George de la Isla may not be a name that many wrestling fans are familiar with, but if you attended an indy show in Texas, chances are that you’ve seen his work and you didn’t even know it. In 2017, George will celebrate 50 years in the wrestling business, whether it be a wrestler, booker, promoter or mentor. These days you can catch George in Pflugerville, Texas at his wrestling school, America’s Academy of Professional Wrestling, helping to create the stars of tomorrow, today. Before we talk about that, let’s take a look at how it all began.
The Early Days
George got his first taste of wrestling when he was 11 years old and his father would take him to local events. “It was extremely scary for me. I saw two huge humans in the ring without shirts and slamming and beating themselves to death, I thought that was horrible!” Furthering his feeling of being terrified was when he met one of the wrestlers before one of the shows. “My dad used to go early to the shows to see the wrestlers show up. I remember this one time, a man with a black mask with a white eagle on it reached down and shook my hand and I was terrified, I thought to myself that I would never go to another match again.” A trip to Houston, Texas and an encounter with Paul Boesch and Morris Sigel would change his mind about wrestling. “Paul is the one that actually got me started in the business, he was my mentor. He would always see me when I would go to the box office to buy my tickets for the shows and one day he invited me to his office to talk wrestling.” Befriending Paul would give George an attachment to wrestling for life.
“Back then just about everybody was getting drafted, so I thought I was going to get drafted too. Paul asked me what I was going to do if I didn’t get drafted and I said ‘I dunno, go to college I guess.’ I knew college wasn’t for me, but I went anyways, with the thought of becoming a wrestler always in the back of my mind.” Paul Boesch would then ask him the question he was waiting to hear. “Paul asked me, ‘do you want to become a wrestler?’ I couldn’t say yes fast enough. He told me to find a trainer and get trained and then he would help me get booked once I was trained.
The Wrestler Is Born
After completing his training George learned that there were many unwritten rules and rituals in the wrestling business. He trained for seven months before he even stepped foot in a ring and his training was only once a week, which isn’t much compared to the training regimen of today. George paid with chicken and eggs rather than actual money because back then, that was payment enough. “When I trained for the first seven months without stepping into a ring, I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere, but it was part of the rituals, ring time wasn’t just given to you.”
George trained with Barry young, Paul Estrada and Tiger Conway to name a few, although he admits he learned every single time he stepped into the ring. “I remember one time in San Benito, Texas, Joe Blanchard had his way with me! Back then, when you were a newcomer and wanted into the business, they beat you until you say you wanted out! Even though I got my tail beat, I just took it because I knew if I didn’t, I wouldn’t get in and I wanted in badly.”
“Paul gave me a big list of promoters and told me ‘the best thing you can do is get away from Texas and get yourself saturated in other parts of the United States.’ So off I went.” George got to work with some of the best in business at that time including Nick Gulas, Roy Welch, Tojo Yamamoto, Ron Bass, Bill Drummel and The Dalton Brothers. It was when he began to travel as a wrestler that he met some of his best friends that he still talks to today including Ali Vaziri, or you all might know him as the Iron Sheik.
“I met Ali around the early 70’s and he had just won a bronze medal in the Olympics. I started rooming with him while we were on the road and going to our shows. I also worked a lot with Jerry Lawler. He was a character, a phenomenon. What a lot of people don’t know about Jerry, is that when I had met him, he was 21 years old and he was already a millionaire. He was a big main eventer, a big draw every single time. I got to go to Georgia with him quite a bit, as well as Florida.”
“Wrestling has taken me many places. I was fortunate enough to wrestle the Brisco Brothers (Jack & Jerry), the Funks (Dory and Terry) and every time I wrestled somebody, it was a different experience. I was touring a lot of the east coast at this time, but I always wanted to go to the west coast. I wanted to live there. I loved it because the trips were very short, everywhere else seemed to be many hours away from show to show, but the west always seemed like a short drive away between shows.”
“Jerry Jarrett and Mrs. Jarrett (the parents of Jeff Jarrett) always treated me with respect and they took good care of me. The McGuire twins (Georgia boys) were my neighbors at one time. I’ve never had comradery like I have in wrestling. I was very fortunate to survive 14 years as a wrestler.”
Moving Out West
George finally got his chance to go out west and met more people that he considers lifelong friends. “I was with Roy Welch in San Francisco and Las Vegas. I met in southern California Chavo Guerrero and Gory. I used to always listen to Gory because I knew I would always learn a lot from him. Mando was a great help, Hector was a fantastic guy and a good guy to learn from. Chavo was is a really close friend.”
“Some of the other guys I met in California were John Tolos, ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper and Moondog Mayne. Moondog would always have to call his mom on Wednesdays and Sundays (laughs). Here he is, the meanest guy in the world would have to call his mom to check in (laughs). Every time I saw him he would always say, ‘I gotta call my mom!’
“I was supposed to wrestle Moondog one week on a Wednesday night, we built up this feud and it was going to be the main event on this show. But just a day before, he was killed in an automobile accident. I was shocked, I had just seen him on Monday and then he was gone. It really hurt me to know that your friends could be here one minute and then gone the next, just like I could.”
George never takes anything for granted and he knows one day he will have to step away from wrestling forever, but not anytime soon. He still has plenty left to give the wrestling world and is still going strong! While he was in California, he saw a lot of good wrestlers not getting a fair shake and decided to do something to help them out.
The Promoter Is Born
“All these guys would audition for Mike LeBell and they were pretty good but they didn’t make it. I didn’t see why they didn’t make the cut and that bothered me a little. I didn’t think they were getting a fair shake, so I decided to do something about it. I decided to start my own promotion and create my own characters. This was around 1980 or so. I was in Orange, California at this time and the promotion name was Pacific Coast Crown Wrestling. Karl Lauer helped me get a ring and he let me used his license at that time so that I could get started. I had many good wrestlers come out and work out and teach at my gym and I ran this until about 1990.”
George decided to move back to Texas, but he wanted a fresh start in a new city, rather than going back to Houston, so he chose the city of Austin, Texas to continue his journey in the wrestling business. “I went back to the basics, went smaller and kept it simple. One thing I always teach my students is that you have to learn when to turn it off. The big leagues will tell you to knock it off or they will let you go right then and there. They don’t put up with that. When I was going to NWA, they would always ask me ‘how do you get along with the boys?’ If you started any trouble you were fined or you were out of there, or even if you tried to tell somebody about the business, you were gone, but now it’s not like that anymore. At my academy we have the respect, we make you and we break you.”
Due to various reasons, George’s school/promotion changed names and locations throughout the 90’s, but no matter what the name was or where he was located, he still produced some of the best wrestlers and best matches in the area. Some of the wrestlers that he produced out of his school in the 90’s were Tarzan Taylor, a Kamla inspired character Dada Zulu, the Bubbalicuous Man, Bobo Blonson, Manny de la Pena and Psycho Simpson to name a few. “These characters came out of comic books that were developed in Austin. Guys from all over Texas wanted in our shows.”
“Tom Prichard did a clinic for me and people from all over Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana came out. Chavo Guerrero, Pete Christi, and Cowboy Don Adams would come out to help me out too, I was very lucky and very thankful for them all.”
Now, after two years of being in Pflugerville, Texas with his America’s Academy of Professional Wrestling, George’s presence in the wrestling business is just as strong as it has ever been. He credits Marty Green for helping keep his school going. “I’ve known Marty since the late 90’s. He’s a great man and a great referee. I gave him the run of the mill to help me produce the AAPW show and that’s what he loves to do. I give him credit, he is good and he deserves it. Tell him to stop asking me to bring in Chavo Guerrero though (laughs).”
Some of today’s wrestlers that George trained or had a hand in training that people might be familiar with include Mr. B, Houston Carson, Barbi Hayden, Ricky Starks, Victoria, ACH, Steve DeMarco, Heather Divine, Christi Jaynes, Laynie Luck and Allie Kat. Of course, there are many, many more, but these are just some of them.
“I always wanted to retire, but then I would come up with something else or something new to do. I never gave it up because I always enjoyed teaching the new students. As long as they wanted to learn and wanted me to teach them, I want to do this. The people that I have named, I love them all and they are great. I love all my students, but there is some that stick with me. What they do with their lives after going through my training, whether it be in wrestling or not, as long as they go on to do great things, that is just as rewarding.”
“I never thought I would be almost saying goodbye to this business. There are people like Ricky Starks, Christi Jaynes, Barbi Hayden, I don’t want to let them down. I want to hold some kind of special place in their heart. I want them to remember that I always laughed with you, but when it came down to it, we always took care of business. I don’t want anyone to worry about me, I will always have another class, I will always have another Ricky Starks to teach, another Barbi Hayden to teach. I will be ok.”
In the early days, George mentioned that there were several times that he wanted to quit the business or questioned why he was doing what he was doing. Looking back now, 50 years later in the business, I know that there are plenty of wrestlers and fans that are happy that he continued on with his journey. He has helped so many people in so many places and he is making a change in this world. Something we could definitely use more of.