Before the wrestling universe went digital, before it was truly a national entity, there was one man who stood above the rest with his prodigious contributions to the world of mailed newsletters. Meet Terry Justice, gone too soon at age 32, doing what he loved—going to wrestling.
Not only did Terry do his own newsletters, like TNT Times on Tommy and Eddie Gilbert, the clipping-heavy Championship Wrestling, and the Encyclopedia of Wrestling through the years, but he also contributed to the magazines of the day, like The Ring’s Wrestling Magazine.
He was also a part of the WFIA (Wrestling Fans International Association), and won awards from the fan-run organization.
People who read the publications got to know Justice too, as he’d detail his travels around the country for wrestling.
Scott Teal hosted Justice once. “Terry visited Nashville one time and I had the honor of having him stay with me. I introduced him to everyone at the Fairgrounds the night he was there. To say he was ‘living a dream’ was an understatement. Terry loved wrestling and getting to meet the guys he had read about put him on top of the world.”
On another occasion, Justice wrote about going to Baltimore for the first time, for a show on Saturday, October 21, 1978, where he noted, “I must say the Civic Center is an impressive arena.”
He would arrange to meet local fans or correspondents.
Justice’s recaps of the matches aren’t any different than today’s fans would do … but there could be some funny anecdotes:
We sat down by the dressing room area (after bribing an usher!) and some other fans about three rows back from us were smoking marijuana. The smell was so strong that those of us up front were starting to feel the effects, too. Fortunately, those smokers finally moved to another section. But I can’t help but wonder if I really would have enjoyed Larry Zbyszko‘s match as much as I did if I wasn’t effected by … oh well.
On that same show, Justice met up with another superfan, Walt Wolansky. “Terry and I were close friends, and his parents took us in their camper home to Toronto for a show and to the WFIA Convention in Knoxville,” recalled Wolansky. “I still have all of Terry’s bulletins in my collection.”
Justice’s love of wrestling wasn’t confined to the pro rings. His involvement with amateur wrestling began in his junior year at Eastridge High School, in Irondequoit, NY, in the mid-1960s, where he managed the school’s wrestling team.
After graduating in 1967, Justice became an English teacher at Eastridge (1973-74, 1975-76), and coached the freshman and junior varsity teams. Later, he ran amateur wrestling teams outside of the school system. In 1977, Justice opened a book store, called Book Reviews, at his Irondequoit home. At the time of his passing, he was a teller in the Brownscroft branch of Lincoln First Bank.
One man straddled both those worlds, Tim Reed, who would later become pro wrestler Diamond Timothy Flowers.
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On the phone, Flowers is happy to talk about his Junior Varsity coach.
“He saw us going to all the different wrestling camps in the summer, saw us trying to improve. He latched on pretty much, we latched up together,” recalled Flowers, who usually wrestled at 132 pounds, but once dropped weight to 126. “We used to go to Toronto and Hamilton for the shows and stuff, and we hit all those amateurs tournaments in the summer. We went as far as Oklahoma for some tournaments during the summer.”
Flowers’ father, Roger, would be along for most of the trips. “It would be me, my father, Terry, and a couple other guys. A lot of times it was kids that couldn’t afford stuff. Terry paid their way. He was a good guy, he was always trying to help. He loved wrestling.”
In an article after his twin brother’s death, Scott Justice explained Terry’s talents as a wrestling coach. “His greatest ability in wrestling was not with technique, but as a motivator,” Scott Justice said. “He motivated and cared about them.”
Terry needed to see your commitment, shared Flowers. “If you loved wrestling, he brought you in and made things accessible to you. The tournaments, if you couldn’t afford to go pay the fee, he’d pay it. He’d take you out for a meal. He’d make sure you had a gym to train in. And that’s one of the things we had; I had a guy, Frank Oliveri, who was a coach and we had this rec center in downtown Rochester. It was in a bad section, but he’d let us in there any time we wanted, and we would all train there in the summer when we couldn’t get into our own schools. We had that access. Terry would ask, ‘Can I bring some guys down?’
“We’d get a sh–load of guys out and we’d train our asses off for hours. He’d be taking pictures, making tapes, everything, so we could study them and stuff.”
Flowers started to laugh thinking about Justice’s big, outdated camera. “We used to make fun of him about it. It looked like something in the old silent movies, they had those things on the tripod,” he said. “He knew we were only kidding, though; he never took any of it to heart.”
Justice’s love of wrestling extended post-season too, said Flowers. “We didn’t have awards dinners and sh– like they do now. He made one for us. Every year we had that. And the guy with the most pins, and the most wins, and they got a trophy, they got a medal. Terry made sure everyone got an award. Whether you did something or not, he made one for you, right down to the girls that cleaned the mats.”
The pro and amateur world mixed, said Flowers. Justice was never “ashamed” to talk about his love of the squared circle. Reed wasn’t the only pro wrestler from that class, as a friend, Peter Miller, briefly took a turn as Peter Flowers out in British Columbia alongside his classmate, and also worked as the Mongolian Mauler, traveling to Europe and Africa to wrestle.
There were times that Flowers, his father and Justice, and others, filled up the car to go watch the pro matches in Buffalo. Another time, Flowers recalled going with Justice to see Tom Burke, Don Laible, and the matches in Springfield, Mass.
“He was a major fan, historian, but more important a friend. His various wrestling publications were filled with news, clips, results, comments and more,” Burke recalled of Justice.
One thing stood out above all, though, said Flowers: “He loved Tommy Gilbert!”
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Don Laible is one of those long-time people in the wrestling industry where the term “fan” just isn’t enough. He’s been a fan, sure, but also a writer, radio journalist, and confidant to many wrestlers. “The Kid” still contributes to John Arezzi’s Pro Wrestling Spotlight podcast and occasionally to this website.
He’d met the Justices locally, but was also there in Memphis at the WFIA convention when Justice first met Eddie Gilbert, the son of Tommy Gilbert. Justice had done a fan club / newsletter on the Gilberts, TNT Times. The WFIA fans were an adjunct to the wrestling business, and a territory, like the Jerry Jarrett–Jerry Lawler promotion in Tennessee, acted as host to the convention. In Memphis, there were seats at the live TV taping, tickets to the matches, a banquet, and even a softball game with the WFIA team taking on the wrestlers.
At one point, Laible ended up hanging out in the Justices’ Winnebago trailer, which they used for longer road trips. He recalled that it was him, Randy Hales (future promoter and office worker in Memphis), a young photographer named Jim Cornette (who’d go on to great fame), Eddie Gilbert and his brother, Doug, then about nine or 10, in the vehicle. “It was just guys talking wrestling the whole time. Terry was the leader of the group,” said Laible.
“He had a high voice; when you looked at Terry, he was meek, he was anything but threatening, he looked like a teacher,” said Laible, adding that Justice was also sensitive, and would take slights out of context, and could hold a (quiet) grudge.
A second generation wrestler, Eddie Gilbert had only just started wrestling in 1979, and known to the WFIA-like crowd for his participation through the years, Justice pivoted the TNT Times / TNT Power from just Tommy Gilbert to Tommy and the not yet “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert.
According to Laible, Justice was “possessive of his, I don’t want to say friendship or relationship, but his time around Eddie Gilbert; he started to get very possessive of him.”
Later, Justice would fly into a territory, like Kansas City, to visit with Eddie Gilbert. “He really put everything he had into the [Gilbert] fan club,” said Laible. “It got to the point where Eddie didn’t have [Terry] stay with him anymore, because the guys are really ribbing Eddie about it because Terry was everywhere Eddie was. Terry didn’t go for women at all, and look, Eddie was, at that time, he was probably 19 or 20 maybe tops, and he’s a young guy on the road and this and that. Terry didn’t know when to turn it off and say, ‘Okay, there’s no more wrestling talk right now.’ You had a young guy there with all the ladies around.”
According to a few sources, it became too much, Justice was crowding Gilbert. Eventually, the Gilbert family decided, This is not too good, so let’s end this.
Flowers said that he had heard the rumors, but doesn’t know what to believe. “I wasn’t near the situation.”
Laible noted that after the Gilberts pushed Justice away that his devotion to pro wrestling waned. “I didn’t see him much or hear from him, because I lived about two hours away from him. And he didn’t come down to the shows in Syracuse.”
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Laible also noted that the Justice family had two prominent photos displayed on their television set: one was Jesus Christ, and the other was Dr. Jerry Graham.
When he and Burke were visiting the Justices one time, Laible asked about their relationship with the Good Doctor, who had headlined at Madison Square Garden. It turned out that the Justices and Graham had met at a show in Rochester, and they just invited him over. “Well, that one night turned into a year or more — Dr. Jerry never left,” said Laible. “He didn’t have anything, and he knew that they were such big fans and everything, and so Jerry lived in their living room, on the couch, for a really long time.”
In Scott Teal’s Whatever Happened To … newsletter (Number 33, June 1997), Scott Justice told the story of how Graham came to live at their house:
Roger Reed [father of Tim Flowers] arranged for Graham to stay at our house. I remember coming home from work one day and there’s this huge man sitting on the couch in the living room. Terry says, “Come on in and meet Dr. Jerry Graham.” I was in shock! My mother was just fascinated by his stories, so she became very good friends with Jerry. It was quite a sight for the neighbors, because they’d see Graham sunbathing in the front yard. He weighed over 400 pounds and had these skimpy, wrestling trunks on.
He ended up staying at our house for months after that. He went to church with us once, and I didn’t realize at the time what his feelings toward religion were. He was very skeptical and cynical, and yet respectful. He didn’t interrupt the service or cause any problems, but he clearly wasn’t impressed either. I was just the associate pastor at the time, so I wasn’t preaching that night.
He left and came back again later, this time staying for a number of months. To be honest, I think he took advantage of our mom financially, but he also kept her entertained with his stories, and very intrigued. The second time he stayed with us, it looked like he was never going to leave. He wasn’t providing any income at all, and he was expensive to feed. A little obnoxious at times, but not overly. We kind of told him that he had to leave and find another play to stay. He got a little bit offended by that.
What did Graham leave behind? “The bathtub was covered with feces,” said Scott Justice. “That was kind of like his goodbye note to us.”
Laible noted that the Justice parents “really weren’t into wrestling, but they were taking their kids around,” he said. “I thought it was really sweet how they stuck together as a family.”
He recalled Terry Justice saying something along those lines: “He said, ‘People wonder why I live with my parents, why Scott and I live with our parents. The simple answer is because we want to, we like living at home, we like our parents, we have a good time.'”
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Teal tried to put in perspective Justice’s body of work: “Fan-produced wrestling bulletins had been around since the 1950s, but Terry’s newsletters were the most informative, exciting newsletters ever published by that time — bar none! In January 1978, he began publishing Championship Wrestling, an 14-page newsletter chock full of newspaper articles and ads from all over the world. During that time, he developed correspondents everywhere and published a newsletter every week. Not every month, but every week! During the four years he published, he created more titles — TNT Times, Spotlight on Wrestling, All Star Grappler, Encyclopedia of Wrestling, Main Event Wrestling and Wrestling Nostalgia — and each 16 to 32-page issue was crammed full of newspaper ads and articles. He also published Books of the Year for the years 1963 to 1978, three volumes of Terry Justice Presents The Program Book, and a newsletter devoted to the Gilbert family (Eddie and Tommy) called TNT Power. In all, Terry published more than 400 issues of his aforementioned titles, an amazing output of wrestling history in the four short years he published. That’s roughly two issues a week.”
It was unique that Justice didn’t charge for his newsletters, said Teal. “If you sent him just one clipping from a newspaper, he would send you a copy of the newsletter in which it appeared. On the other hand, if you weren’t a regular contributor, you couldn’t even get a copy, because he only sent them to ‘good correspondents.’ He was able to do that because his father worked for Xerox and his newsletters were printed when they tested the copiers. I have no doubt, though, that if that hadn’t been the case, Terry would have paid for the newsletters out of his own pocket and sent them out to his friends and correspondents free of charge. He did, however, pay the postage.”
Justice’s interviews with wrestlers are an interesting mix, as they came in a world that was still “kayfabe” with wrestling secrets so carefully guarded. Yet he had an in-depth knowledge of the sport and his subjects, and got some interesting pieces, whether in his newsletters or in the magazines of the day.
He talked to George Grant, who was the “other” Gorgeous George. Grant went into preaching after wrestling [as did Scott Justice], and Terry Justice interviewed him prior to a church service in Rochester, so there was an audience present.
Q: How many times have you won and how many times have you lost in your career?
A: I have a very dear friend named Jesse James (Audience laughs), no, that’s his real name, who wrestled three years before I started and continued for three years after I quit. He kept a ledger of all the matches he wrestled, something I wish I had done. He had slightly over 9,000 matches. I estimate I had 8,000 matches and I’m satisfied I won two-thirds of them.
At the other end of the spectrum, Justice talked with a young Buzz Sawyer, just into the wrestling world, in 1979. “I’m 19 years old and I won the Jr. National Championships for Open Freestyle in ’77. My high school wrestling was at Dixie Hollands in St. Petersburg, Florida,” noted Sawyer (Bruce Woyan), who’d also die at age 32, but as a result of hard living.
Reed went and trained to be a pro wrestler, and recalled talking to Justice a couple of times about how his career was progressing. If his memory is correct, Flowers believes he was wrestling in Puerto Rico when he heard the bad news. “Next thing I heard about Terry was he died in a car accident.”
On Sunday morning, March 21, 1982, Justice was driving an 18-year-old amateur wrestler, Richard Lapaglia, to a meet in Fulton, Oswego County. They left at 4 a.m. So they could arrive in good time.
Rochester NY Times-Union story recounts the rest:
Justice was driving eastbound on Route 104 about 5 a.m. when a westbound car crossed the center line in the Wayne County town of Sodus and struck his car head-on at Bond Road, according to sheriff’s deputies.
Justice, 32, of 2154 E. Ridge Road, Irondequoit, as pronounced dead at the scene, deputies said.
Lapaglia, of 4 Willhurst Drive, Gates, was listed in satisfactory condition at Rochester General Hospital.
The driver of the second car, Christopher Alfano, 39, of Charleston, S.C., was charged with driving while intoxicated and failure to keep right, deputies said. He had been ordered to appear in Sodus Town Court April 7.
Alfanso was listed in satisfactory condition at Rochester General.
Terry Justice left behind his twin brother, Scott, another brother, Douglas, and his parents, Walter and Doris. The funeral was March 24th at Jackson Rd. Baptist Church, in Penfield, NY.
It fell to Scott Justice to put out one last newsletter for all Justice’s correspondents.
This is the final issue of TNT Times a tribute to my twin brother, Terry Robert Justice.
Terry went to be with the Lord in the early hours of the first day of spring.
The first clips in this bulletin deal with his death. Included are some sports articles he wrote for several local newspapers the day before he died, which were printed after his death. Also included is a Rochester ad which he designed that was printed in some of the same newspapers.
The next section of the bulletin is one of Terry’s final professional wrestling articles, reprinted by permission of The Ring’s Wrestling Magazine.
The final section of this bulletin is comprised of clips we received after Terry’s death.
There are many people in the sport of professional wrestling who Terry appreciated and loved very much. He did a lot for the sport, and the sport did a lot for him. Our family is grateful to all who were Terry’s friends.
Although this is the final issue of TNT Times I would really appreciate everyone acknowledging receiving it. The reason for that is because I know Terry would want me to make sure each of you got a copy.
Your cooperation on this matter would help us very much.
Someone like Terry cannot be replaced. You just thank God that he gave Terry a good, full and useful life. Terry lived more in his 32 years than many do in 80 or 90.
Although my future involvement in professional wrestling will be quite limited, by all means please keep in touch. If you were a friend of Terry’s, you will always a be a friend of our family. I mean that very sincerely.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The spelling of Timothy Flowers’ last name has been corrected to Reed; it was erroneously listed as Reid.