RIP: Jose Lothario

WCM sends sincere condolences and best wishes to all who knew and loved Jose Lothario, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 83.

Jose (real name Guadalupe Robledo) is probably best known to today's fans as the trainer and mentor of Shawn Michaels, who started his career in Mid-South and made a brief stop in WCCW in early 1985. Lothario and Michaels later established a wrestling school and independent promotion, the San Antonio-based Texas Wrestling Alliance, where future superstars Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan) and Brian Kendrick got their start.

Lothario, after launching his own career in Mexico, moved to Texas where he spent the majority of his career from the late '50s to the mid-'80s, including many years of competition in Texas where, at one time or another, he held every major singles title and co-held the Texas and American Tag Team titles with several partners including Mil Mascaras and Al Madril. His most famous feud undoubtedly was with the young Gino Hernandez in Paul Boesch's Houston Wrestling promotion, in which Jose ultimately emerged victorious in a hair vs hair bout (resulting in the first instance of Gino wearing a mask to hide his shaved scalp).

After reiting in 1986, Jose was in Michaels' corner for his famous one hour-plus Iron Man match at WWE's Wrestlemania XII (1996), where Shawn defeated Bret Hart in overtime to win the World Heavyweight championship for the first time.

We salute one of the true all-time legends of Texas wrestling, Jose Lothario. May he rest in peace.

Early David Von Erich Match Coming to WWE Network

A heads-up for WCCW fans subscribing to WWE Network :the Hidden Gems collection will now include new footage every week, according to WWE Network News. Among the material to be available this Thursday, May 24th: a best-of-three-falls non-title match from August 15, 1977, pitting then-19-year-old David Von Erich (who had only been wrestling professionally for about two months at that point) against the NWA's World Heavyweight champ at the time, Harley Race!

Please note that this is NOT the famous David/Fritz vs Race gauntlet match from St. Louis TV...we checked that calendar date in the WCM Results section, and it tuirns out that the match being added is from Fort Worth, and thus would have been taped by KTVT (we don't know if the bout, or any part of it, aired on Saturday Night Wrestling). Interesting to say the least, as the master videotapes of the Channel 11 show are known to have usually been erased and reused due to their high cost!

Be sure to check WWE Network News every week for info on further North Texas wrestling classics to be uploaded to the service!

More from Rob Moore: 1990 Spot Shows

Once again WCM presents playlists of two spot shows from Rob Moore's YouTube channel! Rob served as ring announcer for both shows, which took place in 1990 at the Greenville, TX (Rob's hometown) Middle School Gym. The above playlist consists of three matches from a June 21, 1990 USWA card, and opens with Matt Borne taking on Chico Torres. When Torres demands another five minutes, Borne refuses unless Torres puts his own money on the line...which leads to Chico coming up with the cash in a most unusual and unexpected manner! In the first of two main events, Gorgeous Gary Young hits the ring next to face Kevin Von Erich -- who gets five minutes in the ring with Young's manager Skandor Akbar if he wins! The evening's second and final main event pits Gentleman Chris Adams against his former protege, the highly promising rookie Stunning Steve Austin...and as you might expect, we're off to catfight city as their respective valets, Toni Adams and Jeanie Clark, prove to be as impossible as ever to keep separated!

Playlist #2 includes a pair of matches from a November 22, 1990 card billed as Wendy's Thanksgiving Star Wars (promoted, we believe, by Chris Adams, who appears here but was no longer working for Kevin's revived WCCW by then). Percy Pringle goes up against Tugboat Taylor (who had appeared in World Class a couple of years earlier as the masked Doctor Who) in the first clip, followed by a bout between Steve Simpson and Steve Austin. (UPDATE 1/1/2018: Rob has now posted the Toni Adams-Jeanie Clark match from this card, and we have added it to the playlist.) Sadly, back at the Sportatorium, the WCCW promotion would close its doors for good just one night later.

For Your Viewing Pleasure: Two WCCW Spot Shows from 1984!

[Updated 12/26/2017] Thanks to longtime Texas wrestling commentator Rob Moore for posting these rare videos from the heyday of WCCW, which we've assembled into a pair of YouTube playlists! Both shows are from Greenville, TX; the above playlist is a complete benefit card (with matches in the correct running order) from the Greenville Intermediate School Gym on January 12, 1984. Kicking things off, after a short clip of Marc Lowrance's Championship Sports promo for the card, is a bout pitting Iceman King Parsons against Devastation Inc.'s Super D #2. [Our apologies for originally including the wrong video of this bout, which had some technical issues; we've now replaced it with a glitch-free version.] Next up is Devastation's Missing Link taking on Johnny Mantell. Kevin Von Erich hits the ring in the main event (though not the final match of the night) to wrestle Fabulous Freebird Buddy Roberts. Closing the show is yet another in the heated series of battles between Gentleman Chris Adams and Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin. (Also notable is the fact that this was ring announcer Moore's pro wrestling debut!)

The playlist below consists of three of the four (?) matches from the November 15, 1984 show at the Greenville High School Gym. Fantastic Bobby Fulton clashes with Jake "The Snake" Roberts in the opener. The second bout is of particular interest, with the newly heel-turned Chris Adams (managed, of course, by Gary Hart) going up against Mike Von Erich. The main event here is a fairly short but wild encounter between Kerry Von Erich and The Missing Link. If you remember the excitement surrounding WCCW in its 1983-85 boom period (or if you're too young to remember it, but curious), these videos will bring it all back. Hope you enjoy 'em!

WWE Network Heading into Home Stretch with Syndicated WCCW Eps

Don't forget that for continued updates on WCCW upload status, you can click either here or here. At this writing, most of 1988's episodes are up, which means we've now reached the Jerry Jarrett era (that's roughly the last two years of WCCW TV, including the USWA Dallas shows).. WWE Network News has also begun including a listing of what's still missing in their posts; so far, there's been no indication of whether or not WWE Network will be posting any of those episodes at a later date.

As always, please keep in mind that from all reports, the master tapes were subjected to serious temperature and humidity extremes over the years (they were stored in a barn in north Texas, to be exact). This can result in deterioration of magnetic tape, including videotape, although an amazing number of eps have survived with relatively little or no damage.

WCM Sends Best Wishes to the Nature Boy

As many readers are probably already aware, Ric Flair is, at this writing, hospitalized in critical condition following surgery for a reported intestinal blockage. Other health issues are said to have resulted including kidney failure, for which Flair is on dialysis.

Ric's daughter, WWE superstar Charlotte Flair, has posted a message to fans on Instagram: "Hi guys, On behalf of my family and I, we want to THANK everyone for the prayers, texts, calls and support. Our Dad is a FIGHTER and your continued thoughts and prayers MEAN THE WORLD to us. We will update everyone when we have more information."

World Class Memories sends all our best to Ric for a speedy and full recovery, and to his entire family.

Wrestling "Not Fake"

By James Dunlap
From the Dallas Morning News, circa March 1975
(via J. Michael Kenyon's WAWLI Papers)

The sign in front of the vast, corrugated metal structure at Cadiz and Industrial bore the ominous inscription "TEXAS DEATH MATCH," appropriately spelled out in blood-red letters.

Inside, all eyes were riveted on a spotlighted American flag while a tinny recording of the national anthem played. As it ended, a great cheer went up, launching another Tuesday night of wrestling at the Sportatorium.

For most people, wrestling is just something that appears momentarily on the screen as they absently flip through the television channels on a slow Saturday night.

But for the folks of all ages and colors who pay $2 to $4.50 to pack the Sportatorium’s wooden bleachers each week, it’s a basic social institution that rivals going to church.

Wrestling provides its hard-core fans with fast-moving entertainment and a bizarre, colorful collection of stars. And on a different, more complex level, it achieves a violence, somewhere between fantasy and reality, that relieves pent-up anger and frustration in its viewers.

"Everybody gets their kicks somehow," explained truck driver Morris Oliver.

"It’s not fake," said his brother, Tommy. "It’s acting, just like in the movies." Tommy, who is big enough to be a wrestler himself, winked and added, "Besides, I’ve been coming since 1950, and there’s no sense stopping now."

Under the bleachers between matches, the smell of popcorn, cotton candy, tacos and French fries mingles with body odor as people jockey for position at the concession stands. Sweat pours off the besieged men behind the counter as they serve thousands of cold beers.

Like groupies hovering near a rock star, kids jam around the dressing room door to touch their favorite wrestler as he strides by.

Beside that door, 72-year-old Walter McDaniel has been shining shoes every Tuesday night since 1938. "Sometimes it’s full up and sometimes it’s not, but the crowd’s not any different," McDaniel said.

Loyally denying there is anything fake about it, McDaniel explained the Sportatorium’s attraction with "fans like the wrestling matches, and that’s all it is."

In the arena, another clutter of kids, with heads thrust under the ring’s lowest rope, vibrate with excitement as they clutch their programs and hope for their hero’s autograph.

To warm up the crowd for the main event, gladiators like Kim Duk, Big Jos LeDuc, the Great Dane, and Alberto Madril brutally embrace in short matches of concentrated combat that seemingly would leave ordinary mortals maimed for life.

Between events, 28-year-old R.C. Williams said he comes for the excitement. "I just like to sit here and drink beer and holler."

Williams, who works on a loading dock, and his friend, Richard Rogers, come every Tuesday and bet a beer on every match.

"I remember when we used to be kids sitting up in general admission sneaking beers," he recalled. Pointing to a vendor walking up the aisle, Williams said, "See that old buzzard there, he used to sell it to us."

Although Williams and Rogers kept their hollering on a relatively calm level, some of the other people got caught up in the drama from time to time and yelled themselves hoarse. Occasionally, beer-fueled fights break out among the more emotional members of the audience.

"Don’t get no blood until the main event," Williams said, "and then everybody is so drunk they don’t know what it is."

Considering the level of violence in the ring, blood is relatively scarce. But sometimes, a swung fist or chair draws a red liquid of questionable origin. The fans don’t seem to care whether it flows from veins or gelatin capsules.

"Everybody is waiting for blood in this one," confided a young man with long blond hair as Fritz Von Erich and Black Jack Lanza, the opponents in the "TEXAS DEATH MATCH," made their appearance.

In a death match, the program explained, "No falls count, there are no disqualifications, no time limit, almost anything is legal and it continues until one man can’t defend himself."

Judging from the cheers and applause, Fritz, a hulking form in red briefs, was clearly favored by the crowd.

Looking like the evil gunslinger in a thousand "B" westerns, Black Jack, dressed in black hat, vest, boots, briefs and a leather guard on his right hand, was greeted by almost universal booing and hissing.

As if to justify the people’s choice, he grabbed Fritz from behind as he politely scrawled autographs for his admiring, young fans. Nobody asked Black Jack for his autograph.

From the first bell, everybody knew it was going to be a deadly duel with the infamous "claw" hold as the chosen weapon.

Besides the claw, they kicked, punched, gouged, strangled, pulled hair and bounced off the ropes onto each other, and the folks in the bleachers went wild.

Jumping to their feet, with screams that reached a deafening pitch, the audience completely disregarded the mundane issue of whether what they were watching was real or not.

"Go, Fritz, go!" they chanted as Fritz won the first fall and laid Black Jack out on the mat like a dead fish.

Apparently, the trainer who massaged Black Jack’s ravaged brow during the rest period did some good, because Fritz took some heavy punishment and lost the second fall.

The battle between the almost larger than life grapplers went back and forth for a while, and then Gran Marcus, a masked wrestler, came down and talked to Black Jack.

From the shouts, it was evident that the crowd was convinced that Gran Marcus had slipped Black Jack something that he put in his claw hand.

"It’s in his glove," they pleaded. "Check his glove!" But their cry failed to impress the referee, and Fritz went down for the count.

Gloom hung heavy in the air. The hero was on the mat, defeated. The villain, with his sinister, leather-covered fist held aloft, strutted around the ring.

Black Jack withdrew and disappeared into the bowels of the Sportatorium, and Fritz was still down.

Slowly, he rose and limped up the aisle. A cheer echoed in the arena, and the hands of the faithful stretched out and gave him a sympathetic pat on the shoulder as he passed.

They knew he’d be back. And next Tuesday night, so would they.