Some Doug “Ox” Baker Memories

Ox Lano

Here is Ox Baker in 1975 backstage at a St. Louis “Wrestling At The Chase” TV taping, working for Sam Muchnick.  Photo courtesy of Mike Lano.

Some Doug “Ox” Baker Memories
By Mike Lano

We all had our Ox memories.  He was for many Vegas reunions, a fixture starting with our initial move to Sin City in 2000 at the Strip’s Riviera Hotel.  Ox loved seeing many of his old and beloved 70’s family members from the Sheik NWA & Bruiser WWA/Detroit warring promotions as well as Pedro Martinez’ Ohio and Buffalo NWF which reunited him with Pedro’s booker and lead face Johnny Powers, Flying Fred Curry, Killer Tim Brooks, Pampero Firpo, Bobby Heenan, The Crusher(who he worked with not just in WWA Indianapolis and Detroit but also in Chicago at the famous Amphitheatre for Gagne/Bruiser/Luce.

One of wrestling’s great booming mike promos and scary looking characters who was in fact a sweet, loud and booming soul who kept the boys fed on the road with his culinary skills. Firpo that year told me that Doug/Ox could cook any food nationality from Indian Naan and curry to Mexican chimichangas, solid Italian dishes and even Spanish Paella.  And unlike Kidder Lou Klein, he didn’t lock the car doors and tell the green boys who he’d “given” his on-the-road food to, that they couldn’t leave the car or work that evening without paying him.  Ox loved cooking and watching the Food and Cooking channel so much he put out several cook books of his own.  Sort of an every person’s Graham Kerr mixed with a dash of Julia Child.  He was the oldest brother of five kids and said that he excelled in amateur wrestling, football and boxing before stumbling upon pro wrestling.  He told me he didn’t know if he could do it, but loved watching his favorite in Buddy Rogers battling Argentina Rocca, Bruno and Dory Dixon.

Ox Baker was one of the more important figures in our industry. Noisy. Scary. Wild and colorful.  He’d been ailing for some time now and had been on a down-ward health spiral overall since his most recent wife passed away who faithfully attended every CAC event he came to.  I’m sure everyone has a fond memory and more on the passing of our CAC friend and brother.

He never seemed bothered by the Ray Gunkel or Alberto Torres brother’s death in the ring which he had nothing to do with(just freak heart conditions on the part of Gunk and Torres had a ruptured pancreas) but his promoters for good or bad capitalized on both “ring” deaths in promoting him.  And for which he in turn used the opportunity to publicize his own “heart attach punch” later shortened thankfully to “Heart Punch.”   There’s some debate on whether he or Stan Stasiak came up with it first.  Ox said this in 1991 on my radio show:  “He’s a yellow belly bastard liar.  I came up with the heart punch first. That bastard copied me. Do you think anyone around the world, and I’ve wrestled in Japan and everywhere else on the planet and everyone knows me, do you think anyone else knows who Stan the Man Stasiak is?!”   If they didn’t before that, they certainly did thanks to Ox.  I didn’t argue with him because Stan was every bit the legend and not even for getting the strap from Pedro as the crossover back to Bruno for Vince Sr.  Ox Anderson who also worked in Japan and  L.A. and in most of the circuits like Atlanta that Ox was a staple in would also say Ox copied his own gimmick.  Ditto Yukon Moose Cholak, Chicago’s own.  But Ox was completely unique in his new character.

Ox was very limited in the ring and if there’s any footage still existing of him jobbing in Vince Sr’s WWWF, oy, he was bad. And he’d be the first to admit it.   But when he grew out the stach and the crazed eyebrows, he began to look like one of the scariest dudes on the planet.  He with the help of several promoters and bookers, crafted that wild, screaming “I LIke To Hurt People” Ox gimmick and character and he was one of the 70’s best characters.  Besides being a legend in Atlanta(where he left the Paul Jones NWA office to side with Ann Gunkel in her battle taking on not just the NWA but the brilliant booking minds of Bill Watts and Eddie Graham et al) plus he of course worked in IWE/Japan, all over Texas, in St. Louis, for Bruiser in his WWA and later for Sheik and against The Sheik at Cobo in some big heel v heel matches, for Leroy McGuirk, in Memphis, and even for my big boss Mike Lebell towards the end of my home base territory’s run in Los Angeles in 1980 working against Mil Mascaras, Chris Adams and others like Judo Gene Lebell.

When I promoted my CAC-sponsored 3 day Sam Muchnick/St Louis tribute convention in May of 1992 for Sam who was very ill;  Ox was the first working legend to commit to coming in for me and to pay tribute to Sam.  Ox joined my mc’s CAC prez Lou Thesz with Karl Lauer, Ernie Ladd, Killer Kowalski, Penny Banner, Red Bastien as well as others on the dais talking to and about Sam: Ivan Koloff, Jim Von Rashke, Al Costello, Peppers Martin and Gomez, Bob Backlund, Jack Lanza, Curt Hennig, Mike Rotunda, Kamala Jim Harris, Jimmy Snuka, the Poffos, Al Snow, Sabu and a host of others including the surviving families of St Louis legends like Pat O’Connor, Bobby Shane, the Garagiolas, and even Toots Mondt’s widow.  Ox said it was one of the best, least-about-money conventions he’d ever seen because firtsly it was for the boys.  We later allowed fans in for the three day event that has an awards banquet, 3 day wrestling marathon featuring the first pairing of Al Snow and Glenn/Kane, Ox teaming with his Russian Brute agast Al Costello matching Lou Thesz’ record for working in 7 decades(Al also managed the NEW Kangaroos with a green Al Snow teamed with Denny Kass-both kids grew up on Sheik, Abby, Johnny Powers and of course Pampero Firpo who Al later told me he imitated whenever he cut from the cut yelling great classic promos.  Well, as you all know, one of Ox’s big strengths was his booming, powerful voice that one time got him in some major heat with Heenan and Bockwinkel at a CAC some 10 yrs ago.  But we’re here to pay homage to Ox, who we all loved.  Ox didn’t have it easy either with the murder of his daughter and surviving I believe two wives.  As a friend, he could be rough around the edges and supremely noisy; but he loved wrestling dearly and everyone in it.  I had the honor of photographing and covering him in Bruiser’s WWA, vs Bruiser Brody in Honolulu!, in my homebase territory of L.A. vs Mascaras shooting for the program there, all over the AWA including vs Bruiser at the Chicago Amph, in Atlanta where Ox drew Ernie Ladd and of course in Detroit vs Sheik in a wild series.

Never got to shoot him in IWE Japan unfortunately.

Before we lost him, Ox had recently just wrapped up filming of his role in a new low-budget horror film which I believe was done by some longtime wrestling fans of his on a budget.  Here’s a clip on it I was emailed just last week:

 “Professional Wrestling Legend, Ox Baker, makes his triumphant return to the motion picture industry in the horror genre film titled, “Pinwheel”. Ox conquered the move role and made it his own, much like he dominated the squared circle in his wrestling career. Pinwheel is currently being filmed at a top secret location in Connecticut, and it’s carnival collection of bizarre characters led by the The Mighty Ox is sure to make “American Horror Story: Freakshow” look like Sesame Street.”

Oxy, try to be on the quiet side up in Heaven your first few days at least.  You’ll be sadly missed down here, even though we’ll still probably be able to hear you cutting your classic promos up there.

— Mike Lano

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