Wrestling Then and Now

by Rob Bauer

My first awareness of Larry Chene was a TV bout from the old Rainbow Arena in Chicago when he faced Rocco Columbo in a very scientific match. Larry made an impression early on being from Detroit and that he executed moves in a very unique manner. He added humor in his bouts with banter that included the referee and the fans as well. In 1953, I was about to witness my first-ever LIVE card at the Chesterfield Arena in East Detroit, Michigan not realizing that Larry Chene would be in the main event that night.

Larry would face veteran Danny Ferazzo, a local "heel" who did quite a few larger cards in the mid-west those days. Larry was quick with a smile and an autograph (I still cherish mine) and was totally "over" with the crowd. He took a two-of-three falls bout from Ferazzo that night and returned to the Chesterfield Club occasionally to face such opponents as Stan Holleck (later, Stan Nielson), The Golden Pirate, and a young Maurice Vachon.

Larry then worked his way across the mid-west to Texas and remained a favorite there for at least a year before returning to Michigan for a vacation over the Christmas holidays to be with his family. He was a good family man and hailed from the Detroit suburb of Harper Woods. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus, DeLasalle Council and was enjoyed by the many members there.

As the story goes, while home for the holidays, Larry was asked a favor by a local promoter he had worked with in the past to "fill in" for a few local shows for him. Larry did and immediately became a local hero. The Motor City Wrestling Promotion was just getting started and was in dire need of a "star" and Larry Chene was every bit of that. He drew big crowds at the "house shows" with a Saturday afternoon TV program to acquaint him with the masses of fans. It seemed now everyone wanted to see Larry defeat such villains as Jim "Brute" Bernard, Dick "Bulldog" Brower, Percival E. Pringle (not the Texas version), and George "Man Mountain" Cannon.

One of Larry's toughest opponents was Rickey "Crusher" Cortez, and the two "tore up" Michigan and Ohio on a regular basis. Larry also feuded with The Great Mephisto, a tall, very dastardly individual and participated at the very first show at the (then) new Cobo Arena in Detroit defeating (and unmasking) Mr. X who turned out to be Canadian "Killer" Joe Christy.

Larry Chene's popularity and the demand to see him by the fans was heard by the Barnett/Doyle promotion who signed him to face U.S. Heavyweight Champion Dick The Bruiser at the Olympia Stadium on Saturday night, September 10, 1960. It turned out to be one of the classic encounters that building ever held. For nearly an hour, the two battered each other, each securing a "fall" before the referee would halt the action due to excessive bleeding on both behalves. If ever a re-match was warranted, this was it, but it never came off.

Later that fall season, Larry faced the undefeated La Bestia (The Beast) on TV to be injured by Beast's bearhug and sent to the hospital. The phone-call count was astronomical, as fans called in concerned with Larry's condition and if he would return to wrestle again. It was reported that Larry's stomach wall was ruptured by the Beast's patented bearhug and Larry had to "sit out" for healing time. He would do commentary on Motor City Wrestling and was very anxious to go back in against "La Bestia" as soon as he could.

La Bestia was actually Gino Angelo, younger brother of Martino Angelo who acted as manager for him. This duo was the most hated pair in the area as Beast racked up win after win. In September 1961, a card was slated for the Olympia with a main-event of La Bestia vs. "Wee" Davy Duncan, the Scottish strong-boy who was the second-most popular wrestler (next to Larry Chene) in the promotion. Larry by now was able to return to the ring and would face manager Martino Angelo on the undercard as a "trial match" and his return to action. Larry disposed of Martino quickly and the main-event then began with La Bestia defeating Duncan in a very unpopular manner. With both Beast and his manager working on Duncan, Larry made the save charging the ring and opening a nasty gash on Beast's forehead. This would set the stage for their rematch (grudge match) the following month that would draw big crowds for the ever-growing promotion.

The cards at Olympia continued over the winter months and into 1962. A new challenge awaited: "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers, holder of the World Championship belt would "blindside" Larry who came to the ring prior to a Rogers-Argentina Rocca match to challenge the winner. After taking abuse from Rogers, Chene returned to brawl with Rogers, who lost by disqualification. They had two excellent bouts, one a draw and Rogers winning the rematch but put Larry in a top position in the wrestling world. Larry would then team with Rocca to face tag teams Moose Cholak and Skull Von Stroheim (Nurnberg) as well as the Fabulous Kangaroos in action-packed bouts. Larry also renewed his feud with Cortez at the Michigan State Fairgrounds Coliseum. He battered Pringle at the Mount Clemens Speedway on an outdoor card before heading for Chicago and new challenges with Fred Kohler's promotion.

Larry may still be seen on ESPN Classic Sports occasionally in bouts originating from the Marigold Arena in Chicago. These would be among his final bouts. He was killed in a single-vehicle accident on October 1, 1964 returning home from bouts in Minnesota. This loss was felt sadly by his legions of fans in the Detroit area and all over the U.S.A.

Larry was a very unique and gifted gentleman who ALWAYS was "face" and a fan's wrestler, signing autographs and posing for photos long after his match was over. He was a legend, and to this day missed very much.

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