James J. Dillon Returning To Celebrate 50th Anniversary Of First Match In Pittsburgh
July 19, 2019
By Trapper Tom, Editor, KSWA Digest
James J. Dillon’s hand recoiled after striking National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) World Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis during the titleholder’s FanFest defense against Pittsburgh’s 20-year veteran Shawn Blanchard last December in Lawrenceville. Dillon shook his hand feverishly at Spirit Hall. It was the same kind of punch Dillon has been laying into fan-favorite wrestlers for decades. Ultimately, Aldis successfully defended the “Ten Pounds of Gold” and Dillon consoled the only professional wrestler he manages on any kind of basis in 2019.
But before Dillon was one of the industry’s most prolific managers, he was a professional wrestler. And his first contest was 50 years ago last December, in Pittsburgh.
Born James Morrison on June 26, 1942, “Jim Dillon” had been refereeing in his home state of New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania and Michigan. In 1968, professional wrestling in Pittsburgh was bustling, and the young man went straight to the top by writing a letter to Bruno Sammartino.
Dillon’s first singles match on WIIC TV’s “Studio Wrestling” against Walter “Killer” Kowalski started the show. “I couldn’t believe I was in the ring,” said Dillon with a chuckle. “I was living the dream.” The veteran was victorious that night. However, Dillon said he was proud of his match.
The Pittsburgh debut of J.J. Dillon didn’t make any headlines. It’s interesting to note that one of the biggest stories of the day was Steeler rookie halfback Rocky Bleier’s draft into the Marines and Vietnam.
Dillon, as “Jim Morrison” continued to wrestle in Ohio and Michigan for the “Original Sheik” Eddie Farhat. During the day, Morrison worked for a trucking company until wrestling became more constant. In 1970, “Jim Dillon” returned when Sammartino told promoter Ace Freeman he liked the kid. Dillon wrestled in Pittsburgh for more than a year, taking on the likes of Bobby “Hurricane” Hunt, Frank Durso and John L. Sullivan, who would be better known as “Luscious” Johnny Valiant.
Later in 1971 Dillon was wrestling up and down the east coast, taking on all of the biggest names of the region. Throughout the 1970’s, Dillon was a serviceable hand that wrestled all over.
In the 1980’s, Dillon turned 40 and transitioned into a manager’s role. He, Rick Flair, Ole Anderson, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard formed a stable called the “Four Horsemen” and helped revolutionize professional wrestling until this very day. In 1986, Dillon “officially” retired after some 3,000 matches and 10 various titles, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t participate in scads of gimmick and tag-team matches along with the other Horsemen. Dillon’s last managerial appearance in Pittsburgh was with then-NWA Champion Ric Flair on November, 11 1988 when he successfully defended against Lex Luger at the Civic Arena.
Dillon worked for the NWA, WCW, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and Total No-Stop Action (TNA) during his on-and-off-camera career until 2003.
After wrestling, Dillon took a job in New Jersey, but remained good friends with the grappling industry in Pittsburgh. He came out of retirement for the Deaf Wrestlefest fundraising appearance in 2009.
He returned to Pittsburgh on December 10, 2010 for the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA) FanFest. Dillon was the “adviser” to tag team champions Kris Kash and Shane Starr, but he would turn on the youngsters and join the VIPs—Shawn Blanchard, Lou Martin and their advisor (and old friend) Frank Durso.
On March 31, 2012 Dillon joined the other “Four Horsemen” for induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. Dillon returned to Pittsburgh on March 28, 2015 to be inducted in the KSWA Hall of Fame along with Weirton native “Big” Bully Busick.
On that same evening, Dillon helped guide Blanchard to his sixth KSWA Heavyweight Title. At the time, Dillon told Blanchard he was “proud of him” for the accomplishment.
Dillon was among the large contingent in the professional wrestling community who converged on Pittsburgh when Sammartino passed away in 2018, and then he returned for FanFest when his protégé Blanchard faced Aldis.
Now, Dillon is set to return on Saturday, July 20 for “Brawl Under the Bridge V” in Homestead. There he will accompany Blanchard to the ring against his most frequent foe, veteran wrestler Justin Sane. There are no promises, but chances are good that Dillon will punch Sane in the face, more than 50 years after he did the same thing to Killer Kowalski.