Ox Baker. Man, what a character. Whether you met him at a fan fest in recent years, or knew him from back in the day, there is little doubt that you ever forgot your encounter with him. Here’s a small selection of Ox Baker stories from my files.
BIG JOHN QUINN called Baker “unbelievably clumsy.” They worked together in Georgia “When him and I wrestled, there was no point to the match,” began Quinn, recalling that they were both eliminated early from a battle royal, setting up a 20-minute match. “It was the best wrestling match I ever had — he never put a hold on me. I wouldn’t let him get anywhere near to me where he could be clumsy. The guy would get a hammerlock on you, reach the wrong way, out comes the shoulder and you’re done. … He had a great personality and was a hell of a nice guy.”
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REGGIE LOVE remembered the laughs. “I liked Ox. I had more laughs with him. When my partner took off for Puerto Rico, they gave me Ox Baker as my partner. He’s funny.”
On one occasion, they were on a flight together, and Baker came onto the aircraft, announcing, “I know you’re all looking at me!”
“When you get a guy like that, the time flies. When you get an old stodgepodge, it’s not good,” said Love.
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TOMMY RICH summed up his run with Baker: “A lot of guys didn’t like to work with Ox Baker, but I could rassle Ox and have a hell of a match.”
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SIR OLIVER HUMPERDINK once shared a great story with writer Lawrence Alegdrop: “Ox always painted his toenails red. It’s sort of a sight to see that big Ox Baker with these red toenails. And this was in Florida where he would go around in flip-flops, and stuff like that, you know so everybody could see them. I guess he told his wife that since he had to be on the road a lot he still wanted to show her that he loved her. So he told his wife that as long as he had the red painted toenails she would know he loved her.”
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GIL HAYES had issues with Baker: “I’m driving Stu Hart’s Cadillac and he slapped me on the back of the head when I’m doing 70 miles an hour on ice. That’s because I told him, ‘Never, never again call my sister a wh—.’ He slapped me on the back of the head. We had it out on the highway, just by Swift Current. I jumped back in the car, and Bob Sweetan was sitting on the passenger side. I started to pull away, and it had to be very close to 30 below, and I was going to leave Ox Baker out there on the highway, and have him freeze to death. It came that close.”
“Because I have a sense of decency about me, as angry as I was, and as much as I wanted to see him hurt, I couldn’t bring myself to do that. I couldn’t bring myself to do that, no matter how much I wanted to.”
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JOHNNY POWERS had the unique aspect of being both a wrestler with Baker and a promoter. “I liked Ox, and he’s a smart dude. He’s smarter than I think people think he is,” said Powers. “I created an angle that made so many territories so much money, which was the Ox Baker-Ladd angle. That was my angle, right? It took on a life of its own. As a creator, you can only take part of the credit for it, because it worked so great. The riot worked great, the Cleveland riot.”
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COWBOY BOB ELLIS traded the championship with Baker in Australia. “Ox was getting over big there, and I suggested to [promoter Jim] Barnett, ‘Let’s get Ox Baker over.’ Ox Baker would carry his own and he learned a lot. He was pretty green when he first started. He was a natural. … He was such a sweetheart.”
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In an August 2001 issue of Scott Teal’s Whatever Happened To … ? newsletter, BOB ROOP talked about him: “Ox is probably the best friend I made in the business. He is really a great guy, with a great sense of humor and NEVER at a loss for words.”
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When he was talking with journalist Scott Williams in 2004, SUPERSTAR BILLY GRAHAM said Ox Baker “could have been the greatest heel around if he never opened his mouth. When he opened his mouth, you could tell he was really the nicest guy. Ox was a funny guy. I liked to listen to him sing in the locker room. He would sing ‘Old Man River.’ He had a tremendous voice.”
SLAM! Wrestling staff
CHRISTINE COONS is a photographer in the New England area, and knew Ox well, and shared this: “When the justice of the peace at my wedding asked if anyone objects, Ox Baker had to be restrained.” (She wrote a personal column on Ox: Mat Matters: Why Ox Baker was at my wedding and other memories)
STEVE JOHNSON interviewed Ox a number of times, and went very in-depth on the famed riot in Cleveland between Baker and Johnny Powers. [See Steel Belt Wrestling’s report: Ox Baker incites a riot in Cleveland]. But the story Steve is sharing comes from a trip to Las Vegas for a Cauliflower Alley Club reunion in 2007.
“We left Monday but we thought for old times sakes, we’d taker the bus down to Main Street Station to fill up on the breakfast buffet for a long day of travel,” said Johnson. “On the bus back down the strip, which we caught at the bus station, who is on there in all his glory but Ox Baker. Let me tell you, you have not LIVED until you have ridden on public transportation for about 15 minutes with Ox Baker. One guy challenged him to a fight, and I thought it was well-nigh impossible to be that obnoxious and overbearing to so many people at one time. Wish I’d had a camera to catch some of the action. You truly had to be there.”
As for me, GREG OLIVER, all I can say is that Ox Baker is one of the loudest people I’ve ever been around. He had a way of drawing attention to himself that was both fascinating and obnoxious, if that makes sense. He craved the attention, yet in conversation with him on the phone, he was just a normal guy who enjoyed his run. Rest in peace, Ox.
- Oct. 22, 2014: Mat Matters: Why Ox Baker was at my wedding and other memories
- Oct. 21, 2014: Guest column: Ox Baker, 45 years of memories
- Oct. 20, 2014: Wrestling legend Ox Baker passes away
- June 28, 2001: Ox Baker: Wrestler, chef, author