2012 MWR Lifetime Achievement Award: Herb Simmons
Posted by flairwhoooooo on January 5, 2013
When little Herbie Simmons was just a kid running around the Roosevelt Homes housing project in East St. Louis, the only thing he slowed down for was to watch the famous “Wrestling at the Chase” on KPLR-TV.
Who would have expected that almost five decades later, Herb Simmons would be named the winner of one of the biggest Missouri Wrestling Revival awards?
In the interim, along with a highly-respected career in public safety and politics, Herb got hooked on professional wrestling. His efforts as an independent promoter took him through the full gamut of good and bad, from the sellout crowds to the poor turnouts that had him reaching into his pocket to pay the boys. Simmons has seen it all and done it all, to the everlasting benefit of wrestling in Missouri, Illinois and throughout the Midwest.
Therefore, Herb Simmons is the recipient of the 2012 MWR Lifetime Achievement Award.
He actually got involved with the business of wrestling after becoming friends with Tony Casta in 1979, who wrestled and trained new talent at the South Broadway Athletic Club. Dating back well into the 1950s, South Broadway had presented independent shows. Herb began doing the tv commentary for a cable show from South Broadway in 1980. Simmons soon thereafter began running shows, with the help of Casta, under the Southern Illinois Championship Wrestling banner.
A change-over in who was running wrestling at South Broadway culminated with Casta in charge, and he used the name Mid-Missouri Wrestling Alliance. Simmons had licenses to promote in both Missouri and Illinois. He popped several big cards at the fairgrounds in Belleville.
During 1984, Herb developed a friendship with Larry Matysik, the protégé of the famous Sam Muchnick. After Sam’s retirement, Larry had run on his own at The Checkerdome and Kiel Auditorium before being swept up in the World Wrestling Federation expansion. Even though Matysik was working for Vince McMahon and the WWF, he also joined Simmons in several independent cards. Actually, the WWF made a deal with Simmons and used Herb’s license a few times due to Illinois athletic commission rules in the early parts of the big wrestling war.
And he also put Herb together with King Kong Brody. That trio – Simmons, Matysik and Brody – ran numerous cards in the two state area. Topping the bills with major league stars like Brody, Crusher Blackwell, Terry Funk, Spike Huber, Abdullah the Butcher and others, they filled the undercard with young guys getting started. Among them by 1988 were Gary Jackson and Ron Powers. Of course, Simmons also regularly had his dear friend Mickey Garagiola on hand and Mickey was always a big favorite for the audience.
The group ran in some unique locations. A couple cards were at the Fairmount Race Track. Biggest of all – the one and likely only wrestling program to be presented at the famous Fox Theater in St. Louis in 1988.
In the period that followed, after Brody’s tragic death, Herb kept plugging away. Some cards were on his own, a few were with Matysik, some with Casta. In 1993, he began running SICW shows in his adopted hometown of East Carondelet, Illinois. Added together, Simmons ran cards everywhere from Watseka, Illinois to Carmi, Illinois, to Rolla, Missouri.
Herb was a key component in getting Matysik to produce the Classic St. Louis Wrestling series of DVDs once he discovered the 60-hours of “Wrestling at the Chase” Larry had taped for his own use. Simmons also encouraged Larry to begin writing and soon Matysik’s first book was in print in 2005.
Over the years, Simmons’ shows gave countless young local wrestlers a chance to perform and develop. His desire to keep the tradition of St. Louis wrestling alive was just as important as he brought in the likes of Dory Funk, Jr., Von Raschke, Harley Race, Rocky Johnson, Gerry Brisco, Ted DiBiase, Lanny Poffo, The Honky Tonk Man and so many others to the area.
Most recently, Simmons has joined Matysik once again to produce the popular television show “SICW Wrestling Explosion” for Charter Cable in Illinois. They thought it would last two months, and now it’s been two years! All the action and all the opportunity for local talent is still there as Simmons regularly promotes cards in the St. Louis area. He meets and greets every fan with a smile and an open ear.
As Ron Powers said about Simmons: “Herb’s heart is with it. His heart is in the right place.” Indeed, Simmons has made a huge impact in the sport over some 30 years. His contributions have been meaningful and unquestioned. All that from little Herbie, slowing down only to watch “Wrestling at the Chase.”
It is obvious why MWR has chosen Herb Simmons to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for 2012.