Lou Thesz


Lou Thesz

Infobox Wrestler
name=Lou Thesz


names=Lou Thesz
height=6 ft 2 in (188 cm)
weight=225 lbs (102 kg)
birth_date=birth date|1916|4|24|mf=y
death_date=death date and age|2002|4|28|1916|4|24|mf=y
birth_place=Banat, Michigan, United States
death_place=
resides=
billed=St. Louis, Missouri
trainer=George Tragos
Ad Santel
Ed "Strangler" Lewis"
debut=1932
retired=1979 (Full-time)
December 26, 1990 (Final match)

Aloysius Martin Thesz (April 24 1916 - April 28 2002), also known as The Great One, was a professional wrestler and three time NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Combined, he held the NWA Championship for 10 years, three months and nine days (3,749 days total), longer than anyone in history. Among his many accomplishments, he is credited with inventing professional wrestling moves such as the belly to back waistlock suplex (later known as the German suplex due to its association with Karl Gotch), the Lou Thesz press, STF and the original powerbomb.

Wrestling career

Born in Banat, Michigan, Thesz moved to St. Louis when he was a young boy. His emigrant parents hailed from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. As a teenager, he trained in amateur wrestling with legendary hooker Ad Santel. Thesz made his professional wrestling debut in 1932, at the age of 16. He soon met Ed Lewis, the biggest wrestling star of the 1920s, who taught a young Lou the art of "hooking" (the ability to stretch your opponent with painful holds). The two formed a lasting friendship. By 1937, Thesz had become one of the biggest stars in the St. Louis territory, and on December 29 he defeated Everett Marshall for the National Wrestling Association World Heavyweight Title, the first of many World Heavyweight Championships. As a result, Thesz became the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history, at the age of 21. A record which stands to this day. Thesz dropped the title to Steve "Crusher" Casey in Boston six weeks later. He won the title again in 1939, once again defeating Marshall, and again in 1948, defeating Bill Longson.

In 1948, the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) was formed, the purpose being to create one World Champion for all the various wrestling territories throughout North America. Orville Brown, the reigning Midwest World Heavyweight Title holder, was named the first champion. Thesz, at the time, was head of a promotional combine that included fellow wrestling champions Longson, Bobby Managoff, Canadian promoter Frank Tunney and Eddie Quinn, who promoted in the St. Louis territory where NWA promoter Sam Muchnick was running opposition. Quinn and Muchnick ended their promotional war, and Thesz' promotion was absorbed into the NWA. Part of the deal was a title unification match between Brown and Thesz, who held the National Wrestling Association's World Title. Unfortunately, just weeks before the scheduled bout, Brown was involved in an automobile accident that ended his career. He was forced to vacate the championship and the NWA awarded the title to the #1 contender, Thesz. Thesz was chosen for his skill as a "hooker" to prevent double crosses by would-be shooters who would deviate from the planned finish for personal glory.

Between 1949 and 1956, Thesz set out to unify all the existing World Titles into the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. In 1952 he defeated Baron Michele Leone in Los Angeles for the California World Heavyweight title and became the first undisputed World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion since the days of Frank Gotch and Georg Hackenschmidt. Thesz finally dropped the Title to Whipper Billy Watson in 1956, and took several months off to recuperate from an ankle injury. He regained the title from Watson seven months later.

1957 was an important year for Thesz; on June 14, the first taint to Thesz' claim of undisputed Champion occurred in a match with gymnast-turned-wrestling star, Edouard Carpentier. The match was tied at two falls apiece when Thesz claimed a back injury and forfeit the last fall. Carpentier was declared the winner, but the NWA chose not to recognize the title change, deciding a championship could not change hands due to injury. Despite the NWA's decision, there were some promotions who continued to recognize Carpentier's claim to the World Heavyweight title. That same year, Thesz became the first wrestler to defend the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in Japan, wrestling Rikidozan in a series of 60 minute draws. Their bouts popularized pro wrestling in Japan, gaining the sport mainstream acceptance. Realizing he could make more money in the land of the rising sun, Thesz petitioned to the NWA promoters to regularly defend the belt in Japan. His request was turned down, and Thesz asked to drop the title to his own hand picked champion, Dick Hutton, rather than Thesz's real-life rival and the more popular choice, Buddy Rogers. Thesz would embark on a tour of Europe and Japan, billing himself as the NWA International Champion; this title is still recognized as a part of All Japan Pro Wrestling's Triple Crown.

In 1963, Thesz came out of semi-retirement to win his sixth World Heavyweight Championship from Buddy Rogers, at the age of 46. Legend has it that Rogers was having second thoughts about dropping the title, and Thesz responded by saying, "we could do this the easy way or the hard way" . He would hold the title until 1966 when, at the age of 49, he was dethroned by Gene Kiniski.

Thesz wrestled on a part-time basis over the next 13 years, winning his last major Title in 1978, in Mexico, becoming the inaugural Universal Wrestling Alliance Heavyweight Champion at the age of 62, before dropping the championship to El Canek a year later. Thesz officially retired in 1979, after a match with Luke Graham. He remained retired for the most part, before wrestling his last match on December 26 1990 in Hamamatsu, Japan at the age of 74, against his protegé, Masahiro Chono.

In wrestling

*Finishing and signature moves:*"Greco–Roman Backdrop" (Bridging belly to back suplex):*"STF" – Innovated:*"Lou Thesz Press" – Innovated:*Double wrist–lock:*Original powerbomb:*Belly to back waist–lock suplex – Innovated

Championships and accomplishments

*American Wrestling Association:*AWA World Heavyweight Championship "(Boston version)" (1 time):*AWA World Heavyweight Championship "(Ohio version)" (1 time)

*Cauliflower Alley Club:*Iron Mike Mazurki Award (1998)

*International Wrestling Enterprise:*TWWA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)

*International Wrestling Institute and Museum:*George Tragos/Lou Thesz Hall of Fame inductee in 1999

*Japan Wrestling Association:*NWA International Heavyweight Championship (1 time; First–ever champion)

*Maple Leaf Wrestling:*NWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)

*Montreal Athletic Commission:*World Heavyweight Championship "(Montreal version)" (4 times; Youngest and oldest champion)

*National Wrestling Alliance:*NWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)1:*NWA Hall of Fame (Class of 2005)

*NWA All-Star Wrestling:*NWA Pacific Coast Tag Team Championship "(Vancouver version)" (1 time) – with The Outlaw

*NWA Mid-America:*NWA Southern Junior Heavyweight Championship (2 times):*NWA Southern Tag Team Championship "(Mid-America version)" (1 time) – with Jackie Fargo

*National Wrestling Association:*NWA World Heavyweight Championship (3 times)2

*Pro Wrestling Illustrated
**PWI Stanley Weston Award (1982)

*Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame:*Pioneer Era inductee in 2002

*Southwest Sports, Inc.:*Texas Heavyweight Championship (3 times)3

*Stampede Wrestling:*Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame [ cite web |url=http://www.wrestling-titles.com/canada/ab/hof.html |title=Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame (1948-1990) |accessdate= |author= |authorlink= |coauthors= |date= |year=2003 |month= |format= |work= |publisher=Puroresu Dojo |pages= |language= |archiveurl= |archivedate= |quote= ]

*St. Louis Wrestling Club:*NWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)

*St. Louis Wrestling Hall Of Fame:*(Class of 2007)

*Universal Wrestling Association:*UWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time; First–ever champion)

*World Championship Wrestling:*WCW Hall of Fame (Class of 1993)

*World Wrestling Association (Los Angeles):*WWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)

*Wrestling Observer Newsletter:*Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 1996)

*Other titles:*World Heavyweight Championship (2 times)4

Notes

1Records are unclear as to where Thesz first won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and which promotion he was wrestling in when he won it. [ [http://www.wrestling-titles.com/nwa/world/nwa-h.html N.W.A. World Heavyweight Title ] ]
2The World Heavyweight Championship of the National Wrestling Association is not the same championship nor does it have any connection to the world championship recognized and used by the National Wrestling Alliance.
3Thesz reigns with the title occurred prior to the NWA assuming control of it. In fact, he won the title before the NWA was created.
4Thesz also has two reigns with the title before the formation of the NWA and the title being renamed the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

Post-wrestling career

After retiring, Thesz became a promoter, manager, color commentator, trainer and occasionally, a referee for important matches. Some famous matches he refereed include:

*Antonio Inoki vs. Tatsumi Fujinami at Tokyo Gym, 09/19/85
*Big Van Vader vs. Shinya Hashimoto in the IWGP Championship Tournament Finals at Tokyo Dome, 4/24/89,
*Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes for the NWA Heavyweight Championship, 9/17/81 [ [http://www.mikemooneyham.com/pages/viewfull.cfm?ObjectID=94E65419-53EB-4038-B3BCFBFDB94682E0 The Wrestling Gospel According to Mike Mooneyham ] ]

Thesz became the president of the Cauliflower Alley Club in 1992, an organization for retired pro wrestlers; a position he held until 2000. He became a trainer for the Union of Wrestling Force International, and lent the promotion one of his old NWA Title belts, which they recognized as their own World Title. As an announcer, Thesz was the color commentator for International World Class Championship Wrestling's weekly television show. In 1999, he opened the Thesz-Tragos Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame for professional wrestling stars with a successful amateur background at the International Wrestling Institute & Museum in Newton, Iowa, where he was an inaugural inductee. Thesz was honored by a ceremony at a WWF's "Badd Blood 1997" as being both the youngest and oldest World Heavyweight Champion at ages 21 and 50, respectively. Although Verne Gagne had actually broken this record in 1980, when he held the AWA Championship at 54.

Thesz wrote an autobiography, "Hooker", considered to be one of the best books written on the subject of professional wrestling; privately published, the book is currently out-of-print.

Thesz underwent a triple bypass surgery for an aortic valve replacement on April 9 2002, but died due to complications on April 28 2002 in Orlando, Florida. [Alvarez, Bryan: "Figure Four Weekly Newsletter #358", page 1. Cover date May 6 2002]

Further reading

*cite book| author = Dave Meltzer & John F. Molinaro| title = Top 100 Pro Wrestlers of all Time| year = 2002| publisher = Winding Stair Press| isbn = 1-55366-305-5

References

External links

* [http://www.puroresu.com/wrestlers/thesz/ Puroresu.com: Lou Thesz]
* [http://www.wrestlingmuseum.org/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=IWIAMOS&Product_Code=HLTB&Category_Code=PW1 Buy Thesz's Bio Hooker]


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