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WCW Classics


Guest columnist: Erick Stragand


ESPN Wrestling Classics

Another random recap of "Wrestling Classics", available in the wee hours of the morning at 5am MST on ESPN Classic. This particular episode was shown on 02-02-02 (it's worth a deuce!). So let's get up, and get our grandmas outta' here.

This week features some old school NWA action from Chicago's Marigold Arena. I haven't seen too much stuff from this era, so don't get grumpy if I fail to do justice to certain wrestlers. I don't know much about these characters and the backstory, but the nice blokes over at are there to help you out. My guess on the timeframe is around 1962 or so. The ring announcer welcomes us to tonight's festivities, then introduces the timekeeper, ring attendants, referee and any other notables at ringside. The entire fourth row is filled with sailors on shore leave.

Match 1- Moose Cholak vs. Fred Atkins
Yup, Moose Cholak of "Weird World of Wrestling" fame. How the heek Moose got from the locker room to the ring, while wearing that enormous headpiece, is a feat in itself. I could understand a set of antlers, or a moose hide...but this headpiece is about the size of Abdullah the Butcher. Just to hammer home the point that his name is "Moose", he's announced as hailing from "Moosehead, Maine". Fred Atkins, on the other hand is announced from Syndey, Australia. Sadly, no boomerang or ANZAC hat for Fred. Before the pair lock up, Moose bellows and poses for everyone. "Mooooooo!. Think of the vocal stylings of Iron Mike Sharpe, and you'd be in the neighborhood. Collar and elbow tie-up, then Moose pounds on Atkins. Atkins drops down and gets a few shots to the Moose breadbasket. Moose then signals for the greco-roman knucklelock challenge, which lasts a bit. Atkins runs the knucklelock around, but Moose breaks, punches, then attempts a bearhug. Both guys grapple into the corner, then Moose hops out and bellows to the crowd, again. After listening to Moose's ivory tones, it's a wonder they didn't name him Bovine Cholak, or Cattle Cholak. Atkins and Moose stalk around, and Moose misses a leg takedown. Commercial break, and when we come back both guys are locking up, again. Atkins is mosse-rushed into the corner, but is able to fight off Moose and work the armlock. They brawl and lock up a few more times and Atkins hits a headstomp. Another lock-up sequence and this time, Moose connects with his leg takedown. Atkins smacks the Moose eyes, then bounces off the ropes. Moose hits him with a hard shoulderblock, then lands a body press/splash to get the 3 count pin. Mooooo! Announced time was 6:34

Ringside Interiew: Crusher Lisowski
Crusher sounds like a cross between Popeye and Bad News Brown, which immediately endears him to me. Play by play man George Bernard (SP?) asks Crusher if, perhaps, his rulebreaking tactics have cost him a title shot at the upcoming Comiskey park show. Crusher objects, saying that he follows the Golden Crusher Rule: "Do it to 'dem, before 'dey do unto you". Furthermore, Crusher doesn't need no bum for a manager. He's also after that bum, Buddy Rogers. At Comiskey, there will be nothing but a blonde head sticking out of homeplate, for the players to tee off on. Crusher then mentions that if he wasn't a rassler, he'd be "gettin' in fights in alleys and bars with bums". For job security, Crusher then refuses to elaborate on his conditioning program for all the bums out there.

Match 2- Angelo Poffo vs. Jose Betancourt
Okay, I know a little bit about these guys...this is Macho Man's dad, all decked out in some spiffy Killer Bee-ish trunks. Angelo is from Downer's Grove, Illinois and Betancourt is annonced from Puerto Rico. Poffo starts off by sneaking behind and working the hammerlock. He works Jose to the mat where they twist around with amatuer moves. Back up, Poffo kicks Jose's arm and sends him to the corner. Poffo tries the hammerlock again, but Jose snapsmares him over. Poffo then takes Jose to the mat to apply a headlock. Jose counters with a head scissors, but Poffo wiggles out. Jose with a quick underhook roll-up for two. Jose then works on Poffo's leg with a nifty hold. The announcer mentions that Jose was the Rookie of the Year in 1960, according to "Wrestling Life". More matwork, with both guys working on the other's stomach. Almost a 69-type position. Seems offensive, but nothing you wouldn't see at your average high school wrestling meet. Announcer also mentions that Poffo set a Navy record of 6,333 sit-ups. Which is only 6,313 more than I do each week. More armbars and punching until Poffo whips Jose to the corner, three times. Poffo grabs Jose and hits a neckbreaker (or, for us young'uns, we'd recognize it as the "Rude Awakening") for the pin.

Ringside interview: The Sicillians
We're not told their individual names, but from what I gather, one of them is named "Tony". (Perhaps one of them was a very young Lou Albano? - CRZ) They have a Sicilian mobster gimmick going, complete with the suits and fedoras. They're here to take out the Fabulous Kangaroos and take the titles back to where they belong- Sicily.

Match 3- "Seaman" Art Thomas vs. Mighty Atlas
I guess this is before Thomas got promoted to the rank of "Sailor". Both guys are signing autographs in the ring as they are introduced. We're told that Thomas has been tagging successfully with Big Daddy Siki. Ummm? Atlas is mentioned as wrestling's strongest doubt inspiring a young Dino Bravo to later fame and fortune. Atlas rather ordinary, but Thomas towers over him at 6' 4". Collar to elbow tie-up starts and Thomas hiptosses Atlas across the ring. Another lockup, and this time Atlas bails to the apron and argues with fans. Atlas comes back in and works the headlock. Thomas shoves him off, but Atlas cinches the headlock, again. Atlas grabs some of Thomas's hair for a better grip. Thomas shoves him off, this time sending Atlas out of the ring, to the floor. Merriment resumes with a knucklelock, which Atlas twists into an armbar. Thomas powers out, throws Atlas to the ropes and locks in a full nelson. Atlas is miffed at someone stealing HIS finisher, so he wiggles free and applies the full nelson to Thomas. Atlas has the hold locked in, but Thomas's foot pushes off the turnbuckle, allowing him to fall back and pin Atlas's shoulders for the 3 count. Announced time was 4:48

Wrestler's Sound-off: Angelo Poffo
Semi-famous interview that was used in one of the many wrestling TV documentaries, circa 1999 or so. Bernard introduces Poffo as Bronko Lubich.

Match 4- Crusher Lisowski vs. Karl Engstram
I'm pretty sure this Crusher is NOT the one who fought Buggs Bunny, but don't quote me on that. Crusher works the headlock, but Engstram counters with 3 hiptosses. Crusher works on Engstram's neck and forces him to the mat. Engstram gets two kneelifts, sends Crusher to the ropes for a forearm shot and gets a two count. Mat sequence until Engstram kicks Crusher in da' noggin. Crusher goes back to the headlock, forces Engstram to the ropes, then chokes him with the ropes. Snapmares Engstram over, stomps the eyes and the tummy, then kicks him in the head-bone. More mat work for the next few minutes.Engstram hits two shoulderblocks after sending Crusher to the ropes. Crusher pounds away, but Engstram works him into the corner for the football battering ram move. Crusher tosses Engstram through the ropes to the floor. Engstram barely avoids the countout and is welcomed back with a series of kicks from the Crusher. Crusher is then disqualified for kicking below the belt. That ref...whatta bum!

Ringside interview: "Seaman" Art Thomas
Thomas is in a jovial mood and agrees with everything he is asked. When wrestling a heel, Thomas offers the following advice: "Be alert, watch ya'sef and keep ya mind alert so ya don't get in a trap". Simple, but I plan on making this my motto for the next week. Seriously. Drop by office, this week, if you doubt me

Ringside interview: Angelo Poffo
Poffo mentions that he's been chasing the World Champion, Nature Boy Buddy Rogers, all over the country. Becoming the champ is Poffo's "ulterior, superior and every kind of motive". Interviewer George Bernard suggests Poffo may want to put up some bond money to secure a title match. Now that's an angle I've haven't heard for a long time. Poffo's time is then interrupted by Karl Engstram. Engstram is about as intimidating as Papa Smurf. He wants to know why Poffo prefers the roughouse style of wrestling over the more scientific style. Poffo slaps him, then walks off. Engstram finishes out the interview time with all the intensity of Bob Ross.

Why'd you tape this??

The Crusher is now my favorite old timey rassler. I've rarely seen any footage from this era, and this wasn't as bad as I had thought. I'm usually prejudiced towards ANYTHING in black and white. Even old b/w football and baseball clips turn me off. But this hour was fairly entertaining. I'm just bummed that the Fabulous Kangaroos didn't make an appearance. Interesting to look back and see how much the ringwork has changed, and how much of it is still the same. They throw in a lot of actual WRESTLING.... which I haven't seen since 1983, when my big brother won his ninth grade wrestling meet and, subsequently, bought me a milkshake. (Not sure how that ties in). This show's worth catching, but not sure if you'd want to tape it...ya bum. Feedback, corrections and suggestions are always encouraged.

Erick Stragand

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