Chappell: Abe, thanks for spending some time with
the Mid-Atlantic Gateway this evening.
Jacobs: Thank you. You know, David, I’ve checked
[the Mid-Atlantic Gateway] out before I agreed to do
this interview…I’m just kidding! (smiles)
there’s been so much negative stuff said about
wrestling. I’ve done interviews and so forth over the
years, and the first thing those people have wanted to
do is to down wrestling. Wrestling was great to me, and
I would never do anything to knock it.
You were certainly great for wrestling, Abe.
I want to put you guys over. You [and Dick Bourne]
do one heck of a job. When George (South) mentioned this
(interview) to me, I told him I wasn’t going to do
anything with people who were negative about wrestling.
George said, ‘These guys aren’t that way.’ And,
Paul Jones told me the same thing about [the Gateway].
They spoke very highly of you guys, as well.
Thank you, Abe. Those thoughts mean a lot to Dick
and I, they really do.
of course, folks out there would rather hear about Abe
Jacobs than Dick and I! (laughs) Tell us about the early
Abe Jacobs, if you would. You are originally from
I’m originally from a small island off the
coast…the group are called the
. It’s part of
, but a good distance off the coast. I was born and
Tell us about growing up in
. I’m certainly not very familiar with that part of
Well, I was born and raised on a ranch. My Dad
managed a ranch there…he had about six thousand head
of sheep and a couple of thousand head of cattle. On the
small island, there were no roads…like for cars and
trucks. It was all horse transport.
When you went to school, you rode by horseback?
Yes. There was only elementary school back there,
and after elementary school we did correspondence work
for high school.
horses were the way we got around over there. Whenever
you went into town, you had to ride your horse. Pretty
much anywhere you went. I think…two days once I rode
about 85 miles!
Two different horses! (laughs) I was riding horses
as far back as I can remember.
You mentioned that your Dad had a large number of
sheep. While I don’t know much about
, I do associate sheep with
! In fact, I remember the team from
that wrestled in the Mid-Atlantic area as the
‘Sheepherders’ about the time you were winding down
your career with Jim Crockett Promotions in the early
Of course, we had to have sheep dogs to work the
sheep and cattle. My Dad always had nine or ten sheep
and cattle dogs. They had to be breeding all the time
because a working dog doesn’t live as long.
dogs are at their best about two years old. After about
four or five years old, he’s been working hard and
he’s getting old…so you have to have young ones
With horse travel being so prevalent, I imagine you
broke a horse or two in your time!
(laughing) I learned to break horses early. I think
I broke my first horse at about thirteen years old. Then
I had my own dogs. I watched my Dad train these dogs,
and asked him if I could have a puppy. Eventually, I had
about six dogs.
So, you worked in ranch activities as a young
boy…well before you started wrestling?
All of our produce on the island we shipped. A ship
came over, and it took about a week to do the round
trip. We’d send the sheep, cattle and wool over to the
remember, when I was about thirteen years old, I took a
herd of sheep…twelve hundred head…over land. Three
days it took me, to get this herd over land. They were
strung out close to a mile. I was riding a horse, and
you had to go uphill at times…you had dogs ahead and
bringing up the rear. Those sheep dogs really do some
I tell you a funny story about growing up where I did?
Some people might find it interesting…
Sure thing…please do.
Jacobs talks with David Chappell, January 2004
As I said, in Chatham Isles where I was raised, we
had no cars…it was all horse transport. And then, I
had never been in a car…and there was no power. We had
bales of wool…a bale of wool would go around between
four and five hundred pounds. We couldn’t put them on
a wagon, because the roads weren’t good enough for
wagons. It was just horses leading the packhorses.
once a year when the ship came over…there was about a
half a dozen ranches and another small island off the
coast where the ranchers couldn’t get their wool in
because there were no roads. The ship would go around
and anchor out…and they’d have smaller boats and
those boats would come ashore.
we would order whatever we wanted and needed…like
posts, or whatever we needed for the ranch. And then, we
would also get, now get this…a YEAR supply of
groceries! That’s floor, sugar, salt and canned
items…the basics. My mother cooked from scratch with
the flour and the sugar. Of course, we had our meat and
we grew our own vegetables.
once a year the ship came around, and we got a YEAR
supply of groceries! (laughs)
That’s unbelievable…and I complain about making
a grocery list for the week! (laughs)
That’s a pretty amazing picture you
paint…especially doing these things as an early
teenager! But that’s the life you grew up with.
Yeah, that’s right. And, of course, at that age I
would also listen to the radio. And wrestling was
broadcast on the radios then.
So, your first exposure to wrestling was through
Yeah…on the radio.
What time frame are we talking about here?
Oh…I guess the late 1940s. This was after [World
War II]. I used to listen to the radio to the guys
wrestling…but at that point I was only a skinny kid!
At that time, could you follow anything about
wrestling through the newspapers as well?
We’d get a weekly paper. Sometimes there would be
pictures of wrestlers in there. I’d look at those
pictures and say to myself, ‘Boy, I wish I was a big
guy like they are.’ Anyhow, I started to work out and
eventually met up with some amateur wrestlers.
Did any one of those early radio broadcasts you
heard make a particularly big impact on you as an
One time I heard Gorgeous George wrestling (George)
. This was just around twilight, just an ordinary
broadcast…not on short wave. For about 20 minutes, you
could receive it…all the way around the world. You
know, that had to be 10,000 miles away from me then. For
15-20 minutes it came in to where I could hear it.
Yeah, I listened to this U.S. station in San
Diego…Gorgeous George was wrestling George Temple,
Shirley Temple’s brother. It was something.
At that point in time, you were obviously developing
an interest in wrestling. How did you pursue that
Well, after listening to these guys wrestle…I went
over to the mainland (of
) and I started wrestling amateur over there.
tell you, going over to the mainland was scary as hell!
Being in the city, and in a car for the first time, was
something. The cars may have only been going 20-30 miles
an hours…but that’s a lot compared to a horse!
was hard to find your way around, because I had never
been in a city. I had to learn to ride a bike, and then
I had to learn the rules of the road. And when you were
used to being on a horse, there were no rules of the
road there! (laughs)
Tell us about your early amateur wrestling days.
When I went over to the mainland, I could actually
see the wrestling in person. I started wresting around
(age) 15 or so. I was doing my correspondence school
work at that same time.
What awards did you win as an amateur wrestler?
For my amateur career, I won three Canterbury
Provincial Titles. When I went to
) I won four Provincial titles…Wellington Titles.
had a runner-up silver medal in the (
) Nationals. And I also won the Nationals.
Quite an impressive amateur wrestling resume. So, I
guess it’s fair to say you could wrestle a little bit!
(laughs) I always prided myself that I could…I
think I did pretty fair in my amateur wrestling career.
I also wrestled in the Olympic trials…and got beat by
a point. The guy that beat me went on to the 1956
I’m sure coming so close to going to the Olympic
games must have been a tremendous disappointment to you?
I really wanted to go to the Olympics…that was the
ultimate. Of course, I didn’t have enough…whatever
it took…to win to go.
Do you believe a strong amateur wrestling background
like yours is important as a predicate to do well in
I always tell young guys who want to wrestle
professionally…that they should always go through the
amateurs first. Because that makes you a complete
Having that true wresting background that you can
always fall back on…
Oh yeah, sure…and it makes you a tougher guy too.
With all of the success you had as an amateur
wrestler, were you always looking for a career in
professional wrestling? Obviously, the two are quite
Yeah, David, I always wanted to be a professional
wrestler. After I missed out on the Olympics, I thought,
‘Well, I’ve spent a lot of years wrestling
amateur…I may as well try to make some money.’
it’s kind of ironic, because those guys that were
wrestling when I was listening to them on the radio and
seeing their pictures when I was a kid on the
island…when I came to the (United) States I actually
wrestled some of those same guys! (smiles)
That’s fascinating…and you were able to develop
your interest in professional wrestling without seeing
it on television! (laughs)
No…there was no television then at all. Heck,
didn’t get television …probably until the 60s. The
first time I saw television was when I came into
in the late 50s.
Were any particular individuals responsible for
helping you break into professional wrestling?
Really two different people. Al Costello…do you
remember Al Costello?
Yes, from the Kangaroo’s, right?
Yeah, yeah. I trained with Al while I was still an
amateur. We went running, and when we finished running
we would come back to the gym and wrestle.
You said that there was also a second guy that
helped break you in?
The other guy I worked out a lot with was Don
Curtis. Don was quite a good wrestler. His real name was
‘Beaitleman.’ He changed it to ‘Curtis’ for
wrestling…Don was from
Were there other wrestlers from
that made their way to the
at this time?
We had a lot of wrestlers in
that came to the States. There was a guy named Jim
Larock…he was a great amateur wrestler. I believe he was an Alternate for the 1952 Olympics—he was actually
an Alternate for the
team. He was a great wrestler and I knew this…and when
he came out I was still over [in
] as an amateur, and I worked out with him and the other
guys I’ve mentioned.