"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
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
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
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.