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Aloysius Martin "Lou" Thesz (April 24, 1916 - April 28, 2002) was a professional wrestler and six time NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Combined, he held the NWA Championship for 10 years, three months and nine days (3,749 days total), longer than anyone in history. Among his many accomplishments, he is credited with inventing a number of professional wrestling moves such as the belly to back waistlock suplex (later known as the German suplex due to its association with Karl Gotch), the Lou Thesz press, STF and the original powerbomb.

Wrestling career

Born in Banatmarker, Michiganmarker, Thesz moved to St. Louismarker when he was a young boy. His working-class immigrant parents hailed from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Beginning in Thesz's early youth, his father personally gave him a tough and thorough education in Greco-Roman wrestling, which provided the fundamentals for his later success. While in high school he was a successful freestyle wrestling competitor on his school team; as he recalled many years later, he and a friend once "worked" a dramatic match against each other at a tournament, and were amused when nobody could see how much they were faking. As a teenager, he also trained in amateur wrestling with legendary hooker Ad Santel. Thesz made his professional wrestling debut in 1932, at the age of 16. He soon met Ed "Strangler" Lewis, the biggest wrestling star of the 1920s, who taught a young Lou the art of "hooking" (the ability to stretch your opponent with painful holds). The two formed a lasting friendship. By 1937, Thesz had become one of the biggest stars in the St. Louis territory, and on December 29 he defeated Everett Marshall for the National Wrestling Association World Heavyweight Title, the first of many World Heavyweight Championships. Thesz became the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history, at the age of 21, a record which stands to this day. Thesz dropped the title to Steve "Crusher" Casey in Boston six weeks later. He won the title again in 1939, once again defeating Marshall, and again in 1948, defeating Bill Longson.

In 1948, the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) was formed, the purpose being to create one World Champion for all the various wrestling territories throughout North America. Orville Brown, the reigning Midwest World Heavyweight Title holder, was named the first champion. Thesz, at the time, was head of a promotional combine that included fellow wrestling champions Longson, Bobby Managoff, Canadian promoter Frank Tunney and Eddie Quinn, who promoted in the St. Louis territory where NWA promoter Sam Muchnick was running opposition. Quinn and Muchnick ended their promotional war, and Thesz' promotion was absorbed into the NWA. Part of the deal was a title unification match between Brown and Thesz, who held the National Wrestling Association's World Title. Unfortunately, just weeks before the scheduled bout, Brown was involved in an automobile accident that ended his career. He was forced to vacate the championship and the NWA awarded the title to the #1 contender, Thesz. Thesz was chosen for his skill as a "hooker" to prevent double crosses by would-be shooters who would deviate from the planned finish for personal glory.Another "hooker" that was named by Thesz was Jerry Stephens, (also known as "Nazi," or "El Grande Pistolero" (Spanish for "the great gunman").

Between 1949 and 1956, Thesz set out to unify all the existing World Titles into the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. In 1952 he defeated Baron Michele Leone in Los Angelesmarker for the California World Heavyweight title and became the first undisputed World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion since the days of Frank Gotch and Georg Hackenschmidt. Thesz finally dropped the Title to Whipper Billy Watson in 1956, and took several months off to recuperate from an ankle injury. He regained the title from Watson seven months later.

1957 was an important year for Thesz; on June 14, the first taint to Thesz' claim of undisputed Champion occurred in a match with gymnast-turned-wrestling star, Edouard Carpentier. The match was tied at two falls apiece when Thesz claimed a back injury and forfeit the last fall. Carpentier was declared the winner, but the NWA chose not to recognize the title change, deciding a championship could not change hands due to injury. Despite the NWA's decision, there were some promotions who continued to recognize Carpentier's claim to the World Heavyweight title. That same year, Thesz became the first wrestler to defend the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in Japanmarker, wrestling Rikidōzan in a series of 60 minute draws. Their bouts popularized pro wrestling in Japan, gaining the sport mainstream acceptance. Realizing he could make more money in the land of the rising sun, Thesz petitioned to the NWA promoters to regularly defend the belt in Japan. His request was turned down, and Thesz asked to drop the title to his own hand picked champion, Dick Hutton, rather than Thesz's real-life rival and the more popular choice, Buddy Rogers. Thesz would embark on a tour of Europe and Japan, billing himself as the NWA International Champion; this title is still recognized as a part of All Japan Pro Wrestling's Triple Crown Championship.

In 1963, Thesz came out of semi-retirement to win his sixth World Heavyweight Championship from Buddy Rogers, at the age of 46. Legend has it that Rogers was having second thoughts about dropping the title, and Thesz responded by saying, "we could do this the easy way or the hard way" . He would hold the title until 1966 when, at the age of 49, he was dethroned by Gene Kiniski.

Thesz wrestled on a part-time basis over the next 13 years, winning his last major Title in 1978, in Mexicomarker, becoming the inaugural Universal Wrestling Alliance Heavyweight Champion at the age of 62, before dropping the championship to El Canek a year later. Thesz officially retired in 1979, after a match with Luke Graham. He remained retired for the most part, before wrestling his last match on December 26, 1990 in Hamamatsu, Japanmarker at the age of 74, against his protegé, Masahiro Chono. Before each WWE show, the opening theme, he can be heard being the one say "Yes sir, we promise you a great main event tonight."

Personal life

Thesz was married to Charlie Catherine Thesz (born 1947), with whom he had 3 children.

Before each WWE show, during the opening theme & video package, he can be heard saying: "Yes sir, we promise you a great main event tonight."

In wrestling

Championships and accomplishments

*AWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
*AWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)

*Iron Mike Mazurki Award (1998)

*TWWA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)

  • International Wrestling Institute and Museum
*George Tragos/Lou Thesz Hall of Fame (1999)

*NWA International Heavyweight Championship (1 time)

*NWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)

  • Montreal Athletic Commission
*World Heavyweight Championship (Montreal version) (4 times)

*NWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)1
*NWA Hall of Fame (Class of 2005)

*NWA Pacific Coast Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with The Outlaw

*NWA Southern Junior Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
*NWA Southern Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Jackie Fargo

*NWA World Heavyweight Championship (3 times)2

*Pioneer Era (Class of 2002)

*Texas Heavyweight Championship (3 times)3

*Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame

*NWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)

*Class of 2007

*UWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)

*WCW Hall of Fame (Class of 1993)

  • World Wrestling Association (Los Angeles)
*WWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)

*Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 1996)

  • Other titles
*World Heavyweight Championship (2 times)4


1Records are unclear as to where Thesz first won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and which promotion he was wrestling in when he won it.

2The World Heavyweight Championship of the National Wrestling Association is not the same championship nor does it have any connection to the world championship recognized and used by the National Wrestling Alliance.

3Thesz reigns with the title occurred prior to the NWA assuming control of it. In fact, he won the title before the NWA was created.

4Thesz also has two reigns with the title before the formation of the NWA and the title being renamed the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

Post-wrestling career

After retiring, Thesz became a promoter, manager, color commentator, trainer and occasionally, a referee for important matches. Some famous matches he refereed include:

Thesz became the president of the Cauliflower Alley Club in 1992, an organization for retired pro wrestlers; a position he held until 2000. He became a trainer for the Union of Wrestling Force International, and lent the promotion one of his old NWA Title belts, which they recognized as their own World Title. As an announcer, Thesz was the color commentator for International World Class Championship Wrestling's weekly television show. In 1999, his name was given to the Lou Thesz/George Tragos Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame for professional wrestling stars with a successful amateur background at the International Wrestling Institute & Museum in Waterloo, Iowamarker, where he was an inaugural inductee. Thesz was honored by a ceremony at a WWF's Badd Blood 1997 as being both the youngest and oldest World Heavyweight Champion at ages 21 and 50, respectively (technically, Verne Gagne holds the record for oldest champ, when he held the AWA Championship in 1980 at age 54).

Thesz wrote an autobiography, Hooker.Thesz underwent a triple bypass surgery for an aortic valve replacement on April 9, 2002, but died due to complications on April 28, 2002 in Orlando, Floridamarker.

Further reading


External links

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