Wednesday, December 5, 2012

From WHICH Mexico??!! by Rock Rims

     It was in Los Angeles during the 70’s, and the proud young Mexican Man had had enough of his rival, his adversary, and was letting him know in no uncertain terms that there was soon going to be a day of reckoning. 

     However his adversary seemed un-phased by the young man’s words, and stood with a look of both defiance and smugness, then in response said, “You will not do anything!  You’re just a wetback!"
     Now I don’t know who was more startled by the comments, the young Mexican man or me.  But the young Mexican was so shocked and angry by the derogatory and inflammatory words that he stumbled over the first couple of words in his response.

     “What?! What?! What do you mean calling me a wetback?!!” With disdain and that same smugness his adversary explained in a matter of fact way, “Because that’s how you got here…by swimming!” And he then proceeded to mimic doing the backstroke.
     The young Mexican certainly didn’t seem prepared for what he was hearing, and neither was I.  And in spite of the young Mexican man being one of my heroes at the time, and in spite of my being Mexican-American myself, Chicano, and knowing that if anyone had ever said those words to me, they had better be fast runners…  I had to laugh…

     I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed and I immediately went to tell my mom who was in the next room.  She just shook her head and said, “He just never changes…”  It was the late 70’s, I was in elementary school, and I had just seen of my wrestling heroes, Chavo Guerrero, in a verbal confrontation with wrestler Black Gordman on local TV channel 52.  And as much as that confrontational promo made me want to see Chavo thrash Black Gordman (which of course was the desired result of the promo) at the next live event, I somehow couldn’t bring myself to hate Gordman.  Maybe part of that had to do with me always having a dark sense of humor, even at an early age, but there was still something oddly appealing about the wrestling heel.  And what made the whole scene all the more memorable, more intriguing, and somewhat ludicrous was, that Gordman seemed more Mexican to me than Chavo Guerrero was!  And what I mean by that is, that while both Gordman and Chavo were Mexican, Gordman spoke with a heavy accent, while Chavo didn’t.

     Long before JBL was doing the “anti-immigrant” angle in his feud with the late, great Eddie Guerrero, and long before Eddie and his tag partner Art Barr were inciting riots among wrestling’s Mexican fans in the early 90’s, Black Gordman had become a genius in generating heat from Mexican wrestling fans in the Southwest and in Southern California.  And he wasn’t alone.  Along with long time partner the Great Goliath, who would both make a point to claim to be from “New Mexico” rather than Mexico, he became a part of the 70’s tag team that was greatly successful in both raising the ire of the fans, and in winning multiple tag team titles in various promotions. 

    But even before they hit this side of the border, Black Gordman and the Great Goliath had already experienced a taste of success in the wrestling business.  In spite of Goliath being paid with a 6 pack of Coca-Cola for his first wrestling match, as singles wrestlers in Mexico, both Gordman and Goliath had their share of success and individual reigns as holders of the Mexican National Heavyweight wrestling title.  And Gordman had gained enough attention for his success in the ring to have been giving an acting part opposite Lucha Libre legend El Santo in the movie “El Tesoro de Dracula.”

   And they would quickly gain success in the U.S. as well.  Each of them would have reigns as the “Beat the Champ” TV champions in the LaBelle wrestling territory during the 70’s.  And Gordman would also go on to win the America’s Heavyweight title as well, engaging in notable feuds over the belt with such wrestling greats as John Tolos, Mil Mascaras, Porkchop Cash, and Victor Rivera.  But it was as tag team partners that Black Gordman and the Great Goliath would see the most success and their greatest impact on the wrestling scene.  And while it was Aristotle who made the observation that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, it didn’t take a genius to see that the pairing of Gordman and Goliath was pure wrestling gold.

     Black Gordman and the Great Goliath displayed a good working ability in the ring, displaying great timing and wrestling with bursts of quickness and great tenacity. And while their out of the ring chemistry has been in dispute, there is no doubt about their in-ring chemistry.  And sadly, it’s that kind of great in-ring chemistry that is rarely seen these days, as tag teams are often haphazardly thrown together, with the participants looking to function as individuals rather than a cohesive unit.

     Tag team championships would soon follow for Gordman and Goliath, with the pair winning the NWA Western States Tag Team titles, The Georgia Tag Team titles, The Texas Tag Team titles, the Central States tag team titles, as well as the San Francisco version of the NWA World Tag Team titles.  And their abilities were not only recognized stateside, as they would also be invited to tour Japan as well.  Unfortunately, very little video footage of this great tag team exists these days, but footage of a couple of their matches from Japan is among the footage that does.  In viewing the footage while beginning to make a DVD compilation, I was once again reminded of some of the things that made them so great.

    Besides their ability to execute moves (with Gordman performing the “DDT” years before Jake “The Snake” claimed to have invented it), their ability to get the crowd involved was also apparent.  They had a great way of balancing the way they executed their offense as well as “selling” for their opponents.  It wasn’t unusual to see them flying out of the ring, really selling their opponents prowess.  Although according to Jeff Walton, the publicist and one of the key figure in the NWA Hollywood promotion of the 70’s and early 80’s, selling their opponent’s offense wasn’t always the motivation for their sailing into the front row of seats. “I'll never forget the Great Goliath… with his partner, Black Gordman, they would often fly out of the ring to check out a pretty girl or to land on someone's foot. Then they would get back into the ring look at you square in the face and laugh their heads off. “(1)

  They always had a unique way of being tenacious while on offense, yet often comical in the way they’d scream in agony while their opponents cranked up the pressure while performing a wrestling hold.  Gordman in particular, who would blurt out expletives and verbal expressions of pain, many of which were in Spanish, and were particularly comical to those who understand it.  Yet, the often stoic Japanese fans could be heard laughing and reacting to the antics of the great Mexican tag team.  And that’s just one example at how skilled they were in being able to communicate with the audience and get them involved with the match.

    However, it would be in California, especially Los Angeles, where they would experience their most success and make their greatest impression with the fans.  Beginning with their victory over Los Medicos on November 26, 1970 in Bakersfield, Calfornia, Gordman and Goliath would go on to hold the America’s tag team titles a record 18 times as a team, from that first title in 1970 until 1982, which was the final year of the NWA Hollywood territory.  And their longevity as a successful tag team is a testament to their ability to perform at high level of quality for an extended period of time, as well continuing to provide a product that continued to maintain an appeal with the fans.  Whether they were battling the Hollywood Blondes, the Guerrero Brothers, the Twin Devils, or anyone else, they made us alternately boo them, cheer for them, hate them, love them, but most importantly of all…want to watch them.  And while I am more “sophisticated” now in my understanding of Pro Wrestling and how it works, of what the tactics were that Gordman and Goliath employed to generate heat, how they used ring psychology, and how they manipulated the emotions of the fans, it doesn’t lessen my enjoyment of watching them.  It doesn’t diminish the fondness of the memories I hold of watching them perform.  On the contrary, I appreciate their artistry all the more so.  They caused me to “mark out” then, and they cause me to “mark out” now when I watch that classic footage of them and relive those days in my mind.  And in that respect, there is no shame in being a “mark”, it’s not a derogatory name or a badge of shame.  For in order to truly enjoy and fully appreciate the true art of Pro Wrestling, one has to “mark out” to a degree, to suspend disbelief.  Because when I stop doing that, then it’ll stop being fun, and it’ll be time to find a new hobby.
    And while very little video footage of them still exists, what continues to remain, what has never been lost or destroyed are the impressions they made on us, and the fond memories that they helped to create.  It is the reason that they, and many others of that Golden age of Wrestling in California, are still the subject of discussion among long time fans, the subject of conversation on Podcasts like California Classic Wrestling.  They were also an inspiration to the next generation of wrestlers, like Jesse Hernandez, who is a former wrestler and the promoter of the Empire Wrestling Federation in San Bernardino.  After the closing of the L.A. promotion, the Great Goliath would continue to wrestle in California, as well as go on to form his own wrestling promotion and wrestling school in the San Bernardino area.  Hernandez was one of his students, who would later train future wrestlers as well when he opened up his own Wrestling School, “The School of Hard Knocks” also in San Bernardino. 

And there’s no doubt about it, Jesse learned much from Goliath and he shared some of that with me recently. “Great Goliath inspired me with great stories that he shared with me about himself as a wrestler and his early struggles.  He taught us Pride, Honor, and Respect for the business.  Great Goliath always talked about never shutting a door behind us, how to dress properly in and out of the ring, and how to learn from our mistakes.  What he taught back then is exactly what I teach now to my students.  Goliath’s legacy and teachings are what we are passing on to our students here at School of Hard knocks.”

    And Jesse also continues to honor the memory of his former mentor, friend and trainer by holding the Annual Great Goliath Battle Royal.  “Those who have won those Battle Royals will remember many matches throughout their career…but I truly believe that winning that Battle Royal is something special that they will never forget, making it a part of their history in this business.”  While regrettably, the Great Goliath is no longer with us, thankfully his legacy continues to live on.
    Gordman who currently in retired in Guadalajara, Mexico,  would also continue to wrestle as well after the closing of the L.A. promotion, particularly in Texas, where he would wrestle for Joe Blanchard’s Southwest Championship wrestling promotion as well as a few shots in Fritz Von Erich’s World Class Championship wrestling.  But for those of us in Southern California during the 70’s and early 80’s, it was here that we considered the rightful place of Black Gordman and the Great Goliath, and in our hearts and minds, they will always have a home.



I’d like to thank Jesse Hernandez for both sharing his thoughts regarding the Great Goliath, as well as his efforts to continue to pass on the traditions and teachings of his mentor.  For more info regarding the “School of Hard Knocks” and Jesse’s Empire Wrestling Federation, as well as his Annual X-mas toy drive Wrestling card being held this Friday in Covina, you can click this link:  

     And by the way, the main event features former ROH and current TNA star (and former Hernandez student) Joey Ryan defending his EWF championship belt!

(1) “Remembering the Great Goliathby Jeff Walton and Scott WaltonSlam! Wrestling April 20, 2004

Jeff Walton and Scott Walton are the authors of the book “Richmond 9-5171, a Wrestling Story” which covers his experiences as the publicist and a key figure in the old Los Angeles Wrestling Territory.  You can buy the book for only $20 plus $6 for shipping and handling by contacting Scott Walton at:

Monday, December 3, 2012


     I was addicted.  There’s no two ways about it.  While the people who were close to I thought I was doing one thing, I was actually doing another.  I was sneaking around in the middle of the night, always worried about being discovered, paranoid, jumping at every sound… and I was only 7 years old…

    Yeah…that’s right… a 7 year old addict.  Because when I was supposed to be sleeping, I was sneaking out of bed and getting my night time television Wrestling fix.  I was always worried about getting caught, because I knew if I did, I’d probably get as bad a thrashing as any of the wrestlers on the TV show I was watching.  But to me it was worth the risk.  Those are just the kind of risks that an addict is often willing to take.  Not that I didn’t take precautions though.  I’d turn the volume on the television down really low, sit so close to the set that you’d think I was in the ring itself, and I’d shove a blanket under the door to my parent’s bedroom so that they wouldn’t see the flickering light from the TV set.  And of course I’d pray that my Stepdad didn’t have too many beers before he went to bed, and as a result have to make a late night trip to the bathroom.

   But in reality, he was partly to blame for my addiction.  After all, one of my first memories was when I was 3 years old and living in East Los Angeles (Yeah, I’m Latino), and we were both climbing the fence in the backyard, in a hurry to catch the bus in order to make that evening’s wrestling matches.  Even now, I can vividly recall the excitement and anticipation I felt that night, and it truly was a supercharged night, due in large part to the main event that evening.  For the main event was going to be a feud match between “Classy” Freddie Blassie and “Maniac” John Tolos.  The year was 1971, and when I got older I would learn what a special place that feud would hold in Los Angeles Pro Wrestling History.  But in all honesty, even at 3 years of age, a couple of years before I would even learn to read, I knew that the match was something special.  We sat high up in the nose bleed section, but the drama of that intense and bloody match was strong enough to be felt even where I was sitting.

   And I was hooked, hooked for life.  And my first Halloween memory was from the age of 3 as well.  I don’t remember anything about the candy, but I definitely remember that my parent’s had a hell of a time trying to get me out of my wrestling mask at the end of the night.  It was itchy as hell, but there was no way I was going to submit.

   And through the years I would have many more pleasant experiences as a result of my love for wrestling.  And during those critical formative years, before the days of cable TV, before wrestling programs were being broadcast from various territories around the country, and before tape and DVD trading would expose fans to international wrestling, there was only one wrestling world for me.  And that wrestling world was Mike LaBelle’s Southern California Wrestling Territory, particularly wrestling from the famed Los Angeles Olympic Auditorium.  And what a world it was!

    Through the years, I’d watch either on television or at the occasional live event,  local mainstays and future legends such as the Guerreros, Carlos Mata, The Twin Devils, Black Gordman & The Great Goliath, Bad News Allen Coage, Victor Rivera, Maniac John Tolos, Classy Freddie Blassie, The Hollywood Blondes, and many more.  And then there were the visiting greats, people who up until that time I had only read about in the wrestling mags, or heard being hyped about by Jeff Walton either during the television programs or in his souvenir wrestling programs.  People like Harley Race, Superstar Billy Graham, Terry & Dory Funk Jr., Wahoo McDaniel, the Original Sheik, El Halcon, Moondog Lonnie Mayne, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Adrian Street, the Eighth Wonder of the World Andre the Giant, Tatsumi Fujinami, Seiji Sakaguchi, and my absolute favorite visiting wrestler, the legendary Mil Mascaras.

   But as great as it was to have those visiting greats (some of whom I’ll be writing about in the near future), it was always the mainstay local wrestlers who were the foundation that the territories were built upon in those days. These were the talents that the fans would watch week in and week out, and these were the ones that the fans became emotionally invested in.  And of those mainstay wrestlers in L.A. during the 70’s, the one who stood head and shoulders above everyone (in esteem and position if not physical stature) was Chavo Guerrero Sr.  And for the rest of this piece, I’m going to drop the “Sr.”, because no offence to his son, who is talented in his own right, but there really is only one Chavo Guerrero.

    From 1975 through 1980, Chavo Guerrero, the eldest of the legendary Guerrero brothers was the main “face” in the L.A. territory.  In addition to having a great wrestling pedigree, being the son of the Mexican Wrestling Legend Gory Guerrero, Chavo had a great wrestling background, having been an accomplished amateur wrestler in addition to having trained in judo.  And more importantly, he was trained from a young age by his father in the fundamentals of professional wrestling, and had great athletic ability.

     But it takes much more than physical attributes and skill sets to become a success in the world of professional wrestling, especially when it comes to the long term, something that many of today’s “stars” fail to recognize.  For one thing, one has to be willing to learn from the veteran’s, and fortunately, Chavo was both willing and able to do that.  When visting veterans and World Champions like Terry Funk, Dory Funk Jr., Harley Race, and Superstar Billy Graham would come through the territory, they would talk, and Chavo would listen.  This on the job experience paid off both for Chavo and those of us who would watch him.

   And another thing that Chavo had going for him was that he understood the importance of good ring psychology.  He understood and practiced the art of telling a story in the ring, of building a program, and getting the fans to become emotionally invested in him, the match, and the program.  And it’s that high emotional involvement, and that escapism, that are such critical factors in a wrestling fan’s enjoyment.  And Chavo understood that and delivered.

   These things contributed to his becoming a 15 time America’s Heavyweight Champion, a 10 time America’s tag team Champion, and the NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Champion during his run in the territory.  And several times during his career in L.A., he would be the man to challenge the visting NWA World Heavyweight Champion for title.  And he did a great job of balancing those roles.  For Chavo not only was the perennial Champion, but the perennial challenger as well.  He was both the capable and accomplished Champion, as well sometimes being the underdog, albeit a capable underdog.

    And those qualities contributed to his appeal.  For while we all knew and had faith that going into a match, Chavo could beat his opponent, he did a great job of leaving us hanging, wondering if he would in fact defeat his opponent.  Because another part of ring psychology that Chavo understood was that when you make your opponent look good, you look good.  For another part of good ring psychology is putting over your opponent.  After all, how fun is it to watch a wrestler beat a nobody, someone who appears to be infinitely inferior? And that’s another thing that some wrestlers fail to recognize.  In their fixation to get in their “spots” or as many spots as possible,  in their fear that their opponent getting in any offense will make them look “weak”, they often fail to build a story or put over their opponent.  And yet, if you watch videos of some of the all-time legends in Pro Wrestling, like Harley Race, Ric Flair, Bret Hart, and Superstar Billy Graham just to name a few, you’d see them bumping all over there place for their opponents.  And their place and stature in Wrestling History cannot be disputed.  Fans who truly appreciate the true art of professional wrestling want to eventually find themselves sitting on the edge of their seats with anticipation.  And Chavo was one of the ones who both understood that and delivered.

     Without a doubt, as both a young fan of Pro Wrestling, and a Mexican-American growing up in the L.A. area, Chavo Guerrero was one of my boyhood heroes.   I don’t think that when he started out in the wrestling game that he set out to or even imagined holding such an important place in the hearts and memories of those that watched him perform.  I don’t think that any Pro Wrestler sets out to do that in the beginning.  But some do accomplish that very thing, especially for those of us who grew up during the territory days, and hopefully, just hopefully for some of those who will grow up with the Independent Wrestling promotions.

    I finally had the pleasure of meeting Chavo in person several years ago, and we enjoyed a pleasant conversation together, talking about our memories of the 70’s L.A. promotion.  He said then what he’s also said on many other occasions, that he was just “in the right place at the right time.”  While I agree with that, as that’s really the case with anyone who ever earns a place in history, it really doesn’t tell the whole story.  While he benefited from being Gory Guerrero’s son, while he was in the right place at the right time, Chavo still had to have the ability to carry the ball and run with it.  Even if a football coach can get his son on a team with his connections, and even if the offensive line can create a “hole”, the running back still has to be able to run with the ball.  And Chavo ran, and ran hard.

   And he’s one of the ones that contributed greatly to my being hooked on the true art of Professional Wrestling.  And I don’t think I want to find a cure.
     This is the first in what will be a series of articles covering the heyday of the Los Angeles Wrestling territory that existed until the end of 1982.  It was a great time for wrestling and it's fan's in the Southern California area, and it holds great memories for those of us who were there, and I hope that you tune it for more.