Who better to offer tribute to Johnny ‘The Hammer’ Valentine than the fans who loved to watch him — and enjoyed booing him even more.
On that note, we turn this page over to you, the fans, where you can offer your own memories of the late, great Johnny Valentine.
I remember Johnny Valentine putting fan favourite Johnny Powers in the hospital with a broken nose. Caused by repeated elbow smashes to the face, it was a pretty good storyline for a while with visits to the hospital, etc. This I remember from locally televised wrestling shows here in Cleveland, Ohio in the late ’60s, early ’70s. Channel 43 if I recall…
I was a little kid and I thought Johnny Valentine was a mean wrestler. Now looking back, he would fit right in with most of the “heels” I like now!
I remember one night in the Township Auditorium in Columbia, S.C. very well. It was in the early seventies and Johnny was wrestling Nelson Royal that evening. They had a feud going that had lasted several months. I remember that Johnny would not back down from anyone but for some reason he was outside of the ring about six feet in front of me and my cousin. My cousin kept shouting at him “get back in the ring you chicken”! I told my cousin to shut up but he wouldn’t stop. Johnny was staring right at me and I was scared and sitting as far back in my seat as I could get. I swear his eyes looked bright red and it seemed as if fire would come out of his mouth at any moment. My cousin kept hollering and Johnny kept staring at me. It seemed like this went on for several minutes. I was frightened and I believe Johnny knew it and was having a little fun with me. As scared as I was though, I respected Johnny Valentine greatly. It was a pleasure watching him wrestle because he was so good at it. He was one of the greatest ever and will be missed. I wish his wife and family well.
True story… I was 10 years old in 1973 in the small town of Sumter, South Carolina. Me and a couple of my buddies waited in the parking lot of Riley Baseball Park awaiting the arrival of all the wrestlers. After seeing several of the lower card wrestlers arrive. We realized a main eventer had appeared when the big new Cadillac rounded the corner. Behind the wheel was the one and only Nature Boy Ric Flair!!! He stopped the car lowered the window and said “Hey kids! Look what is in the back seat!”. It was about six small heads fitting into the back window to see what wonder is awaiting. Behold was the huge sprawled out body of Johnny Valentine. He had all the looks of a veteran wrestler after waking up after probably a long road trip. Johnny opened his eyes to the view of these six little kids with stars in our eyes. Without missing a beat Johnny slowly raised his right hand and stuck his middle finger up to say “hello”.
All I remember is six kids standing quietly with our mouths wide open and hearing Flair laughing hysterically as he pulled away in the Cadillac.
We will miss you Hammer!
In the good old days when you the NWA, AWA, and WWWF dominated the wrestling business, Johnny was always on top. Even though I never saw him on TV or live, while I was growing up, through the magic of wrestling magazines, I imagined a persona who was not only larger than life but also an incredible athlete. I first discovered Johnny by reading about his classic feuds with Johnny Powers. After following that story, I always wanted to meet him and better yet see him wrestle live. Throughout the years when I discovered his son Greg had decided to wrestle for a living, I always imagined that I was watching Johnny in the ring. During this period, in my mind, these were the glory days for professional wrestling when what you saw in the ring and magazines were mostly stories on wrestling battles. Johnny was always tops for me. Even though he is gone now, my memories of him will remain for the rest of my life.
I wrote to you a few months back when I heard about my good friend John Valentine’s illness. We knew Johnny in the sixties when he lived in Toronto. My wife and I gave music and dancing lessons to his children Holly, Brandon and Tony. We now wish we could contact them. We were extremely close to John and have great memories of him and his family in the United States, particularly in Trenton New Jersey. We will report John’s passing to his friend, my father-in-law Barney O’Brien who will be 100 years old this June. God love you John, we miss you terribly. Our condolences to Sharon and the siblings.
Sam and Christobel (nee O.Brien) Nargolwalla
I just got the call from a close friend of mine in the wrestling business that wrestling legend Johnny Valentine died at age 72. After his plane crash many years ago that ended his wrestling career, I was a young 7 or 8 year old wrestling fan in Charlotte NC. Because of my contacts in the wrestling industry I was honoured to have met and had personal relationships with many people, but at the time I had never met Johnny Valentine. Then, one day I went for physical therapy at my local hospital here in Charlotte and there was Valentine trying to recover from the plane crash and he too was taking therapy at that time. No one at the hospital was allowed to go in the swimming pool while John was doing his exercises. My therapist knew I was a diehard wrestling fan even then so she talked with John and his people and got me the opportunity to go swimming with this wrestling legend. Because I had never really knew him that well I assumed he was the same mean person that he played on TV for Jim Crockett Promotions old NWA.
I was shocked to see the real John Wisniski Sr. He was very playful and fun, playing practical jokes on me in the water. He spoke with me about my desire to be in wrestling as a manager someday. We talked about real life, school, family and many other things. Well, John has passed away now and hopefully is in heaven with former Crockett wrestling legend, Klondike Bill Soloweyko. If you are a true wrestling fan of this business, you will miss John Valentine, but if you were lucky like me to know John Wisniski Sr, you will understand that the world has lost a very special man. If I get to heaven someday I hope to see KLONDIKE BILL AND JOHNNY VALENTINE, so that I can say thanks to both of them for being my friend in the past and to let them know that I now have finally realized my dream of being a HEEL Manager in the wrestling biz, who legitimately uses a wheelchair in real life, something that has never been done in wrestling before, until now.
R.I.P. Johnny Valentine, you will be missed, by me and anyone who really knew the real J.W., Sr.
Rusty Loudermilk (aka Rusty James, Sports Agent, for the Gemini Kid, Carolina Wrestling Federation)
My favorite memory of Johnny Valentine was a match he fought with Baron Mikel Sicluna. It was on TV in the old WWWF and it was a particular long match surprisingly especially with Sicluna. Well anyway Sicluna somehow got Valentine caught up in the ropes. But instead of his arms being caught in the ropes his head got caught instead. Here was Johnny hanging by his neck on the top rope on the outside of the ring. It had to last a few good 4-5 minutes. The whole time the ref was distracted by the Baron and the announcer crying that Johnny was going to die…Johnny was going to die. Anyway Johnny got free somehow and all was but unconscious. Nothing could be done while Sicluna punished him for another few minutes when all of a sudden Johnny started coming back to life. Needless to say he defeated the Baron in what had to be one of the most amazing comebacks that I ever witnessed.
I’ve been watching pro-wrestling since I was a kid. I remember when Ric Flair was first introduced as the cousin of the Anderson Brothers. I remember when Johnny Valentine was the NWA U.S. Champion. He held on to that belt for over a year and was a fighting champion. Every match I ever saw him in was truly great. Unlike the paper champions of today, Johnny Valentine gave 110% to every match and when he won (which was most of the time), it was a clean victory. When his career ended due to injuries suffered in the plane crash, it left the wrestling industry with a gaping hole that has never been filled. He was great and he will be missed.
Steve Goodman, Baltimore, Maryland
It was 35 years ago from today that Johnny Valentine came to Japan to fight against Antonio Inoki who made a new wrestling company Tokyo Pro-wrestling. Johnny and Inoki did the greatest wrestling match ever done in Japan. Unfortunately Inoki’s first company was so small only 8,500 people could see this match. There are only a few pictures left, no videos. This match became a legend.
Four years later, Johnny came back to Japan with former NWA champion Gene Kiniski. Johnny & Gene challenged International Tag Champion Giant Baba & Antonio Inoki. They couldn’t beat a champion team. This title-match was broadcasted by NTV.
His last appearance to Japanese fans were in 1991. He came to Japan to celebrate Antonio Inoki’s 30-year wrestling career with Andre The Giant, Stan Hansen, Johnny Powers, Lou Thesz. He walked to the ring with nobody’s help. We were very moved by his attitude.
He’s passed away but I’ll never forget how he was a great wrestler. Good bye Johnny, I miss you.
Tsukasa Ohshita, Japan
I remember Johnny Valentine from the early ’60s. He actually invented the ‘Atomic Skull Crusher’, an elbow drop that many wrestlers still use today. I remember his feud with Dick The Bruiser here in Chicago. He was equally popular as a heel and a face. When I heard he was sick I sent him some old wrestling magazines with him on the cover. Hopefully, now fans will realize that just because a wrestler is retired that doesn’t mean that fans aren’t thinking about them. We should do everything possible to thank the stars of the past for the countless hours of enjoyment they gave us, while they’re STILL living!!
One of the various memories of Pro Wrestling I have from childhood includes Johnny Valentine. From a young kid’s viewpoint at the time the early seventies, John was as rough as they came at that time in wrestling. He wore that black ring robe and had that towel around his neck. When he took it off you knew whoever he wrestled, you were going to see a fight. If it was a five minute squash or a 20 minute brawl, John would perform. I saw him live only one time at the Cleveland Arena against Pampero Firpo. They fought until their necks and chests had red slap marks, unbelieveable to a young kid. The match went all over the Arena and ended in a double disqualification. John I wanted to reach you but because of circumstances I couldn’t in time. Our loss is heaven’s gain. God Bless Sharon and Family, You will always be our World Champion!
I’m really saddened to hear about this. I had heard what a tough year it had been for Johnny Valentine and, of course, for his wife who was taking care of him a lot. So, may he rest in peace at last. It’s just very sad though…
As a fan, I’d just like to say that I have a match on tape — Johnny Valentine vs Nature Boy Buddy Rogers — and I cherish it, because, unlike… some… of the matches at the time, you could have put this thing on RAW, and it would have wowed the fans. No disrespect intended, but they pulled off some spots that I didn’t know EXISTED then! And when they slammed each other… MAN… they did it so HARD and with such elevation. I’ve NEVER seen anybody slam someone like that nowadays. Valentine was a tough man, and he was exciting to watch.
Lastly, I heard a very sweet true story about Valentine once, and I’d like to share it, in case the person whom it happened to doesn’t post it here somehow. Basically, this kid was at the matches with his dad, and he went up to get an autograph from Valentine, who obliged and picked up the boy in his arms. Now, the boys father didn’t want his son to overstay his welcome, but when he looked over at the boy, Valentine must have read his concerns on his face. Valentine then held up five fingers, as if to say, “Let him be, five more minutes.” When the father finally went to collect his boy, Valentine thanked him and told him how he had a son at home, just about the boy’s age; and what with being on the road so much, he didn’t get a chance to see him enough. I guess holding the kid up was a sort of therapy for a loving father who missed his son. I remember, when I read this story on the internet, I had hoped Greg Valentine would see it. My condolences to him if he reads it here, instead.
I recall Johnny quite well as a young boy. It actually was the very first match I’d ever watched and seeing Johnny hooked me on wrestling for good. It was in ’66 or ’67. Johnny and the recently deceased Toni Parisi (know at the time as Antonio Pugliese) were defending their WWWF United States Tag Titles against Baron Mikel Scicluna and Smasher Sloan. Parisi was taking a terrible beating and when he was finally able to get over to work a tag, Valentine did the ever-famous back turn ignoring Pugliese who ended up getting beat even worse. The fans were going wild booing Valentine. Finally, Parisi started to rally and attempted to run the ropes for momentum, Valentine pulled the top rope down and Parisi went over the top rope backwards. With Parisi “out cold”, Valentine in typical fashion then took the tag belts and threw them on the mat in front of Scicluna and Sloan thereby surrendering the championship. The heat that Valentine generated was incredible. It set up a nice angle against Parisi and not long after Valentine left for green pastures in another territory. One thing about Johnny, heel or face, wherever he went, whether it was the Northeast, Canada, Texas, Florida.or the Carolinas, he always drew big. It was a credit to his ability as a worker.
I was saddened to hear about the passing of wrestling legend Johnny Valentine….he and Buddy Rogers were heroes of mine when I was a boy..I recall many great matches and at one time Johnny and Rogers were the tag team champions… I remember an interview with wrestling announcer Ray Morgan. Ray asked Johnny why he never smiled much and Johnny replied that he would look stupid if he smiled all the time!!! I have met Johnny’s son Greg a few times over the years and have always found him personable. I am glad so many fans have remembered the great Johnny Valentine .Thanks for the memories Johnny. You made growing up in the 1950s special.
Wow! That was my intitial reaction as a 13 year old boy, staring wide-eyed in wonder as Johnny Valentine and The Sheik tore into each other at Cobo Arena in 1973. My astonishment turned to horror when, out of nowhere, a fireball exploded into Johnny’s face. All I remembered was it took a squadron of Detroit’s finest to get The Sheik safely back to the dressing room while Bobo Brazil (at the time a heated rival of both Valentine and The Sheik) attended to Johnny in the ring.
Fast-forward six months: It’s a sellout capacity crowd at Cobo Arena. Johnny Valentine has returned! He’s teaming with Bobo to take on Pampero Firpo AND The Sheik! I remember the way the arena cheered as one when Johnny got into the ring, and THEN, when he locked up with The Sheik. He slammed his arms down into the crook of The Sheik’s elbows and proceeded to pummel the Wild Man From Syria with forearms, punches, and elbows. Being fortunate enough to be at ringside with my dad and my cousin, I can affirm what any man who faced Valentine can attest — he was stiff!
The match ended with Johnny bloody, but victorious. As he and Bobo celebrated in the ring, a woman ran in with a towel. She was crying. She wiped the blood from Johnny’s face. She hugged and kissed him ’til security was able to remove her. It occured to me years later that Johnny made a believer out of her. When he was in the ring, it WAS real.
Marlin Kibbe, Saginaw, Michigan
Sorry to hear of the passing of Johnny Valentine. As a teen in St. Louis Mo. I saw him wrestle many times at the Kiel. Also watched him on “Wrestling at the Chase”, tv show. I had the pleasure of meeting him at the exit door to the Kiel. He always put on a great show. His feud with Buddy Rogers was a classic.They also were a great tag team holding the US title. He will be missed. My thoughts go out to the family.
Buddy, Redmond, Wa.
Hi my name is Virginia, and I’m Johnny’s sister out here in Seattle where Johnny was born. I’m pretty new to the computer here. I just wanted to say that I loved all your memories that you all have shared here. My Grandaughter is putting my together a scrapbook and reading what you have all wrote shows me that he was truly loved out there as well as with family. I just wanted you to know that reading your memories has brought me a lot of joy during this time and again thank you.
Big sister Virg
As a grade school age kid, I had two heroes in the wrestling game: Buddy “Nature Boy” Rogers and “Handsome” Johnny Valentine. I was lucky to see several of their famous matches without the show-biz storylines that are part of the business today. They used to “lay leather” on each other and seemed to enjoy being “stiff”.
Watching John & Buddy work each other made me want to break into the business. It took a considerable amount of effort due to my lack of size but somehow I was lucky enough to break into the game back in the mid-70’s on a part-time basis. In all honesty, watching “Big John” as a child had a real impact on me and I wish that the chance to say THANK YOU to him. It is a shame that the “powers that be” in wrestling today don’t believe in honoring those that laid the path that has made them rich.
May Johnny Valentine rest in peace.
Kevin Clark (aka: The Zebra Kid)
I was saddened to hear the news of the passing of the greatest wrestler I ever had the pleasure to watch. I had seen him on television and had been to live events where he was the headliner. No wrestler today could go toe to toe for 60 minutes with this man. His matches at the Greensboro Colossium against the likes of Wahoo McDaniels, Dusty Rhodes, and Harley Race are truly legendary. I even got to see him in my hometown of Danville,Va. in a tag-team match with Rip Hawk as his partner, against Swede Hanson and Rock Hunter. In 1973 I was seriously injured in an auto accident, and Johnny was inspirational in my recovery. It was on my 20th birthday in 1975 when that plane went down which ended his career. I only saw him in person one other time after that, when his son Greg made his Mid-Atlantic debut at the Greensboro Colossium against Tony Atlas. He was on crutches and I asked him if he would ever wrestle again. His answer was “Oh, one of these days.” I only wish that my two sons could have seen him in the ring. Johnny, I’m sure gonna miss you.
I was saddened to learn of the death of Johnny Valentine. In other cities he may have been a heel, but in St. Louis he was a fan favorite, and was one of my favorites as well! My thoughts go out to his family, in particular to his son Greg. If you were a wrestling fan in St. Louis you may remember that when Greg first appeared here, he was billed not as Johnny’s son, but as his brother! I guess Sam Muchnick wanted to make John appear younger.
I always enjoyed Johnny’s St. Louis matches. Mr. Valentine, you will be missed.
I’ve all but given up on pro wrestling. The angles that once enhanced the product have now become the product and the lack of independence and competing promoters have turned my favorite entertainment into something less than I grew up loving.
I’ll always remember Johnny Valentine’s great feud with the Sheik at Detroit’s Cobo Arena. They had battled off and on 10 years over the US Belt and this was July of 1973 and the stipulation was a Stretcher Death Match. July in Detroit is hot and this match was making it even hotter. The battle went back and forth for a long time and every time Johnny was put on the stretcher and the attendants would start carrying him out the thousands in attendance would all chant “Go Johnny Go”
And at the last minute he’d jump off the stretcher and the brawl would resume.
Johnny and Sheik Ed Farhat put on a show to live forever in my mind that hot night. And Johnny won the belt.
GO JOHNNY GO!
I was a great fan of Johnny’s. He was the villain in the ring, but I like him. I would ring a cow bell, left over from my High School Days, just for him. He soon knew it was just for him. He would come over to ringside and give me a little wave and a bow. the crowd would boo him and throw stuff at me. I didn’t care He was the BEST! This was in Baltimore, MD. in the late fifties. I remember too, the night I got his autograph, I was so nervous I was shaking and can’t remember what all we talked about. I do remember telling him why I rang the bell, and only for him.
Sincerely, Dianne Klingensmith, [email protected]
I didn’t know Johnny Valentine, but reading SLAM’s web page this night, he was one of wrestling’s best. Rest in peace, God be with you Johnny.
To The Valentine family, love and peace.
Herman Gros, A new Johnny Valentine fan, New Orleans, La.
I grew up in Richmond, VA, and remember Johnny Valentine. He was such a great worker. He would get hit 6 or 7 times, then whack! down came his hammer. He looked liked he was really punishing the guy in the ring. Whack! here it came again! He made his matches a war, and so real . I thought him and Wahoo were two of the toughest guys around then. He was not a man of flash but of substance. It saddened me about that infamous plane crash in 1975. I followed Greg’s career, and he wrestled a lot like his dad. I have missed him for years.