My Favorite Pro Wrestling Champs in the 50s
Watching Pro Wrestling as a Boy
As a boy, I used to regularly watch pro wrestling with mom and dad. Once a week they would tune in to wrestling from the South-Side Armory in Milwaukee. It was very exciting and entertaining, especially when a front row spectator, Bouncing Bessie, would get out of her seat and almost jump into the ring. I was introduced to many wrestlers with colorful names such as Gypsy Joe, The Sheik of Araby, and The Crusher. All of them amazed me with their tumbling, flying mares, body slams, and submission holds.
Favorite 1950s Wrestlers
Looking back all these years, the following pro wrestlers were my favorite stars.
1. Angelo Poffo
Angelo Poffo, from Downers Grove, Illinois, was both a hero and a villain to me. When he tag-teamed with The Sheik of Araby and they took on the big, bad Lisowski brothers, he was my hero. I remember Angelo having a manager called Bronco Lubich who carried a big cane. Whenever Lubich helped Poffo win a match with foul play, Angelo was a villain. His trademark hold for winning a fall was the Italian neck-breaker. Little did I know that the recently deceased Randy "Macho Man" Savage and "Leaping" Lanny Polo were both Angelo Poffo's sons.
2. Dick The Bruiser
Dick "The Bruiser" Afflis was a true villain who always had a scowl on his face. After all of these years, I still remember him wrestling one evening at the old Milwaukee Arena. He had just been disqualified while grappling with The Mighty Atlas. Now out of the ring, he was pacing like a wild, irate bull. Although I was sitting in the sixth row at the the time, I never felt more scared in my life. When not wrestling, Dick Afflis played defensive tackle for the Green Bay Packers during the mid 1950s.
3. Verne Gagne
Vern Gagne out of Minneapolis was my favorite wrestling hero. Having wrestled in college, Gagne was a scientific wrestler in the true sense of the word. One would never see a dirty hold or move when Vern was wrestling. Gagne's most exciting submission hold was the sleeper, which he would apply to the neck of an opponent, rendering him unconscious by cutting off the flow of blood to the brain.
Verne Gagne vs Hans Schmidt 1963 - Part One
Verne Gagne vs Hans Schmidt 1963 - Part Two
4. Tony Rocca
Finally, I remember "Argentina" Tony Rocca. He was so exciting to watch, because he did a lot of drop kicks to soften up his foe for a back crusher. One of the most unforgettable tag team matches I saw had "Argentina" Rocca pair with Vern Gagne against the villains Hans Schmidt and Hans Schnabel.
There were many other pro wrestling stars from the 1950s, but I will never forget these four favorites.
© 2011 Paul Richard Kuehn