Baron Von Raschke Page 2

The Baron left Montreal and wrestled a few matches for the Sheik in Detroit and for Sam Muchnick in St Louis. While in St Louis, Von Raschke was fortunate to battle former NWA champion Pat O'Connor. During their match, O'Connor instructed the Baron to use the brain claw. This marked the first time Baron Von Raschke ever used the claw hold.

The next stop for Baron Von Raschke was the Dallas Texas territory promoted by Fritz Von Erich. Raschke feuded with Von Erich in a battle of the Germans. The Baron also teamed with another young wrestler destined for stardom, Dusty Rhodes, to win the American tag team titles in the summer of 1969. Von Raschke did not use the claw hold during his stay in Texas but did receive permission from Fritz Von Erich to use the claw hold as his finishing maneuver once he left Texas.

In early 1970, Baron Von Raschke made his debut for Dick the Bruiser's Indianapolis, Indiana based World Wrestling Association. The Baron received a huge push upon his arrival capturing the WWA heavyweight title from Dick the Bruiser on March 7th, 1970 in only his second month in the promotion. Von Raschke took on "Pretty Boy" Bobby Heenan as his manager and was booked as the top heel in the WWA. As the Baron's reign of terror continued in Indianapolis, the brain claw became the most feared hold in the promotion.

Bruiser really played up the fact Von Raschke was a German nazi. The Baron would goose step and speak in a German accent during his interviews. It became a rallying cry that an American hero was needed to stop the hated German superstar. Many of the WWA's most popular stars including Yukon Moose Cholak, Wilbur Snyder, Paul Christy and Sailor Art Thomas tried to defeat Von Raschke but were unsuccessful.

Eventually, Dick the Bruiser took it upon himself to beat Baron Von Raschke. The bouts between Bruiser and the Baron often ended in count-outs or double disqualifications. Special matches were signed between the two adversaries where there would be a conclusive winner. On October 14th, 1971, Bruiser defeated Von Raschke in a steel cage match to regain the WWA title. Bruiser and Von Raschke continued their war throughout the Midwest taking it to towns such as St Louis, Detroit and Chicago. With the help of his manager Bobby Heenan, Von Raschke regained the WWA title from the Bruiser on November 29th, 1971 in Indianapolis. The Baron was a well-known star throughout the country by this point. This mega-feud with Bruiser had put him on the map.

Von Raschke continued to dominate the WWA for the next several months. He did drop the WWA title twice in that period of time. The Baron lost the belt to Sailor Art Thomas in Detroit but regained it shortly thereafter. Billy Red Cloud also scored a title victory over Von Raschke only to see the hated Baron win it right back a few months later.

The Baron finally met his match on March 31st, 1973 when Cowboy Bob Ellis defeated him for the WWA title. Instead of trying to regain the strap, Von Raschke formed a tag team with another Heenan stablemate, Ernie "The Big Cat" Ladd. Raschke and Ladd defeated Bruiser and Crusher to win the WWA tag team titles. Baron and Ernie held the belts a few months before dropping them to Bruiser and Bruno Sammartino. Baron Von Raschke had accomplished all he could in the WWA. It was time to move on to another promotion.

The Baron toured the United States for the rest of 1973 even having three matches against Bruno Sammartino in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania before returning to Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association in early 1974. Von Raschke was immediately paired with German superstar Horst Hoffman as a heel tag team. Hoffman was a huge star in Europe and was brought to the AWA to not only team with the Baron but to feud with British legend Billy Robinson.

The biggest feud Hoffman and Von Raschke had in the AWA was against the team of Superstar Billy Graham and Dusty Rhodes. Horst and the Baron were using the loaded black glove gimmick at the time and used their gloves to score many victories over Rhodes and Graham early in this feud. Dusty and the Superstar did triumph in the final matches of the feud around the AWA circuit though. Horst Hoffman left the AWA once the feud was over.

With his partner Hoffman returning to Europe, Baron Von Raschke resumed his singles career in the AWA. The Baron also found time to team with his old friend Mad Dog Vachon. Von Raschke was also developing his interview skills. He would tell the fans during his promos about how devastating the claw hold was and how he loved to squeeze blood out his opponent's skull. These types of interviews would become Raschke's specialty for years to come.

In the summer of 1977, Baron Von Raschke left the AWA to work for Jim Crockett's Mid Atlantic wrestling promotion based in the Carolinas and Virginia. Von Raschke was an immediate success capturing the Mid Atlantic Television title from Rick Steamboat on October 12th, 1977 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Paul Jones issued a challenge to the Baron for the television title. Von Raschke accepted the challenge with one stipulation that the Baron and Greg Valentine receive a title shot at NWA tag team champions Jones and Rick Steamboat on the same night as the television title match. That night June 7th, 1978, saw Von Raschke lose the television title to Paul Jones. However the Baron gained revenge as he and Greg Valentine defeated Jones and Steamboat for the NWA tag team titles. Von Raschke and Valentine held the tag straps for nearly six months before losing them to Paul Orndorff and Jimmy Snuka.

The Baron's adversary, Paul Jones, had turned on partner Rick Steamboat. As a result, Jones and Von Raschke formed a tag team. The tag team was an immediate success as Baron and Paul defeated Snuka and Orndorff on April 28th, 1979 to capture the NWA tag team titles. Von Raschke and Jones were an effective tag team combining their skills to make a nearly unbeatable unit. Ric Flair and Blackjack Mulligan beat Paul and the Baron for the tag straps on August 8th, 1979 but Jones and Raschke regained the belts two weeks later. Paul and Baron would hold the NWA tag team titles for two more months before losing them to Rick Steamboat and his new partner Jay Youngblood. Von Raschke competed in Mid Atlantic wrestling for several more months even turning face after a disagreement with Paul Jones. The Baron had done all he could for Jim Crockett Promotions. It was time to move on.

Von Raschke's next stop was Georgia Championship Wrestling. The Baron immediately started feuding with Tommy Rich over the television title establishing himself as a hated heel in the territory. Von Raschke's greatest success in Georgia came on June 8th, 1980 when he defeated Austin Idol to win the Georgia heavyweight championship. The Baron held the belt for two months before losing it to Steve Keirn. Von Raschke worked in Georgia a few more months then returned to the Mid Atlantic area to settle a few old scores. Suddenly word came from the Midwest that Baron's longtime friend, Mad Dog Vachon, had been injured by Jerry Blackwell and Big John Studd. Von Raschke took the next plane to the Midwest so he could help Mad Dog and The Crusher exact some revenge.

The Baron immediately began feuding with Studd and Blackwell upon his return to the AWA. Von Raschke along with the Crusher and Mad Dog Vachon emerged victorious in their battles with Studd and Blackwell eventually driving John Studd out of the AWA. When Blackwell aligned himself with Sheik Adnan El Kaissee, the Baron continued to team with Crusher and Mad Dog against the hated villians.

Von Raschke did receive a few title shots against AWA champ Nick Bockwinkel but came up just short of winning the world heavyweight title. The AWA fans loved the Baron making him one of the AWA's most popular wrestlers. Von Raschke also became one of the best interviews in professional wrestling constantly talking about the effectiveness of the claw hold.

After Blackwell and his new partner Ken Patera captured the AWA tag team titles from Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell, the Baron focused all his attention on winning the AWA tag titles with either Mad Dog or the Crusher. The trio of Raschke, Vachon and Crusher slowly wore down the champions until they were ripe for the picking. Finally, on May 6th, 1984 in Green Bay Wisconsin, The Crusher and Baron Von Raschke defeated Jerry Blackwell and Ken Patera for the AWA tag team titles. Crusher and Baron held the straps for over three months before dropping the belts to the Road Warriors on August 25th, 1984 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Baron continued to wrestle in the AWA for several more months before moving on to the NWA for Jim Crockett Promotions. Von Raschke replaced Krusher Khrushchev as an ally of Ivan and Nikita Koloff. Together the Baron and the Russians reigned as NWA six man champions until losing the title to Dusty Rhodes and the Road Warriors on May 17th, 1986 in Baltimore, Maryland.

By 1987, Baron Von Raschke was starting to wind down his illustrious career. He began taking less matches so he could spend more time with his wife. The Baron even managed the Warlord and the Barbarian for a short time in the WWF. When the WWF didn't work out, Von Raschke returned to the AWA working an occasional match here and there. One of the Baron's final pushes was captaining a team called Baron's Blitzers in the AWA team challenge series. When the AWA folded in 1991, Von Raschke only wrestled once in awhile on independent shows in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

These days, James Raschke and his wife live about 200 miles north of Minneapolis, Minnesota and own a gift-souvenir-lawn ornament shop that is open during the spring and summer months. When the shop is closed during the cold months, James Raschke works as a substitute teacher.

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