Haystack Calhoun -- WWF History: the Biggest Man in Pro Wrestling
Haystack Dressed for Work
The Bruiser Ballet - Pro Wrestling WWF Style
Back in the 1960s and 1970s everybody still pretended that wrestling was NOT scripted and that the winners of the matches were actually decided by the legitimate ’pinning’ or ’submission’ of an opponent.
This situation made some of the stars of the day genuine heroes, while it turned others into 'vermin'. It was classic good vs. evil with no middle ground.
The biggest good guy of all -virtually forgotten today- was Haystack Calhoun. He was the biggest good guy of the era because he was the biggest good guy - at a billed weight of six hundred and one pounds on a six foot frame.
Calhoun made a big splash when he decided to leave the farm in Texas and become a grappler. Indeed, he even developed a move called “The Big Splash”. It was his signature. The ending to his match. He would run a few steps and launch himself into the air and land stomach first on his helpless opponent, who was usually about 300 or 400 pounds lighter than Haystack.
I met the behemoth in person one time and I still have trouble believing what I saw. It was a March afternoon in Boston on the MTA (The Hub’s subway system). I got on at Park Street to go to North Station to grab a train for the suburbs.
The Boston Garden and North Station were all part of the same complex so it was not uncommon to see some of the city’s athletes taking the subway to Boston Garden. But this was different!!!
I got on the car and noticed him right away. It was impossible not to. Haystack Calhoun took up almost half of the subway car! Some of the seats in the Beantown subway cars are regular seats like they have on buses - but there are also seats that are configured the long way - in other words the backs of the bench seats are affixed to the wall. This bench easily accommodates four good sized adults, but when I looked I saw that Haystack took up the whole seat all by himself.
He was dressed for work, meaning that he was wearing only a tee shirt, a pair of mammoth farmer jeans, some kind of clogs on his feet and a necklace made of real chains with a genuine horseshoe dangling from it.
He was on his way to the Garden to tune up for a match that evening.
All by himself, with no managers, no posse, he was taking the “T” to work just like everybody else.
I sat in a seat on the opposite side of the car.
My eyes caught his.
“How ya doin?”, I asked.
“Not too bad,” the big man replied with a smile.
“Good Luck in the match tonight. Watch out for Professor Tanaka. You know how he likes to throw salt in people’s eyes.”
“I’ll be careful,” said Haystack, “and don’t worry. I can handle Tanaka.”
That was it. The end of the conversation. I began reading my copy of the Boston Record-American and Haystack just relaxed until we got to North Station. The doors opened and he got up surprisingly quickly and walked out, using up almost every inch of the wide-open double doors as he squeezed through.
I forget who Haystack’s tag team partner was that night as they packed 13,909 fans into Boston Garden, but I remember the opponents - the surgeon like destroyer, Professor Toru Tanaka and his wiley pal, Mr. Fuji.
The newspapers back then gave little coverage to wrestling, but the day after the big fight, the Record American reported that Haystack and his partner defeated Tanaka and Fuji for the World Championship, winning two out of three falls. The good guys lost the first fall as Haystack’s partner was disabled when Tanaka blinded him with salt. While Mr. Fuji and the Professor were both attacking the lifeless partner, Haystack climbed into the ring and “big splashed” both of the Japanese masters at once - knocking the wind out of them and double pinning them to take two falls at one time and win the title. The ref counted out both villains one after the other and awarded the match and the Championship Belts to Calhoun and his Tag Team partner.
In the next chapter of this series, Professor Tanaka is arrested for attacking and severely injuring a fan - even breaking a bone. This was real and not part of the scripted ring action. I was there and I will give you a first hand account of the assault and the trial in Attleboro, Massachusetts District Court.
Here's the link to part two of the series: In which Lou Albano starts to shape his career and Professor Toru Tanaka delivers a brutal Judo chop to a fan which breaks the admirer's collar bone. Tanaka is arrested and must face Judge Edward P. Lee in court.
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