That a promotion gets that your most profitable wrestler is at the same time the best on the ring course is not usual. If we talk about WWE, now we must point to Brock Lesnar who has already demonstrated his credentials in the past, feeding on them and his portentous presence to ensure large numbers of the public.
Under NJPW, on the other hand, quality and box office capacity go hand in hand, as shown by names like Kenny Omega, Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito or Chris Jericho.
The increasingly unspoken rivalry that both companies maintain sometimes moves around this issue when last year Roman Reigns mocked a few claims by Cody who claimed to be the biggest box office in the industry.
An unrealistic consideration, as Dave Meltzer clarified shortly after (in case anyone had doubts) that this status belongs exclusively to Lesnar and John Cena, both, WWE Superstars.
And it is that the company Vince McMahon always comes up when talking about income and ability to summon masses. His inflated records of attendance and that megalomania began thanks to the work of Bruno Sammartino in the 70s and Hulk Hogan in the 80s.
Although, by the impact on the culture “mainstream”, many consider the latter the big box office in the history of the industry which pushed American wrestling to a level of popularity never before reached.
“The Immortal”, thanks to belonging to the US, the most mediatic country in the world, in which almost anything exportable becomes the fashion has remained in the unconscious collective of several generations, above Santo, or Antonio Inoki. Although, for example, “the Silver Masquerade” managed to fill seats for almost four decades at a level similar to that of Hogan.
But was it really the “Hulkster” the biggest box office in history? An amateur said so via Twitter and Meltzer wanted to respond.
Biggest draw was Jim Londos, biggest name is an arguable point but Hogan is in the running. https://t.co/YNvinZ05cS
— Dave Meltzer (@davemeltzerWON) August 4, 2018
Who is Jim Londos? Born in 1897 in Koutsopodi, Greece, Christos Theofilou (his real name) never stood out for wrestling skills but an impressive physique and the fact of emigrating to the USA during a time in need of heroes made “the Golden Greek” gain popularity enormous that logically moved to his homeland where today is considered a true national hero.
To illustrate a bit his box office ability, I recover an article by Dwight Chapin that appeared in Los Angeles Time on January 27, 1969. By then, Londos had been retired for more than a decade and recently, he had received the Golden Phoenix Cross from King Paul I of Greece for his enormous philanthropic work with orphans in Cyprus. Thus, Chapin, knowing to be face to face with a living legend remembered the years of glory of his interlocutor.
“There were 100,000 people in the Athens Olympic Stadium that night in 1934 when Jim Londos defended his world’s heavyweight wrestling title against the Russian champion, and another 30,000 were turned away.
One who got in was a Greek named Theophelos, a former amateur wrestler himself. He was also Jim Londos’ father.
“He never wanted me to become a professional,” said Londos. “He always thought it was wrong. But he agreed to come to this match. After I won, a king’s guard carried both of us out of the arena on their shoulders.
“Dad came up to me afterward, smiled, and said, ‘Son, all is forgiven.”
The year after this interview, Richard Nixon also recognized the charitable work of Londos, in an indication of its international dimension as a fighter. And five years later, the gladiator died of a heart attack, at the age of 78 being buried with honors at the Oak Hill Memorial Park in the city of Escondido (California). Just four months ago, WWE included him in the Hall of Fame in the “Legacy” category.