Wrestling in the 70’s was not as popular as it is today. Regional promoters, who aired their shows through the local television stations, controlled the business. Most of the wrestlers were not nationally known, but they were still loved by the fans in their region. One of the great wrestlers of that era was a man named Johnny Eagles.
Eagles was good showman who added acrobatics to his technical skill. He was youthful looking man with long blond hair, an eagle tattooed on his chest, and black shiny boots with the letters J.E. on them.
The first time I saw him wrestle was 1972 in Monroe Louisiana, against a long curly headed Cuban called Gypsy Joe Roserio. Johnny’s flips and high flying had Gypsy Joe in total confusion. It was not long until Johnny pinned him for the three count. After his match I ran to area floor to get an autograph.. As I was giving him my program, a teen-age girl shoved me away so he could sign her hand. The kids would literally mob him when he would enter and exist the ring.
The next year I saw Johnny Eagles at the rodeo grounds in Famerville Louisiana. This time he was fighting, Louisiana State Champion, Tiger Don Duffy in a non title match. When Johnny was being introduce some fans were yelling,
" Hey Johnny ! Take off that wig."
The Announcer even introduced him as Gina Eagles. "Oh I am sorry," he said smiling, " I mean Johnny Eagles."
Johnny just laughed at the whole ordeal. But the moment the bell rung Johnny turned a flip, push Duffy to the floor and quickly pinned to the count of three. However like many of the 70’s bouts, this match was the best two rounds out of three. Fan were yelling, "Johnny do it again! Johnny do it again!"
Johnny shook his head but Duffy was not caught off guard the second round. Duffy won the second round despite his crying from being confused with Johnny’s tricks. One of my buddies stared yelling, "Don Duffy is a cry baby!" Everyone began to laugh. Duffy lost the third round and left the Rodeo ground a little embarrassed. Being the Champion of that state and losing the way he did was probably humiliating.
Eagles went to his station wagon which was parked behind our seats. Once again kids mobbed him. My little brother went up to him and said. "Hello Johnny Eagles."
"And hello to you little boy," he said as he rubbed my brother’s head.
Four years later I was living in Houston Texas where some of the top stars would perform. I was ther the night Johnny Eagles was making his debut in Houston. I was really excited about seeing one of my old heroes.
When Johnny got into the ring, he went up against Rocky Johnson (Father of WWF star, "The Rock"). He used none of his acrobatics or his wrestling skills. All he did was take a beating like he gave Gypsy Joe years earlier. The personality of Johnny seemed to change also. When he was introduced the fans began booing. I could tell by the look on his face he did not like the role of the bad guy. It really seem to hurt him when the fans did not approve of him. But a few fans did hand him their programs and he autographed them.
Later that night I noticed he was sitting by himself at the entrance of the locker room.He no longer had his youthful appearance. Instead Johnny looked old and tired. I remember my dad telling me on the way home, "I guess Johnny is past his peak."
"Boy I couldn’t believe it," I said. "Johnny did not even wrestle or attempt to do any of his tricks."
I never heard of Johnny after his short tenure in Houston. The other day as I was playing on the internet I discovered he died in 1999 at the age of 64. To my surprise, his real name was Roy Boyd. If Johnny would had been young enough to wrestle in today’s mega media organizations, I believe he would have been a highly paid star. Today wrestling fans have missed a lot by not seeing this talented athlete perform.