The Black Panther Auctions: What’s Left?

I’ve had a few messages since the latest edition of The Jim Cornette Experience was released asking what Black Panther memorabilia still remains to be sold. There’s not much left. Actually, there’s a LOT left, but not that many lots to sell and not much that’s wrestling related.

Here’s a run down of what’s on eBay – and the one big lot that isn’t.

A copy of H.L. Mencken’s “A Book of Burlesques”

A program from a Lou Costello Foundation boxing show

A calendar by  artist Earl MacPherson

Three pieces of monogrammed luggage: small, medium, and large

An art poster depicting the fight between Mitchell’s friend Joe Louis and Max Baer

A pair of autographed photos by African American musicians

One lot of possessions remains other than these, intact, in Toledo, Ohio: Mitchell’s pipe collection. Mitchell was an avid pipe smoker and collected pipes from around the world. Some he bought. Some were fights from friends or fans. He had hundreds, maybe thousands of them.

There are three large wooden display boards holding a number of these pipes, and three large rubbermaid tubs containing hundreds more. Photos are below.

We do not have a set asking price on this lot, but we hope we can keep it all together, the way Mitchell kept it. Looking for the right buyer, a wrestling fan/ pipe lover who wants to help preserve an amazing part of this man’s history.

Email me at johncosper@yahoo.com for information on any of these items.

NXT: The Best of Both Worlds

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here. I’ve been on vacation, and I’ve been working hard to get Mad Man Pondo’s book ready for release. (We’re almost there, I promise.) Out of the blue yesterday, I found myself at NXT in Louisville, Kentucky. Long story short: I remembered why I fell in love with NXT originally, and I found an even deeper appreciation for the “other, other” WWE brand.

I won’t review the show, but here are some thoughts on an unexpected trip to NXT.

The War Raiders look like a tag team from a bygone era, both their look and the way they hit. I miss them in New Japan, but it looks to me like they’re doing just fine.

EC3 walks and talks like a face that could run the place. Only a matter of time before he’s one of the guys on the signage over the toy shelves.

Fabian Aichner has real potential as a heel. Great match against EC3.

Aliyah is a heat magnet she knows how to enrage a crowd, and she revels in it. I loved watching her introduce herself, only to get “Who are you?” chants in return.

Kairy Sane has to be seen live to be fully appreciated. She is electric. Even when she was at ringside watching her tag team partner Candice LeRae, she was always on. She also gave the crowd a laugh when she joined in on the “Who are you?” bit with Aliyah.

My happily married buddy Kevin Cordell says Adam Cole is his “boyfriend,” and having seen him live, I can see why he’s so infatuated. Adam Cole may be the most entertaining wrestler I’ve ever seen live. His psychology with the crowd, his charisma, and his sense of humor make for a killer combination. He played with the crowd the entire match, and they played back. He’s supposed to be the bad guy, but how do you hate a man who is that good?

Speaking of good, Raul Mendoza is a show stopper. I’m pretty sure most of the fans had no clue who he was when he made his entrance, but they won’t forget him. Props to Cole for making him shine.

The NXT tag division is outstanding, and so much better than the Red and Blue brands. After the opener between War Raiders and TM61, we were treated to O’Reilly and Strong vs. Lorcan and Burch. Both matches were terrific.

Kassius Ohno is still in my mind the most under appreciated man in wrestling. He does not have bad matches. And the Louisville crowd was solidly behind the man they will forever know as Chris Hero. Terrific match with Velveteen Dream.

It was a bit disappointing not to see Ricochet in action, but the Kentucky native received a very warm welcome when he made an appearance to hype his confrontation with Dream at Saturday’s Takeover show.

Nikki Cross is nuts, and her fans wouldn’t want her any other way. While sitting in a corner, she heard a fan shout, “Hey Nikki!” Nikki turned and gave the crowd her crazy eyed grin. “Kick her butt!” said the fan. Nikki nodded in wild-eyed agreement. No words needed to be said. She’s a non stop whirlwind of insanity, and I love it.

Shayna Baszler had more heel heat than anyone else on the show. All night long, the fans split on the other heels, especially Adam Cole and Velveteen Dream. There was no split with Baszler. She has pure heel heat. She’s going to do well in WWE.

Lars Sullivan is a classic monster in the French Angel mold. He’s also a terrific athlete. He had a war with Aleister Black in the main event that ended in a DQ win for Black, setting up their Takeover main event Saturday.

Major props to all the stars who signed the poster for the guy celebrating one year cancer free. After the first match, it looked like word had spread backstage, and everyone made a point to sign the poster.

Huge props as well to Aleister Black for his post match interaction with the fans. This was my first time seeing Black in person, and after collecting his title belt, he rolled out of the ring and started making his way around ringside.  He went around twice, posing for selfies with every single fan who wanted one. A true class act.

The NXT show took place at Broadbent Arena, a smaller venue than the YUM! Center Smackdown took over two months ago. The crowd was much smaller for NXT, but that actually made for a better show. The wrestlers engaged the fans more, and the fans were much more into the action here than at Smackdown. I didn’t hear a dozen disinterested conversations around me because the NXT crowd came to see wrestling. They are the Network subscribers, but they’re also the die hards who know guys like Adam Cole and Chris Hero and Candice LeRae from the independent scene. It’s a shame the crowds aren’t bigger for NXT, but then again, it would be a shame to ruin the wonderful thing NXT has going.

NXT has the top level talent and production of the WWE paired with the heart and spirit of the indies. It is the best of both worlds. 

A very big thank you to Kassius Ohno for inviting me to the show last minute. He was one of our very first interviews for Mad Man Pondo’s book before his return to NXT. After all these years of near misses, it was great to finally sit down and talk with him. Thank you again for your hospitality. See you down the road! 

Wrestling Lives at SICW

I had never head of East Carondelet, Illinois until a few months ago. When Dr. D David Schultz texted me and told me we were headed there for a wrestling show, I incorrectly entered it on my iPhone schedule as East Carbondale. My bad!

East Carondelet is a small town just east of the Mississippi from Saint Louis. It’s a very rural, with no sign of big city life to be found, and the Community Center where we attended the wrestling show was way out in the middle of farm land. As remote as it felt to a city boy like me, the 300+ fans who packed into the building had no trouble finding the place Saturday night. They know where East Carondelet is, and they know how to find the community center. They know, because promoter Herb Simmons still knows how to produce an old fashioned RASSLIN’ show.

Southern Illinois Championship Wrestling held one of their biggest shows of the year this past weekend marking the 59th anniversary of Wrestling at the Chase in St Louis along with the annual Bruiser Brody Memorial Battle Royal. Doctor D and I were invited as special guests alongside Bruiser’s widow Barbara Goodish, who could not have been more delightful or gracious. A handful of VIP guests arrived early to meet Doctor D and Barbara along with the other wrestlers who came early to sign autographs. OVW original Flash Flanigan was one of them, and he took a moment to come over and meet one of his biggest heroes during the meet and greet.

“You were one of the guys who really scared me as a kid,” Flash told Doctor D as the two shook hands.

Shortly before 6 PM, Herb’s crew went into action, clearing away most of the merch tables and setting up as many chairs as the room would allow. It was not enough. Fans packed into the room like sardines, shoulder to shoulder in the aisle ways and every nook and cranny of the building. You don’t draw a crowd like that unless you’re doing something right.

Herb runs the show out front, but the man behind the curtain who assists with booking is none other than Larry Matysik, the long time voice of St. Louis wrestling and co-author (with Barbara Goodish) of Bruiser Brody’s biography. Although he has been in poor physical health for some time, Larry’s mind is as sharp as ever. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of wrestling in the St. Louis area, and he still has a great passion for the business.

As for the show itself, SICW delivered some great action from the beginning to end with babyfaces who are loved and heels who were truly hated. Curtis Wylde, who won the battle royal and then leapt out of the ring when he nearly came to blows with Doctor D, was a stand out on the heel side while local 18-year old Savannah Stone lived up to her hype as a fan favorite. Stone has already caught the eye of the WWE and made an appearance on NXT. Herb Simmons believes it’s only a matter of time before she becomes a major star, and seeing her in action, I believe it will happen.

The night ended with two steel cage matches, capped off by a title vs. career match between Marc Houston and Flash Flanigan. Having watched Flash terrorize fans and babyfaces in Louisville and Southern Indiana for so long, it was odd but refreshing to see Flash as a fan favorite. Flanigan won the title in a bloody match that sent the fans home happy.

It’s very clear how Herb Simmons has kept SICW going for so long. He has a great mind for the business and knows how to give the fans a great show. Doctor D, a man who does not give trust and praise easily, also had high marks for Herb as a promoter. “No lies, straight shooter. A great guy.”

Speaking for myself, Herb is an incredibly generous host, and his crew was incredibly hospitable. They even treated us to Imo’s “St Louis style” pizza, a pizza that features a one-of-a-kind cheese only found in St Louis. The cheese was very good, but for me personally, the cheese was upstaged by the incredible flavor of the pepperoni, the full strips of bacon on the pizza, and the fried ravioli that came on the side. Great stuff.

SICW runs monthly in East Carondelet, Illinois. Their next show is Father’s Day weekend on June 16, and their July 21st show will feature none other than Kevin Sullivan as a special guest. You can follow Herb Simmons and SICW on Facebook for more information.

The Secret of Their Success

There are few independent tag teams on the same level as the Carnies. Over the last few years Nick Iggy and Kerry Awful have evolved from the boy and his dog gimmick to the dark and devilish act that has fans everywhere taking notice. Iggy is a master on the microphone, a born heat magnet who frightens children and infuriates their parents, and the pair can brawl with anyone from the Hooligans to the Bomb Shelter to the Baka Gaijin.

One needs only to see what happened after their match Friday night at Pro Wrestling Freedom to understand why the Carnies have not only become one of the best duos in. As soon as the match after theirs began, Iggy snuck out of the locker room, around the arena to the gimmick tables, and took a seat beside Brutal Bob Evans. Bob is the “Obi Wan Kenobi” of indy wrestlers, and while the show continued, Iggy sat for ten minutes and listened as Bob broke down their match.

The Carnies are the Carnies because they never stop improving. As talented as they are, it’s their humility and desire to keep on learning that fuels their continued ascension. They are a link in a chain that goes back decades, learning from Brutal Bob as he learned from those who came before him. What’s more, the Carnies are already mentoring guys younger than themselves, offering rides and wisdom to guys who are willing to show up and make the drives.

You are never too “good” to learn from others. Whatever field you are in, whatever your dream, seek out those who are more experienced, and learn everything you can from them. Then pass on what you have learned to those who come after you. That’s how everyone gets better. That’s how everyone succeeds.

Reunited: Bill Apter Interviews Dr. D David Schultz

It’s been a couple of decades since Bill Apter last interviewed Dr. D David Schultz. Last Thursday the two were reunited on Apter’s live video podcast. You can watch the replay below.

Dr. D will be back on Thursday night May 18 at 7 pm eastern time for part two with Bill Apter.

Autographed copies of Dr. D’s book are still available as well. $30 with free shipping in the US. Email johncosper@yahoo.com to order.

Indy Wrestling Show “Lacking” Compared to WWE

It had been a while since I attended a WWE show. At least a year. In that time I’ve attended a number of independent shows around town, extolling their virtues and hailing them as a better alternative to the corporate machine that is World Wrestling Entertainment. After attending Friday night’s Pro Wrestling Freedom show at the Jeffersonville Arena just a few weeks after seeing Smackdown Live, I can’t believe how blind I was. The WWE offers so much that independent wrestling shows just can’t deliver, there’s simply no comparison.

First of all most independents don’t offer you the chance to pay for admission by credit card. Pro Wrestling Freedom is one of many cash only promotions in town. If you want to get in, you have to go to the bank and get $15 cash from the machine for a general admission seat. It was so much easier and more convenient to go online and use my credit card to pay the $35 (plus $30 Ticketmaster fees) to get my upper arena seat for WWE.

Second, the independent show does not have a large staff of arena workers to sell $35 T-shirts and posters pre-signed by a select WWE Superstar. Do you know what they have instead? Actual wrestlers working the tables, selling their own woefully underpriced $20 T-shirts, along with wristbands, mugs, posters, photos, and even (in the case of The Bomb Shelter) energy drinks. Wrestlers like Tyler Matrix and Brutal Bob Evans were also signing autographs in person and even taking photos with their fans, all because the Arena and/or the promoter was too cheap to hire event staff.

That’s another thing you won’t find at an independent show. There’s no separation between “us” and “them.” At WWE Smackdown, the wrestlers (other than The Miz) hardly acknowledged anyone in the audience, and those who did only made eye contact with the front row. They did their business for the cameras and went back up the ramp, not to be seen again.

At Pro Wrestling Freedom it was pure pandemonium at times. Not only were wrestlers yelling at fans and fans at wrestlers, the action spilled out into the fans on several occasions. A stern announcer would occasionally get on the microphone and warn fans, “If the action is coming your way, grab your stuff and move!” sending fans scrambling around the Arena in search of safety.

This brings me to another thing missing from Pro Wrestling Freedom. There were no fans on their phones. There was no online chatter about the matches. More telling, there was no second guessing of promoter Jimmy Feltcher’s booking choices, wondering why this guy gets pushed over that guy and lamenting how much better things used to be. Instead of being good smart marks, who viewed everything they saw with a eye of a theater critic, they actually engaged with the wrestlers and the show as if it were a legitimate sporting competition.

Honestly, didn’t anyone in attendance Friday night know that everything that happened was pre-planned in the back? Did any of them realize that this was not real? It was just… entertainment?

All kidding aside, Pro Wrestling Freedom was entertainment. I can say the same for IWA Mid-South, for OVW, for Grindhouse, for Paradigm Pro Wrestling, and all the independent promotions in the Louisville area and beyond. Yes, these shows are “lacking” in the ways mentioned above, and to be honest, they are better for it.

Wrestling is alive and well. The more indy shows I attend, the more I appreciate the hard work of the men and women keeping it alive. It’s much more fun to go to a show where you’ll never hear a “Roman sucks” chant and where the wrestlers play to the crowd and not the viewers at home. And oh yes, it is a LOT cheaper to buy a ticket and support a wrestler directly by buying a shirt, a wristband, or even in my case, a mug. (Thank you for the stickers too, Nick Iggy!)

Pro Wrestling Freedom lacked nothing that the fans at the Arena were missing save one thing. Air conditioning. Let’s hope 2 Tuff Tony wasn’t working the crowd when he promised the “guy” is coming Monday.

Warning: Thomas Brewington Can’t Be Trusted

Thomas Brewington is a hero to many outside the wrestling ring. As a spokesperson for Dropkick Depression, he has been open and honest about his personal struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts. His honesty and candor have helped those who struggle with depression see they are not alone, and his efforts have helped others to better understand what life is like for people who battle depression on a daily basis.

Thomas Brewington is a real hero – outside the ring. Inside the ring, he’s a real jerk, and he’s one of the wrestlers reinventing kayfabe.

Kayfabe, as it once existed, is indeed gone, but it is far from dead. It is evolving into something new. As previously discussed on this blog, Mr. Darius Carter is inventing it in his own way by refusing to give shoot interviews or sell T-shirts. And as much as Sami Callihan stunned the world when he smashed Eddie Edwards in the eye with a baseball bat, he stunned fans and colleagues even more when he refused to apologize for it, owning it on the best episode of Talk Is Jericho I’ve heard all year.

Which brings me to Brewington. A fan who attended a show not too long ago shared this note on Facebook:

To which Brewington gleefully replied:

“It was me.”

As word spread and fans and friends began to voice their reactions on Facebook, Brewington took things even further, posting countless spoilers on his personal page revealing the endings to everything from “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” to Wrestlemania III to “John Tucker Must Die.” He also left fans with this warning:

Kayfabe is not dead. It’s evolving, and even in 2018, a great heel can make even the smartest of marks hate their freaking guts.

Black Panther Items Up For Sale

The second round of Black Panther memorabilia has been split up into lots, and all lots and individual items have been posted on my Facebook page. These items are all headed for eBay, if not sold directly, and all reasonable offers are being accepted.

This is a rare change to get ahold of letters, personal documents including marriage certificates and tax returns, and other unique memorabilia.

Click here to go to Eat Sleep Wrestle on Facebook and see what’s available.

More Black Panther Jim Mitchell Memorabilia Available

A few weeks ago, I made my second trek to Toledo to pick up more memorabilia from the Black Panther Jim Mitchell. This time around I brought back his matching set of three suitcases, chock full of programs, letters, photos, and other mementos from his life in wrestling and afterward.

As before, the owner wants to sell this memorabilia. I’ve started posting photos on my Facebook page, where fans and collectors are welcome to make offers and buy items outright. Anything not sold there will go on my eBay store.

See some photos below to whet your appetite, then head to Facebook or eBay for more.

Whatever Happened to Huperfulagas? Louisville’s Wild Kingdom

In December of 1908 a Louisville promoter announced a special attraction to take place on January 1, 1909. A man from Africa named Huperfulagas, who claimed to be a descendant of Zulu royalty, announced his intentions to wrestle a live bull bare-handed. The Louisville Courier-Journal covered the lead up to the match closely, following along as Huperfulagas assisted the promoters in picking his opponent from the Bourbon Stockyards on New Year’s Day. Huperfulagas expressed no fear entering the match, proclaiming he would not be in the slightest danger, while the bull, he vowed, would not suffer more than “temporary discomfort.”

Huperfulagas squared off against the bull the night of January 1, 1909, wearing traditional native Zulu face paint and attire “somewhat modified to meet the local ordinances.” The results of this match did not appear in the January 2, 1909, edition of The Courier-Journal, but 50 years later, after a flashback story appeared in the paper, a former Louisville police officer named H. D. Browning wrote into the paper to share the results.
Browning was on duty the night of the match, and when the bull was led into the Coliseum at Fourth and A Streets, he appeared to be half-starved and not at all interested in the proceedings. The so-called Zulu prince spent 30 minutes twisting the hungry beast by the horns, trying to bring the creature down, but when Huperfulagas began bleeding from the nose, police stepped in and stopped the match.

“We led Huper to a chair and he nearly collapsed,” said Browning. “The bull seemed more hungry than wild. If it had been wild, Huper would not have lasted three seconds.”

While the bull wrestling match is certainly unique in Louisville’s wrestling history, it was far from the only man vs. nature battle to take place. Here’s a run down of some of the most memorable beasts to work the town during Louisville’s golden age of wrestling.

August 10, 1937. “Hillbilly” Lem Stecklin defeated Maurice La Chapelle in an outdoor show at the Swiss Park Arena. Stecklin was a hit with the fans because his brought his pet raccoon Oscar to the ring with him.

April 19, 1938. Whitey Govro took on an unnamed 450 pound bear during the Allen Athletic Club’s weekly show at the Columbia Gym. It was the first bear wrestling match hosted by the promotion and drew 1504 people. Govro took the victory that night.

October 11, 1938. Oscar the raccoon made his second Louisville appearance at the Columbia Gym, where his pal “Hillbilly” Lem Stecklin defeated Dick Griffin.

June 30, 1942. Ginger the Wrestling Bear made her first Louisville appearance working against two men: Buddy Atkinson and Floyd Bird. There were many different Gingers over the years. This particular Ginger was a 305-pound Canadian Black Bear trained by Roy Welch, who later partnered with Nick Gulas to promote Memphis wrestling. After Ginger successfully defeated Bird, but the Atkinson match was a no finish. Atkinson mostly ran from the bear the whole time.

January 21, 1947. In one of the final shows ever hosted by Allen Club founder Heywood Allen, a Florida man named Gil Woodworth astonished the Louisville fans by wrestling a live alligator. The seven-foot “orgy of terror” thrilled and frightened the crowd of 7300 fans but was no match for Woodworth, who also claimed to have been a stand-in for Johnny Weissmuller in the Tarzan films. Later that same evening, fans saw Woodworth marry Miss Perma Crook of Ripley, Tennessee in the ring, with women’s rapper June Byers standing in as her maid of honor.

January 6, 1948. Tuffy Truesdale claimed victory over a 500 pound alligator. Truesdale (whose name was also spelled Truesdell) was an alligator wrestling specialist and later trained one of the most famous wrestling bears, the Coca-Cola loving Victor.

January 26, 1950. Ginger defeated Moody Palmer at the Columbia Gym when he fell 25 seconds short of lasting five minutes with the 370 pound black bear.

May 6, 1950. Ginger defeated Pete Peterson and Floyd Bird in a two-on-one handicap match. Peterson and Bird worked as a tag team against Ginger and lasted 11 minutes and 15 seconds before Ginger pinned Peterson.

May 1, 1951. Tuffy Truesdale returned for an encore performance and topped his previous victory by defeating an 800 pound alligator.

July 10, 1951. Farmer Jones made his debut in Louisville defeating Flash Clifford. Jones had a pet pig who accompanied him, and both Jones and the pig became regular guests of the Allen Club over the next four years.

July 28, 1953. Farmer Jones and his pet pig faced off against Leo “The Lion” Newman. Newman had an animal mascot of his own, a 210-pound lion cub, who regularly accompanied him to the ring. Sadly for Louisville fans, promoter Francis McDonogh would not permit Newman to bring the lion with him.

May 18, 1954. Ada Ash became the first woman to take part in an inter-species bout in Louisville when she defeated a 6-foot long 200 pound alligator.

October 26, 1954. On this fateful evening, fans were promised a match between Fearless Lawless and a 400 pound grizzly bear, but the match never took place. Slated to go on last, the bear was to follow the tag match pitting Cyclone Anaya and Guy Brunetti against Stu Gibson and “Mystery Man.” When the crooked heel Gibson and his masked partner stole a victory by unsavory means, Anaya and Brunetti staged a sit down strike to protest. Fans stomped their feet in solidarity, creating such a commotion that the grizzly bear refused to climb the steps from the lower level to the gymnasium. Said the Courier-Journal story on October 27, “The belligerent bear, at last report, was at the bottom of the basement steps, resisting the efforts of a half-dozen handlers to get him to his truck.”