who watched Lou Thesz in the ring could see that professional wrestling
need not consist of faked brawling and crude stunts. For Thesz,
who died April 28, 2002, at the age of eighty-six, wrestling was
a craft. He learned to wrestle from George Tragos, a former member
of the Greek Olympic team, and from Ad Santell, a master of submission
holds or "hooks."
Thesz began his career in the 1930s, and his mastery of wrestling
and amazing speed soon attracted attention. Although even in that
era the results of the matches were prearranged, Thesz's genuine
abilities earned universal recognition. Most experts rate him the
best wrestler since Ed "Strangler" Lewis, his longtime
friend and manager. Thesz revered Lewis as the foremost figure in
During his long career, Thesz held a claim to the world's heavyweight
title on six occasions, ranging in time from 1937 to 1966. He was
the last person recognized by all the major competing promotions
as champion. Throughout more than forty years in the ring, Thesz
kept the same style. A straight, no-nonsense person, he refused
to adopt gimmicks and went his own way. The best account of his
life and career is his autobiography, Hooker.
politics, he was a strong opponent of the welfare state and a friend
of Barry Goldwater. He was a warm, friendly person, always ready
with a good story. I will miss him.