Hey Boy! Where'd You Get Them Ears? Book Review Page 2
6-7: The Twenties
Boesch uses Chapter 7 to describe how Gus Sonneberg
rose to the top with his win over Strangler Lewis for the title, and
the 1929 match between Dick Shikat and Jim Londos that drew a
purported 30,000 fans.
8-14: The Thirties
As Chapter 9 commences, Boesch heads to California
to wrestle, and notices the difference between West Coast and East
Coast action. The West
Coast favored more light heavyweights, while the East Coast had more
takes the time to review some light heavyweight history, mentioning
Leroy McGuirk and his wars with Wild Red Berry and Irish Danny McShain.
Boesch chronicles the rise of Man Mountain Dean to stardom in
Chapter 10, and reveals how he became a crossover star in Hollywood
for a short time. He
spends some time talking about wrestling in California, and chronicles
how Danno O'Mahoney beats Ed Don George for the world title.
Boesch would then talk about how he left California for the
Northwest. One night in Portland, Orgeon, Boesch describes his first
foray into broadcasting, as Rollie Truitt asks him to call the last
fall of the main event. Boesch
describes how he was "bitten by the broadcasting bug."
Chapter 10 concludes with a discourse on Houston
drawing card Whiskers Savage, and how he was drawing huge crowds at a
time when not all of the country was as fortunate at the gate.
Chapter 11 deals exclusively with Boesch's trip to wrestle in
New Zealand and Australia. Boesch
talks about wrestling and helping promoter Floyd Musgrave in Seattle
in the late 1930's, and talked about how his back pain nearly ended
his career in 1937. He
mentions the late Lou Thesz and his explosion onto the wrestling scene
with glowing terms, a pattern that would continue throughout the book.
In 1938, with his back better, Boesch returned to New York for
work and matches, while Musgrave ran the Seattle promotion nearly into
the ground. Boesch
exclaims at the end of the chapter how if he ever went into promoting,
he would "never have a partner."
Boesch starts Chapter 13 with a discussion on the
toughness of the female wrestlers who were on the scene with him as
the thirties rolled to a close. He
then mentions a historical footnote, as reportedly the nephew of
Houston promoter Morris Siegel helped Siegel invent the tag team match
in the area. Boesch then
turns his attention to the subject of "showmanship," the
closest he would come to breaking Kayfabe during the entire book.
He mentioned numerous ways of showmanship as displayed by
longtime star Milo Steinborn. Many
of the accounts are quite funny, even though dated by the passage of
time. Boesch returns to
Australia and New Zealand in Chapter 14, and begins to recognize the
looming threat of war as he sees people all over in military uniforms.
He then turns his attention to promoters that were once
wrestlers, and ends the chapter by describing his wrestling experience
15-18: The Forties
Boesch resumed his career in earnest in Chapter 16,
and recalls the first wrestler walk out in Los Angeles.
He mentions how Dutch Rhode became "Buddy" Rogers,
although this reviewer is not
sure of the accuracy of the story.
Boesch was in Ft. Worth, Texas, when he received word of Pearl
Harbor. After a
discussion of the Texas wrestling scene, Boesch describes how he went
to Camp Wallace (between Galveston and Houston, Texas) to give
exhibitions and demonstrations to the men there.
He tried many times without success to enter the war, and
finally was inducted into the military on October 23, 1942, 2 days shy
of his tenth anniversary in pro wrestling.
Boesch spends a short time on his wartime exploits, and relays
to the reader how he returned to active wrestling duties in New York
within days of his return home from the European portion of the war.
Boesch begins Chapter 17 by describing the famous
Houston Symphony-Morris Siegel "tag team" effort to raise
money in war bonds for soldiers.
The event, which combined symphony music and wrestling would
raise nearly a million dollars in bonds for the war effort.
He also describes how he first wrestled Lou Thesz in San
Antonio. He gives an
excellent foreshadowing of things to come with a discussion on the
advent of television in America, and returns to Australia again to
wrestle. He comes down
with a horrible case of boils after a four day-four match schedule.
Sadly, the chapter ends with his discussion of the October 22,
1947 car accident that ended (short of a few brief comebacks) his
career three days before his fifteenth anniversary in pro wrestling.
Chapter 18 starts with a discussion of the advent
of television in America, and the effect television had on sports in
general, and specifically wrestling.
Wrestling became an early staple of television, and would reach
its zenith during the early days in the fifties.
But, promoters feared that televised wrestling would kill house
show gates, because their reasoning was "why would anyone pay for
something that they can watch from the comfort of their own
home?" (quote from reviewer, not from Boesch)
Boesch relates to the reader how the NWA came around, and
describes how Lou Thesz becomes NWA champion.
He closes the chapter with a discourse on how Houston was
forced to change the way they presented matches due to television's
beginning to kill the town. He
talks about how promoter Morris Siegel would show only part of a card,
and encourage people to come to the matches live instead of watching
19-20: The Fifties
As Chapter 20 commences, Boesch makes mention of
the cracks that were beginning to form in the NWA.
He hones in on the 1957 match between Lou Thesz and Edouard
Carpentier in Chicago that eventually led to the formation of the AWA
in 1960. He further
chronicles the beginning of the WWWF with the exchange of the NWA
title from Buddy Rogers to Thesz in January 1963, and the May 1963
match that sees Bruno Sammartino defeat Rogers in less than a minute.
The chapter ends with a discussion of the numerous titles that
sprang up and how they affected the gates and attendance figures of
21-22: The Sixties
23-26: The Seventies
Chapter 24 begins with innovation, as Boesch
travels to Birmingham, Alabama. He
sees potential in a two-ring battle royal, which would become a huge
attraction for years in Houston, as well as the invention of the
six-man two ring tag team match.
Boesch describes his attempts at interviewing Andre The Giant,
a battle royal favorite. In
his recap of 1974, Boesch describes the Ivan Putski-Great Mephisto
feud, the debut of the Blackjacks in Houston, and the Ken Patera-Superstar
Graham angle/feud. In his
look back at 1975, Boesch recalls how he drew mediocre crowds at the
AstroArena when he couldn't lease the Sam Houston Coliseum.
The chapter concludes with a 1976 look at the Sheik, his
"rented" snake, and his crazy matches in Houston.
Boesch begins his 1977 review in Chapter 25 with a
look at a January match for the NWA title between champion Terry Funk
and the Sheik. Although
Funk retained the belt, he would lose it three weeks later to Harley
Race in Toronto. Boesch
claims that the Sheik was partially responsible.
He goes on to talk about the shenanigans of manager Gary Hart,
and how Hart convinced longtime fan favorite Jose Lothario to sign
with him with a promise of a world title shot.
As 1977 wore on, Dusty Rhodes came in to battle Hart, and Jimmy
Snuka and Bruiser Brody would pass through to wow fans with their
abilities. On May 21,
1977, Boesch was proud to present a night of firsts, as the card he
promoted would be the first card on a Sunday in the state of Texas,
the first card with all three major federations represented, the first
card in the new Summit arena (now called the Compaq Center), and the
first card promoted in the afternoon.
Boesch describes how AWA champion Nick Bockwinkel
had to fill in for NWA champion Harley Race when Race failed to
appear. The explanation
Race gives for missing the match has to be read to be believed.
Just twelve days later, Boesch wrestled his final match against
Gary Hart in a unique setting....a bathtub in the ring.
Boesch chronicles 1978 with how he as a broadcaster made life
miserable for Hart by helping to turn Bad Leroy Brown face against
Hart, and how Houston favorite Al Madril won the NWA junior
heavyweight title from Nelson Royal.
Although Madril would soon vacate the title due to a bout with
hepatitis, the scenario was used to turn Gino Hernandez heel.
Chapter 26 is also a break from Boesch's historical
construct. Boesch notes
that he wrote many wrestlers and people in the industry for their
memories and for information confirmation.
Leo Garibaldi was one of the first to write back at length, and
Boesch allows the reader to see Garibaldi's correspondence with Boesch.
27-33: The Eighties
Boesch returns to the topic of Jim Barnett as he
describes how WTBS Channel 17 and Georgia Championship Wrestling were
becoming national sensations in 1981.
The impending cable explosion would signal the most gigantic
shift in wrestling history just three years later.
In April 1981, Boesch reflects on how he had a sold out Sam
Houston Coliseum for an NWA title match between Harley Race and Tony
Atlas, and Race no showed the match due to missing his plane.
Boesch decided to hold a one night tournament for his own
version of the world title which was won by McDaniel.
Boesch would later reverse his decision of making his own world
title, but would sever ties with the NWA for a while, strengthening
his relationship with the AWA in the mean time.
Just weeks later, Boesch would regain his Sunday morning time
slot on Mothers Day 1981.
Chapter 28 sees more changes on the wrestling
scene, as Boesch talks about Ric Flair's rise to the NWA title.
After what Race had done twice in Houston, Boesch was more than
complimentary towards Flair. Complimentary
was not the word that Boesch used to describe Wahoo McDaniel's
relationship with Tully Blanchard.
Wahoo would leave the area due to his tempestuous with Tully,
causing havoc in the front office, and in the relationship between
Boesch and Joe Blanchard. Worries
at work would not be the only thing that Boesch would have to face, as
he also chronicles the death of his first wife Eleonore from cancer.
The toll the ordeal took led Boesch to go into a partnership
with AWA main eventer and champion Nick Bockwinkel, who bought into
the Houston office. Boesch
would later sell part of the Houston office to Mid-South/UWF promoter
Bill Watts as well. Boesch and Blanchard parted ways, and once again
Blanchard tried his luck in Houston with his May 1983
"world" title tournament at the Summit.
Once again Blanchard would fail, but Boesch somehow got the
backlash from fans!!!!! In
an uplifting note to the reader, Boesch describes his decision to get
married to wife Valerie in 1983, and ends the chapter with a review of
the late 1983-early 1984 happenings across the country.
Close-circuited television was the beginning
subject Boesch dealt with in Chapter 29, as he noted that although
done before, the best success was achieved by Jim Crockett Jr. with
Starrcade 1983. Quickly,
Boesch moved to the subject of Vince McMahon Jr.'s attempt to not only
go national, but to wage war with all other promotions.
Boesch made the observation that although promoters could have
banded together to stop McMahon, they didn't before it was already too
late, and that he was ruthless in going after talent he wanted.
The promoters thought that nobody could promote successfully
with the staggering payroll that McMahon had at the time.
Boesch goes into further detail in telling the reader how
McMahon went to each territory and courted their best stars, and how
McMahon formed TNT on the USA network.
He correctly dissects the reason for McMahon failing when the
purchase of the time slot on WTBS from Georgia Championship Wrestling
didn't pay off at all. Chapter
29 concludes with Boesch looking at WrestleMania I.
Boesch notes in Chapter 30 that 1984 was the most
successful year ever for cards at the Sam Houston Coliseum, and
recapped 1984-1986 in the promotional war that engulfed wrestling.
Many of the stars featured at the Coliseum during 1984 would be
picked off in the ensuing years by either McMahon or Crockett.
He describes how during 1985 and 1986, Bill Watts began to make
mistakes with the business that were starting to become alarming to
Boesch. Watts was not
satisfied with where he was, and made the mistake of judging ratings
as an indicator of great success, especially when gates were going
down. Watts would begin
to syndicate his program too aggressively, and the company would get
hurt in the process. According
to Boesch, Watts also began to ignore commitments and contracts.
Boesch relays that in
March 1986, Watts had made the name switch from Mid-South Wrestling to
the Universal Wrestling Federation.
Sadly, Boesch also talks about the death of Gino Hernandez, and
the tragedies of Mike Von Erich in 1985 Kerry Von Erich in June 1986,
and Magnum T.A. in October 1986.
Chapter 31, Boesch talks about the rest of 1986, as Watts had great
ratings, but dwindling crowds. He
reviews the attempted and short lived symbiosis between Watts and Jim
Crockett that lasted for only a few months, as Watts was increasingly
looking for help in his fight to stay alive.
He then takes time to talk about the importance of a figurehead
performer for each area, mentioning Rhodes and Flair, and talking
about Hogan. Boesch then
turns his attention to the short lived possibility of Watts and Verne
Gagne doing business together, which never was realized, and how Watts
was beginning to not communicate his plans to Boesch.
The antics of Watts would continue into Chapter 32,
and into 1987. Watts was
desperately trying to find an investor to help infuse some badly
needed capital in his promotion.
Others weren't doing well either, as Boesch takes a look at the
falling fortune of the World Class area, and Mike Von Erich's April
1987 suicide. Even though
Christmas toy sales of WWF action figures had plummeted and promoters
were beginning to once again holler the battle cry of "this is
his last year" in reference of McMahon, Boesch wasn't prepared
for what happened at WrestleMania 3.
Boesch recalls how he was doubting the ability of the WWF to
fill the Pontiac Silverdome, until a phone call with Jim Barnett
changed his mind. Barnett
told Boesch that with two weeks to go before the event, over 60,000
tickets were sold. Boesch
was astounded. He was
further astounded when in early April, Watts sold the UWF to Jim
Crockett. Watts had not
told too many people, most notably Boesch about the sale.
Boesch began to make calls to Crockett and Watts, but didn't
hear from them. Having
established a possible business opportunity with Barnett during his
phone call with him two weeks before WrestleMania 3, Boesch recalls
how he began to make preparations for a possible move.
A week later, after meeting with Vince McMahon, and
NOT hearing from either Crockett or Watts, Boesch notes that he made
the deal to switch his allegiance to the WWF.
Since he could not reach Watts by phone, he sent him a mailgram
informing him of the end of the business relationship.
On Aprill 11, the first edition of the WWF infused Houston
Wrestling aired, and people complained.
By May 4, Watts' share of Houston was bought out despite his
protests. The May 15 card
was the first WWF card at the Sam Houston Coliseum, and although
different, it was a decent show.
As the book closes in Chapter 33, Boesch dissects
Crockett's mistake in buying the UWF, most notably the television
network expansion, and the killing of the UWF talent.
He then goes into why the last three months of his career were
frustrating, as Vince McMahon would send someone from the WWF down
weekly to help produce the show with a "WWF" feel to it.
Also, in subsequent cards during the summer of 1987, Boesch
recalls how he was appalled that there were seven no
shows/substitutions at one card, and more at the July 1987 card.
After trying to convince Vince McMahon to buy the promotion,
Boesch agreed to retire with his August 28, 1987 card at the Coliseum.
That night was one of the biggest highlights of
Boesch's career, as legends such as Lou Thesz, Verne Gagne, Ernie
Ladd, Jose Lothario, Danny McShain, Boris Malenko, Stu Hart, Red
Bastein, and others made appearances.
Mil Mascaras, Hacksaw Duggan, and Bruno Sammartino wrestled on
the card, along with Hulk Hogan and former recent UWF champion One Man
Gang. According to Boesch,
the card drew a complete sell out of 12,000 fans, with another 2-3,000
fans turned away due to traffic.
Boesch ends his book with the following quote:
"I could, just as easily, say to you as I
shook your hand: Welcome
to the man that wrestling built.
Wrestling has had a tremendous influence in shaping my life,
and my character. Without
wrestling, I can't possibly imagine what I might have done with my
life. Now that I know
what I did with it, I thank wrestling.
And I thank God."
As an avid watcher of Houston Wrestling growing up
in the eighties, I was thrilled to be able to review some of my own
history through this highly readable book.
I was also intrigued by wrestling life in the
forties-seventies, and the historical facts that Boesch throws in his
book. I also learned a
great deal of information that I had not known before.
Although the book is decidedly pro-kayfabe for the most part,
Boesch maintains his integrity throughout the journey, even when
talking about "insider" subjects like his negotiations with
Vince McMahon, and his lack of contact with Bill Watts.
For fans of Houston Wrestling, or just wrestling in general,
this book is a worthy edition to any library.
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