We Remember

Big Jim Wright

Big Jim Wright was a capable wrestler in the 1950s, both as fan favorite and villain, depending on whom he was pitted against. He had a rough, stiff style, showing he could hold his own with the toughest in the game. Yet in spite of his prowess, while alive, and the way he died, very little can be found in print concerning him.

Wright died in Phoenix at the old Madison Square Garden on 7th Avenue & Van Buren, but again, details have been shaky. The incident took place sometime in 1963, during a tag team bout. Wright was worked over in the corner, as often happened in tag team bouts, tagged out and slumped against the ropes. Suddenly, he pitched backward, fell off the ring and struck his head on the hard wooden floor. He had evidently suffered a fatal heart attack as he rested in his corner and died on the spot. Either the heart or the blow to his head would have presumably been enough to kill him, but this one-two combination so to speak, sealed his fate.

For a while, Wright made a tag team combo with his “brother” Rube Wright, though no one seems sure if they were real relatives or not. he also teamed with Don Arnold from time to time, as well as Chuck Karbo.

During his stay in Arizona, Wright had made certain enemies in the locker room and there was gossip circulating that more than one grappler was less upset than he might have been, upon seeing the man collapse. The fans, however, grieved for the fallen grappler, then forgot about him. This, again, was par for the course as others came on the scene to take his place.

Bob Sallee

Bob Sallee was a young referee, started out under the training of David Rose and others. He was active from the late 1970s through the early 1980s, most often for the UWA operated by Rose. Wrestlers he served as referee in bouts for included Cowboy Bob Yuma, The Lumberjacks, Danny Snyder, Jody Arnold, Pedro El Grande, Hercules Stevenson, Nano Ortega, Hollywood Brown, Mr. Southern Comfort, Billy Anderson, Eddie Sullivan, The Viking, John Ringer, Maniac Mike Gordon, and others. When the UWA folded and a new promotion, MSWA, took over, moving to an arena on the east side of Phoenix, with regular shows, Sallee followed, sharing the action with veteran ref Russ Barker, from whom he learned much. Here too, he saw considerable action.

Barker proved to be a valuable tutor for Sallee, showing him how to carry himself, how to take control when needed and how to deal with angry fans who didn’t like certain decisions he made. He also learned how to show authority in the ring,. without behind much of a physical specimen (Sallee was tall and thin, while Barker was about 5 feet high, both dwarfed by the wrestlers). The logic was simple. Physically, if you cannot fight with an unruly wrestler, you threaten him with your God-given or promoter-given ring authority. You let him know you are the boss out there and if he gets mouthy you start that count.

Sallee eventually left the Phoenix promotion due to undisclosed internal conflicts, though most would contend he did not get along with the promoter or some of the incoming trainees. He had spoken with Christopher Henderson (later known as Christopher love and now as Bert Prentiss) about going down south and leaving Arizona for good. He had decided if he was going to stick with wrestling, he would look for bookings outside the Phoenix area, hopefully with less conflict and better pay. He never made it.

In 1982 Sallee died from a gunshot wound in his apartment, either self-inflicted or by accident, depending on what version you wish to believe. he was buried in his referee shirt.