There’s New Mat Champ – Or Did You Know?

The Spokesman-Review – March 23, 1956
By Bill Boni

Somehow I seem to have missed this. But back east in Toronto just a week ago last night, one Whipper Billy Watson won (that’s what it says in three different newspapers) the world heavyweight wrestling championship by beating Lou Thesz.

This is the world heavyweight wrestling championship, National Wrestling Alliance division, and even NWA president Sam Muchnick went along with the change of champions. “If Thesz wasn’t disqualified,” Sam told the Toronto Telegram, “then Watson is the new champion.”

The reason for this qualified endorsement, it appears, is that Watson had claimed the title two weeks before. Referee Jack Sharkey had disqualified Thesz on that occasion, and awarded the bout to Watson. But Thesz dug up a rule book and located the paragraph that says titles can’t change hands on disqualifications (so now they’ve got rule books – boy, oh boy!).

This time there was no disqualification, and there was a different referee, jack Dempsey. Seems Watson applied a “corkscrew hold” (Daily Star, also Globe and Mail) or a “claw hold” (Telegram) to Thesz’s wrist. Lou ducked under the ropes, thinking Watson would let go. Watson didn’t. He followed Lou through the ropes on to the ring apron, dumped the big champ with a body slam, hopped back over the ropes and stood there waiting while Dempsey counted all the way up to “10.”

Wrestlers are durable types. Watson won the title – the same one – about nine years ago from Wild Bill Longson in St. Louis. He lost it to Thesz, who lost it back to Longson, then retrieved it in 1948 and has held it ever since.

So now you know. World heavyweight wrestling champ, Whipper Billy Watson, out of East York, Ont. We give you all the news.

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