1953

JANUARY:

 

Promoter Joe Gunther staged his first show of the year at the Shrine Auditorium in Mobile. This card was headlined by a ladies match that saw Frances Minor defeat Jo Ann Mullenniex in a rousing battle. Also on that card “Lumberjack” Jack McDonald defeated popular Tom Bradley and Charlie Carr, a newcomer, disposed of Johnny Harmon.

Popular favorite Nick Carter returned to the area and faced another newcomer, Ed (Strangler) White. The first fall of their bout saw White take an early advantage by capturing the first fall.  Carter came back strong taking the next two falls in under 4 minutes.

Carter then teamed with Tom Bradley and faced off with the tag team of White and yet another newcomer, Frank “Tarzan” Hewitt. Carter & Bradley took the first fall and White & Hewitt the second. Bradley was injured during the second fall and was unable to continue. Carter agreed to take on both opponents in the third fall, but it was to no avail. White let Hewitt do most of the work and Tarzan finished off Carter with a backbreaker to win the fall and the match for his team.

“Lumberjack” McDonald continued to impress the local fans by taking veteran Al Massey to a 60 minute draw. McDonald scored the first fall with a series of knee drops to subdue Massey. The popular Miami grappler came back to win the second with a leaping body press. The two fought tooth and nail throughout the third and final fall, but neither could score a decision.

Charlie Carr saw himself disqualified in a match with Tom Bradley after 12 minutes of action. Carr took exception to the refereeing of Elmer Davis and slugged him, this earning the disqualification.

 

FEBRUARY:

 

Nick Carter challenged Tarzan Hewitt to a singles match as a result of being roughed up in an earlier tag match. Hewitt scored the first fall after a series of body slams and a pin. Carter came back in the second fall to make Hewitt submit with an arm wringer. During the third fall Hewitt tossed Cater outside the ring and onto the arena floor. Carter grabbed a front face lock on Hewitt from outside the ring ropes and refused the referee’s order to break the hold. Carter was disqualified giving the fall and the match to Hewitt.

A rematch was quickly scheduled between Carter and Hewitt as neither man was happy with the ending of their last match. Each man had won a fall when Carter scored the third and final fall in a minute and a half to win.

Wrestling returned to Panama City, FL for the first time in three years when promoter Don Van Fleet promoted a show at the Civic Center there. It is doubtful that Van Fleet was working in conjuncture with Joe Gunther since none of Gunther’s regulars were featured on the card.

The Panama City show saw Women’s World Lightweight title claimant, Violet Ray (also Mrs. Don Van Fleet) defeat Millie Dupitch in a one fall non-title singles match. The Mighty Atlas defeated Nature Boy in a best two out of three falls match and Ray & Nature Boy defeated Dupitch & Atlas two out of three falls in the main event. This proved to be the only card Van Fleet would run in the area.

A few more newcomers arrived on the scene in February. First was a roughneck from San Francisco, Sailor Moran. Moran made his initial start in a match with Tom Bradley. The sailor took the first fall but lost both the second and third falls by disqualification.

Next up for Moran was former Southern Jr. Heavyweight champion Henry Harrell, who was making his return to the area after many years absence. In this one each man had won a fall when Harrell stopped Moran with a dropkick after 1 minute of action in the third fall.

The next newcomer to arrive would be destined to make an impact on the Gulf Coast area for the next two and a half decades. He would become the area’s top star and later promoter. His name was Lee Fields. Fields made his initial appearance on February 13, 1953 and defeated Danny Dusek in two straight falls.

A rematch between Fields and Dusek was scheduled for the following week, but Fields and lady wrestler Cora Combs were injured in an automobile accident in Sanford, AL had had to cancel their respective bouts. Combs was scheduled to meet Therese Theis on the same card.

Fields returned after a week of recuperation to face Elmer Davis in a title defense of the Southeastern Jr. Heavyweight championship. Fields was billed as champion upon his arrival. In the title match Fields took two out of three falls to defeat Davis and retain the title.

Yet a third newcomer arrived in February. This one would not only make a name for himself in the Gulf Coast area in the future, but all over the world. Billed as a wrestling hypnotist, Dr. Jerry Graham defeated Tarzan Hewitt in a rousing battle. Graham used hypnotism to put Hewitt to sleep after 23 minutes of action to take the match. After being awakened, Hewitt cried foul and said that he would file a protest with the athletic commission.

Ladies action saw Ethel Brown defeat Lynn Livingston in two straight falls. Livingston was scheduled to meet Cora Combs, but since she was still out with injuries Brown took her place.

Also in the area in February was Al Massey.

 

MARCH:

 

Southern Jr. Heavyweight Champion Rowdy Red Roberts return after a lengthy absence and teamed with Charley Keene to face the team of Lee Fields & Dr. Jerry Graham. Graham took the first fall for his team as he pinned Keene. Roberts won the next tow falls for his team pinning Graham in the second fall and Fields in the third. Fields was injured in the third fall and was taken to a nearby hospital.

After recovering from his injuries, Fields teamed with Elmer Davis & newcomer Jack Welch to face off against the three man team of Sailor Moran, Rex Mobley & newcomer Scotty Williams. Fields pinned Moran for the first fall and Mobley took Welch for the second. In the third and deciding fall, Scotty Williams pinned Elmer Davis to take the match for his team.

The ladies returned to action in a match that saw Barbara Baker defeat Lynn Livingston in two strait falls.

The most famous wrestler in the world, Gorgeous George made an appearance in the area as he faced newcomer Polo Cordova. Cordova, billed as the Mexican National Champion was not much competition for the Human Orchid, as George took the match in two straight falls.

Cordova didn’t have much luck the following week either as he lost a match to newcomer Kostas Davilas.

Lee Fields continued to hold onto his Southeastern Jr. Heavyweight crown by defeating Charley Keene in a title defense. Fields wasn’t quite as successful against Rex Mobley. The two of them battled to a draw and although Fields didn’t defeat Mobley he retained his title.

Nick Carter returned at the end of the month to take on newcomer Ivan (The Terrible) Kowalski. Carter took the first fall but fell quickly to Kowalski in the second. In the third and deciding fall Kowalski was disqualified for striking the referee giving the fall and match to Carter.

Another long time favorite returned as Tarzan White defeated Howard Cantowine.

 

APRIL:

 

By virtue of holding Southeastern Jr. Heavyweight champion Lee Fields to a draw, Rex Mobley was given a return title match. Things looked good for Mobley as he took the first fall by pinning the champion. Fields came back to take the next two falls and retain his title. This would be the last time the Southeastern Jr. Heavyweight title was ever mentioned.

Fields and Mobley met again the following week, however this time in a tag team match. Fields teamed with newcomer Lester Welch, the younger brother of Jack Welch who had been in the area the month before. Fields & Welch made short work of Mobley and his partner Tom Bradley by defeating them in two straight falls.

An old feud erupted once again as Nick Carter squared off against Tarzan Hewitt. After each man had scored a fall, Hewitt battered Carter into submission to win the third fall and the match. A rematch was quickly signed, this time with Carter getting the decision when Hewitt was disqualified for hitting the referee.

Wrestling returned to the Civic Center in Panama City, FL but this time under the auspices of promoter Bob Connors of Montgomery, AL. It is fairly certain that Connors was an associate of Roy & Jack Welch who around this time purchased the promotional rights in the Gulf Coast territory from Joe Gunther.

The first card in Panama City saw Roy Welch, the eldest of the Welch Brothers, make his debut but was defeated by Rex Mobley. In a ladies match Barbara Baker defeated Ethel Brown. In the main event Lee Fields defeated Sailor Moran.

Fields and Moran were in the throes of a heated feud as the result of a match in Montgomery, AL that saw Moran bust open Fields’ eye. They met in a match in Mobile and Moran wasted little time in going after the injury. Fields managed to avoid any further injury, however, and defeated Moran in two straight falls.

Also appearing in the area in April were Tarzan White and newcomer Mickey Barnes.

 

MAY:

 

The Nick Carter – Tarzan Hewitt battles continues as they met in yet another match. Carter used a series of body slams and a pin to take the first fall. Hewitt came back in the second to force Carter to submit to a backbreaker. In a rare turn of events, Carter was disqualified in the third and final fall for roughing up the referee, giving Hewitt the match.

By virtue of his win over the top rated Carter, Hewitt was given a match with the famed Argentinean Antonino Rocca who would be making his first appearance ever in the area. Rocca, who was arguably the biggest star in the sport outside of Gorgeous George, was a national sensation due to his appearances on television. Although the rough and rugged Hewitt had his moments during the match, the high flying Rocca was too much for him. Rocca took the bout in two straight falls.

Hewitt and Rocca met the following week in a rematch with the same results. Rocca took that match in straight falls as well.

A newcomer by the name Don Wayne made his initial appearance in the territory in May. He quickly made himself a favorite of the fans as he defeated Rex Mobley in his first bout.

Wayne also teamed with the returning Jimmy Siksay in Panama City to defeat the team of Eddie (Pat) Malone & Red Byrd, both returning to the area after lengthy absences.

Midget wrestlers made their initial appearance in the area when Tom Thumb defeated Tuffy McRae in a wild bout in Panama City. Another first for the year occurred in Panama City when Ginger the Bear made quick work out of Red Byrd.

Rowdy Red Roberts returned to the area in May, successfully defending his Southern Jr. Heavyweight title against the challenge of former champion Jimmy Siksay in Panama City. Roberts also defeated newcomer Gene Albert in a title match at nearby Tyndall Air Force Base.

Roberts also defeated Albert in a title match held at the Shrine Auditorium in Mobile.

The ladies returned as Therese Theis defeated Carol Carota in a best two out of three falls match.

Two more newcomers made their way into the area. First up was young Ray Stevens from Columbus, OH who was defeated by Rex Mobley in two straight falls.

On the same card was a man billed to be the masked Phantom. He turned out not to be masked at all, but was known as Art Neilson. Neilson teamed with Charlie Carr to defeat the team of Don Wayne & Tarzan White.

Also in the area in May was Elmer Davis & Lucky O’Rourke.

 

JUNE:

 

Early in the month saw a battle of the Tarzans as Tarzan White took on Tarzan Hewitt. After each man had captured a fall, Hewitt was disqualified in the final fall to give White the match.

The ladies returned in a wild and wooly affair between Millie Stafford and Donna Marie Dieckman that ended in a no contest decision.

In another ladies bout, Babs Wingo proved to be too strong and experienced as she defeated Ethel Johnson in two straight falls.

The popular team of Lee Fields & Lester Welch faced off with Rex Mobley & newcomer Walter Sirois. Each team had won a fall when the third fall got totally out of hand. Mobley & Sirois weren’t happy with the officiating of referee Lucky O’Rourke and began knocking him around. Several ringside fans also got involved and the whole thing broke into a chair flying riot. O’Rourke wound up with a cut forehead and a trip to the hospital. The match was declared no contest and a rematch was ordered.

Also appearing in the area in June were Charlie Carr, Gene Albert and Charley Keene.

 

JULY:

 

In the tag team rematch, which also saw Lucky O’Rourke officiating, Lee Fields & Lester Welch fared much better and defeated Rex Mobley & Walter Sirois taking two falls out of three.

Welch also teamed with popular Don Wayne only to lose to Sirois & Charley Keene. Sirois & Keene weren’t as lucky when they faced the team of Jack Welch & newcomer Joe McCarthy. After each team had won a fall, Sirois & Keene were disqualified in the third and deciding fall.

A rugged newcomer from Mexico arrived on the scene by the name of Carlos Rodriguez. Despite arriving with a stellar reputation, Rodriguez fell to Tarzan White in two falls out of three.

Yet another newcomer arrived on the scene and again would be someone who would develop quite a history in the area. This young man from Artesia, NM was known as Buddy Fuller. Fuller topped Carlos Rodriguez in two straight falls in his debut.

Another Welch brother arrived in the area in July. This was Herb Welch, the next to the youngest of the four. Herb teamed with Lee Fields only to fall to Rex Mobley & Tom Bradley in a best two out of three falls match.

Lady wrestlers returned when Therese Theis upended Jeanette Collins.

Also appearing in the area this month were Red Byrd and newcomers Sam Baldwin and Al Forman.

 

AUGUST:

 

A rivalry between Herb Welch and Carlos Rodriguez quickly developed. The two met in a match that saw the two of them each win a fall. Rodriguez was disqualified in the third fall. Neither was satisfied with this outcome and a rematch was scheduled. Herb Welch won the rematch cleanly after taking two out of three falls against the huge Mexican star.

Rodriguez didn’t fare any better when he teamed with Eddie Malone. The two of them fell to the team of Buddy Fuller & Charley Keene.

Southern Jr. Heavyweight champion Rowdy Red Roberts made a swing through the area and successfully defended his title against Buddy Fuller.

Unbeknownst to the wrestling fans, a family reunion of sorts was scheduled when cousins Lee Fields & Buddy Fuller were due to team with their uncle Lester Welch to face the threesome of Rex Mobley, Eddie Malone & newcomer Butch Boyette.  However in an opening match on the same card, Mobley rammed Fields’ head into the steel corner post which resulted in a severe cut for Fields. He was taken to the hospital and was unable to perform in the scheduled six man match. The match was rearranged with Mobley & Boyette defeating Welch & Fuller.

Rube Wright returned to the area after a lengthy absence and faced off with popular Don Wayne. Despite Wright using the roughest tactics in his bag of tricks, Wayne managed to win two out of three falls to defeat him.

Others in the area in August were Charlie Carr and Sam Baldwin.

 

SEPTEMBER:

 

Brother teams started making appearances in the area in September as Lester & Herb Welch joined forces to defeat the team of Rex Mobley & newcomer Gene Blackley in a best two out of three falls tag team match.

Another brother team making their first appearance in the area was The Smith Brothers, Al & John. Sporting bushy sideburns and mustaches  the Smith Brothers were very similar in appearance to the same named brothers on the cough drop boxes. These two were more likely to tear your throat out than soothe it however. They defeated they team of Nick Carter & newcomer Ray Piret in their initial appearance.

The lady grapplers returned in a match that saw Carol Cook take the measure over Bonnie Watson.

Carlos Rodriguez continued to have problems with anyone named Welch as he fell to Lester Welch in a best two out of three fall match.

 

OCTOBER:

 

A regal newcomer made his way to the area in October. Count Antonio Verdi was his name and he squared off with the former Air Corps captain from Wyoming, Ray Piret, in his initial start. The popular Piret proved to be too much for the Count, however, and defeated him in two straight falls. Verdi also lost by disqualification to Nick Carter in another bout.

Butch Boyette returned to the area and teamed with Eddie Malone in a losing effort to the team of Don Wayne & Gene Blackley.

Lady wrestler Cora Combs returned, making her first appearance after being injured in an automobile accident early in the year. She defeated Ruth Waters in a best two out of three fall battle.

Also appearing in the area this month was Red Byrd.

 

NOVEMBER:

 

Count Antonio Verdi tried his hand at tag team matches when he teamed with Walt Sirois & newcomer Charro Aztec to face the threesome of Don Wayne, Lester Welch & Nick Carter. Unfortunately for Verdi and his teammates, they lost.

Verdi also teamed with newcomer Chief Little Bear to take on Lester Welch & Nick Carter. Welch & Carter took two out of three falls to win the match.

A mysterious masked man calling himself The Black Monster arrived on the scene. He lost to Nick Carter by disqualification in his initial outing.

Carter and the Monster also met in a tag team match that saw Carter team with Lester Welch to take on the Monster & newcomer Wild Man Zimm. Carter & Welch took that match by winning two falls out of three.

The ladies returned in a match that saw Helen Blazes defeat Jeanette Collins.

Also in the area in November were Charlie Carr, Charley Keene and newcomer Moody Palmer.

 

DECEMBER:

 

Unhappy with Wild Man Zimm as his partner, the Black Monster recruited Butch Boyette to take on Nick Carter & Jack Welch. They fared no better as Carter & Welch took two straight falls to win the match

Also in the area in December were Sailor Moran and Ray Stevens.