In this section, you will find 4 unsorted articles about the history of wrestling.
|Sportfolio - The Passing of Gus Sonnenberg|
|We never saw Gus Sonnenberg. We never gazed on his 210 pounds twisting an writhing on a stinking arena mat with a worthy opponent of his decade. For, it was during that length of time, just ten years, that Sonnenberg lifted the wrestling profession into a place of national prominence. He took it from the razor-back versus all-comer class of the smallest circus to the largest, to a position where it rivalled every sport on the horizon.|
He made rich men of Paul Bowser and others who climbed on the bandwagon. He made playboys of leeches who hung around with him, not because he was Sonnenberg, but, because he had a few bucks in his pocket.
They said he really didn't have the ”flying tackle,” but, rather that he was ”built up” as having introduced it. Those who knew Sonnenberg, followed him, watched him, said that he did. There was a time when he would leave his feet and hurl his round body at the likes of Ed Strangler Lewis and Henri Deglane, or maybe Ed Don George.
In later years, the older Sonnenberg was not able to do this. He had lost speed, his agility. But, he still had his head and he'd try to butt his way to fame. That is when people accused him of not having a real ”flying tackle.” The weapon was such that there have been times when he'd go through space with such force that he'd miss his side-stepping opponent and his receding hairline head would crash into the laps or seats at ringside. Many times, his skull met the floor.
Those are the things that brought about his death at the listed age of 44 – really nearer 50. They said it was a dread disease, they named it as leukemia. But, it was a little more than that. It was that decade of grappling which did the job – years of service to a howling, screaming wrestling public, which when he was in his prime, had as a following, Boston's most elite set. And they dropped off as soon as he did. They weren't following wrestling, but, rather the guy who had married Judith Allen, the actress, Dartmouth's Sonnenberg.
More so than the athletic figures who came along later, Gus really had the Back Bay and Beacon street with him. Where other celebs tried, but, missed fire, Sonnenberg succeeded. Probably because they considered him almost one of them, probably because of his way of living, probably because they liked it, we'll never really know – but, at any rate, they followed him.
He could have been one of them. He was a student at Dartmouth and a graduate of the University of Detroit. He lived like them when he used the Ritz-Carlton or the Copley Plaza as his Beantown abode. They could have liked him, because a lot of people did.
He never drank heavily, but he hung around with a crowd that did. But it didn't shorten his reign nor did it decrease from the idolatry with which people treated him. He went out as a good champion should, beaten, but, not ashamed. He had left a mark in the sports world which will never be erased. He packed the Boston Garden, Braves field, and every arena from here to Los Angeles.
He was Sonnenberg, the great champion. He gave the mat game color, he dramatized his work. He even had his own referee, Sam Smith, who, while he may have never called the turn on a result, did know how Gus worked and gave him the show ”class” by doing his straight-man. We don't know how straight or how crooked wrestling was then, but, it didn't need to be ”fixed” for Gus. He had the goods.
There was a local angle on Judith Allen, who was Marie Elliott off-stage- She had relatives here in Fitchburg, when a child, and visited here often.
There were times when Sonnenberg had no business wrestling, there were nights when he should have been in a hospital bed. But, that made him all the more colorful. He was a martyr to the cause that he fostered. The sport that he started on the upswing, one that would nickel and dime today were it not for him, was his master.
But, he's dead now – died in the service – and the curtain goes down on a great sports figure. The up and coming gang of this new generation won't remember him. As far as they are concerned he died an obscure ex-wrestler. But, if they could remember crowded trains heading for Boston from here on cold winter nights, or of automobile convoys going into the Hub, or of people clamoring for tickets, they'd remember Sonnenberg.
He was ”class” wherever he fought. He played the big towns and the small ones. He showed wherever a wrestling fan held the fort. He typified the best in the business. Mannerly, educated, the man who said the greatest wrestler he ever had to handle was the late Stanley Stasiak, is now no more. Gus Sonnenberg has lost the deciding fall.