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On the Road This Fall

I didn’t get out anywhere this summer because I was enjoying time with the family and finishing up JJ Maguire’s book, but I am happy to say I’ve got three road trips planned (so far) for the fall.

Here’s where you can find me, and here’s who I will be with!

 

Saturday, September 14

Kentucky Zone Wrestling in Shopville, Kentucky

KZW is JJ Maguire’s home promotion. I’ll be in Shopville with over 200 fans, signing copies of JJ’s book as well as my other books.

 

Saturday, September 28

Lucha Libro at the Indianapolis Central Library – 10 am – 3 pm

An amazing event celebrating Lucha culture featuring artwork, films, exhibits, and of course – Lucha Libre wrestling. I will have books available for sale, and I will be bringing some of the Black Panther Jim Mitchell’s artifacts to display.

 

Saturday, October 5

Heroes and Legends – Allen Co. War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana

I’m returning to Heroes and Legends with both Hurricane JJ Maguire and Mad Man Pondo this fall. We’ll have copies of both of their books available, plus other titles.

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Now Available for Pre-Order!

The time has come!

The time is now!

Hurricane JJ John Maguire and I are proud to announce the release of his autobiography, My Life in Heaven Town on September 3!

This is the true story of a boy who went from Somerset, Kentucky to the Sunset Strip en route to the greatest show on Earth, the World Wrestling Federation. It’s JJ’s personal story of his musical journey, his time with the Gentrys, his glory days writing hit WWF theme songs with Jimmy Hart, his brief TV career on Thunder in Paradise, his run with Hulk Hogan’s Wrestling Boot Band, and so much more.

It’s an epic journey with cameos by Prince, Bob Hope, Jackie Gleason, Farrah Fawcett, Gene Simmons, Henry Winkler, Blackstone the magician, Patrick McNee, Vince Neil, John Landis, and many, many more.

We are now taking pre-orders for signed copies of the book, which will ship out on September 3.

Signed books will cost $20 plus $3 shipping in the US.

(For our international customers: shipping to Canada is $16, Europe is $25.)

PayPal accepted at johncosper@yahoo.com. Feel free to email with any questions!

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Four Steps to Finding Your Ancestor’s Wrestling Past!

One of my favorite things in this job is when I get emails from people asking me to help research their relatives. So many people have heard stories about a grandpa, great-grandpa or great uncle who was supposedly wrestler, and they want to know more. I am always happy to lend a hand in these circumstances, mining my own databases as well as searching the web, but I thought I’d share my own process for researching wrestlers of the past for anyone who wants to give it a try.

Step 1: Know Who You Are Looking For

Your grandpa might have been Joe Smith to the family, but who was he in the ring? Like actors and pop stars, many wrestlers adopted ring names to allow them to separate work from home. The first thing you need to know is what name they used in the ring. The Black Panther Jim Mitchell used his real name, Jim Mitchell, in addition to his Black Panther moniker, but Lord Leslie Carlton was born Leo Whippern and had previously wrestled under the name Tug Carlson. Maybe Joe Smith was Masked Samson, or Krusher Smith, or “Jumpin’ Joe” Flash. Knowing their ring name is going to be key to telling their story.

Step 2: Find Out Where They Were

If your relative worked for any length of time, especially during the golden age, their matches should be recorded on Wrestlingdata.com. This free website is far from complete, but it’s a goldmine of information. Not only can you learn alternate ring names and other trivia, you can get a general sense of where they wrestled and when, broken down by month and year.

Prior to writing Jim Mitchell and Lord Carlton’s biographies, I went through the records on wrestlingdata.com to put together a timeline of their careers. Again, these weren’t complete, and I was able to find some inaccuracies in Jim Mitchell’s timeline. (There were a lot of Black Panthers back in the day!) But the timeline gave me an overall sense of where these men were and when.

Incidentally, I already have a similar timeline put together for Wee Willie Davis and Elvira Snodgrass.

Step 3: Search for Their Story

Once you know their ring names and have a good sense of where they were, head over to newspapers.com. This is a pay site, unfortunately, but it’s not too expensive and well worth the cost. You can subscribe to the archives of many individual newspapers, or you can get a general subscription to all the papers on the site.

Once you’re signed up and logged in, the real treasure hunt begins. Type in the name you are looking for in quotes and hit search. You may not hit pay dirt right away, but if you don’t, do not get discourages. The search may need some tweaking. You can modify your search terms, filter by date, and even filter by state.

Be sure to try all the aliases you have for your search subject. Also, if you come across a misspelling of their name, try searching by that misspelling. You’d be amazed how poorly the old newspapers were proofread, especially the sports section, and especially the wrestling results.

It may take some time, but if you stick with it, you’ll get a handle on how to search newspapers.com and figure out the idiosyncrasies of the website and its archives. More important, you’ll begin to piece together the story of that sweet grandpa of yours, whether he was a fresh faced babyface or a dastardly heel.

4. Share What You Learn

After you start finding stories and photos from the past, share them. Share with family, of course, but join some of the pro wrestling history groups on Facebook and share them in the groups. Not only will you find a delighted and eager audience for your ancestor’s story, you may find new photos, new leads, and new information that someone else already has.

The pro wrestling history community is very giving and very supportive. We’re all working together to find the pieces of this long-lost jigsaw puzzle that is wrestling’s past. I wish you story hunters luck, and if I can ever be of service, email me!

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JJ Maguire Shares His Story in My Life in Heaven Town

Some fans (not many, but a few) were disappointed that Dr. D David Schultz’s book spent so much time on his bounty hunting days and “not enough” on his wrestling days. Dr. D told the story he wanted to tell, and I think it’s only fair to let fans know that Hurricane JJ Maguire is doing the same.

JJ Maguire is truly the master of wrestling ring music. As Jimmy Hart’s go-to songwriting partner since their days in the Gentrys, JJ collaborated on 110 pieces of music for WWF, WCW, and WWE. His list of credits probably looks like your playlist of favorite wrestling themes, as he wrote the entrance music for Demolition, the Honky Tonk Man, Bret Hart, Ted DiBiase, Shawn Michaels, and (in WCW) Hulk Hogan. He was a member of Hulk’s Wrestling Boot Band, contributing music to the album “Hulk Rules,” and he’s currently the host and MC for Kentucky Zone Wrestling.

That said, JJ Maguire is far from just a wrestling guy, and his upcoming autobiography “My Life in Heaventown” is hardly just another wrestling story. JJ Maguire was a musical prodigy who turned heads at the piano at the tender age of five. He was a member of the legendary rock group The Gentrys and played with numerous other bands from Kentucky to California. He wrote music for Hulk’s TV show Thunder in Paradise and even won a recurring role on the show.

In a career spanning six decades, he’s rubbed shoulders with Prince, Rick Springfield, Tom Petty, Vince Neil, Gene Simmons, Kirstie Alley, Henry Winkler, Robert Conrad, Mark Mothersbaugh, Telly Savalas, Carol Alt, Patrick MacNee, and John Landis. He visited the shop of the legendary Hollywood car builder George Barris. He discussed Kentucky burgoo recipes with Bob Hope. He shot pool with Jackie Gleason inside the Great One’s basement. He even got a kiss from Farrah Fawcett.

Yes, JJ Maguire is the master of wrestling ring music. Yes, he is the face of Kentucky Zone Wrestling. And yes, he wrote or co-wrote a lot of your favorite wrestlers’ theme songs. But his book is more than just a wrestling story. It’s a story for music lovers, for TV and film lovers, and for anyone who has ever had a dream. “My Life in Heaventown” is a story about a Kentucky boy whose talent took him further than he ever dreamed possible!

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Stu Gibson Is Now a Hall of Famer!

Three months ago, I traveled to Las Vegas to present Dr. D David Schultz with an award from the Cauliflower Alley Club. This fall, I will be at the Hall of Fame banquet for my alma mater New Albany High School to see Stu Gibson inducted into the Hall of Fame.

I’ve told parts of Stu’s story here on Eat Sleep Wrestle and in two books, Louisville’s Greatest Show and Bluegrass Brawlers. A native of New Albany 1943 graduate of NAHS, Stu served his country during World War II before becoming a star football player at nearby University of Louisville. He was a stellar athlete and could easily have gone pro in multiple sports, but he chose professional wrestling.

Under the tutelage of Wild Bill Longson, Stu became a top heel in Louisville and San Antonio, where he settled and raised his family. He was a colorful personality outside the ring as well as in, a beloved family man who loved make others smile.

Much thanks goes to WNAS station director Brian Sullivan for championing Stu’s nomination with the selection committee. Congratulations and thanks also goes to Stu’s family, especially his baby sister Mary Lou Heinz, who shared many memories and photos with me while we campaigned for Stu’s induction.

You can click here to read my favorite Stu story. Also, press play on the video below to see Stu in action from the early 70s. You might recognize a certain French giant in the home movie as well.

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E-Book Now Available: The Original Black Panther

The wait is over e-readers!

Now you can order The Original Black Panther on Kindle and Smashwords!

The ebook version does not include all the photos and images of the paperback, but it is available at the discounted price of $6.99.

Not convinced? Read what others are saying about the book:

“The Original Black Panther: The Life and Legacy of Jim Mitchell is a story that made me proud to lace up my boots for more than twenty-three years and to do so as an African-American in this business. Jim Mitchell is my definition of a superhero.”

– Mark Henry, WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2018

“Wrestling historian John Cosper has done it again.  His newest book, The Original Black Panther: The Life and Legacy of Jim Mitchell is a fascinating journey into the history of one of wrestling’s forgotten superstars.  This book is compelling, informative, and leave you wanting more.  Major kudos to Mr. Cosper.  Another great job!”

– Tim Hornbaker, author of Death of the Territories

Order Now: Paperback | Kindle | Smashwords

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New Book Updates

For fans eagerly awaiting out future releases, here’s where future new releases stand.

Hurricane JJ Maguire has just finished compiling a stack of photos to be added to his book. The text is finished, and once photos are inserted, it’s off to the proofreader. The book cover is also in the works, and we are still shooting for an August release.

The Bomb Shelter: Curse of the Undead Bride is now in the hands of Randi West and Joseph Schwartz, who are in the midst of a very busy summer. Once they have read through and sent back comments on the story, I’ll be doing another draft to finish the book before editing begins. Shooting for fall on this one.

Tracy Smothers fans, I have great news: his book is about half way there. I am sending a preliminary draft out this week to Tracy for review. After he reads it and we make any editorial changes, we’ll be sitting down to start filling in the gaps on a truly amazing story. Looking early 2020 for this one, but it might get moved up depending how fast we get things done from here.

Wee Willie Davis remains on my radar, but for now, it’s been postponed. It’s possible I can still make a 2020 release date, but two more projects have bumped this one back at bit.

What are those two new projects, you may ask?

One is an historical biography I was approached to write. Someone who rubbed shoulders with Wee Willie Davis and The Black Panther Jim Mitchell. By a stroke of pure coincidence, he even makes a cameo in the Bomb Shelter’s upcoming novel with Davis and Mitchell.

The other is a much more modern story.

That’s all I will say for now. The modern tale is already in development, and it’s a very timely story. Hoping to dive in on the new historical bio once JJ and the Bomb Shelter books are released into the wild this fall.

Both should be announced this fall. Both will be released in 2020.

Stay tuned.

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New Albany, Indiana: Wrestling in My Hometown

Since my hometown is all over the dirt sheets this weekend, I thought it might be a good time to share a little of our professional wrestling history. New Albany, Indiana has had a long history with professional wrestling, due in no small part to its proximity to Louisville, Kentucky. In fact I almost dedicated an entire chapter of Bluegrass Brawlers to the city of New Albany’s unique wrestling story.

Promotions in New Albany

New Albany has played host to a number of independent promotions in the last couple of decades including (but not limited to) IWA Mid-South, Destination One Wrestling, XCW, and the name everyone now knows, Pro Wrestling Trainwreck. It’s worth noting, however, that so-called “outlaw” promotions are nothing new here. Back in 1941, while the Allen Athletic Club was still on the rise as THE promotion in Louisville, a group of sports lovers founded the Hoosier Fistic Club, a joint boxing and wrestling promotion intended to bring both sports to New Albany. It was an audacious endeavor spearheaded by president Seymour Hull and matchmaker Johnny Lovell. It was also short lived, as the club faced an uphill battle to draw fans away from Heywood Allen’s wrestlers and the many boxing promotions already active across the river.

Col. Stu Gibson

While wrestling in New Albany failed to take off, the Allen Club often featured Hoosier starts including a number of New Albany natives. Far and away the most famous of these was Stu Gibson, a New Albany High School graduate who was a stand out athlete in multiple sports. After serving his country during World War II, Gibson became a football star at the University of Louisville and was named a Kentucky Colonel after setting the school record for scoring. Gibson was a Golden Glove boxer but chose to pursue wrestling instead, becoming one of the most hated heels in Louisville and later San Antonio.

Lord Humongous

In the 1980s another New Albany native rose to frame as the masked Lord Humongous, a character based on the villain from the movie The Road Warrior. Like Stu Gibson before him, Jeff Van Camp played football at U of L and took a job as a security guard at Louisville Gardens after an injury ended his playing career. Jerry Lawler invited Van Camp to train with him in Memphis. Lord Humongous became a WWA Tag Team Champion with Dick the Bruiser. After relocating to Florida, he became the NWA Southeast Continental Heavyweight Champion and a three time NWA Alabama Heavyweight Championship.

Leviathan

Another monstrous wrestler “born” in New Albany is Leviathan. In the early 2000s, when WWE was sending its developmental prospects to Ohio Valley Wrestling for seasoning with Danny Davis and Rip Rogers, there were two infamous wrestling managers dominating the scene: Kenny “Starmaker” Bolin, and Synn. Versed in the dark arts, Synn made a trek down to the Ohio River in New Albany one evening and summoned forth the demon Leviathan to join her faction. Leviathan rose out of the waters ad became a member of the Disciples of Synn, wreaking havoc on countless foes at the Davis Arena in Jeffersonville.

Okay, okay, so Leviathan isn’t actually a demon, and he’s not actually a native of New Albany. Leviathan was the first persona adopted by Dave Bautista, a character he dropped before he ever appeared on WWE. That said, the video of Leviathan’s “creation” was filmed on the banks of the Ohio River, with Bautista gamely wading out into the less-than-crystal-clear waters to rise up from the deep. It was a humble beginning that led to great things for the man who has become a true movie star.

“Crybaby” Chris Alexander

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my old friend Jason Lindsey, who worked as “Crybaby” Chris Alexander during the WWE developmental days at OVW and was behind the camera the night Leviathan was “born.” Jason and I were both members of the marching band during our days at New Albany High School. We were friends then, but I honestly had no idea he was a wrestling fan until the day someone told me he was training to be a wrestler. Jason shared a locker room with all the big names who came to town including John Cena, Batista, and Mark Henry, and he wrestled them all. His biggest claim to fame is one he won’t claim for himself. During a show at St. Therese’s Gym in Louisville, Jim Cornette made all the WWE signees go out and watch Alexander make his entrance to “Dude Looks Like a Lady.” Cornette loved the way Alexander took his time getting to the ring and playing to the crowd, and he held him up as an example of how it’s done to a group of future superstars.

“Iron Man” Rob Conway

Without question, the most decorated wrestler to come out of New Albany is Rob Conway. A star basketball player in a town that LOVES its high school basketball (Romeo Langford, anyone?), Conway was part of OVW’s first class of students, the men Danny Davis trained to train all the students who came after them. He is one of the few wrestlers who came into OVW as a beginning student and earned a WWE contract. Conway won multiple heavyweight championships and tag team championships at OVW before being called up to the WWE, where he won the WWE Tag Team Championship with Sylvan Grenier three times. After leaving OVW, Conway traveled the world working the independents and won even more gold, becoming a four time NWA Tag Team Champion and two time NWA World Heavyweight Champion. He is part of an elite club of wrestlers who can say they worked both Wrestlemania and New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom show.

Time will soon tell what the fallout will be from last week’s Pro Wrestling Trainwreck show. The facts of the story are still coming out, and time will tell what repercussions, fair or unfair, this story will have on wrestling in New Albany. The bottom line is professional wrestling is in the blood of New Albany sports fans as much as it is anywhere. We are living in a boom time for professional wrestling, and the history of the sport in this town is far from over.