A REMARKABLE THING happened in pro wrestling last week, a couple of days before the much-hyped Wrestlemania stunt—WWE chief Vince McMahon, having lost a bet that involved his wrestler, Umaga, beating Donald Trump's wrestler, Bobby Lashley, had his head shaved by Trump—which was not, by today's standards, especially remarkable. No, the shocking news was that the Hebrew Hercules had died. Abe Coleman, after 2,000 matches and 101 years, had built up a certain momentum. Just last year, at his 100th birthday party, his nephew had jokingly asked him to wrestle, and Coleman, whose life had taken him from Zychlin, Poland, to an assisted living center in Queens, N.Y., snarled, "Get my tights and jock strap!" He did not appear to be going anywhere he did not want to go in the near future.
Coleman (left) was built like a steamer trunk—5'3" and 220 pounds—but it was an airborne move that elevated him above the average ethnic grappler. In a more nationality-conscious age, Coleman's flying dropkicks settled scores from the Old World and the new as he left his Cat's Paw on assorted Greeks, Italians and Germans. He said he learned the move from kangaroos. (He also said he met his wife when he was tossed out of the ring into her lap. Wrestlers say stuff.)
Not that he always won. Coleman, in the cigar-scented marionette theater overseen by McMahon's grandfather, Roderick, and father, Vince the Elder, was something between a champ and a chump. But that only made him more exciting; you never knew if he'd win. (In contrast, did anyone think Trump's guy would lose and The Donald would get scalped?) Once Coleman lifted 465-pound Man Mountain Dean over his head, causing the ring to give way and sending both men crashing to the floor. The Hebrew Hercules took on all comers, even George Zaharias, the husband of Babe Didrikson, and George Temple, the brother of Shirley Temple.
Coleman, at 80, claimed to have beaten up two hoods who tried to mug him. By then he was long retired and hanging around OTB shops. Didn't he know horse racing is fixed?