If your father/brother/boyfriend has ever extended a hand toward you, fingers wide and threatening, and jokingly bellowed that he was going to give you the Claw, you have this man to thank: Jim Raschke—a.k.a. The Baron. In 1966, he was a middle-school teacher with a shelf full of amateur wrestling trophies (he was tapped for the 1964 Olympic team but was sidelined due to injury) when professional wrestling pulled him in. This month, the Wabasha resident stars in The Baron, a play at the History Theatre in St. Paul about his remarkable life in the ring.
How did you end up playing yourself in this play?
Robert Redford and George Clooney weren’t available.
Is it true you almost took the wrestling name Baron von Pumpkin?
Yes. [Frequent wrestling partner] Mad Dog said that’d be a good name for me. I was almost naïve enough to say “sure.”
In the ’70s, you wrestled a bear. How did that happen?
Just bad luck. It was like, “do it or don’t get paid.” Bears are kind of natural wrestlers—they have a low center of gravity. It’s like wrestling a wrestler, but one with longer fingernails.
Is pro wrestling scripted? Or will you have to kill me if you tell?
It was 99.9 percent improv. We were pretty free to do what we wanted, as long as we didn’t say anything off-color. But I’ll still have to kill you.
What do you think of pro wrestling nowadays—the era, as you’ve put it, of the “steroid wrestlers”?
I wouldn’t let my children watch it—and they’re both in their thirties. It’s gotten to where it’s practically pornographic. They’ve gone to the lowest common denominator as far as I’m concerned. They all look the same. And the language they use is terrible.
Have you ever used the Claw in real-life, to frighten door-to-door salesmen or something?
No, that’s strictly a professional move.
I’m not scared.
[Bellowing into phone] HERR TIM, WOULD YOU LIKE TO FEEL THE CLAW? THE POWER OF THE CLAW? THAT WILL BE ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW! HA-HA-HA!