The Jim Cornette Experience

If you’re a fan of wrestling history, be sure to catch today’s episode of the Jim Cornette Experience. I’m on the show today talking about a few of my favorite things: The Allen Athletic Club, Elvira Snodgrass, and The Black Panther Jim Mitchell.

If you’ve already listened to today’s show, you can follow the links below to read more about the books and stories I’ve been working on.

The Black Panther Jim Mitchell

Elvira Snodgrass Part 1 and Part 2

Bluegrass Brawlers: The Story of Professional Wrestling in Louisville

Louisville’s Greatest Show: The Story of the Allen Athletic Club

Herb Welch’s How to Become a Champion

“Dr. D” David Schultz (autobiography coming soon!)

Why Jericho is the Best in the World

The best thing about Chris Jericho is you never know when he’s working you.

Jericho worked everyone the last few weeks in his Twitter war with Kenny Omega. Yes, we all suspected something was up, but no one knew what – not until he showed up on the big screen at Power Struggle this weekend.

In an era where fans think they know everything, Jericho is the one guy who can still pull off a shocker. He will never tip his hand if he thinks he can sneak up on you. He loves a surprise. If you’ve ever told anyone that you “called it” when he returned in the #2 spot at the Royal Rumble a few years ago, you are a liar.

Even now, questions surround his unexpected move to Japan. Did Vince know? One report says the WWE found out when the rest of us did early Sunday morning. His video package featured music from his band Fozzy, not his WWE theme. His contracts with WWE are month to month, and he has ROH on his cruise next October.

Sounds like he’s gone independent. Only Jericho knows, and he’s not telling.

That’s what makes him the Best in the World.

If you’re one of the many coming aboard the New Japan bandwagon because of Y2J, welcome. If you thought Balor vs Styles was awesome (and it was!) wait until you see what NJPW has to offer.

Don’t Call Him Fake!

“Dr. D” David Schultz is a folk hero to professional wrestlers. He is the man who slapped John Stossel on 20/20 for suggesting professional wrestling is fake. At a time when the walls of kayfabe were beginning to leak, he was the man with the nerve to do what had to be done. He was as real as it gets.

Most fans don’t remember that was a top star before his all-too-brief WWE run. He was the top heel in the AWA for a year, waging bloody battles against Hulk Hogan for Vern Gagne. Before that he was a tag team champion and singles champion in Florida and Memphis. He was a top level star in Japan. He is remembered fondly in Alberta, Canada, where he feuded with a very young, pre-Hitman Bret Hart in Stampede Wrestling.

When his WWE days were over, he continued to wreak havoc in the ring, taking on the most dangerous men in the business. He proved his toughness in violent clashes against Ric Flair, Abdullah the Butcher, the Iron Shiek, Johnny Rodz, and Bruiser Brody.

Still, wrestling isn’t even half the story. Dr. D’s proudest accomplishment is becoming one of the most successful bounty hunters in America’s history. For more than two decades, the biggest heel in the wrestling business worked babyface, chasing down crooks, con-men, kidnappers, child molesters, drug dealers, and murderers. From the mean streets of Los Angeles, to the dark alleys of Puerto Rico, to the worst neighborhoods in New York, to the ancient city of Cairo, Dr. D was the guy who always got his man – or woman.

Don’t Call Me Fake: The Real Story of “Dr. D” David Schultz will not be a tell-all or an expose. It’s the autobiography of a man who has lived an extraordinary life. You’ll get the story of his wrestling career, from his early education with the legendary Herb Welch through his final days in the ring, but you’ll also get the incredible story of a man who would stop at nothing to bring a crook to justice.

You can call Dr. D many things, but after you read this story, the last thing you’ll call him is fake. This is the real story of Dr. D, and it’s coming very soon.

Letters to the Black Panther

If you heard the Jim Cornette Experience released on Thursday, November 2, you heard him make mention of two letters he picked up from me: one from Morris Siegel and one from Sam Muchnick. Both letters are posted below for those who want to take a peek.

Mitchell was on the tail end of his amazing career. He was ready to step away but hoping to help launch the career of his protege Ricky Waldo. Waldo never took off like he hoped, most likely due to the fact that everyone wanted to book someone else in his place: Bobo Brazil.

There are still a few letters like this available, along with wrestling boots, licenses from across the US and Canada, and a number of photos and programs, mostly from the West Coast. The pipe collection is also for sale. If you’re interested in any of these items, please email me!

90 Days and Counting (Again)

Start the clock again. More talented wrestlers may be returning to the indies.

We’re already counting down for Neville. Now you can add Emma to the list.

Emma is a classic example of how some things never change. The WWE seems to sabotage at least as many talented wrestlers as they set up for success. For every John Cena, who came in with a rocket strapped to his back, there’s a Nick Dinsmore/U-Gene, or a “Stuttering” Matt Morgan, or a Spirit Squad.

Emma was set up to fail from day one, which is a shame because she can go. She’s a Lance Storm student, and she’s just as talented as the WWE’s Four Horsewomen. Her release is a blessing in disguise for her career, and now she has the chance to write her own ticket. Who wouldn’t want to see her lock up with Tessa Blanchard, Santana Garrett, Rachel Ellering, or LuFisto? When her 90 day non-compete ends, don’t be surprised to see her show up in Shimmer, or Queens of Combat, or – dare I  say it? – Girl Fight. (Mad Man Pondo, take note!)

I don’t know as much about Darren Young, but I think he’s got a fair shot to find success outside the WWE as well. There’s certainly more opportunity now than there has been in years, and if he chooses to follow Cody Rhodes and Neville, he can go far.

I’m not sure we’ll see Summer Rae in the indies. I think it’s more likely she’ll pursue more film and TV, but I hate to see her go without ever truly getting a chance on the main roster. If you go back and watch her work in NXT, she could hold her own against any of the top women now in the company. Too bad the sabotaged her as well, putting her in the shrieking, helpless blonde at ringside role at ringside. As much as WWE wants us to believe they’ve turned the page on women in wrestling, Summer Rae is an example that some things never change.

Time will tell if this is the last of the house cleaning. Time will also tell if any of the “future endeavored” will be add to the current indy revival. If the drive is in them, Emma, Darren Young, and Summer Rae will find more opportunity to pursue future endeavors than their predecessors.

Elvira Snodgrass: The Toughest “Girl” Wrestler of Them All

Mildred Burke was tough. She was a legitimate shooter trained by Billy Wolfe who could take on men as well as women. She held the women’s world championship for more than twenty years. She went two out of three falls most nights in the semi-main event or main most nights, and in the eyes of many fans, including me, she never lost it.

Mae Young was undeniably tough. She wrestled many of those main events against Mildred Burke and afterwards, went down to the bar to smoke cigars, drink beer, and pick fights with the men. She took bumps well into her eighties that made everyone cringe, and she never backed down from anyone.

Mildred was tough. Mae was tough. I’m here to tell you, Elvira Snodgrass was tougher than either of them.

Elvira has been a fascination of mine for a few years now. It started with the now debunked story that she and Mildred Burke once drew over 15,000 fans in Louisville, Kentucky for a main event, and grew from there. She’s the forgotten woman in the story of the golden age of female grapplers, largely due to her early exit and untimely death. The only clue as to what happened to her came from a scrapbook kept by Wild Bill Zim. Zim noted next to a photo of the two of them that she had lost an arm and died around 1957.

Now the truth can be told.

Just a few months ago, I received an email from Elvira’s nephew Aubrey Fuller, who read a previous story I posted about Elvira. He was able to fill in some amazing gaps in Elvira’s story – starting with the very beginning.

Elvira’s birth name was Gutherine Fuller and she was from Varnado, Louisiana. Her mother was a half-blooded Cherokee, and Elvira was proud of the fact she had “Indian blood” in her veins. Her first marriage was at an early age when she married Johnny Smith. Her only child was named Mae Bell Smith.  She is listed on the 1930 US Census as living in the house of her father, John Willie Fuller of Varnado. She would make annual trips to Louisiana to visit with her mother.

Elvira was married three times, Johnny Smith, Bob Snodgrass, and lastly Paul Hazelbaker. Aubrey’s father said Bob Snodgrass, who wrestled under the name Elmer Snodgrass, was the strongest person he ever met. “My dad was a very strong man whom no one would pick a fight with, but he said Elmer Snodgrass was the strongest person he had ever seen.  Dad said he could pick up a bale of cotton on his back and walk off with it.  MY dad was not prone to tell lies, so I always believed him.”

According to the 1930 US Census, Guthrine and her first husband Johnny were living with Guthrine’s parents with their daughter in 1930, along with all her younger siblings, including Aubrey’s father. By 1940 she had moved out, but daughter Mae Bell was still living with her grandparents. It’s believed she moved to Columbus, Ohio, where Billy Wolfe’s core group of lady wrestlers were based.

“Life was tough in rural Louisiana in the early part of the 1900s,” says Aubrey Fuller. “In 1940, my dad reported approximately 450 dollars for a full year of work.  Aunt Gutherine didn’t like the hardships of the area and moved to greener pastures.”

After she gained fame as a wrestler, Elvira would make trips back to Bogalusa, Louisiana to see her family.  She would let everyone know in advance when she would be home so that all of the nieces and nephews could be together when she came for her visit. “When she arrived, she would enter the building, throws handfuls of pennies, nickels, and dimes on the floor and holler ‘Razoo!’  She loved to see the children scrambling for the money.”

“When Aunt Gutherine visited Bogalusa, my mother would bake her a 4-5 pound fish called a buffalo. They are members of the carp family. They are not very tasty and smelled even worse as it was cooking in the oven.  I never understood why she liked that fish.”

Much has been said in latter years of the division between the lady wrestlers working for Wolfe, especially between Burke and the rest of the group. The story has been largely put forward by Mae Young and the Fabulous Moolah, both of whom had their issues with Burke and Wolfe. Fuller recalls getting a much different impression from his aunt during these brief visits home.

“At one time, we had pictures of Aunt Gutherine eating dinner with Mildred Burke and other lady wrestlers of the era. She told us that most of the ladies got along well.”

Elvira was a fiercely independent woman who usually traveled alone on the long car rides from one show to the next. “When she traveled alone around the country in her car, match or no match, she would place a man’s hat upon the rear window sill of the car. The theory was that other men seeing the hat would think a man was sleeping on the back seat and not bother or attempt to molest her.  I think this was mostly done after she lost her arm in the accident.”

Yes, just as Wild Bill Zim recorded in his scrapbook, Elvira lost an arm in a single car crash near Florence, Kentucky. It’s the story of how she lost the arm that makes her arguably the toughest woman ever to lace up a pair of boots.

Elvira rolled her car into an embankment, just out of sight from the road. Her arm was badly mangled and pinned, and she was unable to get her arm free. She waited a long time for help to come, but when help never arrived, she did what she had to do. She cut the arm off just above the elbow herself. Once free of the vehicle, she crawled back up to the road and sought medical help.

Update: It should be noted that story in Daily Times from June 26, 1952, the lists Elvira’s injuries as a compound fracture of the left arm and a scalp laceration. I have two sources that claim Elvira did indeed lose the arm, but I can’t verify for certain how or when that might have been lost. Given the nature of her chosen profession, it’s possible there might have been some kayfabe involved in the newspaper story to keep her injury a secret at the time. I will be digging deeper on this story to find out what really happened.

Incredible as the story was, family lore has it that Elvira kept wrestling for a time with one arm. I have yet to confirm this story as well, but I will be going back into the newspapers.com archives in the future to find out.

One other rumor I had come across said that Elvira had died of a suicide. That story didn’t sit right after hearing how she had survived the car crash, and I can confirm the rumor is false. Elvira died at an early age from the same cause that Aubrey’s father and a few of his uncles: cardiac arrest. She died in Columbus, Ohio, and was buried in Glen Rest Memorial Estate on East Main Street in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.

No doubt there is more to this incredible woman’s story to be told, and I’ll be sure to pass it on as I learn more. If nothing else, these new stories about Elvira’s toughness prove she deserves to take her place along side Mildred Burke and Mae Young as one of the strongest women ever to grace the squared circle.

You can read more of Elvira’s story in the book Louisville’s Greatest Show: The Story of the Allen Athletic Club.

Photo of Elvira and Wild Bill Zim courtesy of Mike Zim.

Can a Virus Change History?

Sometimes, seemingly insignificant events can change history. That’s true for the world at large as well as the world of professional wrestling. If you want a great example, click here read about another seemingly insignificant event that changed wrestling history.

Right now, a virus has completely changed the card for Sunday’s pay-per-view. An illness that everyone has had from time to time has led to changes that upset some fans and energized others.

What will happen if the ratings for Sunday’s show spike because Kurt Angle is there and not Roman Reigns?

What will happen if A.J. Styles and Finn Balor tear the house down?

And on a side note… can we all agree Sister Abigail has had the worst luck since the Shockmaster when it comes to making a debut? Two days before the world finally got to meet her, she comes down with an illness.

Fans who want change, this is an opportunity to do what I’ve been telling you to do: vote with your remote. Vote with your dollars. Tune in. Tweet it out. I can’t promise they’ll listen, especially where it counts, but you know they are watching, and you know they will hear you.

The Lost Pipe Collection of the Black Panther

In 2003 a man named Dave Marciniak was eating out with his girlfriend when he heard a woman mention a home for sale in an historic district in Toledo. Marciniak had been flipping houses for a few decades, and on a whim, he gave the home a look. He paid $11,000 for the house after only seeing the outside, and he went to work.

As fate would have it, the house turned out to be the residence of long-lost wrestling legend, “The Black Panther” Jim Mitchell. Mitchell had passed away in the 90s, and his widow had only recently passed, leaving the home vacant. Marciniak was not a wrestling fan, but he knew the personal items he found might be worth something. He began saving everything he could, including wrestling boots, letters, licenses, personal photos, souvenirs, programs, suitcases… and the Black Panther’s legendary pipe collection.

Mitchell was an avid tobacco enthusiast, and he collected smoking pipes everywhere he went – from the US to Canada to Japan to Australia to Europe. His fans and friends sent him pipes as well, and in 1962, his collection was appraised at $25,000.

Marciniak has put the collection up for sale to the right bidder. Some photos are posted below. If you’re interested, please contact me (John Cosper) at this website, and I’ll put you in touch!

This is a remarkable collection rife with history. Our hope is to preserve the entire collection and send it some place where it can be treasured and enjoyed by others.

Lou Thesz vs. Gorgeous George

The Champ vs. the Human Orchid… it happened in Louisville. Thesz and George met on November 27, 1954 at the Jefferson County Armory (now the Louisville Gardens).

Thesz and George split the first two falls, but George refused to come out for the third fall while a “physician” examined George’s injuries. The unidentified medic said he believed George could go on, but George was reluctant. He finally decided to go to the ring, but as he was making his way to the ring, referee (and LPD homicide detective) Ellis Joseph was already raising Thesz’s hand, declaring him the winner.

Earlier in the evening, “The Mask”  defeated New Albany native Stu Gibson via DQ, Sonny Meyers drew with Johnny Valentine, and Billy Blassie defeated Sgt. Buck Moore. 4200 attendance.

Below is the Saturday newspaper ad for the big event, plus a page from a notebook kept by then-teenage fan Jim Oetkins, recording the results from the night.

Dr. D Breaks Up Mean Gene

If you heard the Steve Austin Unleashed Podcast last week, you heard Austin and Kenny Bolin discussing a promo where “Dr. D” David Schultz got Mean Gene to break up and laugh on camera. Here’s the video clip if you’d like to have a look:

Dr. D has been written out of a lot of wrestling history over the last 20 years, despite his runs in Stampede, Memphis, Florida, Japan, and the AWA as well as WWF. We’re going to set the record straight. Dr. D’s autobiography, “Don’t Call me Fake,” is on track for release this coming winter.