Dutch Savage: Perennial All-Star
GREG OLIVER - Co-Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
Dutch Savage is probably aboot the most Canadian non-Canadian out there. There wasn't a star from the Great White North that he didn't face, often on foreign turf in the B.C.-based All-Star Wrestling.
He was one of the most recognizable names of the Pacific Northwest for decades, from Northern California to Oregon to Idaho to Washington State to British Columbia, and Hawaii.
Yet his beef about not having a profile in the SLAM! Wrestling Canadian Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame is legit. "I remember that SLAM! Wrestling. All the guys that they ever talked about, they never mentioned me once. It's amazing, all the places I've been, all the things that I've done in the business, they've never mentioned me. Not once," he said. "They mention all these other guys who couldn't even carry my jock to the ring."
Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Dutch grew up in Maryland, went to school at Marshall University in West Virginia before moving back home to work. His younger brother came home, whom he hadn't seen in years, and told him about his life as a pro wrestler up in Canada as Man Mountain Campbell.
So the young Dutch learned some basics under his brother at the local YMCA, then traveled down to Florida where his brother was about to become Luke Brown (and later one half of the Kentuckians tag team). His tutelage lasted about a year and a half, learning from his brother and Tiny Smith.
He made his debut in Georgia in 1962 as Lonnie Brown and got beat up for months, slowly learning the trade and putting weight and muscle onto his 6-foot-4 frame. The name Dutch Savage came along in Kansas City, and he worked as Mr. X in Tennessee as well.
But when he went up to the Pacific Northwest in the late '60s, he found a home.
Savage worked in Vancouver's All-Star Wrestling promotion for eight years "I worked in and out, in and out, in and out. I'd go down to Oregon, come back up, go down to Oregon, come back up."
Dutch has lots of stories about the men he worked with. Here's a few that he shared:
Gene Kiniski stands out as a major influence. "Gene's the one that got me in really, really top physical condition, whether I wanted to be there or not. I had to work with him every single night for years, in singles and tag matches," he said. "If it was a preliminary match, it always went 30, 35 minutes. If it was a main event, it went close to an hour every single night. Up and down, up and around, around and about, all in the centre of the ring with him."
Another great friend is the Mormon Giant, Don Leo Jonathan. "Don Leo and I were tag team partners for years. We went to Japan together, Korea together. He got me in more trouble than Carter had liver pills, the old fart. You know what he did to me one night in Tokyo? I'd just gotten in for my first tour there, it was '54, '55, Rikidozan had the territory. I couldn't speak Japanese at all. He'd been there twice already. So he said, 'Dutchess, you come along with me' - you know that little boy (voice) - 'you come along with me, and I'll make sure that you eat right. Don't you worry about nothing. Dutchess, I've got you covered.' Well, we'd go in and he'd order a breakfast for us. They'd bring him out a kobe steak, eggs and nice toast and everything. They'd bring me a bowl of rice and a fish. He said, 'Well, it must be lacking something in the translation.' So he did this twice to me. The third time that we went back to this same restaurant, I had no idea he had talked to the waiter. I took the waiter by the hand and took him out in front of the restaurant, where in the window, they have all this plastic food that looks just like real food. It's all steaming and everything. So I went, 'Iche, iche, iche, one of those, one of those, one of those, one of those.' He says, 'Okay, dajobe.' Don't worry, I'll do that. I went back in the restaurant. They brought Leo his steak and everything. I said, 'Finally, I'm going to get some decent food.' The guy brought me out this tray, and you could see the steam coming out of it. He took the tablecloth off of it. It was the plastic food I'd ordered in the window. Don had put him up to it, paid him 50 bucks to do. I cussed that Mormon up one side and down the other. Couldn't do anything, he's too big. 'Dutchess, now don't you get mad.'"
Stan Stasiak was a "real, real super easy guy to get heat with. He knew the business inside and out. Great guy."
The name Killer Karl Krupp gets Savage laughing. "Krupp was crazy! He was fun. He was just a lot of fun. I had a ball with him. You ever hear about the match we had down in Portland when I chased him outside the building, slammed the door? I said, 'You're going into the mud puddle.' 'I'm not going in the mud puddle. I'm not getting my tights dirty!' So I threw him in the mud puddle. He had mud up his nose, in his ears. He was so mad at me he almost broke the door off the hinges chasing me back in the building. They got all that on tape too. We sold out about 16 weeks in a row with Krupp. To this day, he'd get me laughing so hard, I couldn't do anything in the ring."
Mad Dog Vachon is another where the smile on Dutch's face comes through the phone line. "Maurice, probably one of toughest, ornery little farts in the business. I call him up. He says, 'I work all my life in the ring. I never make a whole lot of money. I retire. I get hit by a car, they take off my leg. Now I'm a millionaire," Savage recalled. "Maurice was solid box-office. Everything he ever touched went to gold."
Besides the Pacific Northwest, Savage was a very big name in Hawaii, where he worked as Dutch Shultz, and in Japan.
For a few years, Savage was part-owner of part of the Washington state territory. He sold that and got out of wrestling by 1980.
Like many oldtimers, today's wrestling isn't for him. "Today is nothing but tumbling, and they're making millions. We had to convince the people. I don't understand it. We were making thousands convincing them, they're making millions tumbling. It shows you what the morality of the country is like right now."
After his career ended, Savage dabbled in real estate, but found a calling doing drug and alcohol seminars at schools which led him deeper into his faith.
Today, at age 70, he has a different kind of fame on TV, with a show called Dutch's Corner on a public access stations. "I teach King James scripture. I do not teach denominationalism, I do not teach religion. I teach straight scripture," he explained.
And despite what one might think, he's still taking bumps, but now they are more of the verbal ilk from people who don't see his work the way he does. He is regularly "criticized, dehumanized, demonized" because he teaches directly from the scriptures. "It negates and puts down the 524 Protestant denominations in North America right now calling themselves The Way, The Truth and The Light, when the Bible says there's one way. Wonder why they don't follow it? Because they have their own lines. They're not affiliated with Christ. They're affiliated with Christ only in name."
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Greg Oliver founded SLAM! Wrestling with John Powell way back in
1996, and has been writing about pro wrestling since 1985. He is the
author of the recently published book The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame:
The Canadians from ECW Press. Order it from the SLAM!
Wrestling Store. He can be emailed at email@example.com.