Florida 1966 - Part 1
In the first quarter of 1966, the top wrestlers in Florida included Eddie Graham, Klondike Bill, Danny Miller, the Missouri Mauler, the Masked Medics and Hiro Matsuda.
The below chart lists the wrestlers who were regulars in Florida at some point between January 1st and March 31st, 1966. They are ranked by their SPOT (Statistical Position Over Time, a number between .000 and 1.000 representing their average spot on the cards they were booked on; a 1.000 would mean they were always in the main event)
Babyfaces are highlighted in blue, heels in orange. The spacing between wrestlers is meant to approximate the differences in their SPOT.
Comings and Goings
Newcomers (or returnees) to the territory in this time period:
Bob Orton - Bob came here from Mid-Atlantic in late February. He had been here quite a bit dating back to 1963, and even had a two-month stint here back in 1950 when he was a rookie. He had been a heel here in his previous run, which ended in July of 1965 although he made sporadic appearances through the rest of the year, including a two week stint at the end of the year, but was positioned as a babyface on his return. Went to high school with actor Ed Asner, who years later would star in the 1974 movie The Wrestler alongside Verne Gagne and Billy Robinson.
Buddy Fuller - Buddy took on a regular schedule here at the beginning of the year after having spent December 1965 in Georgia and Tri-State. After mid-March he would take on more of a part-time schedule. He would also appear occasionally in Georgia. At various times owned part of this territory and Georgia, and also ran Gulf Coast. A member of the famous Welch wrestling clan, it has been said that one night he filled in for a wrestler named Buddy Fuller and simply used that name on that evening and going forward.
Cyclone Soto - Soto came here in February from Central States, where he had been wrestling as Don Soto. This was his second stint in Florida, the first one having been in 1964. Newspaper ads in Florida listed him either as Cyclone Soto or Jose (or Joe) Soto; some online sources credit some of these bookings to another wrestler who wrestled as Joe Soto, but that person was in Tennessee during this time period wrestling as Tomayo Soto.
Danny Miller - This was Danny's second stint in the territory, coming in from the WWWF for a week at the end of December then returning full-time early in January. Went to Amarillo at the beginning of April. Dan would return here in 1969.
Hiro Matsuda - Matsuda, a regular here for most of the previous 4 years, came back in mid-February from Tennessee. He left at the beginning of April for Tri-State, but would come back later in the year. In 1964, Matsuda became the first Japanese wrestler to hold an NWA World championship, winning the Junior Heavyweight title from Danny Hodge.
The Infernos - In January 1966, Frankie Cain and Rocky Smith were wrestling in Tennessee. Also there was a referee named J.C. Dykes The three went to Florida in early February with Cain & Smith under masks as the Infernos and Dykes as their manager. In an article prior to one of their early appearances, the team was billed as "European tag team champions". They stayed here for a month and a half before going to Georgia, but they would return later in the year.
Jack Pesek - Pesek came here in March for his first and only stint in the territory. He had been wrestling in the AWA at the end of 1965 and made sporadic appearances for All-Star in Nebraska for a couple of months before coming here. He went to Georgia in April. He was the son of John Pesek, a legendary shooter and "policeman" in the early part of the 20th century.
Jesse James - James came here at the beginning of the year from Mid-Atlantic. He had 2 previous stints here, one as Jesse James in 1954 and in 1963 as one-half of tag team the Crusaders (with Len Rossi). James had a 40-year run in wrestling, starting in the mid-30s in Houston.
Jim Starr - Best known as one-half of the tag team the Interns (with two different partners over the years, Tom Andrews and Billy Garrett), Starr came here as a rookie in January after wrestling in the Pacific Northwest. He stayed for a few weeks, at which point his whereabouts are unknown until May when he was in Maple Leaf Wrestling. He would return to Florida in 1968 with Billy Garrett as the Masked Medics (Garrett was also one of the Masked Medics that were here at this point in time, which I discuss a little further down this page).
Jose Lothario - Jose, also billed as El Gran Lothario, came here for his first stint in Florida in January from Amarillo. He pretty much stayed for the next three years, though had brief stints in Southern California, Northern California and Amarillo during that time. A newspaper article hyping up his first match in West Palm Beach claimed he had a "string of over 50 consecutive victories" prior to coming to Florida.
The Masked Medics - These Medics were Dick Dunn & Billy Garrett. As noted above, Garrett & Jim Starr would use the gimmick here in 1969. This version came here in late January. Dunn had been wrestling as Dick Dunn in Gulf Coast (where he was feuding with ANOTHER team called the Medics; confused yet?). Garrett's whereabouts immediately prior to starting here are unknown, though he was wrestling in Tri-State as Willie Garrett as late as August 1965. This was the first time in the Florida territory for either Dunn or Garrett.
Mike Paidousis - Paidousis had several stints here dating back to 1951. He had been wrestling in Georgia at the end of 1965, and after a quick two-week stint in Mid-Atlantic, he came here in late January. He would leave in April, at which point his whereabouts are unknown until working at least one shot in Georgia and then returning here in July
Omar Atlas - Omar came here in late February from Mid-Atlantic for his first run in the territory. Atlas, real name Omar Mijares, won a silver medal in wrestling at the Pan-American Games in 1958.
Sputnik Monroe - After a run in Tri-State ended in December, Sputnik made brief trips to Amarillo and Georgia before coming here in mid-January for his first stint in the territory. There is a story that goes like this: when he debuted in Mobile, AL in 1957, he pulled up to the TV studio with a black hitchhiker that he had picked up along the way. Seeing that the crowd gathered outside the studio was not pleased seeing a white and black man together, Monroe grabbed the guy and kissed him on the cheek. A woman in the crowd said "you're a damn Sputnik", which was an insult that tied in to American fear during the Cold War triggered by the Russians launching the satellite Sputnik 1 into space. And the name stuck for the most part after that, though he would still go by Rocky Monroe in some territories.
Tarzan Tyler - This was Tyler's second run in Florida, coming in February from the WWWF. Born in Montreal, Tyler spent most of the first few years of his career wrestling in Canada. Originally using the names Tarzan Bolo and Tarzan Tourville, he first used the name Tarzan Tyler in the fall of 1961.
Tom Bradley - Tom had a few runs here dating back to 1955. This run started at the end of December; prior to that he was in Tri-State. He was a regular for the first few months of the year, then was booked on a part-time basis until going to Tri-State in July.
George Harris - George "Two Ton" Harris had been making appearances here dating back to 1949, using the names Baby Blimp and Bunk Harris in addition to George Harris. He came here in late January from Mid-Atlantic. He stayed a couple of months, and then went to Tri-State in April.
Wrestlers who left the territory in this time period:
Jerry London - London left in March and went to Mexico. This was his last stint in Florida. While wrestling in Northern California, he took his own life in August 1970.
Red Roberts - Roberts left in early February and went to Mid-Atlantic. This was his last stint in Florida.
Roger Kirby - Kirby went to Mid-Atlantic in mid-February. He wouldn't return here until 1975.
Ronnie Etchison - Etchison left in late January and went to the WWWF. This was his first and only stint in Florida.
As mentioned above, J.C. Dykes managed the Infernos.
Nationally known stars passing through the territory during the time period: Gene Kiniski came in for two separate week-long stints after winning the NWA World Heavyweight title from Lou Thesz in early January.
Other wrestlers with bookings during the time period include Billy Parks, Chief Crazy Horse, Frank Martinez, George Grant, Jack Daniels, John Heath, Mustafa Bey, Rube Wright, and Tiger Conway and Calvin (Prince) Pullins, who wrestled each other every night they were here. The Orlando newspaper wrote that Conway and Pullins were the first African-American wrestlers to ever wrestle in the city.
Women wrestlers with more than one booking during the time period were Bonita White Dove, Diana Lynn, Jessica Rogers, Judy Grable, Linda Carroll, Mae Goodner, Marge Ramsey, Peggy Allen, Penny Brooks and Princess Chi Chi.
Midget wrestlers Frenchy Lamont and Lord Littlebrook came in for a week in January.
Women midget wrestlers Darling Dagmar and Diamond Lil came in for two weeks in mid-February.
As mentioned above, the Infernos debuted as a masked tag team here. Their first known booking with the gimmick was on February 9th in Sarasota. The main event for that card was Danny Miller vs Sputnik Monroe, with Monroe being billed as the "world's loudest-mouthed wrestler".