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 - Doc Silverkat

Welcome to Motor City Wrestling...

I probably know as little about Detroit wrestling history as any I do the mat history of any major city in North America. I've just never been able to cultivate enough sources in the area who could fill me in on all the details, particularly prior to the big Nick Londos shows at the Olympia in the '30s (huge things, with Londos drawing mammoth crowds) then I'm only bits and pieces through the '40s, with maybe a half-dozen different promoters vying for the fans affections  I get real foggy as to just what was happening in the mid to late 50s, at least until the Doyle and Barnett promotions headlined by the Bruiser. Then, of course, comes Farhat and Francis Fleischer, circa 1964, and they pretty much held sway save for the early 70s war that the Bruiser launched against them  until the end of of 1980.

Arena Gardens was located at the junction at 5795 Woodward, about where Hendrie and, I think, Antoinette cross in Fairview Gardens Roller Rink was at 11000 Mack, at Fairview Avenue. For years and years, those were the two main weekly wrestling venues in Detroit. Also, Arcadia Gardens (sometimes called the Sports Palace) was in the mix for a time, too, after WWII. It was located at 3527 Woodward, at the junction with Stimson. So to my amazement Cobo and Olympia were not the only wrestling palaces in the Detroit area

Here's a few sketchy details 

Londos got started sometime in the '20s, as did Adam Weissmuller  they were the big promotional guns in town, linked to the big wheels out of Boston and New York, and drawing most of their talent from Bowser-Curley-Mondt, et al. Londos ran big heavyweight shows, and Weissmuller was promoter to the light and junior heavies which, in the '30s, included a variety of tremendous performers  guys like Danny McShain and Wild Bull Curry, A young Harry Light, beginning in 1927, was an underling in Weissmuller's operation. Eventually, he would inherit it.

By the early 40s, Louis Markowitz was promoting at Arena Gardens  Jack Giroux at Fairview Gardens and another guy, Maury Feldman, was doing business with Jack Pfefer I'm not sure, but Markowitz and Giroux both may have been the front men for Feldman; they were, at least, the listed promoters and at the same time battling Fred Kohler, the Chicago promoter, for control of towns in western Michigan like Benton Harber (where Jumping Joe Savoldi, by the late '40s, was the promoter).  I don't know where Light was and how it all shook out.

Ed (Strangler) Lewis, who did a LOT of things to earn a living during his "lost" years, the time between 1936 and 1950 when he wandered around, mostly in wrestling's never-never land, half-blind, trying to kick booze and experimenting with Christianity (he even walked around Chicago for a time, selling neckties in restaurants and nightclubs. Lewis promoted briefly at the Arena Gardens in 1943, running a series of late winter and spring shows built around himself, Orville Brown and Danno O'Mahoney. That was a short-lived adventure, though.

As noted, Harry Light picked up the ball from the aforementioned promoters and controlled most all wrestling in Detroit and the surrounding area for a decade after World War II, with Bert Rubi wrestling for him and then getting involved in training talent  Rubi was one of the foremost teachers of the game in the '50s and '60s, and big numbers of stars got their first solid breaks and pushes under Light and Rubi. Then, as mentioned, came the big-dollar days largely fashioned through the TV promotional genius of Barnett (Dick the Bruiser vs. Alex Karras was a prime example of a legendary build-up).

A few particulars  in the winter of 1941-42, Feldman was running in Detroit (Arena Gardens and Fairview Gardens) and in a number of other upstate towns (such as Flint, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and closer in, at Dearborn). Pfefer was booking guys like George Zaharias, Blimp Levy, Bamba Tabu, Dick Lever, Pierre Deglane, Popeye Olson (aka Swedish Angel), Karol Krauser, Bobby Bruns, et al  Feldman, for the 24th of November, asked for five guys to help fill up a one-night tournament  "in one car, to keep transportation expense down," he added, in his letter to Pfefer. Afterward, he reported to Jack: "The house tonight was $1,100 gross  (Karol) Krauser and Zaharias 55 bucks each, DeGlane and Tabu 25 bucks each we had to put on an extra bout due to The Blimp (Levy).   More...

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