Sunday, July 29, 2007

Abdullah the Butcher, part 1

Larry Shreve (Born Lawrence Shreve on November 2, 1936), best known as Abdullah the Butcher, and also at times the Madman from Sudan, is a professional wrestler. He is known as one of the most brutal professional wrestlers of all-time.

Despite wrestling folklore, Abdullah the Butcher does not truly hail from the arid desert of the Sudan, as he was actually born Lawrence Shreeve in Windsor, Ontario on November 2, 1936. He grew up in Canada as part of a family of ten in a deeply poor household, though he managed to learn karate and judo as a youth, eventually earning the title of seventh-degree grandmaster.

Standing 6’1” and weighing a robust 360 pounds, Shreeve was eventually spotted by Montreal promoter Jack Britton, and he soon made his professional ring debut at age 22 in 1958. He initially competed in numerous independent territories north of the border while performing under such various monikers as Pussycat Pikens, Kuroi Jujutsushi (The Black Wizard) and Zeras Amala. However, he ultimately created his legendary gimmick of an evil Arabian sadist; and in a match against Gino Brito (Jack Britton’s real-life son), Abdullah the Butcher first distinguished himself as one of the world’s most feared rulebreakers when he broke a chair over his opponent’s head and then proceeded to beat him senseless with the leg.

Such acts of violence were only the beginning for the terrifying Abdullah the Butcher, whose menacing figure, excessive violence, and complete disregard for the safety of himself or his opponents quickly established his well-deserved reputation for ruthless brutality. Abdullah’s matches almost always degenerated into bloodbaths, and he was infamous for stabbing his opponent’s wounds with his trademark fork (or any other foreign weapon that he could get his hands on at the moment). In addition to his insanely hardcore style, Abdullah the Butcher was revolutionary in that he would never stay in any one territory for too long so as to maintain the novelty and incredible notoriety of his character. By constantly roaming from region to region, Abdullah positioned his reputation as the most violent wrestler in the world. Consequently, he was often brought into a territory as a hired gun to destroy a popular fan favorite, and his appearances usually sparked local interest since he was always such a huge drawing card. As a result, Abdullah thus engaged in crimson-soaked carnages against some of the sport’s greatest legends, including The Original Sheik, Buddy Rogers, Bobo Brazil, Bruiser Brody, Carlos Col√≥n, Dusty Rhodes, Andre the Giant, Harley Race, Terry Funk, and “The Mongolian Stomper” Archie Gouldie, among others. Moreover, since his gimmick required that he speak no English (even though it was his native tongue in actuality), he possessed an extraordinary number of managers over the course of his long career, including Gary Hart, Paul Jones, Eddie Creatchman, Black Baron, the Grand Wizard, J.J. Dillon, Damian Kane, Larry Sharpe, Oliver Humperdink, George Cannon, Bearcat Wright, Big Bad John, and Rock Hunter, who were all portrayed as “handlers” commissioned to control the Sudanese madman while doing most of the talking in interviews. Furthermore, Abdullah would often bloody his opponents with foreign objects that he concealed in his pants. He frequently used a fork as his trademark weapon.

As a result of his frequent traveling, Abdullah the Butcher usually served as more of a special hardcore attraction than as a consistent championship contender. Accordingly, Abdullah never did win the World Heavyweight Championship, though he would nevertheless capture a myriad of regional titles during his legendary career. He won his first major championship on October 23, 1967 when he teamed with Dr. Jerry Graham to defeat John & Carlos Tolos for the NWACanadian Tag Team Titles in Vancouver. A few years later, he ventured to the Montreal region, where he secured three reigns as the IWA International Heavyweight Champion between 1969-72 while feuding against Ivan Koloff and Johnny Rougeau. He later served as one of the premier rulebreakers in Calgary’s Stampede territory, capturing the NWA Canadian Championship as well as six North American Heavyweight Titles during the early 1970’s while battling the likes of Archie Gouldie, Jerry Christy, and Sweet Daddy Siki. Before long, Abdullah the Butcher was also established as a well-known villain in the U.S.; and on June 24, 1972, he defeated Ernie Ladd in Akron, Ohio to capture the first of two eventual NWF World Heavyweight Titles. During the mid-1970’s, he also frequently performed in Detroit’s Big-Time Wrestling territory, where he engaged in a classic rivalry against local legend, the Sheik. Moreover, he also teamed with “Killer” Tim Brooks to win the region’s version of the NWA World Tag Team Titles before he then defeated Bobo Brazil on February 8, 1975 for the NWA United States Championship.

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