I have enjoyed watching some slideshows and reading some of the lists on this site, but I decided I wanted to do something a little different. Instead of paying tribute to many of the usual faces, I decided I'd like to honor some of the forgotten men of wrestling.
In other words—pay homage to people that helped pioneer the sport in one way or another. People who excelled, without always taking the spotlight. And people who worked a lifetime, often with little thanks, or acknowledgment.
Over the years, there have been thousands of people who have worked in the industry, so this list is nowhere near comprehensive. Nor are the slides in any particular order of merit.
It's merely a chance to honor a few of the legendary figures of the sport.
So, for the viewing pleasures of the Bleachers, and Bleacherettes, here is a look at a few people who could easily make it in to an alternative Hall of Fame.
Earl Caddock was born February 27, 1888 in Huron, South Dakota, and after a spell in amateur wrestling, he took up professional wrestling at age 27 in 1915.
Earl Caddock was the first man to use the title "The Man of 1,000 Holds", and was one of professional wrestling's biggest stars between 1915 and 1922.
He was also only the fourth ever man to win the original World Heavyweight Wrestling Championship when he defeated Joe Stecher in 1917.
In August of the following year, his wrestling career was temporarily put on hold for his service in the First World War, but after he was discharged in 1919, he was booked for a rematch against Stretcher, who had become World Champion again, in his absence.
On January 30, 1920, fans packed Madison Square Garden to see Stecher defeat Caddock, and newsreels still exist today, of that match, making it the oldest match that any of us can ever see.
I've included the footage below:
While some have argued that this style was simply a more traditional way of "working" (performing) than what would soon follow, many have said that Caddock-Stecher was the last great "shoot" (real) match for a world title.
Aloysius Martin "Lou" Thesz was born in 1916 in Banat, Michigan, and made his professional wrestling debut in 1932, at the age of 16.
By 1937, Thesz had become one of the biggest stars in the St. Louis area, and on December 29, he defeated Everett Marshall for the National Wrestling Association World Heavyweight Title, the first of his many World Heavyweight Championships.
By winning the title, Thesz became the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history, at the age of 21—a record which stands to this day.
Yes, you read that right—he beat Randy Orton by three clear years.
Thesz's career ended up spanning seven decades, as he wrestled from 1932 to 1990, wrestling his last match on December 26, 1990 in Hamamatsu, Japan at the age of 74, against his protegé, Masahiro Chono.
The footage of the match can be seen below:
It just goes to show, Ric Flair is a mere pup still, and could keep on going for another 13 years!
Alejandro Muñoz Moreno was born April 24, 1922 in Rinconada, Nuevo León Mexico, and is widely considered to be one of the greatest Mexican wrestlers of his time.
Without Moreno there would have been no Guerrero's or Mysterio's!
His first match was against Chema Lopez in 1948 at age 26, and he continued to compete until his retirement 40 years later.
At the peak of his popularity, Moreno appeared in a total of 25 luchador films, a scene from one, Santo y Blue Demon contra Drácula y el Hombre Lobo (1972) can be viewed below:
His adopted son, Blue Demon, Jr., was the first Mexican and the second masked wrestler to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
Shohei Baba was born in 1938, in Sanjo, Niigata, Japan, and is perhaps most well known for being the man who founded All Japan Pro Wrestling; however, he was also a three time NWA Champion.
Baba made his professional debut at age 22 in 1960, and continued wrestling until 1998, the year prior to his death, at 60 years old.
Baba was additionally the first former NWA World Champion to be defeated by Ric Flair, as Flair was becoming a top contender to the title.
So for all the fans of the Nature Boy out there, this was one of the guys who helped put him over.
A few years after his bout with Flair, he took part in a tag team contest with The Destroyer, against Bruiser Brody & King Curtis, the footage of which can be seen below:
Although Shohei Baba was billed as Giant Baba, a 6 ft 11 inch monster, his real height was only 6 feet 7 inches.
Johnny Saint was born in Manchester, England, in 1942, and was another wrestler to use the nickname of "The Man of 1,000 Holds"; however, Saint also had another gimmick, as he was known as the man of 1,000 escapes, claiming that there was no hold that he couldn't work himself out of.
Saint made his debut in 1958 at the age of 26, but didn't capture his first major title until 1976, when he won the World Lightweight title.
Although popular in his native England, and widely considered to be one of the greatest technicians of his generation, Saint was underrated in America due to his strait-laced attitude to wrestling, and never really offered an opportunity on the other side of the Atlantic.
In fact, it wasn't until last year, 2009, at the age of 67, that he made his debut in America at Chikara's King of Trios Tournament, alongside Mike Quackenbush and Jorge "Skayde" Rivera in "The Masters of a Thousand Holds" team, which face off against "Team Uppercut", which consisted of Bryan Danielson, Claudio Castagnoli, and Dave Taylor.
Video highlights of the bout can be seen below:
It's rumored that, in the run up to the match, the younger wrestlers, including Castagnoli (29), and Danielson (29), spent a great deal of time having fun at the expense of the more senior competitors Saint (67), Skayde (45), and Taylor (53), until the older guys challenged them to an old fashioned shoot match.
The match, best two of three, pin falls, or submissions, was competed behind closed doors, and the three older competitors are said to have won the bout 2-0.