Jon Moxley and Kenny Omega’s match at Full Gear was hot. And violent. And how cool to see AEW go old school and actually do it as a “lights out” match, literally cutting the lights and restarting them to signify the “unsanctioned” nature of the bloody brawl…But let me tell you all about a guy called Bull Curry.

    You know they got something right when internet searches of “Moxley” this week autofill with “vs Omega” and the results that hit include topics like “Did Moxley and Omega Go Too Far?”.  That’s good heat.

    Not that it’s anything new.  Promotions have been going to the unsanctioned, hardcore, no rules, all out match for a looooooong time.  At times such styled matches have invaded the mainstream of pro wrestling, never more evident than the mid to late nineties with the rise of ECW and its hardcore style and the push in both WWF and WCW to have hardcore divisions, hardcore specialty wrestlers, and hardcore championship belts.  The history of Japanese wrestling is littered with special shows booked with hardcore, unsanctioned matches featuring wrestlers from around the world. For the best example, see IWA’s 1995 King of the Death Match outdoor show in Kawasaki, culminating with Terry Funk and Mick Foley (as Cactus Jack) slamming each other onto boards wrapped in barbed wire and charged with small C4 explosives. For the worst examples in the idea of promoting “non-company sanctioned” matches see WCW’s mid-nineties run of Uncensored pay-per-views.  Some current promotions go all in and emulate the defunct ECW’s style where they only sanction “unsactioned” matches – see CZW. 

    If folks are asking if Omega and Moxley went too far it is only that they have forgotten hardcore’s dominance in the sport 20 years ago, and do not remember that era’s culmination when the Undertaker put Mick Foley’s tooth up Foley’s own nose (or Foley did it to himself against Taker), nor do they pay attention to the underground promotions that push the style. 

    If they don’t remember that Hell in a Cell, they certainly don’t remember the name Bull Curry.  But whether you’re watching Mike Awesome and Tanaka power bomb each other through tables in ECW, Mick Foley destroy his body against whoever he faced, Triple H and his sledgehammer’s recent run of “street fights” at WrestleMania or any wrestler bleed from a chair shot, you’re watching something that began on a national scale with Bull Curry.

    While little is made of his name now, in the fifties and sixties, he was a household name.  You could even buy yourself some of “Wild Bull’s Over Night Fire Logs” so you could “turn the heat up!” Bull Curry commanded such commodity promotion through his wild man persona inside, and out, of the ring.  His big black bushy eyebrows and wild curly black hair added to his crazy man look. His command of the crowd was born in wrestling’s most organic of origins, the carnival.

    A Lebanese-American, Fred Koury as Bull Curry was born, went to work as a teenager at the circus because his family was too poor to provide otherwise.  He performed as a tough man, taking on challengers from the crowd. As an adult, Koury transitioned to being a policeman. It was here that the legend of his name comes.  As the (wrestling) legend goes, on patrol on the streets one day, Curry wrangled and subdued a bull loose from the stockyards with his bare hands.

    In the forties, Wild Bull Curry began working in the Detroit wrestling territory and developed a “hardcore” style, often using arena folding chairs and other weapons on his opponents (and often, opponents reversed the intent and bloodied Curry).  His reputation as grew to the point that when boxing champ Jack Dempsey toured the country, Curry was the chosen wrestler to put on an exhibition match with Dempsey (kayfabe of course).

    Curry shot to national fame in the fifties when he began working the Texas territories, where his violent and shocking street fighting style made him one of the biggest stars in the sport.  Bookers were cautious to put any national or territory heavyweight title on Curry because his style diverged so much from the majority of matches, however, his style was so popular they could not ignore him either.  The Texas Brass Knuckles Championship, later the NWA Texas Brass Knuckles Championship, was created just for Wild Bull Curry, and every hardcore division and title ever since owes a debt to that popularity. The Brass Knuckles division became a staple of wrestling shows with Curry the first sanctioned “unsanctioned” champion.

    Curry did eventually win the NWA Tag Titles and even the NWA Texas Heavyweight Championship for brief stints, but it was hardcore style and the Brass Knuckles division that kept him in the spotlight.  In fact, he was popular long enough that in the mid 60s he regularly teamed with (and once won tag titles with) his son, “Flying” Fred Curry, who portrayed an almost completely opposite persona as a clean cut athlete in the ring.  

    As with the ECW and the style it inherited from Curry, Wild Bull’s unsanctioned style caused several fan riots and interactions (often violent) between wrestlers and fans.  Curry’s tendency to use brass knuckles, cinder blocks, chairs, and whatever other weapon he could imagine seemed to incite real violence in fans. Curry’s antics led to no less than five documented fights between Curry and fans during or after a match, including a fan bashing Curry in the head with a metal pipe in Galveston in 1958 during a match between Wild Bull and Pepper Gomez.  One is reminded of Cactus Jack getting pelted with soda cups as he brawled with Van Hammer through the crowd or Tommy Dreamer getting a free beer from a fan after beating ass at the railing.  

    So sure, Moxley-Omega was a little shocking.  Rhodes v. Rhodes in AEW was a bloody affair some decried as unnecessarily messy (as it should be in a match between blade-master Dusty Rhodes’ sons).  But that’s only because so much of the unsanctioned style has moved back to the margins of the mainstream. AEW certainly isn’t shying away from the unsanctioned style and the “lights out” match is a direct nod toward the days of promotions pushing supposedly “unsanctioned” matches and allowing no rules fights to settle intense feuds. 

    The WWE has certainly harkened back to its own Hardcore division with the 24/7 Title, though they seem more concerned with rewarding long time mid carders like R. Truth or broadcast personnel with that belt than wrestlers known as out-of-the-ring brawlers. With that then, perhaps there is soon coming a rebirth of the unsanctioned match and style in the mainstream.  

    Such is the cyclical nature of the business.  If it does cycle back into fashion, let us remember fondly Wild Bull Curry and his bushy eyebrows, the man who pioneered the unsanctioned style.

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