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Chicago Film Archives 50's Wrestling thread


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Dick the Bruiser & the Lisowski Brothers vs Verne Gagne, Wilbur Snyder & Argentina Rocca (9/14/56)

 

I decided to check this one out because of the lineup and it turned out pretty fun. It's actually a pretty fast paced match considering when it happened. I haven't really seen a tag match from this era before so it was interesting to see the differences between the mechanics of tag matches today and back then. A lot of the action was back and forth and there were a number of heat sections. Those heat sections never really reached the crescendo I expect to see in most tag matches and there were more than you see in most tag matches. The heels did a lot of stooging and it's easy to see the traditions of AWA heel stooging here. Dick the Bruiser took some huge bumps and the Lisowski brothers walked into a number of basic double and triple team attacks. They were constantly doing those little heelish mannerisms; they were pulling hair, tights, and choking. I was surprised to see Gagne lose the first fall clean via submission but he took his win back in the second fall. We didn't get to see much of Wilbur Snyder who I wanted to see after hearing my dad talk about him for years. What we did see looked pretty promising. He had a great exchange with Stan. Snyder put on the short arm scissors in really slick fashion but Lisowski deadlifted out of it which is a classic counter I always like to see. At first I thought it was a weird counter for a heel but Stan turns to the crowd and flexes his muscles afterward and Snyder dropkicks him right over the top rope. I've only seen highlights of Rocca before and his offense was pretty fun here. As a shoot style fan it's fascinating to see him throwing palm strikes and a variety of kicks but the mat stuff he did do was wacky. Lost of bridges and handstands but mixed with flying leg scissors takedowns and other athletic stuff like that. This has got me excited to see more.

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Verne Gagne vs. Red Bastien - date unknown

 

Fun little 10-minute match here. Plucky underdog newcomer Red Bastien (words I never thought I would type anywhere) makes his debut against one of the big dogs of the territory, Verne Gagne - who has hair! First few minutes telling a great story of Bastien using his quickness to frustrate the more established Verne with the crowd getting behind Red's relative flashiness, but Verne is able to eventually ground him and then puts on a clinic in stiff matwork - Bastien has a bloody nose within a couple minutes of being grounded by Verne. Bastien gets one or two more brief hope spots throughout the rest of the match, but in the end this is a solid textbook established veteran vs. rookie newcomer formula match.

 

And poking around at what else there is here, there goes any chance of this weekend being productive:

-TWO Lou Thesz vs. Buddy Rogers bouts!

-Don Leo Jonathan!

-A Lou Thesz vs Edouard Carpentier match!

-young Dick The Bruiser and young Sheik!

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Moose Cholak vs. Bearcat Wright

 

This one is a lot of fun watching Moose work the crowd and show off some nice facial expressions. He gets egged during the intro, and that prompts a warning from the announcer. 

 

My only complaint is the announcer calling Wright a 'negro boy'.

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The Sheik of Araby v. Harry Lewis - 3/5/54

 

The Sheik back in his more legitimate days. Lots of cheating out of the ref's sight though! Russ Davis is such a shitty commentator. Not because of the 1950s-era things we don't say as much any more, but more because of his "I'm gonna talk to the wrestlers" one-liners he just springs. I can guess why the Sheik just went with the stabbing approach to working later on. Sheik's finish is not the Camel Clutch, but it's kinda interesting concept for a move.

 

 

Vittorio Apollo vs. Miguel Torres - 4/14/61

 

Not sure how many of Apollo's spots are lifted directly from Rocca (they do team up later). You could probably do the cartwheel/snapmare sequence today and have it age well. The slowest part of the match was the submission hold. Wristlock -> side kicking! More cartwheels! Russ Davis doing a Jose Jimenez voice! Apollo wins quick and it was a showcase piece for him. Apollo went on to be known as Argentina Apollo in other places which aren't posting as much of their film archives on YouTube (there's some matches from him from 5 years later or 13 years later on YouTube).

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This might be going outside of the bounds of the footage, but when did the US decide on a standard "10 count for a countout", while Japan went to a 20 count. Because there's a match on there where the count is explained as "10 count if you leave on your own or stand on the apron" and "20 count if someone throws you out of the ring". Seems sensible that the count should be shorter if you leave the ring than if the other guy knocks you out of the ring.

 

Unrelated: I am amused at the description in tag matches that partners had to "shake the hand" of their partner (which they did sometimes). Seems like a tag team of true gentlemen bad guys should tag in and out of matches by shaking each others hand like old chaps. "Good Sir, let me shake your hand and give you an opportunity to continue thrashing this poor sod".

 

Considering the insane amount of footage they have (200 hours?, they have 101 matches up right now).. one can only guess what stuff is gonna get posted last. For all we know, it'll be 10 consecutive Primo Carnera wrestling matches. But there's results listings for some of these cards, so we can figure out what is and isn't on YouTube, and what they probably decided to not put on a television show.

 

Also, there's an obvious 40s/50s boxing feel to some of the presentation here. Back in the golden 10-15 years when TV networks needed content and went to boxing shows to fill out their primetime schedules. Before people started dying in the ring on TV and networks started cancelling prime time boxing en masse. I think Boxing lasted on network TV a few more years than primetime wrestling. Correct?

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Wow this is a great day to be a wrestling fan. So much footage and the quality is good. I'd given up years ago on ever seeing something like this happen. Think I will have to start with some 1950s tag team matches. I'm going to have to send them a donation for doing this.

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I had no clue where to start, so I started with Angelo Poffo since I'd never seen him work.

 

Hans Schmidt and Angelo Poffo v. Bob Konovsky and Pat O'Connor (2 out of 3 falls, 5/2/58)

 

I think fans should start dressing in suits and ties again. This was a disjointed match for me with some cool stuff. Pat O'Connor's bridge-up into a headlock -----> strike the opponent square in the face thing was a great spot, though after the third time, I was wondering when Schmidt and Poffo would stop pinning him in the perfect position so that he could kick out by doing just that. 

 

I also loved the quick tags to clubber the shit out of Konovsky and Schmidt trying to stomp Pat O'Connor's ankle from outside the ring. Anyway, the clubbering and two Hans Schmidt backbreakers that led to the first fall was whatever, but what I liked was O'Connor cracking Konovsky's back in the interim before the second fall started. There was a quick heat segment on O'Connor before Konovsky got in, and for whatever reason, it really worked because the crowd exploded for the hot tag because I thought it was rushed. 

 

Konovsky throws some shitty judo chops, man. I know that some of the forearms Schmidt and Poffo throw can be weak, but those chops. The second fall was rushed, though of course the point was that the heels goaded Konovsky to start the fall after getting beat and paid for it.

 

Then Schmidt is sore about losing, so Poffo has to start fall three. That's built around Poffo wanting to tag out and Schmidt not agreeing.

 

There's not much here except for a couple neat spots and the commentator dropping quips about S&H Green Stamps, so you can probably just skip it. The first fall's segment where the faces outshine the heels sort of drags on and gets repetitive, and except for the quick tags near the end of that fall by the heels, most of this is rushed too quickly to really be effective after that.

 

Note: I could be just not understanding the way '50s tag team wrestling in the U.S. worked, so if I don't understand what I'm watching, or if I'm not putting it in the proper context, please feel free to share your thoughts on that. 

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Having never seen matches this old, I decided to check out this one due it's short length more than anything. The biggest surprise to me was the commentary. I expected it to be all serious and professional sounding, but this dude was one snarky motherfucker. He made 2000 Tony Schiavone look like JR calling the Taker/Foley HIAC.

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Watching Lou and Verne go at it was a real demonstration of where the "NWA style" of the 70's came from. As I watched the long head lock stretches leading to a single high spot reminded me of later matches both in the States and 70's/80's AJPW. There were also some fairly stiff punches and forearms thrown. Overall, I really enjoyed that one. I liked watching the VINTAGE crowd in the background too. Oh how things have changed...

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Jiminy Crickets!  There is guys in that who I only know by my uncle telling me about them when I was kid (Mr. Moto.)

This is a pretty great Buddy Rogers match in that this is one of the only Haystack Calhoun matches I've seen without little people involved.  Calhoun is fucking hardcore.

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The Mr Moto match.  My uncle told me about Mr Moto in sunday class when I was 8.  40 years later, I finally see him. EDIT:  Jesus, this match is fucking great.

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The Mr Moto match.  My uncle told me about Mr Moto in sunday class when I was 8.  40 years later, I finally see him. EDIT:  Jesus, this match is fucking great.

 

I went straight to this match, I'm dying at the announcer..."Mr. Motoooooo. That's not how we do things over here." Also apparently palming a guy in the throat is a "Judo Throat Hold."

 

And apparently one night in Southern Illinois Rasputin did a flying brodie off the top rope on to a guy's breadbasket and a fucking riot happened with all the chairs ending up in the ring. THE FUCK IS A FLYING BRODIE.

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these guys should have Johnny Valentine matches in their vault that they could be uploading soon. At the risk of getting Dean more excited

 

I hadn't seen any sort of match list. I know they've got anther 100 or matches to come, though

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these guys should have Johnny Valentine matches in their vault that they could be uploading soon. At the risk of getting Dean more excited

 

I hadn't seen any sort of match list. I know they've got anther 100 or matches to come, though

 

yeah, i'm just operating off of the results from the cards, not sure how many were filmed for TV.

 

For example, here's one card with the matches on YouTube in bold

 

 

Chicago, Illinois: Friday, April 14, 1961 (International Amphitheater) … Buddy Rogers b. Haystacks Calhoun (CO) (11:42) … Sweet Daddy Siki and “Seaman” Art Thomas b. The Sicilians (Lou Albano and Tony Altimore) … Crusher Lisowski and Johnny Valentine drew … Argentina Apollo b. Miguel Torres … Jose Betancourt b. Fred Atkins … Moose Cholak b. Bearcat Wright … Johnny Gilbert b. Jack Terry … (promoter: Fred Kohler) … (11,000 fans)

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RED BASTIEN vs VERNE GAGNE - Really fun stuff with Verne going over the top rope trying a headscissors. Bastien is so smooth and quick.

 

RED BASTIEN vs MIGHTY ATLAS

This your strong man heel against a fiery babyface. Nice little sequence where Bastien tries to put Atlas' full nelson on him twice.  Atlas powers out both times but on the second time, Bastien dropkicks him in the back. The crowd really gets a kick out of that. Bastien utilizes some foot stomps to try and escape a hammerlock. Atlas is a big bully so he stomps on Bastien's hand while stepping on his hair. Bastien gets a hammerlock of his own and Atlas resorts to a rope escape. The fans really get on Atlas for that.  Bastien takes a couple of nice chest first bumps into the corner and Atlas submits him with the full nelson. He holds onto it after the match and the fans throw stuff at him. 

 

THE SHEIK OF ARABY vs BILL MELBY (4/26/1957) - "We've got a dilly for you here," explains Russ Davis. This is long and pretty boring. Sheik runs out the clock at the end and celebrates the time limit draw like a victory. 

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Cholak vs Bearcat Wright had cool moments like the egging and the shoulder blocks but there just wasn't enough there for a great match. 

 

Little Eagle vs Tom Thumb was a cool, focused match and had way less comedy than I was expecting/hoping for. I had no idea Eagle was so old when he wrestled at WMIII.

 

I watched the Thesz vs Rogers match that went to a draw while cooking yesterday. It was alright. I found the mat wrestling in the Lisowskis/Bruiser vs Gagne/Rocca/Snyder trios match to be far more gripping. 

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