Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Donna Christianello

Donna Christianello died last week During the 1970s and 1980s she was an integral part of female wrestling, making it to the WWF, Japan and Europe. After retirement, she worked at Wal Mart. Few customers in these last years came to the store and realized that the friendly old greeter had been one of the terrors of the ring in seasons gone by.

Christianello was never a regular in Phoenix, though she wad brought in by Kurt Von Steiger prior to his renting out the  Phoenix Madison Square Garden. She appeared at the Immaculate Heart Gym when the Pseudo--German ran there.

One particularly torrid match saw her teaming with Lily Thompson to take on the  team of Sandy Parker and Sue Green. The latter team won.

In other parts of the world, Christianello also faced Toni Rose, Marie Laverne, Vicki Williams, Princess Victoria and Judy Martin, among others. She also had an occasional title match with Moolah.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Every Indy territory since the invention of Doink has to have a clown. Enter Durty, Big Top, Yuk Yuk, Pennywise, Clank, Corky and Filthy, plus of course The Insane Clown Posse in the Midwest and Los Payasos in Mexico.

Real Deal Pro Wrestling bow has its own clown in the Phoenix area in the form of Giggles.

In true evil clown style, he is about as funny as a prostate exam. His makeup tends to rub off in his matches. Ringling Brothers he is not!

Still, Giggles adds something to the cards.

As of now one of his better matches has been with the veteran, CC Starr in Phoenix. The match may be seen on You Tube.

How far Giggles will go will remain to be seen. I would suggest he investigate working the Mexican border in places such as Nogales, Mexicali and Agua Prieta where he would go over quite well.  

In the meantime he continues to ply his trade in Arizona as a spectacularly unfunny and sinister clown invading the wrestling world. Yeah, yeah, it has been done to death already by others over the past two decades, but if he finds some ways to improve on the role he will last,

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Cornelio Hernandez Video

There's a ton of stuff related to wrestling on Youtube. One of the things that caught my eye is a tribute to Tony Hernandez. Simply log in Cornelio "Tony" Hernandez and Arizona wrestling on the Youtube search and it will come up.

Some might think this is my production as it offers some of my old photos from the 1970s shot when Hernandez wrestled as a main-event guy in Phoenix and clips of a Wrestling World article I did on him in 1984 or so. On the contrary, I have no idea who produced this and have nothing to do with it being created, but more power to them. I loved the video.

There are also stills from the film, Losing It, in which Hernandez played a big jail thug.

It is worth a viewing or two.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Monte LaDue

Throughout the 1940s, Monte Ladue (also spelled Monti and Monty in programs) toured the USA and Canada as "The Mad Frenchman" while exhibiting a style uncommonly brutal for his era. Washignton, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois were just some of the states where he headlined. In Texas he had a run a their Jr. Heavyweight champ. Some of the people he faced included Sockeye O' Donnell, Gil Lacrosse, Gorilla Ramos, Kenny Mayne, Billy Rayburn, Paavo Ketonan and Danny McShain. In 1950, he made a permanent move to Arizona and would work this circuit for years, while still traveling out to other places.

One of the high points in Ladue's career came in 1951 in Tucson, when he wrestled Vern Gagne for the World Jr Heavyweight title in a 2/3 fall match, though he did not win.

Though he had previously teamed with Yukon Jake, somewhat of a poor man's Yukon Eric in California some time before as a pair of villains, he would break with his former partner in Arizona. The two would feud in varied towns with Jake as the sudden fan favorite and Ladue as the heel.

Jake played his role to the hilt by arriving at the arena in a broken down jalopy with pelts, traps and furs hanging out of it, like someone right out of the Canadian West. As the bad guy, Ladue played up the contrast to the best he could, by showing up in fancy suits and driving a huge car or coming in a rented limousine.

By the 1960s, Ladue was out of the game as an active wrestler, but continued for many years as a referee. He was acting as arbitrator in the tag match where Jim Wright died during a tag team match in Phoenix.

Ladue lived into the 1990s and was still listed in the Mesa phone book at the time of his passing.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tony Martin

Though his name has not cropped up in several years, Tony Martin was an active face in pro wrestling both in Arizona and across the border in Sonora, Mexico, where he lived. Though reportedly only a modest wrestler himself, he proved to be quite a promoter as he migrated from the two homes he had in Phoenix and Nogales, to book cards pitting Anglos vs. Mexican wrestlers.

During the 1990s, Martin ran numerous shows in the Phoenix/Tucson area, with locations ranging between rodeo rings to bars. One Phoenix extravaganza did not pan out as he had hopped, however, when he booked Mil Mascaras to face Sergeant Shultz. The latter came down with a case of diarrhea and the match did not last long. Shultz evidently left the ring and got counted out fast in order to avoid a humiliating situation. "What was a guy like me supposed to do," he was overheard saying in Spanish. "Wrestle with 'caca' in my pants for half an hour."

Other cards he promoted saw Arizona favorites Thrillseeker Terry Zeller, Fly Boy, The Black Mamba and J.T.Law against wrestlers form Sonora such as Indio Seri, Resplandor and Flama Azul.

Martin took over the area once operated by Pedro Gonzalez and later, Bucky Zepeda, to promote in Hermosillo and Nogales. Using his Arizona pull, he brought Law, Mamba, Shultz, Steve Vega, Bonecrusher and even myself down to the old Pedro Gonzalez Arena on the outskirts of Nogales. Mexican wrestlers on the cards included Enigma, Black Widow, Flama Negra, Makriz, Resplandor and others.

Martin likewise ran spot shows in smaller pueblos such as Santa Ana, Benjamin Hill and Trincheras in Sonora, where he usually drew large crowds.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Big Heart

Chief Big Heart was an actual Sioux Indian by the name of Richard Vest. In the 1950s and 1960s he gained much fame for an extended feud with Dr Jerry Graham, which spilled over into Arizona as well as many other parts of  the USA. Graham was the consummate heel and Big Heart was the charismatic fan favorite, making for tremendous chemistry in their encounters. Their matches were bloody brawls that usually ended in double disqualifications, though occasionally Big Heart forced the humongous Graham to submit when he clamped on his bow and arrow finisher.

Big Heart's last Arizona stint came in 1973, when eh drifted back into Phoenix for Kurt Von Steiger's promotion. By then, Graham was long gone from the area, but there were others for him of feud with.

Big Heart ran through a host of undercard wrestlers such a Johnny Mann, Rudy Navarro, Spike Jones and Ali Bey in Tucson, Casa Grande, Prescott and Flagstaff, as well as Phoenix Madison Square Garden showings. He was then matched with a young Bobby Jaggers who was wrestling as Bobby Mayne at the time.

Mayne vs, Big Heart was not exactly on par with the old Big Heart vs. Graham feud, but it held the interest of the fans to  the point where both men headed elsewhere.

Big Heart was later killed in a car crash.

Inquiring his long career, Big Heart was extremely popular with the fans and always willing to pose for photos or sign autographs,. His signature was  unique as when hurried, he would simply draw a heart on programs, photos or napkins handed to him by supporters.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Chico Band

Chico Band was a stocky little guy who would have been considered too small to wrestle according to most American standards. Living across from Yuma, in San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico, he was a mainstay in this border  town in the 1980s and 1990s.

The wrestler supplemented his income as the leader of a mariachi group.

Band made it occasionally to Arizona when the Coronas, Tony martin and others made efforts to run lucha libre in Phoenix and environs, but was never a regular due to problems with immigration.

Some of the people Band feuded with in his native San Luis included Circulo Rojo, Oso Negro, Mr,. Kobra, Vikingo, Baby Love and an occasional visitor from Arizona.The American, El Futuristico  (Bladerunenr in the USA)  gave him some wild brawls.

Though usually a singles wrestler, Band formed a popular tag team with Mr Majestyk in the 1990s..  

Oddly enough, Band did not do many of the sensational flying moves attributed to other lucha libre stars, but fought as a brawler, slugging, slamming and throwing people into chairs.

The Shoe-Polish Match

Sometimes wrestlers do dumb things when they are first starting out and learn by experience. Such was the case when Benny Mendeblis and Billy Anderson engaged in a scientific match when the latter was new at the game.

The two started out with solid chain wrestling.  Hold vs hold and arm bar versus arm bar. Then the crowd  started laughing,.

The two wrestlers were covered with black stripes. They looked like zebras.

The match continued as they wrestled and exchanged holds. Arm drags. Headlocks. Full nelsons. Dropkicks.

With each move, the wrestlers became more streaked.

The only question was why and how.

In the locker room the mystery was finally resolved when the match  ended.

It seems Anderson had shown the poor judgment of polishing his wrestling boots with black polish right before going into the ring.

Being it hadn't dried.....

Pedro El Grande

Pedro Puig was born in Puerto Rico and started wrestling there. In 1978, he drifted into Arizona and remained active for over a  decade, before  a back injury forced him into retirement.As  Pedro El Grande,  he made a  name for himself in the Pheonix area.

Throughout the 1980s, Pedro feuded with the Lumberjacks. Sometimes he teamed with David Rose and sometimes with Cowboy Bob Yuma but no matter what the combination was, the matches ended in invariable brawls.

Pedro also appeared as a single facing Maniac Mike Gordon, Sneaky Red Smith, Tony Hernandez, Ron Newstrome, John Ringer, Ringo Rodriguez and others. He and Jody Arnold also squared off in a major Phoenix main event against Ringer and special partner, Billy Graham.

Other opponents included Hercules Stevenson, Masked Frankenstein, Hollywood Brown, Mr. X, The Detroit Mauler, Mr Southern Comfort, The Golden Eagle and  The Viking 

For a time he also worked as a WWF referee in the Phoenix/Tucson area.

Aside from wrestling, Pedro was an established carpenter and electrician,. He re-wired several small arenas for promoters and built a couple rings.

His style was a technical one, utilizing a number of on the ground holds with sensational flying dropkicks.

His wife also wrestled briefly as Lucky Leslie and his sister-in-law  had a brief stint as Princess Margo.

Though always a fan favorite as Pedro El Grande, he did some spots as a rulebreaker under a mask.

He was seen on rare occasions across the border in Mexico, most notably in Nogales. There, his feud with The Lumberjacks continued.

Who knows how much further he might have gone had it not been for the back injuries from too many slams that put him out of the game as an active participant? Even so, he remained on the sidelines as a trainer and matchmaker for varied Indy offices for a long time to come.

Aside from wrestling, he likewise beat two of the most deadly opponents around in the 1990s, defeating both a heart attack and prostate cancer.

He is presently going strong.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Goodbye, JT Lightning Or Today Is A Good Day To Die

The first time I heard the name of JT Lightning would have been in the early 1990s, when I was in California from Arizona for the AIWA and the promote had received a letter from him, feeling out possible bookings in the west. What stuck with me was he operated out of Cleveland and though normally associated with Arizona/California/Mexico I was from Akron. It would be over a decade later before we would be on a couple cards together, when my wife and I moved back to Ohio. JT never made it out west and in retrospect they dropped the ball by not using him in the California/Arizona area.

JT did quite well on his own, as his Cleveland All Pro Wrestling thrived for years. He survived a major knee injury and made a comeback. He survived Indy promotional wars. He survived the trials of Indy promoting.He survived dealing with booking and wretsling name guys. He survived the annoyance of running a quality television show for his promotion.

Then in April of 2010 he was diagnosed with throat cancer, which spread.

He almost beat that too...or so it seemed...for he turned what was figured by many to be an issue of months at best into over a year and a half of life.

It almost seemed as if by some great miracle, he would beat the thing.


On August 4 at 4:30 p.m. Ohio time, the incredible battle against the odds ended for good.

JT Lightning almost made it out west once, but the transportation expenses were too much I guess.

For a while and against all hope, it seemed like he would be beating the cancer too.


So close and yet so far.

I have repeated this saying to the point of tedium on many threads started since August 4 about his life and death. It is an old Sioux proverb. If people agree with it that is fine and if not, then fine also.

"Today is a good day to die, for now his spirit walks with his ancestors."

August 4 was a good day to die, for it ended a long and horrific battle against the odds. He fought cancer like no man I have ever seen, but it was time to just give in. It was a good day to die, for his pain and misery, especially in the final weeks, came to a close.

August 4 was a good day to die, for on that afternoon, JT Lightning walked down the aisle and not into the ring, but into history.

JT Lightning. 1970-2011.