By Mike Mooneyham

Nov. 7, 2004

Professional wrestling has lost its share of unforgettable characters over the past decade.

Dave Meltzer, longtime editor of the popular Wrestling Observer newsletter, chronicles some of their lives in a new book titled “Tributes II: Remembering More of the World’s Greatest Wrestlers” (Sports Publishing, $24.95). The author is more than up to the task.

Meltzer takes a look at 15 wrestlers who helped shape the business. From Lou Thesz, regarded by many as the greatest in-ring worker in the history of the sport, to Johnny Valentine and Wahoo McDaniel, considered two of the toughest performers ever, Meltzer deftly blends a history of their mat exploits with a fascinating look at their personal lives.

This 239-page book, beautifully illustrated with photos from the extensive collection of Dr. Mike Lano, is a follow-up to “Tributes: Remembering Some of the World’s Greatest Wrestlers,” published three years ago, that featured late wrestling personalities such as Fritz Von Erich, Bruiser Brody and Gordon Solie.

Dave Meltzer

Dave Meltzer

Although most of the information originally appeared in past issues of Meltzer’s weekly newsletter, the book’s edited and expanded material neatly ties it all together and provides an authoritative record on some of pro wrestling’s biggest stars.

This newest volumes examines the lives of such diverse performers as Road Warrior Hawk, Curt Hennig, Miss Elizabeth, Stu Hart, Owen Hart, Tim Woods, Davey Boy Smith, Gorilla Monsoon, Terry Gordy, The Sheik and Fred Blassie. Meltzer provides compelling portraits of these stars, some of whom lived long, fascinating lives, while others lived hard and fell fast, victims of a sometimes cruel business and victims of their own excesses.

The author’s knowledge and love for the business shine through in both books. The profiles of the legends are shown, warts and all, but are honestly and respectfully portrayed, with an amazing level of detail. If anything, the books help immortalize the place that these fallen stars deserve in the history of pro wrestling.

“I’ve lost many comrades over the years and have been moved by Dave’s honest portrayals of their lives, not just as wrestling characters, but as people,” Bret Hart wrote in the foreword. “I truly appreciated everything he wrote about Owen, and his profile of my complex father is the most moving and honest one that I’ve ever seen.”

Meltzer, who has been putting out his Observer newsletter for 22 years, has a wealth of information at his disposal for this detailed chronicle. Not only will readers learn about these stars, they will learn about what pro wrestling was like at different stages of its history.

“Tributes II” pays homage to wrestling’s most recent and high-profile losses, but it does much more than that. It’s a guidebook for many young, aspiring stars on the excesses and pitfalls of the business.

This hardcover collection of wrestling obituaries, which also includes a free companion DVD offering an interview with the author, is a must for any true fan of wrestling history.

– WWE conducted one of the biggest housecleanings in the history of the company over the past week by trimming 10 from its roster. The list of cuts includes Billy Gunn, A Train, Test, Gail Kim, Nidia, Jazz, Chuck Palumbo, Rico, Johnny Stamboli and Rodney Mack.

Some sources report that morale is at an all-time low, and that performers are looking over their shoulders, fearful that they might be next on the list of talent purges.

– Charges in the assault case against “New Jack” Jerome Young were dropped last week when the district attorney determined there was no case. Young was arrested last month after allegedly stabbing his opponent 14 times with a prop as part of a hard-core match for Florida’s Thunder Wrestling Federation.

Witnesses at the show had claimed that it appeared Young had lost control and was attempting to hurt opponent Hunter Lane. Both wrestlers reportedly later told local authorities that it was simply part of their hardcore match and that the violence had been planned.

Young, who was held on $40,000 bond in Duval County Jail for three weeks before finally making bond, appeared at an NWA Wildside event last weekend and cut a profanity-laced promo concerning his recent arrest. Wildside officials even solicited contributions for Young’s defense fund.

Young said he had 13 years in the business and nobody was going to use him as prop to build their reputation. Young, who had announced his retirement earlier this year, told the crowd that he had changed his mind. “I want to cause more problems and cut more people before I go.”

Young said he was looking at the possibility of 12 years in prison and promised to do his last match at the NWA Arena the night before they locked him up. He added he was the originator of hardcore and called Abdullah the Butcher “G-rated” and compared him to Scooby Doo on Saturday morning.

– Tully Blanchard will be guest speaker at 11 a.m. services Nov. 21 at Betaw Christian Church in St. Stephen and again at 6 p.m. at Miles Road Baptist Church in Summerville. The public is invited.

For more information, call (843) 567-2567.

– TNA (Total Nonstop Action) attempts to put its best foot forward with its first three-hour, Sunday night pay-per-view. Tonight’s Victory Road event includes: Jeff Hardy (with Kevin Nash) vs. NWA champ Jeff Jarrett (with Scott Hall) in a ladder match; 3 Live Kru vs. Team Canada in an NWA tag-team title match; AJ Styles vs. Petey Williams for X division title; an X-Division gauntlet match; Mascarita Sagrada vs. Piratita Morgan in a minis match; Raven vs. Abyss vs. Monty Brown; Johnny B. Badd, Eric Watts, Ron Killings and Empire Saint (Pat Kenney) vs. Andy Douglas, Chase Stevens, Kid Kash and Dallas; Eric Young and Bobby Roode vs. Konnan and B.G. James for NWA tag-team title; and Christopher Daniels and Elix Skipper vs. America’s Most Wanted in a last man standing match. Also featured will be an “In the Pit with Piper” segment with Roddy Piper. Fans will get to vote whether Vince Russo or Dusty Rhodes gets to become the Director of Authority.

– Ashley Fliehr, the youngest daughter of Ric Flair, has led her Providence High School volleyball team in Charlotte to a 32-2 record so far this season. The 5-10 senior, who has committed to Appalachian State, has sparked the 4A squad to a 95.9 winning percentage over the past three years, including a 35-2 mark in 2003 and a 34-1 record in 2002.

Providence was going after its second North Carolina 4A championship in three years Saturday against Greenville Rose in Raleigh.

– Jake “The Snake” Roberts was found guilty of animal cruelty to the snake he uses as a prop for his wrestling matches.

Roberts, 49, whose real name is Aurelian Smith Jr., was found guilty of starving his pet Burmese python to death from August to September 2003. Roberts did not appear during the course of his recent three-day trial and a warrant was issued, ordering him to return to the court for sentencing.

Inspectors said Roberts’ 15-foot sidekick had not been fed for several months and had been kept in an unsuitable tank in the garage of a home he shared in England with friend and business partner, Valerie Burnham, 69. The snake died after being recovered by a local agency.

Roberts is likely to receive community service and a fine as a result of his conviction.