“Cowboy” Bob Ellis is otherwise known as the inventor of the bulldog headlock and the first
man to reverse the figure-four leglock. He was from Kerrville, Texas, near San Antonio.
Ellis was a former WWA World Champion and also held the United States Title on several
occasions. During his run as a pro-wrestler, Ellis was one of the sport’s most popular
men. He served as a paratrooper in the United States Army during the Korean War. Ellis
originally entered the sport of pro-wrestling under the name, “Bob Elliott.”
As a young man, he appeared in Denver, Colorado and was billed as a protégé of former
World Champion, Ed “Strangler” Lewis. He drew with Jerry Woods on August 8, 1957 in
40-minutes. Elliott used a sleeperhold to capture the second fall from Woods during a
rematch on September 5th in 4:27. He won the last fall in 1:55. Woods had won the first
with a backbreaker in 18:57. With Lewis behind him in his corner, Elliott used strangle-
holds and headlocks in Denver on October 3rd to win in two-straight falls over his
opponent. The morale support obviously helped. Mike London, sensing the rising ability
of Elliott, decided to match the young wrestler against one of the sport’s proven villains,
Dick the Bruiser. The match lived up to it’s advanced billing. On November 7th, Elliott was
prepared. He lost the first fall via backbreaker in 15:17. Elliott won the second in 40-
Riding the emotional high, Elliott leaped onto Dick the Bruiser during the final fall, injuring
his back and forcing him to concede the match. No doubt, it was the biggest win of his
short career. The win immediately propelled Elliott for a shot at the regional Rocky
Mountain Heavyweight Title, a championship which had launched many wrestlers into the
national title picture and then the World Heavyweight spotlight. Among them were Everette
Marshall, Gorgeous George and Pat O’Connor. His opponent was “Bulldog” Danny
Plechas, another proven competitor. Also in Denver, Elliott was billed as the most popular
to compete in the city since Marshall ruled the rings in the 1930s. Incidentally, Plechas
was injured in Albuquerque and unable to appear in Denver on December 5th.
Elliott instead beat Hans Schnabel in two-of-three-falls in front of 3,210. He beat Bob
“Legs” Langevin in straight falls in Denver on January 16, 1958. He again matched up
with Plechas for a Denver bout on February 13th, but again it was noted that Plechas
could not appear due to a leg injury at Albuquerque. Elliott beat Jim Wright in three falls,
losing the first in 15:48. He lost his first Denver bout on April 10, 1958 against Hans
Schmidt. During the summer of ’58, he changed his name from Elliott to Ellis and
continued to awe fans and officials alike wherever he traveled.
Ellis was named the 1959 Wrestler of the Year. He traveled to Kansas City and won the
Central States Heavyweight Title and continued to tour many of the top wrestling hotspots.
Ellis returned to Kansas City and regained the Central States Title from Kenji Shibuya on
March 10, 1960, but dropped the belt to Lee Henning in April. He ventured to Detroit to
work for Jim Barnett and Johnny Doyle. He won the United States Title in Ontario over
Dick the Bruiser. He seemed to have the Bruiser’s number.
Ellis lost a rematch in Detroit. He wrestled Killer Kowalski to a twenty-minute draw on May
10, 1961 in Denver. He met The Sheik in a three-fall bout at Denver’s Coliseum on June
7th in front of five-thousand fans. It was a wild contest, drawing the most heat from fans
and the strongest on a card full of top-notch performers. The Sheik was up to his no-good
best when he took a stick and beat Ellis with it, leading to the first fall in 9:37. Although the
weapon had laid him out, Ellis rebounded to win the second with a bulldog headlock in 4:
38 and then the third in 4:28. He wrestled Bruiser in a grudge match for the U.S. Title on
July 19, 1961 at the Coliseum in front 4,500 fans. An astute referee, Leo Bahl, decided to
reverse his decision giving Bruiser the match, and handed the title to Ellis. Bahl realized
that Killer Kowalski had helped the champ win the third fall. It wasn’t going to stand and
Bob was the new titleholder. It was his second.
On August 10th, Ellis teamed with Pat O’Connor in a special Texas Death Match in Denver
against Kowalski and Bruiser. After a total of ten falls, Ellis and O’Connor took seven and
the latter won the last in 3:10. Promoter Johnny Doyle signed a rematch between Ellis and
Bruiser in singles format for the U.S. Title on August 31st in Denver. A knee drop from
Bruiser secured the initial fall in 2:34, but a bulldog evened the contest. The champ lost
the third in 13:44 by pinfall and his title along with it. He made a choice to take on two
wrestlers after his partner was suffered a leg injury in Denver on September 15, 1961.
Ellis teamed with Yukon Eric against Bruiser and Kowalski before 4,147 fans. Eric was
injured in the second fall and unable to continue. Ellis went forward alone and lost the
Ellis formed a tag team with Eddie Graham in Florida. On April 17, 1962 in Tampa, the
duo stopped the U.S. Tag Team Champions, the Assassins in a non-title bout. A rematch
was scheduled for April 26th at the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa. Ellis and
Graham took two-of-three falls from the champs and walked away with the U.S. Tag Belts.
He nearly captured the NWA World Title from Buddy Rogers on Friday, June 22, 1962 at
Madison Square Garden. Ellis reversed the figure-four before a cheering audience. He
wrestled on October 5, 1962 in St. Louis against Pat O’Connor. Ellis and the former NWA
Champion went to a 45-minute draw, tied at one-fall apiece.
He returned to Denver and regained the U.S. Heavyweight Title on February 23, 1963
from Dick the Bruiser in two-of-three-falls at the Coliseum. It was his third title victory. The
official stopped the match due to the Bruiser’s blood loss. Ellis lost the belt back to Bruiser
in Denver on March 9th. The bout was a special Australian Blood Match. He ventured to
Florida and in March ’64, he took the NWA Southern Heavyweight Title from Bob Orton in
Tampa. He also put the “Big O” out of commission with use of his bulldog headlock. Orton
was injured and out of action for two months. Ellis wrestled The Destroyer at the Olympic
Auditorium in Los Angeles on September 10, 1964 and took the WWA World Heavyweight
Two of the most popular wrestlers in the American Wrestling Association joined together
on November 26, 1965 in the Denver Auditorium Arena. Ellis and Verne Gagne were
scheduled to meet the World Tag Champions, Larry Hennig and Harley Race, both coming
off a 30-day local suspension. The match was tied 1-1 when the favorites were
disqualified. There was no title change as many had hoped. Ellis and Race fought each
other in a special singles bout and the “Cowboy” took it in one-fall. He toured Australia in
Mid-1969 and feuded with Killer Karl Kox. Ellis drew with Hans Schmidt and Bill Miller on
September 22, 1972 in St. Louis with Pat O’Connor as his partner. He won the WWA
World Title in 1973 from Baron Von Raschke in the Midwest. Ellis also competed in Puerto
Rico during the ’70s.
When it was time to walk away from the business, Ellis retired to his ranch.
-Co-holder of the WWWF United States Tag Team Title (1962) w/ Johnny Valentine
-Co-holder of the NWA United States Tag Team Title (1962) w/ Eddie Graham
-NWA Southern Heavyweight Title (1964) defeated Bob Orton Sr.
-Co-holder of the WWA World Tag Team Title (1964) w/ Edouard Carpentier
-WWA World Heavyweight Title (1964) (CA) defeated The Destroyer
-A two-time WWA World Heavyweight Champion (IN)
-Defeated Baron Von Raschke (1973)
-Defeated Jimmy Valiant (1974)
-WWC North American Heavyweight Title (1976) defeated Carlos Colon
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|"Cowboy" Bob Ellis Wrestling History
Legends of Pro Wrestling