Everette Marshall: La Junta’s link to pro wrestling history
The world of professional wrestling had had several colorful individuals and champions dating back to its early years in the early 20th century.
That list is far too long to write in just one article.
But La Junta has a connection to the professional wrestling world dating back to the 1930s in former world champion Everette Marshall.
Marshall was born and raised in the La Junta area. He was born on Nov. 4, 1905, and he grew up on a farm west of town on what is now Highway 10.
He attended La Junta schools and was a member of the LJHS football team in 1924 and 1925. Both seasons the Tigers advanced to the state championship game, losing in 1924, and capping off an undefeated season in 1925 with a title.
He was an All-State lineman (playing both on offense and defense) in 1925.
In fact, the 1925 team defeated Pueblo Central in the state semifinals. The Wildcats that year were led by the play of Earl "Dutch" Clark, who went on to become a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and recently was named one of the top 100 players in NFL history.
Marshall had developed a love of professional wrestling when he was a boy, following the careers of such wrestlers like Frank Gotch, Ed "Strangler" Lewis and "The Golden Greek" Jim Londos.
He started developing his wrestling skills when he was a student at the University of Iowa, and he later transferred to the University of Denver, where he became a star pupil of Granville Johnson.
Marshall entered the professional wrestling world in 1928 and he adopted the ring name, "The Blond Bear of the Rockies."
Marshall started as a protege of Ed "Strangler" Lewis and he was managed by Billy Sandow.
He had unusual training methods. The main one was remarkable: he used to spar with a bear, which he named Gotch, after one of pro wrestling's earliest world champions.
He did take precautions for training with the bear. It had its mouth muzzled and it was declawed.
During his career, he used to soften up his opponents with arm tugs and arm pulls. But his finishing move was the Airplane Spin, in which he would lift his opponent on his shoulders, spin around a few times and then drop his opponent to the mat.
He also had unique way of practicing headlocks. He often used a wooden block that was carved to the approximate size of a human head to strengthen his arm and shoulder.
"Marshall had the greatest headlock in the history of the sport," said wrestling legend Lou Thesz during the 1930s. "If Everette wrapped those steel-like arms around your noggin, you were doomed."
Marshall eventually became a world champion in the old National Wrestling Association (NWA). That is not to be confused with the current NWA, the National Wrestling Alliance, which was founded in the late 1940s when the old NWA was disbanded. The old NWA was an affiliate of the old National Boxing Association,, which later became the World Boxing Association.
His first world championship reign began on June 26, 1936, as he pinned Ali Baba, an Armenian wrestler, in 39 minutes and 20 seconds in Columbus, Ohio.
After the match, he called his parents, Claude and Pearl, on the family farm with the news.
His second championship reign started in late 1938 when the previous champion, John Pesak, was stripped of the title for not facing a worthy opponent, and the title was returned to Marshall.
That would be his final reign as champion as he lost in February 1939 to Thesz. That would be the first of Thesz's many championship reigns.
Marshall also held other titles including the Midwest Heavyweight Championship (Ohio version) and the NWA Texas World Heavyweight title. He was also a champion in Colorado and across the Rocky Mountains on multiple occasions.
Marshall retired in 1949.
During his career, Marshall faced such greats as Londos, Thesz, Pesak, Gus Sonnenberg, George Zaharias (the husband of Babe Didrikson Zaharias), Ray Steele and Joe Savoldi.
Marshall produced more than $2 million in gate receipts in his career.
After wrestling, Marshall returned to La Junta where he was active in agriculture, and owned a farm near the one owned by his parents. He grew crops such as cantaloupe, onions and tomatoes.
He later became an owner of eventually more than 8,000 milk cows.
He was also an active member of the board of directors of the Colorado Boys Ranch. He was a member of the organization's founding group in 1960.
He remained in La Junta until his later years when he moved to Fort Collins, where he passed away on Feb. 10, 1973.
Marshall and his wife, Harriet, had a son, Bob, and a daughter, Ann. Bob also played football at LJHS and was a member of the 1951 state championship. Everette and Bob are the only father and son to play on state championships for the Tigers.
Marshall is in three Halls of Fame. He was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1967.
The other two he was a posthumous inductee. He was inducted into the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in 2011, and he entered the National Wrestling Alliance Hall of Fame in 2017.
Tribune-Democrat reporter Ken Hamrick can be reached by email at email@example.com. Help support local journalism by subscribing to the La Junta Tribune-Democrat at lajuntatribunedemocrat.com/subscribenow.