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Making an Observer HOF case for 50s and 60s star Enrique Torres

By Paul Sosnowski for F4WOnine.com

If one were to judge the career of "The Latin Flash" Enrique Torres based on the two matches of his that have survived on video, you might be a little underwhelmed. But make no mistake, this man is a Hall of Famer with a 22-year career and he has been overlooked for many years.

Torres was not born in Mexico, but for most of his career, he was known as a Mexican wrestling star. Born in Santa Ana, California, on July 25, 1922, he would make his wrestling debut twenty four years later almost to the exact day. The start of his career was advertised in the local paper as “Latest Latin Star, Enrique Torres, Mexican mat star who may become the Idol of Little Mexico, replacing Vincent Lopez”.

Torres defeated Jack Page on July 23, 1946, in two straight falls to gain his first victory. This was the start of his full-time career as he continued later that week with wins over Tommy O'Toole, Bulldog Clements, Wee Willie Davis, and Frank Albertson. A month later, he wrestled his first of many main events at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, defeating the Swedish Angel (Olaf Olson) in three falls in front of 7500 fans. He started wrestling on other weekly California shows in LA, San Bernardino, Wilmington, and North Hollywood.

In October 1936, Torres won three separate October one night tournaments, leading to a match with the winner of the other bracket (Bob Wagner) on October 30th. Torres defeated Wagner to claim the California (State) Championship in three falls before 9000 fans. Meanwhile, George Becker won the vacant Los Angeles World title in September 1946. Torres' winning ways would lead to him challenging Becker on December 11, 1946. He defeated Becker in three falls lasting over 45 minutes to capture the World title to a near sellout of 10,000. A week later, Torres successfully retained the title over Hans Schnabel in two straight falls.

Torres faced several big challenges in the spring of 1947. On March 5th, he wrestled former world title claimant, Sandor Szabo, to a one hour, three fall draw. He defended the title successfully against all the top area stars including Ivan Kameroff, George “KO” Koverly, Dutch Hefner, Danny McShain, Rebel Bob Russell, and the Swedish Angel. On April 2nd at the Olympic, he also wrestled AWA (Boston) World Champion Frank Sexton to a one hour draw. The same result took place on May 21st against George Becker. On June 25th, he defeated 57-year-old legend Ed “Strangler” Lewis in three falls.

In the summer of 1948, other promoters started to take notice of Torres' ability and more importantly, his drawing power. He faced Canadian star Yvon Robert in Montreal, Bobby Managoff in Ottawa, and then, it was time for St. Louis and promoter Sam Muchnick and his partners in Indiana and Tennessee. But, his Los Angeles title was not on the line in other areas of the country.

Torres went almost undefeated in the St Louis territory, having matches against Hans Schnabel, Sky Hi Lee, Wladyslaw Talun, Don McIntyre, Al Galento, and Babe Zaharias. Another former champion, Bill Longson, defeated Torres by DQ and again due to an injury. This would lead to Torres having the inevitable showdown against Lou Thesz.

Thesz was the champion of the old National Wrestling Association and was determined to get rid of all the other so-called champs around the country by defeating them and unifying the titles. On September 24th in front of 7,148 fans in St Louis at the Kiel Auditorium, Thesz kept his title in 33:41 due to Torres suffering a large cut on his head and being unable to continue. A rematch on October 9th saw Thesz defeat Torres in 32:28. They had actually fought once before in Dallas the year before as they went to three falls and a 90-minute draw.

This was considered the start of a rivalry that would go around the country for the next 16 years. Over a ten month period from December 1947 to September 1948, they faced each other at least 17 times with Thesz always winning or going to a draw. They wrestled in Chicago, Evansville, Memphis, Chattanooga, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati until they wound up in California for a three match series and with Torres's LA World title on the line in a double title challenge. The first match went 60 minutes in Long Beach, followed by two draws at the Olympic on August 31st and September 7th.

Torres continued to travel a lot in 1949 and 1950, while also defending his title on a regular basis around California. He faced many new opponents during this time including TV sensation Gorgeous George, Babe Zaharias, Ben Morgan, Karl Davis, Terry McGinnis and Ivan Rasputin. He wrestled the Dusek Brothers (Ernie & Emil) and the Sharpe Brothers (Ben & Mike) in tag matches. He went to Oakland, Sacramento, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Columbus, OH, and Winnipeg, Canada.

Meanwhile, a man who had recently relocated from New York to California was becoming a huge television star and top contender. His name was Baron Michele Leone.

Torres faced Leone at the Olympic on November 8th, 1950, in a sellout of 10,400. The match was a 60 minute draw with neither scoring a fall over the other. Two weeks later in another sellout, the inevitable finally occurred as Leone defeated Torres to win the World Title in three falls. The Baron kept the title with a three fall, 60 minute draw in a rematch on December 13th in front of 9000 fans. Torres never regained the title and he ended the year with a loss at the Olympic to another TV star from New York: Antonino Rocca.

Torres remained a top star everywhere he went the next few years and was a top contender for both Thesz and Leone. He drew another Olympic sellout with Leone winning in three falls on May 9th. He faced Thesz in Fort Worth/San Antonio (44:10) and El Paso (60:00). In the spring of 1952, he shifted his focus from Southern California to Northern and became a big star in the San Francisco area. He held the NWA San Francisco Pacific Coast Heavyweight Title ten times over the next nine years. He was a top contender to the NWA World tag titles held by the Sharpe Brothers with partners such as Leo Nomellini and Gino Garibaldi. Nomellini & Torres had a short run with the belts in May of 1953. He and Johnny Barend won the belts in July 1955 from Lord James Blears & Gene Kiniski.

Torres stayed in the San Francisco area most of 1956 and 57. He did a few matches for Dory Funk Sr. in the NWA Western States (Amarillo) where he faced Mike DiBiase, The Great Bolo (Al Lovelock), Art Nelson & Rip Hawk. In December 1957, he went to Florida and wrestled there for three months against the likes of Dick The Bruiser, Duke Keomuka & Mr. Moto. He went back to work in Montreal for promoter Eddie Quinn for several months in 1958 and challenged Killer Kowalski for his version of the World title. In the fall, he went to New York and debuted at Madison Square Garden, but not as a headliner. He faced Don Lee, Joe Christie, Roy Shire and Skull Murphy on different shows. He and Alberto faced the Dan & Bill Miller in Newark, NJ. He would again go to New York for Vince McMahon Sr. in 1961 and 1962 and was back in Florida for two months. In January 1959, he started working for Jim Crockett Promotions in the Carolinas, mostly in tag matches with his brothers.

From May thru July of 1959, he did two tours with the Japanese Wrestling Association, going to the semifinals of the first annual World League tournament, going to a 32 minute overtime draw with Jess Ortega. On his last night in Japan, he faced Rikidozan for the NWA International Title, going to a double countout in Osaka on July 21st. He went back to Los Angeles and did some TV tapings for the NAWA. After that, he went back to the Carolinas for the rest of the year.

In 1960, he was back in the San Francisco/Oakland area. He was still a headliner, winning the World tag titles with Reggie Parks in August. By 1961, he was in Los Angeles working for the newly formed WWA. He challenged their champion, Freddie Blassie, at least four times for the title, going to a draw and double countout and losing to Blassie in three falls and losing to Blassie in a steel cage match on February 1, 1962 in Long Beach, CA. He lost again to Blassie at the Olympic on June 6th at a TV taping.

In October, he wrestled Johnny Valentine in Toronto for their version of the United States title, losing in 45:36. In June of 1963, he and Joe Blanchard challenged the newly formed AWA (Roy Shire's) San Francisco World Tag Team Titles, losing to Art & Stan Neilson.

In January of 1964, he apparently needed a change of scenery and wrestled almost exclusively for the Vancouver, British Columbia, promotion until June of that year. He teamed with Billy Watson against the Funks (Dory Sr & Dory Jr.) and he and Roy McClarity challenged Don Leo Jonathan and Kinji Shibuya for their titles. In April, he faced Lou Thesz for the NWA Title on two nights in Tacoma, WA, and Vancouver. In Tacoma, they went two out of three falls and wrestled for over 37 minutes. A few months later, on September 22 in El Paso, TX, he challenged Thesz for the final time, ending their rivalry in 30:20 in two out of three falls.

November 1964 brought another change of scenery as he went to Hawaii and stayed there for the next 10 months. He teamed with Nick Bockwinkel against the Von Stroheims, and the team of Mighty Ursus & The Mongol. He defended the Hawaii US Heavyweight title in a 60 minute, two of three falls draw against King Curtis Iaukea on January 9, 1965. At 43, his knew that his career was starting to wind down. In September, he worked a few weeks in Portland, OR, against Tony Borne, Stan Stasiak, Jerry Christy, and Soldat Gorky. In November & December, he worked some more TV tapings in Los Angeles, teaming with Bockwinkel and Pedro Morales against the likes of Gorilla Monsoon, Lonnie Mayne, and Luke Graham.

In January 1966, he moved on again to his final territory, Georgia, and stayed there wrestling with his brothers Alberto & Ramon for the next two-and-a-half years. While in Georgia, he even got to team twice with old rival Lou Thesz in March 1968. Torres and his brother, Alberto, won the NWA Southern Tag Team titles from Hans Schmidt & El Mongol on May 31, 1968.

Torres retired suddenly a week later, still a champion at the age of 46. His last match was a six man tag with Jim Wilson and Alberto in a losing effort to Johnny Valentine, Jack Crawford & Tarzan Tyler.

After his retirement, he lived in California, Hawaii and Nevada, before finally moving to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, with his third wife. Alberto died tragically at 37 of a ruptured pancreas due to an in-ring accident while his other brother, Ramon, retired in 1982 and passed away in 2000 at the age of 69. Enrique was the oldest brother and outlived both of them, dying at the age of 85 on August 10, 2007.

Thanks to the research of Steve Yohe and the late J. Michael Kenyon, and many others from various sources all over the Internet.

These are the only two currently known matches of Enrique Torres that exist on Youtube or anywhere else:

Career Title History (Courtesy of Cagematch)

  • Los Angeles World Heavyweight 12/11/46 defeats George Becker – 11/22/50 loses to Baron Michele Leone. (1442 days)
  • NWA Central States Heavyweight 2/28/52 defeats Bob Orton Sr. - 3/6/52 loses to Sonny Myers
  • NWA Pacific Coast Tag Team. 11 Times Champion from 8/13/52 to 1956 with Gino Garibaldi, Leo Nomellini, Ron Etchison, Jess Ortega, Rocky Brown & Sandor Kovacs
  • NWA San Francisco Pacific Coast Heavyweight 10 times champion between November of 1952 and November of 1961. Originally defeats Ray Eckert. Retires the title as champion in 1961, 933 days from 53-56. 406 days in 56-57
  • NWA Pacific Coast Heavyweight (Los Angeles version). History unclear. Sometime in 1952
  • NWA World Tag Team (San Francisco version). 7 Times. With Leo Nomellini (2x), Ramon Torres, Ronnie Etchison, Jess Ortega, Bobo Brazil, and Reggie Parks
  • San Joaquin Valley Tag Team (SF). 5 times from 1/29/55 to 1957. Retired the title with Bobo Brazil. Also with Ron Etchison, Ramon Torres, Sandor Kovacs
  • NWA Texas Tag Team 2/27/58- 4/22/58 with Alberto Torres as the Torres Brothers
  • NWA Mid-Atlantic Southern Tag Team 11/23/59-12/19/59 with George Becker
  • NWA United States Heavyweight (Central States version) 12/13/63 – 12/20/63. Defeats Rock Hunter. Loses to Mongolian Stomper
  • NWA Vancouver (Canada) Tag Team 4/13/64-5/25/64 with Bearcat Wright. Defeat Kinji Shibuya & Don Leo Jonathan. Lose to the Fabulous Kangaroos (Al Costello & Roy Heffernan)
  • NWA Hawaii United States Heavyweight 12/11/64 defeats King Curtis Iaukea. 2/24/65 loses to Hard Boiled Haggerty
  • NWA Hawaii Tag Team with Alberto Torres as the Torres Brothers. 5/28/65 defeat King Curtis & Mr Fujiwara. Lose 7/28/65 to Bearcat Wright & Luther Lindsay
  • NWA World Tag Team (Georgia version). 4 Times. With Alberto Torres. June 1966 defeat the Infernos. Lose to The Infernos, also June 1966. with Alberto Torres defeat Infernos 8/19/66 – 10/21/66. Alberto Torres injured. Replaced with Ramon Torres 10/21/66 – 1/13/67. Lose to the Vachons (Butcher & Mad Dog). Defeat Vachons 2/3/67. Lose to the Andersons (Gene & Lars) 4/28/67
  • NWA Southern Tag Team (Georgia) 9 Times with his Brothers, Alberto & Ramon between 5/6/66 and June 1968. Titles retired (final champions)