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Of Fallen Heros
by Marty Goldstein on 2002-01-10

Professional wrestling has the unique quality of touching lives. Recently 2 deaths of childhood heroes, one passing recent ans the other over 30 years ago, have crossed the path of my life.

I had remarked recently about how many wrestlers who were on the first live card I attended at the old Winnipeg Auditorium had crossed my path. I worked with Bill Cody on a tour once, and just finished interviewing his opening match opponent Bobby Jones.

I am proud of my latest interview with Dutch Savage, he was in the semi-main against Tiny Mills, and Dutch has been very gracious to me. I met Harley Race in Calgary years ago, he was teamed with Larry "Pretty Boy" Hennig in the headline bout against Cowboy Bill Watts and...The Mighty Igor.

Dick Garza played the simple Polish emigre in an era where a vast number of the audience in white, European midwest towns like Winnipeg all knew folk from the old country- and could relate to Igor's naivety and brute strength. His AWA/Omaha title reighn was never mentioned in Winnipeg, he was a second tier performer but he along with the Crusher defined the role of character babyface (both Polish, by the way) in the AWA.

most fans don't know he was a Mr. Michigan and his impressive physique was well-earned, the gut coming later in life. He passed away this week, and I was once again drawn back to that night when blood flowed, people in a smoky hall screamed and Watts and Igor stood over their foes, losing by DQ but exacting revenge.

Igor was next followed in the strongman role by Hercules Cortez. The Spaniard had legit legendary strength and was tag champion with Red Bastein after they vanquished the Vachon Brothers. Mad Dog and Butcher had beaten Crusher and Bruiser for the titles and held the belts for 2 years. The night in May 71 in Milwaukee, when the babyfaces actually won, shocked the crowd. It was what wrestling is all about. Cortez was booked in a series of #1 contender bouts against Nick Bockwinkle and after losing by DQ on July 23/71 in Winnipeg a terrible road accident took the life of Cortez. It is the big fear of the life "goin down the road", to die in a crash. And I saw kids cry when they found what happened to Cortez.

This past week, I stumbled across a website dedicated to Cortez, His 3 children are desperately searching for memorabilia and information about their late father's career. I had a long exchange with Rick, the middle child who is spearheading the search for their past from his home in Oregon. He was surprised to learn that so many fans were saddened by his father's death. There has been an impressive outpouring on the internet, and the family is going to attend the Cauliflower Alley Club convention in February in Las Vegas and meet with Bastein, Bockwinkle and so many more of Hercules' friends. With a little luck and co-ordination, we may even find elusive video of Cortez.

Igor and Cortez, the brawny foreigners, garnered sympathy and support in a time when true power and sportsmanship were paramount to the public's perception of the wrestler as athlete. They gave countless hours of happiness to kids across the midwest and around the world as heros. So, in the middle of work, writing stories, helping book an indy card this Sunday in Colton, Ca. and releasing our 2 films during the Sundance Film Festival, here I am telling Dan Denton about yet another project I have taken on. But he understands. Because to us, Cortez and Igor were only heros. To 3 little kids, he was dad and he never came home. If you know anyone who can contribute to helping put together the history of Pepe Chicharro/Pepe Cortes/ Claude Dessary/ Hercules Romero ( and a few other hercules incarnations) from his days in Montreal, the AWA, east coast, Europe and Australia, with results or photos or anecdotes, please contact me. It will make 3 little kids whose lives were shattered and forever sadly changed in 1971 a little happier, 30 years later.

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Quotes from the boys: Ed Moretti says "Relax there kid. Who's calling this match...them or us? They bought the tickets to see us, not the other way around".
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