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 - Jim Zordani

James Raschke was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1940. Raschke played football and wrestled at Omaha North high school, where he won the 1958 Nebraska state heavyweight wrestling championship as a high school senior. He was widely recruited by several colleges before settling on the University of Nebraska. Raschke was a two-time All-American wrestler capturing the Big Eight conference heavyweight championship in 1962. He won the bronze medal at the 1963 World games becoming only the second American wrestler to place in Greco-Roman wrestling. James qualified for the 1964 Olympic team but was injured three days before he was to leave for the Olympics, causing him to miss the event.

After a stint in the Army, James landed a teaching job in Omaha Nebraska. He had aspirations of becoming a professional wrestler and contacted Omaha promoter Joe Dusek, who introduced James to AWA boss Verne Gagne. Gagne told Raschke to move to Minnesota so he could begin training. While training, Raschke found employment as a substitute teacher, while also helping set up the wrestling ring before the matches and doing some refereeing.

The first match of Raschke's career took place on September 16th, 1966 against Johnny Kace. James wrestled two more times before being told by Verne Gagne that he wasn't ready to wrestle full time and needed more training. Raschke resumed his refereeing duties and his training in the gym. Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon had befriended James taking him under his wing. Vachon told Raschke he looked like a German and needed a German gimmick. Mad Dog jokingly suggested Baron Von Pumpkin. They finally settled on the name Baron Von Raschke.  

Mad Dog invited James to Montreal so they could team together. Baron and Mad Dog started tagging together but before their team could gel, Mad Dog was injured in an automobile accident. Hans Schmidt took Vachon's place as Von Raschke's tag team partner. The Baron captured his first singles title of his career in Montreal defeating Eduardo Carpentier for the IWA championship on November 27th 1967. Von Raschke held the belt for a few weeks before losing the strap to Johnny Rougeau.  More...


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