Florida 1966 - Part 4
In the fourth quarter of 1966, the top wrestlers in Florida included Jose Lothario, Sam Steamboat, Les Welch, the Infernos, Don McClarity and Rocket Monroe.
The below chart lists the wrestlers who were regulars in Florida at some point between October 1st and December 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.
Mario Galento turned babyface during the quarter. Depending on the town, the turn began in late November, and by mid-December he was working as a babyface in every town.
Comings and Goings
Newcomers (or returnees) to the territory in this time period:
Bob Hamby - This was Hamby's first stint in Florida, coming in December from East Texas along with his wife, wrestler Carmen Monge. In June of 1972, he was sentenced to 30 days in jail in Logan County, WV for assault and battery on a Chief Deputy Sheriff stemming from an incident during a wrestling show in Man, WV.
Chief Crazy Horse - The Chief came here at the end of November for his third stint as a regular, with previous stays in 1963 and 1965. While he spent the last few years of his career primarily using this name, he wrestled as Chief Suni War Cloud from his debut in 1947 through the early 60s.
Corsica Jean - Jean came here at the end of October from Mid-Atlantic. He had wrestled here in the mid-50s as Frenchy Roy, and his first time here as Corsica Jean was when he and Corsica Joe came into Florida together in late 1964. After retiring in the early 1970s, he settled in Florida and eventually opened a bar in Tampa with his wife named Corsica Jean and Juanita's Palace.
Crusher Karlsson - Also known as Swede Karlsson, Karl Karlsson and Krusher Karlsson, Swede came here in mid-November from East Texas. He had been here previously in 1957-1958 and early 1964. Born in Sweden, Karlsson was a big guy but not a huge guy; however, his two most frequent oppoents were huge guys (Luke Brown and Man Mountain Mike).
Dennis Hall - Hall came here in late October from Georgia. Aside from a couple of bookings in November 1956, this was his first stint in the territory. He stayed until mid-December. After that he wrestled at least once more in Georgia in 1966, and then his name doesn't show up anywhere until March of 1967. He would make sporadic appearances here the next few years, but wouldn't be a regular in Florida again until 1972. Teamed frequently with Ken Lucas and with Roger Kirby & Les Thatcher as part of a "Cousins" stable.
Don Serrano - This was Don's first stint in Florida, coming in December after spending a couple of months wrestling in Montreal and the WWWF. Wrestled and defeated Hulk Hogan in Hulk's first-ever match as a pro (Hulk wrestled under a mask as the Super Destroyer).
Greg Peterson - Peterson came here in early November from Georgia for his second stint in the territory. Greg had been childhood friends with Billy Wicks. A few years after Wicks turned pro he helped Greg break in to the profession. Greg experienced his biggest career success in Gulf Coast, holding tag team titles with Lee Fields and a run as the Gulf Coast Heavyweight champion in 1968.
Johnny Heidman - Heidman came here in late October from Georgia. He had been here previously in 1962 and 1964. He stayed just shy of a month, and then after taking a month and a half off he went to Mid-Atlantic at the end of the year. He returned for about a week in 1967, which were his last known appearances in Florida. His last name was actually spelled Heidemann, which is usually how he was advertised, but the papers in Florida here generally spelled it Heidman. He was recruited into professional wrestling by Rudy, Emil and Ernie Dusek.
Mario Galento - Galento came here in late October from Georgia for his first stint in the territory. While in Georgia, he had been feuding with the Infernos. This might have played into the storyline here of his starting as a heel but quickly turning babyface and feuding with the Infernos. His real name was Bonnie Boyette, and it is said that one of his favorite songs was "A Boy Named Sue" by Johnny Cash. I guess he could sympathize with the narrative.
Rocket Monroe - This was the second wrestler to regularly use the name Rocket Monroe as a storyline "brother" of Sputnik. The first, Bill Fletcher, retired in 1965 and his last time teaming with Sputnik was in 1964. This Rocket, born Maury High, had been wrestling sporadically for a few years as Rocky Montez and Rocky Monroe before he linked up with Sputnik. Their appearances together in Florida here were their first matches as a team. He came here in mid-October and stayed for a few weeks. His name doesn't show up anywhere until a couple of appearances in Tennessee the following February, after which he returned here.
Ronnie Hill - Hill came here at the end of October for his first stint in the territory. He had been wrestling in East Texas, and stayed here through the end of the year before going to Mid-Atlantic. Originally from Massachusetts, he trained Kevin Sullivan. He would return here for sporadic appearances in 1968 before coming in as a regular at the end of the year.
Taki Yamaguchi - Yamaguchi started his career in Japan as Kiyomasa Kusatsu, and came here on excursion in December. He would also wrestle in British Columbia as Big Ku before returning to Japan in 1968, at which point he took the name Great Kusatsu. In 1973, he defeated Wahoo McDaniel in an Indian Strap match in Yokohama. This might have been the first-ever Indian Strap match in Japan.
Wrestlers who left the territory in this time period:
Amazing Zuma - Zuma left at the end of October and went to Mid-Atlantic. He would not return to Florida.
Dick Steinborn - Steinborn went to Amarillo in late October. He would work a few shots here in early 1968 but wouldn't return as a regular until late 1969.
Don McClarity - Don left in October and went to Georgia. This was his only stint as a regular in Florida.
Eddie Graham - Eddie finished up the year in Florida, then went to Japan in early January for about a month before returning here.
Hiro Matsuda - Hiro was on the same Japan tour as Eddie Graham at the beginning of 1967, and would return here in mid-February.
Kurt & Skull Von Stroheim - The Von Stroheims left in mid-October and went to Mid-Atlantic. They would return here in August 1967.
Pedro Godoy - Godoy went to mid-Atlantic in early November. He wouldn't return here as a regular until 1973.
Silento Rodriguez - Silento would finish up the year here, then go to Amarillo. He returned to Florida in the summer of 1967.
Sputnik Monroe - Sputnik left in mid-December and spent a few weeks wrestling in Georgia and Tennessee. He came back here in early January.
J.C. Dykes managed the Infernos.
Nationally known stars passing through the territory during the time period: Great Malenko and the Missouri Mauler. For one card in October, the Great Mephisto was advertised. Frankie Cain, who is the most well-known wrestler to use the Mephisto name, didn't start using that name until 1969, and was here as one of the Infernos at the time (and was booked on the same card as Mephisto). None of the other wrestlers who used the Mephisto name over the years make sense, so I guess it's possible Cain worked double-duty here, but I honestly don't know.
Other wrestlers with bookings during the time period include Chris Hardy, Harry Smith, Johnny Bence, Sugiyama (Thunder Sugiyama) and Tom Bradley.
Women wrestlers with more than one booking during the time period were Bonnie Watson, Carmen Monge, Penny Brooks, Sharon Lass, Sherry Lee and Toni Rose.
Midget wrestlers Cowboy Bradley, Fuzzy Cupid, Jamaica Kid and Little Brutus came in for several days in November.
I mentioned earlier that Mario Galento turned babyface during the quarter. This card, from November 29th in Tampa, details the beginnings of how he turned in that town. A week earlier, he wrestled against babyface Les Welch, but ended up involved in the main event replacing the original ref when he was thrown out of the ring. Galento counted out one of the Infernos and awarded the match to the babyfaces. For the rematch on this card, Galento was designated as the special referee. The match was won by Steamboat & Lothario, and the newspaper indicated that the Infernos & manager J.C. Dykes attacked Galento afterwards. The following week, Galento teamed with Eddie Graham to face the Infernos.