Abe Jacobs Revisits N.Z. - Return of the Fisher Boy

By Abe Jacobs

New Zealand Sports Digest, June 1963, Pages 56-61,95

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June, 1963 NZ, SPORTS DIGEST Page 5‘7 _ AFTER nearly five years of Q‘wres’rling around America and Canada, it's ' be e n wonderful to spend eight weeks at home once more. This has been the first spell LI have had from the "rat race" in all that time. _ WRESTLING OVER THERE HAS .._BEEN EXTRA GOOD TO ME; IT’S GIVEN ME A GOOD LIVING AND A LOOK AT THE WORLD. ,_ But there is no rest and a wrestler, {to stay somebody in the game, ’-to be at it all the time. Rare indeed is the week that I don’t wrestle five nights, and often it’s every night bar Sunday. . In all the 25 years I lived in New I did iii), plane or car, the year before .000. , Some weeks I have travelled 3000 milesmthat’s roughl the equivalent of a Wellington-Ana and return trip .,_.,every day of the week! For the first couple of years I tound it terribly hard going. ,I was een and completel inexperienced. T. he handful of pro. outs I had had in New Zealand against George Bollas, “Tony Olivas, Ricky1 Waldo & Co. meant nothin . I ad to learn my wrestling AB all over again from the very start. And it was rough. , In fact, it’s only in the last two ‘years that I have been able to call myself a real professional in the proper sense of the word. _ There have been wonderful places to visit. things to see, people to meet, and strange customs to get used to. But always one wonders what’s gomg 1: On back home in New Zealandhfpr American papers even in the big Cities rarel ever mention this country— and don't think they could care les about it. ’ . . ABiiEll (“ABE") JACOBS, one-time New Zealan arnnieur wrestling champion, born and raised onflli lonely. ocean-washed Chalham Islands, returns home long enough to tell Sports Digest of his travels an travails in nearly five years on the American wrestli“ ' - rat race". , I haveno desire to offend or 11 set our tourist and publicity authorl es, but as far as the average American’s knowled e of New Zealand is con— cerned, can only repeat what; so many other New Zealanders' have said after ViSits to the US, and that is first we are almost totally unknown ere. One or two people have a vague idea that we are “down there by Australia”, others think we’re part of Australiawlike Tasmania—~and others simply haven’t the slightest idea. ‘I USUALLY BILL MYSELF AS COMING FROM WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND, BUT I HAVE By rsr moss For Sports Digest HEARD MYSELF ANNOUNCED AS BEING FROM “NEW ZEALAND, AUSTRALIA”! I suppose that in nearly five years there, I have met no more than three New Zealanders-and Pat O'Connor is a naturalised American now. He has lived there for more than twelve years and has a lovely place in Chicago. There was one time I was wrestling down at Norfolk, Virginia, and during the bout I heard a voice call out, “Come on, Kiwi!” Now, the word kiwi. either as the name of a bird or as a term .used to describe New Zealand folk, is com— pletely unknown in the. States, so as was wrestling and picked up this call, I thou ht to myself, ”Well, that must be a ew Zealander.” After the bout, I changed quickly and went back to a seat near the ring to see if I could spot who it was. I did. It turned out to be an Amery can sailor from the big Norfolk naval base, and he had spent 12 months in llalewv Zealand with the Deep Freeze oys. Any reference to New Zealand still makes me a little homesxck. I par- ticularly miss watching and hearing about Rugby games. .While. I was in Christchurch on this trip home, staying there with my sister, I went over to watch a game between Albion and New Brighton and got itchy feet to turn out and have a so once again! SPflflTS' DIGEST SEES THE NEW ABE “can; No longer the ingenuous. starry- but an urbane. polished man, A Digest's camera in thoughtful mo effect the transformation. eyed fisherboy from the Chathdmé r, _ BE JACOBS is caught by Sports . . . 0d during our interview. Nearly: - five Years campaigning around America and Canada has helped}, '~ June, 1963 When I left New Zealand some weeks before Christmas of 1958, I spent several months in Hawaii, and then moved over to the American mainland, to Washington, D.C., and I worked from the Washington Wrest- ling Office, a promotion outfit, for more than a year. During this time, I had bouts in ’New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Penn- sylvania, Massachussetts—all neigh< bouring states, in fact, and even up in Montreal, Canada. After that, I moved north-west into Michi an, and operated out of DetrOit, wrest ing around that state and in Ohio and Canada. I did several months in'North Bay, Ontario, where they really go for this 'wrestling,.tlien further west into Illin0is, with Chicago as my headquarters. From this point, I took bouts in Wisconsm and Indiana, the immediate northward and east- ward states respectively. A while back in Washington, unto New York, and then I did the southern states, wrestling through North and South Carolina, Virginia, West Vir- ginia and finally down to Tennessee. I did not get into the “deep south”— Alabama and Georgia— but instead worked my way through Texas, New MeXico and Arizona, parched. arid places, and found myself in California, right on the opposite coast to that i’rom.which I had started my cam- paigning. I worked around California for about four months——Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego—moved up into Nevada for bouts in Reno and Las Ve as, and then for the few months etore I came back over to New Zealand and I had matches in Oregon, mainly at Portland. So you can see that I am getting to be something of an authority on American geography as well as wrestling! Through it all, there wasvery little rest. As I have said, the eight weeks I have had here in New Zealand have been the only real break I have had In the 4% years Since I went away. I did try to take some time out for Christmas last year so that I could spend a little time with some people With whom I have become friendly over in Wilmington, Delaware. but the promoter told me that bouts had been booked, publiCity was Circulat- ing, and that while I was at liberty to take some time off, it would cost us both—“promoter and .wrestler— money. You’re not making money while you’re not wrestling. So I guess that while I am young, fit and strong enough, I'll go on wrestling. I hope to come back to New Zealand next year, or at least Within a couple of years, and wrestle here. Who knows, I may be able to interest some of the .boys from the States to make the trip out. Wrestling almost every night of the week, there is not a lot of time left for continual training. With so much ‘ N.Z. SPORTS DIGEST Page 59 ring action, wrestlers don’t need it as boxers do. But I find that I must do some work on the weights in order to keep up my strength when I’m working in the hot temperatures. .With all the sweating, the long trips and irregular and sometimes little eating, some time in the gym- naSium becomes very necessary. My most satisfying experience in the U.S. was the time I wrestled Buddy Rogers for the world cham- pionship at Norfolk, Virginia. Rogers is a great wrestler but I was gonna; Just as well as I ever went in my life and had been in there with the champ. for about 55 minutes when I missed a tackle, fell out of the ring, and hurt my shoulder. In all, I suppose I wrestled Rogers seven or eight times but most of these bouts occurred when Buddy was merely the United States cham— pion, before he’d beaten Pat O’Connor. I met Pat when he was world champion in a title bout at New York. I don’t suppose it would be very often that. two New Zealanders meet on foreign soil for a world championship in any sport! Although he has since been shorn ot his title by Rogers, Pat is as good as ever, one of the greatest wrestlers of modern times. In fact, I would rate him with Lou Thesz, who held the world championship off and on for nearly twenty years, as the finest exponents of wrestling as a sport that I ever saw. Other great wrestlers, men who don’t get by on gimmicks and acts alone, are. Big Bill Miller, Buddy Rogers, Dick “The Bruiser” Afflis, Hans Schmidt, Ray Stevens, Wilbur Snyder and even the veteran Whipper Billy Watson, Canada’s ex-world champ, although Billy doesn’t wrestle far from his native Toronto these days. I have met most of these men; in fact, over the years, there cannot have been many of the big name wrestlers whom I have not been in with. Besides O’Connor, Rogers, Afflis. Schmidt and Stevens, I wrestled the Graham brothers, “Doc" Gerry and Eddie, Johnny Valentine, “Killer” Kowalski, Gene Kiniski and “The Destroyer”, a very tough man whom I think is named Byers. And who should I catch up with in a tag bout in Philadelphia but my old friend, George Bollas, the “Zebra. Kid”, who was the first wrestler I ever met in a pro. bout. That was at Hastings in 1958, when I went in as substitute for George McKay and got a draw with the 22-stoner. 'In tag bouts, I have been teamed With men like George Becker, for over 20 years one of the best wrestlers at large, and 11 a great one though he does not t'avel so much nowadays. And With Argentina Rocca himself, the barefooted star who has made so very much money rrom TV. And more recently with “Haystack" Calhoun. “a, anerWinsa“....cak. , ‘ . , ,_ m. «a. cum mi.m....mhua,«n «M. 4...: «mriawvigim «u dialaigur.“ ,there’d be no women wrestlers. mu-:r~m.‘ WOMEN WRESTLERS? THEY LEAVE ME COLD! ' Says ABE JACOBS ELLA WALDE'K, woman ’mssler . . . they may be real beauties, but . .‘ . " AT A glance, some of them may appear to be real beauties, but if I had my .-w ay ”'5 a man’s sport w tl' - ' . knowledge of anthropolo to see ’ res mg, It doesnt need any sports leave me WM. gy that. So that women who want to go in for men's They tear each other about, or at least that' through any of the vigorous training routines that Women wrestlers are outlawed in of sport generally—New York, New lers They should be outlawed everywhere. 3 how. it seems, but they can't go male wrestlers do. , some states where there is rather more; control ey, Pennsylvania and California are among them. But lIve fiat accustomed to seeing them and We even wrestled on the same card; of the :ouflsntelver get used to them. Wrestling, like boxing and football, is simply one ' no at women should emoy only as spectators and certainly not as participants- ' i I L v I V'Zj he still would weigh contests. , on locality. each other in a bout still will draw ,r. more people than any tag show. No j' taglbout, for instance, would outdraw a .w 7‘ I} June, 1963 ‘. “can , _ and weighs around 42 stone. ,_ a lot of fat on him as though he to ‘:_ wrestling shows. ,. on which I appeared, in l ,7 Haystack, Johnny ‘ fellow named ‘ Davis. I have never seen anything like this man Calhoun. He .is 6ft 4m He has has glandular trouble. But he is such ' a naturally big man that even with all that excess tonna e trained off, 0 stone. He is treated as just a freak but I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a bigger-boned man, for all the fat. > Tag_bouts are as much a part of' wrestling over there now as Sin to It largely depends, rea_1y, Two top men opposmg at O’Connor v. Buddy Rogers or ' Argentina Rocca v. “Killer” Kowalski bout. But in some centres, more often ‘ than not the smaller towns, tag bouts . fill up the entire bill.’ I teamed with “Haystack" Calhoun in bouts down around Texas. New MeXlCO, Arizona ’ and North Carolina. - In Charlotte, North Carolina, Hay— stack and I met Ike Eak'ms, another 1 huge fellow like Calhoun, and Pancho ' Villa, at. very rugged Mexican. On the same bill, Penny Banner, a woman wrestler, met MRS Pancho Villa! In the same ring/”during that time _ eaver and myself. met Eakins, Villa and Pedro Zapata -_in a six-man tag affair. But for my part, I much prefer " to wrestle on my own against a soli- tary opponent, and to see such bouts. There’s something in the tag stuff that just doesn’t appeal very much " to me. I was fortunate enough to have half a dozen or so bouts in Madison ' Square Garden, where crowds of up nearly 20,000 watch the big For two of the cards the Garden was completely sold out. But the biggest crowd I ever wrestled in front of was a- staggering ‘ 36,000 at Corniskey Park, Chicago. around July, 1961. Buddy R0, ers and Bearcat Wright, a very tal negro whom you’ll remember wrestled in New Zealand as “Bobo” Wright and who has struck it lucky in the U.S., were on top of the bill. I met; a “Rubberman” Walker, Argentina Rocca was there, too, and Pat. O’Connor wrestled Yukon Erik, another who has worked in New Zr-aland (as Erik Holmback). I have, in fact, bumped into quite :, a low of the American matmon who - have been over to New Zealand. Some 3; years ago, I saw “Wee Willie” Even then he was wrestling occasionally but he’d be quite an old man by now. When I was a very small boy, I remember ”Wee‘Willie”, who was more than 6-1» feet tall and hourly 18 stone, wrestling men like Lofty . Blomfield. Earl McCready, ‘Lilumping Joe” Sovoldi and Ed Don George in New Zealand. NZ. SPORTS DIGEST Page 61 Paul Boesch, another very well- known American visitor of that time, now_ referees and does a little ro- moting down in Houston and Da las, in Texas, although I have not yet run into Paul. And then there was old “Rebel" Russell, who appeared on the same card as did one night in Boston. “Reb” was really an old- timer, probably nearer sixty than fifty, but he hopped in there and did his stuff for ten or twelve minutes. These fellows—Russell, Boesch, Davis and others—were all wrestlers whose names were so familiar to me when I was a lad that I have no trouble remembering them today. Of the more recent men who have been out to New Zealand, I have seen or wrestled against Lou New- man, Ivan Kameroff, .Steve Gob, Seymour Koenig, Herbie_ Freeman, and the Christy brothers, Vic and Ted, besides, of course, A1 Costello, who 15 domg nicely as tag partner to Roy Hefternan, another Australian. The night before I left the States, for this trip home to N Zealand, I wrestled in Seattle, wh ch is now the home town of Earl McCready and his New Zealand wife. I was not able to get to see Earl, whom I understand is in real estate, but after I have fulfilled my contract in Hono- lulu on the way back, I am to wrestle in Seattle again and will be looking Earl up. - I suppose wrestling fans’ tastes are very much the same wherever you go. I think the New Zealand public, while it likes to be entertained ‘by Showmanship, looks for more. more wrestling moves. There are Similar places in America where they don’t like all clowning and no wrestling. 0n the other hand, you get some of these big/fellows who don’t have any holds, and they punch, kick and gouge almost exclusively because it’s all they know. They operate in those states where the athletic commissions aren‘t so tough—Texas and similar spots—and that is where you’ll find httle wrestling and a whole lot of rough- and—tumbling. That is where the out- and-out clown hangs out. To cover up their lack of wrestling ability, most of: these fellows use “gimmicks" to help themselves get by. Some of them dream up colourful-sounding theatrical names, such as this bunch of beauties: The Mad Mon 01, The Preacher, The Destroyer, .he Brute, The Beast, The Mummy, The Bruiser (only this one, real name Dick Afflis, can really wrestle)“ The Assassin, The Vikin , The'Sheik, The .Mifiity Spartan, Medico, Doctor X, r Kleen—there are hundreds of others like them. ME. I’M STILL PLAIN ABE JACOBS. I DON’T WANT THEM MAKING A MAD MONSTER OR A MUDIMY OUT OF ME!