John Tolos

John Tolos

You spell “wrestling”
T-O-L-O-S!

For the better part of four decades,John Tolos was one of the biggest stars in the history of Southern California wrestling.  Born September 18,1930, in Canada, John started wrestling alongside his older brother Chris at the local YMCA. They learned pro wrestling from veteran tough guy Wee Willie Davis.
The Tolos Brothers formed the Canadian Wrecking Crew and racked up tag titles all over the US and Canada. In 1963, they became the WWWF United States tag team champions.  During that time John evolved into a great stickman. Arrogant and cocky, he usually ended interviews by turning to his brother and sneering.

“Right, Brother Chris?”
Chris would reply.
“Right, Brother John.”

Eventually, Chris decided to wrestle closer to home and John continued to tour the territories as a tag team specialist.
He succeeded everywhere he went, but there was something magic about John “the Golden Greek” Tolos in Southern California.

He held every title in the territory at least once.
The Americas title 10 times
The Americas tag titles 5 times (with the Great Kojika, Louie Tillet, Rock Riddle, Chavo Guerrero, and the Assassin)
BEAT THE CHAMP TV title 3 times
NWA Brass Knuckles title(LA version) 3 times
NWA United National title
WWA International TV tag titles with Gene Kiniski

A solid wrestler, Tolos wasn’t flashy. He was a brawler who used a knee drop off the top rope as his finisher. He also took the corkscrew submission (twisting his knuckle into a sitting opponent’s temple) and made it a feared maneuver. In Southern California John Tolos became one of the greatest interviews in the history of wrestling. Whether he was a face or a heel, he always got the right reaction.  Adding Tolos to any angle was like pouring gasoline onto a raging fire. The man could start a riot.  After losing a hair match to Victor Rivera, Tolos snapped and earned a new nickname, “the Maniac”. He certainly lived up to it.  He broke Raul Mata’s own guitar over the popular Latino’s head long before Jeff Jarrett.  He brought a boa constrictor into the ring long before Jake Roberts.  When a fan gave El Medico a portrait of his father, Tolos smashed it over the masked man’s head.  “I never liked the kid’s old man,” he shouted to horrified announcer Gene LeBell.  It was at the Olympic Auditorium that Tolos found his greatest opponent, another Hall of Fame veteran brawler named Fred Blassie. The build toward their August 27, 1971 battle at the Coliseum in downtown Los Angeles was a textbook lesson in booking. Tolos and Blassie had wrestled each other before, so this wasn’t something new. But on May 8, 1971, when Tolos blinded Blassie by hurling Monsel’s Powder into Blassie’s eyes on live TV, they upped the ante. After laying low for awhile and teasing retirement, Blassie started to show up trying to get his hands on Tolos. For the next three and a half months Blassie came close, but until the bell rang at the Coliseum they never made contact. That card is viewed today as the pinnacle of Los Angeles wrestling. Blassie left soon afterwards for the WWWF(he was unhappy with his payoff) but returned occasionally to attempt to rekindle the spark by either wrestling with or against Tolos.

The Golden Greek stayed with the LA promotion until it folded in 1982. He wrestled for some local promotions, the WWF (when they were in town), and the AWA before retiring.  In the mid-90s, the WWF hired Tolos as The Coach, the manager of Intercontinental champ Curt “Mr.Perfect” Hennig. But strangely, the WWF chose to make the character almost mute, limiting him to cheer leading and blowing a whistle like a gym teacher. Without utilizing his strongest attribute – his personality – the Coach was doomed from the beginning. After an injury sidelined Hennig, the Coach managed the Beverly Brothers before fading away.

Tolos reappeared as his boisterous self soon afterwards for Herb Abram’s train-wreck UWF promotion. He managed Cowboy Bob Orton & the Power Twins along with doing color commentary for the TV broadcast.  Tolos was a regular at the Cauliflower Alley banquets where he was always Mr.Personality. He seemed to enjoy joking and mingling with the fans. He was often seen jogging in Woodland Hills. If a passing car would honk or yell at him he would scream back.  “Right here baby!”  John Tolos passed away in May 2009 at the age of 78, leaving behind an entire generation who still spell “wrestling”
T-O-L-O-S

— Dan Farren