Larry Hamilton: The Missouri Mauler
An Article by Mike Mooneyham
(Published Aug. 11, 1996)
Most longtime fans remember Larry “Rocky” Hamilton as one of the toughest competitors to ever step inside a wrestling ring. His swarming, aggressive style will never be forgotten by those who locked horns with him inside the squared circle.
Hamilton, who for most of his 31-year mat career was better known as The Missouri Mauler, died on July 19, 1996. in his hometown of St. Joseph, Mo. A heart attack claimed the life of the 65-year-old wrestler who one former ring rival called “tough as nails” and credits with saving his life nearly 30 years ago.
“When you wrestled Larry, I guarantee that you had a night of it,” said Rip Hawk, who retired from the ring in 1982 after a 35-year career. “He was just like a windmill. He wouldn’t slow down for anything.”Hamilton was the older brother of WCW official Jody Hamilton (who as one half of The Assassins formed one of the most successful teams in pro wrestling history during the ’60s and ’70s) and the uncle of WCW referee Nick Patrick. He was a major star throughout the world, but the Carolinas and Virginia was one of his favorite territories. He held the Southern heavyweight title and Eastern States title on several occasions, as well as the Southern and Mid-Atlantic tag-team championship with such partners as The Great Bolo (Tom Renesto), Brute Bernard, Hiro Matsuda and The Great Malenko.
“Larry had been wrestling since 1950, but he actually got me started full-time in 1957 in New York,” recalled Jody Hamilton. “In 1958 he and I – as The Hamilton Brothers – drew the biggest crowd ever at the old Madison Square Garden against Argentina Rocca and Miguel Perez. We both left New York in October 1958. He went to the Carolinas to work for Jim Crockett Sr., while I went to San Francisco. It was the onset of television for Crockett Promotions, and Larry became a major star in that territory.”
Larry Hamilton was an instant success and teamed with The Great Bolo (Renesto) to win the regional tag-team title. Jody Hamilton was brought into the Carolinas in the early ’60s to team with Renesto as The Bolos. Later changing their name to The Assassins, the two would team for 15 years and would become the most successful masked duo in the business.
“Larry and The Great Bolo were the top villains for Crockett Promotions,” recalled Hamilton. “They did tremendous business. In 1961 Tom and I teamed up. We were The Assassins everywhere except in the Carolinas, where we were Bolo and Great Bolo. There were some great six-man matches with The Bolos and The Missouri Mauler against Haystacks Calhoun and The Kentuckians. We still hold the attendance record for the Charlotte Coliseum and the Dorton Arena in Raleigh. Tom and I set the attendance record at the Coliseum against The Kentuckians, and we also set the attendance record in Greenville, S.C., with the six-man.”
Larry Hamilton, who was also a top attraction in Japan, Australia and Canada, spent most of his career as the infamous Missouri Mauler, but there was another side to the rugged grappler that was unknown to most fans.
“Larry was a very religious man,” said brother Jody. “He was a member of the St. James Catholic Church in our hometown, and he was very dedicated. He attended Mass each Sunday and recited his rosary every night. Many people don’t know about the gentle side of Larry. All they remember is the ring image. He was the dream-come-true for every stray dog and cat in the neighborhood.”
Larry, who got into the bail bonding business in 1981 after retiring from wrestling, lived with his elderly mother, who suffered a massive brain hemorrhage several months ago and has been in a coma ever since. Hamilton had undergone a hip replacement several years ago and was due to go in for another replacement in December. But his health generally had been good, said brother Jody.