"They Make Wrestling TICK "

NWA Official Wrestling, March, 1952

Close-Up of Topnotch Promoters Behind Wrestling Picture

    At a special two-day meeting of the National Wrestling Alliance championship committees, held at the Claridge Hotel in St. Louis January 5th and 6th, it was agreed by all promoters in the organization who were either present or represented by proxy that the few existing "local situations" where outsiders were billed as champs would be cleared up at once.

    Both championship committees reported that Thesz and McShain have met all foes who have filed challenges through the regular Alliance channels.

    Thesz was presented to the group and delivered an address in which he thanked the promoters of the U.S. and Canada for their faith in him and he promised to meet all comers.

    "I hope to keep the title for a long time," Lou said, "but if I am beaten, I want to be the first to shake the hand of the new champion."

    Chairman Tony Stecher, brother and manager of the one-time great champ, Joe Stecher, commended Thesz and called him "truly one of the greatest wrestlers of all time." Fred Kohler, Chicago promoter, said he admired Lou but had a feeling that Vernee Gagne would take the crown from him.

    Members of the heavyweight championship committee: Stecher, Minneapolis; Morris Sigel, Houston; Joe (Toots) Mondt, New York; Johnny Doyle, Los Angeles; Frank Tunney, Toronto; and Kohler.

     The junior championship committee: Sam Avey, Tulsa, chairman; Roy Welch, Dyersburg, Tenn.; Hugh Nichols, Hollywood; Dave Reynolds, Oren, Utah; Al Haft, Columbus, O., and Don Owen, Eugene, Oregon.

    The next Alliance meeting will be held in Los Angeles, Sept. 5, 6 and 7.

    The National Wrestling Alliance has done wonders in the three short years since its inception. It accomplished something which everyone wanted but none thought possible—namely a close association of promot­ers, impresarios, hookers, el al —who now all pull together for the betterment of wresting instead of operating wrestling in catch-as-catch-can fashion to the satisfaction of none.

    In the short three years of its existence, NWA has changed all this. It now has 36 active members who among them book, promote, or are otherwise interested in more than 500 wrestling clubs in this nation and Canada.

    NWA's most notable accomplishment to date is the definite recognition of one and only one world's champion in the heavyweight class of which Lou Thesz is the champion, also recognition of the world's junior heavyweight crown—205 pound class—of which Danny McShain is the recognized world's title holder.

        None disputes the legality of Thesz's or McShain’s world titles. This goes for wrestlers, fans, and promoters alike. However, it stands to reason that some peeves come up from time to time. Sam Muchnick, president of the National Wrestling Alliance, saw fit to organize a grievance committee to iron out difficulties which arise before the NWA holds its meetings, when all questions are taken up and acted upon. The members of this committee are: Joe Malcewicz, Chairman; Frank Tunney; Tony Stecher; Alternate—Sam Avey.

    Recently two such peeves arose which President Muchnick imme­diately turned over to the committee. They affect the recognized world champions and the promoters in certain territories where the champions have not engaged in defense of their titles; and where there are two promoters in one town and one promoter has featured the champions while the second promoter has not been able to do so. With regard to the first peeve, the committee, for the time being at least, permits promoters to advertise their local stars as state, regional, or any other name they wish, provided the word "World" champion is not publicized unless the real champions — Thesz or McShain — are billed. This follows closely along the lines of boxing where many promoters advertise a boxer as state champion. Golden Gloves champion, and so on, but never world's champion — unless he is.

    The second peeve is a little more complex, so let us delve into this situation. Managers who handle champions — and this goes for both wrestling and boxing — naturally look to the most lucrative spots in which to defend their titles. They have a serious responsibility and also a problem. It happens many times that the manager would like to book his champion in a smaller city, but the champion may not be agreeable and the match isn't made.

    A wrestling champion, however, defends his title many times during the course of a year; sometimes 50 times or more. The boxing champion may defend his title only two or three times and even maybe only once a year. We rather think that because the wrestling champion goes to the mat in defense of his crown so often that this may give the "peeve" committee a good starting point from which they may be able to find a solution to the aggravating question.

    Let's take a quick trip around the country and meet some of the leading promoters in the wrestling business.


    Here you meet up with Harry Light. He has Detroit and the state of Michigan wrestling conscious. Light succeeded Adam Weissmuller, uncle of Johnny Weissmuller, famed moving picture star.


    Tony Stecher is a busy promoter. He handles both wrestling and boxing successfully in the State of Minnesota and has done so for many years. Besides promotion. Tony is also a first class manager. He handles the affairs of his famous brother, Joe Stecher, greatest body scissors king wrestling ever knew.


    Millionaire Bill Lewis is the big man here. Big in more senses than one. Big in ideas and big in poundage. Bill has kept fans coming to his arenas in Richmond, Norfolk, and other Va. towns for years, he has the faculty of giving his fans the type of entertainment they wish to see.


    Genial Johnny Doyle is the head man here. His territory is one of the biggest in the country. It has no off season but operates all year around. Johnny has a number of nationally known promoters to aid him in this tremendous sports enterprise. They include Cal Eaton, Hugh Nichols, Max Hirsch. Joe Malcewicz runs things in San Francisco and surround­ing towns. It's long been a gold mine for Joe.


    Sam Muchnick, President of the National Wrestling Alliance, the organization whose members include ever top notch promoter and booker in the country, is also the leading wrestling impresario in St. Louis. Wrestling is big business here. Sam has been hitting $25,000 gates and over when he opens the doors of the Auditorium. It is the wrestling Mecca of the mid-west and the ambition of every wrestler to get booked on one of Sam Muchnick's cards.


    Gentleman Ed Don George is tops in everything he does. When he decided to make wrestling his life's work, nothing less than the world's mat title would do and Ed won it. When world war two came along, Don George was a Commodore in the Navy. At the end of hostilities when he quit wrestling to become a promoter, he had to be the top man in his territory. And he's just that. Gentleman Ed Don George is a great promoter in a great town.


    Paul Bowser is the name which comes to your mind the moment you mention Boston. Paul has been the wonder promoter and manager in Boston for more years than he cares to remember. He made fortunes for himself and wrestlers. Men like Gus Sonnenberg, Stasiack, and so many others. Paul's home is a showplace. He owns his private trotting track. He is a lover of horses and once owned a trotting world's champion. Many world's mat champions have been crowned in Boston, notably the late Danno O’Mahoney when he defeated Jim Londos. Bowser promoted that title bout.


    In the days of Gotch, Hackenschmidt, and others, Chicago was one of the best wrestling towns in the country. It hit the $100,000 mark in gate receipts then went into a slump and stayed there for some time. Not until Fred Kohler came along — one of the younger promoters in the game, did the Windy City again take its place among the leading wrestling centers. Under Kohler's able guidance, Chicago is a leader in wrestling. Incidentally, Kohler has the biggest TV wrestling contract in the country.


    Al Haft is your promoter in Columbus. for that matter, he is the head man for the entire state. Al, a firm believer in the 200-pound class of grappler, has developed some remarkable men including many champi­ons. Al's hobby is raising prize cattle. He has a big ranch and has won many blue ribbons at country fairs with his steers and horses.


    A colorful section of the country which has made vast strides in wrestling since Tex Hager took over. It's a well-known fact that the rural mid-west has developed more wrestling stars than any other section of the country. Hager isn't overlooking that and already has come up with a bunch of promising lads.


    The Big Wheel here is Joe “Toots" Mondt, International promoter and manager. "Toots", as his thousands of friends call him, has seen wrestling go up and down. He always contended that if you have the attraction, wrestling will remain a major sport. He saw $70,000 houses in Madison Square Garden when the late Jack Curley was at the helm. "Toots " proved it could be done again by recently promoting not one, but three Madison Square Garden shows, all of which drew better than $50,000 apiece.


    LeRoy McGuirk and Sam Avey operate this wild and woolly territory. You'd have to travel a long way before meeting a grand guy like Leroy McGuirk. A great athlete and champion when he was wrestling, he met with a tragic automobile accident which deprived him of his sight. It shocked the country. But McGuirk is no ordinary man. He settled down to promotion with Sam Avey as his partner and they are doing well. Every promoter, booker, and fan wish LeRoy the very best of luck.


    This is the largest and most solid wrestling territory in the country. It doesn't operate so many clubs as some other territories but all are successful. Morris Sigel is at the head of this vast enterprise with his able right hand man Doc Sarpolis. For over forty years Texas has been the leader in wrestling. The State is a bonanza for wrestlers. They get the highest pay but earn it both inside and outside of the ring. They cover thousands of miles weekly and a six-hundred mile jump is just average. Morris Sigel has made Texas the Mecca of wrestling. Only top notch matmen get booked there because Morris has every wrestler of note under his command ready to come in to him when he says the word. He has developed innumerable State champions, and gave the famous Antonino Rocca his first start. Incidentally, Morris was host to the NWA Convention in 1950 held in Houston, Texas.

Article provided by Gary Will