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Author Topic: Lou Thesz vs Bruno Sammartino--the newspaper report
Steve Yohe
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This is a post from Terry Dart over at wrestling legends. It's a major clipping.--Yohe

Here is the newspaper account of the Lou Thesz vs Bruno Sammartino World
Title match held on March 14,1963 at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario,
I was there and the fans booed Thesz that night.
9,000 SEE THESZ RETAIN NWA TITLE
Nine thousand fans thronged into Maple Leaf Gardens last night to see if
their hero Bruno Sammartino, the Italian hercules could capture The National
Wrestling Alliance World Title from Lou Thesz.
And for almost all of 25 minutes and 44 seconds that the bout lasted it
appeared that the popular Bruno was not only gain the title but dismember
the champion Lou Thesz in the process.
The bout started as everybody expected-a battle between the scientific Thesz
and the muscular Sammartino. That lasted exactly 3 minutes.
A VILLAIN
Then Thesz apparently realizing that the 15 year spread between he and his
much younger opponet, could have a telling effect if the bout went on too
long, turned villain.
It was unusual and unexpected happening. The champion who has been know for
years as one of "the clean men" in the game began clipping on the breaks,
throwing illegal elbows, and using the ropes to bolster his holds.
Not only that. As the bout progressed and Bruno's superior strength became
apparent, the champion ran to the corners to evade the punnishing holds,
even begging from a kneeling position at times.
EXHAUSTED
Finally after repeated headlocks and the occassional bearhug had weakened
Thesz, he made a desperation heave while Bruno had Thesz in a tight squeeze.
The thrust threw Bruno backwards and he landed on his head. The champ also
ended up on his back, completely exhausted.
Neither wrestler moved while referee Tiger Tasker counted. Then just as the
count neared the 10 count, Thesz rolled over and layed his arm across
Bruno's chest. This according to Tasker, was enoughto indicate a pin and he
proceeded to count,1-2-3 and thats how Thesz, despite taking a terrific
going over retained his title.
Results:
- Lou Thesz defeated Bruno Sammartino with a top spread in 25:44
- Bulldog Brower and Johnny Valentine defeated John Paul Henning and Mike
Valentino, when Valentine used a brainbuster and a bodypress to pin Mike
Valentino in 12:35
-Gene Kiniski used a kneedrop and a backbreaker to pin Stan Stasiak in 11:14
- The Beast was awarde the decision over popular Billy Red Lyon's when
Lyon's was counted out at 11:14
- Han's Schmidt and Gentleman Jim Hady wrestled to a 15 minute draw
-Taro Sakuro and Ilio Dipaolo wrestled to a 15 minute draw in the opener.

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wweattitude
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Did this match start the controversy about the NWA title being the real deal as opposed to the wwwf title?(I know the NWA champs were for the most part up to that point better) Sammartino claims this match didn't mean squat since he didn't work for VJM's territory regularly yet and the decision for him to get the belt wasn't made in march. Did Sam Muchnick figure that this would also make Thesz and the NWA title look better(it did, sort of)? Mr. Yohe can you help a bit with my questions? [Cool]

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Crimson Mask I
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Nope... remember, there WAS no WWWF title yet! No 'WWWF' yet, for about two more weeks IIRC. No WWWF champions yet for the NWA champions to be better than.

So long from the Sunshine State!

[ 12-30-2002, 10:37 PM: Message edited by: Crimson Mask I ]

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Red River Joe
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quote:
Originally posted by Crimson Mask I:
Nope... remember, there WAS no WWWF title yet! No 'WWWF' yet, for about two more weeks IIRC. No WWWF champions yet for the NWA champions to be better than.

So long from the Sunshine State!

CM, I'm sure you'd be much more familiar with the KM board than I am, but wasn't there something a while back over there saying that Vincent J. McMahon declared Buddy Rogers WWWF Champion the day after either the one-fall loss or possibly the rematch(seemed odd because I've always heard April)? I think it might've been in a thread about the WWWA title (which I know is a totally different deal altogether).
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Crimson Mask I
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I'll check but it's kinda irrelevant. Point is there was no NWA vs. WWWF champion comparison to be made yet at the time.
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wweattitude
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Okay Mask. Then after the wwwf title was officialy created did Muchnick and/or other NWA promoters bring up the fact that Thesz had beaten Sammartino previously to show that the NWA title was superior. Or was it just forgotten. [Cool]

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Crimson Mask I
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Actually the match was hardly ever mentioned at all for years. Seems it was more intentionally buried than just forgotten.

Think the deal was this: the NWA really didn't make a habit of validating the other guys by even mentioning them. Obviously the WWWF wasn't gonna publicize it.

[ 12-31-2002, 04:27 PM: Message edited by: Crimson Mask I ]

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wweattitude
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Thanks mask. Just wondering after reading about Lou Thesz and his incredible life, the sammartino match came out of nowhere, since I had never heard about it. Just thought I'd ask if they tried to bury new york by bringing it up. Guess not. [Cool]

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Old Fall Guy
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Worth remarking about, I believe, is the quality of the cards that were being presented by Frank Tunney in Toronto, circa 1963 (ditto Sam Muchnick in St. Louis at the same time). The Thesz-Sammartino undercard was remarkable.

Ilio DiPaolo and Rey Urbano (as Taro Sakuro) in a 15-minute Broadway to open the show. DiPaolo was a hugely popular ten-year veteran; Urbano was close to being a 15-year pro and one of the best of the great Oriental villains of the 1950s ...

Jim Hady, who would die prematurely, and the legendary Hans Schmidt came next, in another 15-minute bout that went through ...

Billy Red Lyons, one of the best faces of all time ... John Yachetti, who, as Gino Angelo, had knocked around for nearly a decade before getting a big push with the well-done "Beast" gimmick ...
Future NWA and WWWF world champions, respectively, Gene Kiniski and Stan Stasiak -- two alltime legends of the modern era ...

The incomparable Johnny Valentine and three top-notch journeymen in the semifinal tag (Bulldog Brower, John Paul Henning -- who was over, HUGELY, in St. Louis -- and Mike Valentino, in his pre-Baron Mikel Scicluna days).

Then, of course, the main event pitting two men who held the two major belts for the longest interrupted skein in either belt's history -- Thesz (National Wrestling Alliance, 1948-56) and Sammartino (WWWF, 1963-71) ... those title reigns each translate to EIGHT consecutive New Year's Eves (mentioned only so that I might stick in a "Happy New Year" greeting).

Promoters often bragged they were presenting shows in which every bout and every wrestler was of main-event stature ... but this one could easily live up to that boast.

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"Friends come and go, but enemies accumulate." -- Thomas Jones

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Crimson Mask I
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... and Kiniski was already former AWA champion.
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Crimson Mask I
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quote:
Originally posted by wweattitude:
Sammartino claims this match didn't mean squat since he didn't work for VJM's territory regularly yet

That isn't right either. Bruno was a Capitol Wrestling creation. He worked for them and their satellite promotions almost exclusively (and the only exceptions were some loanouts to Chicago and such) from the beginning of his career in 11/59 up through this period, which was his 'blackballing', if you wanna call it that, and he went right back to Capitol as soon as they opened the door.
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Steve Yohe
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My take on this is that this came at the end of the period when Bruno had left Vince SR territory because his payoffs were weak & went to work for Tunney in Toronto. Sammartino got over for him & they had a good relationship. This match was done because Bruno had made a deal to return to NYC & they had planed to make him champion. Tunney & Sam wanted to keep the NWA Title strong. Bruno was still a kid & could see no reason not to put over the great Lou Thesz. Once you except the date & got in the ring, you had no choice but to do what Thesz wanted. From reading the report, it seems that Lou gave him the whole match & made him look good in front of the local fans, so at the time it didn't really hurt Bruno in Toronto. The NWA just wanted the win over Sammartino on the NWA Champs record because they knew the NY plans for him. There were a lot of titles in wrestling but I think everyone realized that the NWA Title was the true national WC. Bruno remained friends with the Toronto company & had a agreement to work a certain number of dates for them thru the years as WWWF champ.

As a young fan, I knew about this win & the two over Buddy. It was in the magazines. I never thought the WWWF Champion had a true claim to the title. I think the East Coast fans just got caught up with Bruno & forgot. WWWF drew better than anyone else, & it was the biggest promotion in the sport but I never thought there wrestling was any good. Because of Bruno, it relied on big men & the workrate suffered. Booking wise, it also upset me, because Bruno & the WWWF champs that followed, did more screw jobs, without lossing the title, than any champion in history.---Steve Yohe

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Will Morrisey
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Just a quick point, following up on Steve's post. It's true that these matches had been mentioned in the mags. It's also true that most of the folks who came to the matches and watched on tv didn't read the mags, or read them and promptly forgot what they said. So if Bruno was the champ, according to Ray Morgan on tv, that was good enough for 90% of us. Those who now post messages on the WCMB are more likely to have read the mags carefully than the average fan did. It may be a mistake to go by what we and our pals were thinking at the time. We were paying attention to the national picture, but we were in the minority, and since the New York area newspapers seldom if ever covered the national wrestling scene in the 1960s, there was even less reason for the average fan to know what had gone down in Toronto, or St. Louis, or wherever.
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wweattitude
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quote:
Originally posted by Crimson Mask I:
quote:
Originally posted by wweattitude:
Sammartino claims this match didn't mean squat since he didn't work for VJM's territory regularly yet

That isn't right either. Bruno was a Capitol Wrestling creation. He worked for them and their satellite promotions almost exclusively (and the only exceptions were some loanouts to Chicago and such) from the beginning of his career in 11/59 up through this period, which was his 'blackballing', if you wanna call it that, and he went right back to Capitol as soon as they opened the door.
Thanks again mask. I wasn't trying to put words in sammartino's mouth, that's basically what I got out of an article I read. He said that the decision for the wwwf belt to go to him couldn't have been made in march, when he fought Thesz. As been said on this thread, he was in Toronto, although sammartino did come back to MSG somewhere in this time frame, before he got the belt. Thanks to Steve, also. I'm fascinated about this match, wish I could've seen it. [Cool]

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Steve Yohe
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I agree with what Will says. I remember The Olympic Aug. bringing in national stars to no reaction & booking major matches to televise back to Japan that were met with silence. The NWA Title didn't seem to mean much in LA, because the America's title was put over on TV. Didn't seem like many people read the newsstand Mags. I never met intelligent wrestling fans until 1987, so maybe some of them couldn't read...or speak English.--Yohe

[ 01-04-2005, 11:54 PM: Message edited by: Steve Yohe ]

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Will Morrisey
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On the east coast, a lot of the most loyal fans were first-generation immigrants. Also, there were always plenty of folks who didn't read much, in any language! And there were a lot of kids, who would read stuff and forget it fifteen minutes later. TV images ruled. Also, if you were as much of a mark as I was, you'd read the mags and worry, along with Stanley Weston, about how `wrestling needs a national champion,' and all that. But that wouldn't prevent you from buying into your local champ.

In other words, the principle of non-contradiction doesn't necessarily apply, if the boys put on a good show.

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M.DuPree
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Well,also,we always thought our territory and straps were better than the other ones we read about.And to us,they were.Its what we cut our teeth on.If you read something disparaging about your area or champs,you tended to overlook or rationalize it.Sorta the "be true to your school" mentality.No one gets behind stuff that way much anymore.

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Pennwrestler
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Sammartino has never gotten much respect from the this or the WC forum. I've come to expect that. I have a great deal of respect for the moderators of these forums, particularly Crimson Mask. Always very informative. The opinions offered here concerning the Sammartino - Thesz match from 1963 are interesting takes. I've certainly learned more about Thesz during the past five years. I don't doubt that he was a great wrestler. But his book, which I've read several times and it is an great book, is the history of professional wrestling from his perspective which doesn't automatically make it the final word on the history of the sport. I'm surprised that so many fans act like everything Thesz wrote or said is like the gospel. There are faults with his book if you look objectively. And one of the faults relates to what he says of his match with Bruno. Throughout the book Thesz offers colorful storytelling and interesting details. But regarding the match with Bruno, and his opinion of Bruno, Thesz simply dismisses him. I've never understood why Thesz held so mutch respect for perforers like Gene Kiniski, Killer Kowalski, Johnny Valentine, and others - and absolutely no respect for Sammartino? Bruno was a professional wrestler who did not like gimmicks, he had tremendous integrity, was always in shape and gave the fans a great match, he was tremendously tough and wrestled when injured to honor commitments, he conducted himself with dignity. These are all qualities that seemed to be what Thesz admired about those wrestlers he did speak highly of. Thesz said so about Kniski, Valentine, etc. But when it came to Bruno, Thesz didn't have one positive thing to say about his abilities. He completely dismisses him.

I believe the reason Thesz spoke so negatively about Bruno was because of jealousy. Thesz resented the fact that Bruno got so much press because he wrestled in the Northeast and that's where the wrestling magazines were based, in N.Y. Also, Thesz hated Mondt and McMahon and had always judged Sammartino because of his association with them. In other words, he was condemning Sammartino for something that he(Bruno)had no control over. As for their 1963 match, I think that despite what Thesz had said many years later, that he respected Bruno at the time of their match and from EVERY account other than Thesz's, it was a good, competitive, and exciting match. Bruno was young and very powerful. Thesz was old, but very skillful and experienced. That Thesz won the bout is the way it should have been. But I feel it was a shame that many years later Thesz wanted to create something negative out of something that had been a great, historical match in professional wrestling. There was no reason for it. I don't think that Thesz was in great condition at that time. And yes, I know that that he was the hooker of hookers. He could always snap a man's ankle in a split second, etc. How mutch of that was myth and how mutch was fact is something that can be debated. He was dangerous on the mat for sure. But since he based his whole career on being one of the few wrestlers in his sport who could "legitimately" do what most others were only performing - then why didn't he choose to go into a real competitive sport? He didn't go into amatuer wrestling, judo or boxing. Why not?

I respect Thesz as certainly one of the greatest professional wrestlers ever. But he had a way of speaking in a condescending manner about Italians. I don't care for that. His use of the term "peasant" to describe Rocca. And the implication that those of us who were Italian and wrestling fans in the Northeast were so easliy fooled and too dumb to no better. That's what I don't respect.

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Matt Farmer from WA
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Thesz did point out in his book that he liked and respected Bruno. He just stated that he was not a wrestler. I am sure there was some jeolousy involved. I do know that Thesz held a grudge for certain performers who he felt "short changed" the fans. One he pointed out was Rocca. Which is understandable. Back in those days if you were dependant one the success of towns and you had a guy who made it on his appearance, short changed the fans, and skipped out on dates it would upset anyone! And I completly agree with his feelings. Rocca was a huge star, so was Bruno (who I am a fan of, and gave his fans 100%). Rocca was manufactured, he was an athlete but Thesz felt he never gace 100% to his fans, much like Primo Carnera.

I do agree that Thesz knocked many that were his "peers". Maybe it was out of jealousy. We all know in wrestling that we should never believe everything were told!

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Pennwrestler
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Matt, you make a great point about Rocca. I can appreciate that Thesz got angry when he felt a wrestler wasn't giving it 100 percent. And I also agree that Rocca was a manufactured star. But somehow it seems to go deeper with Thesz. He comes accross as mean spirited in his book. He comes accross as consescending. Like I mentioned, he uses terms like "Peasant" to describe Rocca. And it may not have been intentional, but Thesz repeatedly slurs Itlians and the fans in the Northeast area of the U.S. Thesz definitely comes accross as if he believed he was superior in intelliegence to just about everyone. And I'm no fan of Rocca or his style of wrestling.

I do understand that Thesz did say he respected Sammartino in his book, but it only seemed to be referring to the fact that Bruno was a stand up guy to the promoters. But my interpretation of what he said about Bruno is that he had no respect for him as a wrestler, performer, or even as a worker. I think the way he writes about Bruno shows that he refused to give Bruno any credit at all. That makes a lot of what Thesz wrote suspect. I'm open to hearing other peoples views on this. But I think that Thesz contridicts himself throughout his book. He has nothing but praise for non-wrestlers like Kniski, Valentine, Kowalski, and many others. Yet, he has nothing positive at all to say about Sammartino. Like I said, all the qualities that Thesz seemed to respect in wrestlers like not using gimicks, representing the sport in a dignified manner, giving the fans a good match all the time. How can Thesz have so much respect for Gene Kiniski's abilities and have no respect for Sammartino's ? That's what I mean - there is no logic in what he wrote. The funny thing is, I've heard Bruno say that at the time of their match in 63, all the way up to the 1990's, he wasn't aware of Thesz having such disrespect for him. According to Bruno's memory, his match with Thesz was a great match and Bruno felt that he was competitive during the match. And the newspaper article that Steve found, that account seems to be consistint with Sammartino's memory of the match. I think it surprised and then angered Sammartino when Thesz started speaking negatively about him around the mid-1990's. And between Lou Thesz and Vince McMahon, they have completely written Bruno out of the history of professional wrestling. People on this forum may not agree with anything I'm saying, but I don't think Bruno deserves the kind of treatment he's received.
Something else that I don't understand is how Thesz was always so frustrated as to how wrestling changed and what it became, yet he did nothing to pass on his skills to anyone else. It seemed he was the last of the hookers due to his own designs. I guess no one was ever quite as worthy as he had been.
There is no doubt that the sport of professional wrestling back in Thesz's time had a special quality, kind of like film noir. It was mysterious and compelling. And Thesz's book serves that era very well. I wish pro wrestling had always stayed as it was in the 1920's - 1950's. Even the early 1960's. But it's ironic that Thesz respected Georgeous George so much, while he didn't respect Sammartino at all. Because George paved the way for the cartoon that pro wrestling became. Bruno certainly did all he could to give pro wrestling credability.

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Mark Nulty from WA
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quote:
Originally posted by Pennwrestler:
Sammartino has never gotten much respect from the this or the WC forum. I've come to expect that.

With all due respect, I take exception to that statement. I've gone out of my way on several occassions to mention how well respected Bruno is among the boys. I've mentioned several times that both Jack Brisco and Dory Funk Jr. were dying to work with him and how much respect they have for Bruno. There are many East Coast fans that post here that speak well of Bruno.
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Pennwrestler
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Mark, I certainly respect you and your forum. I didn't mean any disrespect to the forum when I wrote that Sammartino doesn't get much respect on this forum. I think WC is the most interesting and well run sports forums I've ever encountered. My comment about the lack of respect for Bruno obviously was just my judgement from topics concerning Sammartino over the past few years and my impression that there have been a lot of people saying negative things about him.. And I agree with you - I think that you and Crimson Mask and Steve all have gone out of your way to be fair to Bruno. There is no doubt about that. And by your making the effort to do that has certainly helped Bruno's reputation and helped inform a lot of wrestling fans who are not from the Northeast and were not very informed about him. I appreciate your mentioning that Jack Brisco spoke so highly of Bruno.
So Mark, I apologize. The way I wrote that didn't come out very well. I appreciate this and the WC forum so much. There is no other sports forum that compares.

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Victor Parlati
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I feel compelled to comment on this remarkable thread...I'm about to turn 54 years old (October 24th) and I'm Italian and have been living in Brooklyn my whole life...and as a young teenager, I followed pro wrestling very intensely for about 3 years - 1963,64,65. Saw Sammartino wrestle in person at Madison Square Garden 4 times during that time period - and saw Rocca wrestle in person right here in Brooklyn once (and got his autograph)...saw them both on television virtually every week in those days...read the magazines (and collected them) every month...BUT DID ALL THIS AFTER SAMMARTINO BEAT ROGERS FOR THE TITLE. I missed the match by just a few months...and therefore...also only knew of the Thesz/Sammartino match by the occasional (rare) reference to it in the magazines always read, back in those days, about the great ones like Thesz, Gotch, Gagne, etc.

I'm naturallly drawn to Thesz - NOW - as an adult who has been (myself) involved in fighting arts for many years.

Even though I'm still very sentimental about guys Bruno and Antonino Rocca.

But facts are facts...Bruno was very strong, very tough, very hard-working, very stand-up, very magnanimous, and very dignified...Rocca was just an acrobatic performer...and Lou was a true hooker who also brought great class to the wrestling world...and yes...probably one pf the greatest Catch-As-Catch-Can wrestlers of all time (professional or otherwise). His resume, in terms of who taught him, and how many years and matches he wrestled, all of the years spent as the NWA Champion, and how many men he beat (or should I say...COULD BEAT...if the matches weren't worked) - all of this adds up to a greatness that is beyond anything any other wrestler ever achieved, in my opinion.

But I ALSO agree that Lou was probably talking some trash about Bruno out of professional jealousy...the Northeast market was the most commercially successful and Lou was famous for his enjoyment of his status and his money-making ability...so Bruno's success as a "champion" must have irked Lou to a significant extent.

Bruno Sammartino was a much better wrestler than Lou ever gave him credit for. And the treatment that Bruno has received from Vince McMahon Jr.has been abominable.

Too bad about Lou and Bruno - but - sometimes that's just the way it is...they were both very similar men in so many admirable ways.

[ 07-27-2007, 01:02 PM: Message edited by: Victor Parlati ]

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Ringmemorabilia
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http://www.ringmemorabilia.com/bruno-theszposter.jpg
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WAY cool.
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Ringmemorabilia
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quote:
Originally posted by Crimson Mask I:
WAY cool.

Thanks Mask!
I just love these old posters.

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Victor Parlati
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ringmemorabilia:

AWESOME!

Now if someone could come up with some video footage of the match - that would be way cool too.

[ 01-05-2005, 01:07 AM: Message edited by: Victor Parlati ]

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Ringmemorabilia
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quote:
Originally posted by Victor Parlati:
ringmemorabilia:

AWESOME!

Now if someone could come up with some video footage of the match - that would be way cool too.

Maybe footage exists in someone's home movie collection...Oh...the possibilities...!
But, I'd settle for a few still Kodak moments.

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