Jody Hamilton had never set eyes on Tom Renesto before
they joined forces for a tag match in Atlanta in December 1961, even though
Renesto had sometimes partnered with Hamilton’s older brother, Larry, in the
Carolinas just a few years before. But as one-half of a new team called The
Assassins, Hamilton, just 23, quickly sensed that he and the well-traveled
son of a Los Angeles deputy sheriff were on the brink of something special.
“Seven or eight minutes into the match, I knew we had a
great combination together because he anticipated things that I was going to
do, and I could anticipate things that he was going to do, so consequently,
we were always in the right place at the right time,” Hamilton said.
For more than a dozen years, The Assassins was as
complete a team as has stepped foot into the ring. The duo could work any
style in any territory, tend to promotional work without a managerial
mouthpiece, and do it all under masks that prevented them from employing
facial expressions that are so important in wrestling.
“The Assassins were not only outstanding workers but
wonderful teachers as well,” wrote Jack Brisco in his autobiography. “I
learned more in one night in the ring with Tom and Jody than I could have in
a month of workouts. I can’t even begin to imagine how much it advanced my
career to be working with these guys night after night.”
Renesto gained prominence in Jim Crockett’s Carolina
region as The Great Bolo. Al Lovelock, once managed by Renesto in Los
Angeles, was the original Great Bolo but voluntarily surrendered the name
Hamilton was the younger brother of Larry Hamilton,
“The Missouri Mauler.” A solid amateur boxer, he was at 19 the youngest
wrestler in history to co-headline Madison Square Garden when he and his
brother fought Antonino Rocca and Miguel Perez in May 1958 after a spirited
buildup in which the brothers – billed from Savannah, Georgia at a time of
civil unrest – toppled several Hispanic wrestlers at spot shows in New York.
After hooking up in Atlanta, The Assassins led a dual
life for a while, wrestling as Bolo and the Great Bolo for Crockett, and
under the rubric that would make them famous in Georgia and Florida.
The Assassins held more than a dozen titles in places
as diverse as Georgia, California, Australia, the Far East, Japan, and
Vancouver, British Columbia. Wherever they went, Hamilton felt that the
famous black and gold masks helped to add a mysterious touch to the team and
hide his own youthfulness.
Renesto died of heart failure in April 2000 at the age
of 72. Hamilton continued to wrestle until 1988 when a back injury ended his
career. He opened up the Power Plant in Atlanta, the training headquarters
for WCW wrestlers such as Bill Goldberg and Diamond Dallas Page, and later
ran the Deep South Wrestling promotion, a WWE affiliate.
- Steven Johnson and Greg Oliver