WRESTLING – THEN & NOW: “The Questions They Never Ask”

By Evan Ginzberg, Associate Producer of The Wrestler and 350 Days

I’d like to thank Ryan K. Boman and my buddy Jim Phillips for inviting me on board as a columnist for The Guerilla Position. It’s a stream of consciousness ride- on no set schedule- which I’ll pen whenever inspired. Years ago, I published an early sheet with columnists such as Killer Kowalski called Wrestling- Then & Now. Figured I’d continue that tradition with this column.

As I surf the Net daily, I often see the very same questions about pro wrestling posted ad nauseum. Who was the greatest heel of all time?” “What is your Mount Rushmore of pro wrestling?” “Which wrestler NEVER wrestled heel?” And the cringe worthy, “Does Chris Benoit belong in the WWE Hall of Fame?” By the 137th time you read these very same questions, it just plain grows wearisome. So, for my premier column I’d like to try this: “Questions They Never Ask”. Without further ado, this question intrigued me. Drum roll, please…

“Who Are Your Top 10 Most Consistent Performers of All Time?”

Now I’m going to preface this with the fact that I’m one of those guys who just doesn’t care about someone’s won/loss record. And I hate when great performers- many former champions around the world, get that snarky and just plain wrong “Oh, he was just a jobber” condescending rewriting of history. And while there were tons of legends who just plain “hung around too long” tarnishing their legacies, these giants, never, ever had a bad match- at least not live when yours truly was there. So, in no particular order…

Ivan Koloff- The Russian Bear, headlined MSG 13 times, won the belt from Bruno back when it actually meant something, and was a perennial main-eventer and world title challenger anywhere he went. Late in his career “The Russians” he tagged with also drew big throughout the NWA. And the guy was just consistently topnotch with credibility to spare. That this all-time great heel isn’t in the WWE Hall of Fame, particularly when they knew he was dying, is a black mark and a petty, utter disgrace upon them.

Ernie Ladd- “You missed the birth of your mother and father, don’t miss this match!” the 6’9 former NFL star would tell “Mr. Television Announcer,” drawing heat with each condescending word. And for a huge man, he sure could work. Whether it was versus Bruno or Andre in NY or on top for Bill Watts in the old UWF or headlining throughout the territories, the man was a worldwide draw and one of the greatest villains to ever step foot in the ring. Towering over the face, he’d nonetheless use a taped thumb or foreign object which only added to the near riotous pitch he worked the frenzied fans into. One of many “Kings” in pro wrestling, replete with splendid crown, he may have been the best of them all.

Roderick Strong– Whether in ROH, top indies around the world and now NXT, the man is a technician. Not the biggest guy in the world, but night after night he’s delivered quality matches for over a decade. When he walks in the ring you know you’re going to see wrestling, not shtick, nor will he “coast” ala a Randy Orton tends to do.

Homicide– From Brooklyn’s legendary Doghouse, he’s made it to Japan, ROH, TNA and pretty much everywhere in between and always gives 110% each and every time he gets in the ring, even when injured. He can brawl, has all the technical skills in the world, and has even done hardcore. Always an absolute pleasure to watch.

Johnny Rodz– The unpredictable one was a wrestling machine. I saw him in a classic technical masterpiece with Billy Robinson at MSG, a dramatic battle for the WWF Jr. Heavyweight Championship with Tatsumi Fujinami and great matches with the legendary Black Gordman. Add the innumerable times I saw him more than warm up the MSG crowd- and he’s one of my all-time favorites. The man was even a champion in L.A. as Java Ruuk, doing an (original) Sheik takeoff.

Davey O’Hannon- A former Texas Brass Knucks Champ and NWA Western States Tag Team Title holder with Dennis Stamp, the man gave 110% and a quality performance whether in a pre-lim, mid-card or main-event role. Clearly, if you saw him month in and out as I did for years in the old WWWF, he’s one of the most underrated men to ever step foot in a ring.

Killer Kowalski– Arguably one of the top five or ten heels in history, the man was a champion wherever he went around the world, and a machine in the ring. He’d just keep coming at you. All time legends like Bruno Sammartino always cited Walter as one of their favorite opponents. A huge man for his day, he was “on top” for 30 plus years, an amazing accomplishment when many old-timers were reduced to openers late in their careers.

John Tolos– The Golden Greek. Or the “Maniac Tolos.” One of the great talkers of all time, he wasn’t the biggest heel, but one of the all-time great draws (particularly in his home base of L.A.) who worked around the world and all the territories. I was blessed to see him wrestle Bruno Sammartino at MSG in ’74 and grew up on the Olympic Auditorium TV throughout my childhood. His match with Fred Blassie was the earliest PPV on record and the predecessor to WrestleMania. Also, of note the Tolos Brothers with Chris a great tag team as well. “How do you spell wrestling?” he’d sneer. Well I still spell it, “T-O-L-O-S!”

And I’d be remiss without including a tag team and a female great:

The Midnight Express – Bobby Eaton was never a great talker. But as a technician he was as tremendous as anyone who ever stepped foot in the ring. Add the charismatic and hyper Jim Cornette as a mouthpiece and put him in with topnotch vets like Dennis Condrey and Stan Lane, and month after month I’d see them in Philly putting on 4-star classics with the greatest of ease. In my opinion, they are the greatest tag team of all time and at bare minimum, the most consistent. Their matches with The Rock and Roll Express were tag team wrestling elevated to an Art form. And their bouts with Tully/Arn, The Fantastics, The Road Warriors, Russians, etc. were right up there.

Sherri Martel- Today is the 12th anniversary of her tragic passing, so there’s no more appropriate legend than the sensational one who was equally great in ring or in her managerial role. Beloved in the industry, she was nonetheless tough as nails in ring and as a manager added chaos to every encounter. Man, did she ever live up to her sensational moniker. RIP.

If you like this kind of thing- it’s all subjective anyway- I could easily come up with a “Most Consistent” list part 2. No shortage of greats, “then and now.”

Hope you enjoyed my first column for The Guerilla Position. Honored to be on board. And I hope you’ll enjoy #350Days with Bret Hart, SuperStar Billy Graham, Paul Orndorff, Greg Valentine, Tito Santana, Wendi Richter and the afore mentioned Killer Kowalski and Davey O’Hannon. Watch the Evan Ginzburg Show Sundays 11Am at Village Connection Network and check out Evan Ginzburg’s Old School Wrestling on Facebook. Catch you soon, folks.

Evan Ginzburg is an actor and producer, known for The Wrestler (2008), and 350 Days (2018).  He is the host of The Evan Ginzburg Show and a contributor to TheGorillaPosition.com




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