Saturday, 8 December 2012
From Which Mexico? By Rock Rims
However his adversary seemed un-phased by the young man’s words, and stood with a look of both defiance and smugness, then in response said, “You will not do anything! You’re just a wetback!”
Now I don’t know who was more startled by the comments, the young Mexican man or me. But the young Mexican was so shocked and angry by the derogatory and inflammatory words that he stumbled over the first couple of words in his response.
“What?! What?! What do you mean calling me a wetback?!!” With disdain and that same smugness his adversary explained in a matter of fact way, “Because that’s how you got here…by swimming!” And he then proceeded to mimic doing the backstroke.
The young Mexican certainly didn’t seem prepared for what he was hearing, and neither was I. And in spite of the young Mexican man being one of my heroes at the time, and in spite of my being Mexican-American myself, Chicano, and knowing that if anyone had ever said those words to me, they had better be fast runners… I had to laugh…
I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed and I immediately went to tell my mom who was in the next room. She just shook her head and said, “He just never changes…” It was the late 70’s, I was in elementary school, and I had just seen of my wrestling heroes, Chavo Guerrero, in a verbal confrontation with wrestler Black Gordman on local TV channel 52. And as much as that confrontational promo made me want to see Chavo thrash Black Gordman (which of course was the desired result of the promo) at the next live event, I somehow couldn’t bring myself to hate Gordman. Maybe part of that had to do with me always having a dark sense of humor, even at an early age, but there was still something oddly appealing about the wrestling heel. And what made the whole scene all the more memorable, more intriguing, and somewhat ludicrous was, that Gordman seemed more Mexican to me than Chavo Guerrero was! And what I mean by that is, that while both Gordman and Chavo were Mexican, Gordman spoke with a heavy accent, while Chavo didn’t.
Long before JBL was doing the “anti-immigrant” angle in his feud with the late, great Eddie Guerrero, and long before Eddie and his tag partner Art Barr were inciting riots among wrestling’s Mexican fans in the early 90’s, Black Gordman had become a genius in generating heat from Mexican wrestling fans in the Southwest and in Southern California. And he wasn’t alone. Along with long time partner the Great Goliath, who would both make a point to claim to be from “New Mexico” rather than Mexico, he became a part of the 70’s tag team that was greatly successful in both raising the ire of the fans, and in winning multiple tag team titles in various promotions.
But even before they hit this side of the border, Black Gordman and the Great Goliath had already experienced a taste of success in the wrestling business. In spite of Goliath being paid with a 6 pack of Coca-Cola for his first wrestling match, as singles wrestlers in Mexico, both Gordman and Goliath had their share of success and individual reigns as holders of the Mexican National Heavyweight wrestling title. And Gordman had gained enough attention for his success in the ring to have been giving an acting part opposite Lucha Libre legend El Santo in the movie “El Tesoro de Dracula.”
And they would quickly gain success in the U.S. as well. Each of them would have reigns as the “Beat the Champ” TV champions in the LaBelle wrestling territory during the 70’s. And Gordman would also go on to win the America’s Heavyweight title as well, engaging in notable feuds over the belt with such wrestling greats as John Tolos, Mil Mascaras, Porkchop Cash, and Victor Rivera. But it was as tag team partners that Black Gordman and the Great Goliath would see the most success and their greatest impact on the wrestling scene. And while it was Aristotle who made the observation that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, it didn’t take a genius to see that the pairing of Gordman and Goliath was pure wrestling gold.
Black Gordman and the Great Goliath displayed a good working ability in the ring, displaying great timing and wrestling with bursts of quickness and great tenacity. And while their out of the ring chemistry has been in dispute, there is no doubt about their in-ring chemistry. And sadly, it’s that kind of great in-ring chemistry that is rarely seen these days, as tag teams are often haphazardly thrown together, with the participants looking to function as individuals rather than a cohesive unit.
Tag team championships would soon follow for Gordman and Goliath, with the pair winning the NWA Western States Tag Team titles, The Georgia Tag Team titles, The Texas Tag Team titles, the Central States tag team titles, as well as the San Francisco version of the NWA World Tag Team titles. And their abilities were not only recognized stateside, as they would also be invited to tour Japan as well. Unfortunately, very little video footage of this great tag team exists these days, but footage of a couple of their matches from Japan is among the footage that does. In viewing the footage while beginning to make a DVD compilation, I was once again reminded of some of the things that made them so great.
Besides their ability to execute moves (with Gordman performing the “DDT” years before Jake “The Snake” claimed to have invented it), their ability to get the crowd involved was also apparent. They had a great way of balancing the way they executed their offense as well as “selling” for their opponents. It wasn’t unusual to see them flying out of the ring, really selling their opponents prowess. Although according to Jeff Walton, the publicist and one of the key figure in the NWA Hollywood promotion of the 70’s and early 80’s, selling their opponent’s offense wasn’t always the motivation for their sailing into the front row of seats. “I'll never forget the Great Goliath… with his partner, Black Gordman, they would often fly out of the ring to check out a pretty girl or to land on someone's foot. Then they would get back into the ring look at you square in the face and laugh their heads off. “(1)
They always had a unique way of being tenacious while on offense, yet often comical in the way they’d scream in agony while their opponents cranked up the pressure while performing a wrestling hold. Gordman in particular, who would blurt out expletives and verbal expressions of pain, many of which were in Spanish, and were particularly comical to those who understand it. Yet, the often stoic Japanese fans could be heard laughing and reacting to the antics of the great Mexican tag team. And that’s just one example at how skilled they were in being able to communicate with the audience and get them involved with the match.
However, it would be in California, especially Los Angeles, where they would experience their most success and make their greatest impression with the fans. Beginning with their victory over Los Medicos on November 26, 1970 in Bakersfield, Calfornia, Gordman and Goliath would go on to hold the America’s tag team titles a record 18 times as a team, from that first title in 1970 until 1982, which was the final year of the NWA Hollywood territory. And their longevity as a successful tag team is a testament to their ability to perform at high level of quality for an extended period of time, as well continuing to provide a product that continued to maintain an appeal with the fans. Whether they were battling the Hollywood Blondes, the Guerrero Brothers, the Twin Devils, or anyone else, they made us alternately boo them, cheer for them, hate them, love them, but most importantly of all…want to watch them. And while I am more “sophisticated” now in my understanding of Pro Wrestling and how it works, of what the tactics were that Gordman and Goliath employed to generate heat, how they used ring psychology, and how they manipulated the emotions of the fans, it doesn’t lessen my enjoyment of watching them. It doesn’t diminish the fondness of the memories I hold of watching them perform. On the contrary, I appreciate their artistry all the more so. They caused me to “mark out” then, and they cause me to “mark out” now when I watch that classic footage of them and relive those days in my mind. And in that respect, there is no shame in being a “mark”, it’s not a derogatory name or a badge of shame. For in order to truly enjoy and fully appreciate the true art of Pro Wrestling, one has to “mark out” to a degree, to suspend disbelief. Because when I stop doing that, then it’ll stop being fun, and it’ll be time to find a new hobby.
And while very little video footage of them still exists, what continues to remain, what has never been lost or destroyed are the impressions they made on us, and the fond memories that they helped to create. It is the reason that they, and many others of that Golden age of Wrestling in California, are still the subject of discussion among long time fans, the subject of conversation on Podcasts like California Classic Wrestling. They were also an inspiration to the next generation of wrestlers, like Jesse Hernandez, who is a former wrestler and the promoter of the Empire Wrestling Federation in San Bernardino. After the closing of the L.A. promotion, the Great Goliath would continue to wrestle in California, as well as go on to form his own wrestling promotion and wrestling school in the San Bernardino area. Hernandez was one of his students, who would later train future wrestlers as well when he opened up his own Wrestling School, “The School of Hard Knocks” also in San Bernardino.
And there’s no doubt about it, Jesse learned much from Goliath and he shared some of that with me recently. “Great Goliath inspired me with great stories that he shared with me about himself as a wrestler and his early struggles. He taught us Pride, Honor, and Respect for the business. Great Goliath always talked about never shutting a door behind us, how to dress properly in and out of the ring, and how to learn from our mistakes. What he taught back then is exactly what I teach now to my students. Goliath’s legacy and teachings are what we are passing on to our students here at School of Hard knocks.”
And Jesse also continues to honor the memory of his former mentor, friend and trainer by holding the Annual Great Goliath Battle Royal. “Those who have won those Battle Royals will remember many matches throughout their career…but I truly believe that winning that Battle Royal is something special that they will never forget, making it a part of their history in this business.” While regrettably, the Great Goliath is no longer with us, thankfully his legacy continues to live on.
Gordman who currently in retired in Guadalajara, Mexico, would also continue to wrestle as well after the closing of the L.A. promotion, particularly in Texas, where he would wrestle for Joe Blanchard’s Southwest Championship wrestling promotion as well as a few shots in Fritz Von Erich’s World Class Championship wrestling. But for those of us in Southern California during the 70’s and early 80’s, it was here that we considered the rightful place of Black Gordman and the Great Goliath, and in our hearts and minds, they will always have a home.
I’d like to thank Jesse Hernandez for both sharing his thoughts regarding the Great Goliath, as well as his efforts to continue to pass on the traditions and teachings of his mentor. For more info regarding the “School of Hard Knocks” and Jesse’s Empire Wrestling Federation, as well as his Annual X-mas toy drive Wrestling card being held this Friday in Covina, you can click this link: http://empirewrestlingfederation.com/ And by the way, the main event features former ROH and current TNA star (and former Hernandez student) Joey Ryan defending his EWF championship belt!
(1) “Remembering the Great Goliath” by Jeff Walton and Scott Walton – Slam! Wrestling April 20, 2004
Jeff Walton and Scott Walton are the authors of the book “Richmond 9-5171, a Wrestling Story” which covers his experiences as the publicist and a key figure in the old Los Angeles Wrestling Territory. You can buy the book for only $20 plus $6 for shipping and handling by contacting Scott Walton at: ScottMWalton@gmail.com