: Rip, many thanks for taking the
time to talk with the Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Hawk: I’m glad to be here with you.
Amazingly, your in-ring career spanned
five different decades. Tell us about your
start in wrestling.
Yeah, I started way back in about 1949.
And I went to about the1980-81 area.
How did you break in?
As an amateur…
I didn’t realize you had an amateur
Yeah, in those days, we had Club
wrestling. That’s how I started. A lot of
the YMCA’s had it, especially in the
Midwest. It was really big in places like
Oklahoma and Iowa.
Now, where are you from originally?
Ohio….around Toledo, Ohio.
Did you begin your wrestling endeavors
Yes, I sure did.
How did participating in the local Club
wrestling scenes and the like lead you into
Well, it helped me get noticed by Jack
You mean the heavyweight boxing
champion, Jack Dempsey?
Yes…he really edged me into
Really? How did that all come about?
I was wrestling at a PAL…Police
Athletic League, at the time. He came up
there, and saw me working out. He encouraged
me a lot…when he said something you
He really lit a fire under me. A lot of
people remember Jack Dempsey only for his
boxing, but he was involved in wrestling as
Wasn’t he a special referee in some
pretty significant professional wrestling
He sure was.
Now, right when your wrestling career
was just getting started, it got put on hold
when ‘Uncle Sam’ came calling?
(laughs) Yeah, he sure did call me!
We’re talking about the years in and
around the Korean War, correct?
, I did wrestle when I was serving in the
You did? How was that experience?
It was really a very good experience. I
wrestled some pretty good guys there,
believe me. Big guys, too…you couldn’t
help but improve by going against that
After you ended your military service, I
guess your wrestling career really took off
Well, yes…eventually. When I first got
out, I was sort of trying to figure out what
I was going to do with my life…
Like a lot of young men just getting out
of the service, I’m sure you weren’t
alone in that respect. I guess we’re
talking about the mid 1950s now?
Yeah…that was the time. I started to
move around at that point.
What are some of the professional
wrestling territories you appeared in soon
after your military service ended, that you
remember the most?
(pauses) I was down in Tennessee for a
while…that wasn’t a good stay.
You’re not the first wrestler that’s
told me that about Tennessee!
Let’s see…I was down in Atlanta,
Georgia. I got over pretty good there. I
really got my first real break as a pro
Tell us about that.
I was in Atlanta as a preliminary guy,
and I had a match with Fred Blassie on
Gee…Blassie was a huge star then! And
I guess wrestling on television was just
really starting to get going then?
You’re right. That TV match I had with
Blassie got over big, and the next week I
had a Main Event against him at the City
Auditorium in Atlanta…
Yeah, I was only about 25 (years old) at
the time…and here I was main-eventing with
That had to be your biggest match to
Oh yes…we had a big crowd, too.
Biggest payday I had ever made!
[Blassie] was big-time box office!
I think then ringside seats were a dollar,
and it was 50 cents for kids!
(laughing) But, Rip, that was the going
rate back then!
Yeah! But that is what really got me
Tell us a little bit about the late
great Freddie Blassie.
(pauses) Remember, he had been wresting
a good while before the time we’re talking
about now. But he was definitely a great
performer when our paths crossed. I thought
he was a great guy…we got along well.
Where did you head after this breakout
stint in Georgia?
St. Joe, Missouri. I stayed there for
quite awhile. I had a good long run there.
Who were your main programs with there?
Sonny Myers was in there.
Hamilton was a big one…
Hamilton---The Missouri Mauler!
That’s right, I remember the Mauler
being billed from St. Joe, Missouri.
Oh yes, that’s where he was from. It
was tough wrestling him there…the people
really hated me in that town. They wanted to
string me up!
by Bruns was in there too…and he was the
one that got me some shots in St. Louis.
That was big, because no doubt St. Louis
was the Mecca of the NWA…certainly at that
What were some highlights of this time
in St. Louis?
They had me with Gorgeous George there,
and it got over really well. That was the
first time I ever made a thousand dollars!
What time period are we talking here,
This would have been 1958.
So, you were wrestling in the famous
Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis?
Yes, and Sam (Muchnick) told me after
being in there with Gorgeous George, that I
wouldn’t have to worry about anything ever
In a wrestling sense!