Remembering “Beautiful” Ben Justice

By Paul Stratoti, Contributing Writer

In the beginning, the fans flocked to him as their idol for his scientific wrestling and fan camaraderie. During 1968 at Dayton, Ohio’s Hara Arena the Hells Angels were locked in a series of battles against Ben and Rocky Johnson. Their matches were brutal and one time 2 referees were needed. Nonetheless, that match ended in a No Contest!

Then on Dec. 6, 1968 they then had a Cage Match for the tag team championship.

On May 9, 1969 at Hara Arena Ben pinned Pierre “Mad Dog” LaBelle with a small package in singles action. Afterwards Mark Lewin & Rocky Johnson defeat Bull Curry & Thunderbolt Patterson by DQ.

On May 23, 1969 the Sheik promoted his last show at Hara Arena due to Classics takeover with the Stomper vs Ben Justice.

On June 9, 1969 at Clark County Fairgrounds the Hell’s Angels were scheduled to face NWA World Tag champs Rocky Johnson & Ben Justice for the titles.

My first vague image of Ben took place around this time as my father, brother or both of them were sitting around the family television where this guy with a white mask was wrestling on “Big Time Wrestling”. I stood and stared for a moment thinking of how strange it was to see a guy in a mask wrestle. I then went about my 11 year old business for a few more months of being a non-fan.

Also around this time Ben wrestled “Wild Bull” Curry in a Hair vs Mask match. Ben must have won this match as records show that it was Dr. Jerry Graham who eventually unmasked him.

The Stomper and Ben Justice feuded with Fabulous Kangaroos Al Costello and Don Kent during which time they faced each other in a tournament final for the vacant NWA tag team championship, which the Kangaroos won. The following year, The Stomper and Justice regained the title belts by defeating the Kangaroos holding the belts for five months.

On January 8, 1970 at Cleveland Arena the NWF saw the Love Bros. def Ben Justice & Ivan Kalmikoff

February 19, 1970 at Cleveland Arena 8 MAN TAG TEAM NWF action saw Haystacks Calhoun, Fred Curry, the Stomper & Ben Justice defeat Hans Schmidt, Bulldog Brower & the Fabulous Kangaroos.

On March 12, 1970 Cleveland Ohio Cleveland Arena – NWF – After winning the tag team tournament the Outlaws (Dusty Rhodes & Dick Murdoch defeated the Stomper & Ben Justice.

March 26, 1970 at Cleveland Arena – The Stomper & Ben Justice def Fabulous Kangaroos by DQ

April 2, 1970 at Cleveland Arena Stomper & Ben Justice def Al Costello & Mike Loren

April 9, 1970 at Cleveland Arena – The Outlaws def the Stomper & Ben Justice

April 16,1970 at Cleveland Arena The Outlaws def Mighty Igor & Ben Justice

April 30, 1970 at Cleveland Arena Bulldog Brower def Ben

May 7, 1970 at Cleveland Arena Hans Schmidt def Ben

May 14, 1970 at Cleveland Arena Fabulous Kangaroos def Stomper & Ben Justice

On December 10, 1970 at Cleveland Arena in 6 Man Tag Team action Tex McKenzie, Ben Justice & Chief White Owl def Bull Curry, the Executioner & Kurt Von Hess

On December 25, 1970 at Cleveland Arena Ben either defeated Hank James or he was defeated by Sweet Daddy Siki.

During 1971 Ben wrestled matches in Cleveland against the likes of the Love Brothers (w manager Bruce Swayze), the Fabulous Fargo Brothers, the Mysterian (a masked Jesse Ortega), Eric the Red, Dr X, Hans Schmidt and Bruce Swayze.

During the first half of 1972 Stomper and Ben wrestled the likes of John L. Sullivan & Mad Dog Momberg, the Fabulous Fargo Brothers, the Fabulous Kangaroos and on June 16, 1972 the Fargo Bros. defeated Haystacks Calhoun & Ben who were counted out!

In July of 1972 Ben and the Stomper defeated the Fabulous Kangaroos for the NWA World tag titles during a time when they also had a series of matches against Tony Parisi and Dominic DeNucci over the NWF World tag titles.

October 28, 1972 Cleveland Ohio Cleveland Arena saw the Stomper & Justice vs Fargo Bros. go to a DRAW

November 30, 1972 Cleveland Ohio Cleveland Arena – Tony Parisi & Dominic DeNucci vs Stomper & Justice – DRAW

January 27, 1973 at Cleveland Arena – Waldo von Erich defeated Ben

On March 29, 1973 Ben teamed up with Tojo Yamamoto to capture the NWA Mid American World Tag Team titles.

The Stomper soon suffered a storyline injury when the Kangaroos manager orchestrated the breaking of Stomper’s leg. Since he could not wrestle in Detroit while he was supposedly recovering, Hill wrestled in Japan for several months.

The Heel Turn Begins!

The Stomper had one last reign as champion when he teamed with Bobo Brazil to win the title for the third time on July 21, 1973. They eventually lost the belts to Ben Justice and his new partner, Killer Brooks.

Around this time one Saturday morning or afternoon during the “Championship Wrestling with Johnny Powers” WUAB-TV tapings Ben was brought into the National Wrestling Federation to do a promo. The following photos show the confrontation between Ben and Luis Martinez which was a buildup for the following match:

On August 2, 1973 at Cleveland Arena Fred Curry & Luis Martinez teamed up vs Pampero Firpo & Ben Justice which ended in a DRAW.

On August 16, 1973 at Cleveland Arena the Stomper defeated Ben by count out

September 8, 1973 at Cleveland Arena Stomper defeated Ben Justice who was counted out again.

October 6, 1973 at Cleveland Arena Ben Justice vs the Stomper went to a DRAW

December 1, 1973: Cleveland TV Channel 61 – Big Time Wrestling taped from Cobo Arena – The Stomper vs Ben Justice went to a Double Count Out!

On March 14, 1974 at Cleveland Arena the Mighty Igor defeated Ben by DQ

May 23, 1974 at Cleveland Arena Tony Marino vs Ben Justice went to a Double DQ

On June 6, 1974 during the final Cleveland Arena NWF card before the venue was torn down Ben Justice vs Fred Curry went to a DRAW.

Fast Forward a year or 2…Universal Sports Presented World Wide Wrestling at the Canton Civic Center. Karl Von Shotz was co promoting an opposition fed following the Tony Marino heel turn. That is where I took the above posed picture also during which time Ben agreed to me interviewing him in exchange for me first making a poster for him to enter the ring with. I complied and then he answered these few questions among others:

Strat: Do you think that you can be as successful without wrestling as the Stomper’s tag partner?

Ben: Why sure I can. I was successful with him, I was successful with Rocky Johnson before him, and I’m very successful now. So you can actually say that I’m a very successful person.

Strat: You sure seem to have turned your back on him to me. What about that match on TV that I saw where you lost the titles?

Ben: Look, you weren’t there the night that it happened so you don’t really know what really happened.

Strat: In closing is there anything else that you would like to say before we close this interview?

Ben: Sure, because just like these fans, you’re my kind of people! Now, you have just interviewed one of the greatest wrestlers of all time: Ben Justice which is me. Thank you!

At the end of his wrestling career Ben seemed disillusioned with the business after which he drove gas tanker trucks & owned a couple bars in the Detroit area. On October 30, 2018 Ben passed away from prostate cancer at 81 years of age.

Article and Photos by Paul Stratoti


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