Monday, September 23, 2013



   Do you remember your first time?  Was it in an intimate setting with just you and a single partner, or did a whole group get involved?  Was there lots of sweating, lots of grunting and groaning?  Was it everything you expected?  Did it leave you wanting to come back for more?

   I can distinctly remember my first time.  I was just 3 years old.  Yeah, that’s right.  We got started early in my family.  I was 3 years old the first time I attended a live wrestling event and it definitely left me wanting to go back for more.

   I was living in East Los Angeles and I remember how excited I was that night in 1971, and my adrenaline was flowing not just from the anticipation of the upcoming live wrestling event, but because it seemed like my Stepfather and I were in danger of being late for the start of the event.  I can remember my Stepfather hopping our back fence so that we could take a shortcut to the bus stop and my Mother trying her best to help me up the side of the chain link fence so that my Stepfather could pull me over the other side.  We then crossed the huge dirt lot that was part of our neighbor’s property, a lot that would become bigger still in about a year when their house burned down.  I must have been a little bit of a sadist as a kid because I remember as the whole neighbor watched that family’s house burn to the ground; my very young uncle and I were munching on popcorn as we watched the blaze.

   My Stepfather and I had managed to catch the bus that would take us to the wrestling venue, and I would stare out the window of the bus at the lights of the city, with wonder as they contrasted with the darkness of the night while also trying to imagine what it might be like when we arrived at our destination.  Finally we had arrived at the historic Olympic Auditorium on 18th and Grand in Downtown Los Angeles.  We finally took our seats which between the fact that they were probably fairly high up in what was a packed house, and the fact that I was only a little kid, made the ring seem as if it were a world away.  I could see cigarette hovering above the ring and I stared in wonder at the men with funny little red and white striped paper hats who with unerring and amazing accuracy, could toss a bag of peanuts to the waiting hands of anyone, regardless of how far away they were.

   I slowly ate my bag of roasted peanuts while watching the wrestling matches, and I wish I could tell you who wrestled in those matches prior to the main event or even on what exact date the event took place.  But those facts escape me.  What doesn’t escape me was the fact that the main event was something I knew was of great importance.  I don’t remember what events, what angles had led up to this particular event, but I knew that it meant something.  For in the main event, the bitterest of enemies in Southern California wrestling, not only at that time, but perhaps in all of Southern California wrestling, were about to engage in a war.  And “Maniac” John Tolos and Freddie Blassie didn’t disappoint.

   What I can also tell you is that I was in the minority.  I wasn’t in the minority because I was a Mexican-American, hell, in the Olympic Auditorium you were probably in the minority if you weren’t.  I was in the minority because I was there to root for John Tolos.  Blame it on my upbringing if you will, but this 3 year old would be cheering for a man nicknamed “Maniac.”  John Tolos was the most hated wrestler in Los Angeles at this time and was the definite “heel” or “bad guy” in this feud that had stretched back to the summer of the previous year. By contrast, Freddie Blassie with his sequined and colorful outfits, sometimes accessorized with a sombrero, had definitely endeared himself to the hearts of the fans, many of whom were Latinos.

   Finally the main event began and a chill ran down my spine as the combatants were introduced.  And the match did not disappoint.  It was a melodrama, and being seated so far from the ring, the epic battle was almost a pantomime of sorts, with the only audible sounds or soundtrack being the screaming of the fans.  The match consisted of peaks and valleys and I sat with my eyes and attention riveted to the moral play unfolding in the ring.  There was blood…lots of blood…and I remember having to fight off breaking into tears as I saw Freddie Blassie bite into the head of my then-hero John Tolos. 

   If I remember correctly, Blassie won that match, much to my disappointment.  However to my delight, Tolos would return to fight another day.  Their feud would become the stuff of legend, and all throughout their 4 four years of battling off and on, they’d participate in every conceivable type of match against each other, including stretcher matches, cage matches, matches involving brass knuckles, chain matches, and “Gladiator Death matches.”  They would even return many years later in 1980 to square off in a tag team cage match.  Blassie would be in his early 60’s in this one and while the match was hardly a classic and the arena was less than half full, the “pop” they got from the crowd made it seem as if there were many more in the crowd than there actually was.

   The first wrestling “maneuver” that I ever learned was the “corkscrew” that John Tolos used on the temples of his opponents head.  My stepfather was gracious enough to demonstrate it’s effectiveness on me and I in turn couldn’t wait to show my brother how effective it was in producing a headache. 

   But why did a 3 year cheer for such a hated guy like John Tolos?  I guess I didn’t know any better.  On the other hand, I think I did.  Tolos was compelling, magnetic, and both his presence in the ring as well as his unique and intense interviews made you want to watch his every move, hang on his every word.  While the goal of Tolos and the storylines may have been to make the fans hate him, more importantly, the goal was to get us to watch him.  And watch him we did, he and Blassie both.  That year in 1971, the two would meet at the Los Angeles Coliseum in August and set what was then a record gate for a wrestling event as 25,847 fans paid $142,158.50 to watch Blassie defeat Tolos 2 falls to one in their “battle of the century”.

   And as a whole, pro wrestling itself was still very compelling at that time.  Even if we had the technology available back then, I guarantee you that no one would have been sending or checking their text messages or updating their facebook status.  For the only status they were concerned about was what was going on in a 20 x 20 foot ring and the only world they knew for 2 hours or so was the world within that arena.  And just as the world outside the wrestling arenas have changed so have the worlds inside them.  - RR

Saturday, September 7, 2013



     “You look like shit.  Do you ever work out?”  Not exactly the kind of greeting an incoming wrestler hopes to hear from his new boss but it was exactly what Pat Patterson got from Roy Shire when he arrived in Northern California in 1965.  By this time Ray Stevens had already established himself as the “Golden Goose”, the top heel of the “Big Time Wrestling” promotion in Northern California.  He could always provide a reason for the fans to lay down their hard earned money in hopes of finally seeing him go down in defeat.

   And now a 24 year old  Patterson who had been wrestling for about 7 years including the last few years in Don Owen’s Pacific Northwest territory, and had in the span of 2 months had lost a hair match, his Pacific Northwest heavyweight title, and a “Loser Leave Town” match, had  come to town looking to gain something.  Only at first, he didn’t get what he was looking for. 

    Before working his first show Patterson had written Shire, requesting to be paired up with Ray Stevens, saying that many in-the-know in Portland felt that with their similar styles, they’d make a great pairing.  Patterson would later say that Shire didn’t give him the response that he’d been hoping for, and besides the critique regarding physique Patterson would also recall:  “He said, ‘The boys don’t make the decisions here, I make the decisions.’  Roy Shire was very hard to work for.”

     As it turned out, Stevens had just left to work an extended tour of Australia just before Pat had arrived, so initially Pat was working in some singles as well as being paired with Dan Manoukian in a tag team.  Manoukian had previously been ½ of the World tag team champions with Stevens before losing it in a “Phantom change” to Billy Red Lyons and the Destroyer on March 1985.  3 months after Pat’s arrival, Roy relented, telling Patterson to dye his hair as the new tag team of Patterson and Stevens was to be known as “The Blond Bombers.”   Longtime wrestling fan Robert Counts lived near the Cow Palace and remembers “In a promo Patterson had dark hair and was bragging about what he was going to do to Stevens and the next week his hair was blond and he was teaming up with Stevens.”  The team didn’t waste any time in making an impact as they quickly won the A.W.A. (not Verne Gagne’s group) World Tag Team titles on April 17, 1965 from Billy Red Lyons and The Destroyer and would hold the titles for an astounding 623 straight days.

   It was a dynamite combination and a match made in heaven as the “Blonde Bombers” were exciting to watch, whether you were rooting for them or against them.  They were masters of their craft who were willing to sell for their opponents and take big bumps, and they combined these assets with great ring psychology and promos that would both insult and incite the local fans, putting butts in seats time and time again.  The compelling, logical, and realistic storylines that promoter Roy Shire devised in combination with the realism with which Patterson and Stevens performed in the ring just sucked the fans in and still brings smiles to their faces decades later.

   “They got heat.  They got natural heat.  They could work with anybody,” said Red Bastien.  And they worked with quite a few tag teams during that first run as the tag champs including Kinji Shibuya and Mitsu Arakawa, as well as against old Stevens’s foe Pepper Gomez and numerous different partners he would pair with.  Their ability to draw didn’t confine them to Northern California either as they would occasionally go on the road to defend their tag titles in such places as Hawaii, Phoenix, and the Pacific Northwest.

   The working arrangement between Pacific Northwest promoter Don Owen and Northern California promoter Roy Shire not only allowed for Patterson and Stevens to defend their World tag team titles but also allowed Pat to challenge Gene Kiniski for the NWA World Heavyweight title in Portland, Oregon on December 2, 1966.  Indeed, it was a safe bet that Shire no loner felt that Pat looked like “shit”.  Also during that December tour of the Pacific Northwest Pat would regain the Pacific Northwest Heavyweight title by beating Tony Borne.  It was the belt he had lost shortly before leaving Portland 2 years before.  It didn’t last long of course as Pat would drop the belt back to Borne 9 days later on December 18th, and the Blonde Bombers were soon back in San Francisco.

   Not long after the arrived back in Northern California Ray and Pat would lose their belts to two very tough customers in the team of Cyclone Negro and the Mongolian Stomper at the San Francisco Cow Palace on New Year Eve.  Negro and the Stomper were merely keeping the belts warm for them however as they made short work of them in the rematch 3 weeks later at the Cow Palace’s first show of the New Year on January 21, 1967, winning 2 out of the 3 falls in less than 16 minutes.

   Their second reign as champs didn’t last nearly as long as the first one however as  the all time best draw in San Francisco, Ray Stevens was needed back in singles. He would recapture the U.S. Heavyweight title from Bill Watts in March and at the next Cow Palace show on April the 8th, The Bombers dropped the tag belts to the popular team of Pedro Morales and Pepper Gomez.  Ray and Pat would still team together on occasion but Roy Shire may also have felt that the team was getting a bit stale in the eyes of the fans and Pat was wrestling more singles as well.

   For most of 1968 Pat Patterson was doing tours in Australia and Japan as well as having a run for several months in Amarillo where he suddenly had become a "Lord".  He would return to Northern California in 1969 only to find that his old partner Stevens had a change of heart and was now wrestling as a “good guy.”  It was quite the shock for Patterson as wrestling fan and announcer Joe Sousa recalls: “When Pat came back he wanted to resume teaming with Stevens but he couldn’t believe what he was hearing about Ray and said, ‘I don’t know what’s got into the guy and why he’s acting like a sissy!  I’m going to have to knock some sense into the guy!”

  Patterson didn’t have to wait long as the two would begin facing each other in the ring at the end of February in a heated feud that would continue for over 2 years.  Whether it was in singles matches or tag matches, matches for the U.S. title or for the World Tag Team titles, non-title matches or Death matches, it was a rivalry that kept fans gravitated throughout Northern California, Reno, Nevada, and even Hawaii.  It involved two master psychologists and workers in the ring, and it captivated the imaginations of those who witnessed their battles.

   “I was extremely lucky to have seen both of their careers in the Bay area from start to finish and it would do extreme injustice to pick one over the other” say Les Puskas, a lifelong wrestling fan who deals in Northern California wrestling memorabilia.  “They were both naturals.  Together they had chemistry like no other.  They were simply artists in action and against each other it was like 2 dancers at the top of their routine.  Patterson was lucky enough to be able to learn things from Stevens but Stevens was also lucky enough to learn from Patterson.  Honestly, I do not know if I would have been so obsessed with the sport had it not been for both of them.”

   Whether they worked as partners or as opponents, the two had a great mutual respect for each other and as Pat would later say regarding working with Stevens, “In the ring, he was a master, no question about it.  I learned a lot from him.  And I learned a lot from Roy Shire.”  

   Superstar Billy Graham had come in from Los Angeles in October of 1970 and had been paired with Patterson so that he could learn from a master worker and psychologist.  He also took part in the Patterson/Stevens feud and learned from them both, referring to his time in San Francisco as earning his degree in “mark psychology.”  He had the utmost respect for the work of his tag partner Patterson and expressed some of those sentiments in his autobiography “Tangled Ropes”.

     “He was a flawless heel, vicious, and aggressive, and did everything with precise timing.  To this day, there’s never been anybody who can throw better mounted punches from the ropes.  When his head ran into the ring post, it recoiled, with hair flying backward, like it was about to pop off.” 

   Eventually the feud would come to an end as Ray would head to the Midwest to work for Verne Gagne’s AWA, although he’d return a few times to resume the feud.  In the end he and Pat would kiss and make up before Pat would eventually join him in the AWA.  But before that happened, Patterson would enjoy the “single life” as he held the U.S. Heavyweight title a half dozen times in Roy Shire’s territory, and was involved in memorable feuds with Rocky Johnson, “Moondog” Lonnie Mayne, Mr. Fuji, and “The Great Mephisto” Frankie Caine.  It was that feud with Caine that made Rod Higashino a lifelong fan of both Pat Patterson and classic pro wrestling.

   “(Patterson) was part of the defining moment for me becoming a full blown wrestling fan.  As a little kid I remember being at my neighbor’s house while they were watching 'Big Time Wrestling' and they explained to me who were the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’”.  Rod became frustrated as he saw top heel and current U.S. champ “The Great Mephisto” win week after week with his “loaded” boot.

   “He never did lose, but one week on TV Patterson attacked him, body slammed him on the ‘hard, concrete floor’, as announcer Hank Renner would always call it, and jumped off the ring apron with a ‘Bombs Away’ to Mephisto’s throat.  As I sat there mesmerized, Patterson began unlacing Mephisto’s ‘loaded’ boot and eventually took off with it!  Mephisto came out complaining that one of his legs was shorter than the other and without his special boot he would lose his equilibrium.  Patterson came out saying that his leg had been a little sore lately and if his leg hurt before a match with Mephisto, he would wear the boot.  That was it- I was hooked!  That was the angle that got me watching each and every week and made Patterson my 'all time favorite'”.

   While they made a great team and Patterson had learned much from Ray Stevens, he would continue to develop and perfect his craft and identity on his own.  In 1977 he would be involved in the “Masked Fuji” fiasco before having his final run in the early part of the years as the U.S. champ, after winning a tournament.  He would defend that belt in Northern California, wrestle a couple of shots in both L.A. and New York, and then finish out the year in Florida.  After over a dozen years working for Roy Shire, much longer than he expected, Pat Patterson would find himself in Verne Gagne’s AWA.

   His appeal was so vast, his talent so immensely appreciated by fans and promoters alike, that after a year and a half, he would find himself splitting time between Gagne’s AWA and Vince McMahon Sr.’s WWF.  On June 19, 1979 he would beat Ted DiBiase for the WWF North American Heavyweight title, which would soon morph into the WWF Intercontinental title, while simultaneously holding the AWA World tag team titles with Ray Stevens.  While they would lose the belts 9 days after Patterson’s North American title win, he would continue as a singles champion in the WWF and was a top challenger for Bob Backlund’s WWF Heavyweight title.  He was even awarded the NWA America’s title after a fictitious match in Hawaii before defending and losing the title against Chavo Guerrero in Los Angeles on November 16th.  Such was his credibility as a champion.

   For the next few years he would split time between the WWF and the AWA.  Pat Patterson was such a hot commodity that the promoters were willing to share, and to an extent that was very rare, especially considering that the WWF was on the cusp of it’s nationwide expansion.  Before their expansion however, the AWA was doing some expanding itself and would begin running shows in Patterson’s old stomping grounds, as Roy Shire’s Northern California promotion was getting ready to fold.

   On January 15, 1981, Pat would team up with old partner Stevens to beat Adrian Adonis and Jesse Ventura on a wrestling card that Verne Gagne held at the Oakland Coliseum.  The man who had settled down in San Francisco would return one more time for Roy Shire however, as he would participate in and win the 1981 San Francisco Battle Royal on January 24, 1981.  He would also beat NWA World Champion Harley Race by count out on what was to be Roy Shire’s last wrestling card.

      Patterson, who at one time helped Shire with booking his territory, had developed into one of the greatest minds in wrestling.  This would not only benefit his career, but would contribute greatly to Pro Wrestling entertainment as he would go on to be a key figure behind the scenes in the WWE for many years, helping greatly to develop compelling angles and finishes. 

   On May 27, 2013 The WWE was in Calgary, Alberta, Canada for a taping of their flagship television show “RAW” and what was to be “The Bret Hart Appreciation Night”.  Many current and former prominent Canadian wrestlers were on hand to pay tribute to the worthy 5 time former WWE Champion and pro wrestling legend.  Foremost among them was Pat Patterson, who referred to Bret as “The greatest Canadian of all time.”  While perhaps no one would argue that Hart was deserving of the tribute and recognition, some might contend that Pat himself was in fact the greatest Canadian, or at the very least, “The Greatest Canadian Wrestler of all time.”

   Nearly 50 years before (I bet that just made some people feel old) “The Genius” Ray Stevens, received a new partner, a man who would become a genius in his own right, to the delight of all who would watch him. - RR


Special thanks to Rod Higashino, Robert Counts, Joe Sousa, and Les Puskas for sharing their memories of Ray Stevens and Pat Patterson.
Les Puskas deals in Classic California Wrestling pictures, programs, and magazines which you can view at or on Ebay under his seller i.d. of "LPBingo".
"Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams" by Greg Oliver and Steven Johnson

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


   Growing up in the East Los Angeles and El Monte areas of Southern California with approximately 50% of my family members being gang affiliated, I had already seen some pretty crazy stuff by the time I was 10 years old.  But what I was watching on the television screen on a particular Saturday afternoon in 1978 really blew my mind.  Moondog Mayne, the current America’s Heavyweight Wrestling Champion was being interviewed by Jeff Walton at the Olympic Auditorium about an upcoming match and… and he was eating glass. 

   This went far beyond the things I saw some of my less developed schoolmates ingest and I was really concerned because one of my favorite wrestlers in the Los Angeles area at the time was “El Halcon” and he was to be Moodog’s next opponent.  One by one, opponents had been falling in defeat to the wild Moondog and not just preliminary guys either.  Established and capable veterans like Black Gordman, Chavo Guerrero, and Hector Guerrero had fallen at the feet of the America’s champion.  And as time went on, the urgency of getting rid of this madman increased, and his opponents began to challenge him in “Mexican Death matches” and “Loser Leave Town” matches.  Each time, I hoped Moondog’s opponent would prevail, but it was not to be.

    El Halcon was a former National heavyweight wrestling champion in Mexico and when entered the area I felt he was a great wrestler and would be the one to rid L.A. of the Moondog.  But after watching the glass eating incident I seriously began to question his chances against this crazy man.  As soon as that episode of wrestling ended I ran out to find my friend Michael, my partner in crime, who at that moment was also looking to find me, so we could both talk about what we had seen.  And no doubt many people of all ages did the same thing after watching a Moondog Mayne interview.  He was just that fascinating.

   Little did I know that during that same time period, Lonnie Mayne was also taking trips up North to the San Francisco area, only there, he was wrestling as a “good guy”!  Before the days of the internet and the widespread availability of cable, Lonnie was able to wear “two hats” so to speak, and with his tremendous talent was able to work as both a villain and a hero in 2 different territories within the same state!  Not only that, but he simultaneously held 2 major title belts, the America’s title in Southern California and the United States title belt in San Francisco, a belt which he captured by defeating Don Muraco.

   Soon he would up the ante in Southern California as he joined forces with Rowdy Roddy Piper who had been the top heel in the territory for 2 years at that point.  And when it came to stirring up trouble, causing headaches for the wrestlers who were fan favorites, and increasing ticket sales for the arena events, the two proved to be a formidable pair.  It would’ve probably left me in a near catatonic state however if I was aware at the time, that while they were partners in crime in Los Angeles, the Moondog and Piper were bitter enemies in San Francisco.

   The Spanish International Network which broadcast the Spanish language editions of the televised wrestling programs from the Olympic Auditorium had a strong satellite feed.  As a result people in other parts of the country, including the Bay area in Northern California,  were able to watch Moondog and Piper team up to wreak havoc in L.A. while at the same time they were engaged in a an intense feud in San Francisco.

“I was a little confused at the time when I saw that” says San Francisco resident and wrestling fan Fred Lazarus, “because the matches they had at the Cow Palace were great, and come next Wednesday, they’d be teaming together in Los Angeles!”

Photo Courtesy of Jim Fitzpatrick
   While the program between Lonnie and Piper would only span 3 matches from late June to late July of 1978, it was a very memorable one, for both its intensity and for the attention grabbing interviews that were part of the promotion for those matches in which they traded the U.S. Heavyweight title.  Each week, they would try to one up one another, and those promos were so captivating and entertaining that they almost overshadowed the great matches that they had. 

   Lonnie was tremendously impressed with Piper and Lonnie’s younger brother Shawn recalls Lonnie try to arrange for Shawn to meet him at one of the wrestling cards, saying, “I want you to meet this guy.  He’s great, and he’s going places in this business!”  Lonnie had an eye for talent and his statement was an understatement if there ever was one, and it was also an example of how Lonnie really rooted for the success of his peers.  If he saw someone had talent and was a hard worker, Lonnie would encourage that person and hope that they’d make their mark in the wrestling business.  That’s a quality not always seen in a competitive business where too many are often concerned that someone else will steal their “spot”.  As Shawn Mayne told me, “I’ve never come across anyone in the business or ever heard of anyone who had a bad thing to say about Lonnie.”

   Meanwhile, back in Los Angeles, Lonnie had lost the America’s Heavyweight title but was seeking to gain it back from Hector Guerrero and Mil Mascaras had come to town to face Lonnie in a Mexican Death match.  While I was happy to hear that my hero Mil Mascaras had defeated the Moondog in that July 28th match at the Olympic, the Moondog was still in Southern California, and 2 weeks later on August 11th, he regained the America’s title from Hector Guerrero.  And up in San Francisco, he was preparing to meet his next challenge for the U.S. title on August 19, with Buddy Rose as his opponent.  However it wasn’t to be.

Saying Good bye
   As a 10 year old during that summer of ’78, I often found myself occupied with distractions, trying to make the most of my time off from school, plus spending some of my weekends at the homes of relatives for family get-togethers.  Most of my relatives weren’t fans of professional wrestling so occasionally I’d miss the televised wrestling programs while socializing.  During the 3rd week of August, I approached my friend Michael, asking him to update me on Moondog Mayne’s next challenger.  What he said next floored me.

   “He’s dead.”  I couldn’t believe what I had heard.  “What?!” I asked.  “He’s dead” he repeated.  “They said on television that he got hit by a car after a wrestling match.”  That isn’t exactly what happened of course, but the result was unfortunately the same.  Lonnie “Moondog” Mayne was no longer with us.  It was a very odd feeling for me, for as much as I had wanted to see him defeated in a “loser leaves town” match, I felt a little empty.  It was hard for me to reconcile those feelings, as I saw him as a despised heel, someone whom I wanted one of my heroes to rid the area of, but nonetheless, the feelings were real.  I was saddened and I greatly missed him.  Such was the man’s appeal, whether he wrestled as a “face” or a “heel.”

   On August 13, 1978, Lonnie had appeared at the San Bernardino Arena for his scheduled match with Chavo Guerrero.  The promoter of that night’s card Jeff Walton recalled seeing Lonnie drinking a little brandy in the locker room before his match.  Lonnie explained that it was to help with his cold, because despite being sick, Lonnie still showed up for his booking.

   After the matches were over Chavo Guerrero recalled seeing Lonnie standing outside of his car, double over.  “He was puking” Chavo would say, and when he asked if he was alright, Lonnie replied that he was.  A short time later, while driving on the Riverside Freeway, Lonnie Mayne’s car crossed the meridian and since the freeway was still undergoing construction, there were no concrete barriers and his car collided with an oncoming car, killing both himself and the other driver.  He was 4 weeks shy of his 34th birthday.  When the news of the accident and Lonnie’s death was heard, wrestling fans across the country were stunned.

Courtesy of "The Nito Gomez Collection"
   The news was broadcast on the August 19th airing of the “Big Time Wrestling” television program in Northern California.  That evening, the main event was changed as Buddy Rose and Dean Ho would now compete for the U.S. title that Lonnie held at the time of his death.  Fans at the Cow Palace who had not heard the news yet were shocked upon hearing of Lonnie’s death, and some even cried as they rang a 10 bell salute in honor of his memory.

   “It shocked the hell out of a lot of us” recalls Nito Gomez, who was at the Cow Palace that night.  “It was dead quiet in the Cow Palace and I had never like that before.  To this day it is hard for me to believe, as it was the first death that I had to deal with as a wrestling fan.”  Wrestling commentator Joe Sousa was also there that night and adds: “The silence was so loud, if that makes any sense.  I cried big time.”  And Ken Faria who grew up as a fan of the Roy Shire promotion remembers: “I was shocked!  I guess I was 14 or 15 at the time and in a way it was a lot like when Brody died, the two of them both being as tough as nails, but in the end, just as frail as the rest of us.  Hell, Lonnie ate nails, how could he die?!”

   On, Buddy Rose would later write, “I was supposed to be his next title match in the Cow Palace for the United States title.  I was looking forward to working with a man who helped me early in my career in Texas.  He also told me just before I left for Portland, to stay at the Bomber Motel when I get there, because that’s where all the ‘boys’ stay until they find a house.  He was a great worker, and a master of psychology, when it came to working the fans.  I have nothing but kind things to say about the man, and his career.  He is, and will always be missed.”

   In Portland they held a Memorial service honoring his memory during the wrestling card that was held on August 24th at the Lane County Fairgrounds Auditorium in Eugene, Oregon.  Fans said a tearful good bye not to “Moondog” but to their “Pied Piper”, the man they simply knew as Lonnie.

   And in Los Angeles they held a tournament for the America’s title that was now vacant, and they would soon have a new title belt, as the one that Lonnie wore would pass to his young son.  In an article in the Press-Courier, Bob Kubik who was referred to as the assistant promotions man for the Olympic Auditorium was quoted as saying in regards to Lonnie, “It will take an awful lot to replace him.”  In truth, while they may have been able to find a substitute for his matches, there would never be anyone who could replace Lonnie Mayne.

   Immediately there was speculation as to what caused the accident.  Lonnie was known to have a problem with alcohol abuse and some people felt that may have been the cause, while a smaller minority actually proposed that it might’ve been a suicide.  Admittedly when I became older I too wondered if alcohol was to blame.  While many may overlook the faults of celebrities or those they admire, I was never prone to being influenced by someone’s fame or how I personally felt about them.

   Chavo Guerrero, who had wrestled Lonnie that night, stated that Lonnie wasn’t inebriated.  “He wasn’t drunk”, he would say, “I saw it.”

   Shawn Mayne recalled, “I talked with both Chavo and Hector Guerrero afterwards and Hector told me, ‘Shawn, I’m going to tell you the truth.  Lonnie hadn’t been drinking for weeks.’”.  If anyone would know, it would be Hector as he had been working a program with Lonnie in Los Angeles and had the opportunity to see Lonnie on a regular basis.

   Some may ask, “what about the fact that Jeff Walton witnessed Lonnie drinking in the locker room that night?”  Anyone who knew Lonnie knew that when he was drinking liquor he was drinking Southern Comfort.  What Lonnie had been drinking that night was brandy, which some people do feel helps with a cold.  With Lonnie’s reputation as a drinker it wouldn’t have been unusual for Lonnie to be seen drinking before a match as people like the late Matt Borne often said that was his habit.  However if Lonnie had stopped drinking in the weeks before that night, it would’ve been unusual for him to be seen drinking and that may be why he felt the need to explain his drinking brandy that night.  Why would Lonnie feel a need to explain why he was drinking, unless people had recently become accustomed to seeing him not drinking?  As Shawn Mayne says, “Lonnie never felt a reason to explain anything he did.”

   Some have felt that Lonnie’s vomiting and disorientation that night may have been due to a previously sustained undiagnosed concussion.  Those symptoms would certainly be consistent with that.  When the doctor who performed the autopsy spoke with Shawn Mayne, he said that Lonnie had low levels of alcohol in his system which I feel could be explained by the brandy earlier in the evening and as Shawn says, “From his years of drinking.”  The Doctor also said that Lonnie had sustained some type of head injury (likely ring related) prior to the accident and may have in fact slipped into a coma before the crash. 

   And in regard to the speculation that it was suicide, for one thing, the taking of another person’s life in an auto accident wouldn’t have been in Lonnie’s character.  And for another, Lonnie had too much to live for.  Many people aren’t aware that Lonnie was in the process of making huge changes in his life.

   He had understood that his years of drinking and his life on the road as a professional wrestler had affected his personal life and he was looking to turn things around.  Shawn Mayne told me: “About a week before he passed away, Lonnie was back home and I can remember it like it was yesterday.  We were sitting on the front porch with my Mom and Dad and Lonnie said that he was going to quit the business.  He was going to finish up in California, do one more tour of Japan, and that he was going to finish up by Christmas and come home.  He also said that he was going to go to rehab. ”

   Lonnie had been separated from his wife, and his good friend Harry Fujiwara AKA “Mr. Fuji” would later recall talking to Lonnie’s widow Diana after his death.  “She said that she loved him but she couldn’t handle the drinking.”  Fujiwara had also talked to Lonnie the day of Lonnie’s death, a conversation that included Lonnie’s revealing that he planned to go to rehab for his alcohol abuse and he was going to try and reconcile with his wife.  “We’re the best of friends” he told Fujiwara, “Let’s keep in touch.”  Those are not the words and not the plans of a man who was looking to exit the world any time soon.

   Regardless of what’s been shared here, there will always be those who will speculate or have their own ideas of what happened that night.  The only thing that can be said with certainty is that on that August 13th night, people tragically lost their lives and an empty space was left in the lives of those who knew and loved them.  While for years many wrestling fans have probably wondered what other exploits Lonnie may have had in the wrestling ring, it’s obvious now that Lonnie hadn’t planned for many more.  Yet, even the ones he had already had at that point have given us much we fondly remember and discuss so many years later. 

   The true potential that had yet to be realized was his future development as a person and his potential future with his friends and loved ones.  For while the fans lost a performer they admired greatly, his family lost a father, a husband, a son, a sibling, a part of them.

   Someone once said, “That as long as a person is remembered, they are never truly dead.”  Regardless of our personal beliefs regarding the possibilities of an afterlife, the spirit of Lonnie Mayne lives on in his son Lonnie Nathan, whom Shawn says is like his father in so many ways, and it lives on as long as we remember and discuss him.  Even 35 years later, whenever we watch video of Lonnie’s matches and interviews or replay our memories of him or share them with others, it quickly becomes evident that there is still and “excitement in the air.” -RR      


My very special thanks to Shawn Mayne for sharing some of his thoughts regarding his late brother, and thanks also to Nito Gomez, Fred Lazarus, Ken Faria, and Joe Sousa for sharing their memories of Lonnie.


I’d also like to than Jim Fitzpatrick of “Fine Art America”, a very talented photographer and artist for sharing his great photo of Lonnie.  I'd also like to thank Nito Gomez, another talented artist, for sharing his Cow Palace wrestling program from the “Nito Gomez Collection”.




Conversation with Shawn K. Mayne

Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels – By Greg Oliver and Steven Johnson

Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams – By Greg Oliver and Steven Johnson

Mr. Fuji Shoot Interview – RF Video

“Wrestling fans in mourning” By Rich Romine; Press-Courier, August 19, 1978

Eugene Register-Guard, August 24, 1978

Monday, August 12, 2013


   Just a few years earlier the two men had paired up a few times, partners against common enemies; now they were on opposite sides, both seeking vengeance.  It was November 10, 1973 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, and Pat Patterson and “Moondog” Lonnie Mayne were set to clash in the main event for Patterson’s United States Heavyweight Wrestling Title.  4 weeks earlier, Mayne had bloodied Pepper Martin for the second time in a matter of weeks and Patterson saved Martin from a more serious beating.  Now he was looking to avenge that beating and Mayne was looking to avenge the interference.  And if he won the U.S. title in the process that would just be the icing on the cake.

   With fans rooting for their hero Patterson to tame the wild Moondog, the two battled fiercely in a match that resulted in a draw, and even when they met again on December 1st, with legendary tough guy Peter Maivia as the special referee, nothing was settled as Moondog Mayne lost the 3rd fall of the rematch on a count out.  The only things that were decided was that Patterson and Mayne wanted another shot at each other and that Maivia had made a new enemy as he and Lonnie had gotten physical during the match up.

   10,000 fans had been treated to an intense back and forth battle and promoter Roy Shire knew he had gold.  3 weeks later the two were matched up yet again, and 12, 517 screaming fans packed the Cow Palace and ponied up $52,006 to watch Moondog Mayne once again challenge the champion.  That was almost twice the audience and gate that had witnessed Dutch Savage do the same thing less than 3 months earlier.  As was expected, the two fought tooth and nail, and to the shock and dismay of those in attendance, Moondog Mayne defeated Patterson in the 2 out of 3 fall event and was the new U.S. Heavyweight champion! 

   There would be rematches with Patterson as well as challenges from other formidable foes such as Don Muraco, Rocky Johnson, and Peter Maivia.  And in the summer of ’74 Moondog would find himself in the position of challenger once again.

The Champ comes to town

   NWA World Heavyweight Champion Jack Brisco was coming to San Francisco for a rare visit and as the U.S. Heavyweight Champion, Lonnie “Moondog” Mayne was the number one contender in the territory.  The two seemed like complete polar opposites in the ring as former NCAA National wrestling champion Brisco relied on his technical wrestling whereas the “Moondog” character that Lonnie Mayne had developed was a fierce brawler, prone to baying like a wild dog and biting into the flesh of his opponents every chance he got.  This would not be the first time or the last that Lonnie Mayne would fight for a World title.  And as he always did, he gave the champ all that he could handle.  Could you imagine the reaction the Cow Palace fans would have, if this dog food eating, glass chewing animal who held the U.S. title would become the World champion as well?  Their hearts must’ve momentarily stopped because it nearly happened!

   Each man had won a fall in the July 27, 1974 title match when Mayne cracked the champion with a devastating punch while wearing brass knuckles!  It went unseen by referee Larry Williams who then delivered the 3 count as Mayne covered Brisco for the pin and it seemed that there was a new champion.  However the Moondog’s victory was short lived as another referee, Frank Nocetti, entered the ring and informed Williams that Mayne had used brass knuckles.  The decision was reversed with Moondog Mayne now being disqualified and Brisco escaping with his title!  Well easy come, easy go.

   Of course this called for a rematch and Shire was willing to give the NWA Champion his typical healthy slice of the gate for their return match 3 weeks later which also saw Brisco leave with his title claim intact.  Well at least Moondog still had his U.S. title belt.  At least for a couple of months anyway as Peter Maivia would win the belt on October 12th.  Rematches in San Francisco, Sacramento, and Las Vegas would ensue, along with a rekindled feud with Pat Patterson which was more hot and heavy than their first time around.

   And in the sometimes strange world of professional wrestling, Lonnie Mayne again displayed some of his versatility as a performer in the summer of ’75 when he not only became a “good guy” but he also began teaming with ex-bitter enemy Pat Patterson and even Pepper Martin himself!  The fans were now rooting enthusiastically for the “Moondog” but this run in San Francisco was quickly coming to its end.

On The Road Again

   After a stopover in Portland it was on to Georgia for Lonnie Mayne where he again “flipped the script” becoming a hated heel, teaming with the likes of “Crazy” Luke Graham and Abdullah the Butcher, and opposing such “fan favorites” as Mr. Wrestling II, Dick Slater, Bob Backlund, Bobo Brazil, and Thunderbolt Patterson.  After 6 months of that it was on to the Lone Star State, where he feuded for several months with Jose Lothario, challenged the America’s Heavyweight Champion Chavo Guerrero in a rare title defense outside of Los Angeles, and won a battle royal. 

   And as if things weren’t interesting enough, as 1976 was drawing to a close, the vicious Moondog again became a fan favorite, just in time to engage in a series of matches against the Sheik in what must’ve been like watching two pit bulls going at it.  Lonnie found a place in the hearts of the Texas Wrestling fans.  It inspired Ricky Ringside to produce a 45 single entitled “The Ballad of Moondog Mayne” which was played during Moondog’s walk to the ring and sold at the arena concession stands, and it caused fans to delight as Mayne stormed the ring dressed as Santa Claus and swung a bag of toys at the heels who made a quick exit.

  Before he left the area in the spring of ’77, Lonnie would wrestle NWA World Champion Terry Funk to a draw and also challenge new champion Harley Race as well.  While he didn’t walk away with the title, he gained many new fans who remember the man for whom “every day is like Christmas” and who seemed at times to be a mischievous butt-kicking version of old St. Nick himself.

Did He Really Call You Crazy?

   In February of 1967, almost right from the start of Lonnie Mayne’s career in the Pacific Northwest, Ringside commentator Frank Bonnema was right by his side along for the ride.  Bonnema was always the epitome of composure which was in stark contrast to the sometimes chaotic atmosphere which was part of the Portland Wrestling television program.  Shown live beginning at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday nights, Bonnema was a cherished fixture, as much as the salesmen hawking used cars with vinyl seats, mobile homes and recreational vehicles, and appliances from Tom Peterson’s where you could pick up anything from washers and dryers to cb radios and faux wood console stereos complete with AM/FM radio, an 8 track cassette player and flashing disco lights. And Frank and Lonnie seemed to complement each other perfectly.

   Now, it was the spring of 1977, 10 years since they first worked together, and Lonnie Mayne was back in Oregon. With his strong drawing power at the box office and the working relationship between Roy Shire and Don Owen it wasn’t unusual for Lonnie to make an occasional trip to San Francisco while simultaneously working for Don Owen in Oregon.  And with Frank Bonnema holding the microphone, Lonnie was discussing his upcoming match with U.S. Champion Alexis Smirnoff at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.

   “Because all I heard”, Lonnie was saying during his promo, “He said I was crazy and let me you one thing Smirnoff…tonight in the Cow Palace I got a United States Championship match.  I had that before Frank.  I had that belt and tonight I got it again and you know what’s goin?  I’m going to beat him like raw hamburger!”  Lonnie then began eating raw hamburger on camera and then threw some down on the studio floor where he began to stomp it, as if to demonstrate what he would be doing to his opponent.  In mock surprise Bonnema then asked Lonnie, “Did he really say you were crazy?”

   While he never liked to be called “crazy” Lonnie “Moondog” Mayne seemed to do all he could to convince the fans that he was and there was a method to his “madness”, as he could alternately cause his audience to fear and despise him, or embrace him warmly.  And in the Pacific Northwest it was with open arms that he was welcomed back.

   Don Owen’s Pacific Northwest territory was promoted in a way that would appeal to its audience who were mostly comprised of simple, unpretentious, blue collar workers and their families, who had a strong sense of community.  It wasn’t unheard of for Don Owen to offer “specials” where for each paid adult admission a child would get in free or to offer free coloring books to the children for showed up to the arena events.      

    These were wrestling fans that no doubt agreed with the policy of “speak softly and carry a big stick” although those fans could get quite loud and vocal in the Portland Sports Arena and little old ladies were known to substitute a swing of a cane for a big stick.  They boisterously booed the villains and wholeheartedly cheered and embraced their heroes and Lonnie was one of the most popular wrestlers ever in the area.

     This wild looking man who wasn’t always articulate in his interviews but would still leave no doubt as to the point he was making, was a genius at cultivating the love the fans had for him.  He would dedicate his victories to his fans and promise to “do it for the people” and was known to sometimes where t-shirts to the ring that read “Love Oregon or bite me!”  Although his character was simple and sometimes even crude, that wasn’t something that worked against him but rather in his favor.  He spoke much like many in the audience probably did and with the type of dastardly opponents he faced, the fans no doubt felt that someone who was a bit of a roughneck is just who was needed to put the heels in their place.  Ed Wiskowski referred to him as a “blue collar Robin Hood” and that’s exactly how the fans saw him, as there to right the wrongs. 

     He was also a “Pied Piper” as this man who had in years past struck fear in the hearts of ringside fans and had even been billed alternately as “MadDog Mayne”, “Moondog Mayne” and  “Mauler Mayne” in some instances, now had children running up to him to touch him and shake his hand on his way to the ring.  In the Northwest, he was simply known as “Lonnie”.  I can still recall the image of him soundly thrashing Buddy Rose and tenaciously chasing him around the ring, only to soon after have a girl around the age of 5 run up and give him a hug.  He would then lift the child in his arms and walk with her up the aisle to the applause and smiles of those in attendance.  He was that crazy but loveable uncle, Santa Claus with a couple of shots of Southern comfort in him to keep himself warm on a cold Christmas Eve.  It was a testament not only to his appeal with the fans but to his tremendous versatility as a performer.  – RR


Next:  Saying Good bye to Lonnie            
Special thanks to Doug McCleer for sharing some of his photos for this article.  
Top photo by Viktor Berry       



Thursday, August 8, 2013


     If I could make it there I can make it anywhere” might’ve been song lyrics written about New York, but in the 1960’s world of professional wrestling, the same thing could probably have been said about any territory with a strong television presence.  Los Angeles certainly had that and Lonnie Mayne had certainly made a good impression there.  But as would be his habit, he would soon get the itch to move on.

   In October of 1966 Lonnie had a match against the original Paul Diamond at the Lane County Fairgrounds in Eugene, Oregon, and apparently he hadn’t gotten enough of either Diamond or Oregon because he returned on November 4, to defeat Diamond, this time in Portland.  For the rest of the month Lonnie occupied himself with wrestling Diamond, participating in an 8 man battle royal, tagging up with a visiting Pat Patterson, and giving Diamond the occasional breather by taking on a different opponent.

   And it was in December that business would really begin to pick up.  “Tough” Tony Borne had recently beaten Shag Thomas for the Pacific Northwest Heavyweight title and as if didn’t already have enough on his plate defending that belt, he would have his hands full with a new responsibility.

   “Lonnie came to the area and Ken Mayne, his father, phoned me and said ‘Kind of look after him’.  Little did I know what a job this would be”, Borne recalled years later.  “I did know that Lonnie possessed much talent.  Also he had strength that was second to none.  Everything he did was different and this included his lifestyle.  To Lonnie every day was like Christmas and mornings when he awoke his eyes would sparkle like a little boy arising on Christmas morning.  He was a guy with a big heart and couldn’t say no to anybody.  At times I would get so angry with him I wouldn’t speak to him for days, but he would always win a person back with his unselfish ways.”

   “Tony Borne was really the strength behind Lonnie’s start in his whole career,” reflects Lonnie’s younger brother, Shawn Mayne.  “Tony just really brought him along.  Lonnie had been around the business all his life, so he had that natural feel for it.” 

   Pacific Northwest promoter Don Owen wasn’t terribly impressed with Lonnie his first few weeks in the territory but Tony Borne went to bat for Lonnie, suggesting that the two become a tag team and in no time at all the pair began the first of what would be 11 Pacific Northwest tag team title reigns for them as partners, unseating Pepper Martin and Shag Thomas on December 14, 1966.  It would also be the beginning of a very heated feud between Mayne and Pepper Martin, the professional wrestler and sometimes ringside commentator.

   “When he came to the Northwest, the wrestling fans in the Northwest had never seen anything like Lonnie Mayne.  He would do crazy stuff, and he just got over,” Martin would later say.  “He just got over like a million dollars.  I mad a lot of money with him in the Northwest.” 

   The feud, consisting of both tag team matches as well as singles matches, was intense, with many of the matches ending in disqualification, enough times that sometimes they’d have matches with a “no disqualification” stipulation.  On June 26, 1967, Lonnie Mayne would defeat Pepper Martin in a Texas Death match in Portland, and their feud was pretty much at an end…for now.

   Other feuds would commence, including those with Paul Jones, Johnny Kostas, and Stan Stasiak, Luther Lindsay, Dean Ho, and after a falling out between the pair, Tony Borne as well.  Tony Borne proved to be right when he had told Don Owen early on that Lonnie “has got more color than any man you’ve ever had here.”  Lonnie had established himself as both a top heel and a big draw, enough so that he was tabbed to square off against Gene Kiniski on November 28, 1967 in Portland, for Kiniski’s NWA World Heavyweight tile.  Kiniski would win the first fall and in the second, Lonnie Mayne would prove that he was more than just a brawler, as he pinned Kiniski after a leap off the top rope.

   Don Muraco witnessed Lonnie’s high flying on numerous occasions, including his first night working in Portland: “”Lonnie Mayne was standing on the top turnbuckle and somebody drop kicked him from the back and he went right from the top turnbuckle right onto the cement.  This is 1970.  You talk about “Cactus Jack” Mick Foley…Lonnie was taking insane bumps!”  Muraco would also add: “I could have seen him taking a bump off a cage, given the opportunity and the venue.  He was like that.” 

   Ron Bass, who worked with Lonnie in Texas, Portland, and Los Angeles echoed those sentiments.  “He was one of the first ones of the high flyers.  Period. He’d be soused to the gills, but you’d never know it in the ring.  He was a top flyer, man.”

   However in the match with Kiniski, Lonnie’s aggressive manner got the better of him and he continued to beat on the defending champion who was still prone on the mat after having been pinned.  Lonnie was disqualified and would lose the match before the third fall even got started, but there would be more opportunities, both for title shots and mayhem.


Time For A Change


   Along with reigns as the Pacific Northwest Heavyweight Champion and another tour of Japan near the end of 1968, Lonnie and Tony Borne would patch things up and reunite as a tag team to battle with Kurt and Karl Von Steiger over the tag titles.  That reunion would eventually break up again and Lonnie would change his ways, becoming a “good guy” and forming an alliance with Dutch Savage against the new villainous duo of the Skull and Bull Ramos. 

   The late great Dutch Savage said on his website regarding Lonnie Mayne: “Lonnie was one of the better workers to ever come out of the Northwest.  He was my partner for a couple of years after I turned face.  We made an awful lot of money working against one another before he left for Hawaii.”

   “Lonnie Mayne made Bull Ramos in Portland, Oregon” Ramos would later say.  Contrary to what people believe, Bull Ramos didn’t actually break Lonnie’s arm in a match but rather it was a way of explaining Lonnie’s absence while shuttling back and forth between the Northwest and Hawaii.  In addition, it was a great way to “put over” Bull Ramos as a heel, as Lonnie never hesitated to do what was good for the business and to help those he worked with. 

   Working in Hawaii, Lonnie continued to distinguish himself as an impact player in pro wrestling, wrestling to time limit draws with the likes of Sam Steamboat, Mil Mascaras, promoter Ed Francis, and winning the NWA Hawaiian Heavyweight title from Bearcat Wright.  Unfortunately for Superstar Billy Graham, who was also working in Honolulu at the time, Lonnie didn’t take it easy on inanimate objects either.  Always curious as well as mischievous, Lonnie wondered what it’d be like to body slam a friend off of the first floor balcony of the hotel they were staying at.  Not wanting to injure his friend on the concrete, he figured the roof of Graham’s car would make a much better landing spot.  He was right, as his friend walked away without injury, but the roof of Graham’s car was caved in.  There was never a dull moment in the life of Lonnie Mayne. 


Enter The “Moondog”


   1973 rolled in, and so did Lonnie Mayne, or rather “Moondog” Mayne, into New York and Vince McMahon Sr.’s World Wide Wrestling Federation.  While Lonnie had nice exposure in Los Angeles and Portland, and had wrestled in the historic Olympic Auditorium, New York’s Madison Square Garden was still considered to be the “Mecca” of pro wrestling venues.  The Lonnie Mayne who hit the East Coast wrestling rings was indeed a Wildman and every night he lived up to the reputation he quickly established for himself there.  After defeating a succession of preliminary wrestlers he beat ring veteran Chief Jay Strongbow on January 13th in the Boston Garden, a site where the wrestling fans were almost as rabid in the stands as he was in the ring.  And then 2 days later, after being in the area only two weeks, he was in the main event in Madison Square Garden.  As always, his path to the main event was the same as his path in life: In the fast lane.

   On January 15th “Moondog” Mayne attempted to take the WWWF World Heavyweight title from Pedro Morales, and while he was unsuccessful in the attempt, it wouldn’t be his last opportunity.  Mayne would take enlist “Captain” Lou Albano as his manager and continue to challenge the champion up and down the East coast, including a title shot he earned after winning a battle royal in the Boston Garden in front of 15,600 screaming fans.  

   His character, charisma, and ring psychology captured the imaginations of East Coast fans as well as the wrestling magazines, in which articles appeared describing their shocked responses to his baying like a wild dog in the middle of the ring, his brutal assaults on his opponents and his eating glass during interviews.  Even though his time in the WWWF would be brief, his impact on the East Coast scene was memorable.  Nearly 40 years later while being inducted into the 2012 WWE Hall of fame, “Iron” Mike Tyson cited Moondog Mayne as one of his favorite and most memorable wrestlers from his childhood.  In between title shots Mayne also battled Tony Garea, Gorilla Monsoon, and even the “Living Legend” Bruno Sammartino, and occasionally paired up with another ring legend, “Classy” Freddie Blassie.

   However on June 29, 1973, Lonnie’s time in the WWWF would come to an end in Madison Square Garden. Ever the professional, Lonnie did what was good for the business, putting over Haystacks Calhoun and getting pinned cleanly in the middle of the ring in a little over 6 minutes. 

   His time there was memorable not only for the fans but also memorable for him as well.     Shawn Mayne remembers: “He had come home for a visit and he told my Dad, ‘You know this guy, Vince Jr., he’s really something.  He’s going to go places.  He doesn’t think like the other promoters’ meaning that he really thought out of the box.”  It was one creative mind and innovative mind showing appreciation for another.

   However on June 29, 1973, Lonnie’s time in the WWWF would come to an end in Madison Square Garden. Ever the professional, Lonnie did what was good for the business, putting over Haystacks Calhoun and getting pinned cleanly in the middle of the ring in a little over 6 minutes.


Going Back To Cali

   In the fall, Lonnie would begin an extended run in San Francisco working for promoter Roy Shire, and this time, the Northern California fans would get the “Moondog Mayne” treatment.  Wrestling announcer and commentator Joe Sousa remembers first seeing Lonnie Mayne on Portland television in 1972 while he was living in Medford, Oregon.  “I was nine years old and he was wrestling as a ‘good guy’ when I first saw him and I thought ‘This guy is awesome!’”

   However Lonnie soon went to New York and then San Francisco, where Joe could resume following Lonnie’s exploits.  “Living in Medford, not only could I watch Portland wrestling on television, but on cable we could also see wrestling from San Francisco.  Referee turned Wrestler Ed Moretti would later give me heat for that because I had the best of both worlds” Joe recalls with a laugh.  “The ‘Moondog’ character was quite different from the Lonnie Mayne I saw in Oregon.”

   It would also be a reunion of sorts for Moondog Mayne and Pepper Martin, although not nearly as pleasant.  Martin had retired from the ring after an injury sustained in a match with Lonnie several years earlier in Oregon, and had turned to acting part time and doing ringside commentary during Roy Shire’s “Big Time Wrestling” television shows, with the occasional wrestling match thrown in for good measure.  His commentating style was one that sometimes led to verbal confrontations between him and some of the heel wrestlers.  On one occasion he made the critical mistake of calling Lonnie “crazy”.

   Long time San Francisco wrestling fan Fred Lazarus remembered that incident vividly: “Mayne busted open Pepper Martin and commentator Hank Renner went nuts, yelling over and over again, ‘My friend! My friend!  What have you done to him?!’  Then at the Cow Palace when Pepper got his chance at Moondog, you know the outcome…Moondog busted him open again big time and Pat came to the rescue and that started their feud!”

   The match that Fred Lazarus spoke of between Lonnie and Pepper took place at the Cow Palace was on October 13, 1973, and the “Pat” that he referred to was Pat Patterson, former “bad guy” but current “good guy,” as well as the current United States Heavyweight Champion.  He had just successfully defended his title against Dutch Savage that night and now he had his sights set on Lonnie Mayne.  And that suited the Moondog just fine.  – RR



I’d like to thank Shawn K. Mayne, Joe Sousa, and Fred Lazarus for sharing their fond memories of Lonnie Mayne. - RR




“Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels” By Greg Oliver and Steven Johnson

“Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Team” By Greg Oliver and Steven Johnson

Don Muraco Shoot interview – RF Video

Regional Territories: Pacific Northwest” by Mike Rodgers –

“’Apache Bull Ramos Still Battling” By Greg Oliver- Slam! Wrestling, October 13, 2014