General Scandor Akbar Passes, the Loss of Another Dear Friend and Mentor.

We all realize that death is inevitable but when we lose a close friend in our life and a trusted mentor in our chosen profession it still doesn't make that fact any easier. Today has become another one of those melancholy days for me after hearing of the sudden death of General Scandor Akbar Friday morning.

'General' Scandor Akbar passed away Thursday night or early Friday morning in his home in Garland, Texas in the same house that he had lived in for over 40 years. He had battled prostate cancer for quite some time. He was 75 years of age.

Ak was born Jimmy Wehba in Vernon, Texas almost 76 years ago and was a powerhouse athlete as a young man for the Vernon Lions football team as a 5'9" 200+ pound fullback in his hometown where his parents owned and operated a small grocery store. 

The man of Lebanese decent broke into the wrestling biz in the early 60's which was his lifelong dream. Ak was always a wrestling fan and was also one of the legit, strongest men in the wrestling business. His free weight workouts were legendary when he would matter of factly bench press over 400 pounds for several reps and did so without a spotter. Ak would sit on the bench, pick the weight up off the floor. manhandle it to his chest, lean back on the bench and begin his eye popping workouts.

When I broke into the McGuirk/Watts territory in 1974, Scandor Akbar and Danny Hodge were tag team partners in the ring and outside the ring were the best of friends. 

Ak and Danny became my regular 'road partners' and we traveled thousands of miles together when I was in my early 20's which were extremely important, formative years in my career. They taught me respect for the business and those involved within it and not to mention valuable lessons on the intricacies of pro wrestling.

I learned from listening, and occasionally contributing, to conversations during long car trips about what worked in the biz and what did not work.

Ak could squeeze blood out of a quarter and always told me that no one made too little money on the road to not save some of it. Ak knew the value of a dollar and always saved his money no matter if he had a great week thanks to working main events in front of many people or if he was lower on the card working in front of only a few hundred people.

From early on in my career, I had many career aspirations and knew full well that no one's wrestling career would last forever and to always, always prepare for the future. These life lessons were learned at the feet of many men including Bill Watts, Lee Roy McGuirk, and Dan Hodge but no one was more prominent to me personally than Scandor Akbar. 

Ak was a HUGE Texas Longhorn football fan and with me being a major fan of the 'Horns arch rivals, the Oklahoma Sooners, we spent hours upon hours talking college football. These were the days before cell phones, satellite radio, IPods, etc. These were the days of long car trips where individuals actually conversed and exchanged thoughts, philosophies, and ideas. Hell, much of the time we had to converse to simply stay awake.

Our weekly Tuesday ritual was traveling from our base of Tulsa, Oklahoma to Little Rock, Arkansas and back to Tulsa which was a 500 mile round trip. We always timed our drive down Interstate 40 to hit the Ramada Inn buffet in Conway, Arkansas before it closed at 3 p.m.  We would rarely spend the extra money to eat on the drive from Little Rock's Barton Coliseum back to Tulsa. We had that one, big meal for one, low price and called it a day. 

When we would travel in Louisiana and Mississippi often times Hodge and Akbar would share a motel room with two beds. That left me to sleep on the floor. They paid $4 each for the $8 room and I stayed for free. Of course, it was my job to hunt down the hotel housekeepers for extra towels, soap, etc, to change the TV channels when called upon (these were the days before remote controls in hotel rooms) and to run any other errands that were required of me for the right to sleep 'free' albeit on the floor and while using the bed spread for my blankets. 

These travel arrangements may sound challenging but I wouldn't trade the experiences for any thing in the world. I learned the wrestling business from the inside out and back again from men who traveled the road and endured tremendous challenges but never wavered on their love and dedication to their craft.   

I recently saw Ak in Charlotte at the Fanfest and we had a wonderful visit. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to see him one last time. That get together had to have been a gift from the Man upstairs. Scandor wasn't getting around to well but he never complained to me once. Jim Wehba was truly a man's man and was one of the legit toughest guys I ever met in the wrestling business. Ak knew he had been dealt a challenging hand with prostate cancer but he never complained to me about it.

However,  Ak did bring up the fact that Texas has beaten OU 4 of the past 5 years in football. The "squatty, fullback of the Vernon Lions" also made the point that a specific Saturday in October was the only Saturday that God would allow fellow, lifelong Longhorn fan Dick Murdoch to watch TV perhaps referring to Dickie's notorious, mischievous demeanor. 

I delivered a letter to Ak that Steve Austin hand wrote and got to me before I left Oklahoma for Charlotte and Fanfest. I have no idea what the letter said but after taking his reading glasses out of his pocket, glasses that I kidded Ak must have come out of the George Burns, largest frames in the world collection, the strongman read the letter twice. After the first time he read it, I noticed Ak wiping a tear from his eye. I acted as if I didn't see it. 

Ak read the letter a second time and simply said to me, "Thanks, Jimmy for bringing this to me and tell Steve how much I appreciate it. Steve was like you, one of my boys who I was proud to have been able to help. You guys have made me proud by what you've done in the business." 

Akbar and Bronco Lubich both mentored young Steve Austin in Steve's earliest days in the business in World Class Wrestling in Dallas. Ak was known to be a patient, honest mentor/teacher and, more importantly, a friend to so many wrestlers and countless others.

Bill Watts told me Friday that he refereed Ak's tryout match that Promoter McGuirk had  arranged for Scandor which was in Wichita Falls in the early 60's. Ak wrestled under his real name, Jim Wehba, against masked The Great Bolo, Al Lovelock. Bolo sucker punched Ak and broke Scandor's nose and the blood flowed. Watts said it was the worst broken nose that he had ever seen and there was so much blood on the mat that referee Watts had trouble keeping his balance. Ak could have physically destroyed Bolo/Lovelock but out of respect for the old time, masked man and the business in general Ak endured, proved his toughness and his overwhelming desire to get in the biz and was soon thereafter hired.

General Scandor Akbar will forever hold a special place in my heart. He knows how special he was to me in my life and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to tell him so and not by email or by text or some other social networking technique but in person and face to face while we were in Charlotte at Fanfest.

Rest in Peace old friend and take your seat next to Murdoch when OU plays your Texas Longhorns on October 2 in the Cotton Bowl. I will be there, God willing, and will be thinking of you. 

Boomer Sooner!

J.R.  

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I had the pleasure of sitting at Mr. Akbar's table during the Hall of Heroes ceremony (you asked if I was his date for the evening) and it's one of my better memories from the weekend.  I'm a big fan of managers, and his time leading Devastation Inc. stands out vividly in my mind.  I'm glad I had the opportunity to meet him and spend a little time with him.  May he rest in peace.

Ak was a great performer and will be missed.  RIP.  JR are you going to cross the border to Texas and attend AK's funeral? I imagine a lot of guys are going to be there as he seems to have been extremely well liked.

I have not heard the details of Ak's services but I will definitely try and attend.

Also Percy Pringle pointed out that Akbar managed and had a great influence on another young man when he broke into the business besides Austin.  A guy he managed in Texas called the Punisher, aka Mark Calaway, now better known as the Undertaker.   JR, might we assume that AK's recommendation of Calaway played a part in your recommending that WCW hire him?

Ak managed and influenced dozens of guys. Some of the best ever. His influence with many of this and past generations top stars is often over looked.

  I was trained by Mr. Akbar and he got me my first match at the Sportatorium.  I had lunch with him in Oct of 08. Gave him a hug  and also got to thank him for all he did to open the doors to my dreams.  He always remained a gym rat.  When he saw me i had gotten in good shape and he told me several times how great i looked, he still had some of his brawn even then.  He was a mentor to so many in the wrestling business.  Bruiser Brody,  JBL,  Alex Porteau,  Mark Callous and on and on. Dennis Brent has posted many stories on facebook today and continues to do so.

  I too did some errands for him a few times also like when he asked me to go get him a candy bar at the Sportatorium.  I walked to the liquor store in a rough part of Dallas and saw quite a scene for a small town Iowa boy.  The beer truck got a case stolen in broad daylight while the driver was away from his truck for 2 seconds!  I would have done anything for the man.  Sitting in the office of that great arena before a show with Ak and Grizzly Smith while they spoke for hours of the old days and never once asked me to leave until it was time to "do some business" is a treasured memory of those two giants in the industry.

  I heard Red Bastien in the locker room laugh and say Akbar was the only one who saved his money.  Hector Guerrerro said the same on a car ride,  Hector said Ak always lived within his means.  He also always had a place in his heart for great workers.  Rest in peace Mr. Akbar.

Great story....like me,  Ak made a lasting impression on you too as it sounds. We are both better men because we knew him. 

A tremendous read JR and thank you for sharing.  This article just took me right back to the glory days in the territory for sure.  Having grown up in Oklahoma City I loved the business as a kid due to the amazing talents of many of the Mid-South and WCCW stars.  When I broke into the business in the early 90's a long time dream of mine eventually came true when I had the honor of being managed by "The General" on a few occasions.  One of the nicest men I ever met in the business and genuinely friendly - the polar opposite of his character for certain.

I still have a bottle of Safari cologne Ak gave me in Stillwater. That same night I had the pleasure of sharing ring time with my trainer Tom Jones, seconded by the legendary Danny Hodge who was to keep Ak in line.  What a prized memory!  The General certainly knew and loved his football too. 

With recent passings of Grizzly Smith, Nightmare Ted Allen and The General Skanor Akbar it's been a rough time for those who grew up in that area.  Here's to enjoying the days we have and appreciating all of the great memories and workers.  I hope Ak is now chasing the Von Erichs around with a riding crop in his hand and causing chaos!

He will be missed. I remeber when I was in Teaxas looking for any match I could get and he helped me get a chance. he later help me get booked in Tulsa as well. He gave me the best advice when it came to money and the biz.. I have some stories but will not take up JR's space for them. The biz lost a piece of history

Thanks Jim for the wonderful message.  I'm sure it was hard for you to write.

When I woke up Friday morning, I'd received a couple of messages from some friends in Dallas about AK.  There are so many stories about AK and his love for the business.  He was always about the business.  I think to this day he holds the record for the most phone calls to a Tulsa sports call-in radio show.

I feel bad having not attended the Shootout in Dallas this year.  Maybe the personal invitation from a couple of ladies with ties to the WCCW office should have told me that I should attend.  I told myself that week that I would make every effort to attend next year to see my old friend Akbar.  My heart is heavy for missing this opportunity to go and see AK one last time.

An ambassidor for professional wrestling and a friend to all that worked with him.

One last time for the General..........ring the bell!

Jim excellent article.  It has made this big man cry though.  In the last few months I have lost my grandfather, Grizzly, and now a dear friend of his and of mine Akbar.  Both men were great men and complimented each other well.  It is truely a sad day as we loose yet another respected member of the family.   Rest in Peace Ak we will take it from here.

Dear Mr. Ross  THANK YOU FOR THAT GREAT BLOG. AS PART OF THE EXTENDED FAMILY IT WAS VERY TOUCHING OF YOU TO WRITE IT. AS FAR AS THE SERVICES GO, HIS FUNERAL IS TUESDAY 8/24/10 AT 10:00 A.M. @ OUR LADY QUEEN OF PEACE CHURCH IN WICHITA FALLS.  THANKS AGAIN FOR THE LETTER. WILL MISS YOU UNCLE JIMMY!!

Skandor's sister, Dianne Wheba Cluley is my mother-in-law.  She lives across the street from me in a home, (note I say "home" not "house"), where I got to spend time with Skandor.  He made holidays interesting and fun.  I am going to miss seeing "Uncle Jimmy" at the end of the table eating Lebanese food and talking about old times, wresting, family, friends, and his much loved dog Bridgett.  He told me once the only time he got intimidated in the ring was when he got in with Andre The Giant.  Even though they were long time friends, there was a slight discomfort that he felt when the wrestling began.  He told me many stories about his travel, and how much food his friends could eat along the way.  We also talked more serious at times and he wasn't ashamed at all tell his regrets or share his emotions.  And I remember him saying once to Dianne that he wasn't deserving of Heaven.  She laughed at him and said so matter of factly, "Well, Jimmy who is?  That's why we have Jesus."  And he just said, "I know, Honey..."  and kept on eating Lebanese food that she was forcing on him.  I can't imagine how he is in awe now to be in the presence of God.  I know he is there because he had the biggest heart of any man I ever knew!  And he may have hid his gentleness behind a turbon for the world, but to those who loved him, that gentleness and big heart defined him.  He will be soooo missed.  We love you Uncle Jimmy!  Kiss the family there...and Bridgett too!  :o)

Rhonda

Working with The General was one of the highest points in this wrestling television producer's career. Those days of WCCW in the Sportatorium were incredible.   Your wonderful background stories and the stories told by posters here only reinforce that feeling.  I'm sure that my fellow Texas Longhorn is booking new matches among the celestial Hall of Famers and driving the fans nuts in that squared circle in the sky. Hook 'em, Mr. Wehba, and thanks for the indelible memories.

I am hoping the same best effort from you in the future as well. In fact your creative writing skills has inspired me. aquarium