August 24, 2004
Sheldon Kane III
Two-Out-Of-Three-Falls Match For the World Tag Team Championship
Tony Garea & Haystacks Calhoun (Champions) vs. Mr. Fuji & Professor Toru Tanaka (Challengers)
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
July 23, 1973
YOU NEVER FORGET THE FIRST TIME
When talk arises of the great tag team wrestlers in WWE history, the name Tony Garea comes up frequently. A solid 6'2", 245-pound athlete from Auckland, New Zealand, Garea was one of the most popular wrestlers of his era, and was especially popular with the female fans. In his career, Garea would go on to win the World Tag Team Championship on four different occasions, with four different partners. The first of those four tag teams was certainly one of the most unique pairings in wrestling history: Garea's partner for this initial title run was none other than the 601-pound country boy, Morgans Corner, Arkansas's Haystacks Calhoun.
The team of Garea and Calhoun could be looked upon as something of a prototype. In later years, other "bigger guy/smaller guy" teams would enjoy tag team title success, including the Colossal Connection (Andre the Giant & Haku), Yokozuna & Owen Hart, Kane & X-Pac, and Hulk Hogan & Edge. But in 1973, such a team was very unusual to many fans, albeit very popular. Garea and Calhoun were quite the crowd favorites, and on May 30, 1973, they would give fans more reason to cheer them, by winning the World Tag Team Championship from the Grand Wizard of Wrestling's formidable duo of Mr. Fuji & Professor Toru Tanaka. The result was considered something of an upset at the time; Fuji & Tanaka had captured the straps nearly a year earlier and kept a stronghold on the titles, defeating all of the top teams in the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). When Garea & Calhoun won the titles in Hamburg, Pennsylvania, they knew they would eventually have to grant the former champions a rematch.
On July 23, 1973 in Madison Square Garden, the rematch took place, with the titles being defended in a two-out-of-three-falls encounter. Fuji and Tanaka entered the ring determined to win their second title that night, and avenge their defeat from two months earlier. Were they successful in doing so?
Prior to the match, Tanaka and Fuji engaged in their prematch ritual, tossing ceremonial salt in the corner in order to ward off evil spirits. Strangely, an elderly woman in the front row, who apparently was a Madison Square Garden regular, decided she was going to brush the salt off the apron, and then tell Tanaka and Fuji to kiss her ass. Every time Tanaka tried to toss more ceremonial salt, she would brush it away, much to the chagrin of the challengers. After this unusual beginning, the first fall is under way, with Garea and Tanaka starting things off. Garea trapped Tanaka in a side headlock, and soon they started exchanging armdrags. Garea ultimately won the exchange, as the fans--and Calhoun himself--cheered him on. Garea had Tanaka at bay, but eventually ended up in the wrong part of town, via Fuji's and Tanaka's corner. The devious Fuji wrapped the tag rope around Garea's neck, choking him out. The New Zealander managed to fight his way out of this predicament. Once Garea had Fuji in the ring legally, all bets were off. Garea fought back valiantly, drilling Fuji with a back bodydrop. Knowing he was in trouble, Fuji reached out and tagged Tanaka back into the match. The 255-pounder from Hawaii took control, dominating Garea for several minutes. The fans at Madison Square Garden got behind Garea, and soon Garea was able to make the tag to Haystacks Calhoun. Calhoun dominated Tanaka right away, trapping him a corner of the ring with his sizeable girth. Fuji attempted to make a save, but soon found himself stacked on top of Tanaka with all of Calhoun's 601 pounds. Garea even got into the act, balancing himself on top of Calhoun with their challengers buried underneath. Haystacks tagged Garea back into the match, and tussles with Tanaka. Garea would land two well-placed shoulderblocks, but only got a two-count. Out of nowhere, Tanaka floored Garea with a crescent kick to the midsection, and scoring the three-count to win the first fall.
With one fall in their favor, Fuji and Tanaka seemed well on their way to winning their second World Tag Team Championship. Garea and Fuji would start off the second fall, and Garea soon found himself at the mercy of the "Samurai Warrior." Tanaka and Fuji would dominate fall number two, causing concern amongst the fans in attendance that Garea and Calhoun were about to drop the titles. Calhoun, however, had other plans. Haystacks made his way into the ring to stop Tanaka and Fuji, but soon recieved a face full of ceremonial salt for his troubles. Despite the referee putting a five-count on Fuji and Tanaka, the two refused to relent, choking Calhoun in the corner and double-teaming him unmercifully. Soon, the official had no choice but to call for the bell, disqualifying Fuji and Tanaka and awarding the second fall to the champions. The third and deciding fall was crucial for both teams, as the match could now go either way. On this night, fate would be kind to Garea and Calhoun. Garea dominated Tanaka in fall number three, tagging in his behemoth tag team partner, who crushed Tanaka with a splash for the pinfall, successfully defending the World Tag Team Championship. The popular pairing would hold the titles for another day, but everyone who saw the match knew the team of Mr. Fuji and Professor Toru Tanaka would be back to make another bid for the championship.
Tanaka and Fuji would be back sooner than people thought. The devious duo regained the World Tag Team Championship from Garea and Calhoun on September 11, 1973 in Philadelphia. Two months later, on November 14, Tanaka and Fuji would again be haunted by Tony Garea, this time with a new partner; the beloved "Happy Hawaiian", Dean Ho. The pairing of Garea and Ho would become one of the most popular championship teams of the '70s. Tanaka and Fuji would return to win their third and final World Tag Team Title, on September 27, 1977, winning the vacated titles by defeating Larry Zbyszko, and yes, Tony Garea.
Tony Garea would win the World Tag Team Titles three times more, with the aforementioned Dean Ho, as well as Larry Zbyszko and Rick Martel. Later in his career, Garea would become a popular mid-card singles compeitior, until finally retiring from the ring in the late 1980s.
Sadly, William D. "Haystacks" Calhoun passed away on December 7, 1989 as a result of complications from diabetes. He was 55. In 2003, Calhoun recieved a profile in WWE Magazine's "50 Greatest Superstars of All Time" publication, giving younger fans a chance to learn more about one of wrestling history's most beloved big men.