DAYS' - TOM ZENK IN THE PACIFIC NORTH WEST October 1985 - April 1986
last week - It was late January 1986. After four months in Portland,
Tom Zenk was the federation's top babyface, he was still undefeated and
he held the NWA's two major Northwest titles. He was over with the fans,
he had warded off Billy Jack Haynes and had unfinished business with Oliver
and Jaggers that would see him through the Spring....
The Zenk-Jaggers feud reached fever pitch on January 21, 1986 when Jaggers and Oliver double teamed Zenk, 'beating him unconscious' after Zenk's capture of the NWA Heavyweight title.
The feud was given further heat two days later, when Zenk and Doring lost the PNW tag team title to Jaggers and Oliver in Salem, January 23, 1986,
February and early March 1986, Zenk defended his PNW heavyweight title
in matches across the North West.
He was guaranteed constant work and was developing valuable ring experience
"This is is definitely a great place to gain experience. There is a lot of great talent here in this territory and a lot of wrestling, six or seven nights a week and that's also a great opportunity for me" (Wrestling Ringside, No 19, May 1986).
(from Northwest Wrestling News and Views, 1/30/86)
- The thing that Zenk
liked most about working in the PNW - apart from the mountains,
the promoter and the neighborly community - was that no venue was more
than 2 hours from the apartment in Milwaukee, Oregon, that he shared with
his girlfriend and their dog 'Mad Max.
|Four times a week,
Zenk washed and breakfasted around 9.30 a.m. before leaving the apartment
to pick up Doring. From Doring's place they headed off to Lake Oswego to
In the gym, Zenk and Doring pushed each other through a two and a half hour work-out. They were soon the heaviest in their careers and the strongest in their lives.
Sam Bowie and Clyde 'the Glide' Drexler (from the Portland Trailblazers) worked out in the same gym and were awed by Zenk and Doring's size. Bowie, Clyde the Glide and Michael Thompson (another of the Trailblazers) were all fans of Portland Wrestling.
Other wrestlers working in PNW during Zenk's tour included 'faces' Billy Jack Haynes, Ricky Vaughn, Brady Boone, Steve Pardi, Terry Bradshaw, Jerry "Hercules" Samson, Jimmy Snuka's "cousin" Cocoa Samoa and Billy Two Eagles. 'Heels' included - Jaggers, Rip Oliver, "Mean" Mike Miller, Ed Moretti, Mega Mahareshee (Ed Wiskowski) and Karl Steiner.
Weighing in at 230 pounds, Tom could have been considered small in the company of some of these men --
- Matches were
the best of three falls and could last up to an hour. To manage this, a
wrestler had to have stamina, and intelligence, as well as size.
- "You have to
be in real good physical condition to get in the ring because you go in
there for 15 to 60 minutes. There are holds and counter-holds. You've got
to be thinking at the same time."
January 21, 1986
Medford was the farthest they traveled. PNW program-notes warned that cards were subject to change through "injury, illness, the hazards of travel or the act of God." On their trips to venues in the snow, Owen warned them to look out for 'black ice' on the mountain roads. They drove everywhere in Zenk's Buick Park Avenue with the tires studded when the weather was bad. Ed 'Moondog' Moretti, a member of the 'Clan' (with whom Zenk and Doring were feuding) sometimes rode along. The Buick had a good stereo and amp. Music was The Doors, Grassroots, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Beatles, Stones, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys. They ate on the road and most nights they were home by midnight.
Not far from Zenk's
apartment was the infamous Bomber Motel - rent-by-the-month apartments
- and the heart of Portland's night life. Many of the wrestlers started
out their tours renting there. The motel drive was U-shaped and girls showed
up with beer, circling through the drive looking to party with the
boys after the weekend shows.
Yet by March, Zenk was heading for Montreal - "the greatest mistake of my wrestling career."
The International Wrestling Alliance (IWA) based in Montreal was looking for new talent to help fend off WWF who were promoting heavily in Quebec. Rick Martel had a part share in the IWA with Gino Brito and Dino Bravo. He rang Zenk, promising $1,000 a week against the $700 he was earning in Portland - and a promise of occasional tag partnerships with Martel and Bravo.
On March 9 , 1986, in anticipation of his move to Canada, Zenk dropped the singles title to Jaggers in Findley, Washington. They stretchered him out courtesy of “Rip’s Carry Out Service.” That way, Don was leaving the door open for Zenk to return – in case Martel swerved him.
In Montreal, the bigger pay day and the tag opportunities Martel promised never eventuated - but by the time Zenk realized this, it was already too late and too expensive to go back.
His departure from Portland hadn't been acrimonious. When he gave Don his five weeks notice, Owen had offered an extra $1,000 to stay. Don accepted the inevitable with one regret - "Tom, we never got you beat!" They were disappointed and their feelings hurt - but the Owens always acted with great generosity.
It was something
Zenk tried to repay in a small way later, when he returned Portland in
February 1988 to support Don Owen on the night Billy Jack Haynes' opened
his rival Oregon Wrestling Federation.
SINGLE AND TAG MATCHES, FEUDS, CHAMPIONSHIP ...
DELIVERY WITHIN NORTH AMERICA