by Daniel Johnson
At the Chicago International Amphitheatre in Fred Kohler’s NWA territory some of the best men of the day battled in wrestling matches that have been masterfully preserved by Chicago Film Archives through the Russ and Sylvia Davis Collection, 1932-1970. Although the overwhelming majority of the action featured men facing other men, women like Lorraine Johnson and Shirley Strimple also wrestled from time to time though commentator Russ Davis didn’t always come off as the biggest fan of it.
Don’t get me wrong, Russ Davis should be considered a legend as far as wrestling commentators go. His wit and sense of humor could liven up even the slowest yawnfest of a 1950’s wrestling match. Also, without Davis this collection of matches from Chicago simply wouldn’t exist in this year. Yet, when held up to the politically correct standards of today, it may cause some to raise an eyebrow. I’ve written before about some digs Davis made at the expense of minorities and men he perceived to be effeminate, but Davis calling a women’s match was something different altogether.
Some lines include:
*”We have a couple of ladies, and I use the word advisably, wrestling here tonight. No reflection on their characters, but ladies don’t ordinarily do this.”
*”Johnson, you’re a sneaky, sneaky female.”
*”Quit being a woman and stop arguing.”
*”There’s a bop on the forehead right where you keep your wrinkles.”
*You want to take that rope loose and you can skip it?”
*This is facetiously called the softening up process. Oh, brother.”
Arguably in the end, Davis didn’t say anything too bad, but it is just so 1950’s America, it’s a little fascinating. Like sitting up close to the TV in the living room or driving a car that gets 75 feet to the gallon.
As for the in-ring action, Johnson and Strimple are two wrestler’s who still get talked about today as pioneers of women’s wrestling in documentaries like Lipstick and Dynamite. They wrestled on the same cards as Lou Thesz, Verne Gagne and Buddy Rogers, some of the best technical wrestlers in the United States not just then, but perhaps ever. In short, before even watching it, it stands to reason they had to be doing something right.
Strimple goes for a sleeper hold early on, but Johnson avoids it. Johnson declares her heel status loud and proud early on by getting Strimple in a choke hold. There is a decent amount of mat wrestling with Strimple getting Johnson in an inside wristlock at one point only for Johnson to escape.
It is not all technical stuff though. Strimple hits some rough kicks that don’t look worked at all. To balance these aggressive shots out there is what had to be considered comedy even back then. Davis pulls out some of his trademark wit when Johnson tucks in her head, arms and legs during Strimple’s attack by saying, “What are we going to do? Turtle up? Huh?”
For the finish Johnson knees Strimple in the gut, but Strimple grabs the ropes causing a rope break. Johnson works Strimple over a bit more and beats her with a slam.
The full match can be seen right here:
Categories: Wrestling Clips