Category Archives: 1991

Is Ric Flair Running The White House?

Weekly World News – February 5, 1991

Ric Flair 2-5-91

 

Pro Wrestler Talked Bush Into Sending Troops To Saudi Arabia!

Wrestling wild man Ric Flair has become one of President Bush’s closest pals and political advisors – and it was Flair who persuaded Bush to send U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia!

High-ranking government sources confirmed the President launched Operation Desert Shield after the snarling ring villain urged him to “knock Saddam Hussein on his butt.”

 

“We might still be pussy-footing around, trying to decide whether to send troops or not send troops, if Flair hadn’t stirred Mr. Bush to action,” said an aide to North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms. Continue reading

Pimping Iron

Spy – June, 1991
By Irving Muchnick

Pimping Iron pic 1

The grim, borderline-pornographic world of professional bodybuilding – the world that gave us Arnold Schwarzenegger – has been controlled for years by two elderly brothers.  Now Vince McMahon, the, uh, brains behind Hulk Hogan’s crossover stardom, is moving in on the brothers’ turf.  IRVIN MUCHNICK reports on the pumped-up, steroid-fueled marketing war between the impresarios who make megabucks.

Pimping Iron - Hulk Hogan

If you have remote control, a cable hookup and way too much free time, you know Vince McMahon. He’s the tuxedoed, shellac-haired, Nautilized emcee of the syndicated program “Superstars of Wrestling,” the USA network’s “Prime Time Wrestling,” and NBC’s “Saturday Night’s Main Event,” all produced under the aegis of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). McMahon’s is an uncharismatic, if he-manly, TV presence; he’s TV wrestling’s Zeppo Marx, looking on, deadpan, while Hulk Hogan and Sergeant Slaughter shove fingers in each other’s faces and pretend to argue. But like Bill Cosby and Merv Griffin, whose on-screen personalities are equally unpresumptuous, McMahon is actually a shrewd, tenacious businessman with a multimillion-dollar empire. TitanSports Inc., his $150-million-a-year company (and the parent company of the WWF), has a brand-new, $9 million office complex in Stamford, Connecticut, complete with state-of-the-art TV-production facilities. In addition to the cable and network shows, there are nightly live wrestling exhibitions and four-times-yearly arena extravaganzas, broadcast over pay-per-view for up to $30 a pop – WrestleMania V, staged in 1989, grossed nearly $21 million. There are WWF videocasssettes, posters, toys, apparel, a WWF Magazine, even WWF ice cream bars, molded in the images of WWF wrestlers. And there are WWF stars who have managed to cross over into more conventional realms: Rowdy Roddy Piper landed the lead in the 1988 movie “They Live”; Jesse “The Body” Ventura was last fall elected mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota; and Hulk Hogan has starred in both feature films (the forthcoming “Suburban Commando” and 1989’s “No Holds Barred”) and a commercial for Right Guard deodorant. Add it all up and you’ve got an entertainment conglomerate of formidable financial might. Continue reading

The Walking Time Bombs Of The WWF

St. Louis Post-Dispatch – July 14, 1991
By Jeff Gordon

By stressing muscle size and definition over old-fashioned grappling skills, the major promoter of professional wrestling may have encouraged rampant abuse of anabolic steroids and human growth hormones. Continue reading

‘Dick The Bruiser,’ 62, Dies In Florida

St. Louis Post-Dispatch – November 12, 1991
By Keith Schildroth

Richard Afflis, known to wrestling fans locally and around the country as ”Dick the Bruiser,” died Sunday afternoon at his winter home in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla.

He was 62. Continue reading

Wrestling With Success

Sports Illustrated – March 25, 1991
By William Oscar Johnson

Vince McMahon Has Transformed Pro Wrestling From A Sleazy Pseudosport To Family Fun

IN 1954 THE FRENCH PHILOSOPHER ROLAND BARTHES produced a learned essay about the “mythology” of professional wrestling. Among other things, he wrote, “The virtue of wrestling is that it is the spectacle of excess. Here we find a grandiloquence which must have been that of ancient theaters. . . . Even hidden in the most squalid Parisian halls, wrestling partakes of the nature of the great solar spectacles, Greek drama and bullfights: In both, a light without shadow generates an emotion without reserve.” Continue reading

Pro Writer Vs. Pro Wrestler

Charlotte Observer – November 15, 1991
By Louise Lione

Lione, Observer fashion writer, interviews a professional wrestler. Hilarious, no? That’s what my editor thought. What a hoot. Well listen smarty-pants, I’m not such a stranger to this stuff as you thought. When my son wrestled for Myers Park, I was so rabid I wore a T-shirt that said “Mamma Lione” in big letters across the back. I enjoyed my telephone interview with Arn Anderson, Charlotte resident and professional wrestler also known as “The Enforcer.” Anderson – one of the stars of World Championship Wrestling – was on tour, in Los Angeles at that moment last week. Here are the highlights from our hourlong conversation: Continue reading

The Toughest Madisonian Who Ever Lived

Madison Magazine – December 1991
By Pete Ehrmann

When the headline “The Apache Wars Not Over” appeared in the June 1, 1885, Wisconsin State Journal, Madisonians may have taken comfort in the fact that Geronimo was 2,000 miles southwest of town. But further into the newspaper they discovered that all was not exactly peaceable right here in the urbane capital of civilized Wisconsin.

Evan Lewis was on the warpath.

A century ago, professional wrestling was as truly violent a spectacle as its burlesque modern incarnation intends to be. Now either forgotten or confused with a later popular Wisconsin-born wrestler who borrowed his name, Evan Lewis, a native of tiny Ridgeway in Iowa County who moved to Madison in 1885 to pursue his wrestling career, was one of the most feared and famous figures in 19th Century sports.

“A cruel and really dangerous athlete,” wrote ring historian Nat Fleischer of the 5-9, 180-lb. Lewis in his 1936 history of wrestling called “From Milo to Londos.” “Lewis for many years held his own when pitted against the best men . . . and the country grew fairly wild over (him) and his wrestling ability.”

“Wild” certainly described the scene when Lewis beat middleweight champion James Faulkner in Madison on May 31, 1885. Faulkner called the crowd “the worst he ever struck,” and the State Journal itself noted that “the rowdyism displayed on the (wrestling) platform was truly disgraceful, while Lewis’ friends in the audience made a vast deal of noise.”

What stirred up friends and foes alike when Lewis wrestled was the trademark maneuver that gave Evan Lewis his nickname – “The Strangler.” He “made no bones about his method,” said Ring magazine in 1930, “which was to get an arm about the throat of an opponent and choke him until he whispered ‘enough’ or was unable to whisper anything.”

It was for real and perfectly legal in wrestling then under the “catch-as-catch-can” and “no-holds-barred” style the Chicago Tribune called at that time “one of the cruelest forms of sport permitted in any civilized community. The breaking of a leg, the crushing in of the ribs, the slow torture of tearing a limb from its socket is permissible and constitutional . . . ” Ironically, boxing was illegal in most of the country then because it was considered too brutal.

Evan Lewis was born May 24, 1860. His father, William E. Lewis, was a Ridgeway farmer and butcher. How and why Evan became a professional wrestler is unknown now, but The Milwaukee Sentinel of July 22, 1888, in a story calling wrestling the equal of baseball in national popularity, probably was describing Lewis when it noted that “the most successful wrestlers come from the country and are usually men whose lives have been spent on a farm, where they have laid the foundation of a strong physical constitution and learned the first rudiments of their profession while tumbling on the meadows with their playmates and school fellows.”

Just exactly how one went from such bucolic sport to choking opponents senseless can’t be traced, but Lewis was first heard from in Montana in May, 1882, when he won a 64-man tournament. He was introduced as the Montana champion when he beat Ben Knight for the Wisconsin title in a Dodgeville match on March 21, 1883.

By the time Lewis moved to Madison in 1885, he had perfected the strangle hold that he claimed was taught to him by an opponent named Frank Whitmore. After he deflated James Faulkner with it even Faulkner, while decrying Lewis’ “harsh methods,” conceded that the Wisconsinite “appears to have a bright future in the sporting world.”

French champion Andre Christol left town after losing to Lewis on August 20 at Lake City Summer Garden “vowing that in all his 24 years of wrestling he had never encountered such a man.” British wrestler Tom Cannon wasn’t saying much after his December 21 match with the Strangler; after Evan got his right forearm across the Britisher’s windpipe, Cannon was lucky he could talk at all.

Evan Lewis didn’t invent the strangle hold, and nothing in the rules prevented others from using it on him. Henry Shellenberger got his hands around Lewis’ neck and choked him unconscious to win a fall in their July 25, 1887 match in Madison. Unfortunately for him, Lewis woke up in time to resume the match and then showed Shellenberger how it should be done.

Other wrestlers had their own violent specialties. A Japanese grappler named Matsada Sorakichi, known in that ethnically not-so-sensitive time as simply “The Jap,” broke lots of ribs with his favorite tactic of ramming opponents with his head. So when he and Lewis were matched in Chicago on January 27, 1886, the Central Music Hall overflowed with customers anxious for blood.

Lewis had a 25-pound and one-and-a-half-inch height advantage, but Sorakichi was immensely strong. In between bouts he performed a stage act that consisted of twirling 250-lb. Indian clubs. The only things twirling after his match with Lewis, however, were Sorakichi’s eyeballs. Lewis strangled him so hard that The Jap, spitting blood, surrendered. When the latter protested, Lewis said he had gotten off easy. “I didn’t choke The Jap. That is, not hard. When a man’s choked he can’t stand up and he’s limp as a rag. I gave (Tom) Cannon the grip when I wrestled him and he didn’t get over it for a week.”

Sorakichi dared Lewis to wrestle again with the strangle hold barred. When Evan agreed, The Jap made sure he understood the rules. “You choke me,” he told Lewis, “I shoot you.”

“I will not choke you this time,” promised Lewis, “but I will screw your leg off.”

A trainload of Madisonians followed their hero to Chicago for the February 15 rematch. “No man ever had a more ardent and enthusiastic personal following than Evan Lewis,” wrote the Chicago Herald. “To a man Madison swears by him, bets on him, brags on him, and the sun rises and sets on him.”

That included the hometown press, which forgot its earlier scolding of Lewis and defended him against the Illini slurs. “From first to last, the Chicago papers have taken sides with the cooper-colored foreigner, complained a February 8 editorial in the State Journal that lauded the hometown favorite as mere boy, with only that experience as a wrestler which he had picked up in friendly tussles with his companions at home.”

Perhaps the famous bout of the last century, if not ever, certainly the Lewis-Sorakichi match was the only professional wrestling contest to make the front page of the New York Times. Interviewed in bed, “unable to turn on either side, his features distorted with pain,” Sorakichi “in broken English attempted to describe how Lewis had tried ‘to breakee the leg like a stick.’”

Over fifty years later, accounts of the match still referred to The Jap’s broken leg. But in truth the Oriental wrestler was back on the mat just three weeks later, wrestling on the same night, March 7, that Lewis faced Carl Moth in Milwaukee. Reverting to his pet strangle hold, Lewis beat the German at the Grand Opera House, but his performance didn’t inspire any arias. When Evan took the victor’s customary bow at the footlights he was showered with cries of “Rats! Rats!” and a local paper said, “It is apparent that his brutal treatment of The Jap will not soon be forgiven.”

For all his professional notoriety, on the street Evan Lewis did not go around choking everyone in sight. Even the Chicago Herald admitted, “Off the stage Lewis is quiet, modest and unassuming. There is no braggadocio about him and no evidence of any unnatural ferocity, but the moment he faces an opponent his whole nature seems to change and no one can control him in the least.”

While he wrestled all over the country and overseas, Evan Lewis’ rural ties drew him back to Iowa County. In June, 1889, he bought the Wisconsin Hotel in Barneveld and ran it for many years while continuing on the mat. He enjoyed the rugged farming life, and trained for a match with English champion Charles Green (won easily by Lewis) by putting up 35 tons of hay with Barneveld neighbors in the two weeks before the bout.

Although occasionally defeated, Lewis beat the top wrestlers of that era – Joe Acton, Carkeek, Edwin Bibby and more. On March 2, 1893 he beat Ernest Roeber in New Orleans for the championship of the world. Before the 75-minute match, reported the New York Times, the referee announced that the strangle hold was barred, “at which Lewis smiled, while Roeber looked as if a great load had been lifted from his mind.” Not to mention his throat.

By the mid-1890s, the strangle hold was generally declared out of bounds in wrestling because of its brutality. On April 20, 1895, Lewis met Martin “Farmer” Burns, an Iowan he had previously defeated. Thirty-five-year-old Evan, described by one paper as “fat as a prize pig,” lost the match and title to Burns in Chicago. The result was so stunning that there were rumors of a fix; but Farmer Burns was a great wrestler himself, and Lewis was at the end of his career.

Upon his retirement from the mat, Evan returned for good to Ridgeway and lived a normal and very civilized life. He even served on the town board. He was a game warden and helped keep order at the State Fair. He also did the latter at Democratic Party caucuses, which were less likely to degenerate in battles royal with Sergeant-at-Arms Strangler Lewis on the scene.

When Evan Lewis died of cancer at age 59, on November 3, 1919, the news was reported in a single paragraph in the Madison press. “Veteran Wrestler Dies,” announced one tiny headline, right beneath an item reporting the victory in New York of Joe Stecher over Ed “Strangler” Lewis for the heavyweight championship. The latter was born Robert Friedrich in Nekoosa, Wisconsin, but took the name of the original Strangler Lewis when he became a wrestler because his parents disapproved of the sport.

The second Strangler Lewis, whose specialty was actually the headlock, won his own mat fame and about $4 million in a long career, and though he only lived in Wisconsin for a few early years he was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame 40 years ago.

The original, who lived here his whole life, is not among the 80-plus athletes enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Dick The Bruiser Was Vintage Wrestling

Scripps Howard Service – November 16, 1991
By Mike Bass

I read Tuesday that Richard “Sonny” Afflis had died, and I immediately was hit by a touch of saneness and a rush of nostalgia. And my mind raced back to the night I met the man . . . the myth . . . the legend . . . Dick The Bruiser.

I was attending the University of Illinois at the time, and The Bruiser was scheduled to wrestle at a local high school. Being a sports columnist for the school newspaper, this was a dream assignment for me.

After all, I’d grown up on Dick The Bruiser.

When I was younger, professional wrestling wasn’t what it is now. Today, it’s the marketing genius of the World Wrestling Federation. Today, it’s Hulk Hogan fuzzy slippers and Ultimate Warrior popcorn tins and Macho Man water pumpers.

In my youth, it was The Bruiser and The Crusher and Yukon Moose Cholak hawking used cars for a Chicago-area car dealership that could all but guarantee your loan no matter what your credit. I’d watch this on Sunday mornings, same as “Star Trek” and “Flash Gordon” reruns.

There wasn’t much choice. Who knew of cable or VCRs? In those days, we were mesmerized by Liquid Prell in the unbreakable bottle.

Wrestlers back then weren’t the showmen that they are today. But they could scream and intimidate and brag with the best of them. More than anything, they could look tough.

And nobody looked tougher than Dick The Bruiser, with that crewcut and sneer, with that gravely voice and rock-hard build. He was constructed like a football lineman, which makes sense, because he was just that for the Green Bay Packers in the 1950s.

There were wrestlers such as Vern Gagne and Bruno Sammartino, the Sheik and Baron Van Raschke. They became cult heroes in my neighborhood.

And it wasn’t just Chicago. Pat Harmon, long-time sports editor of The Cincinnati Post, remembers when Dick The Bruiser and other wrestlers would sell out the CincinnatiGardens.

“One time, The Bruiser was thrown out of the ring,” Harmon said. “I’m sitting at the press table, and as he climbs over me to get back in the ring, his foot catches my coat pocket and tears it. I didn’t say anything. But shortly after that, the promoter and I had a drink, and I told him about it. A few days later, I got a letter from Dick The Bruiser, offering to pay for a new suit. I didn’t take him up on it.”

The list of cities grows . . .

“He was a big attraction in Detroit, too,” Harmon said. “Alex Karras, who played with the Detroit Lions, was launching a pro wrestling career, and The Bruiser kept mouthing off that he could lick him with one hand, then Karras would come back at him. There was a restaurant there called Lindell AC, and both would come in there, but never at the same time.

“They met one night and tore the place apart. Karras walked in, and The Bruiser threw a TV at him, but missed. Karras picked up a chair and broke it over The Bruiser’s shoulders. There was a big story about it.

“Then they had a real match in Detroit, and it was a sellout. “I saw Karras a couple weeks ago and he said the fight at the restaurant was a fake. They had rehearsed it to set up the match.”

Rehearsed? Fake? Nah. Try telling that to the hundreds of people who showed up at the high school that night more than a decade ago in Champaign, Ill. They, like me, were mainly there to see Dick The Bruiser. Toddlers and teen-agers. Mothers and grandmothers. The Bruiser bridged the generation gap.

That night, The Bruiser was facing some guy wearing a hood, and I remember The Bruiser got a huge ovation. The guy with the hood got eggs thrown at him. I know—I got some of the shrapnel. As for the match, The Bruiser took some knocks, but—surprise! — The Bruiser won.

Afterward, I talked with The Bruiser in the locker room. He looked bigger than life on TV. Everyone does. He was 5-11, an inch shorter than me, and that didn’t seem possible. That made it easier to pose The Question:

Is wrestling real or is it fixed?

Dick The Bruiser said I could come into the ring with him sometime and find out.

N-n-n-n-o, thank you, Mr. Bruiser, sir, that’s good enough for me. The man might have been 5-11 and fiftysomething, but he still had a lineman’s build. Besides, is it really worth debating?

Yes, Virginia, there is reality in wrestling, as sure as there is good and evil, right and wrong. So little in our lives is so clear-cut as rooting for a Dick The Bruiser to win, and so little provided as much security as knowing he’d do it. Wrestling lets us enjoy a little innocence, a little entertainment. Dick The Bruiser represented that for me.

I didn’t know Richard Afflis.

But I’ll miss Dick The Bruiser.