One of the true living legends of the pro-wrestling world died this week. Jim Wehba, better known to wrestling fans as General Skandor Akbar, passed away at the age of 75.
He was one of the best villains in the business I have ever seen. He started his career in 1963 under his real name, but most people around these parts remember him as the manager for wrestling bad men like Abdullah The Butcher, Cactus Jack and Kabuki.
He spent the majority of his managing days at World Class Championship Wrestling, owned by the Von Eric family, and Mid-South Wrestling. He would heckle the fans during the matches, and would be a massive distraction to the opponents of the person he was cornering that night. He was also known for throwing fireballs into the faces of the opposition.
Back in the early to mid-80s when World Class was at its peek, I remember each year when the show would come to Athens on a Saturday night at the Women’s Gym at Trinity Valley Community College. You couldn’t find a place to park, and the lines were all the way back to the front parking lot of the college. It was, by far, the hottest ticket in town during those days.
Every Saturday night, I was glued to my television at 10 p.m. on Channel 11 for wrestling. Back then, I had a feeling it was fake, but sometimes when it would look like Akbar and his army of wrestlers would beat up on the Von Erics, and bloody them all up, I wasn’t really sure if it was fake or not.
I can remember getting so mad at the TV, and throwing a fit every time Akbar would get involved in a match, and mess everything up, and cost the good guy the title. Then I would have my parents say to me “Robby don’t you know that’s fake?” How dare they think it was not real. I know it was, or at least thought at the time it was.
As I got older, and started to realize it was all a show, I still loved it. One year, I decided to help the Kiwanis with the show at TVCC. They were the group in Athens that always brought the show to town. It was a huge fundraiser for them.
I was in hog heaven. I was the guy who got to stand out back of the Women’s Gym, and show the wrestlers where to park. One-by-one, they started arriving. I was prepared to be hostile with Akbar and all his guys, but when he showed up, and was so nice to me, I couldn’t believe it.
He got out of his car and asked me how I was doing, and wanted to know about the college, and how long I had lived there. I mean, he was a normal guy. He wasn’t the guy I would get so mad at.
Then Kerry Von Eric showed up. Oh man, I was pumped. The Von Erics were the good guys. They were the ones everyone loved. Girls would scream at them, cry for them, and do just about anything to get near them.
After his match (He was always the main event and last match of the night.), he asked me if I would pull his car around by the door, so he wouldn’t have to fight the crowd that was waiting for him by his car. Boy, I felt like a celebrity. I mean, after all, I was driving Kerry Von Eric.
I walked back in the dressing room and he let me sit and talk with him for a while.
One of his finishing moves was the sleeper hold. It’s a move where you almost choke somebody to sleep. I told him I didn’t think he could really put somebody to sleep in about five seconds like he did that night.
He said, “Let me show you something about that.” I stood up and he put the move on me. Back then, I was in my early 20s, and I enjoyed a pinch between my cheek and gum every now and then. He put those humongous biceps around my neck, and applied a little pressure to show me what it was like, and I swallowed my dip and got very lightheaded.
He told me he didn’t really put the guy to sleep in the ring that night, but he could have, and after that, I believed him.
The Von Erics were true heroes in North Texas, and even around the country in those days, but they couldn’t have been as successful without Akbar and the bad guys.
I still watch wrestling today, but it’s not even close to what it was back in those days. It is true entertainment, but Akbar had a way of bringing out every bit of hate in you that there was. That was the sign he was doing his job well.
In total, Akbar managed nearly 50 superstars during his career, and they include some very recognizable names. Butcher, Cactus Jack, WWE star Goldust, Steve Austin, Ted DiBiase, and The Punisher (who would later go on to fame as WWE's Undertaker) were among the laundry list of superstars that Akbar managed during his tenure as manager.
I can honestly say, there will never be another General Skandor Akbar.
Robby Robertson is a Staff Writer for the Athens Daily Review.