by Stephen Von Slagle
By virtue of its violent nature, pro wrestling has attracted to its ranks some of the most vicious, sadistic, and toughest men in the world. However, of the dozens of bloodthirsty, psychotic personalities that the sport has been home to, few can rival the shear violence, insanity and chaos created by the “Madman from the Sudan,” Abdullah the Butcher. Abdullah spent five decades inside of the squared circle, bloodying and battering his opponents like few others in the history of the business. Never mistaken as a scientific wrestler, Abdullah wrestled those many decades without ever changing his primitive, simplistic, barbaric style. But, what he lacked in finesse and technical knowledge, he more than made up for in sheer brutality. During his decades-long reign of terror, the nomadic Butcher drew blood from nearly every opponent he faced, on every continent on Earth. Influencing generations of wrestling brawlers through his never-ending worldwide bookings, The Butcher wrote his name in pro wrestling’s history book, using the flowing blood of his opponents as ink.
His crimson-soaked feuds with the equally deranged Sheik, as well as The Destroyer, Shohei Baba, Dusty Rhodes, Bruiser Brody, Harley Race, Terry & Dory Funk, Bobo Brazil, Carlos Colon, Sting, Cactus Jack, and countless others created a well-deserved reputation of sadism for Abdullah. Fans, fame, championships or glory never meant much to “The Madman from the Sudan” during his career. However, being known as the most violent, unpredictable and feared pro wrestler in the world did. Upon those aspects of the business, Abdullah thrived. Indeed, along with the almighty dollar, they were the driving forces of The Butcher’s career. Despite utilizing a mere handful of unchanging moves during his matches and incorporating a total disregard for the safety of both himself and his opponents, Abdullah used his fork (and hidden blade) to carve out a unique spot for himself in the annals of pro wrestling history.
Obviously, the man known as the bloodthirsty Abdullah the Butcher was not always the crazed lunatic he portrayed inside (and, often, outside) of the ring. In actuality, Abdullah was born Lawrence Shreeve on January 11, 1941, not in the sandy barrens of the Sudan, but rather in the Great White North, Windsor, Ontario, Canada to be exact. He began his career humbly in 1958, wrestling on the Canadian independent circuit. After gaining experience in Canada and then reinventing himself as Abdullah the Butcher, he went on to travel the world like few other wrestlers. From the beginning, he seemed intent on never staying in one territory for too long, a wise practice that showed Larry Shreeve was much smarter than the savage madman that he portrayed in the ring. It didn’t take long for Abdullah’s bloodthirsty Arabian gimmick, and his extremely violent style, to make him one of the premier villains in pro wrestling.
Throughout much of his nomadic career, Abdullah was often used as a hired hitman, called in by a desperate heel to destroy a particular territory’s top babyface. However, he also feuded with many “bad guys” as well, something that was somewhat rare for many years. His battles with the crazed, frothing-at-the-mouth “Maniac” Mark Lewin and the equally deranged Sheik were bloodbaths from bell to bell. The bitter rivalry between wrestling’s top two madmen, Abdullah and The Sheik, lasted for years, as did their semi-frequent tag team. To Abdullah, blood was blood…and it all ran red before turning to green. He moved constantly within the various territories of the NWA and AWA throughout the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and through the ’90s, always maintaining his status as a prime star (and box-office draw) for promoters in the States, Japan, Puerto Rico, Australia/New Zealand, Europe, and his homeland of Canada.
Along with Andre the Giant, Bruiser Brody, Stan Hansen and a few others, Abdullah was a true international wrestling superstar during a time when the sport was very regionalized. By positioning himself as the most insane and violent wrestler in promotions all across the globe, Abdullah influenced future brawlers in countries literally all over the world, something most wrestling legends cannot claim. Even more impressive is that he did so without ever doing a “traditional” (ie: Abdullah speaks in English, Japanese, or Spanish) interview in the various countries he wrestled in. His consistent blood-letting, and many “handlers” (Eddie Creatchman, The Great Mephisto, J.J. Dillon, Gary Hart, Cactus Jack, etc.) said everything Abdullah wanted to convey to the fans. Unpredictable, straight-forward, ultra-violence was The Butcher’s language, and it translated to any dialect. It’s safe to say that no one has ever made more from a karate-thrust to the throat (his primary weapon, which was usually delivered dozens of times throughout one of his matches) than The Butcher. However, he also possessed a surprisingly quick and accurate dropkick, a truly impressive move when delivered by a man of his size, as well as his traditional finisher, the Flying Elbow Drop. Additionally, his pointed-toe boots were also a prime weapon, one that other “Arabs” would later adopt as their own. But, clearly, wrestling skill or a large repertoire of moves was never the focus for Abdullah. Utter mayhem, terror and shocking the fans was…
Despite the fact that he never stayed in one territory for too long, Abdullah the Butcher’s championship list is nevertheless impressive; he won the NWA Canadian Tag Team title October 23, 1967 with the legendary Dr. Jerry Graham, the IWA International Heavyweight championship three times between 1969-71, and the NWA North American Heavyweight (Calgary) title on four separate occasions between 1970-73. Abdullah also wore the once-prestigious NWF Heavyweight title, twice, by defeating Ernie Ladd and Victor Rivera for his two National Wrestling Federation championships. An even more impressive addition to his title resume is his PWF Heavyweight title reign in Shohei “Giant” Baba’s All Japan Pro Wrestling, as Abdullah defeated Billy Robinson for the Pacific Wrestling Federation title in 1978 and was subsequently defeated for the title by Baba himself on February 10, 1979 in the unlikely host city of Chicago, Illinois. Abdullah made many (bloody) tours of Puerto Rico, and collected several important championships there during the early 1980s, such as the Puerto Rican Heavyweight title, the Caribbean Heavyweight title (three times) and the Island’s top prize, the WWC Universal Heavyweight championship in 1982.
Back in the States, Abdullah defeated The Great Kabuki in 1986 for the Texas Brass Knuckles championship while competing in the Dallas-based World Class Championship Wrestling. “The Madman from the Sudan” also wore the Canadian International Heavyweight title in 1987, nearly 30 years after his debut. In 1996, nearly forty years after the world was first introduced to the blood-crazed lunatic known as Abdullah the Butcher, he teamed with Benkei Daikokuboh to win the T.W.A. Tag Team championship.
Abdullah the Butcher is a member of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (1996), the WWE Hall of Fame (2011), and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame (2019).
Following a career that spanned five decades, Larry “Abdullah the Butcher” Shreeve officially retired from professional wrestling in 2019.