Today In Wrestling History
14 years ago today Aloysius Martin Thesz, born Lajos Tiza, best known to wrestling fans as Lou Thesz dies of complications from triple bypass surgery in a hospital in Orlando, Florida just four days after his 86th birthday.
Born April 24, 1916 in Banat, Michigan, Thesz moved to St. Louis as a young boy. His working class father instilled the foundation of Greco-Roman wrestling from a young age; it would not take long for Thesz to parlay that success. He had prominent success on his high school wrestling team and trained with Ad Santel. He made his professional debut in 1932 at just age 16. He would soon cross paths with Ed “Strangler” Lewis, the premier wrestler of the 1920s, and would learn the art of hooking (stretching an opponent in painful holds). The two would form a lasting friendship.
In late December 1937, Thesz, one of the biggest wrestling stars in the St. Louis territory, would win the National Wrestling Association World Heavyweight Championship from Everett Marshall. At 21, he became the youngest world champion ever. He would hold the title two more times, in 1939, and again in 1948.
It was in 1948 where Thesz was to meet Orville Brown to crown the first champion of the National Wrestling Alliance. Just weeks before the match, however, Brown was involved in a career-ending car accident. The championship would be awarded to Thesz as a result. Over the next few years, Thesz would unify other world championships, and by 1952, he was recognized as the undisputed world heavyweight champion. Thesz would finally lose the title in 1956 to Whipper Billy Watson. During this period, he won over 900 consecutive matches.
In 1957, Thesz would forfeit the title due to injury to Edouard Carpentier. The NWA did not recognize Carpentier as champion, though some promotions did. In the same year, Thesz defended the NWA world title against Rikidozan in Japan, often going to one-hour draws. Their series of matches popularized professional wrestling in Japan. Thesz would finally drop the championship to Dick Hutton in late 1957. He would then embark on a tour of Europe and Japan, billing himself as the NWA International Champion; the title still exists today as a part of All Japan Pro Wrestling’s Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship.
Thesz would win a fifth world championship in 1963 when he defeated longtime rival Buddy Rogers. Thesz was 46 at the time. He held the title for three years before dropping it to Gene Kinski. Lou would wrestle part time for over a decade, winning his last major championship in 1978, the Universal Wrestling Alliance Heavyweight Championship. He would drop it about a year later to El Canek. Thesz retired in 1979 after a bout with Luke Graham. Over the next decade, he would referee some of the most famous matches in wrestling, including Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes for the NWA world title in 1981 and Big Van Vader vs. Shinya Hashimoto for the IWGP heavyweight title in 1989. As it usually goes in wrestling, retirements don’t stick; he finally called it a career in December 1990 at age 74. His final opponent: one of his protégés, Masahiro Chono.
Post-retirement, he wrote an autobiography, Hooker in 1995, became president of the Cauliflower Alley Club, an organization for retired pro wrestlers, and a trainer for Union of Wrestling Force International (UWF-I). He also dabbled in announcing, doing color commentary for World Class Championship Wrestling. In 1999, Thesz got a professional wrestling hall of fame named after him along with George Tragos in Newton, Iowa, a suburb of Des Moines.Until his last illness, Thesz worked out three or four times a week near his home. At the time of his death, he was survived by his wife, Charlie, three sons, three sisters, and ten grandchildren.
13 years ago today, Steve Austin makes it official in an interview with WWE.com: he’s retired from in-ring performing. Austin in the interview, where he also spoke publicly about why he left WWE the previous summer:
“In this business, I’ve learned never say never….But I would say probably 99.9 percent out of 100 that you’ll never see Rock and Stone Cold in the ring again…..I’m not wrestling anymore. That was my last match…
“I’ve got some serious problems in my neck. It’s too long and too complicated to discuss. But a lot of the reasons I walked out of this company seven or eight months ago were things I didn’t want to talk about at the time because we had WrestleMania coming up. The biggest reason I walked away was because my health is going downhill so badly, and I can’t compete at an acceptable level to me, and at a risk factor that’s high enough to me. Everything I do in that ring is very dangerous and makes me go even further downhill. It’s potentially something where I could end up being a quadriplegic. That was the biggest reason I walked out. The creative and the political issues were just icing on the cake — the straw that broke the camel’s back…
“I refuse to go out there anymore, perform at a substandard level and have people judge me on what I’m putting out right now. I had a hell of a run. I’m completely satisfied with it.”
Though through the years rumors have sprung and Austin has teased a return to the ring on multiple occasions, the 2009 WWE Hall of Famer has stayed retired.
6 years ago today, Lisa Marie Varon, aka TNA Knockout Tara, announces via MySpace she was leaving the company. Her statement:
“It appears that I’m winding down at TNA. Unfortunately some organizations “leak” information to wrestling websites to put their spin on a situation, to make sure they come out in the best light. Not me. I’m gonna say it. I’m gonna put my name on it. And I’m going to stand behind it.
I came to TNA last year because I still had a lot of wrestling left in me. I was paid a fraction of what I thought I deserved. But I wanted to show I was still at the top of my game. Now my contract is up in May. I want a modest pay increase. They don’t want to pay me what I think is fair. I have no problem going my own way.
But about 12 hours after the conversation where we didn’t agree on pay, unnamed sources claim that I am hard to work with and that I don’t give my best effort. My only response is that TNA made an aggressive effort to re-sign me, among other things saying that they want to build the women’s division around me. And I think wrestling fans see, both on TV and at live events, that I always give 100%. I take pride in that. Smearing me on the way out the door is an act of second rate character.
I take pride in making my best effort to elevate my own wrestling and the entire TNA Women’s Division. If people were rubbed the wrong way in the process, I stand behind my work and my positive intentions.
In closing I will say this. In the few weeks that I have left in TNA, I will be the same wrestler that you have seen for the past ten years. After that, I haven’t decided if I will stay in wrestling, or finally make the jump to MMA. I do have a lot of irons in the fire. We’ll see where life takes me. But wherever that is, there’s gonna be competition, and I’m gonna give it my all.”
She, of course, did not stay gone for long; Lisa was back with the company in July. She would leave TNA again, this time for good, two years later.