Wrestling promoters may come and wrestling promoters may go and no one would be the wiser--but when you say "Joe Perkins," people jump.
Joe Perkins is one of the men behind the scenes in the amazing Boston Wrestling Revival--part of a nationwide trend that has swept professional wrestling past all other sports in terms of both national popularity and paid audience attendance (Pro Wrestling: 37 million; Pro Football: 32 million; Pro Hockey: 15 million).
Joe Perkins is a man of many faces: he brings the tenacity of a Haystacks Calhoun, the confidence of a Superstar Billy Graham, the grace of a Bruno chest flex, and the diplomacy of a Chief Jay Strongbow war dance to the New England region of the World Wide Wrestling Federation in his managerial capacity therein.
Violence at the Gate
He is also a man of many talents. Joe Perkins first came to our attention two years ago at the big Bruno-Bob Duckham match. As we were collecting our tickets a huge yahoo in a cowboy suit was threatening a security guard with a bullwhip. He was clearly out of his mind on one of a number of drugs. Violence seemed imminent. Just as the storm seemed likely to break a slender, unassuming young man stepped up to the gate. Tex was flailing his bullwhip, and it seemed very likely that the young man in the brown doubleknit suit would be his next victim.
Then, in one of the most amazing displays of charismatic presence we had ever seen, in or out of the ring, the slender, unassuming man humbled the cowboy twice his size with a single sentence; "Listen, man, do you know who I am? I'm Joe Perkins." The boohoo, now gentle as a hypnotized kitten, was then led in by the ring police to a three dollar seat. Mysteriously as he had appeared, Joe Perkins suddenly vanished.
Our curiosity was piqued. During the intermission we managed to locate the deranged behemoth and found to our surprise that he himself was conducting interviews. Having come down a bit, he explained to us that he was a staff reporter for the Cambridge Chronicle! Remarkable, we thought at the time. Joe Perkins had read the situation right and acted right within seconds--and thereby possibly avoided a dreaded Wrestling Fan Riot!
The other day when we were going to the Executioners-Chief Jay Strongbow and Bruno-Stan Hansen grudge matches, once again we had the pleasant opportunity of seeing this smart young promoter's talent in action.
When we elevatored into the lobby of the Boston Garden offices there was a small crowd of expectant kids and well dressed middle aged fans, each waiting to see some person or other inside. When the ring police at the door curtly asked us what our business was, we said, "Joe Perkins."
They snapped to. "Hey Mr. Perkins", they called out politely, "some guests for you." The message relayed back, and soon Joe Perkins, the bright young wizard of pro wrestling himself, stepped out to see us.
The crowd stood back in respect. "Got your tickets right here," he said, producing from his pocket tickets for the best seats in the house. "Sorry I can't let you in through here, but rules are rules. Seems you need an advanced degree to tear tickets nowadays. "We all got a laugh out of that. Joe Perkins just smiled.
It was one of the most exciting evenings in many moons. In the opening match, Mario, the rising Spanish comet, met the well seasoned Tony Aperisi. Mario had youth, strength and a solid background in scientific wrestling behind him, but Aperisi, as you know, is a veteran of thirty years--as cunning and matchwise (not to say ready to bend the rules) as they come. Aperisi's surprising stamina--and a few questionable calls by the referee--led him to a totally unexpected upset victory.
Next on the bill was the highly awaited battle between the plucky Mike Sullivan and Man Mountain Mike, five hundred pounds of backwoods behemoth. Sullivan was struggling valiantly, but it was clear that his skill could not counterbalance the Man Mountains's overwhelming advantage in strength. But Sullivan got lucky. Just when it looked like the Man Mountain was going to squash him into a pancake against the ropes, Sullivan dropped to the mat exhausted. The Man Mountain, unable to control his inertia, flew out of the ring and landed with a crash, stunned by his own bulk. Not being able to climb back in, the match was automatically awarded to Mike Sullivan!
Then the crowd fell quiet. Out of the dressing room stepped Stan Hansen, the blond bruiser who smashes his opponents with silver dollars he keeps in his phony arm brace. As the hisses died away a roar of applause exploded, and Bruno Sammartino--jumped into the ring.
Four days later it still galls us to pen the results of that encounter. We'll grant you that pro wrestling's been around a while. After all, you don't become America's most popular sport overnight. True, wrestling was the first program ever broadcast on television; true, both Winston Churchill and Plato were wrestlers, and with minds like that behind you, you can get into some pretty complicated legal technicalities. But all that we're asking is that when you're got rules, you apply them fairly.
No one can beat Bruno. No one ever has, and no one ever will--legally. The only thing is, Stan Hansen isn't worried about little legalities like sportsmanship.
At every turn Bruno outwrestled Hansen, and four times the cowardly challenger climbed out of the ring to avoid the wrath of the champion. The fifth time Bruno was not to be put off by such illegal shenanigans and leapt out of the ring after his staggering foe. Around and around the ring Bruno chased the terrified Hansen, until the craven defrauder had to crawl back into the ring to save his skin. Then, in what all true fans must agree to be one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in history, the referee, who had barely gotten to three in the twenty count out-of-the-ring-disqualification-call, declared the stunned and barely ambulatory Hansen the winner, before Bruno could spring back into the ring.
We had always assumed that America's number one sport would be above such narrow partisanship; frankly, we were very disappointed. Our staff, and not a small number of the other fans in the Garden, clearly felt outraged and cheated. But the wheels move fast under Joe Perkins; during half time he talked with both grapplers and convinced them to undertake a rematch for November 6. It's almost as if Joe Perkins had ESP: it's going to be a cage match, just what we had hoped. This reporter does not have any doubts about which will win.
Glamorous and exciting as the actual matches are, we should never forget that they don't come out of thin air. A dedicated and experienced managerial team is making them possible for us. Wrestling may be America's number one sport, but the tower of power which it is would not be erected today but for the grace of the unsung heroes--like Joe Perkins. For the man who, more than any other in the Boston area, is Mr. Professional Wrestling himself, we give you . . . . Joe Perkins.
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