Former Carnegie police chief to be honored for 'Studio Wrestling' career
A former “Studio Wrestling” star and Carnegie police chief will be enshrined in the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance Hall of Fame.
Frank L. Holtz, known to wrestling fans as “The Fighting Cop of Carnegie,” will receive the honor Saturday at KSWA's 10th annual Joe Abby Memorial Tournament at Spirit Hall in Lawrenceville.
“Studio Wrestling” was a professional wrestling show — hosted by the legendary Bill Cardille — broadcast live Saturday evenings on Channel 11 (then-WIIC-TV) in Pittsburgh from 1959 to 1972. It later resurfaced as taped shows on WPGH-TV channel 53 for a short time before going off air in 1974.
The tournament is named after the late Pittsburgh powerhouse Joe Abby, who was known as “The Red Demon” or “Killer.”
Abby, a 1949 Allderdice High School graduate and Korean War veteran, had a 20-year career in professional wrestling and was in the inaugural KSWA Hall of Fame class in 2008. He died Nov. 14, 1996, at 65.
KSWA Hall began with the induction of Abby and his tag team partner, the devious Frank Durso in 2008.
Holtz, 77, made his wrestling debut in 1962, competed through the production's end and even worked a few house shows until 1978.
He became a Carnegie patrolman in 1965, moved up the ranks to sergeant and was police chief from 1988 through 1990 when he retired after 25 years.
“There are a lot of good guys there,” Holtz, who now lives in Waynesburg, said about the Hall of Fame. “I'm kind of honored they'd consider me. Trying to hold two jobs down was kind of hard to train. I just did the best I could.”
Other inductees this year are international wrestling journalist Bill Apter and Pie Traynor, Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Fame third baseman, who was the spokesman for “Studio Wrestling” sponsor American Heating Co.
Cardille would ask, “Pie, who can?” “Ameri-can!” came Traynor's enthusiastic response.
According to wrestlingdata.com, Holtz battled Tony Altimore the most (6-8-2), followed by Baron Mikel Scicluna (1-12-1) and Durso (10-1-2).
Holtz was an intimidating figure standing 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighing in at 270 pounds with a finishing setup of a body slam followed by a thunderous elbow drop.
He wrestled as a “face” — a good guy who liked to stay within the rules of competition.
“His wrestling character is much intertwined with his real life,” tournament organizer Lou Zygmuncik said. “He was a real tough brawler during his time. We really like to recognize the contributions the ‘Studio Wrestling' guys had on the sport of pro wrestling. Without them we probably wouldn't be doing what we're doing today.”
Holtz was not one for going off the top rope.
“I had a bad experience in Japan with that,” he said. “I come down off the rope and twisted my knee. I said, ‘That's not too good for me.'
“When I started, I only weighed around 200 pounds. I gained weight real quick after I started. My friend, Bruno (Sammartino, who is known for his time with the then-World Wrestling Federation) told me, ‘You've got to work out more.' That's all right, but when you work midnight you don't want to work out.”
Holtz was born and raised in Pittsburgh's North Side and moved to Carnegie in his 20s.
He also worked as a laborer for the H.J. Heinz Co., in construction and as a painter while raising five children with his wife, Shirley.
His son, Frank H. Holtz, recalled what it was like growing up.
“He was a quiet guy until you crossed the line,” the son said. “He did what he had to do as a father. I was the oldest of five boys. We feared our mother more than our large father. (She's) the one who could really bring out the belt and kick your (expletive).”
Frank H. Holtz reached out to KSWA to have his father honored.
“A lot of his fellow pro wrestlers that he used to wrestle with are in there,” his son said. “It's something that I think is important, to be honored for what they did. He used to come home pretty bruised up and still make his shift. It was different times back then — he did what he had to do to provide for his family.”
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2367 or email@example.com.