"The Case for the National Wrestling Alliance"
by Sam Muchnick

Wrestling Monthly, October, 1971

   As the only man remaining active in professional wrestling from the original group of mat promoters who formed The National Wrestling Alliance in Waterloo, Iowa, on July 14, 1948, Sam Muchnick can best appreciate the high degree of stature and importance which this strong organization has achieved through the years. Muchnick was there when the NWA was born. He was in Minneapolis during September, 1948, when the original by-laws of the NWA were formulated. He has worked closely with each of those now active in the NWA in addition to each of the 38 former members, some of whom have passed away. Among those deceased are Morris Sigel, Paul Bowser, Sam Avey, Fred Kohler, Max Clayton, Hugh Nichols, Tony Stecher, Joe Malciwecz, Al Karasick, John Doyle, Eddie Quinn, Billy Wolfe, Cal Eaton, Karl Sarpolis and Ed McLemore.

   P.L. "Pinkie" George held the office of president for the first two years of the NWA and was followed in 1951 by Muchnick, who had been secretary-treasurer. Muchnick stepped down to be executive-secretary after serving ten consecutive years in the head chair. Frank Tunney of Toronto, Kohler of Chicago and Sarpolis of Amarillo each had one-year terms as proxy before Muchnick returned to the helm of the NWA in 1963. He has now served over 18 years as president and says "I'll stay on as long as the membership wants me or as long as I feel I am capable of handling the job." Originally the NWA recognized Orville Brown as the World Heavyweight Champion. At the same time Lou Thesz was also claiming the honor. In an effort to clear up the title picture, the NWA arranged for Brown and Thesz to clash in St. Louis on November 5, 1949. Tickets had already been printed when Brown was involved in a serious automobile accident on November 1. The severe injuries received in that mishap ended Orville's career in wrestling (although he eventually joined the NWA as a promoter) and Thesz was recognized as the champion by the NWA. In fact, it wasn't until March 15, 1956, when Lou was beaten by "Whipper" Billy Watson, that Thesz was removed from the throne.

   Today the NWA recognizes champions in three weight divisions. The World Heavyweight title holder is Dory Funk Jr., the Junior Heavyweight king is Dan Hodge and the Light Heavyweight champion is El Solitario. Funk has proven to be one of the biggest gate attractions in the history of the NWA and has earned praise wherever he has wrestled for his superb mat talents and pleasing personality.

   The heavyweight titlist is booked through the NWA by it's president, in this case Muchnick. Although it is the president who allots dates, it is up to the champion and the promoter where the "kingpin" is booked to decide upon an opponent. If a certain foe is vetoed by the champion he must give his reasons to the NWA. The champion also has to put up a suitable bond with the NWA to guarantee his appearance in cities where he is booked. Should the present champion be defeated, the new title holder takes over the dates already booked by the former king. The dethroned grappler is, of course, free to sign whatever dates he can.

   Funk, the World Heavyweight Champion as recognized by the NWA, owes his claim to a direct lineal descent from Frank Gotch, the first universally accepted World Champion in 1905. There is no law, however, that keeps someone else from billing himself as the "world champion". "A group of baseball players could drop out of the major leagues," Muchnick offered as an example, "and tour the country calling themselves the 'World Champions of Baseball.' They could print stationery and business cards with the same phrase and nobody could legally stop them from doing this. "But that doesn't make them legitimate champions," Muchnick concluded.

   Of course, all National Wrestling Alliance members recognize the NWA champions...and these members, who represent well over 500 promoters, are based throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan and Australia. The NWA also has affiliates in other countries throughout Asia and Europe. Since the NWA is considered the governing body of wrestling, Funk, Hodge and El Solitario certainly have very valid claims and enjoy an overwhelming amount of recognition. Yet the NWA has never hesitated to invite non-member promoters to it's meetings and to maintain cordial relations with these groups.

   Don't get the idea, however, that the NWA is concerned strictly with professional wrestling. During the years the NWA has sponsored many worthy projects, such as donating to leader dogs for the blind. The NWA has always made generous contributions to the United States Olympic wrestling team. On April 15, 16 and 17, Eddie Graham, Tampa promoter and NWA member, helped to sponsor the National AAU Freestyle wrestling tournament in Tampa.

   But it is in the play-for-pay sport that the NWA has made it's greatest strides. When Muchnick went to work for Tom Packs in 1932, the "Big Six" controlled virtually all wrestling talent. In order to obtain the top wrestlers, a promoter would have to negotiate with Joe "Toots" Mondt, Jack Curley, Ray Fabiani, Ed White, Paul Bowser or Packs. Most promoters never saw each other and were very dependent upon the "Big Six". The NWA ended such "trusts" and "monopolies." It recognized that each promoter was dependent upon his own abilities and did not try to force wrestlers to appear for only a certain group of promoters. Through the NWA, promoters have founded many solid friendships and fostered an atmosphere that is good for wrestling-both in and out of the ring.

      All members of the NWA have had to spend much money and effort before they became successful. Unlike promoters and owners involved in baseball, football, basketball and hockey, a wrestling promoter has no protection from a league. Each man is on his own and must rise or fall with his own personal abilities. A poor promoter is unable to cover up his failures.

   The NWA is currently preparing for it's 24th annual convention, this one to be held at Mexico City in August. Previously conventions have been held in St. Louis, MO, Chicago, IL, Dallas Texas, Tulsa, OK, Toronto, Canada, Acapulco, Mexico, Las Vegas, NV and Santa Monica, CA. There has even been some talk of holding the 25th confab at Tokyo, Japan.

   As this convention draws nearer, the praise for Funk's job as World Heavyweight Champion has grown. "I'm elated with Funk's performance," stated Muchnick. "Dory has a fine background in wrestling, having been trained by his father, and that shows when he is in the ring. He combines tremendous ability with that indefinable quality many people call charisma. Not too many experts thought that Funk would hold the title very long after he upset Gene Kiniski, but dory has proven them all wrong. Funk has been a truly great champion."

   Muchnick himself has not regrets about his intimate association with wrestling through the years. "Wrestling is a fine body-building sport," he pointed out. "Every single muscle in a person's body is developed through the different moves of wrestling. Just because someone is a burly football player or a powerful weight-lifter doesn't mean that he is guaranteed success in pro wrestling. "A man must have a sound knowledge of the basics of wrestling. He can only obtain this by constant work on the mats, possibly in high school or college competition," Muchnick continued. "I'm very happy to see so many former college grapplers and athletes joining the pro ranks, because that can only help our product. Look what men like Bronco Nagurski, Gus Sonnenberg, Jim McMillen and Joe Savoldi accomplished."

   The future of wrestling is indeed bright and much of the credit for that rosy outlook must go to the NWA. Through it's basic concept of cooperation and friendship between promoters who naturally must depend upon their own talents, there seems to be no problem in wrestling that is insoluble.


"The Championship Puzzle"

The Case for the American Wrestling Association

The Case for the World Wide Wrestling Federation


Article provided by Mike Rodgers