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Author: Subject: Weird World of Wrestling
Flash
The Immortal One






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posted on 8-9-2019 at 07:05 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
Weird World of Wrestling

So if anyone has every checked out any of my movie reviews, or the old retro rewind thread I had going for a while there as I worked my way year by year through the WWE it's probably somewhat apparent that I like to write from time to time... if the main site were still active I'd probably have bother The Rick by now to contribute some kind of semi regular piece. In the absence of that I think doing this as a thread probably works... the Retro section doesn't tend to get a lot of eyes, but I also don't know if this really fits into the current given the historical vibe that I'm envisioning for this thread... But hey, maybe if it sparks any kind of interest perhaps one of our mod power imbued folks could move it.

I digress..

I love history and wrestling; so I've always tried to kind of collect various stories that seem to accumulate in the part sport, part circus business that brings us all to this site... and boy is wrestling full of lots of weird characters and stories which I thought might be fun to highlight. I know there's been some different variations on this theme like Wrestling with Sin blog or even Wrestlecrap at times... I don't think anything I'll be doing here is new ground, but it'll be my take on things at least and I'll try and draw from a few different sources here as I highlight some of the more bizarre characters and chapters from wrestling, or at least those that have some kind of tie to wrestling... The first one I'll try and throw up shortly will be Buford Pusser who was an intriguing character... There's some others like Dr. Sam Sheppard, Dino Bravo, and Rob Zicari that I want to look at... all have ties to wrestling, some more than others, but each has another darker story to tell.

As always if others want to chip in or offer corrections please feel free to, or alternatively want to pitch a name have at it; I'll try and source what I found to take it out of the realm of just rumours.

[Edited on 8-9-2019 by Flash]

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Flash
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posted on 8-11-2019 at 06:22 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
Buford Pusser

Born December 12, 1937 in Adamsville Tennesee, Buford Pusser graduated from highschool in 1954. While he initially signed on with the marines, asthma lead to his discharge and in need of a new career path. So in 1956 he packed up his bags and moved to Chicago initially to study as a mortician before settling into factory work.

Standing 6’6” and weighing in at 250 lbs the giant of aman got involved with wrestling to earn extra money on the weekends. Pusser wrestled from about 1957 to 1961 under the moniker “Buford the Bull”; while I couldn’t find much matching Pusser to any particular wrestling association, I found a few references to Mid South, with the occasional reference to a few matches in Missouri. Given that Pusser lived in Chicago odds are he spent the bulk of his career under Fred Kohler, a one-time founding member of the NWA, and for many decades the biggest name in Chicago wrestling. NWA Chicago boasted such alumni like Dick the Bruiser, Verne Gagne, Angelo Poffo (Macho Man’s dad), and Fritz Von Erich.

While one would imagine if he were more successful in the ring he’d have stayed on, it would seem that most of his matches were lower card opening bouths, although there is one story that gets repeated and it’s that he wrestled, and beat a real grizzly bear in a match.

While in Chicago he met the love of his life Pauline, and the two were soon married and had a child. In 1961 Pusser packed up his family and moved back home to McNairy County, Tennessee. While the movie version of Pusser’s life was still more than a decade off it’s worth mentioning it at this point because like any good wrestler, or legend, his story seems to be equal parts Hollywood fiction and real life blood and guts, so much so that it’s hard to separate what’s real and what makes for the beginnings of a good story;

The story of Pusser and his eventual battle with corruption would seem to start when he was 19 and went to a house of ill repute with some friends where he caught one of the dealers using loaded dice and trying to cheat him out of $300; the fracas is said to have resulted in Pusser being violently beaten and in need of 192 stitches; several weeks later after failing to get the local corrupt police to take up his case he returned with what would later come to be seen as his signature hickory stick, and took his revenge himself busting up dealers and tables alike. This incident, which a 1974 People magazine article calls “indisputable” would seem to be what set him on his path towards policing, as in the fictionalized courtroom scene following his busting up the casino he says to the jury "If you let them do this to me and get away with it, then you're giving them the eternal right to do the same damn thing to any one of you!" The jury then finds him not guilty, and he promptly runs for sheriff.
The only problem with this story would seem to be that other sources put him in Chicago when he was 19, and his own father was the chief of police for the small Adamsville town in which he lived and returned to, and it was at his father’s recommendation that Pusser succeeded him. Now it may be possible that both are true; what we do know is that in 1964 the sheriff of the larger McNairy County died in a car accident (in the movie he died trying to run Pusser off the road) paving away for Pusser to take over as sheriff, an elected position he’d hold until 1970 when term limits would require him to bow out.

What followed during those 6 years as sheriff is the stuff of real life legends.

McNairy County Tennessee sits on the border of Mississippi, and at the time the region was controlled by the State Line Mob, a criminal organization that ran prostitution, gambling dens, moonshine, extortion rackets, gun running, murder for hire, and pretty much any other kind of crime you could name. Violent crime was not uncommon to the area. This is who Buford Pusser declared war on; in 1965 alone for example he destroyed 85 illegal whiskey stills, and at least in the opinion of some, often times violently enforced laws that had been long neglected. Throughout his career it’s been said he’s jailed nearly 7500 criminals. In February of 1966 the first attempt on Pusser’s life happened when a criminal shot him three times, he returned fire and killed one of his would be assailants. Sadly violence wouldn’t be uncommon for the “Bull”, as in the course of his career he was shot a total of 8 times, stabbed 7, and faced numerous would be assaulters. One story has it that he was attacked by 6 men who he fought off; 3 went to jail, the other 3 to the hospital. Another tale has it that on would be killer attempted to run him down, only for Buford to jump on his hood, smash in the window, and bring the car to a stop. Another story has it that a one drunken rocker couldn’t find his car, so he decided to climb up on top of a Cadillac to look around for his own car. Pusser, the Caddy’s owner didn’t take kindly to this; the encounter between the two left the rocker roughed up but with everyone advising him he was lucky to be alive… the rocker? Jimmy Buffett.

The violence with the mob culminated on August 12, 1967 when a late night call to a crime scene took out into the night. His wife Pauline opted to come along with him and along the way the duo were ambushed. A car pulled up next to them and opened fire killing his wife instantly; for his part Pusser was struck 2-3 times in the face at close range by shots from a carbine rifle sending the vehicle crashing. Miraculously Pusser survived spending 18 days in the hospital recovering, and would require 14 separate facial reconstruction surgeries (some say 16). He returned to work vowing revenge on his wife’s killers. While Pusser was ultimately unsuccessful in bringing his wife’s killers to the law, many of the suspected killers met violent deaths of their own falling victim to contract killings. Rumours have it that Pusser himself may have contracted the killings in revenge for his wife.

Already a local celebrity the attack on him and murder of his wife brought him national attention, and including a biography written about him in 1971. Naturally the story of a sheriff waging a one man war against the mob would be enticing to Hollywood, and Bing Crosby wound up with the rights to Pusser’s story. In 1973 the movie Walking Tall became a smash hit with actor Joe Don Baker playing Pusser; while it contained many Hollywoodisms it captured moviegoers attention earning over 23 million dollars against a $500 thousand budget. Being such a massive hit naturally a sequel was rushed into production, however Baker declined to resume the role sending the producers in search of their new Buford Pusser… they didn’t have to look far as Pusser himself was cast.

Sadly in 1974 just one day after signing on to play himself in the Walking tall sequel Pusser died in a car accident; his brand new Corvette (he took home about 7% of Walking Tall’s gross, so new toys were abound) struck an embankment ejecting him from the vehicle in a fatal accident… or was it? The investigating officer cites alcohol and a lack of a seatbelt as a factor, others, including Pusser’s daughter believe that he was murdered. Walking Tall 2 went on without Pusser, and a third movie quickly followed, along with a made for TV remake of the original starring Brian Dennehy, and a short lived TV series. Rockabilly star Eddie Bond, maybe best known as the guy who rejected Elvis Presley when he auditioned for his band, wrote several songs while Pusser alive, with the first coming in 1968.

The story of Buford Pusser kinda comes full circle back to his wrestling roots as in 2004 Walking Tall was remade yet again; this time the timber of justice was picked up by relatively new actor Dwayne The Rock Johnson, maybe one of history’s best known wrestlers. While they opted to rename the character to a more hip “Chris Vaughan” the real life Pusser story of a timber wielding cop who stood up against corruption and crime after surviving a brutal ordeal was very much on display. While the Rock moved on from the role, and the movie wasn’t a big hit, it did spawn 2 straight to DVD sequels starring Kevin “Crazy MAGA guy” Sorbo… So if you’re keeping track Pusser’s story has inspired 7 movies, a TV series, several books, and a song making him probably one of the biggest names out there to have ever laced up a pair of wrestling boots, even if he himself wasn’t terribly known for his time in the ring.

Information for this was pulled from the following:
Wikipedia various articles
Buford Pusser online museum
People magazine
New York time obit
Interview with Jimmy Buffett

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Flash
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posted on 8-12-2019 at 02:27 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
Just putting the final touches on a kinda history of Quebec Wrestling, the Canadian mafia, and Dino Bravo that I should have up in the next couple of days.

Feedback welcome and appreciated.

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Flash
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posted on 8-16-2019 at 09:46 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
Dino Bravo

If you were to walk around the grounds of Montreal’s Notre Dame Des Neiges cemetery you’d find such notables as Calixa Lavalee the composer of O’ Canada, several hall of fame NHL’ers including Maurice “Rocket” Richard and Doug Harvey, former Quebec premiers, and wrestlers like former National Wrestling Alliance (a kind of precursor to the later better known NWA) world heavyweight champion Yvon Robert, and Johnny Rougeau the uncle of the famed Fabulous Rougeau Brothers… You’d also find the gravesite of former WWF star Dino Bravo, who on March 10, 1993 was found in his home shot to death. When autopsied Bravo was found to have been shot 17 times, with 7 of the shots fired directly into his head… This wasn’t just a murder, it was a message.

Quebec has always been a hotbed for wrestling; Even one of the first major names in the history of the sport, Frank Gotch frequented Quebec, and by the 1920’s it was popular enough that weekly bouts promoted by one time Montreal Canadiens owner George Kennedy (who himself was an acclaimed amateur wrestler in his youth) we put on. By the 1930’s not only was the typical strong man heavyweight bouts popular, but burgeoning high flying lightweight bouts were extremely popular in the province long before it took off elsewhere. With the advent of the NWA territory days Quebec was largely run by promoter Eddie Quinn using the famed Montreal Forum as his base he pushed storylines and bloody brawls over more what was more commonly branded as “scientific wrestling” up until that point, and had the above mentioned Yvon Robert as his centre piece featured in record breaking bouts with the likes of Killer Kowalski, Buddy Rogers, and Gorgeous George. For a stretch wrestling was promoted by Emile Dupree (father of WWE alumni Rene Dupree), before the it’s popularity started to lag. However, by the 1970’s Quebec wrestling was back in a major way with the draw was a very young Andre the Giant; in 1980 for example he faced Hulk Hogan in successful match, and drew record crowds wherever he went. In 1980 Andre would become a promoter himself and partner with a few other local names forming Lutte Internationale.

Lutte Internationale was one of the big three wrestling promotions in Canada at the time, with the other two being the Western Canadian based Stampede Wrestling owned by Stu Hart, Toronto area Maple Leaf Wrestling owned by Frank and Jack Tunney (who of course was the frequently mentioned WWF president for years); however because of the distinct French identity of Quebec this set up a unique Quebec versus the world angle that would see major names from all over North America make stopes in Quebec… all they needed was a local talent they could rally behind; Enter Dino Bravo.

Dino Bravo was born Adolfo Bresciano in Campobasso Itally on August 6 1948; by age 22 he put his 6’1” 285 lb frame to work in wrestling making his debut in 1970 after being trained by one time Montreal star turned promoter Gino Brito. While an adept technical wrestler what really set Bravo was his strength with stories stating that he could legitimately press over 500 lbs. Dominic Denucci (later better known for training Mick Foley and Shane Douglas) was the source of Bresciano’s Dino Bravo name. Denucci would wrestle under the name of Dominic Bravo and had previously tagged with another Dino Bravo; DeNucci and the younger Bravo would win tag team gold in the WWF during their partnership. He would spend several years as a tag team wrestler but did have some singles pushes at times, notable in Jim Crockett promotions where he had a number of unsuccessful title shots against NWA champion Harley Race. By the late 70’s and early 80’s he’d largely transitioned into a singles performer, ultimately becoming the hometown star that Lutte International craved while still travelling to other promotions, including a notable stint with Vince McMahon Jr’s WWF from 1985-1992 when he retired retuning to Montreal to train a new era of wrestlers.

In need of money Bravo got into the illegal cigarette smuggling business; in the early 90’s this was big business. According to Rick Martel Bravo made inroads with local cigarette and arms smuggling natives (aka American Indians) who could freely cross the border between Canada and the USA, and Bravo’s local celebrity status made him a popular choice in distributing the cigarettes. Bravo also had some family ties to crime; his wife was the niece of Vincenzo Cotroni, who until his death in 1984 was the head of the powerful Cotroni crime family which was the one time defacto top crime organization in Montreal and Quebec until being taken over by the Rizzuto crime family in the late 70’s and early 80’s (Who in turn would become the top mafia family in all of Canada). Martel has related stories that before his death Cotroni extended several offers to Bravo to come work for the family, however at the time the WWF gravy train seemed like to would last forever, and Bravo’s extravagant lifestyle could continue; smuggling cigarettes would allow Bravo to continue that lifestyle, however it would mean crossing the Rizzuto’s who after brokering deals with the Hells Angels, and other lesser crime families to solidify their power they were prepared to use violence against anyone crossing them. Other stories have it that he was working with the family, but was skimming and was found out.

It’s very likely that Bravo knew he had crossed some of the wrong people; Bret Hart himself has written that Bravo personally told him that his days were numbered. Martel relates a story wherein some cocaine dealers partnered with Bravo in the hopes of mutually benefiting one another’s businesses. They got cut into a $400 thousand dollars deal with the goods being sent to a warehouse facility. There seemed to be some confusion over who would go and pick it up; after 3 days it was decided that the cocaine dealers would pick it up however once they arrived at the location they were promptly met by the police and arrested. This was one week before Bravo was found dead.

On the night of March 10 1993 Bravo was home alone watching hockey; while it is ultimately a mystery as to how and why Bravo was murdered a few of the facts suggest a narrative. No signs of forced or footprints in the snow around back of the house were found; two separate calibers of bullets were pulled out of Bravo strongly suggesting 2 killers. A remote control for the TV was found loosely in his hand, suggesting that was initially shot without warning from behind, as if he was shot facing his killers his muscles would have tightened up. Given the above it’s been suggested that Bravo likely knew one of or both of his killers, with one possibly making some excuse to be excused for a moment and either let the 2nd killer inside or snuck up behind Bravo and executed him. The crime scene was very bloody with blood splatters found even on the ceiling, so it’s likely that he was shot at a very close range. The 7 shots to the head and face are generally seen as a message; a sign of disrespect by so maiming the face that a close coffin funeral is required. Sadly he was found by his wife and child.

The cigarette connection and motive speculation were made immediately; less than 24 hours later in the write up of his murder in the Montreal Gazette it was referenced, however to this day the motives for the crime and what happened remain unsolved. Bravo was a major regional star who also had a high profile run with the WWF during his 22 year career, however all of that has sadly been overshadowed by his very violent demise.

Sources:
Wikipedia various articles
Montreal Gazette
Prowrestlingstories.com
DailyDDT.com

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Flash
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posted on 8-16-2019 at 09:55 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
I've got two in the pipeline which I hope to have up some time in the next week or so...

One was an event from 34 years ago which while researching it out of the blue wound up happening again making it all the more topical, the other involves a bizarre connection between Joseph Goebbels and Han Solo.

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Jazzman
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posted on 8-21-2019 at 05:06 PM Edit Post Reply With Quote
Thanks for posting these biopics! Good reads; I especially appreciated the background on Quebec wrestling.

[Edited on 8-21-2019 by Jazzman]





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