Trish. Molly was outraged and tried to defend the champ. Both she and Trish were DDT'd by Jazz.
Backstage, Vince and the Undertaker seemed to come to some understanding about what to do about Torrie Wilson... Which seemed to relate to the next match. UT in a Hardcore Title match against Tajiri, who came on with surprising vigor at the start of the fight, pummeling the champ in the corner. But that didn't last long. As the match continued, Tajiri tried, but failed, to get the champ into the Tarantula, then was dumped to the floor and trashed (literally - he was hit with a trash can, then a chair...repeatedly). UT went for the last ride on the announce table, but Tajiri sprayed him with green mist, then got in a couple of trash can shots before UT made his comeback with a knee lift. Tajiri tried to turn the tables by flying off the apron - but was caught (his expressions of surprise are among the best I've ever seen in a wrestling ring...) UT choked out his opponent then turned his attention on Torrie - but she ran away, so UT went back to work on Tajiri. A chokeslam should have ended it, but Ut pulled him up. Then he slapped a reverse facelock submission hold on and got the victory. When he then refused to let go of the hold, the Big Show came down to break it up - UT back off up the ramp.
After the break, the Show challenged UT to a match, but the Dead Man came down and rode his bike away. Show followed up with a second challenge, saying that his New Year's Resolution was to kick the Undertaker's butt. Backstage, Gunn and Palumbo encountered Stacy and had some words. In another room, Arn Anderson was congratulating Flair on his upcoming match against Vince when Stephanie showed up and counseled Ric to hire her to help him against her dad. He refused, saying that with all he has going right now, he wasn't ready to hire any McMahons. She came back with a threat, reminding Flair that her husband is due back in a couple weeks. Flair said he'd think about it.
Kane challenged Edge for the IC Title in yet another disappointingly short match, which ended when the challenger almost lost his mask, and thus distracted, was speared and pinned.
The main event was a handicap match - Steve Austin vs. Booker T and the Big Boss Man. This was a silly match. The Boss Man did most of the work, setting Austin up for Booker's coup de gras. And, of course, it didn't work. Just about the time he seemed to be running out of gas, Austin snuck in a Stunner. Both guys were down for a bit, then Booker was tagged in in time to run into the recovering Austin's clothesline. Austin hit a Stunner on Booker, then a low blow as the Boss Man tried to come back in. Austin then turned around and ran right into a big boot to the face from Booker, Austin was pinned.
Raw this week was a recap show - the best 10 matches of 2001 as voted for by fans on the WWF web site. This was a pretty good collection of contests - but for my money they could have shown fewer matches and more of what they showed.
#10 - Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit for the Intercontinental Title - Jericho won this one on January 21, 2001 in New Orleans at the Royal Rumble, defeating Chris Benoit in a ladder match.
#9 - The Undertaker vs. HHH at WrestleMania X7 - this one turned hardcore after the referee was downed and ended up on a camera platform where UT chokslamed his opponent out to what appeared to be the floor - then dropped an elbow on him from on high! As the match continued, we realized that HHH was actually dropped onto some kind of lower platform - undoubtedly set up to cushion the blow. Later, Helmsley's dreaded sledge hammer came into play - but failed to get him the pin. UT won with a Landslide.
The 5 Biggest Shocks of 2001 was a throwaway feature - I mean #3 was Drew Carrey's 3 1/2 seconds in the Royal Rumble... Others included the (temporary) rebirth of ECW and the formation of the Alliance, JR's infamous "kiss", and the arrival of Ric Flair as the 50% owner of the WWF.
#8 - Shane McMahon vs. Kurt Angle in a Street Fight. This was the infamous match where Shane took a horrendous bump when Angle had to try three times to run him through a "glass" partition as the crowd chanted, "Holy Sh*t! Holy Sh*t!" Later, seemingly at the end of his rope, Shane put Kurt down with his own finisher - the Angle Slam - but failed to get the pin. In the end, Angle repeated the move in a kind of "Super" Angle Slam from the top rope and got the pin.
#7 - The May 31 Tag Team Title match pitting Champions HHH and Steve Austin against the Chris's (Jericho and Benoit). This was HHH's last match of 2001 - when he tore his quadriceps, then courageously finished the match, in fact, enduring a Walls of Jericho on the announce table after the career threatening injury. Jericho and Benoit took the tag titles after HHH accidentally hit his partner with the dreaded sledge hammer. HHH will be back next week on RAW.
#6 - The Lingerie match from No Mercy - Torrie Wilson vs. Stacy Keibler. Stacy looked really tasty in a black bustier while Torrie was torrid in red bra and panties - and won the match after taking a move out of her boyfriend's play book - a handspring back elbow set up a rolling pinfall.
#5 - The Survivor Series Winner Take All match - to determine the fates of the two promotions. Of course we all know how this one turned out.
#4 - Jeff Hardey vs. Rob Van Dam for the Hardcore Title from Invasion. Van Dam took the title for the first time in this match.
#3 - The Rock vs. Steve Austin from WrestleMania X7 at the AstroDome - Austin was the challenger in this no-DQ match. Both guys were bleeding profusely before it was over. Austin turned heel and took the title after a brutal fight.
#2 - Tables, Ladders and Chairs - the Champions the Dudleys vs. The Hardeys vs. Edge and Christian for the WWF Tag Team Title from Wrestlemania X7. E& C won this one - and it proved to be their last run as champs, since they broke up the team later last year.
#1 - The Match of the Year - from No Way Out - HHH vs. Steve Austin in a Three Falls Match which I predicted at the time would vie for honors as the match of the year. It was a brutal brawl that started as a wrestling match, then switched to a street fight for the second fall, and finally played out the third fall in a cage. This one ended when the two competitors hit each other with a 2x4 and a sledge hammer simultaneously. HHH fell on top of Austin in a heap and took the final fall to win the match.
The last word...
2001 was a momentous year indeed. Not only did it see the end of the WCW promotion, but ECW as well. The September 11 tragedies threw a pall over the last quarter of the year. 2001 saw Jerry Lawler go away and come back, and Paul Heyman arrive, then go away. It saw Rob Van Dam finally truly become "Mr. Monday Night", Chris Jericho achieve that which arguably, only Lou Thesz had achieved previously and last...and certainly least, Vince McMahon's butt on TV in prime time. It also saw Solie's Vintage Wrestling finally get it's own domain - www.solie.org.
We lost some important wrestling sites this year - Scoops and WrestleLine are gone, for instance. About three years ago, I was offered the chance to become part of WrestleManiacs (the combination of Mike Samuda's Micasa Wrestling News and Ric Sciaia's On Line Onslaught). I turned them down because I wanted to retain my independence and non-profit status. WrestleManiacs was later absorbed by the WrestleLine juggernaut - and now they are all gone.
This puts Solie's in the unique position of being the longest running major wrestling web site - 5 1/2 years and counting folks! In the coming year, and hopefully for years to come, Solie's will continue to provide news, insight and historical perspective on our favorite sports entertainment.
At least that's the way I see it...
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