Thesz Defeats Leone For World Mat Crown

Los Angeles Times – May 22, 1952
By Jack Geyer

There was one less heavyweight wrestling champion in this neck of the woods last night after Lou Thesz of St. Louis, Mo., took two of three falls and the bout from Baron Michele Leone of Santa Monica, Pacific Coast pretender to the throne.

A crowd of 25,256 persons, attracted by the first outdoor grunt and groan spectacle since pre-World War II days, jammed its way into Gilmore Field to see the performance. They were joined by 25,256 bugs lured by the glaring ring lights.

The bout was billed as a heavyweight championship wrestling match to end all heavyweight championship wrestling matches. Which might be a good idea, at that.

The fans paid $103,277.75. That was gross. The net was $81,523.45. Wow!

Thesz, a 6-foot, 2-inch, 223-pounder, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Max Schmeling and who was billed as a proponent of Graeco-Roman rasslin’, won the thing after it was all tied up, 1-1. His winning hold was a backdrop, which is just the opposite of a frontdrop, in case you don’t follow wrestling.

It only took 31:20 to conclude Act I, although it seemed like hours.

Thesz tucked away the first fall although he was kept busy evading the fine and groping Italian hands of the Baron. The beginning of the end came when Thesz took the Baron. The beginning of the end came when Thesz took the Baron on a chartered flight in what the trade calls an airplane spin. This apparently brought on an attack of air sickness, and it was easy for Thesz to cut loose with three or four drop kicks on the wobbly Baron, each of them good for three points. Thesz then applied the necessary body press.

The Baron knotted the score 6:30 later with a neck-breaker. The Baron’s neck-twisting technique made Thesz’s manager, the famed Strangler Lewis, green with envy. Lou, meanwhile, was turning blue. Thesz then submitted. And that was the end of Act II.

The backdrop that decided things came 4:20 later.

Thousands of fans were turned away. Maybe they were lucky. Although the match didn’t win a Pulitzer Prize, there were those in the audience who thought it deserved the first two letters, P-U.

Leone added a cute touch to the occasion when he entered the ring clad in a Roman toga. A toga is a zoot suit without pants. Later Leone lost his shirt.

In a semi-windup billed as the junior heavyweight title match, Danny McShain and Rito Romero wrestled to a time-limit draw.

In a match called the world’s tag team title bout, two sharpies named Mike and Ben Sharpe defeated the duo of Sandor Szabo and Vic Christy, Mike pinning Vic in 11:06.

Red Berry and Billy Varga went 15 minutes to a draw.

Two midgets climbed into the ring for the second bout; their friends put them up to it. Sky Low Low, at 86 pounds, pinned Cowboy Cassidy, at 92 pounds.

Dr. Lee Grable, fresh from the operating table (he’s quite an operator), pinned Ray Piret in the opener.

$103,277.75. Wow!

4 responses to “Thesz Defeats Leone For World Mat Crown

  1. Loved reading this old article. I’ve been trying to score “Hooker” for years and can’t find a copy for a decent price.

    • Classic Wrestling Articles

      Same here. I looked for quite a while for a reasonably priced copy of Hooker and pretty much just gave up. Some of those old books are becoming available via reprint sites. I’ve picked up “Fall Guys,” a book by Frank Gotch and a book by Hjalmar Lundin. All very cool.

      • I’m certain you already have it but that Blassie book is damn fine.

      • Classic Wrestling Articles

        I do have the Blassie book. It was good. For the most part, though, I have stopped buying wrestling books. I bought too many of them that never got read.

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