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Billy Wicks (1932-2016)

Real NameBill Wickson

Lifespan - 4/4/1932 - 5/6/2016

5’11” 180 lbs. - St. Paul, MN

Athletic BackgroundWrestling (Army)

Teacher(s)Henry Kolin, Tony Morelli, Joe Pazandak, Strangler Lewis

Aliases - none

Peak Years`58-`60

Place in HistoryBilly Wicks represents one of the last links between the old ways of shoot wrestling and hustling on the carnivals and the sort of big bumping and ballyhoo that pro-wrestling became known for.  The son of a Midwestern Scandinavian immigrant, Wicks came up hard and learned his craft in YMCAs and college gyms from legitimate tough guys.  He wrestled in the army, where he was an all-army champion, while working for carnivals on the side.  Billy Wicks, not unlike contemporaries like Red Bastien and Frankie Cain, was a capable grappler with a background in take-on-all-comers background, but was smaller than average.  Bastien helped Wicks get into territories that pushed “junior heavyweights” like Oregon, Oklahoma and Texas.  Wicks was booked into the Gulf Coast territory in 1958 and became one of their early top babyfaces.  He was pushed hard as an underdog and within the year, he had defeated Buddy Fuller for the area’s top title.  Based on his success there, Roy Welch brought him up to Tennessee.  The rivalry between clean-cut Billy Wicks and the controversial villain Sputnik Monroe turned Memphis into a major city for pro-wrestling.  They drew sellouts at the Ellis Auditorium and two outdoors shows that did over 10,000.  While there is speculation whether they drew close to 20,000 (as Wicks himself claimed), their attendance record stood through the Fargo and Lawler years and up until the WWF was at their peak forty years later!  Wicks began working for the Sheriff’s Department the following year and was never quite the focal point.  He continued to moonlight as a pro-wrestler and even headed back down to the Gulf Coast as well over the next dozen years.  Wicks was dedicated to shoot wrestling, he trained the Sheriff’s Department, he coach at Southeastern University and he taught at gyms as well.  He was passionate about it until the end.  Billy Wicks really only had a two year period as a top star, but during that time he helped establish the Mobile and Memphis markets, which were pro-wrestling strongholds for decades afterward.