The wrestling cards usually were held in theaters, Bullfighting squares, and Soccer stadiums, but later matches were held in stadiums like "Salon Iris" and "Gran Price" in Barcelona and "Campo del Gas" and "Fronton de Recoletos" in Madrid.
Well, let's continue the Spanish wrestling history, decade by decade. The late '40s were the greatest moment of lucha, and we were visited by great wrestlers like the French Henry Coogan, Letertrois, Felix Clody, Freymond, Joe Baratte, Marcel Manuel, Andre Drapp (later wrestled in USA), Lino Ventura (later film star), Robert Ruaux and Gilbert LeDuc (many times Mid-HW and Light HW champ in both European and World versions) ; from Portugal Joe Luis and Kid Zamboa ; from Belgium Van Dyk, Saenen, Jo Soulon and Bert Auwera (former Belgium HW champ) ; from USA Cher Johnsonm Mike "American Tiger" Brendel and Don Carver ; from UK Lew Britton, Cab Cashford, Vic Hesselen and Jack Dale (former European champ, but I don't know in which weight) ; Peltonin from Estonia ; Brossatti from Italy ; and the Hungarian Karl Pirok (former European champion) and Stan Karolyi. Karolyi was the best foreign wrestler of this decade. He had a very skillful technical style and finished his matches with a variant of the actual Scorpion Death Lock.
The Spanish wrestlers were Joaquin Saludes "The Catalonian Tiger", Julio Soria "Captain Marvels", the very technical Juan Salesa, Pablo Bernaus, Fermos, Bonada, Moncho and Rubio and Ignacio Ara (former boxing champion in Spain), but the best wrestlers of this breed, were Jose Tarres, Felix Lamban aka Lamban I and Victorio Ochoa by far.
Tarres, which real name was Jose Roses Ibañez (in Spain, as well as in Mexico, we have TWO surnames) was nicknamed "Iron Head" because some said that his head was reconstructed with several iron plaques after an accident. He wasn't very technical, but very strong and he landed terrific headbutts. One time he broke a big table of marble with only a headbutt (!), and it wasn't an angle or a fake, because he did it in his free time. He won the European HW championship in Barcelona the 28th of August of 1948 against UK's Jack Dale. He was a very popular wrestler and the card in which he successful defended the title against the French Freymond drew a crowd of 22,000.
Victorio Ochoa, the Navarrese lion, was born on 1919. His father, Javier Ochoa was a great amateur wrestler, and was one of the wrestlers that introduced wrestler to Mexico. Victorio was a very technical wrestler and won the World and European HW titles, but in the prime of his career, he was killed in a familiar quarrel.
And last but not least, Felix Lamban, also known as Lamban I and "El Estrangulador" (Strangler) because he made submit his opponents with a variant of the headlock that received the name of "la corbata" (the tie). He was many times Spanish, European and World champion in the Light HW and HW divisions and had a good international reputation, specially on Paris, France. He also wrestled in the US, but returned to Spain and retired in the mid '60s.
In the first years of the '50s, wrestling continued its good moment. In the first five years we were visited by foreign wrestlers with the quality of Maurice Tillet, the French Angel ("El Angel" in Spain) that had a huge success in the US. Angel's paid was so big that he only wrestled a few bouts in Barcelona. Other good French wrestlers were Jean Bout, L'Henaff, Jourlain, Andre Gasnier, Rene Ben Chemoul (former World Light champ, he was nicknamed Hawk because of his 3rd rope planchas), Claude Montourcy, Pierre Boss, Michael Chaisne, Jules Delmee (good technician and former Mid-HW European champ), Rene Bukovac (also MID-HW Euro champ) and his brother Ray Bukovac, Roger "The French Ace" Guettier (former Light HW European champ), Claude Guilloton, Felix Miquet, Jacques Ducrez (LHW European champ), Roberts Gastel and Robert "Mr. Europe" Duranton ; British wrestlers Mike Marino, Lombardo, John Mornhy, Tony Mann, Gerry De Jagger and Al Hayes (later WWF color-commentator) ; US wrestlers Bolo Hakawa (from Hawaii), Suni War Cloud, Pat Curry and former World HW champion Frank Sexton; Belgian wrestlers Van DerVeken, Joss Husberg and "Strangler" Dr. Grailet ; Finnish wrestler Eric Husberg "The Nordic Marvel" ; Bob Nilson from Canada ; Juanito Olaguibel from Argentina also known as "The man of the cloak" because he wore one in his way to the ring ; the Swiss Lucien Fleurot ; Brazilian wrestler Black Green "The ebony giant" ; Leon Mansini from Italy ; Krigor Koperanian from Armenia ; David from Israel ; Paul Lincoln from Australia ; Negro Badu from Cuba ; Eddy Wiecz (later known as Ed Carpentier) from Poland ; Charro Montes from Mexico, Iska Khan from the Orient and Black Kwango "the black marvel" from Parts Unknown.
In the Spanish national roster there were good wrestlers like Zuazua (who wrestled many years in Venezuela), Artola, Flaviano, Urteaga, J. Ochando aka "El Legionario" (legionnaire), Hoyos, Julian Pizarro, Aranda, Campo, Celso Sotelo (former European champ), Echevarria (former Spanish MW champ), Ricardo Moyan (aka King Ricardo, he was very popular in Angola), Boccio, Juan Bengoechea aka Bengoechea II, German, Emilio Lamban aka Lamban II, Brunet (many times European MW and mid-MW champ), Navarro, Manuel Rillos "The Adonis" (former European MW champ), Moza, Felix Uzcudun, Buch, Victor Castilla (who wrestled many years as Quasimodo and the Hunchback) and the top-four Spanish wrestlers of the decade, Jim Oliver, Jesus Chausson, Eduardo Castillo and Pedro Bengoechea aka Bengoechea I.
Jim Oliver was a former amateur boxer. He boxed in 1948's Olympic Games and a few pro boxing matches with bad luck, but he turned pro wrestler after a promoter and former wrestler named Salvador convinced him. In only a year he was European Mid-HW champion, he beat "Iron Man" Jose Tarres the 30th of May, 1951 inBarcelona to become the champion. He was a wrestler with a very bad temperament, and one time in 1952 he had an altercation with a referee causing six broken teeth to the poor ref. He was banned from wrestling in Spain for a year, but he wrestled in the whole Europe, mainly in London and Paris. In 1964 he retired.
Jesus Chausson, son of a French and a Spanish, alternated his wrestling career with his dentist profession, like Mexican wrestler Villano IV. He was many years European Mid-Heavyweight champion, and was a master inthe execution of a submission hold called "el patinete". This hold is known as "la tapatia" in Mexico, "Romero Special" in Japan and "Bow and Arrow" in the US.
Eduardo Castillo was very technician and brave, and he was World Light Heavyweight champion during a brief time. He didn't wrestle many matches abroad, he was almost all of his career wrestling in Spain.
And for last, Pedro Bengoechea, nicknamed "Leg of Steel" because of his immense leg strength, weighted 100 kg (about 220 pounds) but often he won 140 kg (about 311 pounds) mastodons. He was European Light HW champ during many time, until he retired in the early 70's.
The next 5 years of the '50s (1955-59) was the start of the decadence of "catch" in Spain. People lost interest, but promoters introduced new kinds of matches like the "torneo relámpago" (flash tourney) that were 4 men tourneys like AJPW's Championship Carnival (all wrestlers wrestle all wrestlers in singles matches), but the difference is that the flash tourneys were held in one night, so the final matches were bad matches. The promoters also introduced the "catch a cuatro" (tag team matches) and masked wrestlers that helped to the survival of wrestling in my country.
In this period of time the foreign wrestlers that wrestled here were the French Andre Bollet, Max Deghom, former European MW champion Roger Laroche, Lucien Straub, Roger de la Porte (later promoter) and Pierre Boye ; the Germans Karl Von Chenok, Rudy Satursky, Alex Dieter nicknamed "the Lord of the Ring" and the very violent Dr. Adolf Kaiser ; UK's Black Apollo, Julien Morris (formerly European Lightweight champ) and Tony Vallon ; Italian stars Conde Daidone, Gasparini, Wally Catanzaro, Liano Pellacani "The Italian Cyclone" and Primo Carnera, a former World Heavyweight Boxing champion that turned wrestler in 1952 and was World HW champ in Wrestling (he won its European version in 1957), and was nicknamed "The Kindly Giant". Other foreign wrestlers were Kin Max and Kid Rocha from Portugal, King Kong from the Lebanon, Nikolai Zigulinoff aka "the Bulgarian sheepherd", Ivan Ivanovitch from the old URSS, Bob Martin from Belgium, Tupac Amaru aka "Magnetic Fingers" and Indio Mapuche aka "Electric Fingers" both from South America (both wrestlers had a very unusual ability, they were experts on the human body and knew the locations of the nerves of their opponents, so with their bare hands, they pressed the nervous zones of their opponents and made them feel a sort of electric charge), North European wrestler Ivars Martisson who was European HW champ, Gran Amenaza (Great Menace) from the US, Captain Whitos and Black Shadow. Black Shadow was a very violent wrestler, that many believe that was the 1st masked wrestler to compete in Spain. The promoters said that he was from Mexico and that he wrestled in the MSG, but I'm well informed that he isn't the original Black Shadow from Mexico. Anyway, he made a immediate impact because of his mysterious personality.
The new faces in the Spanish scene were Tony Oliver (Jim's brother, very good wrestler too, he was European Light HW champ), Cebrian, Lacoma, Henry Plata, Caretecha I (Spanish and World Lightweight champion), Antonio Morlans, Peral, Gabriel Laguna (former European Mid-HW champ), Guillen, Llacer, Guti, Font II, Viñeira, Joe Garcia Arroyo (that debuted in South America and then came to Spain), Vicente Febrer (A very violent wrestler, he was very violent in real life too. My father knew him and joking, Febrer put a hammerlock to my father and almost broke his arm. He was also very known because he had a lion as a pet. He was European HW champion.), Abelli (that wrestled in South America under a mask and other name, but I don't know which), Valero I, Benny (that also wrestled as the Kamikaze #2, later I'll talk more about the Kamikazes saga), Aguilar, Rafael Blasco (former European Light HW champ), Gustavo (he wrestled in the US), Antonio Montoro nicknamed "the master of masters" because of his great wrestling knowledge and Modesto Aledo, that later wrested as the Kamikaze.
The top Spanish wrestlers of the era were Hercules Cortes, Oscar Verdu and Rafvela.
Cortes (real name Jose Alfonso Cortes Chicarro), was the World HW champion in 1964. After winning that title promoters from the whole Europe, Asia, Australia, Canada and the USA wanted him to wrestle for them. As a youngster he practiced athleticism, he was specially good throwing the javelin (he ranked second in Spain). He became pro wrestler in the mid '50s, as Pepe Cortes. He had an impressing intestinal fortitude and weighed about 310 pounds of pure muscle. He wasn't a technical wrestler, but a terrific brawler, and in the US scored impressive victories over legends "Killer" Kowalski and "Crippler" Ray Stevens. After these victories he signed with the AWA when he became tag team champion with the legendary Red Bastien, but destiny cut Hercules' path to glory, and he was killed in a fatal car accident.
Oscar Verdu (Ricardo Ferrara) nicknamed "The Spanish Hercules", like Cortes, was a great brawler and wrestled in the rings of the US. He had big success in the US independent scene, but he wasn't so lucky in the WWWF rings, when he wrestled as Crusher Verdu "The Spaniard" and was managed by Lou Albano.
And last, Rafvela, who was born in 1925 in Arcilla, located in the Spanish part of Morocco. He was known as "The Arcilla Strangler" and "Misantropos". Started his career in France as an amateur boxer. As a boxer held the French Welterweight championship, but later became a Greco-Roman wrestler before becoming a professional wrestler. He wrestled in America, Africa and Asia before arriving to Spain in the mid 50's. He won many of his matches after applying "la corbata" (the tie).
The first years of the '60s were a really good ones, because "catch" in Spain had like a rebirth with the introduction of the "catch a cuatro" or tag team matches and the masked wrestlers, but later people started to lose interest, and the wrestling circuits of all the cities (except Barcelona and Madrid and other important cities like Zaragoza, Valencia or Bilbao) disappeared and in those small cities wrestling cards were only held in summer. But was in the late 60's when wrestling began to "die".
In the 1st 5 years of the '60s the following wrestlers showed in the Spanish rings: from Britain, John Foley, Chic Purvey, Michael Gale, Ian Campbell, ClayThompson, Billy Robinson (years later became a tag team champ in the AWA), Lord B. Tophan, Bob Anthony, Vick Faulkner, Jackie "Mr. TV" Pallo, Tony Cassio, Lindey Caulder, Peter Berg, Dave Larsen, Society Boy, Leonarras and Paul Luty ; from Germany Hans Schnabel, Karl Von Kramer and Achin Chall ; US wrestlers like Memo Diaz, Jack Lassartesse, Vega-Dingo (a Cherokee Indian), King Black, Ken Ackles "El Vaquero" (The Cowboy) and Sky-Hi Lee ; many wrestlers from Peru like Boby Olson, Inca Peruano, Inca Wiracocha, Kid Lotario, Pantera Negra (Black Panther), El Zingaro and Conde Maximiliano ; Colombian wrestlers Bill Patiño, Angel Grey, Rudo Martin and Lucho Melo ; Mexican stars Charro Ventura, El Bulldog, Tomas Riand and El Estudiante (the Student) ; French wrestlers Gilbert Cesca, Marcel Goulier and the first regular tag team that wrestled in Spain "Les Blouson Noirs" (Claude Gessat and Marcel Manneveau) ; Japanese wrestlers like scientific mat masters Akio Yoshihara, Teizo Okada and Sikichi Yokouichi and the super heavyweight Kiyomigawa ; the Portuguese brothers Jack and Carlos Rocha ; El Greco (The Greek) and Vassilios Mantopoulos (former mid-Middleweight European champ) both from Greece ; Italian wrestlers Bruno Asquini and the Guiusto brothers, and other wrestlers from Parts Unknown like Black Man, Genghis Khan and Professor Jenkings.
The masked wrestlers that appeared in Spain were the next. L'Ange Blanc (White Angel in French) was a very technician wrestler, that never broke the rules. He lost his mask in a mask vs. mask match, and then wrestled without it and changing his name to El Angel Blanco (the same but in Spanish). He was said that he wrestled with a mask because he was son of a very important French diplomatic, but the truth is that he was a wrestler from Madrid named Angelo Pinos.
Kamikaze, without doubt, has been the greatest gimmick in the Spanish Catch history. He came to the ring completely dressed in black. He was a lightweight, but he faced wrestlers of all the weights. He had an unusual agility, and when his opponent wanted to throw him over the top rope, he did a flip in the air to reach the ropes and return to the ring. He wrestled with a very violent and unorthodox style, mixing cheating, martial arts, mat wrestling and an incredible aerial ability. Because his style he was nicknamed "the suicide wrestler" and "the black demon". He lost his mask the 6th of July, 1965 against Conde Maximiliano, but he quit his mask very fast and covered his face with a towel, so anybody could see his face. His identity was a secret, but I knew his identity thanks to a friend of the promoter, he was Modesto Aledo, a very respected veteran that decided to put on a mask to increase his pay.
When Kamikaze retired he was succeed by Kamikaze #2 (Benny), from 1965 to 1970. K#2 also lost his mask, this time against Fred Turner, but he did the same that K#1 did and no one could see his face. These two were the main wrestlers that played the role of Kamikaze, but it's known to me that other wrestlers like Valero I and Guy Robin also wrestled as the Kamikaze.
The other masked wrestlers were Sumaraj "El diablo rojo" (Red Demon) and Sumac "La sombra negra del Perú" or "El Terror Peruano" (Peru's Black Shadow or the Peruvian Terror). Sumac lost his mask to Billy Robinson the 1st of August of 1961, later wrestling unmasked as Tamayo. In this five years, Spain hadn't a superstar like Cortes, Verdu or others, but we had wrestlers like Lucon (former Spanish Mid-Middleweight Champ), Mathias (the Spanish version of Goldust), Marques (former European Mid-HW champ), Arnau, Benny Galan (that wrestled many years in Mexico), Carlos Moll aka "El Apolo Sevillano", Galarza (former Spanish Light HW champ), Estevez-Landro, Manuel Polman, Milo Millan, "El Gato" Tony Martin, Willy Roy, Tino Cubota, Valero II (brother of Valero I), Pons, La Barba, Fermen and the best wrestler of the generation, Nino Pizarro aka Pizarro II.
Like I said before, from 1965 to 1970 were the years in which people lost the interest to "catch". Many and many top class foreign wrestlers worked in Spain, but that wrestlers couldn't stop the end of out sport in my country, so in the early '70s wrestling in Spain disappeared.
In those years the foreign wrestlers that visited us were: (from Britain) Peter Malistere, Barry Bassil, Roy and Tony St. Clair, Alf Cadman, Tony Ordford, Steve Clemens, Brian Hunter, Mick MacMichel, Danny Lynch (former World HW title holder), Reg Trood, Larry Coulson, The Hell Angels (I and II, were Adrian Street and Bobby Barnes), Kevin Coneely, Karl Arons, Terry Rudge and Terry Jowert ; from the US, Vikingo de Oro (Golden Viking), Cowboy Thompson, midget stars Billy The Kid, Cowboy Bradley, Joe Russell and the legendary Sky Low Low, and also Harold Sakata better known as "Tosh Togo" (a Hawaiian that had a huge success in Japan and that is known for co-starring in James Bond's "Goldfinger" as a bodyguard) ; from Argentina, Tito Kopa (Kopa also wrestled in the US and Mexico), heavyweights El Caruso and El Romano, the very violent Oscar Lago, and Nino Mercury ; French wrestlers Remy ayle, Pierre Roger, Johnny El Corso and Jean Coorn (World MW champ) ; Austrian wrestlers Karl Wenzel, Erik Kolschaik and Joseph Katich ; Freddy Robert from Belgium ; Inca Casqui, Inca Soberano and Halcon Peruano (Peruvian Hawk) from Peru ; Mexican luchadores Roberto Negrete, Rick Medrano, Buddy Montes (Charro Montes' brother) and El Azteca ; Joe Fica and Mr. Chile, both from Chile ; Joe Panther (a half of the tag team "Los Beatles Americanos" along with Celso Sotelo) and Robert Brown ; other South American wrestlers like Ruben Dario, Luc Barreto (later a pop music singer), Hernan Solano, Tomas Trujillo and Rudy Lara ; Khan-Fu and Abdul Khan from the Orient ; Taras Bulba from Mongolia ; Amet Chong from China ; Mustapha Sikhane from Turkey ; Joseph El-Arz from the Lebanon ; Gran Jacobo from Israel ; Scomparyn from Italy ; Canadian superstar Frank Valois ; Czech wrestler Joseph Kovacs (former Olympic Champion) ; former European Light HW champ and very scientific wrestler Fernando Descamps (from Portugal) ; Hans Streiger from Germany ; Laszlo Arpad from Hungary ; Prince Kumali from Nigeria ; M'Boaba from Parts Unknown ; Mark Anthony from Australia ; Klaus Kauroff from Russia (he was a regular headliner for Otto Wanz's CWA in the 80's) ; and Dorrell Dixon from Jamaica, but Mexican nationalized, who wrestled many years in the US and had a big feud with "Tough" Tony Borne.
Many masked wrestlers wrestled in the rings from Spain, like the Halcones Dorados I and II (Golden Hawks), The Red Demon (that was a Spanish wrestler called Milo Millan), Torbellino Blanco (White Whirlwind, the man under the mask was the Spaniard Mariano Yugueros. He wrestled many years in the South West of the US), El Condor that was rumored to be from South America, Los Dragones Chinos I and II (Chinese Dragons) and the legendary Santo "El enmascarado de plata". Santo (Rodolfo Guzman) toured Spain after the great success that had his films in the Spanish cinemas, but he deceived many people when he lost to Jose Tarres with only two "iron" headbutts.
In this period of time, we hadn't got any Spanish superstar, but good wrestlers like Luis Alime, Lobo de Galicia (Wolf of Galicia), Guanche Canario "El Noqueador" (The Kayoer [sp?]), Joe Rodri (former Mid-HW European champ), Fred Turner, Salvador Vento (Spanish and European MW champ), Tudela, El Latino (The Latin), Joe Adell (the Spanish version of John Tenta) and the best of them all, Luc Bejar, then a promising star that years later became European champ in his weight.
But, what happened in the '70s? In the 70's wrestling disappeared in all the Spanish cities, but it remained for 4 or 5 years more in Madrid and Barcelona. In fact, wrestling lost its interest in all Europe except Austria, Germany and the UK.
The new faces of the '70s were Pep Peyron, Rayo Blanco (White Lightning), Fer-Penin, Brumont, Antonio Asensio, El Samurai (not Osamu Matsuda), Charro Tapia, Quique Villa, Tarzan Vasco and King Caracuel. In 1977-78 a French promoter called Pierre Neale tried to revive "catch" in Spain with mixed matches and new and unknown wrestlers like Mario Bastiani, Roky Jo and ladies like Danny Pigal, Anne De Montis, Blanche Brown and Jennifer Mick, but it was a total flop. Also a German promoter named Dietmar Dickreuter joined his wrestlers (George Burgens, Johnny Kinkaid, K. Kauroff, "Lord of the Rings" Steve Taylor, Steve Young, Danny Lynch and Roland Bock [Bock was the World HW champion, and he beat Inoki in Japan in 1977 or 1978]) with the Spanish wrestlers of the 70's (Adell, Caracuel, El Bulldog, Bejar, Millan and Villa), but that tour was also a flop.
In the '80s there was no wrestling, but in 1990, a brand-new TV channel aired matches of the WWF and the GLOW (ladies) and wrestling had his rebirth in Spain. The WWF made a huge impact, and other brand-new channel aired matches of the UWF (Herb Abrams UWF not Mid-South) while other channel broadcasted the NWA. We even had a wrestling magazine in our own language.
In 1991 and 1993 we were visited by the WWF crew, and both cards had a huge attendance (17000 and 15000 screaming fans). A indie promotion called WWS (World Wrestling Superstars) visited many Spanish cities with his crew of Mike Lane, Tony Atlas, Kamala, Nikolai Volkoff, Cheetah Kid (Ted Petty aka Rocco Rock of PE), Iron Mike Sharpe Jr., midgets, females and others.
The old Spanish wrestlers returned to the rings, and a promotion called LIE (Luchadores Independientes de Europa ; European Independent Wrestlers) ran cards with new wrestlers like Rolo Aguirre (from Brazil), the Killer Brothers (from UK), Hercules Bermudo, Rocky Nelson, San Millan, Dani Ostenero, Indio Amazonico and veterans like Joe Adell, Antonio Asensio, Dragon Chino I and Julio Sotelo.
Wrestling programs quit all in 1993 and 1994 and the Spanish wrestling mag folded in 1993, so the fans lost interest of wrestling.
Without a wrestling program there can't be wrestling fans, and the few cards that were ran in Spain in 1995 (15th of December) and 1996 (17th of July) with new wrestlers like Furia Azul (Blue Fury), Kid Man, Los Fachas and a few others, were a total flop. Almost nobody attended this cards due to bad promoting. A friend of me said to me that in the first card the promoter couldn't pay the wrestlers and they wrestled for free. This is sad but true.
And well, that's been the history on Spanish wrestling. Hope that you liked it... and who knows, maybe someday wrestling in Spain will return to its golden days.
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