Eventually Mom bought a weight set, a tarpaulin, four 4x4 posts and some clothesline during the winter of ‘67, and we went about constructing the trappings of the Butler Street Wrestling Club. Georgie, the psychologically stronger yet younger brother, was out chasing girls while Kenny and I plotted to usurp his position as BSWC champion. When John and Harold Yodels helped form our new clique, George was on his way to Puerto Rico around the Summer of ’67 and the rest of us were left to determine a new champ. By this time, Kenny was following George’s lead as neighborhood Romeo and was reluctant to test himself against John on a mat-covered dirt floor. John and Harold mauled each other for almost an hour on our debut card before Harold conceded the bout, and John became the new champ.
The next show was a baptism of fire from which I took my first step on the road to wrestling superstardom. We managed to sell tickets at five cents apiece, and who should end up in the front row of wooden chairs but my old pals, the Colander brothers! The main event was scheduled to be John vs. Kenny for the championship, but Kenny volunteered to act as referee for my match with Harold. After Harold mauled me for the better part of an hour to no avail, Kenny called the match a draw and declined to participate any further.
The match with Harold was a major turning point of my wrestling career. It consisted of him trying to hit me with a knee thrust and slam my head into a ringpost, drawing a warning from Manny that the show was over if that were to happen. I managed only one takedown during the bout, and we were broken up as Harold easily made the ropes in the miniscule ring. It was the most humiliating experience of my career at that point, topped off by the heckling of the Colanders throughout. Harold was surprisingly humble after the match though letting everyone know later that he had the upper hand. I decided then and there that the pecking order would soon change.
My friendship with the Yodels was predicated on the rivalry between John and Harold. They would use me as leverage against one another, and when one made peace with me the other would turn on me. After the match with Harold, he joined forces with Kenny against John and I. It was all badmouth, talking trash against one another, mostly a competition between John and Kenny. During this time, I really began learning how to wrestle as John and I spent most of our time tussling wherever we could.
He delighted in the fact that I was developing the strength and skill to compete with him, even though he outweighed me by over fifty pounds. I was learning to copy holds from the pros and could now employ leg takedowns and armlocks to gain ground position over him. I was also channeling off the Sheik, the legendary Detroit kingpin who recently came to the WWF to challenge Bruno Sammartino. When John would ambush me on the street, I would try and bounce his head off every surface nearby. By this time he and Harold made the peace and the three of us reunited. I was beyond the point where Harold could bully me anymore, though he tried at every opportunity.
By 1968, I had come out of my shell, and John and I had a reputation for being rowdies upon graduation. Unfortunately, his family problems combined with teenage angst to cause major changes in his personality, and he started seeing me as a major rival in his plans to rule Butler Street in the void left by the Butler Aces. It was like a constant triple threat match between John, Harold and I, and soon John formed alliances with the borderline delinquents in the neighborhood to move along the pecking order. I stuck to my sports fantasies and it put me on the road to one of my biggest personal achievements: nearly twenty years later, Broadway Turk Superstar would make his pro wrestling debut.
As with all adolescents, my life began taking some major twists and turns after graduating 8th grade and leaving St. Paul’s School for Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School. I never dreamed that, in a short space of two years, my circle of friends would change completely, my personal image would undergo a series of dramatic overhauls, and even my religious life would be transformed.
(To be continued...)