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May 16, 2023 86 mins

We begin our 6 part series on the Chairman & CEO of WWE, Vince McMahon.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:03):
Robert Evans here and we'll get to the Vince McMahon
episodes in a second. I wanted to let you all
know that for the fourth year in a row, we
are doing our fundraiser for the Portland Diaper Bank. Behind
the Bastards supporters have been helping to fund the Portland
Diaper Bank since twenty twenty and bought millions of diapers
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to go fund me and type in bTB fundraiser for

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for Portland Diaper Bank. Help us raise the money that
these people need to get diapers to folks who need
them desperately. Hey everyone, I'm Robert Evans. I'm the host

of a podcast called Behind the Bastards, and like most
of you, I was raised during the nineteen nineties in
early two thousands, on a steady diet of World War
Two movies and History Channel documentaries about Hitler. I decided
as an adult to kind of make that into a
career and just read weird books about the Nazis and
other dictators and talk about them on podcasts, And for

the last five years or so that's gone pretty well.
You know, every week I find a new terrible person,
I read about him, I write a script, and the
show comes out that you're all duly familiar with. Well,
a couple of weeks ago, I decided, after a few
years of every now and then getting suggestions from people
to do a bastard who was kind of from the

it's not really a sport, but we'll call it from
the sports world, a guy you've probably heard of called
Vince McMahon. He is the owner of more or less
of what was once the WWF is now the WWE,
and I kind of expected it to be like every
other episode of Behind the Bastards. You know, I spend
three or four days, I read a book, maybe two,

do some research, put together a script. Well, to my surprise,
a couple of things happened. One of the things that
happened is that when I posted that I was doing
this guy, it got a response unlike anything I've ever gotten.
Thousands and thousands of likes on Twitter and wrestling Twitter
lit up over it. There were news articles about the
fact that I was going to cover this guy, which

has literally never happened before. Authors of books about Vince McMahon,
including the book author of the book Ringmaster, which we're
going to talk about a little bit by Abraham Josephine
Reisman hereafter referred to as Josie Reisman, reached out. People
kind of lost their mind about it, and I found
myself putting together a script that is currently set to

be about as long as the script on Henry Kissinger.
And that may seem insane for a guy whose primary
claim to fame is running a wrestling company, but I
assure you it's not. He deserves everything we're writing about him.
And to kind of help me wrestle this monster, I
just say I told you so. First of all, you
did you did? You tried to warn me, Sophie and

like several years. Yeah, So we're doing this, and the
only people I thought could possibly help me wrestle this
thing into a manageable form are two of the people
I respect most when it comes to talking about shit
like this. Uh. Sean Riley aka Sean Baby, who you
will all will remember from the the legendary episodes that

we did on famous karate monster. Um. Yeah, yeah, Sean, Hey,
how are you doing. Oh, it's good to be back.
I've missed you. I have I have missed you too, Sean.
And this is this is going to be a special one.
And um I also want to introduce Tom Ryman to

the program. Tom has been on a number of episodes. Tom,
you're also a big wrestling fan. Yeah. Yeah, very excited
to be talking about Innscman. I thought I knew everything
there was to know about Bence McMahon, But the fact
that you have such a volume prepared for us, it's
making me think, like, did I not know how much
of a ghoul he was? I thought I did? Well?

Figure technically a business goblin. Yeah, he's a business yea,
he's a business monster. There's a lot for business school.
One of the problems with covering Vince McMahon. Weirdly enough,
the thing that this episode is most similar to is
writing about European royalty in the eighteen hundreds and nineteen hundreds,

because all of those like kings like Napoleon the Third
or Leopold or Victoria, there was like somebody writing about
every single second of their life and every decision that
they made. Right, So there's just this there's so much
shit to go through. There's so much detail and everything
they ever did, And weirdly enough, it's exactly the same
with wrestling, like wrestling. Covering wrestling is a lot like

covering English or at European Royalty that King Leopold had
like a Dave Meltzer and a wrestling observer and stuff,
just track and his every movie. Yeah. Um, so that's
part of what's going on here. And the other part
of what's going on is that, like, as I started
learning about Vince, there are all these other wrestlers, Like
wrestling probably has the highest density of like monsters of

of any like entertainment industry sport out there at least
interesting monsters, right, Um, Like there's just so many fascinating weirdos. Um.
But like our casual wrestling story is like, oh, yeah,
my friend was cranky. Story tour guys, I'm all out
back stage. Yeah, it's because they're carnies. It's it's a
carnival thing. And so there's this it's way more hardcore

than I think the more casual person realizes. Yeah, we're
casual fan. So every probably every episode, all of the
first couple so far, we're going to be going on
log diggressions where we just talk about other crazy ass
stories from wrestling, because like I felt like I was
doing a disservice if I didn't. I wanted to the
giant pop stories we are talking a lot about on Yes,

I love Andre the Giants not a Master to Hero
by the way, just so we're clear for sure, Um,
I want to let it indecipherable Ultimate Warrior monologues. Yeah,
oh god, Um, I have been watching quite a bit
of wrestling. I wanted to start by asking, what is
y'all's background? Uh with with pro wrestling? Oh? Okay, uh,

longtime fan since I was a kid, I grew up.
I actually trained in pro wrestling for about a half
a year and did three three live shows as a
character named Captain Party. I was a superpowered fat boy.
I did here in Portland at the Ash Street Saloon.
Oh shit. Yeah, and uh, let's see, I wrote three

video games about wrestling, three WWE video games. Uh gosh,
I feel like that's enough. That's yeah, No, that's that's
so much expertise. Yeah, I can't live up to that. Yeah, Tom,
now you're on and now you're on. I mean fucking
I'll try. So. I also grew up watching wrestling, loved

it since I was a kid. Um, I was always
more at WWF or WW than WCW. UM. I was
a backyard wrestler for several years. Hell yeah, and I
definitely filmed, Um one of my friends throwing another one
of my friends off the roof of their house and
then that friend doing a flying elbow drop off of
the house onto that friend. Um. I never went off

the house, but I had some some some fun bumps
in a in a backyard done to me as well. Um,
I'm my my friend back home books a local promotion. Um,
it's actually how I met my wife. I met my
wife at a wrestling show. That Yeah, you and your
wife for so long? Okay, so so so so my
my buddy Jerry Stephaniez's books. Independent wrestling promotion called Vanguard

Championship Wrestling BCW in Virginia and many years ago they
put on a show where they brought in Rick Flair.
He was like a big man for the show as
a baby. By the way, I know, I remember that episode.
That's nuts. Um. And so she she was Marina was
there set up because one of the wrestlers. His mom

ran this like new age sort of healing a store studio,
and she had a massage parlor in there. Marina's a
massage therapist, So Marina had a massage chair set up
at this wrestling show, and that's how I met her.
I met my wife at at a Rick Flair appearance
that my friend put on. That is that is a
happier Rick Flair story than we've gotten late. Yeah, I

mean a lot of bad Ric Flair press recently. Flair
spent the whole day drinking and then tried to stiff
somebody else with the bill. That's that's what I heard
from that specific appearance. But I have so I will
I will come in and uh and say I have
far less experience than all of you, And I think
my experience kind of lines up broadly with like most

kids in the nineties were like. I was never like
a huge wrestling guy. I played a bunch of different
wrestling video games in the late nineties early two thousands
when like friends would come over for birthdays. Robert I
also own AWF Superstars Stand Up Arcade Unit. I should
have included that. That is. Yeah, I definitely played a

bunch of that m I was. I kind of I
had about it maybe two years where I watched wrestling
semi regularly. This was kind of I think it's you'd
call it the attitude era, right when Stone called Steve
Austin was one of the big names and the yeah
and I was brought in again. It was one of
those things. It wasn't I didn't, It wasn't kind of
like it did. Like I made friends with a kid

and he was like one of the few kids weird
enough to want to hang out with me after school
when I moved to this new town, and he loved
wrestling an old Star Trek, right, and so he introduced
me to both of those things. Obviously, the love of
Star Trek stuck around longer, but I watched wrestling like
off and on for a couple of years, and you know,
for years afterwards, i'd play games when you know, we
were having a birthday party or something with my friends.

From what I have kind of read, you know, I
didn't know this at the time. Obviously wrestling was just wrestling,
but ninety seven and ninety eight, which was sort of
more or less I think when I was watching wrestling
was kind of smack dab in the middle of depending
on how you count it, the third or fourth big
American surge of interest in wrestling, and the second of
those to happen under the watchful eye of Vince Vince McMahon. Um,

I don't remember a whole lot about that time except
for that my favorite wrestler was the Undertaker. I'm not
sure what, like, well where that puts me, although people
say he was a great kind of like a technical,
you know wrestler, good at back and people up, good
at the good at the you know, a kind of
pinch hitter for storylines and stuff. Yeah, and Vince McMahon,

I think for most of us who are kind of
on the periphery of wrestling, who just sort of know it,
you know, as a in broad terms, is one of
those figures in American pop culture who's just kind of
always been there. Like I couldn't tell you when I
first heard his name, right, He's like Michael Jackson or
Arnold Schwarzenegger in that he's just someone who's always been
kind of part of the foundation of pop culture for

basically my whole life and in the decades since, I
you know, was kind of into wrestling. He's become a
major Republican donor, one of the few close friends of
former President Trump. People will say that he was one
of the only people Trump would take his phone calls
and push other people out of the room when he
called while he was president. His wife is also a

massive influence, Linda, huge influence on the direction of wrestling
and also moderately influential person in American politics. She was
kind of the only member of Trump's can cabinet who
didn't have a huge scandal during his president See, like
she was just kind of in there for a while
and then bounced, but there was no like she didn't
do a mooch right, Like, there was no big blow up,

which I'm not saying is like praise for her. She
is a terrible person, but like she's savvier than a
lot of the other people he brought out. Do you
do you remember when the mooch went on like a
following spree and followed like everyone at cracked. Yeah, that
was a fun day. Was that year? That was a
weird day. What a wild presidency? Were just we just
all blue right past it. But Vince is not just

and kind of the reason why we're doing so much
focus on him. Vince is not just like a guy
who is influential in wrestling. He helped create the foundations
in a lot of ways of not just modern right
wing media, but like modern American culture. You know, there's
a strong argument that we may not get Donald Trump
as president without Vince McMahon, and specifically without Trump's time

in wrestling, where a lot of people will argue he
learned quite a bit. The best book about the life
of Vince McMahon is the recently published Tome Ringmaster by
Abraham Josephine Reisman, again hereafter referred to as Josie Reisman.
Early on in the book, she makes the point that
wrestling is more or less inextricable from human civilization. I

didn't know this when I started researching, but the Biblical
Jacob got the name Israel after a wrestling match, and
the word Israel means wrestling with God, at least in
one translation, So that we that's kind of sweet. Yeah,
a macho man elbow on God. Hell, Yes, that's exactly
how Palestine does translate the leg drop, big boot leg drop. Yeah.

So virtually every culture has some form of wrestling and generally,
you know, up until the modern era, these were like
actual competitions, right, in which you know, athletes were you know,
the the end was in doubt obviously, like all sports people,
you know, falling on matches for betting purposes has happened
for forever. But generally speaking, it was supposed to be

an actual competition. Um. And while you know that was
always a part of wrestling, it also relied heavily on spectacle, right,
This has always been a part of it. Now, if
we're tracing back the origins of modern pro wrestling, the
most direct place to do so is the French Revolution
of eighteen thirty, better known as the July Revolution. This
is the revolution that led to the overthrow of the

Bourbon monarchy and its replacement by the House of Orleans.
But that's you know, boring three nerd shit, So I'm
just going to quote from wrestling reporter Kyle Dunning. Here
it is said that during this time wrestlers were first
given nicknames. Also, the tradition of an open challenge being
issued to the general public was born. There was commonly
a reward of five hundred francs to anyone who could
knock a wrestler down to the ground. This is where

Circus has got the idea from. I wish we still
had that. This happened organically in me once. I was
at a Mexican video game convention and there was a
wrestling ring in this booth that I was near, just
a weird little wrestling ring, don't know why it was there,
and someone asked me to get up and say something,

and within two minutes I just sort of organically offered
to body slam the biggest person they could find. And
then I just did that for like ten minutes, and
then one kid got in and it was like, okay, cool,
put your phone down, I'll body slam. And then he
attacked me and I was like, oh, this must be
how shoot fighting got it start. How did that go? Uh?

He tried to take me down and then we wrestled
for a bit and I kind of gave him like
half a body slam, which he did not want, so
he didn't take it very well, and I realized, we
got to stop doing this. This is escalating too quickly. Yeah,
this could go really badly. Um. I always they were
back in the day. Kind of one of the seminal
moments in early internet culture was the Uh there was

this director of horrible video game movies named Uva bowl You.
I think everyone is here is familiar with this story.
Who got made fun of like comedy writers on the
Internet a lot, and so challenged them to a fight,
like a televised fight. Um, and he had been he
had some sort of semi pro experience, right, he's like

an amateur box Yeah, but he's legitimately like a more
built dude than the average internet comedy writer in the
late nineties early two thousands. For sure. Um, he did not.
If I'm not mistaken, Sean, you you put your hat
into the ring and he did not want anything to
do with that. I did. It's gonna take like three
or four minutes to tell this full story. I want
to be fed. But like I used to host a

show called Attacking the show back in the day on
G four. Yeah, yeah, and yeah recently came back but
uh and then left again. But uh, we wanted to
come on and fight Kevin Pereira, and Kevin Pere's like, dude,
that's crazy. But wait, wait wait I bet Sean maybe
you'd fight you. And so they called me. I'm like
fuck yes, today I don't care what and uh and
then serial training. I don't need to prepare. I've been

preparing for this fight my whole life, my whole life.
When I got the call, I did jump some rope.
I'm like, all right, all right, let's let's drank some
raw eggs. Yeah. I had a few eggs. And so
its people like called me to get my stats and
I was like, I gave my stats. I was, uh,
you know, a sixty three um like two hundred ten pounds.
This is not good news for bowl. They're like, do

you know how to fight? I'm like, yeah, I kind
of how to fight, like you know what, you know what,
maybe we're not going to do this. And I found
out later that he basically I don't think he was
like scared, but he was like he's kind of a bully.
He just wants to beat up on little nerds and
he didn't want like film Rocky for so He's like, no,
I don't I want to like just beat up your
smallest toast. I don't want to like stand toe to

toe with a real man. I want to beat up
Richard Kean. Yeah, he beat the shar and we It's
included as DVD extras on one of his movies. So
I love watched all the fights and it's you know,
we we have since learned afterwards that low Tax had
it coming. Yes, yeah, he was, uh, you know that's

that will be here. Um. So anyway, he did offer
me a spot in that. They're like, well, we'll fly
to Canada and we'll do it there, and like suspiciously,
they never followed up on that. But but anyway, that's
the story of a way bowl. And then people say like, oh,
he ducked me, and I guess he technically did, but uh.
I did go to the premiere postal and I was like,

I think it's only fair that I give him the
chance to kick my ass. So I went up because
I'd already like made fun of him magazines, yea. And
I went up and he's like, yeah, I know who
you are, and I'm like okay, so like so like,
are you like pissed and he's like no, and then
he just very uh it carefully explained all of my
jokes back to me and how they weren't like real,
and I'm like, yeah, they're they're fucking jokes. Like he did.

I don't think he understood even a beginning of what
I was trying to do there. Yeah, it was making
fun of you. The movies are bad, I'm what the
fuck are we doing here. I think the way they
framed it on the DVD extras that I saw was that, oh,
he's he's fighting critics. So yes, maybe he thought it
was like all film criticism and not just like jokes,

I guess. I mean, I was critasizing his films. He
was just like, you know, like like in Blood Rain
there's a love scene. I was like, this is obviously
directed by a man who's never fucked, and he's like,
you know, like he's like clinically explaining. Bol does seem
like the type of dude that would need to clarify. No,

wait wait wait wait wait, I have had six right,
it doesn't translate into my work, but I have touched
a Wilma. I have seen the boobies. I do like
to think about him like getting in a cage with
Ebert and then Ebert like pulling out like the Barocco
weapons from Mortal Kombat, just kind of random, just fucking

swords erupting from his risk. Yeah. Yeah, that's how I
imagine him fighting. Never jump in on. Ebert got too
much anti air defits, so send you beyond the Valley
of the Dolls. H this kind of evolution in wrestling
where it starts to become something that like, yeah, people
like you're doing it out in public. People are like

drinking heavily. You've got random folks locally kind of like
showing up to fight, try to knock these wrestlers down.
It becomes this circus act. This is what marks kind
of the first really clear permanent separation from the various
forms of competitive wrestling that had obviously been around for
forever to modern wrestling as entertainment. Because obviously, when you've
got like random local drunks like queuing up to be suplexed,

the point is very clearly not measuring grappling skill in
a traditional way. Right. By eighteen forty eight, Circus Troops
had adopted a new style of wrestling known as first
hand wrestling, all better known as Greco Roman wrestling, which
is not the way that the ancient Greeks and Romans wrestled, right,
It's just called that. Yeah, they had pants on for one,

a lot less abusive in a number of ways. It
banned a number of holds below the waist. It also
banned a number of holds that had like kept killing people,
so they were trying to like reduce the body count.
Circus troops in Europe quickly adopted this new style, but
not eliminate the body you know, they never get rid

of the body count. Let's be very clear about this.
I've been again watching old wrestling, like from the eighties
and early nineties with like my young friend Garrison, and
one of the things we'll do in every match is
like google the names and see kind of who made
it the longest. Yeah, a lot of forty nine year olds,
you know, tapping out of life in this sport. Unfortunately,

that's sad reality. Yeah, football is not wildly different. So
one of the things that's kind of going on here
is they transition to Greco Roman wrestling, is that a
lot of things like leg hooks are restricted, which were
some of the most effective holds. And so because they
can't do a lot of the holds they used to
be doing, wrestlers adopted the tactic of throwing each other

around the room or around the the you know, the
whatever the square, which is obviously like another link you
know in the chain to modern pro wrestling. The nicknames,
fan challenges, and increasingly elaborate throws that evolved over this
period of time made wrestling more fun to watch than
it had been before. By the end of the eighteen hundreds,
the new sport had its first real champion, a guy

named Paul Pawns. He was a Frenchman. His stage name
was Colossus, and he became, by some counts, the world
Champion of Greco Roman wrestling. That's what Wikipedia calls him.
At least. The reality is he won a match sponsored
by a magazine and then like another match sponsored in Russia,
neither of which were really world championships. But he just

started calling himself the world champion because like, who's gonna
argue with you? Right, right, this is before the internet.
You can just say things. This is before the Internet
and your giant, you know, right, So this gave us
blood sport. Yeah, I'm in favor of that. Yeah, yeah,
it's fine. This made him famous, and he opened a
gym for wrestlers and for strongmen, right, And this is

again all kind of very highly tied to the circus. Still,
the reality of the situation is that a couple of
different countries had wrestling tournaments and winning basically any one
of them would qualify you to call yourself world champion
if he wanted, because like there was no body that
was sort of determining who was what was the real
world championship in the early nineteen hundreds. This is kind

of the first time that we start to have what
you could call a credible world championship. UM, and the
guy who wins it for the first time is a
dude named George Hackenschmidt, who is legitimately one of the
hardest motherfuckers to ever walk the face of the earth. UM,
basically unbeatable from nineteen o one to nineteen o eight.
How lucky is that name? Then, Hackenschmidt. Hackenschmidt it is.

And like, I'm gonna have Sophie show you a picture
this dude in the second here pons interesting expecting a
real granite faced son of a bitch. He is actually
kind of sup in a pre steroid era. He looks
like he's on steroids. Um, he's no, no, no, he is.
He is smooth as a fucking waxed dolphin. Oh no,

that's he's Also he's interesting because he's kind of an
old guy when he becomes he's thirty four, which is
like today even that's kind of like pushing it, you know,
by the standard of athletes in the late eighteen hundred three. Yeah,
back man, he might as well have been ninety seven. Yeah.
Hackenschmidt is a one of the first really shredded guys,
as I said, in the modern sense, to ever be photographed.

And again it kind of says a lot that he
still looks jacked by today's standards, even though there's there's
no steroids in this period, there's not even like a
great understanding of muscle building. Why do you think they
took his picture? Yeah? It's also he is credited as
the inventor of the bench press and the hack squat,
at least according to a website called barbind that repeatedly

tried to sell me creatine. I feel like somebody figured
out the bench press before that. It's not exactly are
for I found another website that says he definitely didn't
create the bench press, although I will say that website
also tried to sell meat so much clearly not enough.
According to these two websites, did you did you buy

enough creatine to invent the bench bench? Us? Uh, not
not yet. Um, but I'm hoping I bought enough creatine
to determine which website is more credible, like whatever, whatever,
whichever creatine pushes my bench up more and like a
three week period, that's the website I'll choose to believe.
This is how we will measure all things from now on. It, Sophie,
I want you to show them like Hackenschmidt looks like

a crude disc discount action figure from a grocery store
toy aisle. Hell yeah, he looks awesome. Yeah, totally natty.
You have to assume because it's nineteen o eight. Yeah, absolutely,
no neck his necklace. He cannot put his arms down
at his side, put his arms down to his SI

looks like a man. Yeah, Like, look at those thighs.
This motherfucker never skipped a leg day. We can say
that with a degree of certainty. It's interesting. Look over, Yeah, incredible,
he's got the socks pulled up. It looks like it
does look amazing. Yeah, it's it's interesting. This dude. It's

like it's like reminding me of like the difference between
like when like Christopher Reeve or like Michael Keaton played
superheroes and then like what people who play superheroes looked
like nowadays, Like, this guy's definitely jacked, but like he's
not Hugh Jackman in the Wolverine Jack No, no, no, no, no,
like it's X Man jack Yeah yeah, yeah, although he
is a wide shouldered man, he's so wid yeah, he

is a fascinating looking fellow. Um So, again, basically, none
of the creatine websites disagree that he invented the Hack Squad,
so I guess we have to give him that. A
different website that tried to sell me workout Powders did
argue that he didn't invent the bench press, and that
article was written by a guy named Roger rock Lockridge,

So I do think we have to trust it because
that's quite a name, sweet name. Um yeah, so Hack
and Schmidt racked up more he invented something. Yeah yeah, yeah, yeah.
The rock is in quotes absolutely, I hope you do.
Could hear them? Um So, Hack and Schmidt rack up
more than three thousand victories during his career. A lot

of them were during He has a there's a forty
day wrestling tournament that he wins in nineteen hundred. Yeah.
So this guy you have to assume pretty good in
Darret's but he doesn't really earn a place of promise
in the history books until nineteen oh five when he
travels to the United States. Now, in the US and
the UK, obviously, like in Europe, as we've been talking about,

Greco Roman wrestling is the big thing in the US
and the UK. It's still a thing, but it's kind
of less favored than something called ketches catch can wrestling,
which is a combination of several smaller variants of wrestling
rules that allows leg hooks but also emphasizes submissions and
matt wrestling. This goes viral in the US because it
made it particularly easy to allow challenges from members of

the public at big outdoor events. Americans are drunken, love
to fight, so you can't not have that. But also
you don't want either to kill these guys or for
them to seriously hurt your wrestlers, and so submission hold.
There's something that wrestlers can train on and can kind
of guarantee that they can win without like murdering a
suburban dad by shattering his spine. Yeah, I'm just trying

to picture the first poor son of a bitch that
got put into like a figure four. Yeah, you would
have to context for that. Yeah, you're just what is
this a spell? No, it's like a medieval peasant eating cheetos.
It just blows your mind. You would just you would
just have a stroke and die, like you wouldn't be
able to wrap your mind around whatever devilry was being
done to asolutely not Yeah, no, no, this was still

a point time I've gone back to my date after
losing to a figure four leg lock, like a sorry, honey,
I just I thought I had him that time. That
would have been my whole life back then, just going
out on dates like oh, sorry, I'm gonna go to
my ass kicked honey, Like stop it, come back to
our date. You promised me you wouldn't do this anymore,
my whole life. The evil you know, he's just gonna

wrap your legs up again if I can slip them
over us. So we're on our bellies to look at
for You never listen to me. You think my ideas
are stupid. I'm imagining like early oss men, watching like
a wrestling match and going we have to we have
to figure this out. We have to put money into this.
This is how we beat the crowds. We got to

crack this nut. Yeah, they've got like a stone cold
stunner locked up underneath the Pentagon, like we can't let
this out, and it's like the plague in the stand.
This gets out, anything could happen. I've always thought you
could measure how good a lover a man is by
how well he takes a stunner, like how giving he
is as a lover, by how much he gets obliterated
by the stone cold stunner, which means that the Rock

does like a full back flip. I'm saying on record,
I think the Rock is a fairy giving love. It's yeah,
I mean, honestly, Sean, it's the Rock or Vince. Yeah,
so that does like how weird like Quiver. But he
used to do it better. He used to do it
better before he blew his knees up. So Hackenschmidt's style
and size made him pretty unstable in the US for

a time. He very quickly defeated the American Champion of
the day, a guy named Tom Jenkins, in what was
not a particularly hard match. Hackenschmidt was so dominant that
a wrestling promoter named Charles Cochrane took him aside and
was like, hey man, you make a lot more money
if you like fuck around with your opponents a little
like taunt um toy with them. Give people a show
instead of just like beating the absolute piss out of them.

In an article for E Wrestling News, Kyle Dunning rights,
in other words, he wanted to fake the contests to
make them more competitive, because the marks would keep coming
back if they thought he was beatable. With this business philosophy,
catch wrestling soon transitioned to become professional wrestling, and many
other countries adopted the same, knowing there was more money
to be made predetermining bouts for entertainment value. It all
relied on keeping decafeve that wrestling remained a sport in

the eyes of the public. Now again, it's not as
saw this is kind of like flattening it a little.
But obviously other people, other promoters had been doing wrestling
matches where the ending was sort of settled ahead of time,
but that was not always the case. And it was
also a thing where, like a lot of time in
this day, even if you were supposed to be setting
up who's going to win ahead of time, it would

still like either egos would get her in the way
or something, and like people would actually just wind up
fighting right Like. This was a lot more common back then.
I should also note that the idea in this period
that a major sporting event might be determined by something
other than legitimate contest was not unique to wrestling. In
early nineteen nineteen, the Chicago White Sox conspired to lose

that year's Fall Classic to the Cincinnati Reds. Members of
the White Sox approached a group of gamblers and presented
them with an opportunity to make a shitload of money.
This did not go well. There's a huge grand jury investigation,
there's a trial, and major league sports gambling is banned
until we realized that it was stopping a lot of
terrible people from making money. This took about one hundred years,

so the fallout from this is significant. Anyway, Hackenschmidt basically
unstoppable in the US until he winds up wrestling. The
guy named Frank Gotch. Gotch is an American who just
was famous for having pretty incredible endurance. UM. It's unclear
to me if their big matches fixed in one way. UM,
but from what I've read, neither man is able to

force the other into a clear submission for more than
two hours. Um, and that's that is a huge So
for some perspective in modern wrestling, one of the most
famous matches of all time is an hour long match
between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. These are two of
like the best technical wrestlers of their day. They're obviously
this is not they're not competing in the traditional sense,
but if you watch what they're doing, it's amazing that

they kept up that level of energy. It's an incredible match. Yeah,
they are, they are going it is insane. Shit. It
was one of the may match that went ninety minutes. Yeah,
the year two thousand. That was because soccer Raba versus
Hoist Grace. So I love soccer the best. Yeah, the
freaking Gracie Hunter. I think the point I'm making is

that Hack and Schmitt and Gotch must have been something
to see. Two hours is still a significant fucking match. Yeah.
If if Gotcha's finishing move wasn't called the Gotcha, I
don't know what he's doing in the carne business. Yeah. Yeah,
I feel like I don't know what we're doing as
a culture. If that wasn't the case, but I haven't
found evidence of it, tom So, I apologize on behalf

of America. Now, yeah, so wrestling's chairman right along, early
nineteen hundreds. But then you get that whole World War thing.
It disrupts the industry. Obviously, the kind of wrestling you know,
age men eventually do come back afterwards, but the age
that follows World War One is a little more jaded.

And one of the things this means is that a
larger and larger number of wrestling fans start to doubt
whether or not wrestling is real. The sport languished and
a shady as a kind of shady side show entertainment
for drunks and people from New Jersey until the nineteen twenties.
In the early twenties, a wrestler named Ed Lewis is
hooked up by his trainer who'd also trained Frank Gotch

with a fella named Toots Mond now Tootsmand comes from
a name Toots Mob. These all sound like old time, Sophie.
Will you look up a picture of Tootsman. They need
to see him. But a second, I need to describe
this man to you. Tootsmand is in the early nineteen twenties,

considered one of the most out of control gamblers in
the entire country in the twenties, Like hell, he is
a mobbed up dude who other mobbed up dudes are like,
this motherfucker gambles too much and number two totsmon smelland
is a dude who other men in the twenties are like.
This guy drinks quite a lot, like it is if

you're probable, no one on earth could could drink with
this guy today. I'm really excited. Yeah, you gotta show you.
I can't wait to see this guy. I can't wait
to see this hero. Yeah, you're ready, ready, this guy
who other mobsters were like, goddamn, this man. Holy, he

looks like a giant baby. Yeah, this is an unfinished clone.
Yeah he's a dummy. Yeah. They paint those nipples on
him every morning so people don't get suspicious. He looks,
he looks wow. Yeah. Two sixty six ft three feet

tall from these is a slab of meat. This dude
a profoundly unsettling man. And I'm only saying that because
he's been dead for decades, because I would be lightened
to make these comments if he were alive, you know,
he looks like in the face, not so much as build,
but in the face he looks like Brian R. Locker.
Oh yeah, like a cabbage Patch kid. But yeah, Brian

looks like he does have yeah, resting cabbage patch energy.
So Toots is an They call him Toots because of
his train conductor hat. Yeah. Um, Toots is also a wrestler,
and so he acted as Ed Lewis's sparring partner, trainer,
and security man. Together, the two worked out a series

of new holds and innovative wrestling tactics. They also would
wrestle each other in the ring sometime during matches. These
were you know, obviously they had set these matches ahead
of time. Both of these guys are pretty technically skilled.
So Toots is the kind of guy that like Ed,
can trust, and they can trust each other to do
a lot of these kind of like throws and tosses
and not murder each other and put together a few

mooreographed spectacle Right. If you can't trust Toots, I can't
trust Toots who wants to stay in this world? If
you can't trust the hard drink and gambling, out of
control mobster wrestler. So Toots and Lewis over time develop
a new style of wrestling, and it's a hybrid of
Greco Roman ketches, ketch can and kind of circus shit

which they call slam bang Western style wrestling. And this
is kind of the most direct precursor to modern pro wrestling.
In a different article for e Wrestling News, kyled on Rights,
the newly formed trio used their connections to persuade wrestlers
from around the country to join their new promotions, so
they no longer had to be controlled by others. Toots
began forming what we would later know as sports entertainment,

but the wrestlers had to be in on keeping it
secret from the public. This new style of wrestling would
incorporate elements from boxing, Greco Roman, freestyle, lumbercamp fighting, and theater.
As traditional wrestling could go on for several hours, they
implemented time limits to ensure matches would not bore the audience.
They also introduced the concept of tag team wrestling, which
had seldom been used before. Within six months, they had

taken over the wrestling scene and were taking bookings and
major sports venues instead of back alley halls and other
small places. Sounds like making lumber camp brawls. I excuse me, lumbercamps. Yeah,
this is a major book, specifically up in the Pacific Northwest,
a major form of entertainment where like you just go

out and watch lumbercamp guys beat the piss out of
each other there. They are very jacked and they have
no money. They are all alcoholics. They will fight for
hard liquor. Maybe they'll fight a bear, maybe tree, I
don't know. They don't care, they don't even know. The
decket out. Will fight for your amusement to the death.

If you want, you know, you slip them a twenty.
Products and services that support this contact huge fans of
blood sports. Yeah, they don't give a shit. Ah, we're back.

So you know, lumber camp fighting, all this kind of
stuff fuses together to make slam bang Western style wrestling
with toots and ed create. I just I love that
somebody saw lumber camp fighting and was like, this is close,
but it would be there not just it just said

shiny panties, a couple of tas and really throwing each other, weird,
wild distances, surprising air. That's what we need here. And
I get a fancy guy with a monocle. Yeah. More
guys in suits. Yeah, there's not nearly enough racist caricatures.
No one's dressed as a shake. So for one thing,

we're gonna have to fix that. We gotta fix that
quotient right now. It is worth noting that around the
same time, the late nineteen twenties and early thirties, other
people were innovating wrestling too, obviously, like this is not
a two person thing. Among other innovations in this time,
the flying tackle and the dropkick are invented, which I

love to think of the first man like the right
brothers of dropkicks. They keep failing at it like they're
about to leave for the day, and then one more time,
just let me try one more time. I know I
can deal with both sea and give both licks up.
Can you imagine seeing that for the first it's the
first God, oh shit, yeah, is he icorous? Yeah? Yeah.

I think the next thing that will be like that
is when they finally clone a mammoth, Like, my god,
look at it, right, yeah, the timeline of human history
has split it mammoth, right though, fucking snow Oppenheimer watching
drop pick. Now, I have become death destroyer of worlds.

That's all. That's all. That's all the bomb is, that's
all fission is. It's it's Adams drop kicking each other. Yeah,
it's a it's a it's an evolution of the drop kick.
So Billy Sandow would test new recruits for kind of
this wrestling business that they're building in his own private ring. Well,
Toots would work with them on their finishing sequences. Um.
This kind of period is when they invent the concept

of wrestling having a go home sequence, which is a
commonplace today, but back then it was new and exciting
to fans. Um. Toots also introduced the concept of the
no contest and double count out, which moves wrestling away
from kind of the old school competitive roots and creates
a lot of possibilities for like storytelling, right, for ways
that you can kind of end matches and stuff without

people getting beat up too bad, and that you know,
opens up possibilities for all sorts of storylines, a whole
bunch of stuff. And it's it's kind of worth noting
just in terms of how innovative these guys are. Modern
wrestling is still a very similar to what Toots and
his buddies create, and these three guys become known as
the gold Dust Trio. I think because of how much

fucking money they make, and they basically are kind of
the most direct progenitors of the modern pro wrestling industry.
They do a lot of fights in burlesque theaters, side shows,
and they kind of move on and really a fairly
short span of time because of how much interest there
is two stadiums and other massive like respectable venues, and
wrestling for the first time spreads across the United States,

not as just like a thing people did, but as
a semi organized business in which there's quite a lot
of money. Now. Toots is the enforcer. In addition to
training people and stuff. He and another guy, John Pissek,
would beat the shit out of any wrestlers who tried
to go into business for themselves. Um. This earned them
the nickname hookers. That's what they're called for doing this.

I'm not really certain why, um, but but yeah, that's
that's it. The old, that old hooker Toots that I
love that Toots just applied his mob training to this.
It's like somebody else trying to Mustlinary territory fucking break
his legs. There's not a problem that Toots cannot solve
with a fucking drop kick. Yes, So that's a glumber

brawl double threat. When you can get in the ring
and beat a guy out of the ring, that's that's
the total package. Just Toots walking into work. He's got
like a briefcase and inside of it is just like
a stump. So the trio eventually broke apart due to
a power struggle, but wrestling was here to stay, and
for a time, it's shady reputation kept it down. Madison

Square Garden initially refused to host wrestling events through the
nineteen forties. What finally changes this is that Toots teams
up with Bastard's Pod alumni Bernard McFadden, who kind of
invented physical culture in the United States. He was a
big magazine baron, one of the guys who sort of
started the modern like health and supplement industry. And he
provides Toots with the financial backing to expand this business.

And because he's got connections, he convinces Madison Square Garden
to start hosting wrestling events. In nineteen forty eight, the
first Garden wrestling exhibition was held. It basically always sells out,
is huge business for them. In that first match, a
guy named Gorgeous George defeats a guy named Ernie Ducek.
That same year sees another seminal moment in pro wrestling history.

By that point, wrestling has grown from being the business
of a number of shady carnie promoters and disgraced boxers
to a network of promoters and what you might call
like cartel leaders who ran wrestling in different cities and
regions and generally hated each other. But in July, on
July fourteenth, nineteen forty eight, several of these dudes gathered
together at a hotel and Water lou Iowa to talk.

And I'm gonna quote now from a book called Sex,
Lies and Headlocks right around the room where pl Pinky
You're gonna love these nicknames. Tom pl Pinky George, a
former bantamweight fighter who ran all the shows out of
Des Moines. A'll haf too, liked the book Big Games
names in Columbus, but couldn't keep them for long because
he was notoriously cheap. Orville Brown, a two hundred and

fifty pound brawler from Kansas City. Max Clayton, a genial
Omaha businessman who played only twenty five dollars for a
main event, but made up for it by buying his
favorite wrestlers straight whiskey and steaks and stone Tony Stetcher,
who ran the Minneapolis Territory while managing his brother Joe,
a three time world champion who could dent a sack
of grain with his thighs. Hell yeah, at least what

an amazing they gotta see. Yeah, we must be something. Yeah,
I feel like most people could, but maybe grain was different.
Then sixty sixty percent of those guys have killed somebody

with a ranch. Oh yeah, absolutely, but only of them
remember it, right. I love how like some of them
are like, Oh, this guy's the toughest guy in the world,
and then one guy's like, I guess he can kind
of you can tell he's been sitting on grain. Yeah,
he does a lot of It's a real dubious honors

in the crew, is what I'm saying. So the dude
who calls all these guys together in nineteen forty eight
to talk is a man, a forty two year old guy.
He's a former sports writer named Sam Muchnick. Sam had
lost his job as a sports writer covering baseball because
his newspaper collapsed, a thing none of us can identify with, um,
what's that like? I can't picture that. Yeah, he decided

to deal with this trauma by starting to work for
a wrestling baron and then becoming one himself. He rises
to prominence fairly quickly, and you know, he takes a
little break to do some World War two stuff. But
when he gets back, he finds himself frustrated by the
fact that Rustling is kind of being held back by
this vicious pack of promoters who are They're always fighting
and bribing each other to like steal each other's wrestlers,

and this is getting in the way of both their
profits and expanding the business. So he gets all these
guys together, these real shady motherfuckers, and he's like, what
if we set up rules together as the bosses of
these different kind of syndicates, to set up prices, to
like fix wages, to blacklist wrestlers who go into business
for themselves. Now, this is very illegal. They are violating

the shit out of the Sherman Anti Trust Act. But
these guys are all criminals, right, This is not the
first law these people have broke. This is mobshit. This
is classic mobs. Yeah, this is very classic mobshit. And
these guys all of a shitload of money, so they
figure they can bribe whoever they need to bribe. He
gets all these guys at the President Hotel to agree
to his idea, which amounts to something like the only

union pro wrestling whatever. See and of course it is
a union of owners. This goes on to come the
National Wrestling Alliance. Interesting fact, there's another INWA that's like
a wrestling kind of alliance that predates this NWAU. But yeah,
it's a it's not a kind of big deal in
the history, so anyway, interesting stuff. Um, so they all

agree on this. They form the NWA, this big cartel.
The last holdout to it is Muchnick's former friend and
bidder rival, a guy named lu Fez. Fez eventually agreed
to merge outfits with Muchnik and join the cartel, and
Muschnik is like, okay, but if we do that, you
got to agree to lose a title match to this
wrestler the NWA likes, called Orville Brown, Right, so this

match never happens. Brown and his business partner, another wrestler
that he'd fought that night, were like driving home from
the match. They're like friends, but they're supposed to be enemies,
and they happen to hit an eighteen wheeler. They may
have been hammered and very nearly die. This is a
problem for several reasons, because Brown and his part are
supposed to be hated enemies, and the fact that they're

writing together in the same car creates a scandal. I
think they get fired for this. It threatens to undo
the fragile bonds of belief that made wrestling what it was.
So yeah, I think later on a similar thing happens
to Rick Flarey's in a plane crash with a gun
he's feuding with and they had to pretend like they
weren't traveling together. Yeah. I want to actually talk about

this a little bit because, like it's now fairly well
known that within the wrestling world, this kind of mix
of lies in theater to create this illusion of a
contest is known as kfabe. Right, there's a debate over
where the term comes from. Sex lies and headlocks kind
of credits it to Turn of the century carnivals where
these you know, these wrestlers who would take on random
challengers which they called marks from the crowd, and like

would wrestle them and stuff you know, they can't. You know,
in that case, they generally know what they're doing because
they have a lot more experience. But when they're wrestling
each other, they can't go as hard as they otherwise
might because one of them will get hurt if they do.
So they rigged the matches in order to avoid getting
seriously and injured, and they have to be in order
to kind of set this stuff up. They have to

develop a secret language that lets them kind of plan
stuff out in public without making it clear to others
what they're doing, which is this kind of pig Latin
dialect called Carney. So one theory about where kfabe comes
from is that it's just a term from this little
language that they made up initially to Initially, it's kind
of a term for like, shut the fuck up. There's

like marks watching right, Like that's the initial meaning of kfabe.
But over time it just becomes a metaphor for like
don't let anyone on on what's really happening. Now, we
don't actually know that that's the origin of kfabe. Nobody
is certain where it comes from, but throughout the middle
of the twentieth century, this kind of whole language grows
up around pro wrestling. As Josie Reisman describes, for nearly

a century, this illusion was maintained at all costs in
a kind of industry omerta. A heel in a face
who were sworn at kfabe, enemies couldn't be seen drinking
together in their off hours. A wrestler build as Iranian
couldn't be known to be Italian. Even wrestlers themselves sometimes
had trouble keeping track of what was kfabe and what
was not, so they developed two more terms. A work
was anything that was kfabe, and anything that was real

was a shoot. Now a couple of other notes here,
a heel is a bad guy, right, Like in wrestling,
they're generally the guy is especially in this period, they're
nearly always supposed to lose. Right. Meanwhile, a face, which
stands for baby face, is like a good guy. Right.
There's generally the people who are supposed to win in
this period. That's going to change a lot over time.
Eventually you get to the point where like heels and

faces kind of move up and down, and there's also
becomes this kind of third category, and a lot of
times the heels win because the people that like the
fans like the most, but in this period of time,
it's a lot simpler. Right, Well, there's a whole Coogan's
kind of a notorious liar, but like in his book
he had a story about like he had a gun
that belonged to one of the Savage Samoans and then

they all had to go to jail because the Savage
Samoans wouldn't talk in front of the police because there
wrestlers supposed to be like these caveman monsters that didn't
speak English, so they could have cleared up the misunderstanding
about the gun, but they all went to jail and
stand and I'm like, there's no way any of what's true.
But like this is I don't know. I've heard that
story from other sources than Hulk Cogan. I don't know that.

Like you are, Sean, you are very correct Holkogan as
a famous liar. There are stories that crazy that we're
about to talk about stuff on that level, and even
wilder does occur. And I remember reading about how Rick
Flair's wife didn't know it was fake until like deep
into the nineties. No, No, there's a lot of that
going on. I do want to note before we get

into some of these stories, not all wrestling fans are marks.
Overtime professionals split them up into smarts and marks. A
smart is somebody who gets that, like, this is not real, right,
These giantmen throwing each other across the room are engaged
in a performance. This is not really fighting. Reisman and
other historians of wrestling like kind of traditionally the assumption

was there's only a few smarts, most people are marks. Reissman.
Increasingly and other historians of wrestling tend to suspect that actually,
like most fans, particularly most adult fans over time, are smarts.
They're all kind of it's sort of like Santa Claus, right,
and you know, there's a period of time where you
kind of believe that it's it's a real sport, and
then you get older you see something that breaks the illusion.
Kind of Famously, hulk Ogan, who again take with a

grain of salt, he claims to have been a believer
as a young adult, like to have been totally bought
into it until one day, as he's sort of like
watching a match, he sees two wrestlers strategizing beforehand and
has this like horrifying realization that the game is rigged.
I'd be so embarrassed to tell that story. I might
believe it because he's not a smart man. Let's be

very clear about the Hulkster. Reissman also notes that while
most fans were probably savvy enough to parse out the
truth eventually, wrestlers for decades lived in mortal fear of
breaking k fape because managers and promoters drew old into
their cruise that this lie is the only thing keeping

the interest in wrestling and thus their jobs alive. Right,
this is deadly serious to the industry. Right, Wrestlers are
kind of divided into again. You know, you've got your
heels and your baby faces and stuff. One of the
most interesting realities of early wrestling is again, kind of
how seriously this is taken. You know, even though maybe
most fans eventually figure it out, a lot of fans

never do. Some of this is because guys like Muchnick
would demand that their heel and face wrestlers never travel
together and never act friendly together in any way. You know,
if wrestlers suffered injuries in their regular life or got
arrested and charged with crimes, which happened constantly, this would
get worked into storylines on the fly. My favorite example
of this stemmed from the nineteen eighty three arrest of

Kerry von Eric. And we will be talking about the
von Eric family in a little bit, but I want
to read a quote from the book story. Yeah, that's
what we're ending on, But I want to read a book.
A quote from the book Wrestling Babylon by IRV Nick
right now. Carry and his wife were returning from their
honeymoon in Proto Villarta, Mexico, when US Customs agents during
a routine inspection caught him with eighteen unmarked tablets in

his right front pocket. Inside the crotch of his pants
was a plastic bag containing an assortment of nearly three
hundred other bills, including codeine, diazepam, librium, and possibly Perkadan,
ten grams of marijuana, and six and a half grams
of blue and white powder. The von Erics wove the
ensuy Yeah, that's that's a pretty good list of shit.
Von Erics wove the ensuing publicity into the world Class

TV storyline, vaguely suggesting that Carrie had been framed by
the Freebirds, their arch rivals. Eighteen months later, after behind
the scenes maneuvering the charges were dropped by the Tarrant
County District Attorney. Very fun story. So the wrestlers express
in this period, Yeah, yeah, what's his name? Michael? Oh shit,

I forget his name, the guy from never Mind. It
doesn't matter, So Michael Bolton. Yes, I'm thinking of Michael Bolton,
aren't we all? Always? I am? So wrestlers didn't just
kind of keep the fans, you know, to try to
keep this ship up for the fans, their own family

in the dark, maintaining the lie that the matches they
were in were real competitions and that their fights with
other wrestlers were real. This sometimes caused dangerous situations. An
early heel named Mario Glinto was so hated and that
his wife feared for his life, and so she started
showing up at matches with a loaded handgun to protect
him from his rivals, and she would pull it on

them and stuff like. She would threaten them with it
during matches, and eventually promoters had to sit down with
Mario when were like, you have to tell your wife
the truth. She is going to murder someone on television,
Like this is a serious problem for us to stop
many six year olds. She was less Paul Bearer or
some shit right thirty eight do him on the fucking channel.

She didn't. When he tells her to the truth. Allegedly,
she doesn't speak to him for three days. Oh my god,
just destroys. That's because he's humiliating but also like infuriating,
like you like to me about wrestling. Well, I mean
she was in such fear for him that she was
carrying a loaded gun to his matches, and he was

letting her continue to do this. He was like, yeah,
I get it, You're doing a reasonable thing. They both
missed a lot of red flags. Yeah, maybe communication wasn't
their strong suit as a couple. You know that's possible,
um it is to be fair to her. It was
super common for wrestlers to get assaulted and injured by fans.

Women in particular habit had a habit of jabbing heels
with hatpins on like their way up to the ring
and stuff. Men meanwhile, tended to throw rocks and bottles
at them. In one of Carolina match, a seventy eight
year old man with a knife stabbed Al Rogowski so
bad that he needed more than a hundred stitches. Now, God,
Al is a hard son. Of a bitch, so he

refuses to go to a hospital. He drives himself back
to his house, he finds someone there to sew him up,
and then he wrestles the very next day because I
because I tell you why, wrestlers don't have any health
insurance this shore don't tom they are better paid back
then if he doesn't get any sick time either. So
if he doesn't wrestle the next day, he doesn't make money.
So it's like fucking gloomy up, I'm going out there.

I should note it is generally agreed upon by the historians.
I'm reading the money's better back then than it is
now by comparison, like these guys are making better livings
than like modern wrestlers often tend to, which is kind
of interesting to me obviously, that does you know. It's
it's different around the country, that's not everywhere, but broadly speaking,
it's easier to make an okay living then as a

wrestler than it is today. A lot of people will
argue you got stabbed more often, You did get stabbed
and more often. For an example of that, Sean Rowdy
Roddy Piper claims to have been stabbed three times by
fans who thought he was an actual bad guy. I
don't doubt it. Man, he used to drive people crazy. No,

they were he was because he's he was. He's a genius.
He's incredible actor. He's very, very, very talented at what
he did. But also, like just looking at Rowdy Roddy Piper,
you have to be either ready to die or the
drunkest eye anyone has ever been to be willing to
attempt to stab that man because he was a fucking monster. Also,

his whole gimmick was that he was insane. Yeah, yeah, absolutely, God,
I love Roddy Piper, Um you know him? Yeah, I would,
I would. I would stab if he was back again,
if we got one more episode of Always Sunny in
Philadelphia with him playing the maniac mania. What an absolute hero.

You know what, during this next ad break, go watch
the movie They Live starring Rowdy Roddy Piper, just a champion.
We're back the entire They Live We did we Always
Sunny episode and then Always Sunny Episode, both works of

incredible art. So given all of this, it probably won't
surprise you to hear that even in the pre steroid days,
wrestlers often lived difficult lives. One of the first great
modern wrestlers was a guy named Gorgeous George. He was
the son of a house painter. He played a narcissistic
heel who was one of the first big popular TV wrestlers.

He would prance around the ring in a fur robe.
He was kind of a little like queer coded kind
of bad guy thing. Right, this is you know, the sixties.
He gouged eyes, he flirted with audience members, and he
just like chewed the fuck out of the scenery. George
is a huge hit in like the fifties, in kind
of early sixties. But by the time he retires in
nineteen sixty two, the heavy drinking that came with his

career field because I mean it's part of just what
these guys do to deal with the pain, because there
you know, it's not easy on your body, had destroyed
his health. When he retires, he like uses the money
he has to start a bar in van Nis, but
his medical bills quickly force him to sell it. In
nineteen sixty three, after a night of bumming drinks from
the bartender in the bar he used to own, he

dropped dead from a heart attack. He was forty eight
years old and sets lies and headlocks. The author's note,
the wrestlers he'd once work with pass around a hat
to help bury him in an orchid colored casket, beside
which his last girlfriend, a stripper, collapsed crying. It is
a very wrestling funeral. He is not the only guy

with a story like this. Yeah. Dark. I mean not
that his girlfriend is a stripper, that's whatever, But just
like this is like, his story is not uncommon. No,
I mean it's dark that they had to pass around
a hat to pay for his cask and collapsed begging
for drinks in the bar he used to own. That's dark.
It is dark, it is And again, a lot of
these promoters are just straight up monsters. There are more

of them who are kind of decent guys. In this period.
There are a number of like regional promoters who will
do shit like when their wrestlers have health problems after retirement,
divert funds from their business to pay for their healthcare.
I'm not saying that's the norm, but it does happen.
And it's also there is strong solidarity with kind of
wrestlers where stuff like this is not The taking up

collections to help old and injured wrestlers pay for medical
treatment or pay for funerals. That stuff happens with a
significant degree of frequency in this period of time. There
is kind of this understanding that, like, you know, this
is a tough job, we're all kind of going to
destroy ourselves doing it, and we have to have each
other's back, you know. So, given the cultural values of
the time, good guys and bad guys and wrestling had

to be very easy to separate. On black and white
TV in the nineteen fifties and sixties, this often meant
that your bad guys are going to be either Communists
or Nazis, right, very easy way to you know, make
it clear, Yeah, exactly. An early Russian wrestler Boris Malenko
was actually a Jew from Jersey named Larry. But you
know he could do an accent, right. That's also an

extremely common wrestling story. Yes, yes, For example, the Shake
of Araby, who prayed to Allah before each fight, was
a Detroit native named Ed And one of the first
great Nazi wrestlers was Jack Adkisson better known as Fritz
Vaughan Eric now but he was a real Nazi, right well.

The focus of this series is Vince McMahon obviously, you know,
but wrestling is always traded on brutality and mortgaging human
bodies for entertainment, and I don't want to just focus
on the ways Vince did that because that's going to
give people this attitude which is sometimes gets put across
by like wrestling fans that like before Vince, things were
all better. Yeah, some stuff was, but this has always

been a pretty brutal business. Um. So we're going to
talk for the rest of this episode about Fritz and
the Van eric family. You guys both had a reaction
when I brought them up, so I think you might
know this story. It's really tragic. It is a nightmare. Yeah.
Um So, Fritz slash Jack and we're just gonna call

him Fritz from now on had been trained by the
founder of one of the first great wrestling dynasties, Stu Hart,
Canadian from Edmonton, Who's Dungeon, that's what it's called. The
Dungeon was the most celebrated training similar center for wrestlers
of its day and for like generations to come. This
is like they remain very big. Um. Bret Hart we
talked about a little bit earlier, is like one of

his kids, and you know, trains there Heart trained fit
Fritz and gave him his stage name. And you might
think that having your like mentor be like, hey, you've
got serious Nazi vibes to me, why don't you wear
a fucking swastika into the ring, would make you reconsider
aspects of your life. But Fritz is like, yeah, man,
for sure, that sounds great. He would wrestle me how much? Yeah, yeah,

fifty dollars a night for sure, bro, Yeah, Fritz would
wrestle wearing Nazi regalia. His trademark move was the iron claw.
And he has the distinction of having been wrestling lu Fez,
who we've talked about before. He's kind of one of
the great big early champions. He and thees are wrestling
the day that JFK gets assassinated. There's not as much

great footage of him in the ring as I like. Yeah, yes,
definitely at causal relation. There's not as much great footage
of him as I'd like. But I found a clip
of his brother, Waldo von Eric. Waldo's not his real brother.
This is a kfabe thing, right they. Waldo is another
guy who trains at the Dungeon and they're like, you know,
match brothers and Waldo was also a Nazi. This clip

is from a match in nineteen seventy five and it
is remarkable. I should note before before we start that
his opponent here is Jay Strongbow, who is a Native
American wrestler who wrestles in a full headdress. He's actually
an Italian um. Yeah, not an uncommon story. So here's
a here's here's Waldo van Eric being a Nazi and

as he comes in the ring, he is wearing a stallhelm.
I should note, boy, he sure is, Yeah he is.
He is wearing a Nazi helmet and a sleepless shirt.
He's got a writing crop in his hands, and he's
got in the front of his shirt is a there's

a Nazi logo, like here comes the Italian Man and
the native head dress and there's the Italian man address
chief Jay Strongbow from from Tuscany. Old timey wrestlers. I

do love the gay code. Advanced man and the Indian
Chief are like my two favorite like problematic. Oh yeah,
oh yeah, you get some I love I love that
Waldo's swastika. You can tell they weren't into drawing it.
I also love steroids are starting to be a thing
in the seventies, but they haven't figured them out great.
So these guys are just huge dudes with beer bellies.

He's doing there was the iron claw. If the audience
doesn't know, it's kind of like a Nazi salute on
the human face. You just grabbed the front of their
head and you just squeeze it. Glorious, impossible to escape.
I mean, yeah, you palming someone on the face. Yeah,

just you get out of that, just rough, you could
walk backwards to the side. No thanks to that. No. No,
When you get whatever, when you get sighiled right in
the forehead, you sort of like it knocks all thoughts
out of your brains. What do I do? That's why
Hitler adapted it famous, famously great technical wrestler Adolf Hitler

everything so actually he took himself out. He just did
the iron claw to himself. This match between Jay Strongbow
and Waldo problematic. Not even close to the most racist
wrestling match that that you can find. Like, it's not
the most decively mid it's not even the most racist
wrestling match I've seen recently. Now that bouncedtraight off my brad.

If you hadn't told me, hey, we're looking at this
and for racism, I would have been like, this is
totally normal. Old time Listen's supposed to be a bad
guy and not seeing an Indian ship. Honestly, they're doing
pretty good. So Fritz himself has a as we've discussed
as we're yeah, just just a nightmare of a life.

But because he's a terrible person, so his you know,
his first son, this is not his fault. Probably Jack
Junior dies in nineteen fifty nine from accidental electrocution that
leads to drowning. Um obviously. Uh. This has an impact
on Fritz and he decides to stop wrestling on the
East Coast. As kind of a result of this, he
becomes the godfather of Texas Wrestling, overseeing a company that

runs wrestling in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio called World
Class Wrestling. Fritz continued to or reinvested the money that
he made from wrestling into real estate. He's one of
the guys in this who's actually like good with his
money and while he's making it as a wrestler, puts
it into something that's going to make him more money. Unfortunately,
he's also a giant piece of shit and kind of

a real fascist because one of his best friends is
Pat Robertson. He is a born again Christian who becomes
a major right wing donor in Texas and a moral crusader.
So that's great, sweet, Yeah, good guy. So he has
four sons, three of whom are four more sons, three
of whom at least are groomed to follow in his footsteps,
even though several of them lack the talent or the

physique to do so. Spoilers when you said three of whom,
I thought you were going to say something else. Yeah,
that's where electric here than drowned boy. So far right,
he's got one out of five's already out of the match. Um,
did you do a show on Pat Robertson. We've covered

him before, We've covered a lot of aspects of him. Yeah.
His dream was to create a wrestling dynasty and imitation
of Stu Hart right, and no, no, no, no, no, maybe,
but definitely definitely Fritz um and as wrestling nerd Nicholas
Alhelm rights. By the time Kevin David and carry his
three large adult sons entered their teens, they were put

into grueling workout sessions by their father. Despite time playing
a variety of junior high and high school sports, he
would work them out for another three hours after school
every day. Well, the boys grew up in wrestling and
new wrestling. It was clear that their father wanted to
make it clear they didn't have a choice. Their future
was wrestling, whether they wanted it to be or not. Cool. Yeah,

so you know, he's kind of like the Micha Jackson
of wrestling or Michael Jackson's dad of wrestling. I always
forget that guys, Joe Joe Jackson, right, Joe Jackson, Um,
but maybe like, honestly, Joe Jackson's a better dad, which
is like that that's a heads up as to where
this is going. One of his kids are dead. Yeah,
that's a really dark, like two thousand joke punchline. Jack.

I mean, he's got a better fucking record. So for
a time, the Vaughan Erics are very successful in the
early nineteen eighties. His boys are all actively in the ring.
They are hugely popular in Texas. By this point in Kfabe,
Fritz has been revealed by his nemesis Gary Hart to
have been a normal Texas boy, not a Nazi, allowing

him to turn baby face. This made Kfabe a little
easier for his boys because they didn't have to wear swastikas.
But since their dad is the booker and they're the stars,
he gets to run them mercilessly. Right, The entire company
is because these guys are big stars. Their entire company
is reliant upon them performing basically every night during parts
of the year in order to keep attendance high at

the venues that he booked. Because they're such a necessary
part of the business. When they get hurt, which happens
a lot, they can't take the next night off. So
Dad just starts handing them fucking painkillers like their skittles
in order to keep them performing. Another thing that's and
we'll go back when we talk more about Vince, we'll
talk about how steroids become a part of the industry.

But steroids are a big part of the industry by
the nineteen eighties, and so in order to compete and
again to keep crowds, butts and seats, they have to
bulk up to whole Hogan like levels, and the drugs
that they're taking take a toll on these boys bodies.
And after a nineteen eighty four match in Japan, David
Van Eric is found dead in his hotel room at
age twenty five. We don't entirely know what happened. His

friend Bruiser Brody claimed once that they flushed a bunch
of drugs down the toilet after finding his body, and
basically that he oweded. I think the family denies this.
It's not really clear what happened because after he makes
this claim, Bruisier Brodie gets stabbed to deaf in Puerto Rico.
Sure does. We don't get a lot of detailed confirmation
either way. Is there a reasonable like counter explanations like drugs? Really? Okay? Yeah,

I mean it's the kind of thing where like, uh yeah, today,
like any leading man and stuff who's doing big action
roles is on something that we can call steroids pretty much.
But also we've gotten a lot better at doing it
without killing people, which is not I'm not saying people
should do steroids, but if you have millions of dollars
and doctors who are constantly monitoring your blood levels and
doing tests on you and stuff, it's not as dangerous

like these guys are just kind of shot shooting shit
up their asses and seeing what happens. You know, it's
a combination of things too, you know, the road, it's
all the hard drinking and popping painkillers, the coker. Yeah,
you just have to keep going, like yeah, I think
they tour something like I don't know, three hundred days
a year. Yeah, so it's a it's a combination of
all that shit. Yeah, yeah, it's it's just it's a

different time, and it's even again don't do don't do steroids, folks,
but it's even much worse for you at this point
in time, even um, and yeah they're also coke is
as common as royds are, because part of what a
lot of wrestlers to say is that like, yeah, you know,
in order to get into the ring and get amped up,
you gotta get fucking coked up, um, And then to
calm down and to deal with the pain, you take painkillers,

and then often to get to bed you add alcohol
to that. A lot of guys ode as a result
of that shit. I mean it's yeah, never I mentioned
Ultimate Warrior earlier, but never has you need cocaine to
get hyped up been more obvious than an Ultimate Warrior entrance. No,
there there are, there are like Cartel warehouses in fucking
Sinaaloa that have less cocaine than was in his bloodstream.

And he given night like he was gliding out there
on a on a board of cocaine, like Iceman. Just
an incredible man. Just so very tragic death, obvious, fucking
twenty five. He'd barely you know, had a life, very sad.
The yellow rows of texts, as David was known, was
mourned by a crowd of three thousand people at his

memorial service. Fritz, though, made sure to profit from this,
selling color photos of his dead son that had once
gone for three dollars for ten dollars at the memorial service. Helly,
right after he set his one of his surviving sons
carry Von Eric to wrestle Rick Flair for the world
title because kind of everybody's sorry, you know, because David died.

They set it up so that Carrie, you know, wins
this match, right, which is again not uncommon in a
case like this. You've got someone whose brother just died,
you give them a belt. You know. I'm surprised, like
Fritz didn't open up the casket and let people take
pictures with David for like, yeah, so let me see

your money. Let me see your money. It's it's barely
vetted than extra ten bucks. The next year, in nineteen
eighty five, Mike van Erik was charged with two counts
of misdemeanor assault against an er doctor he got into

a fistfight with during a trip to the hospital. Surely thereafter,
he goes to Tel Aviv to wrestle, and he takes
a bad bump to his shoulder that dislocates it batter
and badly enough that it requires surgery due to either
pour hygiene or bad luck. After surgery, he contracts toxic
shock syndrome, which is very serious and very uncommon. Just

like in general, it's not something men get off, and
it's certainly not a common side effective shoulder surgery. M
he gets transferred to a hospital with a hundred and
five degree fever and his kidneys shutting down. The upside
of this is that he is too weak to punch
another doctor, so that might have helped. So the doctor
survived and he does, and while his son is fighting

to survive, Fritz starts like making. He goes to the
press basically, you know, never waste an opportunity. He tells
the media that the number of calls from fans to
the hospital outnumbers the calls that a neighboring hospital had
received when JFK was sent there in nineteen sixty three,
which is an insane Flex's if anybody wants a bag

of bloody stool seventy books. Yeah, yeah, it's a real,
it's real, it's real, Trump saying, now I have the
tallest building in New York City. Yeah, it's it's wild stuff. Mike.
Mike does pull through. He survives this, and his brother
Kevin gives a press conference, calling his arrival a miracle.
Alas he takes he's permanently injured from this right. His

weight drops down to just one hundred and forty five pounds.
He is now no longer able to speak without slurring
his voice. Um, he just like he doesn't recover from
this h Muchnick writes. Quote. Fritz lost no time in
repackaging him for the wrestling marks. Mike was nicknamed the
living Miracle. Fans were promised that he would defeat the
odds wrestle Aglin and claim a championship for God and family.

To give the gimmick momentum, Mike was wheeled out in
a car to wave to the twenty five thousand fans
at the Big October Shoal at the show at the
Cotton Bowl. He made his official return to the ring
on July fourth, nineteen eighty six. By then, when he
were just so when he comes back to the ring,
he's also contracted hepatitis, and his dad's just like, get
him out there, get him out there. Yeah, it's it's

so bad. Yeah. So the next year, in nineteen eighty six,
another prominent wrestler, Gino Hernandez, dies of a cocaine overdose.
Now this happens right after a TV spot where Hernandez,
a heel, had blinded baby faced wrestler Adams, And it
says a lot about wrestling in this period that the

announcer Bill Mercer Fritz's employee, announced Gino's real life death
on television by saying, we have suffered two terrible tragedies
in the last week, the blinding of Chris Adams and
the death of Gino Hernandez equally binding. And these are
a qui tragedies. Yeah, thanks to Kayfabe, they're the same thing.

So the next year, carry Van Eric, wasted as Hell,
rams into the back of a police car on his motorcycle.
His foot is like part of his foot. It winds up,
eventually getting amputated. It as a nasty wreck. Doctors spend
thirteen hours putting his limb back together, and then he
is immediately whisked away to perform in the fucking ring. Come, yeah,

it's a nightmare. He wrestles with a fake foot for
a while, doesn't he? Yeah, he sure does, Tom, he
sure fucking does. I'm gonna quote again from here, Sorry,
Fritz is just smashing these kids. Like again, Joe Jackson
might be the better dad. I'm quote his opponent. This

evening was carefully instructed to sell for Carrie, for it
was clear in advance that the man who was once
among the most agile two hundred and fifty pounders in
wrestling would be virtually immobile. Still, they had to make
a good show of it, so Carrie changed into his trunks.
A doctor filled a syringe with enough novocane to numb
Secretariat's hoof. Thus, fortified, Carrie discarded his crutches, gritted his teeth,

and hobbled into the ring. The match lasted five minutes,
and as planned, Carrie won. Afterwards, when the novocaine wore off.
An examination revealed that the ankle had rebroken four months later.
In another operation, the foot was permanently fused into a
walking position. Like bad, don't think of that chronic pain
that you must have had, like his cath must just

cramp up twenty times a day. Now. Look, I'm not
a big giving people parenting advice, but free parenting advice
from Robert here. Don't do this to your kid. Don't
do this. Not good, not good, not good being a dad. Um. Yeah,
her foot, her first foot torn off. I was like,
we're gonna wait two weeks before you get back in that. Yeah,

two solid weeks because you're a good father. Absolutely yeast.
So despite Fritz's cochaine helped. Yeah, well yeah, of course
kids love cocaine. You know, you just tell him it's
one of those fun fun bat what what do they
call that shit? Fun dip? You know they love that
shit that'd go of cocaine, just fun dip. Pass my

mouth now, I can't taste it anymore. That means it's working.
Keep taking it, good, fund getting it ring. That's probably
how it got the name. That probably was original cocaine product.
So despite Fritz's pushing Mike never recovers his ability to perform. Obviously,
interviews with him were deeply uncomfortable affairs. Again, he is

probably takes some damage to his brain from all this too.
He rants a lot on air about obscure biblical figures.
He also like, there's one point where he's there's this
documentary or something being made about him, and he and
one of his brothers are like talking in the background
and it's like recorded, and you can hear them talking
about a gang bang that they had together. He just

kind of loses his ability to sort of, you know,
filter stuff. He also has in several minor violent outbursts.
He's arrested a handful of times, mostly for drugs. This
kind of all escalates to Mike going back home after
an arrest. He hikes out into the woods with a
bottle of sleeping pills and he takes enough to kill himself.
He is twenty three years old when he dies. Now,

according to some versions of the story, Mike leaves a
bottle of the sleeping pills he'd used to kill himself
for his youngest brother Chris, with a note that basically says,
when you're ready to go, you can use these now
Chris has not performed yet in the ring, but he
takes to the ring in nineteen ninety kind of near

the end of his father's time as a wrestling baron
Nicholas Onhelm right are all Helm Rights. Chris grew up
with severe asthma. He took kredna own for the condition
from a young age, and this resulted in a smaller
stature than even his brother Mike. His bones were brittle
and he broke them doing simple wrestling moves. He wasn't
built to be a wrestler, but David and Mike were
dead and Carrie had taken a job in WWF. His

family needed him. Already addicted to painkillers in recreational narcotics,
he entered the family business. He is not in there long.
He shoots himself in the head one year later. Oh
God Yeah. In nineteen ninety three, the last survival surviving
wrestling Von Eric Kerry, is arrested for cocaine possession in Dallas.
The horrific pain from his foot, which had required partial amputation,

pushed him into a semi permanent state of drug abuse.
After being indicted, he drove home to Denton County and
his father's ranch where he shot himself in the chest
with a forty four caliber revolver. He made it the
longest of any of his brothers. He was thirty three.
Fritzwood in the end outlive five of his Sorry, he
has six sons. One of them does survive him. He

dies of lung cancer in nineteen ninety seven. And good
fucking riddance. Jam. Yeah, that man carved just a path
of ruin through his sons. And if I'm understanding right,
this is all just a frame. Vince McMahon, here's the
guy who's much worse than this. Yeah, Vince, Vince is

overall worse than this. But you do need to know.
It's not like he's not rising out of a crowd
of angels. Um god. Yeah, tragedies. Yeah, that's a nightmare
when when you are responsible for four of your son's
deaths um, all before the age of forty. Yeah, not

a great dad, and three of them kill themselves. Yeah. Yeah,
that's that's dark. Yeah, it's pretty bleak. You guys, Uh
got anything to plug? Uh? Tom, you go first? Oh, well,

for seventy five dollars, you can take someone's hair for
eighty bucks, I'll let you hold the gun. Um, I
like how? I like how you pause? You're like, am
I really going to say this? Yea? Yeah? Absolutely? You
know what Fritz would have done? It? Yeah? Done it? Um, Yeah,

you know you can catch me. We're at Gamefully Unemployed.
It's a podcast and streaming network I do with our
our former Cracked co worker and great buddy, David Bell.
So checked that out Patreon dot com slash Gamefuly Unemployed.
You can find us also on anywhere you look for
podcasts and on the social media. Is that's that's pretty
much it. Hell yeah, it is absolutely beautiful. I'm at
one nine hunt dot com featuring monthly columnists Tom Ryman,

who's great and an all starcast of comedy writers. We
do daily jokes, uh text and pictures like the old
days and it's fantastic. I work with Robert Brockway, who's
also our dear friend from Cracked. Patreon dot com slash
one nine hundred hot Dog excellent. Definitely check out Gamefully
Unemployed and one nine hundred hot Dog. I have one

other thing to plug. This is not a product a
project of mine, but we will be talking you know,
Sean in our in our episode on Stephen Seagal we
chat a little bit about Judo Geen LaBelle, who, according
to some versions of the story, chokes Stephen out so
badly he pooped his pants. Now this is debated, but
there is a fellow on YouTube named Bobby Fingers. Bobby

is an irishman who works does something in the entertainment industry,
like making practical effects and models. Um, I can't describe
his videos better than like, he makes models of moments
from pop culture history. And one of the things he does,
and these you should just watch them. I can't describe
them better. But one of the ones he builds is
a diorama of Judo Gene and Stephen Seagal locked in combat. Um,

go find Bobby Fingers on YouTube and watch this shit.
It's genius. I love it. Yeah, I'm writing this down. Yeah,
that's the fucking episode, everybody, I mean a little bit. Yeah,
it's such a it's such a already such a long row,
roads drewn with bodies before we even get so many

men have died and we've just we've only just begun.
Behind the Bastards is a production of cool Zone Media.
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