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Dutch Savage Interview - Part 1
by Marty Goldstein on 2001-12-30

[Many of my earliest recollections of pro wrestling on TV involve Dutch Savage. He was an intense and intellectual interview, and he rode that charisma and his in-ring skills around the world. His time overlapped with the careers of many of my favorite topics, including the AWA and the Vancouver territory in the era of Kiniski, Jonathon and the dreaded Bulldog Bob Brown. This installment focuses on the era where he first appeared on my fuzzy black and white TV screen in the late 60's.]

DS: I worked in Tennessee and Georgia when I broke in and ended up in Kansas City in the mid-60's, before my first trip to Vancouver, which was in 1966. When I was in KC the territory was on fire. We had 3 or 4 sellouts in a row, with me as (promoter) Bob Geigel's partner, on top in singles and tag. But the way things turned out became the luckiest break of Bob Brown's career. it opened a lot of doors for him.

Gust Karras and Geigel and Pat O'Connor were the office and they were paying me $175.00. Meanwhile the guys I was working like Dick the Bruiser and Wilbur Snyder were getting $600. I may have only been in the business for 3 years but I wasn't stupid. I got the excuse from Geigel about higher costs and whatever so I told him to make my pay right on the next 2 shows. If they didn't I said "if you see me at all it'll be fall". Karras didn't know what I meant.

Sure enough next show is a big house but the same payoff, and then the next show again. I knew Archie Gouldie (The Stomper) had been paid $500. so I knew what to do. I walked into Karras' office-he wasn't there- and left the tag and singles belts in a brown paper bag on his desk and left. I walked out.

The territory was programmed 6 months ahead with me on top and it tanked. Bob Brown was a TV job boy, I used to beat on him all the time, and when Geigel took Bob as his partner it finally picked back up.

My first trip to Vancouver had been booked thru Kiniski out of St. Louis. Gene had seen me in 1963 in Atlanta, and brought me in the first time. (On Sept. 26/66 Savage and Don Jardine aka The Spoiler defeated John Tolos and Tony Borne for the Canadian Open Tag titles, losing to the Tolos brothers).

I had started going to Minneapolis out of Kansas City with Dr. X, Cowboy Bill Watts and Mad Dog Vachon. The angle you remember from TV, where I nailed Maurice with a chair, he was hanging out of the ring tangled in the ropes and I let him have it, the heat was unreal. We had a program with me as a strong babyface for about a year. Then I got booked to Vancouver a second time.

I want to mention that in the summer of 1968 I went to Hawaii and had to use a different name. Some guy used the name Duke Savage a while before and he stunk out the place, so I was billed as Dutch Schultz, a grandson of the Chicago gangster. I swapped the belt back and forth with Jim Hady and loved it there. Promoter Ed Francis had a great crew, with Ripper Collins, Johnny Barend, Curtis Iaukia and Billy White Wolf(better known to many as Adnan El-Kaissie), experienced boys who knew how to draw. Once a month we sold out the HIC Convention Center with shows loaded with San Francisco guys like Ray Stevens and Pat Patterson and of course, the Rock's grandfather Peter Maivia. The TV tapings at the Civic Center were always sold out too. I had a great year there. Then it was off to Vancouver full time.

Kiniski offered me a top spot, $700 a week, he needed a top heel to work, and I thought this can't be bad. But Gene didn't tell me the territory was dead. I had to come up with something. I invented the thumb (to the throat) and the territory caught fire. It was a total heel move but simple and the psychology was right there.

[Savage teamed with Stan Stasiak to win the Canadian Open Tag Titles on Sept. 2/68 defeating Don Leo Jonathon and Paddy Barrett, then lost to Don Leo and Johnny Kostas. On December 9/68 Savage and his partner John Tolos faced the champs in an unheard of 2/3 fall TV bout. Kostas was counted out in the third fall and a very hated pair of heels whooped it up in the ring. They literally jumped up mand down for joy, getting over the importance of the straps.]

Johnny Kostas was a nice guy, a great shooter but not a good worker or a talker at all. By then he was already 50 and slowed down. Tolos was more of a meat chopper than a great worker, I always told him that, but he did have a loud personality. We got across well as a team and Sandor Kovacs had a great idea. Sandor does not get enough credit for the success of Vancouver, Kiniski gets all the glory but many times on the business end of things Sandor held things together and Sandor had a great mind for promoting. He's in a home now and has Alzheimers but still has memories of the old days once in a awhile.

[On March 31/69 Tolos and Savage met the heel team of recently dethroned NWA champ Kiniski and Bad Boy Frank Shields aka Bull Bullinski in a TV opener. What an unusual matchup on TV. It was a heelfest, culminating in Tolos having Kiniski held while Savage wound up, right in front of the ref, for a thumb. Kiniski moved and Tolos got nailed and went down. The studio audience was in an uproar, when Tolos got to his feet he was a full-fledged babyface and the title was vacated as the champs were pulled apart. The tournament was won by Dean Higuchi aka Dean Ho and Earl Maynard in May 1969.]

Sandor had another great idea to put me and Dean in a 2/3 fall challenge match on TV. We were the first headline singles match on that TV ever. Dean was an absolute prince, what a wonderful guy. Dean was a gentle soul and did some great things during my tenure in Vancouver. I still laugh because Dean screwed the angle up, and yet we turned it into a huge moneymaker.

In the third fall I was supposed to hit the thumb and Dean was going to bleed from the mouth. Now I told him, get a really really thin condom and of course, he gets some heavy duty item. So we fill it with blood and tie the end off and Dean has it in his mouth...

[In the next installment Dutch continues with how the thumb was made, the emergence of Bob Brown in Vancouver and his lengthy run as a babyface turned promoter in the PNW.]

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Quotes from the boys: Notorious T.I.D. says "If you are a heel......stay the hell out of the crowd after your match. In fact, just give up all together. It's quite apparent that you are an idiot."
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