The criteria for the Hall of Fame is a combination of drawing power, being a great in-ring performer or excelling in one’s field in pro wrestling, as well as having historical significance in a positive manner.
Wild Bull Curry is on his sixth year on the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame ballot, and it’s time to vote him in.
As we should with all candidates on the ballot, we must look at the criteria listed above to determine if there’s a case to be made for a wrestler to be inducted. Based on the criteria, I think Wild Bull Curry is a no-brainer for the WON Hall of Fame:
Trying to find historical drawing data for a wrestler like Wild Bull Curry is difficult. Unfortunately, records at the time are nearly impossible to find online – and even then, the numbers may be kayfabe’d. That being said, I’ve looked over many attendance numbers on WrestlingData.com, and I would be remiss not to include my findings in some form for this article. Here are some high-profile main event matches of Bull Curry with their attendance listed.
With the data found on WrestlingData.com, we’re looking at 30 different main events that drew a sizeable crowd. The earliest big draw was a match against George Dusette in Detroit, Michigan when Bull was just 21 years old. Despite taking a fairly long absence from the territory (around 30 years between runs in the city), Bull was still a draw until 1973 when he and The Sheik put a combined 29,000 people into Cobo Hall over three nights for their last blood feud.
Wild Bull’s biggest recorded main event was the 1958 tag team match in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Teaming with the Sheik of Araby (aka The Sheik), the duo lost to Antonino Rocca and Miguel Perez in front of 20,793 fans. According to the WrestlingData records, this was the most attended wrestling show in the United States that year.
Nearly a decade earlier, Bull could be considered a draw in Boston where he had some well-attended main event matches against Frank Sexton, Don Lee, Frederick von Schacht, and Tony Galento. All five matches ranked within the top 100 reported attendances for their respective years (1947 for the Sexton and Lee matches, 1948 for the von Schacht bout, and 1949 for the back-to-back series against Galento).
Not only could Bull be considered a draw in eastern America, but he also drew some decent numbers in Canada. According to these records, a 1936 main event against Alex Kasaboski in Windsor was the 37th most attended wrestling match in Canada that year. Approximately 6% of the population of Moncton, New Brunswick at the time attended Bull’s matches against Jim Bernard and Don Leo Jonathan in 1961. To cap off the Canada numbers, Bull’s tag team with Tiger Jeet Singh drew 9,000 in Toronto when they wrestled Mark Lewin and Whipper Billy Watson for the International Tag Team titles.
The real story regarding Wild Bull’s drawing ability came at the end of his wrestling career in Detroit’s Big Time Wrestling rounding out the ensemble cast led by Bobo Brazil and The Sheik. There are four Bull main event attendances on record for the back half of the 1960s when he returned to the Detroit territory, with the peak being his tag team match with Killer Karl Kox against Lord Layton and Bobo Brazil in 1965. He would have a good run on top in the early 70s, especially in his continued feud with The Sheik where a tag team match in 1972 drew 12,128 fans and a Texas Death Match for the NWA United States Heavyweight title in 1973 drew 12,463.
While the quantitative data tells us Bull may have been a draw, we don’t know that for sure as there are hundreds of data points missing, mostly from Texas. WrestlingData has hundreds of Wild Bull main events from places like the world-famous Dallas Sportatorium, Detroit’s Cobo Hall, and Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens without recorded attendance. While we can assume Bull was a draw in Texas as he wrestled in the main event week-in, and week-out of the Sportatorium shows for decades, we cannot know for sure unless someone provides us with a detailed record book of the wrestling scene at the time.
Is Wild Bull Curry a draw? Maybe!
Can we use this part of the Hall of Fame criteria to determine if he should be voted in? Kinda. The numbers presented might be enough to convince you, or they might not. It’s not a clear picture but it’s something.
Excelling in One’s Field as a Pro Wrestler
Because of the lack of footage from most of his career, barring a pretty good and violent match against Johnny Valentine in 1969, I can’t make a case for Bull being a great in-ring performer.
I can, however, make a case for Bull excelling in his field as a professional wrestler. Wrestling, at its core, is designed to make you feel. You’re not doing your job as a wrestler if the crowd sits on their hands silently because you can’t get them into your match. Dramatic emphasis draws out the most intense reaction.
I think we can all agree, especially if you’re reading this and interested in something like the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame, that pro wrestling is at its very best when we can’t help but have our emotions, our adrenaline, and our enjoyment run wild because of what is happening in and around the ring. A good wrestler can make you super excited, a great wrestler can make you cry, and an excellent wrestler can make a crowd riot.
Wild Bull Curry riled up the crowd across his multiple decades in the sport. His trademark appearance added to his ability to infuriate the crowd to the point of no return. Wikipedia has a good list of riots and fan interactions caused by Curry’s antics in the ring.
- 1955: a match between Curry and Ray McIntyre resulted in more than 140 fans being taken to the hospital after a riot broke out.
- 1956: Curry was jumped by a fan who was displeased with Curry’s brutal treatment of local star George Becker. Curry broke the fan’s jaw with a single punch.
- 1958: A fan struck Bull Curry with an iron pipe during a match with Pepper Gomez in Galveston, Texas. Curry chased the fan out of the ring, catching up with him in the balcony where he beat him up.
- 1968: While wrestling Emile Dupreé in Worcester, Massachusetts, a fan jumped in the ring and jumped on Curry’s back. Curry punched the fan so hard that he was reportedly unconscious for two days.
- Year unknown: During a match in Texas, Curry got a bucket of yellow paint dumped over his head by a fan.
- The late sixties: During a televised match, Curry used a cinder block on his opponent. The man went into the hospital for stitches. Curry was arrested and sentenced to jail for his actions. The only time he was allowed out was to wrestle, so for the next four weeks of televised matches, he was escorted to and from the ring in handcuffs by police, being cuffed and returned to jail when he was finished with his match for that week.
While the last one was not a riot, it still shows Curry’s commitment to adhering to kayfabe and being the most believable dastardly wrestler possible. While some wrestlers may call themselves the devil, Curry made you believe that he was the devil. I think that any wrestler that can get the fans enthralled in their matches to the point of 100+ people rioting should be considered excellent in their field.
While he may have been a draw and he excelled in his role as a heel wrestler, Wild Bull’s biggest contribution to wrestling was his historical significance which is still felt today.
Curry is recognized as the originator of hardcore wrestling and first started working the style in the 1940s. Early Bull bouts in Detroit involved him and his opponent walking and brawling in and out of the ring, with Bull often using folding chairs to hurt his foe. Of course, as has been the case in wrestling since this introduction of foreign objects, the face would reverse the attack and hit Bull with the gimmick to bloody him up and please the fans.
While his antics in Detroit and Boston kept him over as a guy who could be brought back to the territory, it was his time in Texas that really kickstarted hardcore wrestling. Combined with his ugly-as-sin looks, Wild Bull’s rough-and-tumble wrestling style evolved to feature a plethora of weapons like cinder blocks, brass knuckles, or whatever other weapon he could get his hands on.
Curry’s style was something people had never seen before and it caught on like wildfire. The NWA Texas Brass Knuckles Championship was created for Wild Bull Curry in 1953 and he held that title 24 times between then and 1970 (there may have been more title reigns that were not recorded). This title was fought under “No Disqualification” rules and later helped launch the careers of many known “badasses” in the sport and the title history serves as a “who’s who” of Texas area hardcore wrestling.
WON Hall of Famers who held the Texas Brass Knuckles Championship
|# of reigns
|Abdullah The Butcher
|Don Leo Jonathan
|Fritz Von Erich
|Mad Dog Vachon
|Superstar Billy Graham
Others have taken what Wild Bull started and made the genre a global powerhouse. The Sheik promoted Big Time Wrestling from 1964 to 1980 and his bloody feud with Bobo Brazil popularized hardcore wrestling to other markets. The Detroit territory established The Sheik, Abdullah The Butcher, and Bobo Brazil as bonafide stars and their careers landed them a spot in the WON Hall of Fame.
Other territories took the foundation laid out by Curry and introduced new elements to help grow their business. In Puerto Rico, stars like Carlos Colon, Bruiser Brody, and Abdullah (all three of them WON Hall of Famers) upped the ante of hardcore wrestling by introducing elements like fire and wild brawls – the next natural evolution of Curry’s style.
In the 1990s, sixty years after Bull innovated the style, Atsushi Onita founded what became the most successful hardcore wrestling promotion in the world. Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling specialized in matches involving barbed wire, fire, and exploding death matches. The style became so popular that FMW regularly drew tens of thousands of fans to their big shows, with their peak being the FMW 6th Anniversary Show in 1995 where 58,250 people watched Onita vs. Hayabusa in a No Rope Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch for the FMW Brass Knuckles Heavyweight title.
Back Stateside in the 90s, Extreme Championship Wrestling became a viable third contender in the national wrestling war between the WWF and WCW. There were virtually no rules in ECW and the promotion gained a cult following because of the hardcore style it presented. ECW eventually aired nationally on TV on TNN and had a few successful pay-per-view events (ECW Heat Wave 1999 was bought by 99,000 people). ECW was such a huge influence on wrestling that companies continue to do ECW nostalgia acts and tributes twenty years after they went out of business.
Curry’s hardcore style can still be found on an international scale in wrestling today. All Elite Wrestling brought hardcore wrestling back to the mainstream in 2019 when Jon Moxley and Kenny Omega fought in a brutal Lights Out match that reminded everyone just how much fun this type of wrestling can be. In their short four years as a company, AEW has done five Lights Out matches and they have all had a positive effect on business. Blood & Guts, another no-rules hardcore gimmick match, recently sold out the Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit (where Bull innovated the no-rules style) and was watched on TV by more than 1 Million people.
Despite not being a household name, Bull Curry’s influence continues to draw a bloodthirsty crowd who want a good time. Much like how Chuck Berry is known as “The Father of Rock and Roll”, Wild Bull Curry should be recognized as the “Father of Hardcore Wrestling”. Without him, professional wrestling would look significantly different today.
90 years after he made his debut, it’s time to put Wild Bull Curry in the WON Hall of Fame.