Pedro Gonzalez And Nogales Wrestling
February 3, 2006 by Dale Pierce
Nogales, Mexico is a border town across from Nogales, Arizona, roughly an hour south of Tucson. Most tourists visit there to buy curios and alcohol, yet sadly, few wrestling fans except the locals realize the great wrestling shows went on there or via other promoters, and still do. The name of Pedro Gonzalez would be recognized by almost anyone in town, even now, long after I presume he has died.
Gonzalez was a nervous-looking man who could have passed for one of the banditos in Rio Conchos or the phony Federales in The Treasure Of Sierra Madre. Slicked black hair, a thin mustache, and a peculiar shift when he walked, were some of his trademarks. He also did much for Nogales, where he was known as a businessman, building both a wrestling arena and a bullring in the early 1950s, both of which thrived greatly. Some contend it was not simply the chance to make a profit, but catering to his own personal loves which prompted him to bring these activities into the area, but regardless of motive, everyone adored him for it.
The bullring seated some 5,000 people and was an architectural wonder for its time, made mainly of concrete, but with gigantic murals depicting famous bullfighters above each entranceway. Gonzalez also saw to it the most famous stars of the time were brought in to his arena, such as Carlos Arruza, Armillita, Luis Procuna, Alfredo Leal and Silverio Perez. These names would be meaningless to wrestling fans, so in a second we will move onward, but his is being noted to make a point. Though he did not have the biggest of venues, he brought in the best for his bullring. The trend would follow with his arena for boxing and wrestling bouts.
The Pedro Gonzalez Arena was situated on a hill, very near the bullring. The arena was again not the biggest of buildings, but Gonzalez brought in the biggest of names, sometimes losing money to fulfill his passion, though at other times he turned a great profit. El Santo, Blue Demon, Perseo, Rayo De Jalisco, Frankenstein, Henry Pilusso, El Mustang, Black Shadow, Mil Mascaras, Gory Guerrero and many more appeared there on a regular basis. He also managed to get television for both sides of the border and while the audiences were predominately Mexican locals, Americans sometimes came across to the border see the matches.
Keep in mind this was long before lucha libre caught on in America with the influx of luchadores in WCW started gaining international fame for these people and this style.
Occasionally, Nogales grapplers would make a run to The Tucson Garden or The Phoenix Madison Square Garden, while certain Arizona wrestlers would come down to Nogales to work as well. While exchanges were made, the trades were limited. Pedro El Grande, The Lumberjacks, Mad Dog Marcial Bovee and Nano Ortega were some of the Arizona crew who made their way south, while Centrella Negra, Perseo, El Circulo, Andar and Coyo Castro were some of the border town people who made their way north.
By the mid 1960s, however, Gonzalez seemed to be interested in taking his money and retiring. He maintained the wrestling promotion, but sold the bullring to the De La Fuente family, who took up the reigns, running bullfights in this town.
Gonzalez would continue to run wrestling for a long while after this, until he finally bowed out.
After him, a man named Bucky Zepeda ran wrestling in the 1980s. He usually put himself in the main events and used his pull as promoter to build himself as a big area star.
He was followed by Tony Martin; the last person as far as I know, to use the arena. He again brought in names, such as Mil Mascaras and Los Mercenarios, but also maintained a flock of area wrestlers including Resplendor, Makriz, Enigma, El Rayo de Sonora and Arana Negra. He likewise brought in wrestlers from Arizona and California on a regular basis.
In his time, however, Gonzalez was instrumental in pushing many area stars. One of the locals whom he helped develop was the aforenoted Centrella Negra, a smaller man, but one of considerable skill. He was one of the first people to ever really cross the border and dazzle the Arizona fans with spectacular lucha moves such as a double moonsault off the top rope for a pin.
The Arizona fans remembered Centreklla Negra as well, for long after he left the ring, his name still had some clout. As recently as 2005, he was making headlines, when a number of his masks and capes were placed on temporary display in Tucson, as part of an exhibition on the history of Mexican wrestling.
The last time I was in Nogales, back in 1997, I was told that Gonzalez’s daughter owned the wrestling building, which was closed down and no longer holding shows. Thus, I figured he had passed away, way back then, but do not hold me to it. I do not know if the building is still there or not. Most likely, I figure it has been torn down, for Section 8, an Arizona promoter, wanted to do joint Mexican-Arizona shows in 2004 or so, but could find no building to hold the events. They finally settled in doing them at some bar, if my sources are correct.
“Pedro El Grande and I went down there for a show,” commented Lumberjack #1 of The Lumberjacks tag team. “What I recall is just all the “heat” you got from the crowd.” It was also odd because you had all these people hating the bad guys but you also had a section of seating reserved for fans of the rule breakers, who cheered for them rather than the heroes. I was surprised a massive fight didn’t break out between the two groups that was bigger and wilder than the one in the ring.”
“We had a really, bloody bout down there, but the feud never developed,” The Lumberjack continued. “I wish we could have gone back there some more, but it did not happen like we had hoped, where we could have gotten a whole thing going and a long one. No big deal, as there was plenty of wrestling going on in Arizona at the time and I had plenty of chances in the Phoenix area to stomp a hole in Pedro’s bald head, without crossing the border. Still, I wish we could have been regulars there. It was an interesting experience and one of the chances for me to appear in a foreign country.”
“Gonzalez has got to be dead,” commented the Lumberjack in conclusion,. “I am sure of it, as he was a real old man when we were down there and that was long ago. He was a good guy though, who delivered everything he promised and saw the wrestlers were treated right. A lot of American promoters could have learned a lesson from him on how to do things.”
by Dale Pierce..