Tri-State Wrestling 1966 - Main Eventers
Danny Hodge - Hodge was the long-time top star of this territory virtually since his debut in 1959.
His absence for a two-month stretch from mid-January through mid-March was due to injuries suffered in an automobile accident after a show in Wichita Falls. Wrestlingdata.com does have a handful of listings for Hodge in the AWA in late February and early March, but I can't verify those.
The Assassins - This version of the Assassins was Tom Renesto & Jody Hamilton. Renesto had a previous run here under the name Tony Martin. Hamilton also had been in the territory previously as Jody Hamilton. I believe that Renesto was Assassin #1 and Hamilton #2 here, which will be important when we look at title histories. When they left the territory in May, both went to Arizona for a few months. Jody then had a brief run in Central States as Joe Hamilton. They returned here in the fall, with #1 coming in by himself for about a week and a half before #2 joined him.
Great Matsuda - Hiro Matsuda used the name Great Matsuda here up to this point in time. His previous runs in the territory saw him feud with Hodge over the NWA Junior Heavyweight title. This time, however, he generally teamed with Krusher Kowalski. Prior to coming here in April, Matsuda had been in Florida. After leaving here, he went to Japan for the JWA.
The Kentuckians - Big Boy Brown & Tiny Smith (aka Luke Brown & Grizzly Smith) came in at the end of January together. Smith had a couple of runs here previously, but this was Brown's first extended stay in the area. The team was quickly paired off against the Assassins, reviving a feud that had already occurred in Florida, Mid-Atlantic and Southern California. I believe Brown did an injury angle here to explain his absence in March and early April, at which time he wrestled for All-Star in Nebraska and the AWA. He returned for a week and then went back to the midwest. Smith stayed a few months longer and then joined Brown in the midwest, also appearing for Central States. They both returned towards the end of the year.
The Medics - Here's where things get interesting. In mid-June, the Medics come to the area. This version of the team has generally been believed to be Tony Gonzalez and Donald Lortie (aka Pierre DeGlane). Wrestlingdata.com has this version of the Medics appearing simultaneously in Gulf Coast, Georgia and Tennessee in early June, which seems implausible. Of note, Lortie is listed on a couple of Gulf Coast cards as Pierre DeGlane _after_ the Medics start here. At the end of their initial 1966 run here in September, the Medics are unmasked in Oklahoma City and Little Rock and identified as Gonzalez and Dan Ellis. At this point, Gonzalez does not appear for his remaining scheduled bookings, and in Joplin the Medics are unmasked to reveal Ellis and Roberto Pico. I think it's safe to say that Gonzalez & Ellis were the Medics for the full June-September run (except for the one show in Joplin where Pico subbed for Gonzalez). I don't have any other information on Dan Ellis' identity or other gimmicks he may have used. So...case solved, right? Nope! In December, the Medics return. I don't know for sure that they were billed as being the same Medics that had been here over the summer, but in Little Rock in December they are unmasked and identified as Chuck Conley and John Higgins. They also may have been unmasked in Oklahoma City. They definitely were unmasked as Conley & Higgins in a couple of towns in January 1967. Conley came from Memphis and Higgins came from Mid-Atlantic. If I were to list the SPOT ratings for both versions of the Medics separately they both would still be in the Main Eventers category, though the Gonzalez & Ellis team would have a higher SPOT (.91) rating than the Conley & Higgins team (just above .85).
Chris Tolos - Tolos, brother of John, came here at the end of August for his first and only run in the territory. Prior to that, he was in the AWA through the end of May. After that his name doesn't seem to show up anywhere save for one booking in Beaumont, TX right before starting here. After leaving here in mid-December, he next shows up in All-Star in Vancouver in January 1967.
Joe McCarthy - After an extended run here in 1962 and 1963, McCarthy returned in early 1965. It appears he was a heel in the early part of '65 but turned babyface in late spring. He turned again in December; looking at results it probably occurred during a TV match taped in Oklahoma City where he teamed with Hodge and lost to Lorenzo Parente & Kurt Steiger. This run appears to be the end of his career, finishing up in early May.
Battleship Johnson - Battleship seems to have literally come from nowhere in June, initially working the Louisiana towns. His first appearance is as a "fan" hitting the ring to help George Harris. After a handful of bookings as a heel, Johnson is presented as a babyface in the rest of the territory and turns face in Louisiana. At this point, he is billed as a karate expert and protege of Al "Spider" Galento, who manages him. Some newspaper ads ask the fans to bring bricks for Johnson to break during a karate demonstration before the matches. After leaving here, his name appears in a weeks' worth of ads in Amarillo, but it looks like he didn't show up for those bookings. A "Battleship Johnson" shows up the following March working for Gulas, but he is billed as being 6'6", which doesn't seem like the same guy based on pictures.