The 50 Greatest Professional Wrestlers of All Time

By Ben Simon

“The 50 Greatest Professional Wrestlers of All Time: The Definitive Shoot” is now on sale at  Regularly listed at $19.95, you can order now for just $11.73.

This book has substance.  There are no hidden agendas; there’s no merchandise to push.  Justification?  You’ll have 466 pages of reasoning behind the rankings.  Larry Matysik crosses all promotional and time boundaries.

This is one to read.


This Just In: Jackson vs. Osborne!

By Ben Simon

Jackson vs. Osborne

As the clock ticked toward Saturday, the pressure mounted for Tony Casta to make a decision.  In December, the South Broadway Athletic Club President vowed to “sort this out next month” after a skirmish between Gary Jackson, Dave Osborne, and Brandon Espinosa.

By the end of business Wednesday, Mr. Casta phoned and made it official: Gary Jackson will defend his MO/IL Heavyweight Championship against #1 contender Big Dave Osborne.  It will be Osborne’s first shot at the big one.

These two are no strangers in the ring.  However, the majority of their clashes were during Osborne’s rookie year of 2011.  This was prior to his domination as “Mr. Over-The-Top” and his 2012 King of Cable tournament win.  Dave pushed his way to the top and wants to topple the legendary champ.

Sound familiar?  It was January 21 of last year when Brandon Espinosa took the title from Gary, after a long campaign against the champ.  Jackson rebounded in May, of course.  “Gorgeous” Gary fights another hungry young challenger Saturday as he resists Father Time.

And Espy?  Broadway’s top brass gives him credit for his MO/IL Junior Heavyweight Title win last month.  However, a wrestler can’t just walk into the SBAC after six months away and step into the main event.

Espinosa is a great, popular wrestler.  But he’s going to have to work for it.  He has been away awhile and, who knows, get a few wins, he’ll be back up there.

-Tony Casta

Also, Dave Vaughn will return to Missouri to defend his TV Championship.  His opponent has not been finalized.  The “Wrestling Machine” last defended his title against Jake Dirden in October.

The first card of the year is always a special one.  We hope you can join us Saturday.

Rip Hawk: 1930-2012

By Larry Matysik

Rip Hawk

Rip Hawk passed away last week.  He was 82 well-lived years old.  And anyone who calls himself a true fan of St. Louis wrestling and still has to ask “who is Rip Hawk?” should be ashamed.

There’s no excuse for not at least acknowledging that somewhere, sometime, somehow, you’ve heard about the exploits of Rip Hawk when it comes to St. Louis wrestling.  Certainly not every big feud, maybe not all of the great matches, probably not all of his imaginative interviews — but you ought to at least know that Rip Hawk mattered when “Wrestling at the Chase” became both a local and national treasure in the mat world.

It started here, in St. Louis, with an exceptional program based on location, production and – just as important – talent.  There was a solid champion in Pat O’Connor, with an arrogant contender like Buddy Rogers.  An all-time great like Lou Thesz.  An up-and-coming star like John Paul Henning.  Other solid main event performers.

And three of the most special talents ever – Cowboy Bob Ellis, Gene Kiniski and – Rip Hawk.

Maybe Hawk was the smallest physically of that trio, but he certainly was just as notable as anyone.  Blond, barrel-chested, pointing to his “Profile,” and leaping off the top rope onto hapless foes, Hawk became the guy fans loved to hate.

What really put Hawk over was his interaction with Garagiola, like two bench jockeys sniping at each other all night long.  Rip called Joe a bald, broken-down old baseball catcher.  Joe pointed out that Rip’s head looked like a soccer ball that popped out of sewer hole.  Back and forth, with fans laughing and being hooked.

One time, Hawk and Kiniski were so infuriated by Garagiola’s needling (he was the best) that they jumped out of the ring and chased Joe around the Khorassan Room until the referees restored order.

Actually, that little display made Muchnick furious.  He jumped Hawk and Kiniski in the dressing room and let them know in no uncertain terms to leave Joe alone.  The wrestlers hung their heads.

Two hours later, at the old Redbird Lanes (Hampton and Gravois) owned by among others Musial and Schoendienst, Sam stopped for a burger on his way home.  He heard loud laughter coming from the bowling lanes.  Investigating, he found Hawk and Kiniski bowling with – who else? Joe Garagiola.

“Ah, Sam, they’re good guys.  I love ‘em,” Garagiola said.  But they all kept picking at each other on TV to the enjoyment of fans of all ages and either sex.

It helped build a remarkable audience and left an imprint still felt today on the community.

Since I was only a senior in high school when I interviewed Hawk for The Ring Magazine in the 1960s, I didn’t really get to know Hawk until he came back for a 20th anniversary show of “Wrestling at the Chase” in 1979.  I was doing play-by-play on “Wrestling at the Chase” by then.  That morning, in a one-hour breakfast with Rip, I learned as much about pro wrestling psychology as anyone possibly could. He was a class act – and a fine human being – all the way, willing to share.

Nobody understood how to draw heat and, more importantly, keep heat than Hawk.  So smart, using every tool in his repertoire.  Back in the day, he drew big crowd after big crowd – often selling out shows at 11,000 plus in Kiel Auditorium – and really seldom won!  But Hawk was so colorful and exciting, that didn’t matter.  Johnny Valentine, Thesz, Ellis, Rogers, O’Connor, Edouard Carpentier, Dick the Bruiser, Lorenzo Parente – that’s just a small sampling of legendary figures with whom he had fabulous battles.

After St. Louis, he had moved to the Carolinas and formed a famous tag team duo with Swede Hanson.  Rip also served as a mentor to none other than a young Ric Flair, who borrowed many of Hawk’s tactics.  When retirement came, he moved to West Texas.  For a masterful look at Rip, try “Googling” Mike Mooneyham’s excellent feature article on Rip.  It was written just before Hawk died.

The greats sometimes get forgotten.  It’s natural.  But, for now, let’s try to keep in mind one of those special performers who helped make the sport we all enjoy so much special and strong.

Rip Hawk.  If anyone asks who he is, be sure you can tell them.

Who’s Back? He’s Back!

Returning Champ

The man who started a revolution in the MMWA will return to South Broadway this weekend, as announced this month on Wild World of Wrestling.  The former heavyweight champion has been absent from St. Louis for a good chunk of 2012.

This impatient voice of the “Millennial” generation hasn’t made his intentions clear, but look for this competitor to attempt to edge Gary Jackson off his pedestal once and for all.

Just in case you think we’re being smart with you: No, we aren’t talking about Purple Passion!  Although, we like him well enough too.

This, much plus more and Big Dave Osborne waiting to strike…

Join us Saturday at the South Broadway Athletic Club for the last wrestling card of 2012 in all of Missouri.

A State of Flux – Feel It Tonight

Dave Vaughn brings The Big Texan down to the canvas (Photo: Mike VanHoogstraat).

UPDATE (11/11/12): Big Dave Osborne has retracted his intent to retire.  Below is the story as it originally appeared.

The South Broadway Athletic Club should be an exciting atmosphere tonight, as Wild World of Wrestling Executive Producer Tim Miller has promised the return of some “familiar faces and former champions.”  These unnamed men will be welcomed to an ever-changing SBAC.  Here’s the scoop.

Big Dave Osborne, the Battle Royal Champion, said on Facebook that he will retire following a final match November 10th.  Logic suggests he will redeem his MO/IL Heavyweight Title shot that he earned after winning the King of Cable tournament.

Last month, former MMWA-SICW Commissioner Keith Smith got into a scuffle (a punch was thrown) with the SBAC’s Tim Miller after a card at the South Broadway Athletic Club.  This led to a near-complete personnel split that may be evident at upcoming events.

Announcer Ben Simon spoke to SICW promoter Herb Simmons and Tim Miller on a recent edition of his show, RingSyders (listen to the 10/21 replay in the right sidebar at  Hear both sides of the story now.

There are no public ultimatums for wrestlers to “take sides.”  However, some have:

Ricky Cruz, the Classic Wrestling Champion, will only compete in SICW.  Of course, he will retain his East Carondelet-controlled title.  This is why the “Fans’ Choice” Cruz match never happened.

Rumor has it that “Ironman” Ken Kasa has chosen exclusivity to the Travis Cook Organization in Southern Illinois Championship Wrestling.  “Wrestling Machine” Dave Vaughn appears to still be willing to wrestle at Broadway.

It appears we have truly seen the last of the 27 year-old MMWA-SICW coalition.  There’s only one way to find out who’s coming back to SBAC tonight; be there.

Osborne’s The King; When Will He Claim His Shot?

Dave Osborne proudly snapped a shot of his new hardware following the King of Cable tournament (Photo by Kevin Edwards).

He guaranteed victory and he delivered.  Big Dave Osborne is the winner of the 2012 St. Louis King of Cable Cup tournament.

As the sun set on this outdoor event, the air dipped down to 50°F and the ring was slippery with dew.  At one point, a turnbuckle snapped from the post, prompting concern from fans that the ring was becoming unsafe.  The tournament continued through the dangerous chill.

The completed bracket for Rock ‘N’ Wrestling on September 22nd.

After chomping down Lumberjack Abe and shutting down hometown favorite Brian James, Osborne met Ricky Cruz in the final.  Ricky and Dave showcased their merits in an equal, exciting bout.  That is, until the goons showed up.

The Travis Cook Organization, Dave Vaughn and Ken Kasa, rushed the ring to attack Cruz after Senior Official Jim Harris was knocked loopy.  Harris recovered to see Cruz dumping Kasa into a porta potty.

While it was hilarious, Cruz was counted out of the ring.  Spectators were outraged that the most anticipated tournament of the year had ended on a count-out.  Perhaps one man summed it up best as he exited the Knights of Columbus lot:

This is bullsh*t!

This Saturday, come see Osborne and others at the historic South Broadway Athletic Club.  You never know when Big Dave will redeem his KOC victory for a shot at the heavyweight title.

Rock ‘N’ Wrestling: The King of Cable Cup II

To win the glory, one man must win three matches in one night.  MO/IL Heavyweight Champion Gary Jackson, Classic Wrestling Champion Ricky Cruz, Battle Royal Champion Big Dave Osborne, TV Champion Dave Vaughn, Ken Kasa, Brian James, MO/IL Junior Heavyweight Champion Max Archer, and Jimmy D will vie for the Cup.

An eight-man, single-elimination tournament will determine the new King of St. Louis Cable, a title derived from the long-running Wild World of Wrestling program on Charter cable.  The bracket seeding will not be announced until Saturday night.

Along with the Cable Cup trophy, the winner will receive a guaranteed heavyweight title shot at any MMWA event for a year.

Current champ Gary Jackson entered the field two months ago as a safeguard in case he lost his heavyweight championship.  He has not lost it and as such, if he wins, Jackson will choose his next opponent.  No titles are on the line in this tournament.

Ohio Valley Wrestling standout Brandon Espinosa won the tournament last year and captured the MO/IL Heavyweight Title three months later after redeeming his opportunity.

While the bell time is 7pm, the festivities start at 3pm.  A live band will play throughout the day and there will be carnival games, barbecue, and beer.  Hot damn!

This is an outdoor event.  There will be plenty of chairs but we expect more than we can seat.  Come early or bring a lawn chair.

Get ready for the biggest event of the year!

Come to Hillsdale for a FREE Event!

Max Archer elbows Draco Verdadero in Hillsdale in 2010.

September 8th will be a busy day for St. Louis Wrestling.  It’s our annual “double shot” day.  The MMWA-SICW and the Hillsdale Police Department are bringing wrestling to the people… essentially to their doorsteps.

The action starts at noon outside Hillsdale City Hall on Jesse Jackson Ave.  We’ll be barbecuing, giving away bicycles, and showcasing great wrestling action for free.  The MO/IL Heavyweight Champion Gary Jackson is expected to headline.

The annual Hillsdale event is special and unique from the other cards we present.  The village of Hillsdale is economically depressed (not a dangerous part of town).  Pro wrestling unites fans of all different social and financial brackets.

For many Hillsdale fans, young and old, this is the only live wrestling they will see all year.  This is the third year we have presented this community event and everyone always has a blast.

After that, the South Broadway Athletic Club hosts an event at its usual time, 8pm.

Big Dave Osborne is “Mr. Over-the-Top!”

Osborne smashes LaMarcus Clinton onto his knee for a punishing backbreaker.

The Battle Royal Champion is the best at throwing men over the top rope.  After all, it is how one wins the match.  For Big Dave Osborne, it has become an obsession.

After each match, Osborne continues his assault and finishes his opponent off by pitching him (where else?) over the top rope to the floor.  There goes Wilder, there goes LMC, there goes Verdadero…

When Big Dave Osborne is introduced, he demands that “Mr. Over-the-Top” precedes his name.  To some, this may seem a little Over-the-… excessive.

Big Dave sharpens his skills at Ohio Valley Wrestling, TNA’s developmental territory in Kentucky.  Recently, Osborne traveled to Pennsylvania to train with Ring of Honor stars.  “Mr. Over-the-Top” is not getting any easier to beat.

Last month, after Big Dave won his match, he told the Broadway fans that he was a shoo-in for the King of Cable Cup this fall:

On September 22nd, I guarantee victory at the St. Louis King of Cable Tournament.  I am the number one reason you fans come out to South Broadway.  No one will stop me on my eventual reign as MO/IL Heavyweight Champ.

The King of Cable debuted last year (Espinosa won the trophy).  It was decided immediately that the KOC should become an annual event.  With a strong field including all the singles champions from Missouri, the winner is awarded a heavyweight title shot.  It can be redeemed within a year from the win.

The field for the King of Cable on September 22 has not been finalized.  When it is, you will find it on this site.

You can see Big Dave Osborne in action tomorrow, August 11th, at the South Broadway Athletic Club.

Three-Way Saturday: Can Gary Survive?

Brandon Espinosa (center) keeps an eye on Dave Vaughn (lower left), who eventually cost Espinosa his title shot here against Gary Jackson. The three meet for the title on July 14.

UPDATE (7/11/12): Brandon Espinosa has sent word he will not compete on Saturday.  No decision has been made regarding the match yet.  Below is the story as it was originally posted.

The most-anticipated match of the year happens Saturday, July 14.  The MO/IL Heavyweight Championship is on the line as longtime favorite Gary Jackson defends against the brash Brandon Espinosa and unstable TV Champ Dave Vaughn in a three-way dance.

Gary Jackson, at age 51, showed Espinosa that the Gorgeous One’s time was not over when he forced Espy to tap two months ago.  Fans had high expectations for Brandon’s title run and many were surprised it ended so abruptly.  Someone had better get Gary Jackson a grill with his name on it.  After all, his longevity in the sport has made him the “George Foreman” of independent wrestling.

The lights have been shining brighter and brighter on Brandon Espinosa recently.  The Ohio Valley Wrestling standout has been making waves in TNA’s developmental league, winning his last three with the Kentucky-based group.  Considering this, can the impressive rebel keep his focus set on the richest prize in this territory?

“The Wrestling Machine” Dave Vaughn is the only Grand Slam Champion in the 27-year history of the MMWA-SICW coalition.  Perhaps most remarkable about this feat is that Vaughn is just 24 years old.  David is once again under the management of the Travis Cook Organization.  Fortunately, Cook has yet to reappear at the South Broadway AC.

Dave Vaughn has inserted himself into this feud by virtue of appearing at ringside the last couple times Jackson and Espinosa have gone to war.  After interference in June, “Gorgeous” Gary Jackson had had enough.  He proposed the three-way, a match he initially introduced to South Broadway.

This is also the annual “Christmas in July” card.  There will be gifts, drawings, and maybe even Santa himself.