Masked Superstar takes his place in Hall of Fame
CALEB SMITH - SLAM! Wrestling
Bill Eadie has spent his life influencing people and creating lasting memories. Whether it was in the classroom or in the ring he gave his heart to those around him. In return he is about to receive the biggest honour of his illustrious career.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s Bill Eadie thought his life was on a straight trajectory. He was working as a high school teacher and coach in Ohio. It wasn't until he met Newt Tattrie (Geeto Mongol, Tony Newberry) that his life's course took a big turn.
"[Tattrie] taught me the holds and I started wrestling on weekends under a mask," recalled Eadie. It was in the Detroit territory where he received his first regular bookings, though you wouldn't have known it. "The mask gave me privacy and I enjoyed my privacy."
By 1972, the Mongols, Geeto and Josip Peruzovic (Bepo, Nikolai Volkoff) had been a world championship tag team for over five years. After traveling and teaming together in the Stampede territory, the WWWF (where they were International tag team champions) and Tattrie's own organization in Pittsburgh, Bepo had decided to leave the duo. "I decided not to be a Mongol," remembered Peruzovic. "The gimmick was hard with the shaved head and wild look. I couldn't go places."
When given the opportunity to join Tattrie as Bolo Mongol, Eadie had to think hard about leaving his teaching job to hit the road. "My wife Sue was passionate about me following this path," related Eadie. "She is an educated lady and very independent. She supported me when I started wrestling and I wasn't getting a big cheque."
Joining an established team such as the Mongols was a valuable learning experience for Eadie. "I was thrust into the main events right away. Geeto was the established guy and he provided me with a distinct advantage over other young wrestlers."
It wasn't until he moved to the Mid-Atlantic Territory that Eadie was able to branch out on his own. "George Scott (Mid-Atlantic booker) was in a state because The Spoiler [masked wrestler Don Jardine] had abruptly left the area," said Eadie. Scott was looking for another heel that would wear a mask and have excellent wrestling skills. "I was smart enough to realize that if the booker was behind it then it was going to work."
Boris Malenko was instrumental in helping to refine the character and wrestling skills of the soon to be revealed Masked Superstar.
A publicity shot for the Mongols in the IWA with Bill Eadie and Newt Tattrie as the villains, and Crybaby George Cannon as their manager.
"As a Mongol all I had to do was stomp, bite and gouge," said Eadie. "The Masked Superstar had to be a refined wrestler. So, every Monday Boris and I would go down to the training centre and work on wrestling techniques and take downs." The two men put their heads together and created a new style for Eadie that would mark the rest of his career.
Nikolai Volkoff liked Eadie's Masked Superstar character. "He got a very good reaction from the crowd," said Volkoff. "He was a good wrestler who always protected the business and his mask in and out of the ring."
Ted DiBiase Sr. concurred with Volkoff when discussing the Masked Superstar. "I knew when I got into the ring with Bill I didn't have to worry," said DiBiase. "When I got in the ring with Bill Eadie he was the man. I just said, 'Whatever you want to do, do it.'"
There was one other person who shaped the image of the Masked Superstar and that was his wife's grandmother. "She was a seamstress," recounted Eadie. "She came up with the idea, concept and design of the Masked Superstar masks, ring jackets, everything."
Eadie had the disadvantage of having his face obscured by the mask. The fans would not be able to see his facial expressions and he wanted to be able to connect to the crowd. "I felt that to be a success (with a mask on) you had to sell with your whole body right down to your toes," explained Eadie. "With a mask, the face never changes. So you have to work harder for the reaction. When I wrestled without the mask, (years later) it was easier because I already used my whole body to sell."
While in the Mid-Atlantic territory, Eadie, as the Masked Superstar entered into a career defining feud with Blackjack Mulligan. The program culminated with a series of cage matches for the two wrestlers.
In an interview with Greg Oliver, Blackjack Mulligan remembered the concern he had with the length of the matches. "We were programmed in a cage to go a one-hour Broadway. I said, 'George [Scott], this is ridiculous. It's a cage match. You can't do one-hour in a cage. ... We won't be able to hold the people's attention that long.' He said, 'Oh yeah, you'll be alright.' And one hour we go, in a cage, all the way around," recalled Mulligan. "It was a sell-out crowd deal. It was very, very difficult because you're cut down to certain manoeuvers; you can't really use the ropes and a lot of what you do in the ring is based on using the ropes. So you're cut down to the center of the ring, and how many times can you bash your head into the cage and being a bloody pulp?"
Ivan Koloff remembered the series of cage matches with awe. "The Masked Superstar versus Blackjack Mulligan went 60 minutes in cage matches," said Koloff. "They kept the crowd into it. For two big guys they had to dig down deep to come up with something new."
Mulligan recalled proudly the cage match series to Oliver. "We probably worked longer in a series of cage matches than anybody in history, bar none." George Scott suggested the two men wrestle in a cage for 90-minutes on the return shows. Scott was convinced it would work, and Blackjack bet his paycheque against it. In the end the longer cage match worked, but Scott let him off from the bet.
One of Eadie's more interesting feuds happened in the Georgia territory in 1978. When he arrived, booker Ole Anderson had 15 to 20 masked wrestlers performing for the company. The idea was for the Masked Superstar to claim that the other masked wrestlers were imposters. He would defeat them and they would disappear from the organization. The hooded opponents all fell until there was only one left, the extremely popular Mr. Wrestling II (Johnny Walker). "He (Mr. Wrestling II) was very popular in Georgia," related Eadie. "We carried on a hot feud for close to 12 months. It got to the point where the fans even had divided loyalties between us."
Koloff remembered the Masked Superstar versus Mr. Wrestling II program with fondness. "In Georgia, [Eadie] was married to Mr. Wrestling II. They kept the people in the seats," said the former WWWF champion. "In a feud like that the objective is to take the mask. Just when one of them was about to have their face exposed they would pull the mask down. It was the mystique of the two characters." Koloff felt that the feud was special and that the crowd fed off of the emotions of the two combatants. "They definitely built up the excitement. That crowd would cheer and boo those guys."
The Masked Superstar
As his career entered the 1980s Eadie spent time in the WWF, Montreal territory and Japan. DiBiase recalled touring Japan with Eadie. He felt that the Japanese wrestlers would often try to test the foreign wrestlers. When they would test Eadie they were in for a surprise as he worked stiffer against them. "You had to give it back to them. They respected Bill," said DiBiase.
"Some of the best times of my life were in Montreal," Eadie remembered fondly. "I could have worked there and in Georgia and been happy. The weather was a little rough, but Dino Bravo ran an excellent organization."
DiBiase worked with Eadie in Bill Watts' Mid-South territory. He remembered a night when he was teaming with Steve Williams against The Masked Superstar and Dick Murdoch. That day they had received their cheques and felt they had been short changed. "Dick backed me up into the corner," remembered DiBiase. "He says to Bill [Eadie] to hold my trunks. Then he told me to start running in place. Murdoch started winding up for a punch like a cartoon character. Bill let me go and I went running and Dick slugs me." With an emphasis on "real" wrestling in the Mid-South territory, their antics would have been unheard of and against Watts' rules.
Later on Eadie paired with Barry Darsow (Smash) to create the tag team Demolition in the WWF. They went on to capture three world tag team titles during their time there. "I enjoyed my time as Ax in Demolition," said Eadie. "We were a good team with no jealousy. We worked for the good match and we made money as a team."
Koloff had been teaming with Darsow in the NWA, who had been portraying a Russian sympathizer named Krusher Kruschev, when he was asked a question by his younger partner. "Krusher told me that New York (WWF) had called and said they had something planned for him," said Koloff. "I said, 'If they have something planned for you it must be good.'" With that Darsow headed to the WWF to begin teaming with Eadie.
Demolition Ax and Smash
At the time of their pairing, Demolition was perceived to be a Road Warriors
imitation. There was a major difference between the two teams according to DiBiase, who had faced both squads. "I guess the Road Warriors, Hawk and Animal, were like two massive, muscled-up machines. It wasn't a wrestling match but a brawl," recalled DiBiase. "When you worked with Ax and Smash it was a wrestling match. They were a heel team in a traditional sense."
JJ Dillon, who was the head of the WWF's talent relations department during Demolitions run, was impressed by the pairing. "The longevity of Demolition speaks for itself," related Dillon. "If you don't deliver in the ring you don't last."
Eadie and Darsow were seen as model employees in the WWF. "When I was in the WWF front office there were certain people you needed to contact often," remembered Dillon. "Bill went about his business in a professional way."
Volkoff crossed paths with Eadie in the WWF. "He was an educated man," said Volkoff. "He was always a gentleman outside of the ring and a very good wrestler."
Darsow and Eadie still reprise their roles as Ax and Smash at fan conventions and autograph signings such as the Niagara Falls Comic Con, June 6-8. "Those events are such fun," said Eadie. "For a long time we couldn't talk to the fans and now we do. It is nice to be appreciated."
Demolition pose with a fan at WrestleMania 6. Toronto Sun file photo
"The tag team division today is unfortunately far removed from what we used to watch in the '80s and '90s," said Chris Dabrowski, Show Manager and Promoter for the Niagara Falls Comic Con. "Demolition is by far one of the most recognized tag teams to ever grace a WWF/WWE ring, and having Bill and Barry at NFCC is a rare opportunity for fans to meet both of these legends at the same time. Don't be fooled by the face paint and costumes, these guys are easily two of the nicest guys in the wrestling industry. This is a real treat for fans."
On May 17th, Bill Eadie will receive the highest honour that a wrestler can obtain. For his work as the Masked Superstar he will be inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in Amsterdam, New York.
"I'm humbled by it," admitted Eadie. When he was notified about the induction he thought it was a nice gesture. Once he went on the PWHF website he realized that it was a big deal. "I looked at the talent in the Hall and I couldn't believe it." What moved Eadie even more was how he was selected. "My peers voted for me. That was wonderful. It made me realize that all of the bumps and bruises were worth it." His family and close friends will also attend the event.
When told of Eadie's humble reaction to being selected to enter the PWHF, DiBiase was not surprised. "That speaks a lot to his character," said the former Million Dollar Man, who is also in the PWHF (Class of 2007). "You are being selected by a body of peers. If you have a lot of people who work in your field choose you as the cream of the crop it is humbling."
The president of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, Tony Vellano, was very pleased to see the Masked Superstar enter the Hall. "Bill is a great guy," stated Vellano. "He is going in as the Masked Superstar, but he was also Bolo Mongol and Ax." Vellano pointed out that Eadie lived up to his character's name. "He deserves it because he is a legitimate superstar. He had a good gimmick, the fans loved him and his peers do as well."
Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame 2013 inductee and current board member J.J. Dillon gave perspective to what it means to be an inductee. "This is a true hall of fame. It is not affiliated with a federation, or there to make money," explained Dillon. "There is a process that must be followed to be on the ballot. The integrity is protected by its structure."
"The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame has bricks and mortar," continued Dillon. "It is like Cooperstown is to baseball. I look at it as a validation of the things you worked for in your career."
His fellow wrestlers also feel that he is worthy of the PWHF honour. Fellow masked wrestler The Destroyer Dick Beyer said "He deserves it. He had a good career."
When asked about Eadie's induction into the PWHF, DiBiase was thrilled. "No one is more deserving then Bill," said DiBiase. "I am very happy for him ... Having been inducted I get a vote and Bill got my vote."
Lanny Poffo first met Eadie in 1974. "He's a pro from the word go! He is totally worthy of the Hall of Fame. God bless Bill Eadie!"
Bill Eadie accepts his induction in the Hall of Heroes in Charlotte in 2011. Photo by Steve Johnson
Legendary wrestling reporter Bill Apter
was excited for Eadie. "I am thrilled that Bill Eadie is being inducted in the PWHF. From the first time I met him as a Mongol to his continuing days as Masked Superstar he has always conducted himself as a true professional in and out of the ring. One of the real nice guys who really deserves this honour!"
"I was in Rome, Georgia when the class of 2014 was announced, when I saw Bill and congratulated him," said Dillon. "Bill is worthy. He is highly respected in our business. That is a big compliment."
Koloff, a 2011 PWHF inductee, was quite complimentary to Eadie. "He was an exceptional worker, wrestler and friend," said Koloff. "He wasn't a backstabber. He would just shoot with you. He was an upfront guy." Koloff remembered the integrity that Eadie displayed during his time as a combatant. "You can usually think of bad stories about guys with drugs or drinking, but not Bill Eadie."
These days Eadie keeps busy by doing what he loved to do before wrestling snatched him away. He has returned to teaching, focusing on special education students. "Every day I work for the small steps of success," said a proud Eadie. When not working he can be found spoiling his four grandchildren. "When I was on the road for all those years my wife raised our daughters. I missed a lot and I can't get that back," Eadie reflected. "So now I give my time to the four boys and spoil them."
When Eadie looked back on his career he was thankful for all that life has brought him. "It feels good to have people talk to you, who remember something that I have done. I would hate to think that I've been on this world for so many years and wasn't remembered." This Superstar does not have to worry about being forgotten as he has now taken his place among wrestling's immortals in the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.
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Bill Eadie isn't the only one entering a hall of fame this year. The author, Caleb Smith, was inducted into the Niagara Wasps Rugby Club Hall of Honour in April.