By Mike Mooneyham
June 16, 2001
Hugh “Tex” McKenzie, the likable tall Texan who formed a top tag team with Nelson Royal in the Carolinas during the late ’60s, passed away on May 31 at the age of 72 in Victoria, British Columbia. McKenzie was stricken with an abdominal aortic aneurysm while on his boat in the waters off Vancouver Island. At a legitimate 6-9 McKenzie was one of the tallest wrestlers of the era and usually towered over his opponents. With McKenzie well over a foot taller than teammate Royal, the two looked like Mutt and Jeff in the ring, but few teams were as popular as the Texans. The pair enjoyed great success in a territory dominated by tag teams and worked a number of memorable programs with such tandems as Gene and Lars Anderson, The Masked Infernos (Jimmy “Rocky” Smith and Frankie Cain), Aldo Bogni and Bronco Lubich, and Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]The charismatic McKenzie, with his ever-present smile, was a crowd favorite. He wasn’t, however, known for his skill or grace inside the ring.
“Heavens no, you had to go around him,” says Sandy Scott, who with brother George formed one of the top teams in the business during the ’60s. Scott laughs when recalling a six-man match in which Tex teamed with the Canadian brother duo, and inflicted more punishment on them than did their opponents that night.
“During instructions Tex asked the referee, ‘Well how about if I throw the guy over that rope?’ As he pointed, he stuck his finger right in my eye. He tagged George, and George came through the ropes, and Tex went the wrong way and knocked George down to the ring apron. George came back into the ring and asked Tex, ‘Why the hell don’t you go join those guys over there? You’re beating the hell out of us. You got him (Sandy) in the eye and me in the head.'”
Scott, though, says Tex was a big man with a big heart and fun to be around.
“When he first came into the Carolinas, he looked at his booking sheet, and it had Charleston, S.C. He ended up in Charleston, W.Va.,” says Scott. “Tex called Mr. Crockett (Jim Crockett Sr.) at home. Mr. Crockett asked him where he was. Tex said he was in Charleston. ‘Nobody there?’ Mr. Crockett asked. Tex told him the building was shut down. `What are you talking about? Isn’t Henry Marcus there?’ Mr. Crockett asked. Come to find out, Tex was in Charleston, West Virginia. But he did those crazy things. He was a big, friendly, jolly type of guy – just a pleasure to be around.”
“We had quite a run together,” Royal said from his western supply store in Mooresville, N.C. “We were in Texas, Oklahoma, here and everywhere in between. He was one tall, big sucker. He’d hook guys being up so high, and I’d have do it a different way,” chuckles Royal, whose hard-nosed mat style earned him the nickname “Crowbar,” a contrast in style to the lumbering McKenzie. Royal would do most of the work inside the ring while McKenzie, billed from “The Alamo,” would finish opponents off with his high-stepping knee lifts and a bulldog headlock. Sometimes he’d even take off one of his huge cowboy boots and use it as an equalizer.[ad#MikeMooneyham-468×15]
“He’d drive Nelson crazy,” Scott jokes. “Nelson would go halfway down to the ring, and Tex would just be coming out. Nelson would turn around and Tex would wave, ‘Hey, Nellie.’ Nelson would say, ‘Can’t you walk to the ring with me?’ They were really a pair.”
McKenzie began his career in the early ’50s in Texas under the name Goliath. He retired in the late ’70s after main-eventing in most of the top territories in the country, including the Carolinas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Amarillo, Omaha and Buffalo, as well as overseas in Australia, Canada and Japan. McKenzie held a variety of regional belts and was inducted into the Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame and Northwest Wrestling Hall of Fame in later years. After retiring McKenzie designed and built a number of private homes in northwestern Washington where he and his wife, Betty, resided.