Happy Humphrey was the giant
By CHRIS SCHRAMM -- For SLAM! Wrestling
Haystacks Calhoun, weighing in at 601 lbs, has Happy Humphrey, at 750 lbs, in a headlock in 1961.
In the past year, Paul Wight (aka The Giant) and Kevin Nash have both claimed to be the
true giant of wrestling. The WWF claims that Andre the
Giant was their giant in the ring. Depending on the generation of the
person listening and watching, any of them could be right.
True wrestling fans would probably point to Haystacks Calhoun from the
1950s and 1960s. Calhoun's 600 plus pound frame was always looked at as
the biggest of any generation to step in the ring, but even Calhoun had
trouble when he faced 800 pound plus Happy Humphrey.
Happy Humphrey, whose real name was William Cobb, wrestled most of his
career in the 700 pound range, but he often measured at 800 pounds or
more. Promoters of Humphrey had a special car built that could hold the
big man. Seats were taken out, and extra shocks were installed.
One popular stop for the car was at a meat factory. There Humphrey would
be placed on a meat scale to measure his true weight. Often promoters
were worried about how well the ring would stand up to the weight of
Haystacks Calhoun remembered seeing the structure of Humphrey. He said,
"When I wrestled Happy he weighed about 700 pounds, but I could see as
soon as we squared off that he was a fat 700 pounds. He had very poor
balance, was easy to around and easy to handle. I slammed him easier
than the average-size fellow. When I learned he was up to 800 pounds I
warned him that it wasn't healthy."
Humphrey had a difficult time no matter where he went. He was often
starred at, and service at resturants was not offered to him because of
his size. Once in Alabama, it took eight police officers to get him out
of a phone booth. Another time in New Orleans, LA, Humphrey became
jammed in a movie theater seat. Local police and a few welders had to
cut the seats around Humphrey to get him out.
Humphrey seemed destined for wrestling when he wrestled a bear for 28
minutes in 1953. He worked on a farm, and his strength seemed better
than most men. It seemed he could build his life around wrestling.
Humphrey wrestled for about eight years before realizing he had a
problem. He had surgery to remove some 100 pounds of fat from his body,
but the weight was soon gained back.
It was not until 1962 that Humphrey had no other choice. Humphrey was
confined to a bed and could not move. He tried a few times to walk with
a cane, but he often tired before getting across the room.
Humphrey looked for help. He became a test of the Medical College of
Georgia. He was placed on a close diet, and his goal was to lose some
600 pounds. It was no more 18 pound sittings, as once attempted.
Two years had past, and Humphrey had been weighed in at 230 pounds. He
had lost an estimated 630 pounds during the diet.
Humphrey realized that he was not going to be able to return to
wrestling with his new size. He was learning things he could not do
before. Sitting a chair and crossing his legs was something incredible
to Humphrey. He just wanted to resume a normal life.
"Wrestling was good to me, and I miss being in there and mixing it up, "
Humphrey said after. "It's a sport for tough men, and I loved it."
Humphrey died March 14, 1989 with his legacy known by few.
Although he did not make a huge mark in the history of wrestling,
Humphrey outweighed Andre the Giant and Kevin Nash combined at his peak
weight. When judging who is the real big man in the history of
wrestling, one should look under "H" for Happy Humphrey.
Chris Schramm is from Lawrence, Kansas. He's written other excellent historical columns for us, including:
Mar. 12: Back to Hogan's darker days
Feb. 3: The legacy of Giant BabaNov. 19: The origins of today's WCW-WWF war
Oct. 5: Twenty-eight years was the reign