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I grew up in Arizona, watching matches at the old Madison Square Garden and other places. I remember how I sat there thinking that was what I wanted to do one day. I never really wanted to be a wrestler, but a manager and eventually I got my wish. At times I am grateful to God, Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Thor, Zeus or whatever force helped get me involved. At other times I feel like going to Canada, tracking Maniac Mike Gordon down and running him over with my car in ambush, for ever helping me get through the door. I also look back on how the wrestling world has changed and sometimes laugh about it, especially when I hear fans spouting off about how cool or original certain “extreme” promotions today are.
Arizona was “hardcore” long before the fans of the 1990s
created the word or ECW came into being. Whatever most of these promotions did to attract the fans of violence and mayhem, Arizona did before. Either I saw it happen, or was involved with it myself. Let’s take a trip through time, shall we (now that is so funny, coming from me) and examine some of Arizona’s past. You will get my point.
For some reason the Phoenix and Tucson fans always loved blood and brawls. When Gagne tried to come in and show the small-timers what a “big time” promotion was like, he bombed. Once the novelty of seeing “name guys” wore off, the wrestling itself was too tame for most of the spectators. Even the WWF had horrible cards when they first came to Phoenix and didn’t start drawing until they saw the bigger picture and realized what the people in the stands wished to see. When the blood started flowing and the great Slaughter versus Iron Sheik feud was hyped, that’s when the western fans became interested, but not before
In older days, Arizona had tons of gimmick matches. Dory Funk, Sr. was a specialist in Texas Death Matches. Tito Montez only lost one cage match in his entire career (to Jody Arnold). Coal miner’s glove bouts, spur bouts, chain bouts, motorcycle chain bouts, a series of football gear matches (Utilized by pros Ron Pritchard and Bob Lueck), loser gets a pie in the face bouts, hair versus mask bouts, leather strap matches, and Death Bouts varying with the nationality of the challenger, if he did not come from Texas, were continually on the menu. The blood always flowed too.
Even the fan favorites were brawlers who returned dirty tactic for dirty tactic against the hated heels. Tito Montez, Luis Martinez, Cowboy Bob Ellis, Cowboy Bob Yuma, David Rose, Billy Anderson, Bobby Picoi, Pancho Pico, and Nano Ortega were always bleeding and drawing blood. They punched, stomped, hit with chairs and fought all over the building, just like the rulebreakers, retaliating as payback for wrongs done to them. Often their style varied little from that of the villains, yet the formula of an eye for an eye was exactly what the fans wanted to see. When Jody Arnold, Kurt Von Steiger, Brute Bemish and Ron Dupree became heroes to the people they never renounced their rulebreaking ways. They just applied the dirty tricks to other cheaters and because the crowds hated these people more than the converts, they were welcomed as heroes. So much for that.
As for “hardcore before hardcore”, The lumberjacks, John Ringer and myself dragged Jody Arnold into a locker room and threw him straight through the dressing room wall back into the arena, in a shower of flying drywall, back in 1981. In 1973, Chris Colt was hurled off the balcony of the Phoenix Madison Square Garden. In 1971, Pancho Pico was hit over the head with a bottle and walked back to the dressing room with glass sticking out his head. In the 1950s, Don Arnold was knocking people out with a roll of dimes in his fist and usually bloodying them in the process. Brawls always spread around the building, from the 50 into the 80s, sometimes even into the streets, without much surprise. Sometimes it even extended to the fans and managers. Ask Bob Yuma about the time his nephew took a swing at me and I grabbed a chair and chased him out the arena and into the street, throwing the chair after him. Ask Billy Anderson about the splintered end of a broken cane, he got driven into his face by me. Don’t as any of these people what they did to me or mine. I don’t want to talk about that.