My Favorite Pro Wrestling Champs in the 50s

Dick the Bruiser


Watching Pro Wrestling as a Boy

As a boy, I used to regularly watch pro wrestling with mom and dad. Once a week they would tune in to wrestling from the South-Side Armory in Milwaukee. It was very exciting and entertaining, especially when a front row spectator, "Bouncing Bessie," would get out of her seat and almost jump into the ring. I was introduced to many wrestlers with colorful names such as "Gypsy Joe," The Sheik of Araby," and "The Crusher." All of them amazed me with their tumbling, flying mares, body slams, and submission holds.

Aregentina "Tony" Rocca


Angelo Poffo vs Wilbur Synder

Verne Gagne vs Hans Schmidt 1963-One

Verne Gagne vs Hans Schmidt - Two

Favorite 1950s Wrestlers

Looking back all these years, the following pro wrestlers were my favorite stars:

1. Angelo Poffo:

Angelo Poffo from Downers Grove, Illinois, was both a hero and a villain to me. When he tag-teamed with "The Sheik of Araby" and they took on the big, bad Lisowski brothers, he was my hero. I remember Angelo having a manager called Bronco Lubich who carried a big cane. Whenever Lubich helped Poffo win a match with foul play, Angelo was a villain. His trademark hold for winning a fall was the "Italian neck-breaker." Little did I know that the recently deceased Randy "Macho Man" Savage and "leaping" Lanny Polo were both Angelo Poffo's sons.

2. Dick, "The Bruiser:"

Dick "The Bruiser" Afflis was a true villain with always a scowl on his face. After all of these years, I still remember him wrestling one evening at the old Milwaukee Arena. He had just been disqualified while grappling with "The Mighty Atlas." Now out of the ring, he was pacing like a wild irate bull. Although I was sitting in the sixth row at the the time, I never felt more scared in my life. When not wrestling, Dick Afflis played defensive tackle for the Green Bay Packers during the mid 1950s.

3. Vern Gagne:

Vern Gagne out of Minneapolis was my favorite wrestling hero. Having wrestled in college, Gagne was a scientific wrestler in the true sense of the word. One would never see a dirty hold or move when Vern was wrestling. Gagne's most exciting submission hold was the "sleeper" which he would apply to the neck of an opponent, rendering him unconscious by cutting off the flow of blood to the brain.

4. Tony Rocca:

Finally, I remember "Argentina" Tony Rocca. He was so exciting to watch, because he did a lot of drop kicks to soften up his foe for a back crusher. One of the most unforgettable tag team matches I saw, paired "Argentina" Rocca with Vern Gagne against the villains Hans Schmidt and Hans Schnabel.

There were many other pro wrestling stars from the 1950s, but I will never these four favorites.

Favorite Pro Wrestling Champs of the 50s

3.8 out of 5 stars from 4 ratings of Favorite Pro Wrestling Champs of the 50s

© 2011 Paul Richard Kuehn

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Comments 9 comments

Billrrrr profile image

Billrrrr 5 years ago from Cape Cod

Thanks Paul for reminding me how much I too used to love the game of Pro wrestling. I lived in the area of the eastern circuit so I did not get to see Dick the Bruiser or Argentine Rocca as much as I would have liked. They were my favorites from 'out of circuit'. In the Eastern loop the champ at the time was the great Bruno Sammartino, but my favorite story is about 'Killer Kowalski'.

I met this titan in the 1970s and he greeted me with, "call me Walter". I don't know why, but I thought that was funny and I couldn't stop laughing. I was doing a radio interview with the "Killer" and he wanted to be called Walter. I got to meet and interview a few of the better wrestlers of the day including Professor Tenaka - who later went to Hollywood to be in James Bond movies. I had forgotten all about this until reading your fabulous hub. Now you have inspired me to write one about my little vignettes of the game as seen from a little arena on Route One in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. It was kind of a minor league venue for those aspiring to 'wrassle' at the Gardens - Boston & Madison Square in New York City.

AWAFlashback profile image

AWAFlashback 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I love the vintage blog! I only remember the AWA from 1980-1991 but I do remember a lot of the wrestlers you mentioned. Amazing how athletic Verne Gagne was. His appearances on the DuMont Network in Chicago are credited for growing pro wrestling. Dick the Bruiser was so rough and tough in the 1980's, I can only imagine what he was like in his prime! I would like to see video of Hardboiled Haggerty and an early era Mad Dog Vachon sometime. The 1950's were before AWA (AWA started in 1960). Do you know who promoted these matches here in Milwaukee?

Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author


Thanks for reading my hub and your great comments. I really don't know who promoted the matches in Milwaukee. All I can remember is that they were held at the Southside Armory.

Billy Vaughan 3 years ago

My Dad told me one time that one of his uncles was a pro wrestler back in the 50s or 60s. His name was Fred (or Freddy) Morgan. He supposedly went by "The Bristow Ironman", I have looked all over online and can not verify this. Apparently he was a boxer then wrestler, and I assume wrestled mostly in and around Oklahoma. Ever heard of him? My email is Any info would be appreciated.

Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author


Thanks for reading and commenting on this hub. No, I have never heard or can't remember "The Bristow Ironman," but if I learn something about him, I will let you know.

ron 14 months ago

Argentina Rocca, Gorgeous George, Mr. Moto, Baron Leoni, Lord Blears. Those names bring back a lot of pleasant memories of my childhood. I once had the pleasure of seeing Gorgeous George. As I recall, he had purple

or orchid colored hair, and threw hairpins to the audience.

Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 14 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author

&ron . Yes I definitely remember Gorgeous George. Didn't he also wear strong smelling perfume?

Harry Blutstein 7 months ago

Do you remember two wrestlers - mid 1950s - by the names of Gentleman Jack and Gorilla Bill?

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Paul Kuehn 6 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author

I'm sorry, but I can't remember hearing or seeing about these two wrestlers. Thanks for your comment.

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    Paul Richard Kuehn (Paul Kuehn)690 Followers
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    Paul spent the 1950s living in a suburb of Milwaukee and also on a small dairy farm in southeastern Wisconsin.

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