Where Wrestling's Regional History Lives!
Renewing the Feud
- Gordon Grice
Cyclone Negro was a
250-pounder billed from Caracas, Venezuela. What set him apart at first
glance was his cut-from-stone physique. In the ring, his boxing skills
quickly became apparent. He had fast hands and a convincing repertoire of
blows, including some stiff body punches and a nice uppercut. When he had
the chance, he'd grab a headlock and turn away from the ref to deliver a
short, crisp set of knuckles to the forehead. A TV video showed him in
your basic boxing workout— doing sit-ups, hammering the heavy bag,
whipping the speed bag into a continuous blur, and so on. He was said to
have gone to a draw with former heavyweight champ Floyd Patterson.
Of course, punches were
illegal, so Cyclone's insistence on using them made him a heel. When he
arrived in the early 1970s, he quickly headbutted and piledrived his way
to the top. He became "King of the Texas Death Matches" after
winning six straight against scientific workers Lord Al Hayes and Nick
Kozak, heels Pak Song and the Sheik, a young Terry Funk, and, shockingly,
Dory Funk Sr. Lengthy feuds with all the Funks followed.
Cyclone was great in a
bloodbath, and in fact he held the Brass Knucks title, playing a very
convincing bruiser. But he was also one of the best workers in the
territory, able to match holds—and dropkicks—with Nick Kozak, Les
Thornton, or Chavo Guerrero. I particularly remember a match in which he
took "the Man of a Thousand Holds," Gordon "Mr.
Wrestling" Nelson, to the mat, out-wrestled him, and pinned him with
a figure-four head scissors. It was this added dimension that made him an
ideal foil for the Funks. Unlike such top heels as King Curtis, Ox Baker,
Abdullah the Butcher, and the Sheik, who threatened our heroes with great
size or insane violence or both, Cyclone could credibly threaten the Funks
in a straight wrestling match—a distinction that put him in a class with
Red Bastein and the Brisco Brothers. Add a layer of insane violence on top
of that (once in a while he would snap and get himself disqualified for
strangling a prelim guy) and you can see why he was the quintessential
Amarillo heel. Cyclone often wrestled against fellow heels like Baker and
Curtis, perhaps because he was versatile enough to draw good matches out
of them. Fans respected him and would cheer for him against these
monsters, but they'd hate him again in time for the next week's bout
against Ricky Romero or Dick Murdoch.
Cyclone was a superior
salesman. He could show his pain extravagantly without looking silly. When
somebody hiptossed him, he flopped like a fish on his way to the canvas.
When he took a hard shot to the chops, his eyes went glassy and his
shoulders sagged. In one match, Ray Stevens caught Cyclone on the top
turnbuckle and sent him into a veritable gymnastic routine by booting him
repeatedly in the gut. If you ever saw Stevens work, you'll appreciate how
rare it was to watch a match of his and be impressed with the other guy's
Cyclone's feud with the
Funks never really ended. He turned babyface several times, and he took a
few hiatuses from the territory, but, like a chronic disease, he came back
periodically to challenge our heroes. Good work and good booking kept the
For example, a new
chapter in Cyclone's feud with Dory Jr. opened with a terrific little TV
match. Cyclone's gimmick at the time was the $1000 challenge. Anybody who
beat him in ten minutes would get the money. Lots of wrestlers tried, and
of course several babyfaces had him on the ropes as the ten-minute time
Finally Junior had his turn. He ran across the ring at the opening bell and absolutely beat the hell out of Cyclone nonstop for five or six minutes, hitting him with everything you can think of. It's common to say a match is "non-stop action," but I've only seen a few that really were, and this was a particularly intense example. There was no stalling, no playing to the crowd. Cyclone begged off—he was expert at playing the coward, though this somehow didn't diminish his aura of toughness—but Junior didn't give him a second's rest. More...