The term interpolation has been in the news as of late, in part to Olivia Rodrigo and her team. The idea is that you sample a melody or portions of a melody, from a previously recorded song but re-record the melody instead of sampling it. While doing a spotlight piece isn’t a brand new idea, STAY FRESH is. Basically what I’m getting at is STAY FRESH is the “good 4 u” of blog posting.
Last time I wrote about how Pote Baby was a rapper to watch. He was under 1,000 subscribers on YouTube, had some mild mainstream success with his first single but he wasn’t a name casual rap fans knew. Most of my friends hadn’t heard of Pote Baby when I told them I was writing about him. You could say Daniel Garcia is the opposite.
He has been in wrestling since 2017, so he is still relatively new in the business. Four years into the business is nothing. Think about it like he was a baby. Most four year olds can’t form full sentences. This one is keeping up bar for bar with Twista’s verse on Slow Jamz.
Unlike Pote Baby, Garcia isn’t exactly considered underground. Some may say he’s the fastest rising star in wrestling. He has wrestled CM Punk and Jon Moxley on national television in the last six months. The Daniel Garcia train just pulled into the station and I’m just making sure we are all getting comfy seats because we’ve got a hell of a career to enjoy.
This man’s October consisted of wrestling, Christopher Daniels, Davey Richards, Minoru Suzuki, Alex Shelly and CM Punk. He worked a best of Ring of Honor tape, while most dudes four years in are working As Seen on TV Doink and Tito Santana.
This isn’t a “he worked a name” so it had to be a good match. He’s been putting on great matches with guys like JD Drake, Lee Moriarity, Anthony Greene & Masha Slamovich. He made the most out of his last year and rightfully so.
Garcia was in a wild car accident that almost took his life back in 2019. When he and fellow Buffalo wrestlers, Kevin Bennett, Puf and Kevin Blackwood, lost control on black ice and their car violently split into half after smashing into a guardrail.
Garcia is on record saying the rail was just a couple inches away from ending him. If the mental exhaustion of nearly dying wasn’t enough for him. Garcia walked away with a broken right femur, his fibula and tibia in his left shin and ankle. The scars from the injuries and operations still linger on his skin, I assume the constant reminder of just how short life truly is remains firm in his mind.
That sort of motivation is what has helped Garcia become one of the fastest rising technical wrestlers out there. His name gets thrown out there with the likes of Bryan Danielson’s and Jonathan Gresham’s of the world. That isn’t something just anyone can say.
Set to make his PWG debut against the aforementioned Gresham at the end of November. I would like to think that match checks off a few boxes for Garcia. There is no denying this has been a star making year for the young Buffalo native. With two months left in 2021 he looks to have an even bigger 2022. There is no time like the present to go ALL IN on Daniel Garcia.
When Christmas is so close you can smell the yuletide on Michael Bublé. The time when New Year’s Eve plans start to unfold and we are always smacked with year-end list. Wrestling of course is no different. People start to rattle off matches from eight, nine months back and you have a faint memory if it.
Well this isn’t going to be the exact solution to that problem. However it might just help you along the way. These will be our favorite AEW matches we watched from the past month. Sometimes they’ll be universally praised matches that everyone thinks were great. Other times it’ll be a little cult classic that we thought didn’t get the buzz it deserved.
What, we here at Around The Block can promise is these matches will be worth checking out.
My favorite AEW match this month is obviously Bryan Danielson vs Kenny Omega on the September 22nd edition of Dynamite. It was one of the greatest TV matches of all-time with everyone buzzing about it. Everyone knows about this match and everyone has written about this match. With that said I’m going to switch it up because I can. I’m going to write about my second favorite match this month.
This was a difficult choice, had a few matches that ranked highly up there and right below Danielson vs Omega. It came down to the last round. JD Drake vs Daniel Garcia from Limitless Vacationland Cup edged out Big E vs Bobby Lashly’s steel cage match on RAW.
I know the Vacationland Cup was on August 28th but I watched the show in September, so I’m counting it. Thou who writes the laws, makes the rules.
My goal is to give recommendation but stay spoiler free as much as possible. If you haven’t done so already find the match and watch it. It was one of the best matches I’ve seen in the indies this year. Garcia has been on a tear for the last few months. Everything that man touches seems to turn to gold.
JD Drake also isn’t the one to mess with. Don’t let the Amish Roadkill cosplay fool you this, this man can move. He can go up against just about anyone and not only allow them to shine, but look good while doing it. Coming out of his feud with Austin Theory in EVOLVE I had high hopes for Drake and it seems like that might come true for him
All in all the three matches I’ve listed are well worth checking out, and if you’ve seen them already another watch can’t hurt.
I hate to choose the obvious – The tag title cage match at AEW All Out, ZSJ’s early run in the G1, and the recent triple threat main event from NXT UK all deserve a shout – but honestly, it’s near impossible to not list Omega v Danielson as match of the month. It’s been a dream match for so long, and there was a strong chance we’d never see it, yet, we did, and it was everything one could’ve hoped for.
Professional wrestling is special, and Omega v Danielson is a prime example of why. You could see it on Danielson’s face from the start. The atmosphere, the in-ring work, the storytelling… This is my current match of the year, let alone month.
There were several great matches in the month of September, but in my opinion the two matches that were both the best matches and my favorite matches were The Lucha Bros vs. The Young Bucks cage match from All Out and of course Bryan Danielson vs. Kenny Omega on the September 22nd edition of AEW Dynamite.
If I had to pick just one match for the match of the month it would be Danielson vs Omega. This match was as good as any match I’ve watched in a long time, if not ever. These are two of the best professional wrestlers in the world and they showed that for 30 straight minutes. The fight never felt like it was slowing down. It never felt like they were just stretching it out to make it last. Fans were on their feet from start to finish. This fight absolutely felt like two men who just wanted to prove that each was better than the other one.
From the technicality of it, to the big moves, to the counters and near falls it was an absolute masterpiece from start to finish. While some will feel like the time draw was a cop out way to end it, it didn’t diminish the match at all to me. The Lucha Bros vs. The Young Bucks might have had more big spots, a better ending to it and more emotion when The Lucha Bros finally toppled their rivals. However, the match between Danielson and Omega is one that will be talked about for years as one of the best matches ever in my opinion. It was that good.
Wrestling as both a martial art and sport is thousands of years old. There are cave paintings in France and Mongolia depicting grapplers that are over 15,000 years old. There are shockingly modern looking grappling holds and take-down defense depictions that have been found in the 5th Dynasty tomb of Ptahhotep. The 5th Dynasty was approximately 2,400 years BCE. In Greece there was a wrestling champion named Aristocles, but you likely know him as Plato, the nickname came from the word ‘Platon’ meaning “wide or broad-shouldered” and Socrates wrote: “I swear it upon Zeus an outstanding runner cannot be the equal of an average wrestler”.
In 1520, a twenty-nine-year-old King Henry the VIII of England challenged another royal wrestling enthusiast, King François of Angoulême, the 1st of France, age 23, to a wrestling match at the historic “Field of the Cloth of Gold” meeting. This was an attempt to preserve the peace established by the Treaty of London of 1518. The signatories were Burgundy, France, England, the Holy Roman Empire, the Netherlands, the Papal States and Spain, all of whom had agreed not to attack one another and to come to the aid of any that were attacked. Additionally this created an alliance against the Habsburg emperor, Charles V, who had been elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1519.
The affair was quite the bacchanal: over 4,100 animals were slaughtered and many barrels, casks and jugs of strong drink were imbibed. Both monarchs exchanged gifts and declarations of their “undying love and loyalty” to each other. In the midst of all that spectacular entertainment, Henry beat François in an archery contest, and since he had a king sized ego, he challenged his Valois guest to a wrestling match.
François, by all accounts initially demurred, likely because he feared that if he bested the notoriously vain Henry Tudor, it would spoil the chance at a lasting alliance. But François was to his very quick a sportsman, he loved archery, falconry, horseback riding, hunting, jousting, tennis [courte-paume] as well as wrestling, was man of chivalrous nature and high aspirations, so he finally consented to wrestle his Tudor peer.
Historical accounts of the bout itself are scarce. The two kings went in search of a suitable place for a match. I’d imagine that they were both attired in brocade and other royal fineries. Both men were renowned for their great height. Henry excelled in Cornish wrestling (a style established in Cornwall in South-West England), several centuries hence.
The referee is known as a ‘stickler’. It is believed that the popular meaning of the word to be persnickety or unduly precise originates from this term. The wrestlers in the Cornish style both wear tough jackets enabling them to gain better grip on their opponent. All holds are taken upon the other wrestler’s jacket, grabbing of the wrists or fingers is forbidden as well as any holding below the waist. Although all holds are to be taken upon the jacket the flat of the hand is allowed to be used to push or deflect an opponent.
The objective of Cornish wrestling is to throw your opponent and make him land as flat as possible on his back. Three sticklers (referees) watch and rule on each bout whilst also recording the points scored. Four pins are located on the back of a wrestler, two at the back of each shoulder and two either side just above the buttocks. If a wrestler manages to throw his opponent flat onto his back, simultaneously scoring with all 4 pins they score four points in that single throw and this is called a “Back” to which the bout is then finished and the throwing wrestler is the winner.
François wrestled Gouren (a style of folk wrestling that was established in Brittany), or Breton wrestling. In gouren the grapplers wear special white shirts or vests(roched) tied with a belt and black trousers (bragoù), and try to throw each other to the ground by grappling the other’s roched. A victory (lamm) is declared when the opponent is on his back on the ground, with the winner standing. Victory is only achieved when both the opponent’s shoulder blades hit the ground at the same time, and before any other part of the body. The primary difference between these two styles was in the type of jacket used: the Breton jacket was tight, while the Cornish wrestler wore it loose.
François was able to throw the older and larger Henry to win the match, the two were said to have left on good terms, but despite appearances, either Henry’s historically bad temper or the mostly volatile relations between England and France eventually doomed the pact. So France remained geographically encircled by the Habsburg monarchy and François turned to alliances with the Lutheran princes of the Holy Roman Empire and the Sultan of Turkey. However Henry would later align with François again in 1527 when they signed the Treaty of Amiens which bound the two together against Charles V.
The New World
Despite the popularity of the sport in England, King Henry the VIII was both a fan and participant, the British colonies in the ‘New World’ that would come to be the foundations of the United States hadn’t always been a haven for sports. The Puritans frowned upon most diversions that weren’t directly related to labor or religious practice.
But it didn’t take long for wrestling to get a hold on the new Americans. The Indigenous people of the Americas had very established wrestling traditions, however the scholarship has been fairly sparse with regard to the format, rules, the techniques and training for their grappling arts. Some have theorized that in addition to physical training and combat applications, there may have been some religious ritual applications of wrestling.
During the 17th and 18th centuries wrestling once again was transformed back from a form of combat into a popular spectator sport. It became the major contact sport among men of all classes in America. The primary wrestling style of that day was ”collar and elbow”, named for its starting position: standing face to face, each wrestler placed one hand behind his opponent’s neck and the other hand behind his elbow. This form diminished dirty tactics, such as “bull rushing” and throwing dirt in the opponent’s eyes, and allowed for different techniques specific to a wrestler’s size and strength.
In the back-country of Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and the Carolinas, wrestling was quite popular, particularly in the settlements of Scots-Irish colonists. Matches often were rough enough that the Assembly of Virginia got involved and forbade illegal holds prohibiting “maiming ‘by gouging, plunking or putting out an eye, biting, kicking or stomping upon'” an opponent. However, like plenty of laws, the back-country largely ignored these restrictions. The aforementioned Cornish wrestling was the progenitor of this type of grappling and over time this coalesced into a style known as “Catch-As-Catch-Can.
Rev. James Maury’s Academy at Fredericksburg, Virginia, was an institution which turned young men from good families into scholars and, in the case of young George Washington, into able wrestlers. By the age of 18, the big, shy Washington apparently held a collar and elbow wrestling championship that was at least county-wide and possibly colony-wide. Washington never lost his touch. At the age 47, ten years before he became the first President of the United States, the Commander of the Continental Armies was able to defeat seven consecutive challengers from the Massachusetts Volunteers.
Abraham Lincoln was an accomplished wrestler as a young man. According to History.com, he was defeated only once in approximately 300 matches. Carl Sandburg’s biography of Lincoln says he once challenged an entire crowd of onlookers after defeating an opponent. “I’m the big buck of this lick. If any of you want to try it, come on and whet your horns,” Lincoln reportedly said, but there were no takers.
Lincoln is featured in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame’s “Presidential Grapplers” exhibit with the U.S. Presidents who wrestled, including the aforementioned, John Adams, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, who in his fighting trim of 225 lbs, was an intramural heavyweight champion at Yale, and was a fourth generation wrestler in the Taft family. A total of 14 US Presidents wrestled either competitively or recreationally, making it number one with our chiefs of the executive branch.
In part due to the cross-pollination of regions and cultures that took place during the Civil War, wrestling boomed afterwards and it was common to see wrestling at county fairs, carnivals, holiday celebrations, and military exercises. Of the many styles practiced during those days, only catch-as-catch-can [sometimes shortened to Catch] survived. Over time it evolved into “Folkstyle” , the style used now at the scholastic and collegiate level.
Meanwhile in Europe, at about the same time Graeco-Roman (or Greco-Roman) wrestling (sometimes also called classical wrestling) was also booming. From England to Turkey and even in India, several great champions emerged. Folkstyle,freestyle and the other descendants of catch-as-catch-can, all allow the use of the wrestler’s or the opponent’s legs in offense and defense unlike Greco-Roman which prohibits holds and trips below the waist.
While I am going to focus on Black participation in wrestling post-Civil War. By no means were slaves and free Black people absent from wrestling in the Antebellum period, however for obvious reasons slaves can’t be professionals since they can’t truly benefit from their own labor, skills and talents. But even in the North free Blacks were largely forbidden to wrestle Whites Slave turned Boxer Tom Molineaux’s owner granted him his freedom plus a sum of $500 as a reward Molineaux after he’d earned his master what would be the equivalent of hundreds of thousands in today’s dollars. So Molineaux, America’s biggest and first boxing star, was able to go on to box in the bare-knuckle ring against top White fighters. He even had two epic donnybrooks with Tom Cribb, the best bare knuckle fighter of the time.
African wrestling survivalisms among enslaved populations came from a variety of traditions, including the Nigerian of Mgba and its feminine counterpart Mgba Umunwanyi as well as the Sengalese art of Laamb, which is the Wolof word for wrestling, is derived from Serer Fara-Lamb Siin and often featured leg-wrapping techniques, which distinguished it from Collar-and-Elbow practiced by the growing Irish and Scottish immigrant populations in the U.S. The winner is whoever puts his opponent on the ground, that can mean his back, rear, stomach, or hands and knees. It is ancient and meets at the nexus of ritual and sport, planted in the sand, rooted in the essential village traditions that some Africans carried with them into their bondage in the New World.
In addition to occasional boxing matches and races, slaves wrestled each other to, as Frederick Douglas wrote, “win laurels” and display their physical prowess to young women in the audience. Douglas noted that sports were encouraged by plantation owners, including wrestling and boxing, which Douglas deemed “wild and low sports peculiar to semi-civilized people,” but that “rational enjoyment” was not. Douglas felt that encouraging slaves’ participation in ‘low’ sports, was in part to prevent other pursuits: reading, writing, or perhaps, planning a rebellion. He explained that plantation owners encouraged slaves to vent their aggression this way since it was “among the most effective means in the hands of the slaveholder in keeping down the spirit of insurrection.”
In the sport of wrestling on American shores it took the emergence of a freed man Viro Small, AKA Black Sam or Sam Hadley to have a Black man become a champion. He became a wrestler in Vermont and New York from 1874 until a few years prior to the century’s turn. At 5’ 9 ¼” 184 he would have been more than two inches and about 40 pounds above the average for a man born in his time, [like many enslaved people his exact date of birth is unknown] it’s believed he was born in 1854, in Buford, South Carolina.
By his mid-teens, now freed, he was boxing and perhaps wrestling up north. In 1870 he went to St. Albans, VT., and remained until 1881, when he came to New York to give wrestling exhibitions at Owney Geoghegan’s Old House at Home. While in Vermont he won numerous matches, defeating Jack Callan, William Downey and others.
On April 27, 1882, he defeated William Johnson, of Rutland, VT., in a collar-and-elbow match for a purse. In St. Albans and Rutland VT. Small won 63 matches between 1882 and 1892 and the Vermont Collar and Elbow Championship twice. These wins made him possibly the first champion of African descent in the United States, but there are conflicting accounts and competing claims about this distinction. These titles also gave Small the chance to work the county fair circuit.
As previously indicated, biting, gouging, kicking, punching, scratching and slugging were all forbidden in collar and elbow and frowned upon, but rather common, in catch-as-catch-can. In catch-as-catch-can the membrane between boxing wrestling was often quite permeable.
In September 1882, Small had a fight with Billy McCallum. McCallum clearly took the argument between them to heart and made an attempt on Small’s life, shooting him in the neck. For attempted murder McCallum was sentenced by Judge Cowing to State Prison for eighteen months.The slug had to be left in his neck,but by October 16, 1883 he was able to defeat George Hicks.
A report from The New York Times–October 16, 1883: “The match was collar and elbow, two out of three falls. Black Sam was evidently the favorite, and his herculean proportions showed the contestants to be badly matched. Hicks acted on the defensive in the first round, which lasted eight minutes, and resulted in his overthrow by the formidable right leg of Black Sam. The second round lasted 10 minutes, the colored man being thrown, much to the disgust of the majority present. The third round was tedious, and lasted nearly 20 minutes. Three times Hicks nearly threw his opponent, but was finally overcome by the superior strength of the black man.”
Based out of the Bastille on the Bowery, Small wrestled and boxed against both Black and White opponents and worked on the side as the establishment’s bouncer. Charles Morrow Wilson, in his 1959 book “The Magnificent Scufflers”, writes:
“Viro was the right man of any hour. He was warm natured, courteous, and sympathetic toward the live and let live customers, yet he was also strong of body and will power. Though Viro stalwartly declined to get rough with any customer with minor transgressions such as running out of money, any patron who was disposed to start fights or bully or use objectionable language was as good as in the gutter the moment he opened up. Viro was also a man of extremely rapid motions and almost uncanny talents for removing pistols or knives and replacing drawn weapons with fractured arms or wrists or tranquilizing uppercuts, but always, of course, in a courteous manner.
It appears his last collar and elbow match was in 1885, but it appears he continued on in catch-as-catch-can and boxing matches until about 1887. There is a very fine documentary by Elliott Marquez on Viro Small, entitled “Black Sam’s Statue”-https://vimeo.com/120864245
After Small, a Black circus strong-woman named Irene Bess may have become Europe’s first Black professional wrestler during her carnival days in the late 1800s and early 1900s (although I have yet to locate any supporting documents), but it was two of her sons who would make the history books as two of the best Black personalities in the early days of Great Britain’s pro wrestling industry. Also, a wrestler named Ila Vincent performed in America in the early 1910s but struggled to find opponents, finding more success in Russia and several European cities.
The next great Black grappler to make a mark on history was Reginald Berry AKA Reginald Siki, 1st World Colored Heavyweight Champion, tall, 6’2 ½” He was able to speak 7 languages fluently. He was the first Black man to win the Wrestling Heavyweight World Championship. By 1923 was traveling the wrestling world and when the Zybysko brothers stranded him in Europe one year he was able get around with ease because he spoke fluent Arabic. He returned triumphant to the USA with his White, Estonian wife, Jarmilla and
Berry was keen on resuming his career as a top level wrestler. The ring name of Siki was undoubtedly a reference to the Senegalese-born boxer Battling Siki, who became a world-wide phenomenon in 1922 when he stunned boxing fans by defeating light heavyweight champion Georges Carpentier in Paris, France.
One story has it that American soldiers who had seen Battling Siki fight in Europe gave the name to Berry after seeing him box, though it is more likely that Berry either adopted the name himself, or was given it by a promoter hoping to capitalize on Battling Siki’s sudden fame. He traveled throughout Canada as well, but it was in Europe where he became perhaps second only to Jack Johnson as the biggest Black American sports star in the world. His time in mainland Europe was nearly idyllic, he was a top draw in countries like France, Spain, Switzerland, Greece, and Bulgaria to name a few, where he faced some of Europe’s best and won often. While he most likely still felt racism in various parts of Europe, at least in Europe he was able to pit his skills against the elite of the pro wrestling circuit, including men who were in line for multiple European championships.
after converting to Islam, he became, Kemal Abdur Rahman, marrying Mildred, who was now Mildred Abdur Rahman. The last name was sometimes spelled as one word, “Abdurrahman.” With the change also brought a promotional tactic of billing him as an Ethiopian wrestling hero, and he was billed that way in advertising pieces. A reported 45,000 spectators attended back to back nights to see Bulgarian wrestling star Dan Kolov, a 3-time European Heavyweight Champion, face Regis Siki in Sofia, Bulgaria.
He finally lost the World Colored Wrestling Championship in 1935 to George Godfrey in a contest in Brussels, Belgium. Feab Smith Williams AKA George Godfrey or The Leiperville Shadow was 6’3” 220-260, 249 when he boxed Primo Carnera. While he was mostly a boxer,he showed ability as a wrestler. A Congolese boxer and wrestler, Jim Wango, had his popularity in Germany suddenly curtailed by the rise of Nazism and he was denied basic services to include medical care. Once he fell ill his fate was sealed and he died of kidney failure 3rd April 1935.
Another prominent Black wrestler who traversed the period when America’s infatuation with radio was changing to a love affair with TV, was Jack Claybourne often referred to as “Gentleman” Jack Claybourne. He was a professional wrestler who had successful stints in England, Canada, Australia, Hawaii, and the United States. He was 6’0” 210-230 he was also known as Happy Jack, Elmer Claybourn and for a while, in an attempt to slip through the grasp of Jim Crow, Pablo Hernández.. Claybourne won the Kentucky Negro Wrestling Championship from Hallie Samara in Louisville, KY. The following year he lost the title to LeRoy “King Kong” Clayton.
Jack Claybourne won the Negro World Heavyweight and the Light Heavyweight Wrestling Titles in the United States. At the start of his career he worked as “Happy Jack,” he was very close to playing into a Jim Crow era, Black stereotype, but in time he settled on “Gentleman Jack” instead. Jack Claybourne stood out not only because he tried to break color barriers, but in terms of his in-ring style. Claybourne’s ability and his ability to connect witn viewers influenced numerous agile wrestlers, most notably “Leaping” Larry Chene and “Sweet Daddy Siki”.
Another New World: TV Is Coming
Jack Claybourne’s physical gifts are clear, but when he saw that he was never going to reach the top of pro wrestling was when his Pablo Hernández ‘Cuban’ ruse was employed. It was ultimately exposed, so he was locked into the “Chitlin Circuit.”
Just prior to WWII in the 1940s, Claybourne was treated as a little more than a novelty act. He was likely the most well-traveled claimant to the “Negro championship” as he was billed as such in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Arkansas, Arizona, California and Hawaii throughout the 1940s and into the mid-1950s. Claybourne notably worked with many top heavyweights in the era, his most significant title being the British Empire Heavyweight title, which he exchanged with Billy “The Whip” Watson, when Watson was only a few years from his NWA title reign. He found more success outside of the continental US, but returned, perhaps he became homesick?
In 1952, Claybourne joined the short list of pro-wrestlers who married in the ring when he tied the knot in an Albuquerque ring. As pro-wrestling took off in the post-war years thanks to television, Jack Claybourne was among the wrestlers of color who found themselves rarely featured on TV and therefore in less demand.
The first Black Wrestler to find some success when TV took wrestling into the homes of millions of Americans, was George Hardison, who wrestled as Ras Samara, Haille or Seelie Samara. Ras AKA Seelie Samara had a solid career and was billed at times as “the Sepia Wrestler”, the “Joe Louis of Wrestling”, the “Dusky Samson” or the “Negro Sensation.” There was an incident where a San Jose wrestling promoter had to rearrange the lineup for his May 24, 1944 wrestling card because Jim Henry, who was white, refused to wrestler Samara due to his color.
Despite that he was so widely respected by some in the industry that the great Lou Thesz, who never, ever allowed “The Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers to “go over” [be scripted to defeat] him in the ring, put the legendary Samara over when given the chance. In his career he held the: Pacific Coast Heavyweight Title (San-Francisco-Version) NWA Canadian Tag Team Titles (Calgary-Version) and NWA Canadian Tag Team Titles (Calgary-Version).
Another holder of the ‘Colored’ or Negro belt was Jim Mitchell, born in Louisville, Kentucky, Mitchell was one of themore successful Black pioneers in professional wrestling. Mitchell was one of the first Blacks in the modern era to break the color barrier, wrestling against white opponents for major promotions.
Early in his career, Mitchell wore a hood to the ring. He called himself “The Black Panther,” and he did battle with other non-white wrestlers. He was in good company, often battling fellow Black stars Seelie Samara and Gentleman Jack Claybourne.
Jim Mitchell was far from the first Black person to make a living in the sport of professional wrestling, but the Louisville, Kentucky native was among the first to become a star. Trained by the great welterweight champion Jack Reynolds, Mitchell broke into the business in the early 1930s, becoming a main event superstar in the Indianapolis territory by the age of 23.
Mitchell was a proven draw, an athletic and gifted wrestler, with a successful European tour and stops all around the US and Canada, he ended up in Los Angeles, and was a regular at the Olympic Auditorium. Mitchell soon found the confidence to remove the mask and wrestled under his real name. In the late 1940s the LA promoters took a chance and put Mitchell in the ring against White opponents. Mitchell had to work these matches as a “babyface” for fear of what might happen outside the ring if he were a heel. It was still a risk, but Mitchell’s battles with White opponents proved to be a hit, opening the doors for others to follow.
From his adopted home base of Northwest Ohio,to the Boston area, the Pacific Northwest and sunny Southern California as well as tours in Europe, Canada, and Australia, he feuded with some of the biggest heels of his era including Danny McShain, Wild Red Berry, and Martino Angelo. His most storied rivalry was with none other than Gorgeous George, a feud that culminated in a riot in the hot summer of 1949 at the Olympic Auditorium. After George tossed Mitchell from the ring, an angry fan rushed into the ring to take a swing at George. George dispatched the fan quickly, but when he did, the fans rose up and rushed the ring. George and Mitchell slipped through a hidden tunnel to the locker room while a riot, divided largely along racial lines, raged inside the Olympic.
He was a trailblazer whose exploits were overshadowed by the age of television and the rise of a new generation of stars, not the least of which was Bobo Brazil. In addition to “The Black Panther” Jim Mitchell, Seelie Samara, Woody Strode, Bearcat Wright, and Luther Lindsay, had all known what it was like to being limited at times to only working with other Black wrestlers, or mostly non-Whites, except in areas such as Canada, Hawaii,the Northwest and of course overseas.
If Woodrow Wilson Woolwine Strode were born in 1974, 1984 or 1994 instead of 1914 he would have been a huge star at something, movies, professional wrestling or TV acting, Strode was born in a time when his good looks and powerful physique were largely squandered on smaller roles and mid-card wrestling slots. He did get to battle with Kirk Douglas in ‘Spartacus’ and played the title role of Sergeant Brax Rutledge in the 1960 film Sergeant Rutledge. As with Jim Mitchell, the highlight of his wrestling career was tangling with Gorgeous George.”
Lester Lindsay was able to find the most sustained success of all those I just named. Born Luther Jacob Goodall he was known as Luther Lindsay. In the early 1950s and ’60s, Lindsay was billed as the U.S. Colored (or Negro) Heavyweight Champion and took part in among the first interracial professional wrestling matches in the United States. Between 1953 and 1956, he faced NWA World Heavyweight Champion Lou Thesz in a series of matches.
Those matches were mostly time limit draws, but he was the first Black to make a challenge to the title and earned Thesz’s respect during these bouts. The champ publicly praising his wrestling ability. He played college football for Norfolk Stateand nearby Hampton Institute [Now Hampton University] where he was also a CIAA wrestling champion. He played 2 years in the CFL. At 5’9” 235 he was among first proponents of weight training in the world of pro wrestling and benched 450+. He was in many ways the ‘Jackie Robinson’ of Professional Wrestling’.He faced Thesz in Texas in 1955 and Ron Wright in Kingsport TN, with the National Guard called up as a deterrent to rioting. Race kept him from being a world champion, but he bested Lou Thesz in 1961 and handled an extremely ugly incident, on-air, when Ike Eakins hurled racist slurs at him. In his career he won several national and regional titles,he’s been named to the Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame and WWE Hall of Fame. He was able to be ‘put over’ even versus popular White wrestlers. Like most Black wrestlers of this era he was a “babyface” or face.
Not until “The Big Cat” “King of Wrestling” Ernie Ladd was there a truly successful Black “heel.” ‘Thunderbolt Patterson, ‘Sailor’ Art Thomas AKA “The Body” “Hercules” or “Seaman’’ Art Thomas had varying levels of success. Thomas particularly had some highlights: he challenged “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, he won the NWA Texas Title, which was his first Championship in 1962. He and Bobo Brazil defeated Gorilla Monsoon and Bill Watts for the WWWF tag-team belt, also he wrestled and lost to WWWF World Heavyweight Champion, Bruno Sammartino, but won the WWA Title from Baron Von Raschke. Others like: Don Kindred Alex “Black Panther” Keffner, Joseph Alvin Godfrey AKA The “Original” Rufus Jones, [not Carey L. Lloyd AKA Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones], Frank James all held verious versions of the Colored/Negro belt, but more miltant Claude “Thunderbolt” Patterson, swam against the current.
Dusty Rhodes, Blackjack Mulligan and others admittedly borrowed from his promo style. He had enough size at 6’0” 242-255, he looked the part, he had ‘pop’ in wrestling jargon that means charisma that comes across in the ring. He was one of the best and most innovative talkers of all-time. Patterson embraced the black vernacular unlike most of his early TV era brethren. He developed a distinct delivery and coined clever catch phrases long before that was common. Black wrestlers had long been special attractions and were often unwilling to challenge promoters and peers for fear of losing their spot. Patterson was willing. He was an athletic, energetic performer with exceptional interview skills.
His former nemesis Killer Karl Kox said of Patterson: “He could talk the talk and walk the walk.”At shows he would fire up the crowd with a pre-fight chat with Solie, strut to the ring and deliver the goods.” Even in the largely segregated south, audiences either loved him or loved to hate him. Patterson was a trailblazer who did some of the same things the Rock would do later. Patterson was one of the few Black wrestlers touring the South in those days and had to endure racial slurs, taunts from fans and hate mail. Some nights were tougher than others, but he never backed down.
He also spoke out against poor working conditions for wrestlers and sued for racial discrimination, as a result he was blacklisted from wrestling. He had been complaining about racism from promoters for many years (he said later only Dory Funk Sr. had his back) and wanted to start a wrestlers’ union, a dream he shared with former NFL player and wrestler Jim Wilson, himself blacklisted. Career: NWA Brass Knuckles Championship (Florida version) NWA Florida Heavyweight Championship, Continental Wrestling Association-World Heavyweight Championship, George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Lou Thesz Award, Georgia Championship Wrestling-NWA Georgia Tag Team Championship (3 times) -NWA Georgia Television Championship (2 times) NWA National Tag Team Championship, International Championship Wrestling-United States Heavyweight Championship, Maple Leaf Wrestling-NWA United States Heavyweight Championship (Toronto version) Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, NWA Atlantic Coast Tag Team Championship, NWA Big Time Wrestling, NWA American Tag Team Championship (4 times)- NWA Tri-State-NWA Brass Knuckles Championship (Tri-State version), Western States Sports-NWA Brass Knuckles Championship (Amarillo version) (4 times) World Wrestling Association World Tag Team Championship.
Racism Is Heavy But Sexism Is Deep
The struggles and successes of Black professional wrestlers were an intricate and maddening challenge for the men and for the women; it was all of that with a sexism cherry on top! We know that Blacks have always been over-represented in the audience of professional wrestling, [over ¼ of the audience has been Black/African American in audience surveys for many decades] and women have been between 33% and 41% of the audience since audience survey data has been available. Despite that it’s only recently that Black women and other women of color have been given real opportunities to reach the top of the profession.
Mary Horton, Ethel Johnson, Babs Wingo, Marva Scott, Kathryn Wimbley AKA Kathleen Wimberly, Louise Greene, Ramona Isbell, Etta Charles, Dinah Beamon were some among the Black women who contended for the “Colored” title. Another was Sweet Georgia Brown, born Susie Mae McCoy she was known during her wrestling days as ‘Sweet Georgia Brown,’wrestled mostly in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. She was a talented wrestler who came through the pro wrestling circuit at a time where men dominated the ranks and Blacks were treated as second class citizens. Many times, Sweet Georgia Brown had to be smuggled into arenas in trunks of cars because the Ku Klux Klan was looking for “Negroes.”
She was raped and abused by male promoters on multiple occasions, she hardly ever received fair payment for the work she did inside the ring. Her manager and booker, Mary Lillian Ellison AKA The Fabulous Moolah, collected all proceeds and divvied out payment after taking her cut. To make it worse, just as Billy Wolfe had attempted to do to Ellison earlier in her career, it’s been said by several women that she trained, that she pressured “her girls” either into liaisons with her, her husband, Buddy Lee or with promoters. McCoy also alleged that she was given drugs, and made an addict in an intentional effort by Ellison and Lee to control her. By the end of her career, Susie Mae McCoy was left destitute and penniless. She had to work an assortment of menial jobs to feed herself and her family. Because of the abuse she withstood during her career, She hardly ever socialized with people outside her family. Sadly, she died in 1989 from breast cancer. Only in the last few years has her story received it’s due.
While things have certainly improved greatly, the days of Black Wrestlers being named, “Burrhead Jones” have thankfully passed, professional wrestling is still a place wherein some fairly coarse and questionable content is still prevalent. Many college, educated middle class professional wrestlers are encouraged to make it clear that their origins are “street” flashy clothes, chains, not always jewelry, at times literal chains and a certain pimpish flair is still de rigueur for men and since nearly all the women are hyper-sexualized, with Black women the tendency is to simply move it up a notch.
Quoting the work of Nicholas Porter, “The Dark Carnival: The Construction And Performance Of Race In American Professional Wrestling” “McMahon opted for a parade of outlandish new non-white faces who fit his new, racier (and increasingly tasteless) business plan. The racial characters he unveiled were explicit caricatures, and became very popular on the strength of the wrestlers performing them. The Godfather (a Las Vegas pimp) and “Sexual Chocolate” Mark Henry caught on with fans, but theirs were characters almost exclusively designed in questionable taste that highlighted the WWF’s fervent quest for “edgier” material. Nonetheless, the comedic elements of both made them cult favorites with fans who, thanks to the Internet and wrestling newsletters, were aware of the contrived nature of wrestling and the calculated ridiculousness of many characters.
The fact that both these comedy roles were blatant (and dated) racial parodies raised question marks regarding representation and positive, multi-dimensional ethnically-marked characters. On the surface, the African-American Godfather was damningly negative, perhaps almost racist in the wrestling tradition of assigning ethnic wrestlers pejorative cultural roles. The image of the pimp in popular culture was one of violent chauvinism of the worst kind, one often applied to ethnic groups in the poor inner-city, such as Puerto Ricans. Yet Charles Wright, the man behind The Godfather (and Papa Shango), invested his character with a smiling vibrancy and charm (his “Ho’s”, typically portrayed by local strippers, always seemed to be having a great time—even when Godfather would “pimp” them out to his opponents)…[B]ut the Attitude Era at least tried to lend some positivity to his character.
“Sexual Chocolate” was a different story. Seemingly designed to punish Henry for some behind-the-scenes transgression.The questionable matter of taste within pro wrestling was broached repeatedly by such intentionally vulgar creations, and yet the self-referencing (Wright and Henry always seemed to enjoy playing their gimmicks) could be read on the other hand as a deconstruction of old stereotypes, if one was willing to view the ‘Attitude Era’ as a complete break with wrestling’s outdated past. More often than not though, the actions of Henry in particular were sufficient to incite widespread disgust, thus validating the shock/trash ethos of the new WWF.”
By the mid 1960’s the influence of television, as it had with so many facets of American life, reshaped the destiny and direction of professional wrestling. This brought many new opportunities and challenges for the Black men and women who were involved with professional wrestling. That’s a story worth telling, if anyone wants to hear about it let me know.
After months of build up All Out is finally done and over with. The return of CM Punk to the wrestling ring finally happened. As it turns out he may just indeed move the needle. But he isn’t the only name shaking the scale. The Around The Block Wrestling staff came together after watching All Out to reveal their thoughts on the show.
1. What’s your tweet-length review of All Out?
Dan: If you’re not gonna shout “Redeem Deez Nuts” with me whenever Miro is on screen then you can’t watch All Out with me.
Kaleb: Simply put, it’s the best show I’ve watched this year – maybe in a number of years. You have to take into consideration the magnitude of these moments we witnessed, of which I still have no words for.
Blake: All Out was one of, if not the best PPV I can remember watching. Outside of the 1 match that was really put on the card to give the crowd time to rest, there wasn’t even an average match on the card. The storylines and the wrestling was absolutely top notch. A must watch PPV.
2. What’s your favorite match from All Out?
Kaleb: CM Punk is my favorite wrestler of all-time. Punk v Darby was always going to be my favorite match.
Blake: Not counting the end of the show, because technically it wasn’t part of the match, the tag match between the Young Bucks and the Lucha Brothers was my favorite and the best match of the night. The crowd was absolutely hot for the Lucha Bros and these two teams put on a match of the year contender. The moves they did and the risks they took were insane.
Dan: Eddie Kingston vs Miro was my match of the night. It was one of the few matches where I absolutely enjoyed the build, while short, and the match itself delivered in every way possible. I’m very much so on board with running this one back at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
3. What’s your least favorite match from All Out?
Blake: I feel like it’s a cop out, but the Paul Wright and QT Marshall match was my least favorite. It was a match designed to give the crowd some time to rest and wasn’t meant to be much more. Outside of that, there wasn’t another bad match. If I’m not picking it, I’m going to go with the Casino Battle Royale. Ruby Soho showing up was an incredible moment and she deserves to be in the title picture, but battle royales are tough matches to turn into an elite match and outside of the finish there weren’t a ton of memorable moments from it.
Dan: This was a no brainer for me Paul White vs QT Marshall. Whatever the opposite of hyped is, is how I felt about that match.
Kaleb: I didn’t want to answer Paul Wight v QT Marshall, because it feels like a cop out, but there isn’t another match I would want to put here. Wight-Marshall didn’t overstay it’s welcome with a runtime of 3:10, and it did what it was supposed to do in giving a reset between Punk and the world title while also giving a legend the opportunity to do some in-ring work. That being said, there’s nothing positive I can really say about the match.
4. Who was your All Out MVP?
Kaleb: This is tough. Punk was my initial thought, as he did an excellent job considering he hadn’t wrestled a match in seven years, but I think my answer is Darby Allin. He played his role to perfection and gave Punk a great return match.
Dan: I’m one of the first people to complain when they give the Finals MVP to a player on his way out as a career achievement award, especially when the younger guys handled the world load. However there is no way, absolutely zero, that we are as into and hyped for this show if CM Punk didn’t show up a few weeks prior and give the wrestling world a jolt of enthusiasm.
Blake: It is extremely difficult to pick just one MVP from this show. Christian Cage and Kenny Omega were both fantastic. Punk and Allin put on a hell of a match. Ultimately I think the MVP has to come from the tag team title match. It might be a small cop out again, but I’m going to pick both the Lucha Brothers. They went above and beyond what I thought they could do. Every time they step in the ring they put on a hell of a show. However, tonight they took it to another level. The story telling, the emotion and the passion they put into this match was some of the best I’ve seen.
5. Are any of these match MOTY contenders?
Blake: I don’t mean to beat it into the ground, but the tag team title match is absolutely my match of the year at this point and it will be hard to beat. As I’ve said already a couple of times, the storytelling was absolutely top notch and they showed the skill they always do when they step into the ring. The Lucha Brothers and the Young Bucks had the crowd absolutely eating out of the palm of their hands. I know I’ve gushed about the Lucha Brothers, but don’t get it wrong, the Young Bucks were absolutely their equals in the ring tonight. As we have come to expect from Matt and Nick Jackson, they showed why they are considered one of the absolute best tag teams in the world.
Dan: No, the show itself is however a show of the year contender.
Kaleb: Lucha Bros v Young Bucks took over MOTY for me last night. What is there to even say about it? I don’t see how anything else tops the match in these final four months
6. It’s been 7 years since CM Punk wrestled, after his win tonight where does he go?
Kaleb: Punk has listed numerous young talents he wants to work with multiple times. Continuing to mark off that list would make a lot of sense. Likewise, he mentioned he had some scores to settle. Do we see him transition there before continuing his list? The other possibility would see Punk entering this feud with The Elite. He mentioned he would like to team with Danielson against the Young Bucks, and Danielson’s side was short against The Elite last night.
Blake: CM Punk came back to the wrestling world and had a great match in his first match back against Darby Allin. There are several different ways AEW could choose to book Punk moving forward. They could move him straight into another one on one feud against someone like MJF or another member of Pinnacle, but I think the most likely thing for Punk to do is team up with Allin and Sting and finish their feud against Daniel Garcia and 2.0. This keeps Punk busy and lets him get in some more matches to completely get the rust off before he moves into a more high profile feud.
Dan: I think we get the Daniel Garcia match that has been teased for a few weeks, but before that graces us I can see the trios match of 2.0 & Daniel Garcia vs Sting, Darby Allin & CM Punk coming our way.
7. Fill in the blank Bryan Danielson’s first match will be against ___________
Blake: This might be the toughest question on here for me honestly. There are so many ways they could go with Danielson here. With the way All Out ended, it sure seems like he is going to move into a feud with The Elite. One would think Danielson would have to go through The Elite to get to Omega, but do we think they go with Cole vs. Danielson straight out of the gate and give one of them a loss? I don’t think so. One would think it would be one of the lower people on The Elite totem pole and that translates to The Good Brothers. In my opinion, Bryan Danielson’s first match will be against Karl Anderson.
Dan: Adam Cole, they know its a hit and after tonight it would only make sense to have Bryan wrestle an Elite member not named Kenny.
Kaleb: Manifesting this from the universe: Daniel Garcia
8. After tonight who is the biggest threat to Kenny Omega’s title?
Dan: Call me an optimistic person, but I still think Hangman is the biggest threat to Kenny’s title. I think closing that story with Hangman hoisting the title belt is the only proper ending to it.
Kaleb: Hangman Page will still be the one taking the strap off of Omega. Tony Khan confirmed that Hangman has asked for time off, but soon after he returns, that world title is his.
Blake: After tonight the logical thinking would be Bryan Danielson would be the biggest threat to Kenny Omega. That being said, I just don’t see Danielson being the one to dethrone Omega. It has always been and still has to be Hangman Adam Page that takes that title from Omega. The story has been told over the past 2 years. Page has been betrayed by his friend, lost all of his confidence and gone away. When he comes back from paternity leave the pop for him will be absolutely massive and Page will go straight for Omega. Despite everything that happened, he is still the biggest threat to Kenny Omega.
If you ask anyone who the greatest height-deficient pro wrestler of all time is, they are going to say Rey Mysterio Jr. There is absolutely no doubt his name will be coming out of their mouths. That man has been giving us 30+ years of absolute brilliance in the ring, so why would anyone’s name other than his come out.
So let’s pretend that Rey Mysterio isn’t that guy, who raises their hand as the second best wrestler standing well… short? I asked myself this question and sat with it. What would be the requirement for this prestigious accolade? First off they have to be Mysterio’s height or shorter, he set the bar so let’s keep it there. Much to my surprise Google lists him at 5’6. Which honestly I thought would be more like 5’4, but I’ll let him have those two inches, he’s earned it.
That’s it. Height is the only requirement — well that and you have to be an absolute savant in the ring. So I wrote down a list of short wrestler’s names. A few of these men and women got disqualified for being too tall, so it really helped narrow down the list. From there I narrowed it down to a top four, plus the winner, for “Best Little Guy Not Named Rey Mysterio” award. Let’s see John Travolta try and say that one on national TV. (Sidenote: writer knows it’s outdated)
Before I start, I’d like to say several wrestlers who are considered some of the greatest short wrestlers, but aren’t Rey Mysterio short, were thought to be in the running before heights were disclosed. Wrestlers like Daniel Bryan (5’10), Owen Hart (5’10), Crash Holly (5’9), and Matt Sydal (5’9). You all are worthy of the list, but fortunately you’ve been blessed with a few more inches than the rest of us.
There will be no Hornswoggle, if you came to see where he ended up I apologize.
Top 5 Greatest Short Wrestlers
5. Samuray del Sol fka Kalisto 5’6
When I sat down to hash out this list, Samuray del Sol’s name wasn’t on it. Like I stated before, I had a list of names written down but they just fell a bit tall. However, I started to look at his track record and was like damn… maybe he does belong.
This is the only wrestler where I’ll list all of their accomplishments because I feel like it needs to be said out loud. This man has been an NXT tag team champion, a WWE Cruiserweight champion, a two-time WWE United States champion, won the 2014 NXT Tag Team Contender tournament, and has a Slammy for OMG Shocking Moment of the Year (2015). He also won the Jeff Peterson Memorial Cup in 2012 and The King of Flight tournament in 2013.
I wrote these out to say he isn’t just some gimmick WWE used to sell masks; he can really go. Before he signed with WWE back in 2013, he was showcasing his high flying ability in PWG, EVOLVE, and Dragon Gate USA. This wasn’t given to him because he was the last man left. He earned this spot and looks to continue to do great things post-WWE.
4. Juventud Guerrera 5’5
Before he was just another stipulation on Wednesday night, Juventud Guerrera was the next best thing since Rey Mysterio. Hell, the two even had a lengthy feud early into Guerrera’s career in AAA. His run in the WCW cruiserweight division is iconic — but things after that get a little dicey.
Guerrera’s stint in WWE as part of the Mexicools is one I think both parties would like to forget. Guerrera always felt like next up when Mysterio moved on, until it was clear he wasn’t. I think the best comparison I can make for him is that of Andrew Wiggins.
There was a time when the online NBA community saw Wiggins as the second coming of LeBron, until we didn’t. Likewise for Guerrera. It felt like we had another once-in-a-lifetime talent. When reality hit, he was just really good at a certain thing.
3. Bayley 5’6
You know how you set the bar high? You become the first ever WWE Women’s Grand Slam Champion. Bayley’s resume speaks for itself. Not only does she have awards from the likes of Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated, but she was 2020’s Female Wrestler of the Year. Even though she’ll spend most of 2021 on injured reserve, she is bound to crack the top five again.
I’m not sure there’s anything she hasn’t done. She continues to reinvent herself. She has classic matches, she’s won awards for her feuds, she’s done it solo and in a tag team. There just isn’t much, outside of the main event of WrestleMania, that Bayley hasn’t done.
Bayley has put on classic matches (go back and watch Bayley vs Sasha Banks Takeover: Brooklyn from 2015), she has had classic runs as both heel and face, and she has won Feud of the Year and Tag Team of the Year
2. Sasha Banks 5’5
Ricky Bobby once said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last”. I feel like runner up unfairly has a stench to the title and that quote proves it. You can still be at the top of your craft and not be the best. If anything this list sure as hell proves it. Hell, I battled with putting Bayley in this spot but gave Sasha the nod by splitting some hairs.
Banks has proven time and time again that she can handle the biggest of moments and shines while doing so. She has run the gamut in WWE. From ESPY awards to being a WWE Grand Slam champion, Banks has done it. Her personality mixed with her talent is what makes her a shot above the rest.
She has shown up and shown out more times than I can keep count. She continues to stack up great matches. Most recently, her WrestleMania main event with Bianca Belair. Banks still has a lot left in the tank.
1. Jonathan Gresham 5’4
The winner of first and probably last “Best Little Guy Not Named Rey Mysterio” award is Jonathan Gresham, who comes in two inchs shorter than Mysterio at 5’4. While he isn’t greater than Rey Mysterio, the window is certainly open for him.
At only 33 years of age Gresham has a laundry list of wrestling accomplishments. Most notably being the Ring Of Honor’s Pure Wrestling Champion. The first of his kind since Bryan Danielson unified it back in 2006.
Gresham has been on a tear as of late, which has generated a lot of talk about owning the label “Best in the World”. Gresham recently spoke with Sean Ross Sapp about that and what it means to him. (Watch Here)
Gresham seems to have an eye for talent and has been creating something special with his work with The Foundation. 2021 was the start to his peak run. One that I don’t see ending any time soon.