Class of 2009







Members of the Hall of Heroes Class of 2009


Don Fargo, Jackie Fargo, and "Roughhouse" Sonny Fargo


Jackie Fargo, Obie Faggart (accepting for his late father Sonny Fargo),

and Don Fargo.

Photographs by Irwin Markowitz


Inducting the "Fabulous Fargos" into the Hall of Heroes:

Steve Keirn and Jerry Jarrett


Photographs by Irwin Markowitz

Photograph by Dave Layne

He's still got it:  Jackie Fargo does the famous "Fargo strut" on stage at the Hall of Heroes.

Photograph by Dave Layne


 “Often imitated, never duplicated.” You hear the phrase all the time in wrestling, but if you want to know where it really originated, just hop on Interstate 85 north from Charlotte to the town of China Grove, the wellspring for the legendary Fabulous Fargos. Jackie and Don Fargo were the hottest tag team in the country in the late 1950s and early 1960s, selling out arenas from New York to Alabama, strutting to the ring with world titles wrapped around their waste, and setting the standard for every bleached blond tag team that would follow. When Don went his own way, Sonny stepped in as Jackie’s brother “Roughhouse” to equal success. Cowboy Bob Kelly, who later had a violent singles feud with Don, called them “the best in the world. They were just ahead of their time. They were the first. They were just way ahead of everybody else.”

From his rural North Carolina base, Jackie was the first to get into wrestling, starting on a small Southern circuit run by Johnny Long around 1950. He headed to Cuba, of all places, making a lofty $250 a week in 1952 before Uncle Sam tapped him for service in the Korean War. After the conflict more or less subsided, Fargo headed to New York, where he formed the original cool-cat heel team with Don, nee Don Kalt, a former Pittsburgh bodybuilder. “When I started out, I was Don Kalt and that name sucked. I got tagged up with Ray Stevens; we went as the Stevens Brothers for a while,” Don said. In the Northeast, “Wildman” Fargo and “Wildman” Stevens were the first world tag team champions for the promotion that became the WWE, and drew the first 20,000-plus crowd in the history of Madison Square Garden. “We both had blond hair, long blond hair before anybody had it. Back in the '50s, everybody had a crewcut,” said Don. “We started dressing exactly alike; we wore everything alike, the underwear, the socks, our rings, our watches. We even had earrings back then which nobody did.” Fargo and Stevens morphed into the Fabulous Fargos, working in the Northeast through 1960, while also getting top billing in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Indiana. Everywhere it was the same: titles, arrogance, fan invective, and good money. “We could wrestle the devil and we would have been the heels,” Jackie joked. When Don stepped aside, Sonny, whose given name was Jack Faggart Jr., entered the picture. The Jackie and Sonny show worked regularly in Madison Square Garden several times in 1960, in between stints in the Carolinas, where they challenged teams like the Scott Brothers. Typical of their mischief was a 1960 bout in Danville, Virginia, where Jackie was disqualified in one fall for jumping on Frankie Cain’s neck, but won the two-out-of-three falls match by tossing his unconscious brother on a prone Cain behind the referee’s back after a midring collision.

Don and Jackie wrestled on and off as a team until 1965, when Don turned into wrestling’ greatest quick-change artist. He was a shoot-em-up cowboy with the Daltons, a biker tough with the Chain Gang, a bleached blond with Greg Valentines as The Fargos redux, a mercenary with the Legionnaires, and even a Fonzie character, based on the “Happy Days” sitcom, at one point. A tremendous worker by any standard, Don’s devil-may-care attitude was summed up on July 29, 1975, in Mobile, Ala., in a Hell’s Kitchen Street Fight against Nick Kozak. Both men wore suits to the ring and the loser was the first to be stripped to his skivvies. Which, Kozak found during the course of the match, Fargo had neglected to wear. “He told me to pull his tights down,” Kozak said. “He was naked as a jaybird. You should have seen the flashbulbs going off even though cameras were supposed to be barred. I thought Lee Fields [the promoter] was going to have a heart attack.”

In the meantime, Jackie became one of the first true villains in the squared circle to switch to good guy status, en route to becoming the biggest name in the wild-and-wooly history of Tennessee grappling. It wasn’t anything he did, he said; the fans just took to his brawling ways and cocky persona. “I was the person people loved to hate, but they loved me,” Jackie said. “As much as they hated me, they loved that Fargo strut. Boy, they’d boo the heel out of me, but they loved that.” At dire moments, he called in “Roughhouse” from a mental facility in North Carolina to even the score with some opponents. “Most of the fans in our area really thought he was nuts,” said promoter Jerry Jarrett. “Whenever we needed a shot in the arm, Sonny would come in to help out. Sonny was a good and decent person.” The duo held the regional tag team title in Tennessee in 1964. Back home, Sonny became probably more well-known as a referee than wrestler, though he was working as a grappler on and off through 1972.

With Don, Sonny, and others, Jackie had a share of at least 55 singles or tag team titles during his career, and brought Jerry “The King” Lawler into wrestling. “I think Jackie probably knew the crowds about as well as anyone I’ve ever seen. Maybe Ric Flair did,” said fellow Hall of Heroes inductee Lance Russell. “But he was just that way. It was just an instinct that Fargo had.” His drawing power lasts to this day, as nearly 400 people were turned away in March at a sellout show in Tullahoma, Tenn., honoring the “Fabulous One.” At Fanfest, Don and Jackie will be reunited for the first time in 20 years, and Sonny, who passed away in 2008, will never be far from anyone’s hearts. With the Fabulous Fargos among the honorees, there’s no doubt that the 2009 Hall of Heroes banquet will be just what Jackie likes to point out about the old days: “Often imitated, never duplicated.”


 Steve Johnson

Co-Author, The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams
Co-Author, The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels






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