CHINA GROVE — “The Fabulous One” Jackie Fargo, whose cocky strut paved the way for the likes of Ric Flair and Jerry Lawler in the pro wrestling world, died Monday at 82.
He died just two days shy of his birthday.
At one time, Fargo was the biggest wrestling star in Memphis and the Tennessee television viewing area as a whole.
Prior to that, he and his brother, Sonny “Roughhouse” Fargo, created one of the original bleach-blond tag teams in wrestling.
They were the first tag team to draw 20,000-plus fans to New York’s Madison Square Garden, according to Greg Oliver and Steve Johnson of SLAM! Wrestling.
The flowing blond hair. The strut. Earrings. Jackie Fargo was among the first wrestlers ever to have them as part of his ring persona.
In the book “The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: Tag Teams,” Fargo said, “I had long, blond hair, and I wore a bone in my hair and would do anything goofy — pick up a big black lady and sit on her lap and kiss her, stuff like that, just a wild man.”
Fargo also was among the first wrestlers who successfully made the transition in fans’ eyes from a villain to a good guy. He did this while starring in Memphis.
“I was the person people loved to hate,” Fargo said in the book, “but they loved me. As much as they hated me, they loved that Fargo strut. Boy, they’d boo the hell out of me, but they loved that.”
Mike Cline, a longtime wrestling fan from Salisbury, said Jackie Fargo and Sonny Fargo also had a great routine whenever Jackie was getting beaten up by the bad guys in Memphis.
Jackie Fargo would make a big deal of calling “Roughhouse,” who supposedly was in a mental hospital in North Carolina. The “crazed” Sonny Fargo — on loan from Jim Crockett Promotions in Charlotte — would come in to help Jackie out, while the fans really thought Sonny had a screw loose.
The Fargos won the regional tag team title in Tennessee in 1964.
Cline said Jackie Fargo, whose name remained big in the Memphis area for a long time, also began promoting himself as a mentor to new wrestlers.
Among them were Stan Lane and Steve Keirn, who were modeled after Fargo in their flashiness. With Fargo’s consent, Lane and Keirn became known as “The Fabulous Ones.”
Fargo was born in Concord as Henry Faggart, but he officially changed his named to Jackie Fargo years ago.
He started his pro wrestling career with Johnny Long around 1950. It was a tough circuit in those days, as wrestlers made as low as $7.50 a match, according to SLAM! Fargo eventually went to Cuba and wrestled before being drafted into the Korean War in 1952.
In his earliest incarnations, he went by Honey Boy Fargo and Wildman Fargo.
The original “Fargo Boys” were Jackie Fargo and Don Kalt of Pittsburgh, and SLAM! says they were the “hottest tag team in the country in the late 1950s and early 1960s, selling out arenas from New York to Alabama, strutting to the ring with world titles around their waists and setting the standard for every bleached blond tag team that would follow.”
After Kalt left the team, he was replaced by Sonny, Jackie’s real brother, and the pair also enjoyed considerable success. Later, Jackie pursued his career in Memphis.
Fargo won the National Wrestling Alliance Mid-America Heavyweight Championship three times and held tag-team gold championships 45 times in his career, according to one source.
Fargo is credited with bringing Jerry “The King” Lawler into wrestling, again as his mentor. As he got older, Fargo wrestled less and less, but SLAM! records his having appeared in “shows” as late as 2004 and 2006, when he was 76.
In his heyday, there were “Fargo Burgers” at a restaurant in Memphis, and Jackie once even tried a country-and-western singing career.
Several years ago, Cline said, he was waiting in line at Towne Pharmacy in Salisbury and struck up a conversation with Fargo, who was picking up prescriptions for his then ailing brother, Sonny.
Sonny Fargo became one of the most well-known wrestling referees after his days as a wrestler were over.
Linn-Honeycutt Funeral Home said family and friends were with Jackie Fargo at his death Monday. He is survived by three daughters, including Brandy McKinney of Salisbury, and he has three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
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