Leapin’ Larry Chene

I got a nice note from Larry Chene’s widow, who said she and her son enjoyed the section on Larry in The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: Heroes & Icons. Chene was one of the wrestlers we wanted to concentrate on. He was short, a little bit squat, and looked nothing like Argentina Rocca and Edouard Carpentier, the other high flyers of the era.

Larry Chene

Larry Chene in 1961

Though his name means nothing to today’s fans, old-timers still ooh and aah when they talk about him, and he is a must on any list of great wrestlers who’ve been forgotten by history. Talk to anyone who worked with him, and you’ll understand how he used his spectacular moves in the context of the match, rather than showing off his high spots just to prove he could do them. Here’s a sample of comments that didn’t make it into the book:

Rip Hawk: He was a hell of a wrestler and the people loved the guy. He could do a lot of aerial stuff before its time. He had it in the ring and out of the ring. He could sell and sell till they were almost in the ring after you. He’s got the pain in his face, his eyes. He was a hell of a babyface.

Johnny Powers: One time I’m in the ring with him in WXYZ, Channel 11 in Detroit. I look over at him and he’s got this great big, almost teacup saucer-plate size, black-and-blue hematoma with about a raised half-inch on his lower spine, just above his tights. I said, “Holy shit!” He says, “Yeah, yeah, let’s break it today. … We gotta rid of it, so you keep slamming me til it breaks.” We did. We did. I picked him as much as I could. I slammed him until it busted. You could see it spread and go down like a deflated ball. I said, “Holy shit, this is a tough business.”

Chene could have worked in any era, in any time. He was joined at the hip with The Sheik for years; the earliest match I found between them was in 1951, so they worked more or less regularly together for 13 years, until Chene died in a car accident. Which leads to an eerie, final reminiscence:

Mad Dog Vachon: We wrestled in Dallas, Texas. Monday, we wrestled in Fort Worth, Tuesday in Dallas, Wednesday in San Antonio, and they used to travel together, Rocky Colombo and Larry Chene. You walk in the dressing room, on the way to the dressing room, they stop at a novelty shop, and got a newspaper made, “Larry Chene and Rocky Colombo killed in a car crash.” They wrote their own obituary. Colombo, he died from an overdose of a drug, speed killed him. Larry Chene died in an automobile accident. They wrote their own obituaries.

One thought on “Leapin’ Larry Chene

  1. craig derbin

    Older fans still talk about him,when Pro Wrestling is discussed here in Detroit. Also heard The Sheik paid for his funeral…

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