Rocca Riled, Blasts Verdict To Thesz

N.Y. Journal American – January 6, 1953
By Hugh Bradley

Antonio Rocca, the barefooted boy from the Argentina, is so peeved today he is biting his own toe nails. All because of the dastardly fate that befell him last night in the featured wrestling event at the Garden when he lost to Lou Thesz of St. Louis just when it seemed he had the ting won.

What happened to the vast edification of 11,693 grunt and groan connoisseurs who paid $36,589.50 to view the doings which were neither broadcast nor televised was that Rollicking Rocca was a victim of his own impetuosity. He had thrown Thesz, rated by most of the mat cognoscenti as the greatest wrestler in the world when the boys are levelling, outside the ropes with a backbreaker.

The customers were roaring with glee, eating hot dogs and letting their eyes pop out while watching this unexpected activity. Then with Thesz on the ring apron, Rocca, ignoring repeated warnings from Referee Johnny Garan, grabbed at his opponent again, and was disqualified as the match ended in 20 minutes and 46 seconds.

“I had to do it,” Referee Garan said. “Rocca was warned that he should stand aside to permit me to count ten while Thesz was outside the ropes. He didn’t obey. Instead, he tried another backbreaker. So I disqualified him.”

In his shower bath where he was washing his mouth out with soap so as not to let his full opinion of such injustice become public, Rocca took a different view.

“Phooey,” he said in a mixture of soap and Spanish. “I had a right to grab Thesz when he was leaning on the ropes even if he was outside the ring and that is what I did.”

Thesz took a different view of the proceedings, particularly when he heard Rocca claimed he had hollered “nuff” after the first backbreaker. As befits a celebrated citizen of St. Louis, he thoughtfully considered the opposition statement, rubbed his chin and said, “Aw, nuts.”

The crowd was far less than the 18,357 which paid $57,306 to watch similar doings in November but all hands — who walked on account of the bus strike — got full money’s worth.

Opening the entertainment was a 20-minute draw between black mustachioed Pedro Escobar of Puerto Rico and Jack Steele, the juvenile from Newark. Then came the acrobats. Raphael Halpern, who insists he brought his 214 pounds all the way from Tel Aviv, met a villain in Kola Kwariani, a baldheaded hair puller from Russia, no less. They bounced and bounced and then all of a sudden — in 4:47 — Halpern threw the descendant of the tsars with a head scissors and body slam.

That brought on Lenny Montana of Newark and Whipper Watson of Toronto in face-slapping, hair-pulling display that video viewers will be sorry they missed. Justice triumphed in this one, too, however. After Montana had walked over his opponent’s face and inflicted other horrible punishments, Watson put him down for keeps with an Australian whip followed by a body press in 7:36.

Up steps Lu Kim, supposedly from Manchuria but looking more like a portrait of a Civil War general, and Hardy Kruskamp, a skin head from San Francisco. It was over almost before the fans could decide for whom to root when Lu Kim won with a full Nelson in 1:42.

Thereafter it was Primo Carnera’s turn to shine. Looking a bit older but far more at ease than in the days when people said he was the heavyweight boxing champion of the world, Carnera threw Bobby Nelson of Chicago, a weeper and a whiner, with a shoulder press in 5:18.

Next was the real rough stuff. In the tag team match, the Stanlees, Gene and Steve, won from a couple of guys named Rudy Kay and Al Williams of Chicago, two falls out of three. Kay and his elderly partner took the first one in 8:31 when Kay got Steve with a headlock and a body slam.

Thereafter Steve slammed Kay in 6:0-9 with a body slam and in 5:19 Gene, Mr. America, demonstrated his celebrated dropkick while downing Williams in 5:19.

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