“We discourage these (gimmick wrestlers). We give ’em a bad time. When we get a chance, we tear their tails off.
That’s one way of trying to eliminate them—and we do eliminate some of them.”
Throughout the 1970s, professional wrestling took center stage in Missouri with the hit show, Wrestling at the Chase. But before the sport drew large television audiences, another St. Louis native helped put wrestling on the map. Lou Thesz is arguably one of the most accomplished athletes in history, after holding a world title for a total of thirteen years. Before the time of glamorous bad boys in pro wrestling, Lou was the real deal, punishing his opponent and sometimes taking a beating himself.
THE EARLY YEARS
Aloysius Martin Thesz was born in Banat, Michigan, on April 24, 1916, but spent his early years in St. Louis. Lou was an accomplished wrestler in high school but truly fell in love with the sport when his father began taking him to professional wrestling matches. With all of his attention focused on becoming a professional wrestler, he enlisted his father as a coach and learned the ropes of what it takes to make it to the top.
RISE TO FAME
As Lou climbed the ranks, he took on George Tragos as a wrestling coach, who also coached at Mizzou. By the time he was twenty years old, Lou was already getting recognition as a potential star of the sport. His rise to fame was quick because in the early days of wrestling you either made a name for yourself as a winner or you ended up hurt. Thankfully, Lou enjoyed the winning side of most matches and stayed away from most of the injuries that put many of the men out
of the sport.
SHOW ME SUCCESS
After joining the ranks of professional wrestlers, success came quickly for Thesz. He became the youngest world champion of all time in 1937 at the age of twenty-one. During that match, the 225-pound giant stepped into the ring in St. Louis against a wrestler named Everett Marshall. Lou came out on top, which gave him his first professional win and boosted his drive to perform.
Remarkably, he would wrestle for the next seven, count ’em, seven decades! Beginning in 1937, he held the National Wrestling Alliance title for a total of thirteen years. He held numerous additional titles for the next four decades, including an eight-year reign that started in 1948. That amazing stretch of wins still ranks as the longest world title reign of all time in any sport. His sixth and final title ended in 1967 when he was fifty-one years old. Thesz was immortalized in the wrestling world three years before his death when he was inducted into the International Wrestling Museum and Institute in 1999.
*Thesz broke his kneecap when former NFL player Bronko Nagurski dropped him nine feet onto a concrete floor.
* He was named one of the 100 St. Louis Athletes of the Century.”