Anyone 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 the sport.
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.
In 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.
May 9, 2002