In the shady business of professional wrestling uniquely St. Louis wrestling promoter Sam Muchnick became known as “the honest wrestling promoter”. His influence within the National Wrestling Alliance was incomparable and many believe he was solely responsible for the success of the organisation.
Muchnik was born in Novohrad-Volynskyi in Ukraine on 22nd August 1905 and moved to St. Louis, Missouri at the young age of six. Not soon after he was hooked by the sport of wrestling and even skipped his high school graduation to watch Wladek Zbyszko wrestle at the Odeon Theatre.
Sam left his first employment at the postal service in 1926 to join the sports staff of the St. Louis Times, earning $20 a week to write about Baseball team St. Louis Cardinals. In 1932, the newspaper merged with the St. Louis Star and Muchnick was subsequently offered a journalistic role there but declined.
As a journalist, Muchnick learnt great people skills and how to deal with media and politicians and working in sports had grown many connections.
After forming friendships with Ed “Strangler” Lewis, Lou Thesz and Ray Steele, Muchnick met Tom Packs, a wrestling promoter for the National Wrestling Association (the original NWA). Packs controlled the Association’s World title with Billy Sandow defending the strap in the Midwest area.
Packs offered Sam a job and his understanding of the wrestling business grew. Around nine years later, with experience under his belt, Packs entrusted Muchnick to essentially run the promotion. Sam decided to promote his own shows and by 27th March 1942, he promoted his own card. However, his plans for wrestling had to be put on hold as World War II broke out. After a stint in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1945, Sam returned to St. Louis to try his hand at promoting professional wrestling shows, opening an office in opposition to Packs.
His shows really started to thrive. His ‘Sam Muchnick Sports Attractions’ shows would pull good money from the Kiel Auditorium by booking Steele and Lewis. Seeing Muchnick as competition, Packs severed tie with Sam and used his connections across the country to blackball Muchnick’s promotion and the stopped the top talents from working his shows. Muchnick was resorted to using veterans of the game, older stars while Packs booked all the young, popular stars. Packs slaughtered Muchnick at the box office, virtually monopolising the St. Louis market.
But fortunately for Muchnick, Packs lost his wealth in the stock market and was forced to close his office. Muchnick shared his experiences and troubles in his own territory with several promoters and they agreed to form an alliance to combat this. This was known as the National Wrestling Alliance.
A meeting was held on 18th July 1948 in Waterloo, Iowa. Pinkie George (Iowa) invited Muchnick, Orville Brown (Kansas City), Maxwell Clayton (Omaha), Fred Kohler (Chicago) and Wally Karbo (representing Joe Stecher of Minneapolis) and they made an agreement to share talent within their promotions but now with anyone in competition to the Alliance. They also declared they would be one true World Champion.
Business picked up for the NWA territories and on 4th February 1949, Muchnick celebrated his first sell-out of the Kiel Auditorium which was headlined by “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers. This was a few months after Sam offered to unite companies with Lou Thesz, who had taken over Packs’ bookings. Although Thesz declined at that time after he witnessed how successful Muchnick’s and the NWA’s shows were becoming, Thesz then offered to Muchnick to merge promotions.
Muchnick replaced Pinkie George as NWA president in 1950 and held the role for 22 years. He elevated the organisation to its greatest heights and helped it grow in numbers. It was an extremely tough role in managing the Alliance’s greedy representatives who were looking to improve their own wealth. His pleasant professional attitude and diplomatic style with authority policed all the troublemakers trying to hinder the NWA’s future. Sam kept the stability of the professional wrestling business for over two decades and became one of the only promoters that were respected by the all in the business.
Muchnick was an amicable, smart businessman and he had the power to make himself rich and book good friend and World Champion Lou Thesz on as many shows as he liked, but unselfishly he assured that Lou was booked fairly across the territories. Muchnick has to take a lot of credit for the credibility and prestige that the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship still holds today.
In 1959, Muchnick formed the St. Louis Wrestling Club while producing a new television program titled “Wrestling at the Chase” on Missouri station KPLR-TV, which ran for 23 years until September 1983 and produced over 1,000 episodes of the show. The show, filmed at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis, holds the accolade of being one of the most popular local productions in St. Louis television history. The show developed professional wrestling into a nationally popular form of entertainment as it beamed the many stars of the NWA on the TV sets across the country.
By 1960, tired of dealing with wrestler demands and settling disputes between members of the group, Muchnick stepped down as NWA President. Although his hiatus did not last long and he was unanimously re-installed as president in 1963 until 1975, thus contributing a total of 25 years. During his second term as president, the NWA remained as wrestling’s supremacy and Muchnick expanded the Alliance globally by securing deals with territories in Japan, Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Sam continued to promote until New Years’ Day in 1982, which Mayor Vincent Schoemehl named “Sam Muchnick Day”. Shortly afterwards, the St. Louis Wrestling Club was purchased by a consortium of Bob Geigel, Pat O’Connor and Harley Race. A year later, the World Wrestling Federation struck an agreement with Muchnick’s long-time associate and ring announcer Larry Matysik which gave the WWF access to the former TV timeslot of “Wrestling At The Chase”.
Muchnick lived to the grand age of 93 years old as he passed away on 30th December 1998, in his home of St. Louis, the city out of which his wrestling empire grew. To the day he died, he was honest as the day was long, a trait that is very rare within the history of the professional wrestling industry. Sam was truly the godfather of professional wrestling.
September has certainly been the most action-packed month of 1980 so far. Let’s get into it, starting with news of a new NWA World Heavyweight Champion…
Major happenings for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship this month as it switched hands not once but twice in Japan!
Harley Race dropped the title to All-Japan’s Giant Baba on 4th September in Saga, Japan and Harley reclaimed back off Baba on 9th September. For a full report of the title change click here. Despite losing the belt and winning it back, Harley had the busiest month of the year so far being involved in 18 title matches.
You will see a small change in our section here, both Baba and Harley had begun new reigns so we will be keeping count of all the champion’s defenses. You will see that we have added them to the match result.
All Japan Pro Wrestling – Summer Action Series II – City Gymnasium, Kanya, Kagoshima, Japan
Harley Race and Jumbo Tsuruta wrestled to a double count-out. Race retained the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
All Japan Pro Wrestling – Summer Action Series II – Municipal Gymnasium, Nakatane, Kagoshima, Japan
Harley Race and Austin Idol defeated Giant Baba and Prince Tonga 2-1 in a Best Two out of Three Falls bout.
All Japan Pro Wrestling – Summer Action Series II – Saga Sports Center, Saga, Japan
Giant Baba pinned Harley Race to become the NEW NWA World Heavyweight Champion. This is Baba’s third reign holding the championship.
All Japan Pro Wrestling – Summer Action Series II – Suizenji Gymnasium, Kumamoto, Japan
Giant Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta defeated Karl von Steiger and Karl von Hess.
All Japan Pro Wrestling – Summer Action Series II – Prefectural Gymnasium, Oita, Japan
Austin Idol and Harley Race beat Giant Baba and Rocky Hata.
All Japan Pro Wrestling – Summer Action Series II – Community Center Hall, Shonai, Oita, Japan.
Giant Baba, Mil Mascaras and Jumbo Tsuruta defeated Austin Idol, Karl von Steiger and Harley Race by 2-1 in a Best Two out of Three Falls contest.
All Japan Pro Wrestling – Summer Action Series II – Otsu Park Gymnasium, Otsu, Shiga, Japan
Harley Race beat Giant Baba (1st Defense) to become the NEW NWA World Heavyweight Champion. This is Race’s fifth reign holding the title.
All Japan Pro Wrestling – Summer Action Series II – Ichinomiya Industrial Gymnasium, Ichinomya, Aichi, Japan
Harley Race (1st Defense) and Mil Mascaras wrestled to a double count-out. Race retained the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
St. Louis Wrestling Club – Chase Park Plaza Hotel, St. Louis MS
Harley Race (2nd Defense) defeated Spike Huber to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
Championship Wrestling from Florida – West Palm Beach Auditorium, West Palm Beach, FL
Harley Race (3rd Defense) defeated Bobo Brazil by disqualification to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
Championship Wrestling from Florida – Fort Homer Hesterly Armory, Tampa, FL
Bugsy McGraw defeated Harley Race (4th Defense) via disqualification. Race retained the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
Championship Wrestling from Florida – Convention Center, Miami Beach, FL
Harley Race (5th Defense) and Dick Murdoch wrestled to a time limit draw. Race retained the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
Championship Wrestling from Florida – Jacksonville Coliseum, Jacksonville, FL
Harley Race (6th Defense) beat Dick Murdoch to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
Championship Wrestling from Florida – Forrest High School, Ocala, FL
Barry Windham defeated Harley Race (7th Defense) via disqualification. Race retained the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
St. Louis Wrestling Club – Chase Park Plaza Hotel, St. Louis MS
Harley Race beat Jim Lang in a non-title encounter.
World Wrestling Federation – Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY
WWF Champion Bob Backlund defeated Harley Race (8th Defense) via disqualification in a match for both championships. Race retained the NWA World Heavyweight Title and Backlund retained the WWF belt.
Central States Wrestling – Topeka, KS
Harley Race (9th Defense) beat Akio Sato to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
Central States Wrestling – Memorial Hall, Kansas City, KS
Harley Race (10th Defense) and Dick the Bruiser wrestled to double disqualification. Race retained the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
Central States Wrestling – Atchinson, KS
Harley Race (11th Defense) beat Mike George to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
Central States Wrestling – Memorial Hall, Kansas City, KS
Harley Race (12th Defense) beat Akio Sato to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
Big Time Wrestling – The Sportatorium, Dallas, TX
Harley Race (13th Defense) and Gino Hernandez wrestled to double disqualification. Race retained the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
Big Time Wrestling – Fort Worth, TX
Harley Race (14th Defense) and Kerry von Erich wrestled to double count-out. Race retained the NWA World Heavyweight Championship
Central States Wrestling – The Coliseum, Ottumwa, IA
Harley Race (15th Defense) beat Rufus R. Jones to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
ALL-JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
In what could possibly be the biggest tour in the company’s history, the Summer Action Series II concluded on the 12th September playing host to two NWA World Heavyweight Championship changes.
On September 4th 1980, Giant Baba uncrowned Harley Race to become the 21st NWA World Heavyweight Champion and his third reign with the belt. However, Baba would only hold the title for five days before Race won it back in a rematch on the 9th in Otsu, Shiga, Japan. This is indeed the third time that Baba has held the belt and the third time he has lost it in a matter of days. We have a full article on this title change and the history between Race and Baba here.
Once Race had regained the title, he had to face the challenge of Mexican star Mil Mascaras the next night in Ichinomya, Aichi. Mascaras pushed Race to the limit using high-risk manoeuvres early in the bout but then dropped his style to brawl with the champ. The action spilt to the outside and Mascaras more than held his own, so much Race lost his cool and threw the timekeepers’ table into the ring. The referee let the behaviour slide as Race battered the masked man’s head into the table. The action continued back and forth and multiple near falls until the pair started brawling outside with Mascaras ramming Race’s head into the ring bell. Eventually, the referee counted both men out in what was the end of the great match as the two men continued to fight into the crowd.
BIG TIME WRESTLING (DETROIT)
Big Time promoted two shows in Canton, Ohio with WWF Champion Bob Backlund headlining against The Sheik. Both matches were wild with the first bout (10/9) ending with a double count-out. However, on the 24th, Backlund won in a Steel Cage match after leaving the cage in 21 minutes and he was awarded Sheik’s Detroit version of the United States Title by promoter Bruce Baker.
As we mentioned last month, other promotions are starting to invade the city but Ed Farhat is promoting a return to Cobo Hall (12/10) next month. The WWF is one of the promotions starting to book shows in the area but they are sending a lot of talent to the Cobo show, so it looks likely that the promotions are working together at this time. Backlund returns to the territory to defend the WWF title against Ken Patera and also confirmed for Cobo are The Wild Samoans, Andre the Giant, The Davidson Brothers, Mighty Igor and Bobo Brazil.
As a cost-cutting measure, the last Big Time Wrestling TV show of 1980 will be taped on 9th October and the remained of shows to be broadcast will show matches from Central States Wrestling.
BIG TIME WRESTLING (TEXAS)
The talented “Gorgeous” Gino Hernandez had a great opportunity to add to the list of his accomplishments in his young career as he took on NWA World Champion Harley Race at Reunion Arena in Dallas, Texas on 28th September. Unfortunately for The Handsome Halfbreed, the match ended in a double disqualification and Race left Dallas with the belt.
Earlier in the month (14/9), Bruiser Brody teamed with The Von Erichs, David, Kerry and Kevin to defeat Gary Young, Pak Song, Gary Hart and Gino Hernandez.
CENTRAL STATES WRESTLING
At the end of a tremendously busy month for him, Harley Race defended his NWA World Title four times at the end of September in his home state. He managed to retain the belt against Akio Sato (twice), Dick the Bruiser, Mike George and Rufus R. Jones.
A new Central States Heavyweight champion was crowned as Mike George pinned “Bulldog” Bob Brown on the 11th in Kansas City.
CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING FROM FLORIDA
Bobby Jaggers and Dusty Rhodes have been feuding across the state this past month in multiple gimmick matches with Rhodes emerging as the victor in the majority of the bouts. Dusty won both Texas Death matches in West Palm Beach (8/9) and in Orlando (14/9) while there was a no-contest decision in a Light Outs bout at the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory (9/9). They also compete against each other in tag matches during the month but at a big show at the Armory in Tampa on the 16th, they were back in singles action as Rhodes beat Jaggers in a Texas Bullrope match.
In other news regarding Rhodes, Sir Oliver Humperdink has been forced to become Dusty’s valet for 30 days after Dusty defeated Ivan Koloff in Lakeview, Florida. The stipulation agreed was that Dusty would shave his head if he couldn’t beat Koloff and if Dusty won then Sir Oliver had to join Rhodes for 30 days.
On the 16th, Harley Race returned and lost to World Title challenger Bugsy McGraw, who still has the Florida Heavyweight belt, by disqualification as Les Thornton and Mike Graham battled over the NWA World Junior Heavyweight belt, but the match ended in a double pin so Thornton retained the strap.
Harley stuck around for a string of title defenses. The night before the McGraw match, he beat Bobo Brazil by disqualification at the West Palm Beach Auditorium while he went to face Dick Murdoch in two consecutive bouts later that week. On the 17th, Race and Murdoch went to a one-hour time limit draw in Miami Beach and the next night they main-evented the biggest show of the month at the Jacksonville Coliseum. Although Race pinned Murdoch in the main event, we did witness one title change.
Ivan Koloff and Nikolai Volkoff had only held the Florida Tag Team champions just over a month before losing to Bobo Brazil and Bugsy McGraw in front of packed house at the Coliseum in Jacksonville. As well as the NWA World Title defence, the fans were treated with two more title matches that night. Les Thornton and Mike Graham participate in a rematch from their bout the next before at the Armory, with the Englishman winning to retain his title. Finally, Barry Windham successfully defended his Florida TV belt against Florida Southern Heavyweight champion Dick Slater.
Speaking of Windham, the 6ft 6-inch tall youngster received a shot at Harley Race’s World Title on the 19th at Forrest High School in Ocala, Florida. This was Race’s final defense for the month in the territory and Windham won by disqualification.
EMPRESA MEXICANA DE LUCHA LIBRE
EMLL promoted their huge anniversary show ‘EMLL 47. Aniversario’ at the sold-out Arena Mexico in Mexico City on the 26th September. In the main event, El Satanico faced bitter rival Mocho Cota in a Lucha de Apuestas bout – where a competitor makes a public gamble with their adversary. Satánico won by two falls to one which forced Mocho Cota to be humiliated by being shaved bald afterwards per the stipulation of Hair vs. Hair.
The NWA World Middleweight Title was on the line as El Fantasma challenged Sangre Chicana for the belt in a Best of Two out of Three Falls match. The champion took the first fall with the challenger winning the second but the bout ended in a no-contest so Chicana remained the champion. Cien Caras also successfully defended his Mexican National Heavyweight belt winning 2-1 against TNT.
GEORGIA CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING
A wild month for title changes, stars moving on, stars returning and new stars debuting in Georgia. The month started off with Stan Lane defeating Kevin Sullivan to clinch the Georgia Junior Heavyweight Title on the 3rd September at the Municipal Auditorium in Columbus. A new Heavyweight champion of the territory was also crowned as Dennis Condrey pinned Steve Keirn on the 8th at the Bell Auditorium in Augusta. Out for revenge after last month’s attack, Mr. Wrestling and Mr. Wrestling II gained the ultimate retribution on The Assassins by taking the Georgia Tag Team Titles from their waists at The Omni (19/9).
Lots of new talent returned or appear in the territory for their first time. Mr. Saito is back and challenging various members of the roster to a special $5,000 Challenge Match on the Best of Championship Wrestling TV program. So far, Saito has retained his money by going to a time-limit draw with Steve Keirn, the Japanese suplex specialist then attacked Keirn afterwards but Kevin Sullivan and Mr. Wrestling II made the save. A week later, Jack Lincoln faced Saito in another $5,000 challenge with the former Olympic wrestler put the rookie away with ease.
Terry Funk has returned and joined forces with Ole Anderson and they are running amok in the promotion. On the 20/9 Georgia TV show, Funk and Anderson attacked Mike Davis and the NWA National TV Champion Terry Taylor brawled with Funk afterwards. Funk then ended up scrapping with Kevin Sullivan later in the show with Taylor again emerging from the back to fight Funk.
Two superstars have been forced to leave the territory due to recent results at the 5/9 Omni show. Ole’s brother Gene Anderson lost a ‘Loser Leaves Georgia’ bout to Bill Watts and the mysterious masked man known as Uvalde Slim. The stipulation was that whoever lost the fall would leave and Gene has now been forced to leave Georgia. Also on the show, Mr. Wrestling II sent The Masked Superstar packing as he also lost a Loser Leaves bout, however, this match was inside a steel cage.
A tag team from the Mid-South territory have arrived called The Fabulous Freebirds. The team consists of Michael Hayes, Buddy Roberts and Terry Gordy – yes, three men. They say that there are introducing “a new dimension to tag team wrestling” and that opponents cannot plan their strategy as any combination of the three could wrestle in two-on-two competition. The flamboyant trio rocked up on TV wearing all pink robes while Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Freebird’ was playing in the background.
The company made their debut in Columbus, Ohio on the 28th at Ohio Center with Dusty Rhodes (banned in Georgia) getting his hands on Ole Anderson in the main event.
A big month in Houston for the Paul Boesch promotion. He put on his usual weekly shows at the Sam Houston Coliseum with the big news being that Gino Hernandez, despite the challenges of El Halcon and Mark Lewin, is still the NWA American Heavyweight Champion. After defeating El Halcon by shady tactics on the 5th, Hernandez faced “The Maniac” on the 12th in a wild encounter.
Lewin took an early advantage claiming the first fall on the champion in a three-fall bout in just over two minutes. The crowd erupted as Lewin laid out Hernandez and his manager Gary Hart with a pair of vicious chops to the head which accumulated in “Gorgeous Gino” being pinned. Gino got the equalizer after hitting a top rope elbow to a standing Lewin for the pin. Although Gino was back in the match, Lewin dominated until Hart got involved. Lewin lost his cool and beat Gary Hart merciless outside and ended up being counted out so Gino kept the title. Lewin vowed after the match that he wants another shot at Gino.
MAPLE LEAF WRESTLING
In Canada, on the 27th, Frank Tunney promoted a huge night at the Gardens with a Greg Valentine vs. Ric Flair main event for the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship. The champion managed to overcome Flair’s challenge in 22 minutes but the war is far from over, as the referee failed to notice that Flair’s leg was draped across the bottom rope for the pin.
Also on the show, The Great Hossein Arab defended the NWA Canadian Heavyweight belt against the blood thirsty Indian grappler Tiger Jeet Singh. Arab escaped with the title losing on a disqualification decision after he purposely struck the referee to keep the belt. Bobby Duncum made his Gardens debut against Angelo “King Kong” Mosca, in a battle of former pro footballers, but the bout ended in a double disqualification after referee John Laing was manhandled by both guys and he threw the match out.
Announcements were made that Maple Leaf Wrestling will run joint shows with Mid-Atlantic in Buffalo (18/10) and back at the Gardens (19/10) next month, we will explain all the happenings from those events next time.
MID-ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING
There has been a heavy influx of new or returning talent to the area over the past few months and it looks like more could be coming in. Ivan Koloff joined The Sheepherders, Butch Miller and Luke Williams in the territory. The Kiwis made the ultimate impact in the territory by winning the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Titles from Matt Borne and Buzz Sawyer at the Charlotte Coliseum at the end of the month (28/9). Miller and Williams are still undefeated so far and “The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff has joined forces with Iron Sheik and Gene Anderson. It is understood that Roddy Piper will be joining Mid-Atlantic in October.
Sweet Ebony Diamond is hot on the trail of The Iron Sheik’s Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight title and they have torn it up across the Carolina arenas.
Speaking of Gene Anderson, he recently attacked NWA Television Champion The Masked Superstar, who is now teaming with “Number One” Paul Jones and they are in hot pursuit of Jimmy Snuka and Ray Stevens and the NWA World Tag Team Championships.
Ric Flair and Greg Valentine are still embroiled in a bloody feud over the United States Championship, a title that the “The Hammer” is still in possession of. Flair has been taking Valentine to the limit and one-hour draws across the Carolinas. Ricky Steamboat is also honing in on The Iron Sheik’s Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight belt.
NEW-JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
The Bloody Fight Series dominated the whole month in Japan which concluded with a big event at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on the 30th.
On the 11th in Osaka, two great title match main events headlined the card. Tatsumi Fujinami successfully defended his WWF Junior Heavyweight strap against veteran Tony Rocco and Fujinami’s mentor Antonio Inoki fought rival Stan Hansen for the NWF Heavyweight belt.
Hansen was accompanied by “Pretty Boy” Larry Sharpe who had helped Hansen sabotage Inoki’s shot at Bob Backlund and his WWF Title. Inoki ended up winning the bout via count-out after battling outside, but before Inoki was announced the winner, Hansen hit him with a lariat from behind. This knocked Inoki out cold and it took him several minutes before he could be helped to his feet. The feud continued throughout the tour and Inoki would gain revenge on the 25th at the Hiroshima Prefectural Gymnasium. He handed Hansen another shot at the NWF Heavyweight Title and defeated the Texan in ten and a half minutes. It was a hard-hitting affair with both men showing their real hatred for each other. The finish came when Inoki ducked a lariat and hooked Hansen’s arms into a backslide for the three count.
WWF Champion Bob Backlund was less than pleased when Sharpe and Hansen interfered in the Inoki bout and he gave Hansen a chance at his WWF Title at the huge event in the sold-out Nippon Budokan on September 30th. Both men saw a decent amount of offense but Hansen’s patience was wearing thin when he was unable to put Backlund away for the pin. Hansen saw red and dragged Backlund to the floor to brawl in front of the timekeepers table and was disqualified. Backlund came around and smashed a steel chair over Hansen’s head and the two started to trade punches again before Hansen retreated. These two will meet again.
Chavo Guerrero flew in for a one-on-one encounter with NWA International Junior Heavyweight titleholder Kengo Kimura, the battled for nearly 16 minutes but the bout ended as a double count-out. Georgia-native Ron Starr who has been working for NWA Hollywood recently, made his return to the company after two years to face WWF Junior Heavyweight Champion Tatsumi Fujinami and did more than hold his own. However, Fujinami prevailed winning in 18 minutes with a Boston Crab submission.
In the main event, Antonio Inoki fought WWF Intercontinental Champion Ken Patera for the NWF Heavyweight Title. Inoki beat the strongman in just under 15 minutes.
Next month, we see the beginning of the 24-show Toukon Series tour with plenty Gaijins joining. Guerrero and Starr return as Jim Garvin and Paul Orndorff make their first-ever appearances in the country. Steve Keirn returns as does the long-awaited reappearance of Hulk Hogan, another guy that Antonio Inoki is dying to get his hands on.
PACIFIC NORTHWEST WRESTLING
PNW Champion Roddy Piper and “Playboy” Buddy Rose’s long feud has finally come to an end after Piper lost a Loser Leaves match on the 27th September. However, earlier in the month (6th Sept), Piper and rookie Popovich teamed up to face Rick Oliver and Rose in a non-title title bout, although it was promoted last month to be for the vacant PNW Tag Team straps. Using shady tactics, Rose and Oliver got the win in a three-fall affair by 2-1. Following the match, Rose stated if anyone could remove his mask, he would not wear it ever again. Piper sneaked up behind Rose slapped on a sleeper and removed the Playboy’s hood and threw it into the fans.
Come the 13th, Piper defended the title against Rose in a Best of Three Falls match and Piper took fall one with a sleeperhold but before the second fall could begin, Rose’s comrade Ed Wiskowski attacked the Scotsman, ramming his head into the ring post causing a laceration on Piper’s forehead. Piper managed to pick up the second fall with a roll-up and Rose emerged with a chair. Unfortunately for the Playboy, Piper gained control and smashed him over the back. Many competitors from the locker room tried to stop the manic Scotsman and although initially they could not, numbers prevailed and finally saved Rose from serious injury. After the match, promoter Don Owens declared a ‘Loser Leaves’ match would take place between Piper and Rose on 15th September. Although Rose was fearful about fighting Piper again and he clearly stated he did not want to face Piper in this type of match. However, Piper demanded the bout and it proclaimed it would be just one fall and with two referees officiating!
The match took place in the hot and humid Portland Sports Arena with no air conditioning and the bout began a technical contest. As time went on, Rose started breaking the rules and Piper followed suit. The action spilt to the outside a few times but once back inside the ropes, the pair collided headfirst into each other and the match was halted for several minutes. The two officials pulled back the eye-lids of both men to check on their consciousness. One of the referee’s, Sandy Barr emerged from the back with a container of water and threw it on both men to revive them. The blood started flowing once Piper had gnawed at Rose’s forehead and Buddy smacked Roddy to open his wound from the previous match.
Rose went to the outside to grab a chair and Barr stopped the Playboy in his tracks, however, the pair grappled over it which Rose overpowered Barr and the chair and the referee went hurtling into an injured leg of Piper. Buddy went to work on the leg and clamped on a figure-four leglock with twenty seconds to go of the time-limit. Piper held on until the timekeeper Dutch Savage rang the bell. Rose grabbed the mic and declared himself the winner, Don Owens came down and said there was no way Buddy was going to be awarded the match. Much to the shock of the attendance, Rose attacked Owens and put the boots to him. Piper made the save and demanded Rose give him a no-time-limit rematch on the 27th.
In the rematch the next week, Piper clamped a sleeper on Rose and he was trapped and panicking. Rose’s movement caused Piper to lose his footing, Rose pressed his feet into the turnbuckle and Piper crumbled under the weight for the three count. Roddy Piper has now left Portland. Buddy Rose, Rick Oliver and Fidel Cortez joined the TV show the next week celebrating by showering each other with Champagne and Rose was sporting a “Bye Bye Piper” shirt.
New Tag Team Champions were crowned when Fidel Cortez and Rick Oliver won the belts in Grandview, Washington on 12th September. We cannot locate the official result of the match but we presume they defeated the team of Piper and Popovich for the straps.
Joe Lightfoot has arrived in the area and joined forces with Jonathan Boyd and Dutch Savage with the aim to take Buddy Rose’s army down.
ST. LOUIS WRESTLING CLUB
The Kiel Auditorium was sold out again for a big card in the territory promoted by the legendary Sam Muchnick on the 12th September. Ric Flair pinned Ted DiBiase, Rufus R. Jones tagged with David von Erich in a victory over Takachiho and Bruiser “King Kong” Brody and in the main event, Dick The Bruiser defeated Dick Murdoch in a Fence Match.
Muchnick is promoting a huge card in October at the Checkerdome in St. Louis with an NWA World Title return match headlining as Harley Race defends against David von Erich. Also announced, Ken Patera will defend his Missouri heavyweight belt against Ted DiBiase and Brody, Kevin von Erich, Dick the Bruiser, Dick Murdoch and Rufus R. Jones are all listed to appear.
WORLD WRESTLING COUNCIL
Two title changes in the WWC at the big event in Caguas, Puerto Rico on August 17th. Jose Rivera lost his WWC Caribbean Heavyweight belt to Luke Graham and Pierre Martel defeated Mr. Fuji to become the new WWC North American Heavyweight Champion.
WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION
The Wild Samoans, Afa and Sika have reclaimed the WWF Tag Team Titles winning the six-team tournament that was held on WWF TV over the past month. Captain Lou Albano’s men defeated Rene Goulet and Tony Garea in finals after Afa pinned Goulet following a double team bodyslam while the referee was distracted.
Last month, Gorilla Monsoon wrestled WWF Intercontinental Champion Ken Patera at the Philadelphia Spectrum and the veteran punished the Olympic Strongman before being brutalised at the end of the bout. Monsoon lost a four-minute match to Hulk Hogan at the Civic Center, Springfield, Massachusetts on 20th September and rumours abound that Monsoon this was his last match. It is claimed there will be a ceremony on 11th October where Gorilla will hang up his boots at the Spectrum.
It is speculated through many in the professional wrestling business that the National Wrestling Alliance would not have excelled without the legitimate athlete Lou Thesz at the helm. He is arguably the most celebrated professional wrestler of the mid-20th century.
Born on 24th April 1916 and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Thesz’s love for wrestling began after his father took him to a match at eight years old and he was instantly intrigued by the sport. His father Martin, was a former Greco-Roman wrestler and coached his son some techniques, which he picked up in his native Hungary before emigrating to the States in the early 1900s.
This early experience in amateur mat wrestling gained Lou confidence and he began to enter professional wrestling competitions at aged 17. He started competing in St. Louis’ and the city’s passion for professional wrestling was vivacious and all the wrestlers were cashing in under the pencil of Tom Packs. The promoter Packs had been keeping an eye on Thesz’s progress on the semi-pro circuit and he was noticing that young Lou was becoming an attraction.
Working under Packs was where Thesz would meet catch-as-catch-can grappler George Tragos, a legitimate shooter. A former three-time Olympic wrestler for Greece, was an expert in submission skills, he was well-known for stretching his young apprentices at his gym. Packs suggested to Thesz that he should join Tragos’ gym sessions to hone his craft. After all, Tragos had a great reputation nurturing young wrestlers with Joe Stetcher and Ed “Stranger” Lewis listed as former proteges of Tragos at the University of Missouri.
Thesz trained seven days a week under George for two years and Tragos become a great influence. Lou continued to work for Packs along the way making a name for himself in St. Louis. However, through the relationship created with Tragos, Thesz met the legend of Ed “Strangler” Lewis and the young upstart challenged Lewis to a shoot contest. Thesz stated it his “longest 15 minutes” of his life. The then 46-year-old man mountain Lewis reportedly humiliated and beat up Thesz but Lewis saw the respect, determination and the willingness to learn in Thesz and “Strangler” became Lou’s mentor.
By the time December 1937 had rolled around, Thesz had hit the road touring around the likes of Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska and became the youngest World Heavyweight Champion at only 21 years old. After a career-making match against George Zaharias, Packs booked Lou into his first title shot. He defeated Everett Marshall via a count-out for the American Wrestling Association World strap and hundreds of fans climbed into the ring in celebration and lifted Thesz above their shoulders.
Even though Thesz’s reign only lasted a matter of six weeks, he had become a major attraction. He continued touring across the United States claiming many titles in various promotions but in 1949 his world changed. The National Wrestling Alliance was set-up in 1948 (for the full story on this – read here) and Thesz was set to challenge Orville Brown for the NWA World Heavyweight Title. A title with plans to unify all belts and the titleholder becoming the single World Champion for professional wrestling. Unfortunately, Brown was involved in a car accident and could not compete and Thesz was awarded the title.
By 1953, the NWA expanded into 30 affiliates in the US, Canada and Mexico which gave Thesz many venues to conquer, and he held onto the NWA championship for six years, three months and 16 days, a record for a wrestling champion. On March 15th 1956, Thesz dropped the title to “Whipper” Billy Watson in front of over 15,000 fans in Toronto, Canada. Thesz took six months off to get a much-deserved rest and recover from an ankle injury, but he returned to claim the title back in November that year in St. Louis.
In June 1957, Thesz battled former gymnast, Edouard Carpentier in Chicago in a Best of Five Falls match. The match was tied at 2-2 when Thesz claimed a legitimate back injury and was unable to continue – Carpentier was declared the winner. However, as this was not an official win sanctioned by the NWA board, they chose not to recognise the title change, proclaiming that the belt could not change hands due to injured opponent. Despite the NWA’s announcement, some promotions did continue to acknowledge the title change. Thesz defeated Carpentier by disqualification a month later in Montreal but only some territories backed Thesz as the champion again, although the NWA still does not recognise this linage.
Thesz gained massive notoriety in Japan as later that year he became the first wrestler to defend the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in Japan. He battled Japanese wrestling legend Rikidozan in a series of one hour draws. These matches vastly aided commercialise professional wrestling in the land of the Rising Sun and helped the sport gain acceptance throughout the Japanese public. Their first match can be found on our YouTube account here.
With his newfound fame in Japan, and the money that came with it, Thesz asked the NWA board to regularly defend the title over there but the request was rejected. Thesz then wished to drop the title to friend Dick Hutton on 14th November 1957 and NWA sanctioned the change. This allowed Thesz to book his own tour of Europe and Japan, billing himself as the NWA International Heavyweight Champion, a title that All Japan Pro Wrestling adopted. During his time away from the States, Thesz became one of the only few men to wrestle in front of The Queen. He wrestled to a draw at the Royal Albert Hall in England on 11th December 1957 against Indian wrestler Dara Singh. Thesz saw this is as a tremendous honour and one of the highlights of his career.
By the start of 1963, Thesz was back in possession of the World title dethroning long-time rival “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers in a one fall contest in Chicago. The wars with Rogers were unique for wrestling at the time. Thesz, a professional athlete, a world-class wrestler and submission specialist against Rogers, who oozed charisma, bleached blond hair, possessed great strength, tremendous physique and pure arrogance. Rogers was reluctant to drop the title back to Thesz so the threat was there that Lou could shoot on Rogers and make him give him up the title.
However, this was to be Lou’s final reign as three years later he dropped the strap to former American Footballer Gene Kiniski on a Sam Muchnick promoted show in St. Louis. Thesz was 49 years old but he was not ready to retire and wrestled part-time for the remainder of his career until his final match in 1990 in New Japan Pro Wrestling against protégé Masahiro Chono.
A wrestler in seven different decades, the truly fascinating life of Lou Thesz ended as he passed away at the age of 86 on April 28th in 2002. He had undergone triple-bypass heart surgery and aortic valve replacement just three weeks before his death.
Some experts claim Thesz to be the greatest professional wrestler of all time and rightly so. Today in professional wrestling, moves like the German Suplex and S.T.F. submission hold are massively integrated into the business. These were moves that Lou brought into the game and of course, there are a few guys that still use the ‘Thesz Press’.
In the documentary ‘Lou Thesz – An American Icon’, he stated that he only regretted one thing in his life… “I can’t do it again.”