Where Wrestling's Regional History Lives!
- Mike Norris
I'm back after
a short hiatus. I want to mention the Gulf Coast Wrestlers Reunion and
thank Cowboy Bob Kelly and the rest of the board members for a great
reunion. This event has become the highlight of my year and I am already
looking forward to next March.
Last time I
mentioned that this month I would look at the aftermath of Gulf Coast
Championship Wrestling and what became of many of those who worked there
but I have decided to put that off for a while. Last month we looked at
the end of the promotion, so this month I would like to start a journey
toward the beginning of what would become Gulf Coast Championship
Wrestling. I will start this month with the year 1954.
Although Lee Fields would not become the promoter of the territory until
January of 1960, 1954 is the year he hit his stride as one of the main
stars in the area. In 1954 the promoter was a man named Lou Pericola. I
don't know anything about him or what his connections were in the
wrestling business. Around June of 1954, Pericola is no longer listed as
the promoter. It is not mentioned, but I believe this is when Buddy Fuller
took over the reigns. Fuller is active in the area as a wrestler and it is
pretty obvious that he is calling the shots. Fuller would not be named
publicly as the promoter for another two years. Others would be used as
"figurehead" promoters because the Alabama Boxing and Wrestling
Commission would not allow an active competitor to also serve as a
It is also
important to mention that this promotion had no name at this point. It
would not become Gulf Coast Championship Wrestling until Lee Fields takes
over. Also the area did not have it's own titles to recognize. There were
titles defended regularly in the area, such as the Southern Heavyweight,
Southern Jr. Heavyweight, Southern and World Tag Team titles. These titles
were titles established and recognized in other territories such as
Georgia and Tennessee, but they were regularly defended in this area as
So with that
little bit of background setting the stage, let's look at the year 1954.
The main star
in the area at the beginning of the year was Lester
Welch. The popular Oklahoma Cowboy was embroiled in a series of
battles with the main bad man in the area, King
Karl Kowalski. Kowalski was a
big, bald and bearded. Kowalski had defeated Les' older brother Jack Welch and had administered quite a beating on him. Les was out
to avenge his brother's defeat. The first match between them saw Welch
defeat the big Pole two out of three falls. Les won the first and third
falls to take the match. Kowalski was lying unconscious in the ring at the
end. When he was revived, he demanded a return battle. Again Welch won the
first fall with a flying dropkick, but Kowalski evened up the score after
hitting Lester with a knee lift. The third fall turned into a wild brawl
with fists flying and Welch ended up bleeding above his eye. The loss of
blood weakened the cowboy and he was easily pinned by Kowalski to lose the
Heavyweight Champion Rowdy Red
Roberts (Bob Roberts) made and appearance in the area and successfully
defended his title against popular Don
Wayne (Donald Wayne Hatfield). Wayne had earned his title shot by
defeating Eddie (Pat) Malone. Malone had previously been known throughout the
South as the masked Green Shadow.
Wayne didn't fare as well against the champion, however, and lost in two
Others appearing in the area in March were Chief Lone Eagle (Raymond Nieto), Chick Garibaldi (Charles Curcuru), Charlie Keene, Walt Siros and Mike Chacoma.
The war between Lester Welch and King Karl Kowalski continued. Each had scored a win over the other and was anxious to prove who the better man was. Promoter Lou Pericola added a stipulation that the winner of the third match would get both paychecks and the loser would come home with no pay. Another rough and tumble battle ensued, but Les Welch managed to win the last two falls to take the match and the money.More...