WWA-Indianapolis #5 Page #2
Crusher and Ox had an excellent bout. Of course, with these two you knew it wasn’t going to be a bump fest, but it ended when their respective partners entered the fray, causing a double dQ. 4,100 filled the seats at the Expo Center. I might add that at this time you had an undercard that comprised of: Jackie Ruffin, Tom DeMarco, Ferdinand La Pantera, Rodeo Jones, Cowboy Bob Kelly, Emilio Zapata, Chi Chi Rodriguez, and Gino Martino, amongst other all time greats. There were too many squash matches for TV to draw serious money.
There were no Indianapolis shows in April, but a hub of activity going on in the region. Hammond was intent on building interest in a Bruiser and Crusher/Ox and O’Connor main event for the AWA tag titles at the Amphitheatre in Chicago, and fed Ox and O’Connor teams like Moose and Snyder, and Moose and Christy. Bob Luce, in his typical laid back hyperbole, dubbed them the "Blood Quota Gang" (I swear its true!). Pepper Gomez and the Strangler had been headlining Terre Haute cards, and Pepper also gained a double count out decision against Paul Christy in a rare babyface match there to retain his title. Terre Haute continued to be a small but solid draw, no matter what they put in the ring there. One fellow foisted on them was named the Golden Viking, who was a big, rough-looking, pre-WWF Berserker prototype, who reportedly did great in the gym. Only problem was, he froze like stone when he got in the ring in front of a crowd. Moose got the unenviable job of trying to carry this stiff, even selling his "brass knuckle" shots to the head and getting very obvious juice (I saw the blade from the back of the building) in a match that lasted only a few minutes. They had a rematch 2 weeks later, and by that time all hope was given up on this "Viking", and Moose squashed him in a bout 3 minutes.
The May 1st Market Square Arena show (Dick usually didn’t run at all in Indy in May because of the Indy 500) saw Bruiser and Crusher take the belts back away from Ox and O’Connor in a cage match where the loser of the fall left town. O’Connor went down as he had in the past to try and get juice to little avail. Whether he zipped himself too deep going to the cage, or if he just potatoed himself on the wire, when he fell backwards, blood just started spurting from an artery in his head. O’Connor was a big man, but he was covered in blood. All of us at ringside had splatters on us, as well as the time keeper, Sam Menacker, the "doctor", and other seconds. Finally, O’Connor was pinned and Reg and Dick reclaimed the straps. The undercard saw (to n oone’s surprise) Strangler (Guy Mitchell) take the WWA title from Pepper Gomez with a loaded headbutt. Art Thomas won a 16-man battle royal, but lost in an earlier encounter with AWA champ Nick Bockwinkle, who defended his newly crafted "big license plate". Fans didn’t truly know what to think of Nick at first, but he methodically won them over; ie: got heat from the crowd. He beat Thomas with a piledriver in the middle of the ring, right in front of the referee. This is noteworthy because the piledriver was a no-no in Indiana, and angles had been worked around that rule. I guess since this was a sanctioned AWA title defense, the piledriver rule was waived? This show also saw the debut of Jimmy Kent’s Bounty Hunters, who beat Steve Regal and Bobby Bold Eagle (Bob Boyer). 81,000 was listed as the attendance. Somehow, I think that was a typo, but you never know…
June 12th saw Andre the Giant return to team with the Bruiser against Ox and Karl Krupp that went to a double DQ. Strangler stopped Bill Miller in his first Indianapolis WWA defense. (He defended it the week after he won it in Terre Haute against former champ Gomez. They had been booked to work each other on that show, but Gomez was billed as champ, and Strangler challenger. By match time the roles had reversed.) The Bounty Hunters stopped Paul Christy and Dom DeNucci, who made his debut.
June 25th saw the Ali-Inoki "Farcial Arts" match from Tokyo on closed circuit. This didn’t draw very well in Indianapolis, as I think the hefty (for the time) price tag of $15 discouraged many fans. One newspaper account listed the throng it at nearly 5,000, but a friend who went didn’t list it more that a couple of thousand. He called me from the show, and it was dead quiet in the background. Besides having Bruiser and Crusher defending the AWA titles against Blackjack Lanza and Bobby Duncum from a packed Amphitheatre, there were four live bouts, with Snyder going through with the Strangler in a non title match, Ox and Krupp beating Thomas and Gomez, the Bounty Hunters stopping Christy and Spike Huber, and Johnny Starr getting a draw against Steve Regal.
Back to normal wrestling on July 10, Bruiser and Crusher defended the WWA belts, getting a double count out with Ox and Krupp, the Strangler beating Gomez, and the Bounty Hunters stopping Wilbur Snyder and his son in law, Steve Regal. Attendance 4,100. The July 31st card had Bruiser and Crusher successfully defending the belts against Ox and Krupp in a 2/3 falls match. For one night they returned to the 2/3 falls format, but didn’t tell the ring announcer. So when B&C won the first fall, ring announcer Bob Beach declared that Reg and Dick had won the match. Dick had to explain that it was a 2/3 fall bout, which looked REALLY stupid. Ox and Krupp took the second fall with a wrench to Crusher’s head, but he came back to score the 3rd over Krupp. After the match, Starr and Ox put the boots to Krupp, and he wasn’t seen around here after that. The Strangler won 2/3 falls over Snyder. In the first, Snyder took the fall with the abdominal stretch. He lost the second from a loaded Strangler headbutt. Before the 3rd, Pepper Gomez came to Snyder’s aid and attacked the Strangler, taking away his gimmick, and then putting the sleeper on Strangler and refused to let go. He finally had to be pried off of the Strangler, but Snyder lost the fall. 5,100 was listed as the attendance. The August 14th show saw the Bounty Hunters take the WWA belts from Bruiser and Crusher when Jimmy Kent came off on to the Bruiser’s head while the ref was distracted. Before the bout, Starr, Strangler and Ox came to the ring and challenged Bruiser and Crusher on the next show, putting a nifty swerve on the outcome. Gomez won a Mexican Strap Match over the Strangler. The September 4th show saw the Bounty Hunters win 2/3 falls when Crusher was hit with a boot in the 3rd fall. Bruiser lost the first fall on a count out in this "no DQ" match. The Strangler won over Art Thomas in a WWA title defense.
The October 9th show had an interesting turn of events. Ox and Gomez were matched in a "wrestler’s choice" match, where the only one of them could win is by a finish specified by the wrestler. Ox chose the heart punch, and Pepper the sleeper. Somewhere along the line, the Strangler interfered, and Ox pinned Gomez. So much for the choice. After the match, Starr and Strangler put the boots to Gomez, and after several attempts on Ox’s part to stop them, they attacked Ox! With them finally leaving, Ox got to his feet and helped Pepper back to the dressing room. During the main event, Bruiser taking on the Strangler for the title, Gomez was slated to second Bruiser to keep Starr from interfering. With Pepper "hurt", Dick was on his own. During the match, Starr and Strangler ganged up on Dick getting Strangler DQ’d, when out from the dressing room came the Ox! The place erupted. Ox was soon to find his niche as a babyface. Also on the card that attracted 5,100, the Bounty Hunters stopped Bill Miller and Wilbur Snyder when one of the Hunters came off the top rope with one of Jim Kent’s boots to Miller, and pinned him. The October 23rd show saw Bruiser and Crusher trying to regain their titles again with Jimmy Kent handcuffed to Ox. The match was as usual, a riot, with Bruiser and Crusher getting them selves DQ’d. Ox made his debut as a babyface against one of the Bounty Hunters in an earlier match, and was over like crazy. Ox quickly showed that he was a graduate of the Dick the Bruiser school of selling, however, and became impervious to anything. Nevertheless, he was far superior as a good guy than he was a bad guy, and the fans loved him. Also, Pepper Gomez made his last appearance, losing, once again, to the Strangler in a $2,000 versus the mask title match. Strangler also won the 18-man battle royal before 6,000 fans. The November 6th show saw Bruiser and Crusher finally beating the Bounty Hunters in a non-title "Saloon" (Lumberjack) match. Wilbur Snyder gained a DQ victory over the Strangler before 6,100 fans. The annual Thanksgiving show saw Bruiser beat the Strangler by DQ, with Ox Baker as the ref. During the match, Strangler and Starr attacked the Ox, bloodying him. Starr and Strangler also were busted open, with Dick tearing half of the Strangler’s hood off, and taking his foreign object out of it. The Bounty Hunters beat Ox and Art Thomas when Thomas was tripped as he had one of the Hunters in a bearhug, who fell on him for the pin.
The December 11th show featured two specials: the teaming of long time foes Bruiser and Ox, to take on the Bounty Hunters, and the return of the Sheik. The Sheik stormed in and burned Paul Christy in a US title match, and had to be stopped by Bruiser from attacking an injured Christy after the match. The Strangler stopped Bill Miller in defense of his title, and the Bounty Hunters won over Bruiser and Ox, when the Sheik came down as Bruiser had one of the Hunters on the ropes and hit Dick in the head with a billy club. Dick had a nice goose egg for his trouble. This, of course, was to help set the stage for another Bruiser-Sheik feud. The December 27th Christmas show featured Bruiser and Sam Menacker against the Sheik and Eddie Creatchman. They had pushed a small feud with Creatchman and Sam that had started years back, and came up with this main to try and build heat for the aforementioned Bruiser-Sheik showdown. It was a pretty flat match,however. Sheik’s shtick was to avoid contact with the Bruiser, so all he did was run, and what could Sam and Creatchman do? You get the idea. Finally, by some quirk of fate, Sam was left in the ring with the Sheik while Bruiser went after Creatchman. Sheik used his gimmick on Sam’s ear, and Sam got color. The ref looked at Menacker’s condition and determined that he could no longer continue, and awarded the match to Sheik and Creatchman. It was a very flat finish, so flat that the injury looked legit. Sam was selling like he couldn’t walk due to his equilibrium being compromised. One of the early "shoot" finishes, perhaps. There was a real air of concern for Sam from the throng in attendance, nothing like today’s crowds who could care less if the performers get hurt or not, and it generated legit heat on the Sheik to help set up a revenge match with the Bruiser. The Bounty Hunters went to a double DQ with Snyder and Bobo Brazil in a strange finish. All four men were in the ring at the same time and the ref stopped the match saying it was out of control. There had been matches that had gone far more excessive than this and continued, so it was a very unsatisfying finish for the crowd. Ox also got a shot at his old belt, but was DQ’d as well against the Strangler. Up in Ft. Wayne, about a week after, Bruiser and Ox wrestled a match against Strangler and Sheik, with the Sheik throwing fire on Bruiser while he had a claw hold on the Strangler, setting off the Bruiser-Sheik angle in that area as well. There were a lot of changes in store for 1977,which was good. As you can clearly see, 1976 hadn’t been a banner year for WWA wrestling.
I couldn’t do any column on Indianapolis/WWA wrestling without a word about our line-up programs, which have to rate as the cruddiest and most gut wretchingly funny ever done. What we were stuck with were Bob Luce’s Chicago mat posters with an insert sheet of the lineup. Now, when Bob did the inserts, they usually had some cock-ups but were at least readable. In 1975, Bob stopped doing them, and SOMEONE else (I think the little program seller, Shorty Gathier) started doing the insert sheets. They were and remain, timeless classics. (I might add, anyone who’s seen any of Luce’s mat posters know how nowhere THOSE things were, in and of them selves. Excerpts of Wrestling Life articles from the 50’s, and photos from the same era. Seldom ANYTHING on the current wrestling scene. The only thing they did was show you how badly some of the top AWA-WWA stars were aging). Without further ado, some of my personal favorites:
(from the February 12,1977 lineup)
THAT INSANE, WILD, MADMAN, THE MAD SHEIK MANAGED BY E.CREECHMAN
THE WORLDS MOST FEARED WRESTLER, THAT BAR ROOM BRAULINY(?) DICK THE BRUISER
(from the March 4th,1978 lineup)
TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH
THE CHAMPIONS WITH THIER MANAGER MAJOR DUKE GEORGE THE LUNATIC
THESE ARE CAVE MEN OF THE MOST VISCIOUS KILLER TYPE LIVING
THE HANDSOME JIMMY AND LUSCIOUS JOHN VALIANT -BRUITAL KILLERS
TWO OF THE MOST FABULOUS AND DYNAMIC WRESTLERS OF THE RING TODAY
THAT OUT STANDING BIG AND POWERFULL GENTLEMAN BRUNNO SAMMARTINO
WITH THE WORLDS MOST SCIENTIFIC AND CLEANEST WRESTLER TODAY
THE WRESTLING FANS HERO AND A GENTLEMAN THE GREAT WILBER SNYDER
FROM PARTS UNKNOWN THE UNKNOWN MASKED STRANGLER
THAT YOUNG CROWD PLEASER GOLDIN BOY PAUL CHRISTY
(from the April 30th,1977,a personal favorite)
THE MATCH OF BIG MEAT
(400) LB FORMER U.S. OLYMPIC CHAMPION BIG CHRIS TAYLOR
FROM RUSSIA THE MAD MEAN INHUMAN VICIOUS EGOR VOLKOFF
THE CROWD PLEASING SPIKE HUBER
THAT NEW NAME KRAUSER
This WWA report will be my last one (at least for a while) due to some personal commitments. I’ve really enjoyed doing it, and I wanted to thank Vince for the opportunity. Thanks also to all who have written me with stories, requests and suggestions. I hope you all will continue to read and support this board, as pro wrestling has a rich an interesting history, no matter what territory or era.
Bye for now,
Chris Parsons (Mike DuPree)
KM Ed. Note: we'd like to thank Chris for his assistance with the WWA and for providing us with some great information on this promotion/territory. We're sorry to see him go, but wish him luck and an open door if he finds the opportunity to return.
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