Squared Circle Pit

Squared Circle Pit

Friday, December 17, 2010

Jimmy Hart & The First Family's Shoulda Been Power Pop Smash

In the post about Sputnik Monroe and Memphis, I told you about the early recording career of Jimmy "Mouth of the South" Hart. Welllll, Hart kept things a-rockin' every so often outside the ring starting with this 1982 power pop rocker, "We Hate School" - done up in the vein of Alice Cooper's "School's Out" and a predecessor to W.A.S.P.'s "School Daze".

Koko B. Ware (who friended me on Myspace 'round 2006) jams on the telecaster. OK, Iranian Assassin's not really playing but the dude sure can keep kayfabe behind the kit. This song appeared on not one but TWO documents of T.T.R.A.W.C. (Thee TRUE Rock and Wrestling Connection, to you humanoid!) starting with 1984's Japanese only release by the great Texan, Terry Funk & his friends from the Far East. "We Hate School" showed up again on 1985's long out of print, Outrageous Conduct album by of course Jimmy Hart. Outrageous Conduct was put out by the illiterative very literal label Rockin' Rasslin' Records. "Eat Your Heart Out Rick Springfield", indeed!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Blondie meets Andre

Not only did she front one of the greatest new wave bands of all-time but she also met the 8th wonder of the world. I only wish they did a song or at least a video together. Image via: legendary manager  Jim Cornette.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sputnik Monroe - Unheralded civil rights activist AND early rock n' wrestling connection

The Memphis territory had been not only the background of early Rock N' Roll but also an area that's considered a classic by many wrestling fans. The otherwise loony moonie paper, Washington Times  has a great article (quoted below) on the legendary Sputnik Monroe who not only was connected to early rock 'n rollers and country stars but more importantly he also helped desegregate the city of Memphis. Defintely, an additional chapter to the Civil Rights movement that they SHOULD be teaching in kids.

"This was the time of Elvis Presley and Sam Phillips and Sun Records, and Monroe fit right in. He became close friends with Phillips, the wild genius who brought Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins to fame. Monroe even trained Phillips' 12-year-old son, Jerry, to be part of his act as a "midget" wrestler. 

Monroe became a Beale Street fixture, particularly in the black clubs, and he gained a huge following in the black community. But black fans were limited to a handful of seats in the highest balcony of Ellis Auditorium. Monroe constantly battled the local promoters, who feared retribution if they did not limit the number of blacks attending such a public event along with white fans. But Monroe threatened to leave the promoter if he didn't allow more black fans in.

' There used to be a couple of thousand blacks outside wanting in,' Monroe said. 'So I would tell management I'd be cutting out if they don't let my black friends in. I had the power because I'm selling out the place, the first guy that ever did, and they sure wanted the revenue.' 

'There were so many black fans that the promoter had little choice but to integrate the seating -- something that wasn't done at any other public events in Memphis.'

Monroe said he became so popular that city officials feared his influence and tried to get him to leave town. 'I used to get arrested for vagrancy for hanging out on Beale Street,' he said. 'I got a black lawyer and went to court. I told them this was the United States of America, and I could go wherever I ... pleased. They fined me $25, but after about a half-dozen arrests, they gave up.' 

Later in his career, he had a black tag-team partner, Norvell Austin, and they had an act that started after they defeated an opponent, who usually was white. Monroe would dump a can of black paint on the guy and yell into the ring microphone, 'Black is beautiful.' Austin would yell, 'White is beautiful,' and then the two of them would yell, 'Black and white together is beautiful."

The Smokebox also has some real gems culled from the fantastic book, It Came From Memphis by Robert Gordon:

"Sputnik's one-man campaign had ripple effects all across Memphis, not only in the black community, but also amongst young white kids. Elvis, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Sam Phillips had already opened the valve, releasing emotions in young white people that caused grave concern for the enforcers of the status quo. And here was this upstart wrestler, not just playing with young kids minds, but messing with the gas that fueled how things ran in Memphis, namely racism. Another fan of that era, Jim Black says 'I went through my whole twelve years at school having never been able to share an experience with a black, and I was starting to resent this, because I was also listening to radio and Dewey Phillips, and hearing all these great black records and realizing that these were some talented artists, this was another culture. Where, at first, we'd gone to the matches hoping to see Sputnik get beat, we started to realize that he was pretty fucking cool. He had his audience, and he never played down to 'em, never talked down to 'em. He became a role model.'


 Sputnik says this of his influence on young whites, 'There was a group of wealthy white kids that dug me beause I was a rebel. I'm saying what they wanted to say, only they were just too young or inexperienced or afraid to say it. You have a black maid raising your kids and she's talking about me all of the time, so I may not be in the front living room, but I'm going in the back door of your goddamn house, feeding your kids on Monday morning and sending 'em to school. And meeting the bus when they come home. Pretty powerful thing.'

Sputnik's influence went way beyond the wrestling ring. He interfered righteously with the city fathers' plans for business- as-usual. In one instance, the black leadership in Memphis was involved in a protest against the segregation of an automobile exhibition. Sputnik called up the sponsors and told them that he was planning to open his own car lot in the black community. That night, the change of admission policy was broadcast on the evening news.

 He even went as far as announcing himself as a candidate for sheriff. 'People thought prostitution and incest would flourish, 'motherfucker' would become a household word,' he said. 'I could have run for mayor, and made it. I could have blackmailed the city. I could have done anything I wanted. I was general of a little black army.' Johnny Black recalls, 'If you would have had some kind of election about who was the best-known face in Memphis at that time - Sputnik, Elvis or the mayor - Sputnik would have been real close to Elvis."


Additionally, one of the best known wrestling managers, Jimmy "Mouth of the South" Hart got his start in the Memphis territory. Prior to getting into wrestling, Hart was the vocalist for the "beat band", The Gentrys. The Gentrys had a hit single in 1965 with the song "Keep on Dancing". (This was later a hit for the Bay City Rollers in 1971). At the peak of their career, the Gentrys, "Keep on Dancing" got to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965 and sold a million copies of the single. They went on to play on TV shows such as Shindig!, Hullabaloo, and Where the Action Is. Plus, they toured with Sonny & Cher and the Beach Boys.  In the early 70's Hart got back in contact with his high school classmate Jerry "The King" Lawler to work in the squared circle. 


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bob Mould talks about his career in wrestling

These two lugs from Minneapolis interview the former Hüsker Dü frontman, solo artist, DJ, and one time theme creator for the WCW, Bob Mould. The dude KNOWS his wrestlin'! Unfortunately, this show doesn't exactly have "all th' time in the world" for his live set.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Ramones and Dee Dee King's - "The Crusher"

I discovered this tune written and sung by Dee Dee (and co-written by the proflic writer/producer Daniel Rey) on some random blog (ugh, I forget where) of Ramones rarties. Keep in mind this is not a cover of the song I put in the first post. Check out the lyrics, Dee Dee even makes reference to his horrible (but amusing) hip-hop tune "Funky Man". The Russian Bear is probably Ivan Koloff who wrestled in the late 60's-early 70's era of the then World Wide Wrestling Federation of Vince MacMahon Sr. Given that Dee & the other Ramones are from Queens which was once part of the WWWF territory, I'd think it's very likely.

Here's the original that Dee Dee released on his first solo full-length, Standing In The Spotlight (1989).I like this one better as it comes off rawer and more from the gut.

This is an awesome fan-made video of the Ramones version that appeared on their final studio album Adios Amigos (1995) which had C.J. instead of Dee Dee on bass & vocals. The imagery in here is really on point - lots of great clips featuring the real Crusher, Jerry "The King" Lawler, and Ivan "The Russian Bear" Koloff. A few of the clips of the real Crusher are from the movie The Wrestler   (not to be confused with the equally excellent Mickey Rourke movie).

"Now I wanna wrestle in the garden
I'm on my way to stardom
I know I'm ready I know I'm great
But first I have to get in shape

Cause I've got my eyes on the Russian Bear
Gonna tear him up I swear
This guy thinks he's the champion
Gonna take his belt and beat him!

I'm the crusher king of the ring

I'm ready for a match with the Russian Bear
Gonna pile drive him pull his hair
I might have a foreign object in my trunks
I might have to use on that punk

Got the hardest hold you can put on anyone
If you're my victim you're beaten
I'm a lean mean fighting machine
Powerful and strong like King Kong

I'm the crusher king of the ring

Started having second thought I was scared as hell
The last thing I wanted was to hear them ring the bell
I mean the Russian Bear could probably
tear me limb from limb
He'd probably grin be real happy with himself
This is not good for my health
I'm not coming out of the dressing room
And get beaten up by that goon

Go back to Russia go back home!
Don't wanna get a broken bone
Or a lump on my head
Ain't gonna hide under the bed

I'm the crusher king of the ring

I'm the Crusher"

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Territory System IS hardcore

In the old days (i.e. before McMahon "owned" wrestling) there was a territory system. This system still exists this to some degree, on the independent circut. However, the quality of the product really varies. The Hayward, CA based APW is a fine example. After all I met Jimmy "Superfly" Skuka at one of their matches in San Jose and they put on a very traditional, no frills card that was very solid. On the other hand, there's the "extreme than thou" garbage like CZW.  At the bigger leagues, there's Total Non-Stop Action (T.N.A.) and Ring of Honor. TNA's is filled with boring WCW has beens and Hulk Hogan ("booo!"). Ring of Honor does most of their stuff on pay-per-view webcasts which I've avoided but they at least have one of the greatest managers of all-time, Jim Cornette and a Death Metal fan, Jerry Lynn in their ranks.

The territory system wasn't perfect by any means. While I slag McMahon here (and will continue to) the territory bosses could be just as crooked for grapplers with promotion and money. This is not unlike shady promoters in rock n' roll. Bill Graham claimed he "owned" rock n' roll in San Francisco and would threaten to put his competition out of business. However, the pre-consolidation/(near) monopoly of the McMahon family's WWE hasn't help the sport by well, not calling it a sport. Sure, "Crusher" Jerry Blackwell wasn't the most fit fella but the guy knew how to dropkick and throw a punch.  The amazing Mid Atlantic Gateway  has the U.S. (and 3 Canadian) territories mapped out brilliantly with the name, location and promoter for each. As "Superstar" Billy Graham (no relation to th' above) would say, "Lay some yellow (and purple, red...) on me."

These territories are similar to music scenes.  Look at that map - doesn't it remind you of the scene in American Hardcore where they show where each band was located? Black Flag bars over So. Cal, Necros over Detroit, Agnostic Front in NYC, and so on. I just came up with another "strange-but-true" connection. Remember all those initial hardcore bands like J.F.A., D.R.I., and C.O.C.? If you were really "in the know" about hardcore you'd could tell the dumb jocks that confronted you in the hallway what all the acronymns meant (then rake their eyes!). Same goes for wrestling. Sure C.O.C. and D.R.I. were both "crossover" but the difference between 'em was equal to the difference between the A.W.A. was from the W.W.F. The Road Warriors were tag-team champs in both but only in the A.W.A. did they go to the ring to the tune of "Iron Man". Also, nobody from D.R.I. ever auditioned for Metallica (aka: the Chump Hogan of "The Big Four"). And lemme tell ya - before I knew who Ice Cube & co. really were, I thought it was strange that they named themselves after the National Wrestling Alliance (wit' Attitude?)

Additionally, fans in California would trade VHS tapes with fans in Florida to catch Kevin Sullivan's  verbal/visual proto-Black Metal mysticism.Tape trading hmm. now THAT sounds familar - just like the kind I did in the 1980s Metal scene.  The territory concept is detail further in the fine Territory Map blog which also touches on pro wrestling in Washington D.C. Even further detailed is this map from Basement Geographer which mentions 50th State Wrestling and later PPW (Polynesia Pro Wrestling) the Hawaii-based region. I remember watching wrestling from Hawaii that was a great mix of the Pacific Islander stars (Jimmy Snuka, The Tonga Kid, Wild Samoans, etc.). They ran these shows on the short-lived Finanical News Network around early-mid '85 that featured the loud-Hawaiian shirted Lord Blears and Ripper Collins calling the action.

The Arizona territory unlike the first map is mentioned here. Arizona wrestling's crown jewel was the Madison Square Garden in Phoenix (aka: The Mad Garden) which presented matches for between 1929-1979. That's 50 years of swingin' neckbreakers and airplane spins, people! Shortly after (1981-84) the Garden booked hardcore/punk shows. Thankfully, the steel cage and ropes used in matches was often left up and the bands would play in the ring as shown in this punk compilation cover, This is Phoenix Not the Circle Jerks. (Note the drummer's Iron Maiden muscle tee). This set up also pre-dated both Megadeth's "steel cage" imagery in their "Wake Up Dead" video and Ministry's 1989 "Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste" tour. Also, what did the wrestle-deprived states of Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming watch?

As Dale Pierce at Online World of Wrestling says, "Arizona was truly hardcore before such a word existed in fan vocabulary." In wrestling terms: "hardcore" = chair shots, dudes goin' through tables, and LOTS of blood letting. The Philly-based Extreme Championship Wrestling (E.C.W.) promotion upped the ante in the 1990s by calling their style "hardcore wrestling". Their matches included an influence from  "Cowboy" Bill Watts' UWF innovation: the barb-wire match as well as new levels of insanity such as flaming tables, staple guns, and Singapore canes. Mind you, ECW's rock n'roll angle's a whole 'nuther post.

Wrestling matches at the Gardens had lots of problems with fan violence. They even had an incident where "A group of other fans were arrested (though), before the show even started. They were passing out switchblades with the intention of taking matters into their own hands."  Sounds like a early 80's Black Flag show, huh?

Earlier I said U.S. territory system because Japan, Puerto Rico (OK, part of the U.S. but kinda different territory-wise but it was a good, albeit super-corrupt place for events such as the decades long bloody rivalry between Carlos Colon and Abdullah the Butcher bloodbaths), Mexico, Australia, and parts of Europe (UK, Germany mostly) all have had their own rich history of pro wrestling promotions.  

I'll have more about the Mad Gardens in upcoming posts. In the meantime, check out my friend (and veteran of the Arizona hardcore/punk scene), Bill's story on the sidebar link. And for the love of El Santo's mask, watch this J.F.A. video. Based on the fan heat @ 0:09 you'd think that Abdullah the Butcher came to town and just ripped Bret Hart's pretty boy face off!

P.S.- J.F.A.'s drummer's nickname's "Bam Bam" just like Terry Gordy from the Fab Freebirds,


Friday, November 12, 2010

Opening Bout - Ring the BELL!

Alright we've got a full-fedged no-holds barred 100% real look and the seemingly impossible yet unreal-realness of the 100% actual sonic & aesthetic attack of pro wrestling AND rock n' roll! The crux of this will be focused on things that you might not of heard of before, that is stuff like it says above - NOT told you by MTV or Vince McMahon's version of the story. (Also, lawyers don't sue!)

I first got into pro wrestling at different times first through my then friend (and born-again Christian, it's a long story), Danny. When basic cable came to our town around Summer of '83 we were fixated to WTBS' broadcast of Georgia Championship Wrestling. Around the same time I was hooked on the images of Precious Paul Ellering, Buzz Saywer, and the Fabulous Freebirds. Ellering was later to be the manager of the Road Warriors - who not only exemplified brutality in the ring but also were the first wrestlers to overtly connect Heavy Metal and Pro Wrestling by using Black Sabbath's "Iron Man". This was much more devasting than the staid tones of Lynyrd Skynrd's - "Freebird" which naturally, The Fabulous Freebirds used. It also helped that Animal & Hawk of the Road Warriors looked like giant punk rockers from the wasteland - destroying their opponents in no time to the first utterance of Tony Iommi's doomed chords. Keeping it all together was the deadpan but "tell it like it is but don't give away the secrets" style of legendary announcer Gordon Solie. Larger than life, indeed! Solie himself inspired the name of a great Ohio hardcore band, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers.

My next cycle of wrestle-vision started in the Summer of '85, I moved around a bit between the Northeast territory of the World Wrestling Federation (W.W.F.)  that was now being shown on the USA Network, the American Wrestling Association (A.W.A.) on KICU-36 in San Jose, and the now expanded territory of the National Wrestling Alliance on the familiar WTBS. The N.W.A. in terms of story lines and presentation was my favorite but I watched WWF and AWA just as much. Sure, there was the first Wrestlemania of 1985 where Cindy Lauper and MTV supposedly proclaimed the "rock and wrestling connection" but really the connection was much older than that. See the video below for more and in upcoming posts.

When the urge for finding the heavier, faster, and more evil Metal came along, I had the same need to fulfill with wrestling and Kevin "Prince of Darkness" Sullivan was it! He wasn't the strongest, biggest or had the most marketable persona like Chump Hogan. Instead his gimmick was that of an occultist! The wrestling press and many of the fans took him for a satanist but he only spoke of mystical things and places such as "The cosmic cookie and the Amazon River in my own head.". Equally, if not more important was the fact that he wore t-shirts of Mercyful Fate and Nasty Savage while being interviewed.

Sullivan eventually befriended Florida Power-Thrashers, Nasty Savage around late 1984-early 1985 when their debut album was released by Metal Blade. Sullivan's image is included in the LP's photo collage. Additionally, my friend Steve and I were a mere "one degree" away from Sullivan having written to Nasty Savage's vocalist Nasty Ronnie and getting their Wage of Mayhem zine along with their same named demo tape. The demo is legendary stuff among 80's Metal demos as is the flipside interview (which granted, not as many heard). The flipside of the tape had several wrestling references. "We're gonna get the chain match with the Road Warriors and the Russians!" Photos like the one at the top of this blog helped solidify the lesser known element of wrestling and the majorly underrated, may-hemic Metal of Nasty Savage.

I'll leave you with the very FIRST Rock N' Wrestling tune from 1964, from the great grapplin' state of Minnesota, I give you....The Novas with...THE CRUSHER!

"Do the eye gouge - you TURKEY NECKS!"