Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jody Arnold

In 1968. a muscular kid from Tempe by the name of Joe Jobe made his debut in Arizona, wrestling Mike Gordon to a 20 minute draw. He easily defeated some others after that and disappeared, in spite of his popularity with the crowd. Some weeks later he was back on TV, but this time in the company of Don Arnold, who was perhaps the most hated man in Arizona rings. So much for  popularity, as Joe announced he was really Jody Arnold, was Don's nephew and a new era would be coming to the grappling game.

A series of feuds saw Jody replace his uncle as the most vile villain in the Phoenix/Tucson area. Ron Pritchard, Tito Montez, Johnny Kostas and Cowboy Bob Ellis were just some of the people he feuded with. In the ring he was brutal. On the microphone he was detestable. The "high" (or low) point came when he arrived for a televised promo, dressed in a Mexican storeroom and with a greasepaint mustache on his face, announcing he was "The real Tito Montez." He then went in to say how as ""Tito" he feared "Jody Arnold" and since he could not beat Arnold in the ring, would have to pick melons as a field worker to put beans on the table so his family would not starve. This of course provoked rage from the predominantly Hispanic audience and a vow for revenge from Montez on the upcoming card. A group of Mexican fans were  arrested before this show as they were caught passing out switchblades in a plan to take the Arnold issue into their own hands. Even with these people out of the picture, there were enough fans to riot during the encounter. "I grabbed a security guard's nightstick and cleared my own path back to the locker room," Arnold commented when asked about the match years later.

A decade later, the feud was still on. In 1978, Jody became the first man to ever beat Montez in a cage match and subsequently win his version of the US title, which he would keep until retirement in 1988.

The 1970s saw Jody as one of the undisputed stars of western rings. He won the Indie US title and also held the Arizona title several times. Aside from those mentioned,  he likewise had notable matches or extended feuds with Woody Farmer, Afa & Sika (The Samoans), David Rose, Nano Ortega, Kurt Von Steiger, Tony Hernandez, Eddie Lopez, Cowboy Bob Yuma, Pancho Pico, Phil Melby, Bob Lueck  and Navajo Frank.

Then in 1981 an amazing thing happened. A new promoter took over and saw Arnold as a great draw as a fan favorite. He did not change his style, but simply started facing the men fans hated instead.

The Lumberjacks, Masked Frankenstein, John Ringer, Hollywood Brown, Rick Davidson, Gator Wolf, Eddie  Sullivan, The Savage and even Billy Graham became his challengers. You didn't hear much about it in the mainstream, but Arnold actually won a  victory over Graham by pin.

Old Ring Wrestling and Official Wrestling magazines carried articles on Arnold on the early 1980s if you can find them. There are also some brief clips of him in action on dvd at http://www.prowrestlingdvds.com in the 3 dvd set 50 Years Of Arizona Wrestling,

In 1996, Arnold was instrumental in working to organize the first Az. Old Timer Reunion and did so through 1998. Afterward, the gatherings were disbanded until 2001, when they were revamped and are still held to this day.

Several of Jody's sons went on to be outstanding amateur wrestlers and in some cases, coaches.

Other Jody trivia? Jody was the first and one of the few men to make Afa The Samoan bleed. Few opponents  ever escaped his bearhug or his back breaker. Arnold likewise won more battle royals than any wrestler in history in Arizona. The closest call to losing came when he and Nano Ortega were left in the ring  and they decided to split the money when both were hated heels. As they embraced,. Arnold proved there was no honor among thieves and threw Ortega through the ropes to eliminate him and win. This of course created an Arnold vs Ortega feud.

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