MOONEYHAM COLUMN: Henry Marcus heads S.C. Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame class

PROVIDED Henry Marcus will be posthumously inducted into the S.C. Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Longtime promoter Henry Marcus heads the 2012 class of the South Carolina Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame that was announced last week.

The class also includes Burrhead Jones (Melvin Nelson), Mr. Wrestling No. 2 (Johnny Walker), and Bill and Randy Mulkey.

The class will be inducted at an Old School Championship Wrestling show June 24 at the Hanahan Recreation Center.

Marcus, who promoted for nearly half a century, passed away in 2004 at the age of 93. His weekly Friday night wrestling shows at the old County Hall were a Lowcountry staple.

While the wrestling business was Marcus' forte, there wasn't much he didn't promote. “From the Royal Canadian Ballet to wrestling,” as he was wont to say, he dabbled in a little bit of everything. Boxing stars Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Jimmy Braddock, Jack Sharkey and Primo Carnera all worked for him. He brought in such big-band greats as Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Xavier Cugat. The late Dick Clark of “American Bandstand” fame emceed many of Marcus's rock and roll revues.

The promoter liked to tell the story about the time he booked the late George Reeves as “Superman” at the Township Auditorium in Columbia, and nearly 3,000 children showed up for the matinee.

“Lois Lane came out singing torch songs with her dress split up the side,” he'd recall. “All the children wanted to see Superman fly, and they had to sit through nightclub entertainment beforehand. When Reeves finally appeared, the kids still only yelled, ‘Fly, Superman, fly'! Well, I knew Superman couldn't fly, and Superman sure knew Superman couldn't fly. But try telling 3,000 screaming kids.”

Marcus also once had Olympic track legend Jesse Owens race a thoroughbred horse through Columbia's Capital City Park.

The son of a railroad man who died when the Hartsville native was only 3, Marcus was a familiar figure in Columbia and Charleston, where the engaging storyteller routinely held court with local businessmen, politicians, newshounds and practically anyone who appreciated his unique gift of gab. His scope of acquaintances, however, extended far beyond the Lowcountry and the state, as he rubbed shoulders with the likes of actor Tyrone Power and President Harry Truman, and was personal friends with such sports figures as boxing greats Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis, and basketball coach Frank McGuire.

Marcus, whose “Hold your own ticket!” refrain provided a familiar backdrop for the bustling County Hall throng, could remember promoting when wrestling tickets were a quarter. He recalled promoting band and dance shows when entertainers showed up, had a couple of mikes set up, performed for several hours and left.

“Now you have to meet them at the airport and they show up with 18 trucks,” he'd later lament.

Melvin Nelson, much better known in and out of wrestling circles as the inimitable Burrhead Jones, worked his way out of Berkeley County cotton fields, survived the rampant racial discrimination of the time, and achieved his dream of becoming a professional wrestler.

“To make it as a black man back in the ‘70s, I had to be dedicated to the business and want it real bad,” he once said. “A newcomer to the business — black or white — had to pay his dues by spending some nights in the bus station or in his car just to have some money to live on. We always couldn't afford a motel. I saw guys come in with a $5,000 car and leave with a $50,000 vehicle — a Greyhound bus out of town. The grass always looked greener on the other side.”

The Moncks Corner native became a regional star in several Southeastern territories and is perhaps best remembered for his mid-'70s program with Blackjack Mulligan.

Nelson enjoyed one of his most successful runs in the business teaming with a cousin he met in New York several years before turning pro. He and Carey “Buster” Lloyd, a Dillon native who would later become Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones, one of wrestling's most popular performers, worked out at the same 42nd Street gym.

The two first teamed in New York in the late '60s and again in the mid-'70s for Charlotte-based Crockett Promotions. One of Nelson's most memorable matches saw him take a seemingly vicious beating at the hands of Mulligan in a 1976 bout televised in Raleigh, N.C. It was a textbook angle that is still talked about in Mid-Atlantic wrestling circles today.

“Burrhead really got instant recognition with that angle with Mulligan,” recalled 16-time world heavyweight champion Ric Flair. “He was a good worker, a great guy, and always in a super mood.”

Nelson returned to New York in 2006 and says he will never forget his Lowcountry roots. But everything has a start and a finish, he says, and he is obediently following the path.

“God has given me more than I ever expected. He's never steered me wrong.”

Johnny “Rubberman” Walker's masked alter ego as Mr. Wrestling No. 2 catapulted him to the hierarchy of the wrestling business during the ‘70s. Sporting his trademark white mask trimmed in black, Walker was the top star on the nation's first SuperStation out of Atlanta.

Walker was born in Charleston in 1934 but moved shortly thereafter.

“My middle name is Francis. I was named after St. Francis Hospital, where I was born,” he said in a 2011 interview. Walker says he isn't sure how long he lived in Charleston since he was still a baby when his family moved.

“My dad was in the Marine Corps, so we bounced around quite a bit,” said Walker, who has lived full-time in Hawaii since retiring from the business in 1989.

The Mulkey Brothers, Randy and Bill, gained fame as perennial jobbers who became cult favorites and helped spawn “Mulkeymania.”

The Anderson natives were regulars on the Mid-Atlantic circuit during the ‘80s, and worked against some of the top teams in the business. The main job, however, was to make their opponents look good.

The turning point in their careers came in 1987 during a qualifying round for the second annual Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup when they scored a fluke win over The Gladiators (George South and Gary Royal) to end a reputed streak of 180 consecutive losses. The lovable losers unfortunately lost in the first round of the tournament to Denny Brown and Chris Champion, but “Mulkeymania” had taken hold.

Last year's inaugural class consisted of Mae Young and Mike Mooneyham. The Fabulous Moolah (Lillian Ellison) and Rufus R. Jones were inducted posthumously.

Chris Jericho was suspended for 30 days by WWE for denigrating the Brazilian flag during a show Thursday night in Sao Paulo.

Jericho was escorted out of the ring after kicking the flag during a match with C.M. Punk. Sources say he narrowly averted arrest by Brazilian authorities.

“I made a bad judgment call in the course of entertaining fans in Brazil,” Jericho said. “I apologized to the people in the crowd for showing disrespect.”

Jericho immediately apologized to the crowd after being informed that desecrating the Brazilian flag is a crime punishable by incarceration. WWE also issued an apology to the Brazilian government.

“WWE has apologized to the citizens and the government of Brazil for this incident,” the company said in a statement.

“It was a bad move,” added Jericho. “I did it with fans' entertainment in mind and I'll accept the consequences for that.”

The suspension is effective as of May 24, which means he would miss the No Way Out pay-per-view on June 17.

The Canadian-born Jericho, who resides in Florida, wrote on Twitter that he hopes to return to Brazil in the near future.

“Just for the record I love Brazil and wish we could've spent more time here. Beautiful country!”

Former WWE champion John Layfield defended Jericho's actions on a Facebook blog and said he believes that Jericho's intent was to “entertain, not insult, anyone in Brazil or the great Brazilian fans.”

Layfield was involved in a similar incident in Germany in 2004 when he drew major heat for goose-stepping and raising his arm in a Nazi-type salute during a WWE show in Munich. Nazi symbols and gestures, including words and actions which can be interpreted as condoning Nazism, are illegal in Germany and are punishable by imprisonment.

Layfield, whose in-ring character at that time portrayed a Hispanic-taunting bigot, explained that he wasn't really a racist or anti-Semite. Considered one of the company's more patriotic performers, he has visited U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq on several celebrity tours. The veteran contended he was just doing what a heel is supposed to do, and that's turn the fans against him.

“I'm a bad guy (in WWE). I'm supposed to incite the crowd,” Layfield told the Washington Post. “I've done (the Nazi gestures) for decades. I really didn't think anything of it — I know how bad it is, I've lived (in Germany). I've been to Dachau, seen those places where they exterminated millions of Jews … I draw the line between me and my character. That's like saying Anthony Hopkins really enjoys cannibalism.”

Layfield, a Wall Street expert outside the ring who has written books on personal finance, is a regular contributor on the Fox Business Network.

JBL noted on his Facebook posting on Friday that old-school heat-drawing methods might not be acceptable today.

“Times change and for the better. Chris did what a ton of older heels would have done and he reacted. He is being punished and he apologized. He is one of all-time greats and a great friend. Old habits are hard to change but we must. Times change and we have to change with it, and we all will.”

Shawn Michaels, who used the Canadian flag in a similar angle during the late ‘90s, wrote on Twitter that Jericho was punished for “acting.”

“Seems to me I'd blame the horrific PC world we've allowed ourselves to be caught up in where you can't act and have it called acting ... I'll stand behind Chris Jericho any day of the week and twice on Sunday. What's the big ‘E' stand for in WWE anyway! I honestly don't see how many of you make it with that much anger in your life ... seems exhausting and a colossal waste of time!”

Longtime friend Lance Storm also addressed the issue with posts on Twitter.

“He didn't do anything that hasn't been done a million times in wrestling. Wrong place and times change. Would Rick Rude be allowed to call people ‘fat, out-of-shape, inner-city sweathogs' today? Would Bad News Brown be allowed to call people ‘beer-belly sharecroppers' today?”

“I am not advocate of disrespecting a nation's flag,” Storm added. “I think more respect in this regard in needed, but when a flag is carried around, thrown on a seat, likely dropped on the floor, then handed to a wrestler at a wrestling show, it has already been disrespected and the owner of the flag is the one introducing it as a prop on a wrestling show, and it's fair game.”

TNA is coming to the North Charleston Coliseum on July 6.

The Friday night show will feature such stars as TNA heavyweight champ Bobby Roode, James Storm, Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy, Christopher Daniels, Austin Aires and the TNA Knockouts.

Tickets are on sale at ticketmaster.com or charge by phone at 800-745-3000. Fans who purchase a $50 ticket will receive a special meet and greet with TNA Impact stars at 5:30 p.m. (redeemable with ticket the night of the show). Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the action gets under way at 7:30.

Reach Mike Mooneyham at 843-937-5517 or mooneyham@postandcourier.com, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMike Mooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham.