The Virginian-Pilot – December 10, 1990
Had someone told Lou Thesz when he began his wrestling career in 1935 that he would still be active FIFTY-FIVE YEARS later, he would have thought they had been placed in the sleeper hold too long.
But Thesz, 74, who makes his home in Norfolk, is about to become the first pro wrestler to grapple in SEVEN decades.
Thesz (pronounced THEZ) today confirmed a Miami Herald report that he is scheduled to team with legendary Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki, 47, in a tag-team match against Takayuki Iizuka and an undetermined partner Dec. 26 in Tokyo.
Asked if he’s worried about getting hurt, Thesz said: “It’s no problem, really. Many of my friends are apprehensive, but I am not. If I’d been afraid of that, I’d never have become a wrestler.”
Thesz, considered by some to be among the top five pro wrestlers of all time, became the youngest National Wrestling Alliance champion in 1937, at age 20. Thesz held the title five more times in a 29-year span.
“When I was in my early 20s, I saw some guys wrestling in their 40s and promised myself that when I was that age, I’d be long gone,” Thesz said. “But when I reached 40, I had already come out of retirement two or three times. This is my last hurrah in Japan. I don’t see it going any farther.”
Why Japan, if indeed at all?
That’s where you can still find the book, “The Greatest Wrestler of ALL Time.” It’s about Thesz, of course. When he wrestled there in 1957, 60,000 fans turned out to see him.
Said Thesz: “I got a couple of moves in my hip pocket that they haven’t seen . . . because I haven’t showed it to them yet.”
Still active in wrestling as a trainer for the New Japan Wrestling Alliance, Thesz, who had his hip replaced four years ago, said he has trained intensely to improve his cardiovascular conditioning.
“It’s going to be the old-timers vs. the young boys,” Thesz said. “It will compare our wrestling styles and the different moves we make.”
Other old-timers appearing on the show are former American Wrestling Alliance champion Nick Bockwinkel (56) and former NWA junior heavyweight champion Hiro Matsuda (53).
And what does Thesz think of pro wrestling today? Well, in a 1986 interview, he this about that:
“I see Hulk Hogan work, and I don’t see one wrestling hold. A guy said to me . . . that Hogan has two moves: getting into the ring and getting out. He’s right. Hogan’s best move, though, is getting out of the ring.”