See the Grand Wizard without his sunglasses and turban

Sorry I haven’t been super active on the blog recently; as many of you know, it can be tough following wrestling when you’ve got work and family to look after.

But I read something over the weekend that brought me way back to my youth. October 12 was the 30th anniversary of the Grand Wizard’s death.

Many of us who grew up in the Northeast watching WWF Championship Wrestling every Saturday remember the Wizard, Captain Lou Albano, and Classy Freddie Blassie as the triumverate of colorful managers that guided the heels. Who could ever forget the Wizard’s standard line we he started his house show promos: “McMahon…”

When the Wizard — real name, Ernie Roth — died in 1983, it was the first death of a star that I experienced as a wrestling fan. I remember reading about it in the Boston Globe, believe or note. Sports columnist Leigh Montville wrote a nostalgic piece on the death, which blew me away at the time because the only mention wrestling usually got in the Globe was the results of the Saturday night house shows in the old Boston Garden.

I also still clearly recall Sgt. Slaughter, who was managed by the Wizard at the time his death, saluting an empty corner of the ring as an homage to his late manager on Championship Wrestling.

Within the last year, I saw for the first time what the Wizard looked like as Roth without his crazy suit, bejeweled turban, and sunglasses. Not surprisingly, he looked like an everyday guy, and I bet many fans would never have recognized him.

If you’ve never seen it, it’s a great collage of photos.

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4 comments

  1. daveb

    iirc, the grand wizard was the masked superstar’s manager. his death was 5 days before superstar was to challenge bob backlund for the belt in madison square garden. there was some speculation at the time that superstar didn’t finish/pin backlund after the first reverse neckbreaker in the ring because the wizard wasn’t there for guidance. instead he dragged backlund out of the ring and gave him a neckbreaker on the floor of msg, winning by count out.

  2. Joe Lowry

    Ahh yet another drive down memory lane. The evil trio of Classy Freddie Blassie, Captain Lou Albano and of course the legendary Grand Wizard. I vividly recall that October Saturday morning when WWF All Star Wrestling recognized the passing of The Grand Wizard. They did a ten bell salute with Sgt. Slaugher saluting the empty corner. For me personally, it signified somewhat the reality of this sports entertainment. It crossed a line so to speak as we all know at the time Sgt. Slaughter was a “bad guy” and his reputation after that somewhat diminished his role. It was shortly afterwards that he and The Iron Sheik started there fued. In a strange way the passing of the Grand Wizard started the change in the WWF. Of course it was a couple of months later after the passing of the Grand Wizard that the WWF was introduced to Hulkamania. Then Sgt. Slaughter became a fan favorite and thus making me scratch my head as to what in the world was going on in the WWF. Whether is was defending his proteges with the mic or at ringside. Never the less, the talented “Grand Wizard of Professional Wrestling” always made his promos and matches special.

  3. Ogden Nash

    I too recall that episode where Sarge saluted the empty corner in honor of his late manager.

    For those who missed out, the work of The Grand Wizard, Capt. Lou Albano, and Freddie Blassie as managers is a must-view. These guys had the ability to think on their feet, make their wrestlers look good, and paint portraits with words. It is a lost art and a major reason why pro wrestling in 2013 is inferior to the product of yesteryear.

    • J.Cee

      It was a surprise for this youngster to discover from the magazines that he was also Abdullah Farouk, manager of The Shiek when appearing in Detroit, Toronto and at LA’s Olympic Auditorium. This guy was traveling all about the country; a rarity for mainstay talent in the (W)WWF to appear outside the territory–aside from Andre or a Bruiser Brody..

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