People from all over the globe still miss his famous ATB House of Chinese Food and Ribs restaurant in the Atlanta area, not far from his long time home. Born Larry Shreve in Ontario, he transformed and crafted his wrestling character into a sort of a barbaric Frankenstein monster come to life. The magazine company I’ve written and short for decades(still publishing their lone title, Pro Wrestling Illustrated out of their East Coast office) helped make Abby famous in the late ’60s and early ’70s with a series of photos published on the covers and in the eir then lead titles, The Wrestler and Inside Wrestling magazines, photos of a young, “skinny Abby” actually eating raw chicken meat. This is Abdullah the Butcher.
Always controversial, Abby’s been my friend for many decades and since he first came into my home base territory of Los Angeles (Mike Lebell Hollywood/SoCal wrestling office) in late 1969/early 1970 to do some of our tvs before our first annual January 22 man “$10,000” Battle Royal. He was on the undercard of matches like Giant Shohei Baba versus Fritz Von Erich(big JWA and AJPW feud), Fred Blassie vs. “The Masked Professional” Doug Gilbert, Rocky “Soulman” Johnson, who won the royal y mucho mas(and much more).
The Initial Autograph
I got to photograph Abby a lot in Japan later on besides matches like him vs. Igor and Sheik at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens in the mid-1970s (a venue he and I still love and miss), Puerto Rico, all over the U.S. like the NWA/WCW during his time there with Mick Foley, Sting and others), his headlining Joel Goodhart’s TWA (forerunner to ECW since Tod Gordon worked initially for Joel) and tons of indies from Memphis to New York City. Some may view Abby as controversial. But at a number of TWA and indie shows, he’s gone out of his way to sit down and talk backstage to disabled kids. That time has inspired them as he too draws from their love.
Abdullah the Butcher
I have a ton of memories on the road, etc. with Abby that show him to be a complex human being, but a great friend. Off-topic is that when he and Mick Foley (then as Cactus Jack) were in NWA/WCW in late ’91 thru ’92, Ab and Mick were coming to my Union Street/Financial District dental office in San Francisco. They’d had some teeth removed (yep, controversially) by other dentists back on the East Coast. They then needed removable appliances from me to replace their missing(or in Ab’s case too, lower incisor front teeth ground down to nearly the gum/gingival crest line) to improve their smiles when away from wrestling.
One time Mick and I asked Ab to put in some poker chips of different colors into his many vertical scars on his forehead to scare my front desk staff(which worked). Another time Ab would take us out to the best restaurant in San Francisco’s famous Chinatown ethnic isle district that was just two blocks from my office. Ab (as he’s done in my presence at many fanfests since) often would ask the waitstaff “for a gimmick” while Mick and I would laugh because the waiters or waitresses would have no idea what he was requesting (a fork or knife) each time.
You had to be there because the look on their faces, with him asking that q with just the villainous/heel twinkle in his eye, was special. Another time right after Abdullah the Butcher had paid/treated us to lunch or dinner, he’d say, “Mike, you be sure and tell Meltzer to report I paid for the meal. He always has been saying that Sheik and I are cheap.”
I can report Abby has always been generous around myself and some of the boys, including Sabu, RVD, Judge Dredd, and others from Detroit. Ab, like the fellow legend who will always be linked to him in Frank “Bruiser Brody “Goodish, has always stood up for himself too. Currently, he’s been reading all the #SpeakOut, #MeToo allegations, firings, etc. going on in wrestling at present that just began last Saturday it seems and will have a lot to say about it.
From driving with his first manager, George “Crybaby” Cannon in the ’60s from Windsor, Ont to a gig for the Pacific NWest wrestling office of Rod Fenton just to be asked to “job” and then discussing why they’d have him come so far just to job (few ever spoke out back then, for any wrestler race or creed) to walking away from gigs or standing up promoters when he felt he wasn’t being paid his value for his main event matches(he usually got his way in either paid or EQUAL pay to whoever he was in the ring with); Abby’s been well known to speak out.
Abby slowed down a bit at least in Japanese, Puerto Rican, and North American indie rings in the last eight years; but has continued as a regular and prevalent presence at wrestling and mainstream fanfests and conventions like Chiller Theatre, Famous Monsters of Filmdom, etc.
Abdullah the Butcher
Through The Years
He worked as a greeter and at times as head chef at his restaurant, which was an absolute must for wrestling fans, especially his beloved, huge Japanese Oo-Koo-Guy(mark) fanbase traveling from Japan to the U.S. and Atlanta in particular. Abby loves tending his garden and the rest of his ranch at home, watching tv and totally keeping up with all the world news from Covid19 to Black Lives Matter (a real passion for him having experienced the 50’s and 60’s ugly Jim Crow disgraceful racist period in the U.S. both as a teen and then as an ever-growing main event athlete and performer) to the Dr. Martin Luthor King Jr peaceful marches for equality.
I was fortunate to have had the final and longest time slot of the virtual wrestling fan book/gimmick fanfest called CovidCon (the 2nd installment after a successful two day nonstop one in early May) last weekend. Since I had nothing to plug myself, asked Abby to come on to plug all his many gimmicks and merch. Although he has done a few pay-for-play paid shoot interview DVD’s, he’d never done a real-time, live shoot in-depth interview with someone he knew and felt comfortable with. Then took and answered q/a questions.
I had as sidekicks Lanny Poffo (who along with his famous dad Angelo and brother Randy “Macho Man” Savage worked and rode with Ab throughout real Sheik’s Detroit/Ohio territory also affiliated with original Tunney’s Toronto one plus Pedro Martinez and Johnny Powers Ohio/Buffalo NWF territory). And Mary Fries, the beautiful daughter of the late/great first 8th wonder of the world in Pampero Firpo. Mary has become an eloquent speaker for all of pro wrestling and a great historian able to discuss any aspect of the biz past to current.
She’d never met or talked to Abdullah the Butcher before, and it was pretty historic that she also broke open the wood “coffin” box that held Firp’s legit shrunken head he used as his “guidance” and sometimes “manager” in Chimu for our live, Zoom-like hour+ interview with Abby. The latter had many bloody main events fighting over Sheik’s U.S. Title with the Great Pampero Firpo (formerly Ivan the Terrible in the ’50s). Firp and Ab were and remained, total legends in our biz.
Ab sang during my interview of him for the fans(another first) some spiritual hymns including “Amen,” and talked up his recurring Abdullah The Butcher’s Home Shopping Network online specials offering his unique (and of course controversial) tee-shirts, forks, of course, action figures from Japan and tons more. He has one of the better gimmicks/merch lines in wrestling. Especially fit for a legend. And Ab and I announced I’ll be helping him co-write his long-awaited autobiography. I’ve trademarked the possible titles of FORK!,
Dear Abby (I might have trouble legally with that as a standalone title) or this excellent suggestion from historian Evan Ginzberg “Fork You! The Abdullah The Butcher Story.” I should point out for my very last newsletter/dirt sheet series in the early ’90s called Wrestling Wreality that Abby had a regular monthly column called just that: “Dear Abby” where he answered wrestlers love life questions-from real boys and girls in the biz, and with a lot of humor. Rolling Stone magazine decades later began doing the same with both music icons Ozzy Ozbourne and David Crosby.
Abdullah the Butcher
Where To Read More?
Abdullah the Butcher has some bombshells he’s never told anyone. One’s that he’ll reveal about his childhood and more in our book together on his life. Fans have been asking for that for many years both here and in Japan and Puerto Rico. We touched during the interview about all the wild work/ring names he used before creating and crafting his own ATButcher character. But he wants to discuss how and what he’s doing with his life. I’m sure I’ll update everyone in my column here. As I unearth these out of wrestling’s first true Butcher. All apologies to Paul Vachon, another good friend of Abbys.
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