Wednesday, May 04, 2005

"Pistol" Pez Whatley

Back in the 1980s pro wrestling was very different than it is today.

One of the biggest differences was Saturday morning. Every weekend you would get up and have a variety of wrestling shows to choose from as you ate Fruity Pebbles. It was utopia.

The WWF put on two shows every Saturday. There was Wrestling Challenge hosted by Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon and WWF Superstars hosted by Vince McMahon and Jesse "The Body" Ventura.

Both shows had many differences, Superstar being the more "important" of the two. One thing they both had in common was the jobbers.

"Jobbers" were the wrestlers who were just there to lose. They were also called "stiffs", "slappers" and - the very eloquent - "no name guys".

It wasn't true that they had "no name" it’s just that no one REMEMBERED their names.

Still, they were the WWF’s unsung heroes. They were the ones that got in the ring and let guys like "Macho Man" Randy Savage try out every move they knew on them, never offering much resistance. The matches were completely unfair, but they were great to watch and that was because of how great the jobbers were.

Sure, anyone could lose a wrestling match, but it takes a special talent to go in to the ring lose BIG TIME and make the match look good.

Some of the great jobbers of the 80s were:
"Iron" Mike Sharpe
Tiger Chung Lee
Moondog Spot
"Playboy" Buddy Rose
"Pistol" Pez Whatley

Like most of the other jobbers of the day, the names above were all guys who had talent in the ring. Most were stars in other wrestling federations. Still, they decided to walk away from "small-time glory" for a "big-time paycheck".

Pez Whatley was one of my favorites. I am not sure why, but I bet it had something to do with the fact that his name was the same as a candy.

In fact, one of my favorite wrestling moments was when Pez was close-lined by Bret "Hitman" Hart and Bobby Heenan said "Wow! He hit him so hard I expected candy to pop out of his neck."

But "Pistol" Pez Whatley was more than just a man without candy in his neck, he was the first black high school wrestling champion in Tennessee. He later became the first black wrestler at his college, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Like many wrestlers Pez had many in ring names. For starters, his mom didn't name him "Pez" she named him Pezavan. He was born Pezavan Whatley back in 1951. His other ring personas included Shaska Whatley and Willie B. Hurt.

Wow, could you imagine what Abbott and Costello could have done if they had been commentators during his matches?

Costello: What a great match up we have! Hulk Hogan will be facing off with... what is the other wrestler’s name?
Abbott: Willie B. Hurt.
Costello: How can I know if he's going to be hurt?
Abbott: No, that's his name: Willie B. Hurt.
Costello: Are you drunk again?
Abbott: Oh right, now I'm the drunk. You're such a bastard.
Costello: You're calling ME a bastard? After you slept with my wife!
Abbott: Yeah, and she was the worst I ever had.
Costello: Oh that tears it! I'm replacing you with Fatty Arbuckle.
Abbott: Fine and I'm replacing your wife... WITH FATTY ARBUCKLE!

My goodness that would have been funny!

Perhaps Pez's biggest success as a wrestler was his run as NWA Southern Heavyweight champion. He defended the belt against many of the sports big names, losing the title to "Ravishing" Rick Rude.

At then end of his career, Whatley was also one of the trainers at WCW's Power Plant. The Power Plant was not a place where electricity was generated; instead it was a place where future wrestlers were trained.

Imagine what Abbott and Costello could have done with that:

Abbott: Oh, this is the WCW Power Plant.
Costello: So is this the place where all that electricity is generated.
Abbott: Hey! I was supposed to play the dumb guy!
Costello: Are you drunk again?
Abbott: Yes.
Costello: Me too.

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