Joseph â€œJodyâ€� Hamilton, who was better known as an Assassin throughout his wrestling career, was born in St. Joseph, MO, in August 1938. He followed the same career path as his older brother Larry, who worked as the Missouri Mauler, and quickly rose to prominence in the late 1950â€™s. Teaming with Larry, Jody became the youngest wrestler ever to main event at Madison Square Garden, at the age of 19 in 1958 against the hugely popular duo of Antonino Rocca and Miguel Perez.
Jody actually began wrestling by training with some locals in St. Joseph at the YMCA when he was in his early teens. Within a couple of years, he had begun finding it too easy of a challenge, obviously surpassing the knowledge they passed onto him. â€œThose guys were getting up there in age,â€� Jody told me in an interview in August 2003, â€œand it was becoming increasingly difficult for them to snatch and grab the holds and stuff so thatâ€™s where the education ended and they werenâ€™t so anxious to work with me anymore. Thatâ €™s when I started boxing.â€� The young 157 pounder went all the way to the finals of a national tournament before losing in a middleweight bout held at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
He soon found himself working in AT shows for Gust Karras Promotions. â€œGust was running the AT shows â€“ you know, where they challenge all comers â€“ and he had Larry working those shows one summer. Then he got into the business after that, and it was only natural for me to follow him.â€�
In 1956, Jody had his first professional wrestling match, losing to Rip Hawk in Lamoni, IA, at Graceland College. â€œEven though I was in terrific shape I was so nervous I blew up on the way to the ring. When I got there, the apron of that ring looked twelve feet high. After the first few minutes of the match I was able to settle down. I didnâ€™t have time to be blown up â€“ I had to be thinking of what I was doing the whole time because he was shooting things at me in the ring and it was tough. Iâ€™d have to say everything went well.â€� The match went for about forty minutes.
The aforementioned run in New York working for Vincent McMahon was his first regular full time run in a wrestling promotion. The Hamilton Brothers quickly became a regular foe to Rocca and Perez, and after a brief holiday break at the end of 1957, Jody and Larry returned. After blowing off the program, Jody went out on his first regular solo effort, going to work for Joe Malcewicz in San Francisco.
After a short run there, he returned home for the holidays. Local promoter Bobby Bruns, who had been hesitant to use Jody on his shows in Missouri, â€œdid me probably the biggest favor that anybodyâ€™s ever done for me in the wrestling business, and he did it inadvertently. He did it to get rid of me â€“ he got me booked in Amarillo.â€�
Jody continued working and training with people like â€œMike DiBiase, Sonny Myers, Nick Roberts â€“ I was working in the ring with those guys nightly. Tony Morelli, who was a hell of a worker, but very underrated.â€� Promoter Doc Sarpolis billed him as â€œSilentâ €� Joe Hamilton. â€œThey wouldnâ€™t let me talk on TV because I couldnâ€™t interview worth a sh**.â€� Ironically, Jody would later be regarded as one of the best promo men in the business.
His next turn was in Oklahoma where he became close friends with Nick Roberts. He did return to Amarillo again, but worked his way back to Oklahoma one more time before Roberts called him to come down to Florida and work. â€œI got to Florida and I did extremely well. I started a little higher than middle of the card and got a few main events. I worked a few boxing matches with some of the guys for some gimmick shots because they found out I had a little bit of a boxing background. After six months I knew I had done all they had planned for me there, so rather than just hang around and get gutted down to doing opening matches and jobbing to the incoming talent, I decided to get out of there.â€�
Before he could leave and return for another stint in Oklahoma, he received a last minute offer to head to Atlanta. He had literally just left the Tampa office to head to his hotel and pack the car, when â€œmy wife told me the office had called and wanted me to call them back. I did and they said they wanted to talk to me about something and needed me to come back to the office.â€� What they had in mind was a run in Georgia in order to keep him close for a later trip back to Florida. Ray Gunkel had plans of using him as a hooded villain known as the Iron Russian.
When he got to the Atlanta City Auditorium on October 13, 1961, just in time for the first card, the plan had changed â€“ he was to be called the Assassin. Within a few weeks, Tom Renesto was called into the territory to work as his partner. Although Jody can claim being the original Assassin, Tom tended to take the lead on interviews as he had much more experience. Coincidentally, Tom had just left the Carolinas where he had teamed with Jodyâ€™s brother, Larry, as the Bolos.
Jody and Tom would work together as a team until 1974. When I asked Jody if the chemistry of this team was obvious that night, he replied, â€œwe did after the match, yes. We became aware at points during the match. It was clear Tom knew what I was going to do before I did it, and I knew exactly what he was going to do. So we would set each other up to do what we anticipated each other wanted to do.â€�
The Assassins became one of the most memorable and highly regarded tag teams in history. They spent the majority of the 1960â€™s going between Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas. However, when they worked for Jim Crockett, they were known as the Bolos since Tom had already been a hot drawing card there. They also worked in California, Arizona, the Pacific Northwest, Japan, Canada and Australia among other territories.
In 1968, the Assassins returned to Georgia, where they would remain for most of the next six years. Renesto was given the booking chores in an effort to get the crowds back up after a brief decline in attendance. Although Tom is credited with the job, Jody was an integral partner who also weighed in heavily on the angles fans would see.
Following Ray Gunkelâ€™s death in 1972, his widow Ann formed a new company known as the All South Wrestling Alliance, which featured Renesto as the booker, and Hamilton working solo as the Assassin for most of the promotionâ€™s two year run. Tom did make a return in an angle that led the longtime partners to have many classic matches â€“ this time in opposite corners â€“ but the two found themselves partners once again, but found themselves being embraced by the fans.
When All South closed its doors near the end of 1974, Jody and Tom went back to work for the Atlanta office for Jim Barnett and Paul Jones. Tom continued to stay behind the scenes and Jody resumed working in singles competition. He soon found himself in what would become one of the longest running programs in Georgia history with Mr. Wrestling #2.
Jody would go on to continue working in the southeast, mostly staying in Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas once again. He used three other partners from time to time who would join the ranks of Assassins â€“ Roger Smith, Randy Colley and Ray Fernandez. Before winding down his active career, he had a couple of great runs in Alabama as the Flame.
Rather than retiring altogether, Jody formed a company called Deep South Wrestling in 1986. He ran the promotion and also wrestled before he â€œtook a bump off the top and fell to the ground. I broke the lumbar vertebra in my back and that grounded me. I couldnâ€™t do anything so I sold the S.O.B. Some guy â€“ I canâ€™t even remember his name now â€“ but we made a deal and he folded about two months later. I donâ€™t think he ever ran a single show. What he mostly bought was my equipment and stuff.â€�
He went on to open the Power Plant, which would become the training ground for World Championship Wrestling until its demise. Jody trained people who became some of the more successful men in the modern era, including Kevin Nash, Dallas Page, Hunter Helmsley and Bill Goldberg.
Jody got back in the business of promoting, under a deal running a developmental territory for World Wrestling Entertainment. He re- opened Deep South Wrestling to do so, and they began running live shows in September 2005 until WWE chose to sever ties with DSW in April 2007.
He also has a book titled Assassin: the Man Behind the Mask available at Crowbar Press, co-authored with Scott Teal. Click here for details on how you can get a copy.