AMSTERDAM, NY – The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum (PWHF) is pleased to announce the 2007 PWHF Induction Class and Senator Farley Awardee. The PWHF, a New York State chartered not-for-profit corporation, will be celebrating its sixth annual Induction Weekend in May of 2007.
In the Pioneer Era Category former World Champions Earl Caddock and Gus Sonnenberg will be honored. Earl Caddock was born in 1888 to German Jewish parents and he battled tuberculosis as a child. After a very successful amateur career, Earl was trained for professional wrestling by the legendary Frank Gotch and Farmer Burns before making his debut in 1915. On April 19, 1917, he won the World Wrestling Title by defeating Joe Stecher in Omaha, Nebraska. His outstanding career continued until it was interrupted by his service in World War 1. Caddock retired following his final bid to regain the Championship from Ed Lewis in 1922. He died of heart problems in 1950. Gustave “Gus” Sonnenberg was born in Michigan in 1898. He was a relatively small man by wrestling standards. Gus was only 5’7″ tall and weighed approximately 200 pounds. He was highly educated and attended both Dartmouth and the University of Detroit, where he graduated with a law degree. He was well versed in many sports and he had a successful college and professional football career. However, it was wrestling for which he will always be remembered. Possessing unusual strength and speed, Sonnenberg used his football skills in the ring to develop his “flying tackle” move. In January of 1929, Gus defeated Strangler Lewis at Boston Gardens to gain the World’s Championship. Sonnenberg died of leukemia in 1944 at the young age of 46.
In the Television Era Category, the 2007 inductees are Danny Hodge and Pat O’Connor. Born in 1932, Danny Hodge was a three-time NCAA wrestling champion at the University of Oklahoma. He wrestled in the Olympics and won a Silver Medal in 1956. He was the first wrestler to ever grace the cover of Sports Illustrated. Trained by “Strangler” Lewis, Danny also had a stellar professional career holding the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship a record eight times. He also achieved great success as a tag team wrestler. Danny continues to live in his hometown of Perry, Oklahoma with Dolores, his bride of over fifty years. The other honoree in the Television Category is Pat O’Connor. Born in 1925 in New Zealand, Patrick “Pat” O’Connor was known for his athletic and wrestling ability. He was truly a wrestler’s wrestler and one of the best “workers” of his era. Pat first won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Dick Hutton and at one time held both the AWA and NWA belts simultaneously. In 1961 O’Connor dropped the belt to Buddy Rogers in front of a record of over 38,000 fans at Comiskey Park in Chicago. Pat was later a booker in St. Louis. He succumbed to cancer in 1990.
The Modern Era Inductees for this coming year are Ted DiBiase and Roddy Piper. Born in 1954, Ted DiBiase is the stepson of former professional wrestler Iron Mike DiBiase. Ted started his wrestling career while a student at West Texas State University after being trained by Dory Funk Jr. Ted met his first wrestling successes in the late 1970s in the National Wrestling Alliance. However, his destiny was to become one of the all time great heels as the “Million Dollar Man” in the World Wrestling Federation. His finishing move was the “Million Dollar Dream”. DiBiase was also a master with the microphone. One of his most memorable events was negotiating the championship belt from Andre the Giant following Andre’s defeat of Hulk Hogan for the title in 1988. Since his retirement from the ring, Ted has stayed active in the sport as a manager and creative consultant. He also travels regularly as a Christian minister. Roderick Toombs, better known as Rowdy Roddy Piper, was also born in 1954. Though of Scottish descent, he was actually raised in Winnipeg, Canada. Roddy became a professional wrestler at age 15, making him one of the youngest performers of all time. As a Golden Gloves boxer and a black belt judo expert, Roddy achieved success in combat sports other than wrestling. Roddy enjoyed great successes on the West Coast during the mid to late 1970s in the NWA but Piper etched his permanent mark while in the WWF in the 1980s. Not only did Roddy have memorable matches in Wrestlemanias but he also created a hugely popular interview segment known as “Piper’s Pit”. In the late 1990s, Roddy joined WCW before later returning to the WWE. It has been reported that Piper has held thirty-eight professional wrestling titles and been victorious in over 7,000 professional matches. Roddy is also an accomplished actor and has appeared in over thirty movies.
The 2007 International Category Inductee is Karl Gotch. Karl Istaz, aka Karl Gotch, was born in 1924 in Antwerp, Belgium of German and Hungarian ancestry. With a strong amateur career, Karl competed for Belgium in the 1948 Olympics. Karl was trained professionally by Billy Riley in Britain at the famous “Snake Pit”. Subsequently he developed a reputation as a top “shooter”, often under the name of Karl Krauser. In the late 1950’s, Karl began his tours in the United States. Karl found relative success in Australia and America but his ultimate appreciation came in Japan, where his technical skills were greatly respected. In Japan, he was labeled as the “God of Professional Wrestling” due to his influence on the Japanese wrestling style. Considered by many to be the greatest living technical professional wrestler in the world, Karl is retired and lives in Florida.
The Senator Hugh Farley Award, which is given to a wrestler who has brought honor and dignity to professional wrestling, will be presented to Dr. Billy Darnell. The Farley award is determined by committee decision and is based upon the ring career as well as the non-wrestling societal contributions made by the honoree. Chairpersons this year were Bob Bryla and John Pantozzi. Billy Darnell twice held the NWA World Tag Team title with partner Bill Melby. His matches with Buddy Rogers are considered legendary. Darnell secured his retirement from wrestling by obtaining a Doctor of Chiropractic degree and has continued to serve his fellow man in that field to this very day. Interestingly, Dr. Darnell once wrestled Dr. John Bonica, a past recipient of the PWHF New York State Award, which was the forerunner of the Farley Award.
The 2007 Women’s Category Inductee will be Cora Combs of Nashville, Tennessee. Combs made her professional ring debut in 1950. She battled all of the top female performers including World Champion Mildred Burke. During her career, Cora held the NWA Southern Women’s Championship belt. She wrestled as “Lady Satan” frequently and trained her daughter, Debbie Combs, on the fine points of the mat wars. Cora and Debbie had entertaining matches against each other as well as forming a tag team combination at other points in time.
The inductees for the Tag Team Category are Chris and John Tolos. Real life brothers, Chris and John were born in Hamilton, Canada and nicknamed the “Hamilton Wrecking Crew”. In the 1960’s, they held multiple versions of the NWA World Tag Team Championship as well as the WWWF Tag Team Title, which they won from Killer Kowalski and Gorilla Monsoon in 1963. Known as great workers, the brothers relied on their natural loyalty to one another to get themselves over with the fans. In the 1970s, John developed a strong reputation as a singles wrestle due to a classic feud with Freddie Blassie in Los Angeles. Chris remained in Canada to wrestle single matches as well. In 2005, cancer claimed the life of Chris in Hamilton, Ontario.
Jack Pfefer is the recipient in the 2007 Non-Participant Category. Born near Warsaw, Poland in 1894, the colorful Jacob “Jack” Pfefer came to the United States as a theatre agent. Several years later, Jack became involved in the professional wrestling business. He first started in Chicago and then moved to New York to work with the legendary promoter Jack Curley. Following a bitter dispute within the New York promoting circle, Pfefer exposed the internal workings of the “wrestling business” to the press. The public perception of the sport was impacted and later led to the popularizing of the entertainment aspect of professional wrestling. Exaggerated ring personas became his trademark. Jack Pfefer died in Massachusetts in 1974. His vast collection of mementos from his 45 years in the wrestling may be viewed at the University of Notre Dame.
The PWHF officials wish to thank California Attorney Robert Oates for his outstanding leadership as Chairperson of the Screening Committee this year. Also serving on the Screening Committee were wrestling historian J Michael Kenyon and wrestling memorabilia expert John Pantozzi. The PWHF also wishes to acknowledge the support from Karl Lauer, Executive Vice-President of the Cauliflower Alley Club. The rotating thirty member Board of Selectors, which is equally divided between professional wrestlers and wrestling experts, voted upon this year’s ballot.
As further information regarding the planned May 18 & 19, 2007 Induction Weekend develops, it may be obtained on the PWHF website address www.pwhf.org.