Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Territory Photo Albums--WWWF 1976

Before the Internet, how did you see the rosters of your local wrestling territory? If you were lucky, your promotion put out a photo album or yearbook! Usually for a nominal fee, plus postage and handling, these publications could be the key to any fan becoming an expert on the stars and champions of any number of promotions. Some areas kept up better than others at maintaining these guides, but most put out at least a few that are known to exist today.

Bruno Sammartino featured heavily in the five Tri-State Wrestling photo albums put out by the Pittsburgh wrestling office in the 1960's. It's no surprise that "The Living Legend" also made the cover of the 1976 World Wide Wrestling Federation album. Officially titled "Championship Wrestling Yearbook," Sammartino is shown on the cover in a fierce battle with longtime nemesis "The Russian Bear" Ivan Koloff. Of course, Koloff is also the man who ended Sammartino's first World Heavyweight Championship reign.

Also on the cover is the famous Madison Square Garden logo. These were likely sold at the Garden, though the inside cover shows that these were also marketed through the mail. Just $2.00 ($1.50 for the yearbook, .50 for postage and handling) was all that this forty-page treasure cost 42 years ago. As with so much shown on this blog, if we only had a time machine...

The yearbook features two page spreads on the top stars, while others get single pages (including one each on "The Three Wise Men of The East") and many other get a single photo. All in all we've got Sammartino, Superstar Billy Graham, Ivan Putski, Koloff, Louis Cerdan, Tony Parisi, Buggsy McGraw, Andre the Giant, Fabulous Moolah, Gorilla Monsoon, Spiros Arion, Bobo Brazil, Lou Albano, Freddie Blassie, The Grand Wizard, Haystack Calhoun, Dominick DeNucci, Pat Barrett, Baron Mikel Scicluna, Chief Jay Strongbow, Ernie Ladd, Francisco Flores, Manuel Soto, Pete Sanchez, Johnny Rodz, Black Jack Lanza, Black Jack Mulligan, Jimmy Valiant, Johnny Valiant, Kevin Sullivan, Crusher Blackwell, Dave O'Hannon, Pete Reeves, George Steele, Bob Duncum, Butcher Vachon, Waldo Von Erich, Tony Altimore, The Wolfman, Tony Garea, Dean Ho, Pedro Morales, Taro Tanaka, Susan Greene, Toni Rose, and "The WWWF," which we'll get to.

The many misspellings above are intentional. Those are the misspellings used in the yearbook itself, so I repeated them here for historical accuracy. Most of the photos match up, even if you'll be thrown for a loop at just how young and different the man later known as "The Taskmaster" looks here as regular Kevin Sullivan. It should be noted that the picture used for Toni Rose is actually her tag partner Donna Christanello. The two were often mistaken for each other in photos, and I always enjoy seeing my late friend Donna show up. She is sorely missed.

The last page, listed in the table of contents as "The WWWF," features the brass. The head honchos. The office. Shown are Willie Gilzenberg, Vince McMahon, Arnold Skoaland, Phil Zacko, Angelo Savoldi, and television announcers Vince McMahon Jr. and Antonino Rocca. It's amazing that only Skaaland was misspelled. Of everyone on this page, only Vincent Kennedy McMahon is alive today, though Savoldi just passed away a few years ago and made it as one of the longest living wrestlers on record. If anyone knew where the bodies were buried, it's these seven men.

It's always a blast to look through these publications. Back then, they were a fun look at the stars of the wrestling world as it was in your area. Today they're a time capsule of a bygone era with men and women who are now legends. Featured here were the stars of what the wrestling world knew as "New York." They filled the Garden to capacity and then moved onto the next town, no matter how big or small. The promoters were happy with an ass every eighteen inches, the wrestlers were happy with a decent check and a six-pack.

May those days be remembered forever...

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