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Wrestling / Lou Thesz

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The greatest ever. Period.

"When people ask how I stay so active and look younger than my years, or some cheeky bastard asks how I keep up with a wife 30 years my junior, I tell them my secret is choosing my ancestors wisely. I don't think they'd believe the truth: because I am a wrestler."

Aloysius Martin "Lou" Thesz (April 24, 1916 – April 28, 2002) was an American Professional Wrestler. He is best known for his six reigns as NWA World Heavyweight Champion and for inventing such moves as the Lou Thesz Press, later used by everyone from "Stone Cold" Steve Austin to Mickie James, the STF, popularized by Masahiro Chono, who in turn came up with the STS variation used by John Cena, and the powerbomb, popularized by Sid Vicious, Big Van Vader, and Kevin Nash and used by too many wrestlers to start listing them here. He started his career in the 1930s and had his last match, against Chono, one of his students, in 1990. While he was primarily a singles wrestler, he also held the NWA (Vancouver) Pacific Coast Tag Team Title with the Outlaw (Dory Funk Sr.), and the NWA Southern (Tennessee) Tag Team Title with Jackie Fargo. He also competed for the Lucha Libre Internacional promotion in Mexico (governed by the UWA), for Jerry Lawler's CWA promotion in Memphis and won the Legends Battle Royal at a WWE house show at the Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, NJ on November 6, 1987. He was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 1996.

"Lou Tropes Press"

  • Aborted Arc: His "disputed" NWA World Heavyweight Champion angle was put to an end when Montreal promoter Eddie Quinn left the NWA and the NWA president Sam Muchnick put an end to "the dispute", "assuring" everyone Édouard Carpentier had no claim to a victory over Thesz.
  • The Ace
    • When he defeated Everett Marshall for the American Wrestling Association(not that one) World Heavyweight Title, Thesz became the first man to be called world champion at age 21.
    • Lou Thesz is technically the second NWA World Champion but is considered to be the first true "world" champion because he went around defeating the holders of rival belts to that claim and unifying them with his own. That and professional wrestling has never had anything as close to an undisputed world champion after Thesz's semi retirement.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: More so alternate regional equivalent, being one of the men to establish professional wrestling as we know it in the United States of America the way Rikidozan did for Japan and El Santo did for Mexico.
  • Always Someone Better: There were reports that British wrestler Bert Assirati challenged Thesz to a match, but Thesz refused as Assirati had a reputation for double-crossing and taking liberties with other wrestlers as he was a Combat Sadomasochist. Though according to Thesz's account in his autobiography, he challenged Assirati for a series of wrestling matches, but Assirati did not respond to his request.
  • The Apprentice: To Ed "Strangler" Lewis, Ad Santel, Ray Steele, and George Tangos.
  • Arch-Enemy: "Whipper" Billy Watson, "The Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers, Rikidozan.
  • Author Avatar: Ran shows out of the Mississippi Valley Sports Club for a year.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Like most wrestlers in his era, Thesz was a legitimate amateur wrestler and had an incredible amount of core strength to back it up, but he was also a bit of a showman by the standards of his era. One anecdote details how he once beat the crap out of a fellow athlete who thought he was disgracing "legitimate" wrestling by using useless moves like dropkicks. So Thesz beat him up. With dropkicks.
  • Autobiography: Hooker.
  • Badass Boast: When he came out of semi-retirement in 1963 to fight Buddy Rogers for the World Heavyweight Championship, Rogers was supposedly having second thoughts about dropping the title to Thesz. Thesz made him this offer: "We could do this The Easy Way or the Hard Way." Rogers dropped the title.
  • Badass Teacher
    • Wrestlers he had a hand in training include Bruiser Brody, Dory Funk Jr., Nick Bockwinkel, Jumbo Tsuruta, Kiyoshi Tamura, Mark Fleming, Dick Hutton, Gene Lebell and Masahiro Chono.
    • Taught hand to hand combat defense to medics during World War II.
    • Also to non-pro wrestlers like Tony Cecchine; famous for his Lost Art of Hooking video series and other instructionals on catch wrestling, & Jim Arvanitis; the man who has been trying to repopularise the Greek martial art of Pankration since 1973 with his own form of it he calls Neo-Pankration.
  • Captain Ersatz: Fire Pro Wrestling uses him and Rikidozan, unsurprisingly.
  • Carpet of Virility: Hair of manliness and maturity, or at least that was the look he was going for. He's one of the main reason the shiny skinned Adonis look of other sports took so long to catch on in pro wrestling.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Was famously very strong, particularly for his era. Besides his famous waist lock suplex, he was also known for various ways of dropping opponents over his knee for back breakers.
  • Combat Commentator: For the PAWA promotion during his periods of inactivity.
  • Combat Pragmatist
    • Whenever Thesz had an opponent in the corner, he would place his elbow on either the side of the opponent’s face or sometimes on other parts of their bodies then using his other arm’s hand to slap his other fist to make his elbow jab into his opponent’s body.
    • Thesz placed his leg under the bottom rope to block Antonino Rocca's snap mare and takeover attempts, while the referee wasn't looking of course.
  • Combat Referee: In matches featuring Ric Flair vs Dusty Rhodes, Antonio Inoki vs Tatsumi Fujinami, Big Van Vader vs Shinya Hashimoto, Nick Bockwinkel (w/Bobby Heenan) vs Bruiser Brody, Antonio Inoki and Seiji Sakaguchi vs Shinya Hashimoto and Masahiro Chono...
  • Cool Old Guy: He came out of retirement to win the UWA heavyweight championship in Mexico.
  • Cool Teacher: According to Mark Fleming, Thesz wasn’t a Sadist Teacher like Karl Gotch or to a lesser extent Billy Robinson, he describes him as patient, gentle when applying holds and not verbally abusive to his students.
  • Defeating the Undefeatable: Anyone who was able to have an officially recognized victory for the title over Thesz would have done this. Thesz is also one of the few people to hold a (disputed) victory over Mil Máscaras.
  • Disqualification-Induced Victory
    • Worked against Thesz when he got himself disqualified during a match with Leo Nomellini. The NWA rules that titles belts do not change hands because of disqualification but the California athletic commission says they do and proclaimed Nomellini champion. Thesz cleanly and decisively defeated him during a rematch to put an end to the dispute.
    • Defeated Édouard Carpentier by disqualification in their rematch for the NWA World Heavyweight Title. This would have necessitated a third match had the NWA not overturned Carpentier's first win and decided Thesz was still champion.
  • Finishing Move: Thesz Press, STF
  • Foreign Wrestling Heel: Was one in Japan, and even agreed to put over Rikidozan to give the Japanese fans a hero to rally behind. He also ended up giving the JWA the NWA International Title, a semi-unsanctioned title Thesz defended overseas, and which is still part of All Japan's Triple Crown Championship.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: Dropped the NWA World Heavyweight Title belt to "Whipper" Billy Watson on account of an ankle injury. Once it was healed, Thesz returned and regained the belt.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: While Thesz was World Heavyweight Champion he refused to appear on cards where women, midgets or zoo animals such as bears and alligators wrestled, as he felt such things devalued the belt. He wasn't a fan of such cards in general, as he felt they damaged pro wrestling legitimacy. Downplayed in that he still appeared alongside Mildred Burke a few times while promoting the NWA, so it's not as if he didn't want women wrestlers to stop existing altogether, though he wouldn't make such concessions for the zoo animals.
  • Humiliating Wager: Thesz unmasked a large number of wrestlers, including Red Scorpion, Masked Scorpion, Le Masque, Zebra Kid (not that one), Masked Terror, The Red Raider, The Professional #2, and Masked Grappler. The Red Scorpion case was especially humiliating because Thesz beat him in two straight falls and took his NWA Hawaii Heavyweight Title.
  • Lesser of Two Evils: Thesz was generally a baby face, but if the local champion was also a baby face Thesz wasn't above using cowardly tactics like stalling or illegal strikes like closed fists to put him away while Thesz was the traveling champion. Thesz would always leave some redeeming qualities so people wouldn't think too badly of him if a future opponent was a heel.
  • Living Legend: Come on. Just read his biography and tell us he wasn't.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: In the modern era when even lightweight wrestlers are often expected to look like they're cut from stone, the balding, slightly paunchy Thesz doesn't exactly cut an impressive figure. Anyone in the business will tell you that Thesz could tie them into human pretzels without breaking a sweat. See his matches with the much larger Killer Kowalski, Gene Kiniski, French Angel and The Assassins.
  • Odd Friendship: Was always on good terms with George "Gorgeous George" Wagner, who would in many ways be the antithesis of the style of pro wrestling that Thesz represented. Thesz would always stress Wagner's legitimate mat credentials in interviews, and Wagner was always willing to do business with Thesz even when it meant doing jobs. Thesz was similarly well disposed towards Gene Kiniski, a former CFL player with no wrestling background. Kiniski couldn't hang with Thesz in a shoot, but it never stopped him from trying and Thesz loved him for it.
  • Passing the Torch: He tried passing the torch to his student, Dick Hutton, going into his first retirement but when the NWA called Thesz came back.
  • Red Baron: (in Japan): Tetsujin (Iron Man)
  • Ring Oldies: Thesz wrestled in seven different decades, and had his last match at the age of 74.
  • Serious Business: Thesz's full-time run, from the 1930s through the 1970s, was the era where Kayfabe was absolutely enforced and treated as something that should never be broken.
  • Spirited Competitor: Thesz sought out professional wrestlers that were legitimate shooter, hookers and technicians that could give him trouble on the mat, explaining his relations with Danny Hodge, Verne Gagne, Dick Hutton, Rikidozan and Karl Gotch and would try to push those he felt were subpar to get better on the mat, explaining his relations with Buddy Rogers.
  • Start My Own: Rikidozan was the first challenger to the NWA World Heavyweight Title in Japan and Thesz wrestled him to several one hour time limit draws there, basically creating the Japanese pro wrestling industry as we know it. Thesz wanted to spend more time there, because the Japanese were paying him better than anyone else, but World Title defenses were determined by member votes, which concluded Japan had enough already, so after he dropped the NWA World Heavyweight Title to Dick Hutton, Thesz created the NWA International Heavyweight Title basically for the purpose of dropping it to Rikidozan, though he did go through Europe with it before doing so, to build up some legitimacy for it. The NWA International Heavyweight Title would eventually become one of the three titles that formed the AJPW Triple Crown Title.
    • He also ran his own wrestling promotion called Universal Wrestling Association (not to be confused with the Mexican promotion with the same name, which he also worked for) based in Nashville with Buddy Lee and Danny Davis (mostly to compete against the NWA promotions of Nick Gulas, Lee Fields and Roy Welch) that only lasted less than a year in 1976.
  • Teen Genius: He was instructed in Greco Roman wrestling as a child and was a good enough in his teenage years to "work" a match with a friend during a high school tournament without anyone of the spectators or judges catching on. After his pro debut at age 16 The Strangler Ed Lewis decided to teach him the art of hooking, as he had world champion potential.
  • Ur-Example
    • The Power Bomb, belly-to-back waistlock suplex (the popular name "German Suplex" comes from the mistaken belief Karl Gotch invented it, though it is said that it is a legit Greco-Roman wrestling suplex that was developed in Finland and was called the Finnish Overthrow for a time, Thesz only introduced it to pro wrestling and Karl popularized it), the stepover toehold facelock (STF) and the Lou Thesz press, naturally, are all credited to him.
    • The first Universal Wrestling Association World Heavyweight Champion. The athletic commission awarded him this title belt based on his performance in a Lucha Libre Internacional match against Mil Máscaras that ended in a time limit draw.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Thesz went into his defense against Édouard Carpentier with a back injury. Thesz still wrestled him to a draw but decided to forfeit the title, believing he wouldn't be able to keep defending it without taking sometime off to recover. But NWA president Sam Muchnick later overruled Thesz, saying he was still champion until defeated, as he had been by Billy Watson when his ankle was injured, or formally stripped. Thesz won their rematch, regardless, but decisively enough for him to be satisfied. A decisive rubber match was stalled however when the promoter pushing Carpentier, Eddie Quinn, left the NWA and the board saw no point in continuing the saga.
  • Worthy Opponent: Rikidozan, Verne Gagne, Danny Hodge, Ed Lewis, Karl Gotch.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Karl Gotch. Thesz and he tended to badmouth each other and supposedly had a real brawl during a match, but they deep down respected each other and stayed in good terms until their deaths.