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Author Topic: The French Angel Bio
Steve Yohe
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Maurice Tillet
The French Angel
By Steve Yohe

Real Name: Maurice Tillet
Nicknames: The French Angel, World’s Ugliest Man

Birth Date: Oct. 23, 1903
Death: Sept. 4, 1954
Height: 5’ 8”
Weight: 280 lbs
Signature move: Bear Hug
Tag teams: none
Wrestled in: Mainly AWA Boston, but all over North America and in Europe

Credits: THE MAURICE TILLET RECORD BOOK published by Jim Melby, which includes research by Jim Melby, J. Michael Kenyon, Steve Yohe, Matt Buziak, Libnan Ayoub, Fred Hornby, and Don Luce. Sponsered by IHC. ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES, Parts I, II, & III by Ed (The Phantom of the Ring) Garea. Many Newspapers.

The freak, Maurice Tillet, was born on Oct. 23, 1903 in the Russian Ural Mountains by French parents. His father, a French engineer, was involved in the building of the Trans-Siberian road and the modernization of Russian railroads. At some point, the father died and Mrs. Tillet, a professor of Philology (the study of languages), stayed in Russia to teach French in a Moscow high school. Son, Maurice, was one of her best students. He was perfectly normal at birth, had a keen mind, an intelligent curiosity and a well-built body. He was a slim boy with blonde hair and an angelic face. His friends nicknamed him Angel. With 1917 came the Russian revolution and the two fled back to France. The mother took a job teaching languages at a women’s college in Rheims. At age 17, Maurice noticed an unusual swelling in his hands, head and feet. Doctors diagnosed it as a disease called Acromegaly, a condition that causes swelling of bone and is caused by malfunction of the pituitary gland. This disease soon turned him into what the common public would see as a horrible monster. Maurice, finding it hard to face his former friends, joined the French Navy for five years and served as an engineer on cruisers, torpedo boats and submarines. With his mates were out picking up girls in every port, Tillet spent the time studying and learned to speak half dozen languages. With his body and head taking on hideous proportions, Tillet left the Navy. Some stories have him going on to graduate from college, where he studied law. His changing voice forcing him to give up his dream of becoming a lawyer. It is documented that he became a noted rugby footballer and may have played on the French national team in 1926. He also spent some time around French movie studios working as an actor in horror films.

In Feb. 1937, Tillet made a trip to Singapore (it was said that was in country to frighten the tiger population) and met Carl Pojello an American of Lithuanian extraction, who was a famous wrestler with shooting skills (Pojello’s career had been damaged in 1931 when he double crossed and pined Sandor Szabo, giving the Hungarian his first loss to mess up a Szabo build up to an Jim Londos match in MSG). The two men, from the very start, took a liking to each other. Pojello convinced Tillet that his future was in working pro wrestling matches. The two traveled to Paris for 15 months of gym training. (Some have claimed that wrestler Jack Sherry played a part in discovering and training Tillet but Pojello disputed that story.) By 1938, Tillet was working matches in Europe and England, getting himself ready for an invasion of the cash cow….America. Tillet was billed as the “ugliest man in the world” under the name “The Angel”. Fleeing WWII, the two wrestlers arrived in the USA late in 1939.

By 1940, Pro Wrestling had been in a slump for a number of years. Its stars had become old and much of its new talent was tied down by the on coming world war. The wrestling wars and revelations of the mid and late 30’s had made a joke of the sport in the public’s eyes. It needed a new gimmick. Boston promoter Paul Bowser greeted Pojello and his 5’8” gargoyle with open arms and a push unprecedented in wrestling history. They billed Tillet as “The French Angel”, a man so deformed that he was examined by Harvard scientists and ruled a throw back to Neanderthal man. He was only 5’ 8” but weight 280 lbs of muscle and bone. He’s hands were so massive that he could shuffle three decks of cards at a time. He was so strong that he could pull locomotives and crush any normal wrestler with his feared bear hug. But most of all, this angel was really…really ugly. So ugly he was beautiful. Bowser knew this sheer “attraction of repulsion” would make his diseased man into the biggest wrestling star in the world.

The French Angel made his American debut on Jan. 24, 1940 at Boston Garden. Bowser’s average crowd of 2,500 increase to 7,000 and Tillet and Italian wrestler Luigi Bacigaiupi put on a great show. The highlight of the night was the incredulous murmur that gathered momentum as the Angel walked to the ring. As the Angel stripped to become a misshapen specimen of manhood, women were said to have fainted. Tillet leered over the gathering and performed a growl worthy of Boris Koloff. Bacigaiupi was crushed in 7 mins and The Angel became a sensation. Word spread like wildfire (Newsreel clips of the first match were shown thru out North America in movie theaters) and the French giant became wrestling most talked about attraction coast to coast.

Over the next 4 months Tillet defeated Rudy, Emil, Joe & Ernie Dusek, Joe Cox, Frank Sexton, Gino Garibaldi, Frank Judson, Tor Johnson, Leo Numa, Gus Sonnenberg, Danno O’ Mahoney, Ivan Rasputin, Bobby Managoff, and Wild Bill Longson, without losing a fall. He toured NYC, Montreal, Philadelphia, Toronto, Buffalo, St. Louis, and Chicago. He drew everywhere.

The push then got bigger. On May 13, 1940 The French Angel defeated Steve Casey via DQ (Casey punched referee Gus Sonnenberg) for the AWA World Title in Boston. This was the sane Title that Lou Thesz lost to Casey in 1938. Tillet then beat Casey clean on May 27. Paul Bowser and pro wrestling had made there freak World Champion.

The Angel remained unbeaten over the next 19 months as he toured North America. Some of the greatest wrestlers of all time fell before him: Ed “Strangler” Lewis, Yvon Roberts, Joe Savoldi, Ed Don George, Dean Detton, Leo “Whiskers” Savage, Man Mountain Dean, Ray Villmer, Hans Steinke, Pantaleon Manlapig, Sammy Stein and Bill Longson (5 times).

Then on Jan. 19, 1942 he lost a match. In a match at Portland, MA, he was drop-kicked (or kicked) in the face as he laid on the matt by Steve Casey and was unable to return for the second fall. Casey (who was serving in the army at the time) claimed the AWA World Title but referee Fred Bruno ruled he didn’t have the “Authority” to declare a new champion. (Sounded like the truth.) This was never recognized as a title change and it really didn’t matter because Casey was defeated by Tillet 3 days later in Toronto and on Feb. 8 in a rematch in Portland, MA. During his reign as AWA champion Tillet beat Casey 8 times.

Angel continued to defeat some of the greatest wrestlers of all time during 1942. That year he beat Ed “Strangler” Lewis 5 times and beat Lou Thesz in Buffalo on April 24.
On March 20, it’s believed that he won the Montreal World Title when he defeated Yvon Robert in Canada. He then held two major World Titles.

Perhaps the freak show was getting old because Bowser had The Angel drop the AWA Title back to Steve Casey on May 13, 1942 in Boston. Tillet would also lose two rematches to Casey in Boston in 42. Tillet lost the Montreal World (if he had it) back to Yvon Roberts on June 25, 1942.

Around this time, Jack Pfeffer, the true master of the freak show, got a hold of the Angel gimmick and before long was promoting a stable of bald headed angels. The first seemed to be The Swedish Angel (Phil Olaffson). Tillet record shows four victories over The Swedish Angel in 1942. Other Angels that followed were Super Swedish (Tor Johnson), Polish (Wladislaw Tulin), Russian (Tony Angelo), Canadian (Jack Rush), Czech (Stan Pinto), Irish (Clive Welsh), Golden (Jack Falk), Black (Gil Guerrero) and a Lady Angel (Jean Noble). In Oct. 1945, Jack Peffer sued Tillet for $30,000, claiming the original Angel had hit him in the face. He won the suit but was awarded only $250.

After losing both titles Tillet continued to be protected, he had more wins over greats like Ray Steele, Sandor Szabo, Wladislaw Talun, Whipper Watson, Earl Mc Cready, Chief Little Wolf, but he stopped being unbeatable. On Aug. 1, 1944, he had his last major victory in defeating Steve Casey at San Francisco for his old AWA World Title, but he dropped the belt back to Casey two weeks later via two straight falls. He did other jobs for Casey that year and also got beat by Dean Detton.

In Jan. 1945, The Angel defeated Dutch Rohde who would later change his name to Buddy Rogers. Around July of 45, he had a series of 4 matches with a soldier named Lou Thesz stationed in Tacoma, WA. Tillet won the first, lost the second and then had two draws with Thesz before leaving town.

After his The French Angel became a name to put over the new stars. He lost to the new AWA champ Frank Sexton many times, Whipper Watson, and even traveled to Europe to put over Bert Assirati three times. On June 2, 1948, Tillet put over wrestling’s newest gimmick, Gorgeous George, at The Olympic Auditorium in front of a sold out 10,400. He also lost big matches to Buddy Rogers, Bronko Nagurski, Verne Gagne, and Antonio Rocca.

The French Angel’s last match, Feb. 14, 1953, was a loss to Bert Assirati in the same place it started; Singapore. On Sept. 4, 1954, Maurice Tillet (age 51) died from heart disease; 13 hours after his friend and manager, Karl Pojello, had died from lung cancer. The legend is that he died from grieving.

With his health problem and the fact that he was 35 years old before he had his first match, it hard to believe The French Angel was any kind of a worker, but most of his matches were short and many reports comment that he had surprising agility considering his enormous proportions. The only video we have of Tillet is a two-minute newsreel clip of his first match in Boston vs Luigi Bacigalupi, and he looks very massive and clumsy, but he doesn’t look as stiff as some wrestlers we’ve seen. His rugby background must have helped with the illusion that he was a wrestler.

It’s also hard to overlook the similarities between Maurice Tillet and Andre The Giant. Andre’s push lasted longer, but he was keep away from the major stars, while Tillet beat every major wrestler of the 1940’s and was made world champion. They both suffered from Acromegaly, but Andre’s gimmick was size, Tillet’s was ugliness; which would seemed even more personal. The American public of the 1940’s took to the Angel, not with love and mercy, but hate. Tillet’s look preceded his kind heart and personality; leaving him as the wrestling villain he was. By all accounts this educated man led a very lonely life.

TITLES:
>AWA World Title (Boston) 5-13-40 to 5-13-42

>Montreal World Title 3-30-42 to 6-25-42

>AWA World Title 8-1-44 to 8-15-44

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Steve Yohe
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I wrote this over 2 months ago for William's the Other Arena web site without being asked. I sent it to him & he hasn't mentioned it to me sence. So I guess it isn't any good or freak wrestler don't interest him. I know the spelling has to be messed up because it is me writing it. Karl Stern used it last month for DRAGONKING PRESS #52 and seemed to like it. It was always my intention to post it here & I figure everyone has had their chance at it by now. The French Angel is a major figure in Pro Wrestling History and one of the forgoten, so I thought I'd spend time on him.

Ed (The Phantom of the Ring) Garea did a thing on Tillet and all the Angels called ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES which I read years ago (The Phantom is one of my idols) but didn't go back to until almost finished writing this. I did look at it, to get info on the other Angels, and was suprised at the similarity of what we both wrote. I think we used the same newspaper clipping as sources. We seemed to differ on when Acromegaly was diagnosed.

You can get a copy of THE RING RECORD OF MAURICE TILLET from Jim Melby 1409 Ryan Ave., West , Roseville MN 55113. The Sandor Szabo, Bill Miller, Rikidozan, & Billy Watson books are better. It is a IHC sponsored book.---Steve Yohe

[ 11-30-2002, 03:26 AM: Message edited by: Steve Yohe ]

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jdw
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Steve Yohe wrote:
I wrote this over 2 months ago for William's the Other Arena web site without being asked. I sent it to him & he hasn't mentioned it to me sence.

We talked about it on the phone after you sent it. I asked you to send some pictures of Tillet up to Frank to scan in and use when putting the bio up, as you previously had with the Stecher and Curley bios.

So I guess it isn't any good or freak wrestler don't interest him.

It interests me. You know the format we use, to the degree that the bios is typed up in our format. Pictures are part of it, especially for Tillet when the theme of the bio is his freakishness. You've got Tillet pics. I don't, and Frank doesn't have any ones that are very usuable. So...

John

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Steve Yohe
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Never happened. It normally is the conversation we have, but this time nothing has been said. I have a book filled with lazer photos of Angel & Ive been waiting for something to be said. I really don't care. It's not important.---Yohe
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Well...

 -

 -

So long from the Sunshine State!

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jdw
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Steve Yohe wrote:
Never happened. It normally is the conversation we have, but this time nothing has been said. I have a book filled with lazer photos of Angel & Ive been waiting for something to be said.

It did happen. Along with The Destroyer vs. Toyonobori and another match we discussed that you offered to make copies of because you thiought I really needed to see Dick's great performance. I said shoot to Frank instead of me along with pictures. Frank never got the matches, nor were the matches sent to me in the event of us miscommunicating over where it should go. So... ?

I'll be nice and not go through Mr. Searchy to find your comments putting over my memory of our conversations. [Smile]

I really don't care. It's not important.---Yohe

Of course you care about it, and felt it was important enough to crack on me. [Smile]

John

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Steve Yohe
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I didn't crack on you. I figured it was a rejected piece of material & Payton's post made me realize there was some bad info on Tillet out there. So I posted it. Ive got a lot of rejected stuff. I used to write bad letters for the sheets. I had no idea if it was worth anything. I got zero input from you & I kept waiting for something. I really don't care. What the .. is Mr Searchy? Phone me if you got anything to say. People think were unset posting this minor stuff & were not.---Yohe
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Mr. Searchy = the search engine, serach link at the upper right of every page. Takes you to http://wrestlingclassics.com/cgi-bin/.ubbcgi/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=search;search_forum=10
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Wrestling Perspective
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quote:
Originally posted by Steve Yohe:


Ed (The Phantom of the Ring) Garea did a thing on Tillet and all the Angels called ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES which I read years ago (The Phantom is one of my idols) but didn't go back to until almost finished writing this. I did look at it, to get info on the other Angels, and was suprised at the similarity of what we both wrote. I think we used the same newspaper clipping as sources. We seemed to differ on when Acromegaly was diagnosed.

Or you subconsciously absorbed what the Phantom wrote into that photographic memory of yours only to regurgitate it a decade later [Wink]

You know, like when you're at the piano and somehow you just composed Beethoven's 9th...

Seriously, Steve, nice piece and Phantom was happy that you credited his "Angels With Dirty Faces" articles in your piece.

Best,

- Paul

--------------------
Fake ... Working Through Wrestling's Past

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Steve Yohe
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Ive absorbed a lot from the The Phantom over the years. He was the first "smart" writer in the news stand mags and the first sheet writer who wrote about history. My early interest in history came from him. I later ran into John Williams who had done major research for years & because of what I had mainly learned from Ed Garea, I was able to hold my own in conversations. Historical info was really hard to find 10 years ago & The Phantom was one of the few who knew his stuff. Now all someone has to do is turn on a computer. I owe Ed like I owe all the other historians I learned from & are still feeding me info.

As for the Tillet Bio, I couldn't think of another way to write it & didn't see a reason to try. I used 3 article that are in the FRENCH ANGEL RECORD BOOK. What I thought I could add to it, is from knowing Tillet's actual record. (Which I sent months typing & researching.) I thought it turned out OK. It wasn't a Bio that I put together from pieces, like I had to do with Stecher & Sexton & even The Destroyer, this one was laid out for me. I mainly attempted it because it was easy.

One of the articles was from the N.Z. SPORTS DIGEST April 1960. I believe I got it from Libnan Ayoub, so it must be from New Zealand. I have no info on the others but there all similar and they match up with what was printed in newspapers during the 40's. My feeling were going back over ANGEL WITH DIRTY FACES was that Ed had seen them or papers like them. ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES was in 4 parts & covered all the Angels that followed Tillet. My info on the copy wrestlers produced by Pfefer came from Ed.

There are a lot of books being writen these days, wish one had The Phantom's name on it.--Yohe

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CrusherBolo
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To anyone who has the Tillet Record Book - here's a result that may not be in it.

May 12, 1952 Manitowoc, WI - (New Opera House) -Maurice Tillet won 2 straight falls over Bob Massey. Attendance was no more than 100.

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Gery from ISR
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Wow, I never knew Black Angel was Gil Guerrero. Tremendous bio Steve! I wonder where you keep all those bios you write, is there a web page?

--------------------
בס"ד

"If ya want the best, you`ve got to get Rogers to fit the bill" - Buddy Rogers

To those who don`t believe, no explanation will do ;
to those who do believe, no explanation is necessary.

"I`m a wrestler, not a F`N stuntman!" Bret Hart to Vince Russo

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Gery, you're not thinking of Gory Guerrero, are you?
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ttf
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Steve-Where does the info come from about Pojello doublecrossing Szabo? I see no such match in my files in 1931. Pojello certaily was a shooter and had a rep for trust busting. But if you mean to indicate he was blackballed after this, his career went until at least 1940. Perhaps he WAS blackballed by the Londos trust. I'd have to check on that.

Interestingly, Karl is the guy who beat Mammoth Baba on 10/19/36 in Springfield, MS. Baba was apparently Ali Baba and was in the process of carrying what was left of his claim after the Levin match to Marshall. This looks like another double cross, but for some reason it never received the publicity to screw up Marshall's claim.

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Ali Baba as 'Mammoth' Baba? You sure? He wasn't exactly 'mammoth'. Smallest champ ever I think.
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Gery from ISR
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Gil Guerrero is Eddy`s grandfather, Gory who had the mustache wrestled Lou in Mexico is Eddy`s father and Chavo Sr who wrestled Fujinami and Inoki is Eddy`s brother and Chavo Jr`s father, I think that`s it.

Ali Baba and the 50 bandits sounds familiar, it`s some sort of a russian legend isn`t it?

--------------------
בס"ד

"If ya want the best, you`ve got to get Rogers to fit the bill" - Buddy Rogers

To those who don`t believe, no explanation will do ;
to those who do believe, no explanation is necessary.

"I`m a wrestler, not a F`N stuntman!" Bret Hart to Vince Russo

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I don't think Gil was related to the others. I don't think I ever heard of him before. I'm about 99.9% sure here. The timing doesn't sound right for him to be Gory's father, Gory debuted in 1937. Gory was the father of Chavo, Mando, Hector and Eddy. Chavo Jr. is Chavo's son.
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Gery from ISR
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This is interesting. There was another Gil Guerrero(just like another Scott Casey in Nultyville) who got squashed by Hulk Hogan couple days before january 23rd, 84 big day.

I remember reading somewhere that Gil Guerrero was Gory`s father, is there a site on the Guerreros we could varify? You know more than me, interesting who was that Gil Guerrero and what relation he had to our Guerreros and to the Gil Guerrero that got squashed by Hogan in jan 84.

--------------------
בס"ד

"If ya want the best, you`ve got to get Rogers to fit the bill" - Buddy Rogers

To those who don`t believe, no explanation will do ;
to those who do believe, no explanation is necessary.

"I`m a wrestler, not a F`N stuntman!" Bret Hart to Vince Russo

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http://highspots.com/arena , then go to 'profiles', then 'Gory Guerrero'.
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Steve Yohe
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The Pojello double-cross of Szabo was reported in RING MAGAZINE & in ARENA MAGAZINE in Bios of Pojello. I & other historians had not found this match and I could not give a date for it when typing the Szabo record book but I found it last month. It happened 2-20-31 in Philadelphia. (For historians who get my YOHE PRESS handout, it's in the next package. I put it together last night.) The damage to Karl Pojello career was reported on in the Magazines. It didn't kill him but he wasn't trusted & you don't see him getting major matches in MSG etc. I think he worked with minor promotion. Before the match, he was getting title matches with Londos. He didn't have the career he could have.

The bio's mentioned by we are at John William's THE OTHER ARENA site & I think I posted them on the Thesz forum. John edits them & fixs the spelling & stuff I hate to think about.--Yohe

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Gery from ISR
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No info on Gil Guerrero, I guess he wasn`t related. Still interested to know who he was and what relation he had to the Gil Guerrero of 84.

--------------------
בס"ד

"If ya want the best, you`ve got to get Rogers to fit the bill" - Buddy Rogers

To those who don`t believe, no explanation will do ;
to those who do believe, no explanation is necessary.

"I`m a wrestler, not a F`N stuntman!" Bret Hart to Vince Russo

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ttf
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Steve, I don't see Pojello being punished or demoted after the Szabo victory. He's still an NWA main-eventer/semi windup guy, getting title shots.
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ttf
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Thesz confirmed that Mammoth Baba was Ali. But I had the feeling he was sort of skirting the subject to get to something else. I checked the match out in the Springfield paper, and there was such a result. Unfortunately I'm misplaced the info I got, such as the guy's weight and the spelling of Mammoth. I have a feeling the weight was about right, and that the name may really have been Mamout or some Arabic name of the sort. It was a real minor card with no real publicity, and certainly no mention of Baba being the titleholder. Just another in a serious of summer outdoor matches in the park there. However it fits Ali Baba's itinerary real good. He was on the way from the East coast to Detroit. I think he tried to pick up a few extra bucks and that Pojello may have figured he'd take the match and sell the title to someone.
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Steve Yohe
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TTF--IM working on a Ali Baba Record Book & I think Ali Baba was wrestling George Dusette in Detroit on 10-19-36. Baba was a big name by that time & I can't see him changing it. I'll send you what I have.--Steve Yohe
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ttf
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STeve-Well if Ali Baba is in Detroit on 10/19/36, that sure kills the Springfield match. However, as to Ali changing his name for that match, it makes sense if he's trying to pick up a little traveling money, and doesnt want anyone to know. And if his opponent is to be an untrustworthy shooter like Pojello, it really makes sense.
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ttf
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Sorry guys, I meant 6/19/36 for the Springfield, MA Pojello, Mammoth Baba match. Think I'm getting dislexic! (sp?)
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Steve Yohe
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He was in the national news big time in May 1936. His picture was everywhere, after winning the WC from Shikat.

On 6-12-36 was the double-cross DQ loss to Levin

On June 18, he beat Abe Rothberg in Colorado Springs

On June 22, he beat Rasputin in Detroit

On June 29, he droped the World Title to Everett Marshall in Columbus.

I can't see him doing a job in a small town for small change as World Champion and the deal from day one was for him to drop the title to Marshall. The only reason he got the title was because Shikat wouldn't have been able to get permission to wrestle Marshall from the Columbus Court, sence everyone knew the deal had been made. Lossing to a unknown gimmick wrestler was a suprise. I can't see him doing a job on 6-19-36 under a different name, because he had bosses who were getting a lot of money for the 6-29-36 match. Maybe, but I don't think so. Everyone in the wrestling world knew his face in June 36.

In 1932 in SF Ekizian always used the name Ali Yumed.

TTF send me a message, my computer lost your address.

To everyone, I think this is within the rules, my e-mail address is stevedyohe@aol.com. I don't answer all of what I get.---Yohe

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Boston Idol
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quote:
Originally posted by Steve Yohe:
The bio's mentioned by we are at John William's THE OTHER ARENA site & I think I posted them on the Thesz forum. John edits them & fixs the spelling & stuff I hate to think about.--Yohe

Steve,

I just wanted to say that I've enjoyed reading
all of your bios, including the bio on the
French Angel.

Frank Jewett

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ttf
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Steve's point I think was to examine Ali Baba's itinerary. I checked my files. Guess what! The Mammoth Baba match in Springfield was actually 6/17. And Ali Baba wrestled Topeka on 6/16 and Colorado Springs on 6/18. So it makes no sense at all for him to be this Mammoth Baba. I thought possible he had been brought in on such short notice to beat Shikat because of the trial, that he had committments to clean up, and that Springfield might have been one.
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One of the reasons I thought Mammoth was Ali was that Ali had dates in Bridgeport on 5/25 and 6/10, which shows he did work that territory. Still smell some kind of rat here. Maybe Ali was scheduled to meet Pojello, smelled more trouble, fled west, and we get a sub Baba in Springfield?
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The billing was Mamouth Baba from Turkey at 226 lbs.
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Hm. fwiw the stuff I have on Ali Baba he's billed under 200, but of course we know how that can change night to night.
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Concerning Maurice Tillet, a blurb in the 7/24/41 Oakland Tribune states that "Tillet" is pronounced "Tillay". I always kind of wondered.
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I see The Lady Angel listed with the name Jean Noble. My understanding was her name was Geneva Huckabee. But in the late 50s there were two Lady Angels. Both appeared in Mississippi in 1957 in 2 different cities on the same night for rival promoters (George Curtis & Rex Mobley). The stink made the local newspapers and caused a state athletic commission investigation.

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