This one hurts. Those of you that follow my fed know that I am a huge fan of Lance Russell and use him and Dave Brown as the voices of my fed's television show. I absolutely loved listening to Lance over the years especially once I was able to see Memphis shows regularly through tape trading and through collecting the Memphis DVD's from Highspots and now of course easy viewing access on Youtube.
Lance had "it" and his way of handling things behind the mic made him a favorite of many. His verbal jousts with Jerry Lawler (especially when "The King" was a heel) and Jimmy Hart are legendary. Hart was especially good at giving Lance fits and of course Lawler coined the phrase "banana nose" when referring to the beloved announcer. There will never be another like him. RIP, Mr. Russell, and thanks for the many great memories.
World Heavyweight: Johnny Valentine World Tag Team: Midnight Express International: Tyler Black Junior Heavyweight: Tiger Mask Tex-Arkana TV: Dutch Savage Trios: Curt Hennig, Tully Blanchard & CW Anderson Empress Ring: Mercedes Martinez Empress Ring Tag Team: Vacant IWA Heavyweight: Adam Cole IWA Tag Team: PCO & Brody King IWA J-Crown: Joey Janela
Been from England I never saw (sadly) Memphis Wrestling . But R.I.P Lance Russell
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Melvin Nelson, better known in and out of wrestling circles as the inimitable Burrhead Jones, passed away Sunday night at the age of 80 in a New York City hospital.
Nelson worked his way out of Berkeley County cotton fields, survived the rampant racial discrimination of the time, and achieved his dream of becoming a professional wrestler.
“To make it as a black man back in the ‘70s, I had to be dedicated to the business and want it real bad,” he once said. “A newcomer to the business — black or white — had to pay his dues by spending some nights in the bus station or in his car just to have some money to live on. We always couldn't afford a motel. I saw guys come in with a $5,000 car and leave with a $50,000 vehicle — a Greyhound bus out of town. The grass always looked greener on the other side.”
The Moncks Corner native became a regional star in several Southeastern territories and is perhaps best remembered for his mid-'70s program with the late Blackjack Mulligan (Bob Windham).
Nelson enjoyed one of his most successful runs in the business teaming with a cousin he met in New York several years before turning pro. He and Carey “Buster” Lloyd, a Dillon native who would later become Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones, one of wrestling's most popular performers, worked out at the same 42nd Street gym.
The two first teamed in New York in the late '60s and again in the mid-'70s for Charlotte-based Crockett Promotions. One of Nelson's most memorable matches saw him take a seemingly vicious beating at the hands of Mulligan in a 1976 bout televised in Raleigh, N.C. It was a textbook angle that is still talked about in Mid-Atlantic wrestling circles today.
Nelson returned to New York in 2006 to be closer to his children, but he never forgot his Lowcountry roots
Former professional wrestler Stan "Krusher" Kowalski passed away last Friday at 91 years old. Kowalski was best known as one half of the tag team Murder Incorporated alongside his partner Tiny Mills in the American Wrestling Association.
Kowalski was born Bert Smith in Minneappolis. At 17, he joined the U.S. Navy and served three and a half years during World War II. After the war he enrolled at the University of Minnesota where he joined the wrestling team.
Kowalski made his debut for an NWA promotion in 1948. He and Mills eventually won the Minneapolis version of the NWA World Tag Team Championships twice while working for the NWA Minneapolis Wrestling and Boxing Club and later became the first-ever AWA tag team champions in 1960 when that promotion merged into the AWA. He retired from professional wrestling in 1976.
Kowalski spent much of his time volunteering for the United Way and helping homeless veterans. The Veterans of Foreign Wars named an award after him in his honor.
Veteran wrestler and trainer Tugboat Taylor dead at 71
Tugboat Taylor, a veteran wrestler and trainer based in Houston, has died. He was 71 years old. Besides his in-ring accomplishments, from Mid-South to Global Wrestling Federation, and having a part in the education of the likes of Booker T and Stevie Ray, Taylor could lay claim to being one of the few pro wrestlers who ever made the pages of Sports Illustrated.
That would be the June 15, 1998 issue, with Michael Jordan on the cover. In it, Houston-based writer Randall Patterson heads to Taylor's gym, which the headline calls the "Actors Studio for WWF wannabes."
Getting past the traditional "is it fake?" storyline quickly, Patterson offers up a vivid description of Taylor: "His voice sounded as if he were chewing rocks. When he smiled, his mouth turned down at the corners. There are 370 pounds of Tugboat. Even at 51, he says, he's still the meanest of the mean and the toughest of the tough."
Tugboat Taylor's School of Professional Wrestling was in downtown Houston, not far from the jail, and was sparse, with the warehouse containing "one exercise bike, one couch and one wrestling ring." Dick Taylor, born December 9, 1945, in Iowa, began pro wrestling in 1980, after excelling at amateur wrestling, and a stint in the Marines. He trained in Houston and can be seen on cards throughout the Mid-South and Texas territories in the early 1980s, facing the likes of Matt Borne, Jeff Gaylord, Wild Bill Irwin and The Patriot.
A DVD compilation of his matches calls him "one of the sport's all-time most underrated big men ... With his Sherman tank-like powerlifter's build and charismatic ring persona, Tug was an absolute monster of the squared-circle... whether as an evil, sadistic heel or a fan-favorite babyface."
James Beard was a referee for Global Wrestling Federation, and initially thought that it was Tugboat from WWF, Fred Ottman, coming into GWF. "I found Tug to be surprisingly athletic for his size. He wasn't real tall, but I suspect he weighed over 350 and he did all this stuff off the ropes and was flying around. I found out he had been pretty successful in Mexico, so that explained some of that," recalled Beard. "He was very easy to work with and you could put him with anyone and get a good match, regardless the style."
When his own health took him off the road -- it's tough to take bumps with an artificial hip -- he began training and promoting.
In his autobiography (part 1), Booker T: From Prison to Promise, Booker Huffman shared meeting him: "This cool cat named Tugboat Taylor, who was promoting a little shoestring organization called Texas All Pro Wrestling." Booker was performing as G.I. Bro, and often worked on Taylor's shows, until, as he writes, one time where he sold a bunch of tickets for a show where he wrestled Killer Tim Brooks and Taylor paid him only in dollar bills. Booker threw the money at Taylor and walked out.
The Houston Chronicle profiled the indy scene around town in 2005, and Taylor weighed in: "These guys are basically playing for gas money," Taylor said. "No one's getting rich doing this."
Training suited Taylor, said Lori McGee Hurst, a long-time figure behind-the-scenes in Texas wrestling, including World Class Championship Wrestling. "He was a true journeyman and he was one of the best trainers here in Texas. He was highly respected and well thought of by everyone. Great mind and talent for the business," she shared. "He trained so many and gave them starts in their careers."
On Facebook, Bruiser Bruce Bennett thanked Taylor back in May. "In January 1989 Tug took a chance on me, a 28 year old late-starter, and he never stopped working with me! Because I worked rotating shifts, I couldn't always make the scheduled training sessions, but Tug would open the gym and work with me 1-on-1, making sure I didn't fall behind the other wrestlers in my training class.....he didn't have to do that, but he did, because he wanted me and all the others to become the best wrestlers we could be! I'll never be able to thank you enough for all you did for me, helping me to achieve my dream of becoming a professional wrestler."
There was one student, however, nearer and dearer to his heart than any other -- his son, Chaz Taylor.
Dave Johnson, who died November 26 at age 50 after a heart attack, was much more than just a well-traveled tag team wrestler in the Blackhearts. He was a skilled performer, an excellent trainer, a valued mentor, a clever booker, and someone who always spoke his mind, the consequences be damned. One of his closest friends was Tokyo Monster Kahagas, real name Paul Antone, who had traveled up and down the highways of Florida with Johnson for decades. They were supposed to team again next weekend, a comeback of sorts for Johnson who had stepped away from the professional wrestling business for about eight years, concentrating on his young son, Dave Jr., and his pool cleaning business, DJ's Pool Service, in Vero Beach, Florida. Antone first met Johnson in the dressing room at a Florida Championship Wrestling show. "We just became friends. We were just cool. We just had that common bond," he said, explaining how the 6-foot-1, 250-pound Johnson could be intimidating. "He had that bitch-face. He was outspoken. He intimidated a lot of people. He didn't really intimidate me, I was cool with him, I was just cool with everybody, but I seen it." The hardened Antone chuckled at the memories. "They're still scared of him. The whole reason why is because he was real. He was that dude that gave a sh-- about the business. He had his own mentality." David E. Johnson was born May 22, 1967. His initial training as a pro wrestler came from The Great Malenko, circa 1989. The lessons learned stuck with him, said Casey Thompson, who later wrestled with and trained wrestlers alongside Johnson. "Everything he ever talked about was, 'Mr. Malenko always said this,' " said Thompson. Respect was a big thing to Johnson, said Thompson. "If he walked into a building, he'd go up and shake everyone's hands," he said. Bigger stars would be approached first, but he would make an effort to say hello to everyone. He expected the same in return. "It's all about paying your dues, getting respect, showing respect, respecting the business. With Malenko, he was brought up on that. He not only preached it and beat it into people all the time." Johnson's big break would come under a mask. Tom Nash and Dave Heath were the original Blackharts (Apocalypse and Destruction) in Calgary, Alberta, and had known each other from the Florida indy circuit. It was a gimmick that Nash came up with, along with Dave Meltzer, which he sold to Calgary booker Bruce Hart. In the storyline, the masked men were apparently bastard sons of Stu Hart, with an evil nephew, Hugh Hart (Kris Pope) as their manager. Heath, who would later gain fame as Gangrel in WWE, left in less than a week, and Jason Anderson became a Blackhart and the new pair held the Stampede International tag team titles in the final six months of the promotion, which closed in 1989.
The gimmick lived on those, memorable for the full-face mask, without openings, long robes. Often, the Blackhearts (renamed outside of Calgary) would have a primary mask on for ring introductions, removing it to reveal the black-masked nothingness. For popular culture reference, think Phantom of the Opera. Over the years, Nash and Heath teamed as the Blackhearts, but another partner was Dave Johnson (Blackheart Devastation), who Nash also knew from the Florida scene. Complicating the issue was the fact that Nash had previously been romantically involved with Gertrude Vachon, better known as manager Luna Vachon; she ended up with Heath/Gangrel. Johnson had a similar build to Heath, and Nash had a deal for the Blackhearts to go to Japan. Their first tour together (Nash had been previously) was February 19-28, 1993, with Terry Gordy, Steve "Dr. Death" Williams, Stan Hansen, Dan Spivey, Dory Funk Jr., Patriot (Del Wilkes) & Eagle (Jackie Fulton), Danny Kroffat & Doug Furnas, and Rob Van Dam (who was also on his first Japanese tour).