Tuesday, August 6, 2013




  He was quite a large man.  And like many large men, he had a strong air of confidence.  In fact, he seemed to exude such a high level of confidence that he appeared to think he was invulnerable.  And it was all those traits that made the words he would speak seem all the more ominous.  “…Whenever I saw that, I’d sit in the dressing room watching the monitor and I’d say ‘what am I going to be facing?!  What am I going to have to go out in the ring against?!  What could I possibly do against a man like that?!”

     The Large Man who was speaking was Professional Wrestler Sam Oliver Bass, who would go on to be better known as “The Outlaw” Ron Bass.  And the man he was referring to, the man who seemed to disrupt his air of confidence and give him pause for thought, was the Professional Wrestler named Lonnie “Moondog” Mayne.  And the “thing” that he was witnessing, the thing that he would describe as “inhuman” , the thing that made he and others wonder what they were dealing with, was a bloody “Moondog” Mayne biting into a broken bottle and chewing the glass. 

     It was in December of 1977 when Bass recounted his early impressions of Lonnie Mayne and I’m sure much to his relief, Lonnie was now his partner rather than his opponent, and they were engaged in a very heated feud with Buddy Rose and Ed Wiskowski in Don Owen’s Pacific Northwest territory.  Soon, the feud would end and Lonnie would be headed back to California and I would catch my first glimpse of the Moondog.  And while this would be my first opportunity to witness what Lonnie Mayne had to offer in the world of professional wrestling I would later find that others had been captivated by him for years and that he was no stranger to California.

Where It All Started

     Ronald “Lonnie” Doyle Mayne was born on September 12, 1944 in the small town of Fairfax in Northern California.  Lonnie came from a wrestling family, as his uncle Ronald was active as a pro during the 30’s and 40’s, and his father Kenny was in 1934 an Intermountain AAU wrestling champion at 145 lbs.  Kenny would also venture into professional wrestling, first as an in-ring performer before also adding to his resume the  promoting of wrestling in Utah starting in the 1950’s. 

     Though he was born in California Lonnie was raised in Utah and was active as a youth, participating in many activities, including sports and motorcycle riding, and the latter would remain a favorite pastime for him throughout his life.  Like wrestling, motorcycle riding was a bit of a tradition in the Mayne family as Lonnie’s uncle Pete Cazier, who in addition to having been an amateur boxer and race car driver also raced bikes for the Harley Davidson Motorcycle team.  Lonnie’s younger brother Shawn told a story regarding a young Lonnie expressing extreme disappointment when Santa hadn’t delivered a much desired motorcycle.  “That dirty old son of a bitch didn’t bring me a motorcycle!’ Lonnie exclaimed before heading back to his room.  Always a fun loving character, “Dirty old son of a bitch” may also have been the same words uttered by angry patrons of a particular Holiday Inn as Lonnie rode his motorcycle down the hallways in the early morning hours many years later.

      It became evident early on that the sport of wrestling was also in his blood as Lonnie would tag along with his father to some of his matches.  The elder Mayne had wrestled in various territories including Utah (where he was once the State Middleweight Champion), Ohio, Texas, and Idaho, and had wrestled such notables as Antone Leone and Bill Curry, as well as the occasional not so-notable such as “Young Hitler”.  Another territory Kenny would work is the Pacific Northwest which was also a main stomping ground for Tony Borne who would become a legend in the Pacific Northwest territory and would become instrumental in Lonnie’s early success in pro wrestling.  Borne later fondly recalled his first impressions of a then-12 year old Lonnie Mayne.  While he referred to him as a “snot nosed kid”, he also said,  “…Even at this early age, I knew he had a little something extra going for him.” (Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels- Greg Oliver and Steven Johnson)

     Lonnie would also display an aptitude for football and was an All-American while playing at the College of Southern Utah.  After college Lonnie weighed his options between pursuing a possible career in professional football and pursuing one in professional wrestling.  Fortunately for many fans of the mat game, he chose the ring.

     He began wrestling at age 20, and after wrestling for a few months in Utah, where he held the North American tag team titles with Bobby Mayne, he then headed to Southern California. Promoter Jules Strongbow who along with the Cal and Eileen Eaton, were the promoters of the WWA in Southern California and despite not being affiliated with the NWA, ran an extremely strong promotion.  At the time Los Angeles was a hotbed for wrestling and the roster was stacked very deep. And with its strong television programming it also attracted visiting wrestling luminaries who were looking for increased exposure as well as a quick payday on the way to or on the way back from a tour in Japan.

   Even so, the promotion saw value in the strong young man and he saw success from the get-go, and within days of his arrival, he wrestled Pedro Morales to a draw during a TV taping in Los Angeles on October 5, 1965, less than 2 weeks before Morales would win the WWA Heavyweight title.  That great showing would earn him a rematch with Morales 3 weeks later, this time for his newly won title.  Each combatant would win a fall only for the match to end in a draw as neither was able to secure the decisive fall. 

     Lonnie would continue to make a showing for himself as a singles wrestler, also wrestling to draws with such Los Angeles wrestling stars as Nick Bockwinkel, Enrique Torres, and Mr. Moto.  In addition he would also form a solid tag team with “Crazy” Luke Graham, and the two unpredictable brawlers quickly became top contenders for the WWA World tag team titles during the first few months of 1966, even wrestling champions Thunderbolt Patterson and Alberto Torres to a draw.   His aggressive and relentless style of wrestling led to him being billed as “Mauler Mayne” on at least one promotional poster at the time and was a contributing factor to his being booked in Japan that same year.

     Feeling that his promoter father may have had something to do with that, no doubt Lonnie’s being booked in Japan so early in his career and at the tender age of 21 also could be attributed in part to the strong relationship that the Los Angeles WWA had with Japan’s JWA.  JWA star and promoter Rikidozan had learned long before that importing American wrestlers as opponents for the Japanese professional wrestlers added to the prestige of the events he promoted, and the fans were always eager to cheer for their hometown boy against the “foreign invaders.”  Shawn Mayne also feels that Lonnie’s strong amateur wrestling background played a part.

     “Truth be known Lonnie had a great scientific talent!  Our Father had a great Amateur career and in fact was going to the Olympic trials when he broke his leg in a motorcycle accident.  He became a true hooker in the pro ranks.  Lonnie took after our Father to an extent and learned a lot from him!  He was a State Champion in High School in Wrestling.  Lonnie was the youngest wrestler to go to Japan in the late 1960’s where as you know, scientific skills were and still a must, even being ‘green’”!

     Before that first overseas tour however, Lonnie would spend a month in Northern California wrestling for promoter Roy Shire, including a match with the then U.S. Heavyweight Champion Bill Watts.  While the stay would be brief Lonnie gave the local fans a taste of the performer that several years later they would alternately love and also love to hate.

     It must’ve been quite an experience for the young man from Utah to be on a professional wrestling tour in the exotic country of Japan at such an early age.  Even at that time a tour of Japan was considered quite a coup not only for the increased exposure and the great paydays, but because pro wrestling was held in such high regard by the local fans and they had come to expect nothing but the best.  The tour lasted a little under 2 months and Lonnie would find himself on opposite sides of the ring with some of Japan’s top stars including Shohei “Giant” Baba, Antonio Inoki, and Kintaro Oki.  Tours of Japan can also make strange bedfellows as Pedro Morales, his main singles opponent in Los Angeles, sometimes found himself as Lonnie’s partner during the tour.  Evidently Lonnie made a good impression during his stay in the “Land of the Rising Sun” as he would be invited on another tour two years later.

     But for now it was back to Los Angeles where he would wrestle for a few more months before heading to the area where he would make his biggest mark and perhaps even have his strongest legacy.
Next time:  What else would a dog eat?

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