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.