Lou Thesz is considered the grandfather of professional wrestling, yet he is overlooked when we think about the best of all-time. This is especially true when we think about who made the biggest impact in the sport.
Why is that so? Possibly because the only people who remember what Thesz did was your grandparents or anyone else who grew up in the '30s, '40s, '50s, or '60s.
He retired in 1979, but he continued to referee and wrestle on and off until 1990. He was easily an ironman in the world of pro wrestling.
Thesz is probably one of the more important men in wrestling's history; without him, we wouldn't have as many wrestling moves as we do today.
He is credited for inventing the powerbomb, Lou Thesz press, STF, and the German suplex, to name just a few. Thesz was trained in greco-roman wrestling, the type of wrestling you usually see in the Olympics.
Some of the best technical wrestlers of all-time have training in this field. Take Kurt Angle for instance, he was trained in greco-roman wrestling for the Olympics because that is the style of basic amateur wrestling. What's so funny about this comparison is that Angle's hero is Lou Thesz. Yet some say Angle surpasses Thesz.
Thesz had the longest World Championship reign in the history of pro wrestling, while holding one of his six World Titles in the NWA promotion. It was 10 Years, three months, and nine days. While some think Bruno Sammartino holds the longest title-run, Thesz was actually the man who had the longest reign.
Sammartino did have the longest WWE Championship reign, though.
What people forget about Thesz was that he had to be careful in the ring, more so than anyone has to do now. See, back in his day, pro wrestling was considered real. Today we know it's story-lined with a predetermined outcome.
Only the promoters and wrestlers knew about it then, though. It was considered a sport like baseball, basketball, and boxing. Thesz was never thought to be fake, in fact, he was thought to be one of the best athletes of his time.
The reigns back then were longer than they are now, Thesz may have had a longer reign than anyone. But, it was not uncommon for someone to have a year long reign at this time.
The promoters wanted their top guy to look like a realistic top guy, having a loss after a few months would make him look bad. Also, the guy that beats a champion, with a longer reign, will look good in the eyes of the public because he would take down the top dog in the promotion, and he would now be the top guy.
Thesz is considered the best wrestler of all-time, and he was also a very classy individual. He was known to be a fan favorite because he wasn't afraid to talk a big game and then back it up in the ring.
In my opinion, he was the first entertainer we had in pro wrestling. He was similar to The Rock of his time because he would frequently talk with newspapers and radio stations.
What was so puzzling about this was that many promoters at this time didn't really want their talent talking with people, they were to be watched and seen at ring side or arenas, not outside of it.
Sure, if you saw them on the street, they would talk to you, but no one would go to the public especially. The managers and promoters, not the talent, did all the talking.
When the NWA saw that people loved the wrestlers, they realized that they should promote their wrestlers a lot more, have them talk with fans, get them on the radio. It was good for the promotion.
Thesz was the top guy, so he got a lot of the exposure. He was immensely popular during this time of course, and it was not just because of his in-ring skills.
He carried any promotion he was in, but he will be remembered for his work in the NWA, which is probably considered the best American promotion of all-time. TNA and WCW came out of it, and the WWE had a lot of help from the promotion as well.
So without the NWA, some would say we wouldn't have some of the promotions we remember or see now. And Thesz was considered the best to ever pass through it...that says a lot if you ask me.
He carried the NWA and AWA Promotions, while he was there, and was the epitome of a big fish in a small pond wherever he went. He revolutionized the business, and has to be considered one of the best of all-time because of it.
The impact he had on wrestling can't be duplicated. There will never be another wrestler like Lou Thesz. He had the talent to get butts in the seats, during a time when wrestling was not considered to be the best sport to watch.
Baseball was one of the most popular sports, along with football and boxing. Wrestling was at the bottom of the list, and people had to be great at what they did. To get people to come to an arena was hard enough, to sell them out as many times as Thesz did was amazing.
Just about any time Thesz was on the card, arenas would be packed.
To me, that means he was the biggest name in wrestling at this time. He basically got people to watch, which made them stick around for guys like Hogan, Piper, Snuka, Flair, and Rhodes.
Without Thesz, these men probably wouldn't have had a chance to pave the way for others. He was the man who helped shape what we see today. He easily had the biggest impact on pro wrestling in my book.
All I can say is, thank you Lou Thesz.
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