WWA-Indianapolis #3 Page #2

On the December 26th show, Sheik burned Bob Ellis, setting Ellis' wig on fire, and retaining the U.S. Title. The Legionnaires, who were now managed by Starr as well, went to a double DQ with Snyder and Gomez. Starr's interference started a feud between him and Gomez, and the Ox was DQ.'d against Bobo Brazil. Before this match, totally unannounced, and in a shrewd bit of booking, Ernie Ladd came out and challenged Ox Baker for what Ox had done to him in the past (they later showed the Cleveland riot footage ad nauseum, from the Cleveland office). The pop from the audience was to be experienced, as Ladd was a long time favorite (even as a heel) to the Indianapolis fans. (On a side note, Fargo had dropped about 30 lbs. between the 11/29 and 12/26 shows. He was trimmed down and cut up, but looked really puny next to the others. I'm not sure if this was done as commentary about his payoffs, or if he just did it out of personal interest.)

Going into 1975, the houses had dropped marginally, but stayed pretty consistent considering the turnover of talent. They also were still working decent (for the era) angles and the shows seemed to have a solid sense of direction. Of the mainstay heels, the Legionnaires seemed to be the most solid of drawing cards, even with their rocky start.

The first handicap the tag champs had was the gimmick itself. Even in 1974, noone thought they were from the French Foreign Legion. Of course, Don Fargo was well know as Jack Dillinger, and Bruiser must have thought none of us read wrestling mags or had heard of the Fargos. Goulet, of course, had been an A.W.A.jobber/mid-carder for some while, and before that, a WWWF tag champ. If they had played the gimmick for what it was, a sendup, it would have gone down much better. On top of that, Goulet looked pretty bad in being compared to a supervillain such as the Sheik, in teaming him up to go against the Bruiser and Thomas. In spite of all of that, Fargo and Goulet went down well on the circuit, as in Indiana and the territory, the rugged heels like Raschke, Ladd, the Blackjacks, etc. seemed to draw well.

On the January 25th card, the double main was Bruiser and Moose in a non-title lumberjack match against the Legion, and Ladd vs. Ox at the Convention Center. Across town, at Market Square Arena, Led Zepplin was playing to a SRO crowd. Everyone that wasnít at the concert must have been at wrestling because the place was packed (capacity, which was 9,000 at the time)! Besides the Ladd/Baker angle, they had also worked a real hokey angle between the Legionnaires and Moose from Chicago TV where Don Fargo broke a 2 X 4 over Moose head (reportedly a shoot). Bruiser and Moose won the main (natch!) and Ladd went on to get DQíd against Ox, setting up a semi main for the next card. This show was the last appearance as well of Kim Duk.

The next show was back at MSA, and about 12,000 turned out to see Bruiser and the Sheik in a cage match, and the Legion stop Moose and Snyder. Ladd lost to the Ox in a no DQ match when Johnny Starr hit Ladd three times with the most powder puff shots in wrestling history. When Ladd sold it, the biggest hoot came from the crowd Iíve ever heard. Fortunately, the camera angle was kind on the TV broadcast, as it was out of position. The Legion survived a rematch with Moose and Snyder, but lost a 6 man tag, teaming with Ox Baker, to face Bruiser, Gomez and Bruno Sammartino, in a match that saw Pepper pop his knee cap out.

There had been some rumble backstage (I was on the ring crew during that period) about how well Fargo and Goulet hadnít gotten along, and it came to a head one night in (reportedly) Elkhart, Indiana (where the Legion had been drawing solid houses, no less). One story had Fargo running his van into Gouletís car, and Goulet trashing Don, one had the blowup in the ring (Goulet had taped the ornaments back on the faceplate of his belt to give some weight to that) and still another had to with an incident that canít be legally talked about (sorry!). At any rate, the March 15 show was the last time Fargo was seen in Indianapolis. The promos for the April 19 show had Fargo and Goulet together, and a little blurb was added that the debut of Soldier LeBeouf would take place that night. So imagine the surprise when this husky, muscular blond comes out in Fargoís place to take on Moose and Ellis. To get them over, they worked a hasty angle where Ellis came into the ring with a bad knee, and the Legion took advantage of it. Moose and Ellis lost the first fall on DQ, and Ellis sold for the second fall before submitting to a double leglock. Later, they concocted a story on TV of how Fargo was dismissed for "lying" and LeBeouf was brought in to take his place. The one thing about LeBeouf was that he was legit French, French-Canadian anyway. He spoke French fluently, as this was his main language, and it did give an air of authenticity to his character. Also, he was more of an unknown. He actually worked out of the Montreal booking office, but was someone I wasnít familiar with (he later went on to greater fame as one of the Lumberjacks in the WWF).

Nevertheless, by this time the houses were starting to drop (at least in Indianapolis, and Iíve often wondered if the Ladd chairshots helped things along, the crowds werenít comprised of "smarks" in those days of kayfabe )so Dick did what he always did when that problem arose, he brought in Crusher. Anyone who had visions of grandeur about another Blackjack/Bruiser-Crusher would be disappointed, as Dick and Reg were a bit "past it" by that point, and Goulet and LeBeouf were no Lanza and Mulligan. Still, it had its effect, and houses came up by about 2,000 heads. Goulet and LeBeouf lost the first encounter with 2 straight falls on a DQ, and in an angle straight out of 1972 (the players then were Raschke and the Blackjacks, same exact finish), lost the no DQ rematch when Ox hit Bruiser over the head with a plastic chair, giving Goulet the win. This triggered off a feud between Ox and Bruiser, before Bruiser and Crusher resumed with the Legionnaires. First,on August 30th, B&C won a hooded Algerian Death Match when they tore off their hoods and beat the crap out of the Legion, then they won a Gestapo Death Match when Johnny Starr waved the flag before Dick and Reg tossed him into the 3rd row of seats (up until this point, Starr had only seconded the Legion sporadically).

For the October 18th show, Saul Weingeroff was brought in to manage the Legion on what was to be the final run of his 40+ year career. With Saul at the helm, a legitimate effort was made to rebuild the Legion, and make them look stronger in the eyes of the fans. On the road it was hit and miss, however. Terre Haute and Champaign were drawing respectable houses (and usually rioted when Saul interferred) but shows like Muncie and Lapel, for example, drew poorly. (A feud between Saul and Sam was built on, but both of them at that point were past their prime, and so little came of it.) On the November 29th show, the Legionnaires left Bruiser and Crusher laid out when Saul hit them with his briefcase, and the Legion were disqualified. The return saw B&C disqualified, and the Legionnaires still looking dominate. The final encounter was on December 26th,with 7,000 in attendance. Ox and Chuck OíConnor interfered, and the Legion and Saul left over the top of the cage. Bruiser and Crusher were declared the winners, but the feud was never really settled. I donít know if there were more plans to continue the angle, but the Legion made one last appearance on January 17,1976, and lost via DQ to Art Thomas and Moose Cholak. Goulet moved on to Georgia and the Mid Atlantic region, LeBeouf went on to become a Yukon Lumberjack as mentioned, as well as doing the Russian Stomper gimmick for Gulas and Bruiser.Saul retired and went back into sign painting and working as a sheriffís deputy, as well as training hopefuls in the grappling art.

To give you an idea of the booking for that time period, hereís an itinerary for November 1975:

1st - Amphitheatre, Chicago
5th - Muncie, IN
6th - Wabash, IN
7th - Kokomo, IN
8th - Expo Center, IN.
12th - Elwood, IN
13th - Ft. Wayne, IN
14th - Danville, IL
15th - Champaign, IL
19th - Muncie, IN (drew maybe 100-150)
20th - Richmond, IN
21st - Terre Haute, IN
26th - Delphi, IN
29th - Expo Center, IN.

As the reader can see, not a lot of opportunity to make money. Terre Haute usually drew approximately 500-700 people every show. It was a small, hot crowd, with always good atmosphere, but you couldnít get rich there.

NEXT MONTH:

More random notes, looking at Johnny Starr, Lou Thesz, Pepper Gomez and Ox BakerÖ oh yeah, and the return of the Valiant Brothers.

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