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Professor Boris Malenko

 - Gordon Grice

On WCW programs a few years ago, Chris Jericho harassed his rival Dean Malenko by calling Dean's father "Professor Bore-Us Malenko." It was a funny bit, but younger fans probably missed part of the joke. If you ever saw the Professor at work, you know he was the opposite of boring.

I remember the first time I saw him on TV, around 1974. He was brand new to the territory (or so I thought at the time; I recently learned on the message board that he had already been here as the Black Devil). He wasn't much to look at, and I wasn't particularly interested in seeing him wrestle. His opponent was Les Thornton, an excellent mat wrestler in the English style, and a main-eventer here.

Malenko wasn't too impressive in the early going. As soon as Thornton had him in a hold, even one as basic as a hammerlock, Malenko scrambled for the ropes. Then he complained to referee Ken Farber that Thornton had pulled his tights. I had seen heels pull this stunt many times, but I'd never seen anybody make an entire match out of it. I was getting annoyed, and so was the studio crowd. Time after time Malenko used cheap ploys to avoid locking up. Finally he thumbed Thornton's eye and grabbed a headlock. Thornton reversed this easily to the top wrist lock. Malenko screamed and begged for mercy as if Thornton had chopped off his hand. The ropes provided another quick escape.

Through further chicanery, Malenko managed to gain the upper hand and twist Thornton's arm. I had been hoping for this, because as a Thornton fan I realized that when you take hold of his arm, you take your life in your hands. Sure enough, Thornton went into a sort of headstand, flipped over, kipped up, and somehow came up with a hammerlock. Malenko screamed and shook his head, perhaps complaining that the laws of physics had been violated, but Thornton wasn't through. He stepped on the back of Malenko's knee, forcing him to the mat, and then floated over to fold Malenko's head under in some anatomically inappropriate way. Malenko wiggled like a caught catfish and managed to get to the ropes. Once Thornton had backed away, Malenko held onto the bottom strand with both legs and both arms, refusing to budge until Thornton went to a neutral corner. Thornton waved his arms in a rage, seemingly on the verge of apoplexy.

I was quite annoyed by this time. It seemed clear that Malenko was some loser, and that announcer Steve Stack had been kidding when he hyped Malenko as a main eventer. But he was worse than the average prelim bum, because he refused to go center-ring and take his whipping.

Suddenly, Thornton was on the floor. Somehow Malenko had suckered him in and tossed him out. Thornton struggled to his knees, but Malenko was on him, forcing Thornton's head down. He was going for the piledriver. The crowd went quiet. What he was doing seemed inconceivable. Cyclone Negro's piledriver was a protected finisher here, always resulting in a fall. We had never seen, or even imagined, a piledriver on concrete. The silence gave way to high pitched screams as Thornton's head hit the floor. In a few seconds, Malenko had metamorphosed from a coward to a dangerous predator. He slid back into the ring to argue with the ref.  More...

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