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WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2015: Larry Zbyszko

When the WWE inducts Larry Zbyszko into its 2015 Hall of Fame class, the company will be paying tribute to one of the most skilled in-ring technicians of his time.

To be inducted by: Bruno Sammartino

Born Lawrence Whistler in 1951, Larry Zbyszko trained under Bruno Sammartino before debuting in 1973 and began his wrestling career in the Pittsburgh area for Studio Wrestling. Working for the World Wide Wrestling Federation for just three years, Zbyszko worked bookings in Vancouver, California and Central America before returning to the WWWF in 1976, where he formed a tag team with Tony Garea.

Working for the World Wide Wrestling Federation for just three years, Zbyszko worked bookings in Vancouver, California and Central America before returning to the WWWF in 1976, where he formed a tag team with Tony Garea. Capturing the WWWF World Tag Team Championship titles in the November of 1978, the two managed to reign as champions right up until March 1979 – when they were defeated by the Valiant brothers.

Following his Tag Team work with Garea, Zbyszko returned to singles competition where he competed against the likes of Baron Mikel Scicluna, Killer Kowalski and “Superstar” Billy Graham until the end of the seventies.

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After seven years of working with the label of “Bruno Sammartino’s protégé,” Zbyszko began to show frustration and challenged his mentor to an exhibition match. On the 22nd January 1980 both were set to face each other in what should have been a battle between student and teacher for supremacy but ended with an enraged Zbyszko attacking Sammartino with a wooden chair, leaving his former mentor in the middle of the ring, laying in a pool of his own blood.

With Zbyszko now fully cemented as a heel in the wrestling world, he often suffered from personal attacks – which escalated to the point of actually getting stabbed by an angered Sammartino fan. Throughout the eighties, Zbyszko & Sammartino would continue their feud and fight each other repeatedly. During this time Zbyszko would refer to himself as “The New Legend” in an attempt to better himself over Sammartino, who had been dubbed as “The Living Legend.” Finally Bruno Sammartino had managed to exact his vengeance by beating Larry Zbyszko in a Steel Cage match on the 9th August 1980, thus bringing their feud to a close.

Leaving the WWWF in 1981 to take place among the Independent territories and take on another member of the Sammartino family in the form of his soon David. During this same year, Zbyszko would claim to have been the reason for Bruno Sammartino’s retirement that year. Joining Georgia Championship Wrestling territory of the National Wrestling Alliance where he would engage in feuds with Tim Woods and Paul Orndorff, before gaining the NWA National Heavyweight Championship by using underhanded methods (purchasing the gold for $25,000 from the ten champion “Killer” Tim Brooks). With a title reign that lasted just one month, Zbyszko was stipped of the title which would then be offered as a tournament prize. After getting through to the final bracket, Zbyszko would beat Mr Wrestling II and regain his championship gold – keeping it this time for four months before losing it to Brett Wayne in September 1983.

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In 1984 Larry Zbyszko would then join the American Wrestling Association, where he was quickly crowned the first AWA America’s Champion and would gain another rival in the form of Sgt. Slaughter. Zbyszko would drop the title to Slaughter in June 1985 – the title was retired shortly after with the two performers as the only recorded champions. Zbyszko then fought Nick Bockwinkel, forming another long feud – spanning just over a year and ending with Zbyszko aiding Curt Hennig in beating Bockwinkel for the AWA World Heavyweight Championship. Zbyszko would then receive a Lifetime ban from the AWA for assaulting Bockwinkel during his rematch against Henning – Bockwinkel would retire shortly after the assault, leaving Zbyszko to claiming he’d retired both Bockwinkel and Bruno Sammartino.

Joining up with Jim Crockett Promotions in 1987, Zbyszko was paired with management from “The Perfect 10” Baby Doll and began battling against Barry Windham – ho he defeated for the NWA Western States Heritage Championship in January 1988. Switching out Baby Doll, Zbyszko then took on Gary Hart as his Manager and Al Perez as his new Tag Team partner. The duo would take on the team of Kendall Windham & Dustin Rhodes, unfortunately the team didn’t develop into very much. Jim Crockett Promotions had been sold to new ownership, both Zbyszko & Perez left the company and the NWA Western States Heritage Championship had been retired.

Returning to the AWA in 1989, Zbyszko entered an eighteen-man battle royal and won to capture the AWA World Heavyweight Championship. He then fought the likes of Sgt. Slaughter, Wahoo McDaniel & David Sammartino, up until he dropped the title to Mr. Saito in January 1990 – who Zbyszko then beat to regain the title that following April. Following his successful championship defences against Nikita Koloff, The Trooper and Brad Rheingans, Zbyszko left for World Championship Wrestling – officially being stripped of the title following departure.

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At the fall of 1990, Zbyszko returned to the NWA and teamed with Arn Anderson – calling themselves The Enforcers. Taking on a team of Rick Steiner & Bill Kazmeier, The Enforces captured the WCW World Tag Team Championship. The two then fought Barry Windham & Dustin Rhodes, and then Ricky Steamboat (replacing Windham who’d been attacked by The Enforcers). Zbyszko & Anderson would drop the titles to the team of Rhodes & Steamboat in November 1991 but would join up with one of the biggest stables in Professional Wrestling History just one month later. joining Paul E. Dangerously’s Dangerous Alliance, The Enforcers were teamed up with Rick Rude, “Stunning” Steve Austin, Bobby Eaton and Madusa. However, following a loss at WrestleWar 1992: WarGames against Sting’s Squadron (Sting, Barry Windham, Dustin Rhodes, Ricky Steamboat and Nikita Koloff), Zbyszko was fired from the stable for causing the loss.

For the first time in 12 years, Larry Zbyszko was a face but sadly retired from full-time competition shortly after and became a colour commentator. Now taking on his former mentor’s title of “The Living Legend,” Zbyszko worked alongside Missy Hyatt and then hosted WCW Pro alongside “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes & Gordon Solie. Keeping away from active competition until 1994, Zbyszko found himself on the receiving end of harassment from Lord Steven Regal and briefly came out of retirement in May 1994. Beating Regal for the WCW World Television Championship, Zbyszko reigned as champ until losing the title in a rematch one month later.

In 1996, Zbyszko was promoted to the WCW Monday Nitro broadcast team, where he announced during the first hour with Tony Schiavone. Again staying away for active competition (though getting harassed to face the New World Order’s Scott Hall), the closest Zbyszko would see to in-ring action was acting as guest referee from time to time.

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Once again, Larry Zbyszko had been lured back into the ring. This time up against Eric Bischoff for control over Nitro, Zbyszko fighting for the side of WCW. Bischoff lost the match and WCW managed to keep Nitro out of the hands of the nWo. Still feuding with Scott Hall (this time along with Louie Spicolli), Zbyszko fought the nWo member in a match at Souled Out 1998. Hall lost due to disqualification when Dusty Rhodes attacked Zbyszko during the match.

Leaving WCW and heading to WCW Thunder, Zbyszko – alongside Mike Tenay, became the show’s main announce team. In December 1999, Zbyszko faced Curt Hennig in a retirement match on Nitro and lost. Returning to WCW just one month later alongside Terry Funk, Arn Anderson & Paul Orndorff, Zbyszko was now a member of the Old Age Outlaws and reignited his feud with the nWo. Larry Zbyszko returned to commentary in February 1999 and remained there until late 2000.

Since leaving WCW in 2000, Zbyszko has worked on the independent circuits before joining the WWE in 2013.

Not just a phenomenal in-ring technician, Zbyszko’s name rings synonymous with the WCW broadcast booth and now the takes his deserved spot in the WWE Hall of Fame.

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Sometimes writer, wannabe animator and podcast creator that talks far too much. Coleman is a collection of atoms that formed in Gosport and relocated to London.

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