Larry Matysik, a long-time Belleville resident and the voice of professional wrestling in St. Louis, died Sunday.
Matysik, 72, was a promoter and ring-side announcer of “Wrestling at the Chase,” which aired Sunday mornings on KPLR-TV in St. Louis from May 1969 to September of 1983.
The bouts were held at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel and included most of the big names from that era of wrestling, including “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, Andre the Giant, Dick “The Bruiser” Afflis, Lou Thesz, “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and others.
Matysik described the action with distinctive voice and was easily excited when a wrestler brought out his signature move. In one memorable broadcast, Matysik allowed Kevin Von Erich to demonstrate a scissor hold on him, asking first that the wrestler “promise not to break me in half.”
Sam Muchnick, the veteran promoter and founder of “Wrestling at the Chase,” introduced Matysik to the sport when he hired him at 16 years old to work as a publicist and office manager. Matysik went on to assume ring-side announcer duties from Joe Garagiola, the St. Louis baseball star who went on to be a national television personality.
Even after the show ceased production, Matysik continued to promote professional wrestling and helped to establish the St. Louis Wrestling Hall of Fame. He wrote articles for wrestling magazines also published books on the subject, including “The Inside Story of Sam Muchnick and the Legends of Professional Wrestling.”
Matysik also worked for WWF founder and president Vince McMahon from 1984 to 1993, according to Slam Wrestling. In 2014, he received the Jim Melby Award for wrestling journalism from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Waterloo, Iowa.
A series of strokes slowed Matysik in recent years, though he remained a supporter of the sport and frequented bouts held by Southern Illinois Championship Wrestling.
Within hours of Matysik’s death, fans and friends from the wrestling community took to social media to express condolences and relate personal stories.
Herb Simmons, the mayor of East Carondelet and long-time wrestling color commentator, had been updating Matysik’s condition on his Facebook in the recent weeks. He delivered the news of his friends’ death at about 5 a.m. Sunday morning.
“It’s with a heavy heart this morning that I come to each of you and give you the news that my good friend Larry Matysik has lost the battle,” he wrote.
Tom Seib, producer of USA Championship Wrestling, recalled meeting Matysik at Emge School in Belleville, where Kelly Matysik was a standout on the volleyball team.
“My career took a turn for the better when I started working in wrestling and one of my bucket list items was checked off when I got to do color commentary for a SICW Television show sitting next to Larry and Herb Simmons,” he wrote. “I have been blessed knowing this man and having him share his knowledge of the wrestling business. His pain is gone and his legacy will live on.”
Matysik also worked as a part-time Belleville Police officer would often be seen helping direct traffic for Friday night football at Township Stadium behind the old Belleville West High School.
He is survived by his wife Patricia, a retired English teacher from Belleville West, and his daughter, Kelly Matysik. Funeral arrangements are pending.