Category: Pro Wrestling

“Paradise Alley” (1978) written, directed and starring Sylvester Stallone / Z-View

Paradise Alley (1978)

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Screenplay: Sylvester Stallone

Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Lee Canalito, Armand Assante, Frank McRae, Anne Archer, Kevin Conway, Terry Funk, Joyce Ingalls, Joe Spinell, Aimee Eccles, Tom Waits, Frank Pesce, Ray Sharkey, Frank Stallone, Ted DiBiase, Dory Funk Jr., Don Leo Jonathan, Gene Kiniski, Dick Murdoch, Ray Stevens  and Paul Mace.

Tagline:  Three brothers… One had the brains, one had the muscle and one had the suit. Together they had a million dollar dream.

The Plot…

The Carboni brothers, Lenny (Assante), Cosmo (Stallone) and Victor (Canalito) are just getting by.  Lenny, who returned from the war a hero with a limp, is an undertaker.  Cosmo lives by his wits, always looking for a fast buck.  Victor hauls ice.

After an evening in Paradise Alley where real (not scripted) wrestling matches take place, Cosmo gets an idea.  Victor could become a professional wrestler with Cosmo as his manager.  Lenny sees that Cosmo has a good idea, but fears that Victor could be exploited.  Victor likes the idea of the brothers working together so Lenny becomes his manager and Cosmo his trainer.

Victor becomes a popular, winning wrestler.  This puts him in the crosshairs of Stitch Mahone and Frankie the Thumper.  Stitch is a local mobster and Thumper is a big dumb brute who happens to be an undefeated wrestler.  As Cosmo begins to have concerns that Victor is being pushed to fight to often, Lenny starts working on a fight with Frankie the Thumper.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Sly Stallone wrote, directed, starred in and sang the title song for Paradise Alley.  It was his directorial debut.

Paradise Alley was Terry Funk’s, Lee Canalito’s and Tom Waits’ feature film debut.

Frank McRae as Big Glory and Terry Funk as Frankie the Thumper own their scenes.

The final wrestling match in the Paradise Alley ring during a pouring thunderstorm is amazing.

I rate Paradise Alley higher than most folks.  Keep in mind that I am a huge Sly Stallone fan.  Your mileage may vary.

Paradise Alley (1978) rates 5 of 5 stars.

RIP: Terry Funk

Terry Funk died today.  Mr. Funk was 79 years old.

Terry and his older brother, Dory Jr., were the sons of Dorothy and Dory Funk.  Their father, Dory Funk Sr. was a high school state and college champion amateur wrestler.  After a stint in the Navy, Dory Sr. became a professional wrestler and later a wrestling promoter.  So both Funk boys grew up in a professional wrestling family and both would become professional wrestlers.

Terry Funk began his professional wrestling career in 1965, competing in his father’s Western States Sports Promotion.  His older brother, Dory was already an established wrestler.  They made a formidable team.  Terry would go on to wrestle and win championships for all the major promoters as well as on the independent circuit.  Later in his career when many wrestlers contemplate retirement, Terry Funk excelled as a hardcore champion, participating in extremely violent matches.

Terry Funk won multiple championships in promotions across the country.  Mr. Funk is in the following Professional Wrestling Halls of Fame:

  • Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame (1995)
  • Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum (2004)
  • Hardcore Hall of Fame (2005)
  • NWA Hall of Fame (2009)
  • WWE Hall of Fame (2009)
  • St. Louis Wrestling Hall of Fame (2010)
  • George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame (2010)
  • International Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame (2021)

Terry Funk also branched out into acting.  His first role was a major one in Sylvester Stallone’s Paradise Alley.  Mr. Funk would go on to act in television and feature films.

Some of Terry Funk’s television appearances include: Wildside (6 episodes); Timestalkers, Swamp Thing; Quantum Leap; Tequila and Bonetti (11 episodes); The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and Thunder in Paradise.

Some of Terry Funk’s feature film appearances include: Paradise Alley; Over the Top; Road House; Rambo III (stunts) and Rocky V (stunts).

I was familiar with Terry Funk’s wrestling as a kid growing up in Indiana.  Then when we moved to Florida, Terry Funk was a popular bad guy for years.  My favorite Terry Funk role, by far, is when he played Frankie the Thumper in Paradise Alley.  Mr. Funk and Sylvester Stallone got along well as evidenced by Terry Funk’s appearances in Over the Top, stunt work for Rambo III and Rocky V.

The fact that Terry Funk was able to wrestle for decades is evidence that he was a legitimate tough guy.  It’s impressive that everywhere Mr. Funk wrestled, he excelled.  Look at the number of Wrestling Hall of Fames feature him.  He was one of a kind.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Terry Funk’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Paul Reubens

Paul Reubens, the actor best known for his character Pee-Wee Herman, died yesterday from cancer.  Mr. Reubens was 70.

Paul Reubens began his career as a stage actor and comedian.  He developed his Pee-Wee Herman character for a stage show.  The Pee-Wee Herman Show proved so popular that HBO picked it up for a special.  The special was an instant hit.  Reubens was approached to bring the character to the big screen.  Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure was directed by Tim Burton.  The movie was so successful it spawned a Saturday morning program geared to kids (Pee-Wee’s Playhouse) and a movie sequel (Big Top Pee-Wee).  When the series ended, Paul Reubens stepped away from the character and took time off from acting.

When Paul Reubens returned to performing he alternated between television, movies and voice work.  Later in his career he would return to his Pee-Wee Herman character for a few videos and guest appearances.

Some of Paul Reuben’s television appearances include: Working Stiffs (2 episodes); The Flintstone Comedy Show (2 episodes); The Pee-Wee Herman Show (movie); Dream On; Mork & Mindy; Madame’s Place; All Star Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Saturday Spectacular; 227; Sesame Street: Put Down the Duckie; Sesame Street (3 episodes); Christmas at Pee-Wee’s Playhouse; Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (45 episodes); Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Murphy Brown (6 episodes); Everybody Loves Raymond; Alley McBeal; Rugrats (2 episodes); Reno 911; 30 Rock; Dirt (3 episodes); WWE Raw (2 episodes); The Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway; Batman: The Brave and Bold (4 episodes); Tron: Uprising (17 episodes); The Blacklist (5 episodes); Gotham (3 episodes); What We Do In The Shadows; DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (5 episodes) and The Connors.

Some of Paul Reuben’s movie appearances include: The Brotherhood; The Blues Brothers; Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie; Meatball’s Part II; Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure;  Big Top Pee-Wee; Moonwalker; Batman Returns; The Nightmare Before Christmas; Matilda; Doctor Dolittle; Mystery Men; Blow; Pee-Wee Gets an iPad and Pee-Wee Goes to Sturgis.   

I’m old enough to remember when Pee-Wee Herman went viral.  Pee-Wee was everywhere.  I was also impressed with Paul Reuben’s commitment to the character.  He wouldn’t do interviews or appear anywhere except as Pee-Wee.  It was always fun seeing Mr. Reuben’s non-Pee-Wee appearances later in his career.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Paul Reuben’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: The Iron Sheik

Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, better known as The Iron Sheik, died today at the age of 81.

Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri was born in Damghan, Iran.  He was a talented amateur wrestler and represented Iran on the Greco-Roman wrestling team in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.  Following the Olympics, Mr. Vaziri moved to the United States.  In 1971, he was the gold medalist in the Amateur Athletic Union Greco-Roman wrestling championships.  He then served as an assistant wrestling coach for the 1972 US Olympic team.

Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri began his wrestling career in 1972.  Capitalizing on his heritage, Mr. Vaziri shaved his head, grew a thick mustache and wore wrestling boots with toes that curved up.  He wrestled under the names The Great Hossein Arab and “Hussein Arab” before taking on the moniker of The Iron Sheik.  His character, ability in the ring and to work an audience made him a headliner.  Over the course of his career The Iron Sheik wrestled for all of the major wrestling organizations winning multiple championships in each.  The Iron Sheik was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to The Iron Sheik’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Superstar Billy Graham

Superstar Billy Graham, the Hall of Fame Professional wrestler died yesterday at the age of 79.  He had been on life-support and ill for some time.

Superstar Billy Graham was born Eldridge Wayne Coleman.  He became interested in weightlifting while in fifth grade.  In high school he threw the shot put and participated in the Golden Gloves.  In 1961, Mr. Coleman won the Teenage Body Building Contest West Coast Division. (Frank Zane was the winner of the East Coast Division!).  By 1968, Eldridge Coleman was working out at Gold’s Gym where he became friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu and other famous body builders of the era.

In 1970, Mr. Coleman began his career in professional wrestling working for various territories around the country.  In 1972, he took on the moniker Superstar Billy Graham and he became world famous.  Over the course of his career he was a three-time World Champion and inducted in the the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.  He retired in 1988 and became an author and ringside announcer.

Superstar Billy Graham was the inspiration for the next wave of pro wrestlers that included Ric Flair, Austin Idol, Hulk Hogan and Jesse The Body Ventura.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Superstar Billy Graham’s family, friends and fans.

Andy Kaufman Soon To Be a WWE Hall of Fame Wrestler!

Today Joe Otterson at Variety posted  Andy Kaufman to Be Inducted Into WWE Hall of Fame.  Good for Andy and good for the WWE.  I say that without any hint of sarcasm.  While I was never a fan of Kaufman’s comedy, nor a pro wrestling fan when Kaufman’s career led him to the squared circle, I do believe he should be in the WWE Hall of Fame.

Andy Kaufman’s humor was always a bit too bizarre for me.  I hadn’t watched professional wrestling since I was a kid in Indiana.  Yet, when there was an Andy Kaufman / Pro Wrestling crossover, something special happened.  Remember this was a time when everyone involved in professional ‘rasslin’ went to great lengths to make sure fans believed all that happened inside and outside the ring was real.

Andy Kaufman began showing up at professional wrestling arenas where he would declare himself the Women’s Champion of the World.  While one would normally think that was stupid-funny (and it was), what it did was enrage fans.  Kaufman began getting matches against women and of course he beat them, which only made people more upset.

Then Kaufman appeared on David Letterman’s show with Jerry “The King” Lawler.  Lawler was a babyface, aka a favorite of professional wrestling fans.  Kaufman and Lawler got into an argument.  Lawler ending up slapping Kaufman out of his chair.  Letterman appeared to be shocked as Lawler stormed off set and Kaufman needed medical assistance.  The encounter blew up and was reported everywhere. Kaufman actually checked himself into a hospital and stayed there for several days!  Of course this led to a series of sold out arenas where Kaufman and Lawler would battle.  Behind the scenes the two were buddies and raking in bank.

If you talk to professional wrestling fans, probably 99% know about the Andy Kaufman/Jerry Lawler/David Letterman incident.  What’s even crazier is the high percentage of non-wrestling fans who know about it over 40 years later.  So yeah, I say, Andy Kaufman deserves to be in the Wrestling Hall of Fame.  Hats off to the WWE for making it happen.

“Grips, Grunts and Groans” (1937) starring The Three Stooges / Z-View

Grips, Grunts and Groans (1937)

Director:  Jack White

Writer:  Clyde Bruckman from a story by Searle Kramer, Herman Boxer

Stars: Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

The boys become friends with Ivan Bustoff, a professional wrestling champion.  Bustoff has a match that evening, but spends the day drinking/carousing with our guys.  A local mobster has placed a big bet on Bustoff and if he’s unable to wrestle or loses, it’ll be the death of the Stooges. So when Bustoff is unable to compete, Larry and Moe disguise Curly as the champ.  What could go wrong?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

In Grips, Grunts and Groans when Curly smells Wild Hyacinth perfume, it makes him go crazy. (Much like in Horses’ Collars when the sight of a mouse sets him off.)  They could have made more shorts just of our guys going out drinking with Bustoff – think of the misadventures they could have had!

Grips, Grunts and Groans earns 5 of 5 stars.

“No Holds Barred” (1952) starring The Bowery Boys / Z-View

No Holds Barred (1952)

Director:  William Beaudine

Writer:  Tim Ryan, Bert Lawrence, Jack Crutcher

Stars: Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Marjorie Reynolds, Bernard Gorcey, Henry Kulky, David Gorcey, Benny Bartlett, Sandra Gould, Tim Ryan, Murray Alper and Ray Walker

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

When Slip (Gorcey) discovers that Sach (Hall) has different body parts that feel no pain and give him super-strength, he turns Sach into a professional wrestler.  Although the super-strength body part changes from time to time, they are able to take advantage of this.  Sach is winning all his matches and this draws the attention of a crooked manager and the former champ.  Soon Sach will have to face manager’s wrestler in the ring… what could go wrong?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

No Holds Barred is a fun Bowery Boys outing.  The outfit Sach wears in his final match is actually Klaatu’s  (Michael Rennie) spacesuit from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).

Each time the power would move to a different body part (head, elbow, toes, etc.) Slip would change Sach’s wrestling moniker.  When the power moved to the last body part Slip started to give Sach a new wrestling name, but Sach breaks the fourth wall and says, “You say it and we’re out of pictures!”

No Holds Barred earns 3 of 5 stars.

RIP: Stephan Bonnar

Stephan Bonnar, the UFC Hall of Fame mixed martial artist, died on December 22, 2022.  He was 45.  No official cause of death was given, but it was believed to be the result of heat complications.

Mr. Bonnar was the first runner-up on Season One of The Ultimate Fighter.  His bout against Forrest Griffin is considered a classic.  As the fight progressed the ratings for the finale continued to climb as viewers called friends to tune in.  The winner of the bout was to get a six-figure contract with the UFC.  Because the fight was so entertaining and competitive, both Griffin and Bonnar received contracts.  Dana White, the President of the UFC said that the Griffin/Bonnar fight saved the promotion (which is now a multi-billion dollar business).

Stephan Bonnar ended his professional MMA career with a 15 -9 record.

I watched the first season of The Ultimate Fighter.  I was also one of the people that called friends during the finale. The Bonnar/Griffin fight truly saved the UFC.  It was because of that fight that the UFC television contract was extended.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Stephan Bonnar’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Gene Lebell

Ivan Gene Lebell, martial artist, actor, stuntman, professional wrestler, and real life tough guy passed away in his sleep on August 9, 2002, at the age of 89.

Gene Lebell began training in wrestling and judo before the age of ten.  After earning his black belt, Mr. Lebell went to Japan to further his training.  When he returned to the US, he competed in the Amateur Athletic Union National Judo Championships, winning the heavyweight title at the age of 22.  In 1963, Mr. Lebell agreed to fight a boxer who claimed he could beat any martial artist.  Gene Lebell choked him out in the fourth round.  Using his martial arts training it was easy for Gene Lebell to transition into professional wrestling where he often was used as an enforcer during big matches.

Gene Lebell’s reputation as a martial artist brought him to the attention of Hollywood where he got work as both a stuntman and actor.  With over 250 stunt credits and over 150 acting credits on his resume, odds are you’ve seen Gene Lebell on television or feature films.

Television appearances include: The Jack Benny Program; The Munsters; Gomer Pyle; The Man from UNCLE; Mission Impossible; The Green Hornet; Batman; The Wild, Wild West; Mannix; The Rockford Files; Kung Fu; Kojak; The Six Million Dollar Man; Starsky & Hutch; Knight Rider; The Fall Guy; Walker, Texas Ranger; Married with Children; The X FIles; More Wild, Wild West and The Shield.

Feature Films include: Blacula; Walking Tall; Earthquake; The Towering Inferno; The Killer Elite; Rocky;  Every Which Way But Loose; The Jerk; Raging Bull; Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid; City Heat; Remo Williams; Rush Hour; Runaway Train; Rocky IV; Die Hard 2; Marked for Death; The Last Boy Scout; Waterworld; Strange Days and Spider-Man 2.

There’s a famous story that when Gene Lebell was working on a Steven Seagall film, the star said that due to his martial arts training, no one could choke him out.  Mr. Lebell took exception to the statement.  Seagall allowed Gene Lebell’s  to place him in a chokehold to prove his point.  Steven Seagall not only lost consciousness but also control of his bowels.  While Steven Seagall denies this ever happened, there are others who claimed to have been there and seen it happen.

Gene LeBell was a man’s man, a 10th degree Black Belt; and appeared in some of my all-time favorite movies and television shows.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and fans.

RIP: Scott Hall

Scott Hall, the professional wrestler also known as Razor Ramon, died today after being taken off life support.  Mr. Hall was placed on life support after having three heart attacks following hip replacement surgery.  He was 63 years old.

Scott Hall began his pro wrestling career in 1984 and wrestled for all the major professional wrestling organizations throughout his career.  During the WWE / WCW ratings war, Scott Hall was part of the NWO (a group of wrestlers which included Kevin Nash, Hulk Hogan and others who played outsiders taking over the WCW).  The NWO were a ratings hit.  Scott Hall is a two-time inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Scott Hall was a charismatic personality who entertained millions over the course of his career.  His struggles outside the ring were sometimes made part of his wrestling storylines and impacted both his personal and professional life.  The fact that Scott Hall’s family, many friends and fans continued to support his efforts to get healthy are a testament to the impact he had.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Scott Hall’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Jacqueline Stallone

Jacqueline Stallone passed away this morning at the age of 98.  Best known as the mother of Sylvester and Frank Stallone, she was much more than just the parent of famous brothers.

Here is part of what Frank posted on his Instagram

This morning my brothers and I lost our mother Jackie Stallone . She was the mother to four children, Tommy, Sylvester, Frankie and my late sister Toni Ann. She was a remarkable woman working out everyday full of spunk and fearless . She died in her sleep as she had wished. It was hard not to like her, she was very eccentric and flamboyant person.

Jackie, as she was known, was indeed a remarkable woman.  She was always into fitness and training.  As a young woman she performed as a trapeze artist!  She was also a nightclub dancer.  Jackie Stallone was the first woman to have a daily exercise and fitness show in Washington, D.C. Later in her career she owned Barbella’s, a gym for women.

Jackie became a popular guest on talk shows where she discussed not only her famous sons but also her astrology books and psychic hotline.  She also became involved with GLOW – the Gorgeous Women of Wrestling!

Jackie Stallone was a powerhouse.  Frank was right in describing her as eccentric, flamboyant, fearless and hard not to like. 

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jacqueline Stallone’s family, friends and fans.

RIP – James “Kamala” Harris

James Harris better known as the professional wrestler Kamala the Ugandan Giant has died at the age of 70 due to complications from Covid-19.

Harris began his pro wrestling career in 1978 after meeting Hall of Fame Wrestler Bobo Brazil.  In his early years Harris wrestled under the names, Ugly Bear Harris, Big Jim Harris and Bad News Harris.  In 1982, Harris signed with promoter Jerry Lawler’s Continental Wrestling Association.  Harris and Lawler created the Kamala character — a giant headhunter brought to the US from the jungles of Uganda.

Harris wrestled for all of the major companies and was a fan favorite.  When my sons and nephews were young, I took them to a live wrestling event where Kamala was one of the featured stars.  I overheard the boys telling my youngest son, Chris, that Kamala was a cannibal and a headhunter who ate little kids.  They went on to tell Chris that if Kamala got hungry he would begin slapping his belly and then climb out of the ring to look for a meal.  (Slapping his belly was a signature move for Kamala and he did it in every match.)

Needless to say when Kamala came out to wrestle Chris seemed to move a bit closer to me with eyes as big as saucers watching the Ugandan giant enter the ring.  Sure enough, part way through the match he began to slap his belly.  Chris grabbed my hand, and said, “C’mon dad.  Time to go, Kamala’s getting ready to look for a meal!”

Our thoughts and prayers go out to James Kamala Harris’ family, friends and fans.

“Paradise Alley” – Rare, Behind the Scenes Video!

I think a return trip to Paradise Alley is in order.  We could catch up with the Carboni brothers, Frankie the Thumper, Big Glory, Stitch, Mumbles and all the other mugs there.  Maybe we could swing over to the dance hall and see Annie and Bunchie and hear that smug dance hall crooner.  We could end the night with a rooftop race.  

Are you in?

Source:  Brian Stooss‎ ULTRA STALLONE FanPage
Rare : Behind the Scenes of Paradise Alley  Kudos : Joe Breen