Crowbar Press

 
Knoxville: 1905-1960
Knoxville: 1905-1960
BOOK DETAILS

Publisher: Crowbar Press

8-1/2 x 11 Perfect Bound

Pages: 246

Words: 180,550

Photos: 333 b&w

Cover: Full color

ISBN: 978-1-940391-31-1

Item #: 54-gwv5

Price: $24.95


 

 
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Knoxville: 1905-1960


Synopsis  |  Excerpts  |  Reviews  |  Media Appearances  |  Crowbar Press

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The Great Pro Wrestling Venues
Volume 5: Knoxville —1905-1960

by Tim Dills & Scott Teal

Whenever the subject of professional wrestling in Knoxville is brought up, people immediately think of Ron Fuller, Ron & Don Wright, the Mongolian Stomper, Ronnie Garvin, and maybe even John Cazana, who promoted Knoxville long before Southeastern Championship Wrestling came along.  However, it was John's brother George who was responsible for making the sport, which had languished in the doldrums for decades, an event that sold out regularly, to a point at which hundreds of wrestling fans were turned away regularly.  George's expertise as a promoter set the stage for every promoter that followed.

We also present information about the men who promoted — or tried to promote — before George ... Frank Moffett, Dr. Walt Evans, Frank Moffett, Sam Siegel, Louis Winick, and Joe McDonald.  You'll also read about:

• The first wrestling match ever held in Knoxville
• The wrestler who wrestled himself
• Fred Blassie, the boxer
• The eight fans who died during the matches
• George Cazana's troubles with the law
• The bad guys, the good guys, and the homegrown talent
• Herb Welch, the workhorse of the Welch family
• How special was that special referee?
• Wrestlers who killed or were killed in Knoxville
• The sad tale of Killer Curtis
• The newspaper reporter who was the promoter's biggest nemesis ... and supporter!
• The origins of wrestling at Chilhowee Park
• The true identity of the wrestler known as Chris Zaharias
• Out-of-date tickets sold to unwary wrestling fans by scalpers
• "Two Ton Tony Galento knocks out comedian Jackie Gleason
• Ethel Gibbs, pro wrestling's first female promoter
• The unmasking of the Green Shadow
• The influence of Wildcat Roy Welch on the Knoxville promotion
• Thousands of wrestling fans turned away weekly from the matches
• And much, much more!

If you’re a fan of Knoxville pro wrestling, then it behooves you to get this book and learn about its roots.  It is a unique and invaluable resource — a comprehensive account of the origins of the sport in Knoxville and every known match between Sept. 23, 1905 and Dec. 30, 1960.  In addition to the 1,766 shows covered, we present details surrounding the matches, the talent, and the promotion, and the matches are brought to life with more than 333 rare photos and images from our files.

This is the most complete analysis of the pioneer days of pro wrestling in Knoxville.  Readers will discover how the sport has evolved and learn about milestone moments that brought it to prominence.


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Excerpts

Copyright © 2020 Crowbar Press
"Consider a toe and bar-arm hold in comparison with a wallop on the jaw.  Suppose you have all your money wagered that you will defeat a man.  He suddenly catches you unawares and gets that arm and toe hold.  You try to fight to save your money, but he twists your ankle and a nauseating pain shoots through your leg.  Then he applies force to your arm and you feel yourself going down to the mat.  Your friends cheer for you frantically, and you make another final effort.  Your opponent simply turns on a little more power, and the pain becomes so great that you forget everything else for the moment to escape the terrible grinding that seems to be shooting through your whole body.  Your opponent, the instant you relax, pins your shoulders to the mat with a thud.  For a moment, the relief is so great that you lie like one stunned.  Then, amid shouts for the victor. you are picked up and dragged to your corner."

Copyright © 2020 Crowbar Press
George Cazana, manager of Louis' Barbecue, was chased out of his restaurant by a cook wielding two butcher knives.  When Cazana realized that one of his cooks was drunk on the job, he told him to go home.  When the cook came at him with malice in his eyes, Cazana hit him with a plate, at which point the cook picked up the two knives and chased Cazana outside.  The cook was jailed on charges of drunkenness, fighting, and felonious assault.  Cazana later had the charges dismissed.

Copyright © 2020 Crowbar Press
At a meeting of the board of public works on Feb. 13, the rent price on Market Hall was raised from three to five dollars.  That sum was reported to be enough to cover the light bill and janitor service, but not enough for the city to realize any profit.

Copyright © 2020 Crowbar Press
The match was said to be an extreme disappointment as neither man seemed to have any real knowledge of wrestling and they were slow.  The audience was reported to have been bored.  The Sentinel reported: "The sporting public will hereafter be wary about attending wrestling matches where 'Cyclones,' 'Demons,' 'Terribles,' and the like are the participants.  […]  The 'Greek Demon' and 'Russian Cyclone' put up the tamest match yet seen here."

Copyright © 2020 Crowbar Press
On Dec. 16, Walt Evans wrestled Ed Faulkner in Johnson City TN at the Hippodrome Rink.  The two wrestlers and Hippodrome manager J.H. Reynolds were issued warrants for their arrest.  Evans and Faulkner were charged with betting and engaging in brutal sports.  Reynolds was charged with running a gaming house.  Johnson City ministers had talked about the "alleged evils of the skating rink and wrestling matches" in their Sunday sermons.

Copyright © 2020 Crowbar Press
Miss Blanch Whitney of Philadelphia, who is said by her friends to be the premier woman wrestler, and who is an adept with the foils, advises every young woman to take wrestling and boxing lessons, so that in their future lives, they may be able to control their husbands, if not by love, by physical force.   "If your husband is cross or disagreeable," advises Miss Whitney, "just put him on his back and keep putting him there until he agrees to be nice.  It will make a gentleman out of him in no time."

Copyright © 2020 Crowbar Press
On Jan. 27, George Cazana, who would promote pro wrestling in Knoxville a decade later, got into a row with Ben Jacobs, the tailor just across the street from the Wide Awake café, the restaurant George owned, when Jacobs refused to mend his brother's (John's) wrestling trunks.  Jacobs swore out a warrant, charging George with trespassing and public profanity, resulting in a fine for Cazana.

Copyright © 2020 Crowbar Press
Tarzan Guinn and a fellow officer answered a routine call and went to question Roy Porter about a complaint his estranged wife had lodged.  When they arrived at the house of Robert Van Winkle, a regular performer on WNOX's Mid-Day Merry-Go-Round, he directed the officers to Porter.  They found him sitting on a bed.  After a short verbal exchange, which, in essence, was Guinn saying, "I didn't come to arrest you.  I just want to talk to you."  Porter pulled out a gun and fired at Guinn.  Guinn fired back and a shoot-out began, with the two emptying their .38 caliber pistols.  The bullets whizzed just above a bed where three children, ages 3, 5, and 8, were sleeping.  Porter and Gwinn were hit five times each.

Copyright © 2020 Crowbar Press
George Gainey, a well-known boxer and wrestler who worked for Louis Winick in 1936, was held for Grand Jury investigation without bond in the death of his wife.  He reported that she had died during the night, but when a funeral home employee went to get her body, "the head just flopped over and the neck was limber."  An autopsy revealed that her neck had been broken before she died.  "Diamond Dan" had legal representation by Ben Winick, brother of promoter Louis.

Copyright © 2020 Crowbar Press
Fans were so angry at the Green Shadow's victory that they threw bottles, pieces of the balcony railing, and seat backs at the masked man as he left the ring.  He escaped injury, but two fans were hit with the debris.  The chaos carried out onto Gay Street where fans brawled with one another.  Dynamite Lay was taken to the hospital with an injured arm.

Copyright © 2020 Crowbar Press
A smouldering trash fire in the basement of the Lyric Theatre was put out before it did much damage, but it brought to light the hazardous condition of the theatre's fire escapes.  It was noted that it was a good thing it happened in the afternoon rather than at nine o'clock when the building was "jammed with wrestling fans.  All the smoke would have sent them piling down the fire escapes, and somebody probably would have been hurt."  One of the two fire escapes led to the marquee at the front, while the other terminated at a point at least ten feet from the ground.

Copyright © 2020 Crowbar Press
Another of those periodic wrestling wars is brewing.  The heavyweights are heaving heavy yearnings to get into the territory that has proved so lucrative for the junior heavies and the light heavies.  Two factions are now embattled in Chattanooga and Atlanta, and Knoxville is also scheduled for an invasion.  In an attempt to forestall this, George Cazooks, local impresario, flew to Atlanta yesterday.

Copyright © 2020 Crowbar Press
When Art Nelson had Green Shadow's mask almost off, Tarzan White hit the ring and attacked Nelson, which saved Shadow.  The fans rioted and an estimated 150 spectators clustered around the ring, each of them intent on unmasking the Shadow.  It took about 20 minutes for police to restore order.  Four fans were arrested, charged with disorderly conduct, and fined $10.  Edmond Willard, of Jefferson City, suffered nose and forehead lacerations when he was struck by soft drink bottles thrown from the stands.  Fans also tore down part of a fence and practically destroyed the wrestling ring.

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