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Unsung Heroes: The journeymen of professional wrestling
WWE will always be known for its larger-than-life Superstars. Muscular physiques, flashy ring attire and cool catchphrases make them stand out in the mind of the WWE Universe.
However, back in the day, a small group of sports-entertainers were notorious for different reasons, most notably their proclivity for being on the losing end. These journeymen didn’t have bulging biceps. Their ring gear was most likely a drably-colored pair of trunks with worn boots and a satin jacket. No high-energy rock music signaled their entrance. In fact, they didn’t even have entrances.
Though these combatants looked like they might be better suited as plumbers or electricians and had win-loss records to match, they still had the determination to step into the ring and ply their craft. They earned the silent respect of the WWE Universe, who often knew the fate of these competitors before the bell rang.
For Barry Horowitz, asking "Why do we recline on this night and not other nights?" was not just a question for the Passover seder, as his shoulders were pinned to the canvas on most nights. ( WATCH)
A beloved member of the WWE roster for many years, the WWE Universe likely recalls the self-deprecating Horowitz patting himself on the back before matches, knowing full well the eventual unfortunate outcome. It only made sense for Barry to have that sense of humor. For him, it wasn’t about the victories, but rather a dream come true of competing inside the squared circle, even battling back from a devastating neck injury.
In 1995, Horowitz was involved in one of the most memorable moments in WWE history. On an episode of "Superstars" the crowd became unglued when Horowitz upset Bodydonna Skip, leaving Jim Ross to exclaim the result in a state of shock. Despite losing the majority of his matchups, on this night Horowitz was certainly a chosen one. ( WATCH)
Frank "Moose" Monroe
In 1970s ring competition, few grapplers could match the imposing demeanor of the man straight from the thickets of Canada, Frank "Moose" Monroe. With his beard, immense silhouette and woolly physique, it doesn’t take Lanny Poffo to discover where Monroe earned his Bullwinkle nickname. When it came time for a WWE Superstar to earn his stripes in the days of disco, he was forced to tangle with this beastly gent from up north.
Unfortunately, Monroe was more Bullwinkle than Mark Messier, and was often on the losing end of his contests. The Moose succumbed to the talents of several WWE Hall of Famers and Legends including Tony Atlas, Chief Jay Strongbow, High Chief Peter Maivia, Tito Santana, Ivan Putski, Bob Backlund and Haystacks Calhoun, just to name a few. ( WATCH)
There’s not a whole lot of information known about these golden-clad combatants. They seemed to like it that way. WWE Hall of Fame ring announcer Howard Finkel introduced them as hailing from the ambiguous “somewhere in Latin America,” leaving WWEClassics.com’s chances of tracking them down somewhere between slim and none. ( WATCH)
The masked men competed in WWE rings throughout the ’80s, mostly as cannon fodder for the dominant teams of the era, like Demolition and The Hart Foundation. The Conquistadors, however, did find some success, appearing as part of a 10-team Survivor Series Elimination Match at the 1988 edition of the pay-per-view. They were one of the final two teams in the match, but ultimately couldn’t handle the brute force of The Powers of Pain.
The Conquistadors ventured back to their mysterious Latin American abode until they seemingly returned to action in 2000, defeating The Hardy Boyz for the World Tag Team Titles. It was soon revealed that Edge and Christian had donned the hoods to outsmart the champions, leaving the WWE Universe to wonder what happened to the original masked competitors.
"The Duke of Dorchester" Pete Doherty
Ask any New York Yankees fan what they think the average Bostonian looks like, and they might paint you a picture of Pete Doherty. A slightly hefty frame, a long, flowing mullet and a toothless grin that only a mother could love made up the man known as “The Duke of Dorchester."
Named in honor of the Boston neighborhood he called home, Doherty was a longtime WWE competitor, stepping into the squared circle throughout the ’70s and ’80s. The Massachusetts madman approached the ring like a ball of fire, bouncing around and climbing all over the ropes, trying to throw off opponents in the beginning of matches. But once his foes caught on, it was curtains for Doherty. ( WATCH)
Repeat losses aside, “The Duke of Dorchester” was beloved in Beantown, drawing cheers from a cult following at venues like Boston Garden. After stepping away from the ring, Doherty tried his hand at color commentary before retiring from sports-entertainment.
"Iron" Mike Sharpe
This competitor from the Great White North dubbed himself “Canada’s Greatest Athlete.” At the start of his WWE career, he may have been able to make an argument for that title. Sharpe, who stood in at over six feet tall and weighed close to 300 pounds, entered WWE in the early 1980s and immediately challenged then-WWE Champion Bob Backlund for his title.
Unfortunately, “Iron” Mike Sharpe did not capture the championship and was never the same. He competed in WWE throughout the ’80s and ’90s, in search of victories that became more and more elusive as time passed. Sharpe let out guttural grunts throughout his contests in hopes of intimidating opponents and even wielded a leather armbrace, which may or may not have been loaded with a foreign object, all to no avail. Though his win-loss record was not the most impressive, Sharpe is well-remembered by a generation of fans. ( WATCH)
Duane Gill / Gillberg
In January of 1999, the bullhorn sounded the sixth entrant in the Royal Rumble Match, and out from the entrance tunnel came the man they call Gillberg to a thunderous ovation. Stumbling through a truly unimpressive pyrotechnic display, the relative unknown caused Jerry Lawler to sarcastically exclaim, “He could win this whole thing!” Well, not quite. Gillberg leaned over the ropes, mugged for the camera and was quickly disposed of. Par for the course for this goateed underdog. ( WATCH)
But Duane Gill wasn’t always a cartoonish parody. In fact, Gill was a reliable grappler for many years, battling a venerable who’s who of WWE Superstars throughout his career including Goldust, Chris Jericho, The Undertaker, Mick Foley, Bob Holly, Sean Waltman, Billy Gunn, The Steiner Brothers and Shane McMahon. In fact, Gill even defeated Marc Mero in a match where Mero declared he would retire if he was unsuccessful. In 1998, Gill beat Christian to win the WWE Light Heavyweight Champion. The victory would quickly go to his head as Gill morphed into a persona that resembled a certain former WCW Champion, and perhaps it worked – Gillberg would go on to be the longest reigning Light Heavyweight Champion of all time, holding the title for well over a year.
The man that will always be called Duane Gill might be known more for his goofy antics than for his ring proficiency, but the crowd will always be chanting his name.
"The Continental Nobleman" Joe Turco
Billed from Catania, Sicily, Joe Turco was as odd as a slice of square pizza. The man that referred to himself as "The Continental Nobleman" removed his robe in front of WWE crowds over the course of several decades, which usually followed with a dismissive wave of his hand.
Turco pulled his tights up high over his belly, twirled the sides of his moustache and gave condescending smiles to WWE fans, who knew full well that "The Continental Nobleman" would not be smiling in a matter of mere minutes. Despite rarely achieving victory, Turco was consistently distraught over the outcome of his matches. When opponents would attempt helping Turco up from the canvas for a post-bout handshake, the Sicilian snob would brush them off in fit of frustration. Hang in there, Joe. Maybe one of these days your match will live up to your high-falutin’ moniker. ( WATCH)
Frankie’s career in the ring probably didn’t pan out as he imagined it. Still, regardless of his woes inside the squared circle, the native of Columbus, Ohio was still very proud of his job.
Williams valiantly stood up for himself in a very heated edition of Piper’s Pit, when “Rowdy” Roddy incessantly harangued him about his shortcomings. After asking Williams whether he lost a match or not, Piper launched into one of his trademark tirades, saying the doughy journeyman lacked the guts to succeed in WWE. Having enough of The Rowdy One’s verbal lashing, Williams made a bold move, grabbing the microphone from Piper’s hands and declaring, “I’m not afraid of anyone, or else I wouldn’t be in the ring!” The Ohioan’s bravery earned him a few right hands to the temple from Piper, who literally threw Williams out of the Pit. ( WATCH)
Here’s a Mario who wasn’t particularly super. Astute members of the WWE Universe will remember Mancini, whose bushy mustache gave him a slight resemblance to the famous video game character he shared a name with.
However, once the bell rang and his personalized satin jacket came off, Mancini probably wished he could warp to the Mushroom Kingdom, as he often found himself looking up at the lights when all was said and done. All kidding aside, Mancini was a capable competitor. He stood across the squared circle from legendary names like “Macho Man” Randy Savage and The Undertaker when both were starting out and survived to tell the tale.
In fact, Mancini acted as a gatekeeper of sorts to WWE for many Superstars; the first real test of their careers. Those who made it past him, WWE fans more than likely remember. Those who didn’t, well, let’s not talk about them … ( WATCH)
A man with a nearly 30-year career, Steve Lombardi has become one of the most beloved performers in WWE history. Taking on roles as Kim Chee, Abe "Knuckleball" Schwartz and even briefly under the makeup of Doink the Clown, Lombardi achieved his real notoriety as the cherished Brooklyn Brawler.
As hard-nosed as a collision at home plate, the Brawler grappled his way through WWE in a torn New York Yankees shirt, a leather cap and all-American blue jeans. Despite having access to Bobby "The Brain" Heenan’s managerial talents, the Brawler didn’t win many matches, but that’s what might have made this man from the County of Kings so special. But don’t think his win-loss record damaged his reputation – you’d never want to run into the Brawler on Flatbush Avenue. He was as tough as they come, and a victory over the Brawler meant a Superstar’s name was forever etched in history.
While he may not have been in many main events, the Brooklyn Brawler will never be remembered as one of "dem bums." ( WATCH)