The Moose Bellows No More!!!
This past week, the world lost a true friend. The wrestling world lost one of the first big men to grace a television screen. Edward "Moose" Cholak died as a result of a stroke and pneumonia on October 31, 2002.
The first time I saw this gentle giant was on the old Dumont network that broadcast matches from the old Amphitheater in Chicago. I was in awe of the size of this man but totally mystified by the huge Moose Head, capped off with a cape of actual fur from the same animal, which adorned his own head and shoulders. The rack of antlers had to be at least three feet on each side and weighed around 125 pounds.
Moose would come to the ring and stop on the ring apron and let out a very loud MMMMOOOOOOOO, like the bellowing from a Bull Moose, and then climb over the top rope and enter the ring and parade around bellowing even more as fans catcalled and booed him. It would then take two ring attendants to take the huge Moose head back to the dressing room.
Once the bell rang, Moose was all business and did not come to just bellow out to the fans. He was very light on his feet and had a fantastic amateur background at St. Francis grammar school, where he was on the all-city wrestling team.
After graduation, Moose went on to the Navy, where he was a Seabee during the Korean Conflict. He was the Navy Wrestling and Boxing Champion during his tenure in the service.
Returning home, Moose decided on a wrestling career and took advice from one guy that would later get the worst beatings of his life from Moose, Chief Don Eagle. Moose went to the gym in Columbus, where Al Haft took part in his training for the professional rings. In the mid-fifties, Moose began to appear in action all over the Midwest and Northeast. He faced men the caliber of Don Eagle, Hans Schmidt, Johnny Kace, Bobo Brazil, Gorgeous George, The Original Sheik, Larry Chene, and the list could go on forever.
In the near four decades he was involved in ring action, Moose had over 8000 matches and won most by pure strength and endurance. You always knew that when you entered the ring with Moose, you had two choices--be beaten up until he wanted to stop or just concede the match to him and go home with your head between your legs with the short end of the money.
Besides having a wonderful career in wrestling, Moose was also an engineer with the City of Chicago and ran his father's bar as often as time would permit. It seemed like there were never enough hours in a day for Moose to do everything he wanted to. Often times, he would take his son and some of the neighborhood kids with him when he went to wrestle near Chicago. Moose loved children and was a devoted family man.
I had the opportunity to be at the last wrestling match that Moose was involved in at Peotone, Illinois in October 2001. He was there as a guest of Championship International Wrestling, and the fans turned out in droves to see the South Suburban Icon at the Legends Autograph table. Some of the older fans that had seen Moose in action remembered his actions on television and in person at the old Marigold Gardens. Many brought pictures of Moose to be signed; some left them with him as a remembrance of good days gone by.
I had the pleasure of doing a classic legends reunion with him that is on tape and being edited for a future showing. It was during that time with Moose that I had a chance to recall some of the great matches he had with Jose Bettencourt, Paul Christy, Larry Chene, Bobo Brazil, Don Eagle and a few others that came to mind during that 15-minute interview. Moose told me afterwards that he had forgotten a lot of those guys but that I brought back many good memories by my mentioning their names. I will always treasure those moments with Moose.
As I called around the nation yesterday telling many of my friends about Moose's passing, all were very quiet and moved by the news. Many wanted an address so they could send their condolences or flowers.
You gave people a great wrestling match; you spoke very highly about your friends in the business and away from the ring. You never knocked anyone in spite of business differences. You were always a true gentleman and a good friend.
Rest in Peace, Moose.
Percival A. Friend, Retired
The following are from the newspapers in Chicago about Moose, and I thought I would share them with you.
Published in the Chicago Tribune on 11/1/2002.
Edward "Moose" Cholak stood 6-feet-4 and weighed as much as 450 pounds, and those who met him in the wrestling ring feared him.
But outside the ring, he was a gentle, even-tempered man.
"One time this musclehead came into Moose's family tavern and tried to pick a fight with him, to say that he had fought Moose," said "Golden Boy" Paul Christy, a longtime friend and professional wrestler.
"He kept egging him on, and finally Moose told him to go ahead and throw a punch. The guy hit Moose in the jaw and hit him three or four more times in the stomach. Moose didn't flinch. He just lifted the guy under his arms and got him off the ground and told him to stop."
Mr. Cholak, who worked as a professional wrestler for three decades and lived in Chicago's East Side community, died suddenly Thursday. He was 72.
Mr. Cholak was born March 17, 1930. He grew up on Chicago's South Side and attended St. Francis grammar school and Chicago Vocational High School, where he was named to the all-city wrestling team. After graduation, he served in the Navy during the Korean War, where he simultaneously held Navy heavyweight boxing and wrestling championships, Christy said.
"He was a tremendous athlete," he said. "He was big, but he could also be fast and powerful."
Mr. Cholak returned to Chicago in 1952, and worked in the family's South Side tavern until he was recruited to be a professional wrestler. Mr. Cholak had the nickname of "Moose" since he was a small child, so he incorporated that into his wresting routine and often wore an oversized moose head into the ring. Before the match, he would do his moose call, his wife, Arlene Cholak, said.
"His move was the 'el squasho', where he would just fall on top of the guy, and there was nothing the guy could do," she said.
Mr. Cholak wrestled in the World Wresting Alliance both as a bad guy and a good guy, but he was always popular. He participated in matches across the Midwest, and eventually traveled to Japan, New York and Philadelphia, wrestling top names such as Dick the Bruiser, Crusher, Buddy Rogers and Angelo Poffo. Toward the end of his career, he also wrestled with Hulk Hogan.
Mr. Cholak was often the main event and wrestled three or four times a week. He also made appearances to sign autographs for fans.
Mr. Cholak and Christy were tag-team wrestling champions in the early 1970s, but Christy said he still remembers first meeting Moose.
"He body slammed me," Christy said. "He picked me up, slammed me down and broke the ring's 2-by-4s. A fan from the audience picked up one of those boards and hit Moose over the head with it, and he went after that fan, who ran away screaming."
While he wrestled in the late 1970s, Mr. Cholak also took a part-time job with the city of Chicago as an engineer, his wife said. He was involved in many civic organizations, including the Croatian Fraternal Union, Croatian Catholic Union, S.N.P.J. Lodge 8, Illiana Post 220, American Legion, and the former Franko-McShane Post VFW.
Mr. Cholak also stayed involved in his children's lives, even though he spent a lot of time traveling.
"He would take our son, Steven, everywhere," his wife said. "If he was wrestling nearby, he would pile all the neighborhood kids in the car. There were times when I didn't think they could fit another kid in the car."
Christy said he met Mr. Cholak many times in the ring, both as an opponent and partner, but they always remained good friends.
"I learned a lot from him, how to fall and how to take punishment," Christy said. "He was a gentle giant. A super nice guy."
In addition to his wife of 45 years, Arlene, and son, Steven, Mr. Cholak is survived by a daughter, Kathleen; a sister-in-law, Bonnie Caudle; and many nieces and nephews.
A funeral mass will be said at 10 a.m. Monday at Church of the Annunciata, 11128 S. Avenue G, Chicago. Burial will be at St. Mary Cemetery in Evergreen Park.
November 1, 2002
BY BRENDA WARNER ROTZOLL STAFF REPORTER
Edward "Moose" Cholak became a wrestling star at Chicago Vocational High School and went on starring for 40 years as he took part in 8,000 matches, in 1963 becoming world champion.
Variously called Moose, Golden Moose and Yukon Moose, he was a wrestling fixture across the Midwest and on television. The Calumet Beach Inn tavern he inherited from his father was a neighborhood fixture on the Southeast Side, where he was born.
No, folks, he wasn't nicknamed Moose because he was born in Mooseville, Maine. There is no Mooseville in Maine, although there is a town named Caribou. His wife suspects wrestling promoters came up with that tale.
One sure thing is that he always was a big moose of a guy. He stood 6 feet 2 inches and weighed 260 pounds when he was a tackle on coach Ivy Williamson's University of Wisconsin football teams in 1949 and 1950. A decade later he stood 6 feet 4 inches and weighed in at 360, telling sportswriters firmly, "Now this isn't fat, this is maturity."
Mr. Cholak died early Thursday at St. Margaret's Hospital in Hammond, Ind., of pneumonia that developed after he suffered a stroke Oct. 22. He was 72.
He grew up in a neighborhood full of people who, like his father, were of Croatian ancestry. He went to Chicago Vocational because he wanted to be an engineer. His college career was cut short by the Korean War, where he served as a Seabee-doing engineering--in the Navy. In 1952 he was All-Navy heavyweight champion in boxing and wrestling, the only time one man held both titles.
In high school he was all-city wrestling champ, and he was an AAU amateur champion. He was in an amateur match while in the Navy when he was spotted by a Canadian-born Indian wrestler, Chief Don Eagle, who asked if he'd like to turn pro.
As soon as Mr. Cholak got out of the Navy, Chief Don Eagle called him and his new career began. He wrestled in 8,000 matches between 1953 and 1987, an era when the sport evolved into television entertainment. In 1963 he won the International Wrestling Association championship in a match in Japan, defeating Rikidozan.
He also worked for 20 years for the City of Chicago as an engineer, from 1976 to 1996, and whenever he wasn't wrestling at home or on the road, worked nights and weekends at the family bar until he sold it in 1980.
That's where he met his wife of 45 years, Arlene. She and some of her high school friends had gone there for the Friday night fish fry, and he was just back from the Navy, helping his folks. They courted for five years and married in 1957.
His last five years with the city he was on disability leave with a severe knee injury suffered when he fell over equipment on the job.
Mr. Cholak was a wrestler with a college education and an inquiring mind. In the early 1960s he attended lectures on Zen Buddhism that Alan Watts delivered at the University of Chicago. Then he went to Lake Forest to hear novelist Aldous Huxley talk about visionary experience. He said Huxley had taken LSD and was hallucinating. Mr. Cholak went backstage and when Huxley learned he had heard Watts, made him sit down and they talked for an hour about Zen and Watts.
Survivors in addition to his wife are a daughter, Kathleen Cholak, and a son, Steven.
Visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. Sunday at the Elmwood Chapel, 11200 S. Ewing. Services will be at 10 a.m. Monday at Annunciata Church, 11128 Avenue G, with burial in St. Mary's Cemetery, Evergreen Park.
This from the Chicago Sun Times.
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