WWE tag team legends The Hart Foundation
Bill Wenhold wrote: I wrestled as Billy Blue River. My wife wrestled as Beverly Shade. I met Johnny in 1964, a school teacher named John Belletti introduced him to me as he needed someone to train with to learn how to wrestle. Johnny was living in a small little house on the grounds of the University of Tampa, Florida. During this time a man named Eddie Graham was more or less running the main wrestling office in Tampa. He was a NO GOOD JERK – he treated Johnny like he was a lackey. He would have him put up wrestling rings, clean up his office so that Johnny could referee a match every now and then. Let me tell you there was NOBODY wrestling in Florida that could have beat Johnny. He was what we called a shooter, he could break your bones before you knew it. Johnny had the largest cauliflower ears I have ever seen, which is from all the headlocks he withstood. Johnny was not only my trainer but my friend. All he had was a German Shepherd dog but I can not remember his name. When Johnny would start talking about his family he would blink his eyes a lot. He told me his wife was in Sweden and when he got enough money he would like to go back. He also told me he had a daughter which I remember reading him some letters but I can not recall where she was from. I just remembered his dogs name it was Shemp. I would pay Johnny $20 every week to train me and he also worked as a handy man at the Tampa University so we used their gym and I wrestled many of their wrestling team. Johnny always taught me that there was no such thing as pain (if he could see me now), I can hardly walk, all bent over, have Parkinson’s disease and a colostomy. I used to get so mad when two men that wrestled as The Assassins came to see Johnny (one is Joe Hamilton who is in charge of Deep South wrestling for WWE. The other was Tom Renesto who is dead. They would steal things from Johnnys house, rings etc. I told Johnny and he did not want to say anything as he would get blackballed from wrestling. Johnny built his own wrestling ring and ran some local shows which really got him in trouble, but it proved what a monopoly wrestling was. The last time I saw Johnny was at a Christmas party at my house in 1969. I asked many people and nobody had seen him and Eddie Graham got him booted out of his house and job at the Tampa University. He talked so much of wanting to go back to Sweden especially to see his daughter that I assumed that is what he did. I can tell you he was a heck of a wrestler but a very gentle man. Johnny would often pull out pictures and get tears in his eyes as they were from his life in Sweden. I have no idea other than the wrestling business how he came to this country and why he stayed. Every now and then I see where he wrestled some of the top stars in the 1950’s. Johnny was short, he only stood at about 5 foot 5 inches. His nose had been broken so many times that it was very deformed. I remember one BIG gold ring that he wore on his huge hands and I would make him hide it because I was worried someone would steal it. We used to go to the Bonanza Steak house once a week, I would buy his steak and he would go around and get leftovers for his beloved dog. I have nothing but memories and maybe more will come to me. He knew my mom and dad, my dad was also a wrestler shooter. I think Johnny was in his late 50’s but I am not sure. He was my buddy and I owe him a lot.