|Posted by Johnny Mantell on July 18, 2013 at 2:00 PM|
You know I got a call a couple days ago from my dear friend Pork Chops Cash telling me about another from our fraternity had passed, Tom Shaft. Tom had been a pro boxer turned Pro Wrestler. Boy, let me tell you as a 20 yr. old young man sitting there listening to his stories of sparring with Muhammad Ali were just awesome!!
But this story is about life moments; those stories that Tom told me where just that, Life Moments. When Chops called with the news, he also told me about going to spend the 4th of July holiday with a mutual friend, Noble Curtis and his family. They had one big family dinner during his stay and of course the stories from this Mississippi family about wrestling were about an evening maybe lost to some but on the front burner for others.
The story they asked Chops about was the one of Oki Shikina and Johnny Mantell one night in Greenwood, MS. You see George Culkin had bought a piece of property right on Hwy 49 and built a Sportatorium type building for filming TV. So that was the weekly building when he pulled away from Bill Watts and Mid-South and opened up a AWA company in Mississippi.
I had not been in MS on this trip very long. I went to live with Tom Jones where we worked out in the gym 6 days a week (Sundays off) and learn from booker Frankie Cain. This night in history would be my first lesson and education on building an angle. At the age of 20 you’re more piss and vinegar than knowledge and giving me to Oki was again a class with a great professional.
This night was going to start a fight that would take about 6 months to finish, that’s right I said 6 months! So the fight this night HAD to be good. My instructions were to shut up, listen and fight until Frankie and George sent help to pull us apart and then still stay after it until we got all the way back to the dressing room.
Well this match started in the ring, went to the floor, out the front door through the parking lot across Hwy 49 stopping traffic along the way, back across 49 through the parking lot back into the building and into the ring. The action never stopped and the fans followed this fight outside then back inside. And much like the Von Erichs and Freebirds fights of the 80s, this fight in 1978 was brutal. Frankie and Oki said we “must make them believe”. We must make them believe!! The blood flew, the back drops outside in the parking lot were high, running into the building everything was full speed. Sitting here today in 2013, 35 years later this life moment still sticks with me and fans that were there. So the fans did believe! The impression and education it left on me still sticks today. That’s why this fraternity is so special because we cared for each other and if you left the dressing room together you came back together. Nobody was left behind; we all wanted everyone on the card to make a living. After all, isn’t that the purpose? The promoter, the booker, the boys all wanted to make more next week than we did this week and we worked to make that happen! If you’re in this business and not in this situation, then I feel sorry for you because you’re not getting the best opportunity to learn and be involved in this business that has made it so much fun for me.
You might not believe you are making an impression on someone but you might just be making a lifelong impression, a memory or moment in time that will be remembered around their family table for a lifetime!
God Bless, CJM