By Brian Kelley
This week I am excited to take the trip to Waterloo Iowa for the annual George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. A wonderful weekend set aside for wrestling fans old and alike to pay respect to the sport that they love.
On Friday July 10, Harley Race’s World League Wrestling will excite the fans with a Night of the Legends pro card at Young Arena. This is one event every year that I mark on my calander and so should you.
Thanks to World League Wrestling I was able to catch up with rising star “The Vietnam Phenom” Bao Nguyen eariler this year.
Nguyen is scheduled to be at the Night of the Legends card along with WLW Stars “King of the 450” Steve Anthony, Brian Breaker, Curt Hennig’s daughter Amy, Ricky Steamboat Jr, Darin Waid, Jason Jones and WLW Champion “Superstar” Steve Fender.
The pro hall of fame is located inside the Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum. The museum was nearly destroyed by the historic flood of June 10, 2008, but re-opened this month.
The 11 th class is comprised of living wrestlers Nick Bockwinkel, longtime world heavyweight champion in the AWA; Ricky Steamboat, a superstar in the WWF, and Fritz Von Goering, who wrestled many of the top stars of the 1950s and ‘60s, and all five of the other inductees at one point in his long career.
Three deceased wrestlers are also being inducted: Bronko Nagurski, Luther Lindsay and Karl Gotch.
Bockwinkel was the son of former pro star Warren Bockwinkel and was a top college football prospect at Oklahoma University before injuries put him on the sidelines. He then turned his attention to pro wrestling full time, early in the 1950s. Over the next 30 years, he wrestled every major star in the business and held the AWA world heavyweight title for nearly seven years, as well as dozens of lesser belts. One of the most popular heels in wrestling history, he has been president of the Cauliflower Alley Club (CAC) for the past several years and resides in Las Vegas.
A native of Hawaii, Steamboat was an amateur wrestler in Florida before entering the pro ranks in 1976, for Verne Gagne’s AWA. He entered the WWF in 1985 and became known as The Dragon and often struck karate poses in the ring, and electrified the crowds with his skills and antics. His title bouts with Ric Flair are among the best matches of the past two decades. Ricky captured the NWA world championship in 1989. He retired 1994 and lives today in Denver, N.C., working for the WWE.
Von Goering was a street-tough kid from Chicago when he turned pro in 1950. He learned the business the hard way, traveling around the country to take on the biggest names in the industry and learning all he could. He spent gym time with pure wrestlers like Dick Hutton, Lou Thesz and Luther Lindsay to learn the craft and today is one of the last from his generation. He won numerous regional titles in his 27-year career. He lives in Campbell, California.
From northern Minnesota, Bronko Nagurski is one of the greatest football players of all time, and is a member of both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Professional Football Hall of Fame. While starring with the Chicago Bears in the late 1930s, Nagurski approached Lou Thesz about wrestling in the off-season and used his great athletic skills to become a huge draw in wrestling, holding the world NWA title several times in the late 1930s and early 1940s. He died in 1990, at age 82.
Lou Thesz was one of many who considered Luther Lindsay the best African-American wrestler of all time. Big, powerful and fast, he played football at Hampton Institute in Norfolk, VA, and later in the Canadian football league. He then turned to pro wrestling and was trained by Stu Hart in the art of hooking. Well known for his skills and athletic abilities in the ring, he was popular outside the ring as well. He died from a heart attack during a match in 1972, at the age of 47.
Karl Gotch holds a near mythical spot in the history of wrestling. A native of Belgium, he made the 1948 Olympic team at age 18. He then moved to England, where he trained in the legendary Wigan “Snake Pit,” learning hooking and ripping techniques that made him one of the most feared wrestlers of all time. He was an absolute legend in Japan and all places were shooting ability is revered. He died in 2007 at age 82 in Florida.
The induction ceremony is the key part of the big weekend. It begins with a Celebrity Golf Tournament at noon Friday, July 10, and continues with a big pro card at Young Arena on Friday night, starting at 7. Harley Race and the WLW are putting the event together for the third straight year.
The official inductions will take place at noon on Saturday in the Gable museum. After the ceremony, fans will be able to meet with the inductees and former hall of famers in attendance.
The induction banquet takes place at 7 p.m. at the beautiful Five Sullivans Convention Center two blocks from the museum. Seating is limited and tickets are $60, and includes the souvenir program.
Dan Hodge, Class of 2000, and the only man to ever win national titles in both boxing and wrestling; he will be signing copies of his new book, “Oklahoma Shooter: Than Dan Hodge Story;
• Harley Race, Class of 2005 and eight-time NWA world heavyweight champion;
• Baron Von Raschke, Class of 2002, great star of the 1970s and ‘80s, who was third in the World as an amateur wrester;
• Bob Geigel, Class of 2002, former wrestling star and legendary Kansas City promoter;
• Mad Dog Vachon, Class of 2003; a former Canadian national amateur champion who wrestled in the 1948 Olympics before becoming a pro icon
• Larry “The Axe” Hennig, Class of 2006 and father of the late Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig, Class of 2007.
FRIDAY, JULY 10
10 a.m. – Museum opens (until 5 p.m.)
Noon – Celebrity Golf Tournament at Irv Warren Golf Course.
7 p.m. – Night of the Legends pro card at Young Arena
SATURDAY, JULY 11
10 a.m. – Museum Opens (until 5 p.m.)
Noon – Official inductions at museum, fan festival afterwards
7 p.m. – Banquet at Five Sullivan Brothers Center (advance tickets mandatory)
SUNDAY, JULY 12
9 a.m. – Museum opens (until noon
For more information, persons can contact Kent Sesker, marketing director, at 319-233-0745.
For more information on theThe Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum go here
To find out where you can check out more World League Wrestling. go to their website here.