"The Championship Puzzle"
by Norman H. Kietzer, editor, Wrestling Monthly

Wrestling Monthly, October, 1971

   The scene is set. The panel of wrestling experts is looking on. In the box are seated the three claimants to the World's Heavyweight Wrestling Championship. Each had had the chance to present his case in the three previous articles. Now the moment of truth has come as the moderator says, "will the real World's Heavyweight Champion please stand up." the wrestling fans of the world wait in breathless anticipation to see just who the real champion is.

   But before we announce the decision, let's look at what the title means to us. "World's" means that this encompasses every continent on this vast globe of ours and that there is no man in the entire world who can dispute the claim. "Heavyweight" means that there is no limit to what a man may weigh to participate in this division.

   The key word is "champion". To us this word means that for a person to be so recognized, he must have proved himself superior to all rivals. The man we recognize as champion must have proved to us that he is the very best wrestler in the world.

   We look back at Pedro Morales, Verne Gagne, and Dory Funk Jr.. Although there is no doubt in the minds of our panel that these three men stand above every other professional wrestler in the world, there is no way that we can honestly take the last step and pick among them.

   True, Dory Funk Jr. has the largest recognition and appears in more areas than any other claimant. True, Funk has a lineal claim to the title that is better than anyother. True, The National Wrestling Alliance is the largest and strongest promoter's group in wrestling today. If we were to pick one of the three claimants seated before us we would probably have to pick Dory Funk Jr. and go along with the National Wrestling Alliance.

   But, we could never say that Dory Funk Jr. has proved that he is superior to every other professional wrestler in the world. There are still two men against whom he must prove his right to recognition as champion by Wrestling Monthly. Those two men are Verne Gagne and Pedro Morales. At this point all we can say is that the balance of evidence seems to be on the verge of tilting the scales in favor of the National Wrestling Alliance Champion, but the AWA claim and the WWWF claim still have enough validity in our eyes to keep us from rendering a decision.

   And, since there are no plans in the works for elimination matches between the three champions at this time, we can only conclude that it will be some time before Wrestling Monthly recognizes a World Champion.

   Certainly the American Wrestling Association, with promotions in major cities like Winnipeg, Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Omaha, and Denver in the United States, and with the AWA, International Wrestling Enterprise in Asia cannot be considered a group of illegitimate wrestlers who have dropped out of the NWA and called Verne Gagne their champion.

   After all, Gagne has successfully defended the AWA title against Lou Thesz, Pat O'Connor, Dory Funk Jr. and Gene Kiniski. And there is no NWA promoter who would call these wrestlers "major league dropouts" during any of their careers.

   The promoters themselves by their actions admit that all three alliances are major league. We've seen superstars like gene Kiniski, The Sheik, Jack Brisco, Bobo Brazil, Jack Lanza and Baron von Raschke who jump back and forth from one circuit to the other. No alliance has a monopoly on the top wrestlers. Outside of the alliance champion which each group controls, the rest of the top wrestlers in the world work for all three alliances.

   Any well read follower of professional wrestling knows that Black Jack Lanza has appeared more than a dozen times in the past two years during the same week on an NWA promotion in St. Louis and an AWA promotion in Chicago. That The Sheik has appeared one night for the NWA in California and the next night for the WWWF in Boston. That Jack Brisco has been a WWWF star one night in Madison Square Garden and a NWA star a few nights later in Florida.

   The point we want to dispute in the NWA case is that other alliances are made up of drop-outs from the NWA The truth is that all of the top wrestlers in the world, with the exception of the three title holders who work directly for the Alliances, work for all three major leagues.

   Since the promoters are able to work this closely together in the matter of sharing the other wrestlers, why can't they share one champion? In the early 1950's they did and the situation didn't seem to work out that badly.

   Actually, the NWA and the WWWF had a series of meetings a few years ago in which they discussed having an elimination bout between Lou Thesz and Bruno Sammartino who were then the respective champions of those two groups. The only thing that prevented the match from taking place was, according to NWA president Sam Muchnick, the insistence of the WWWF that the combined champion that resulted would spend half his time working in the WWWF cities and half his time in the NWA

   Actually the three men who could solve this situation are not Funk, Gagne and Sammartino. The three are Sam Muchnick acting as chief of the NWA promoters, Vince McMahon, the most powerful WWWF promoter, and Wally Karbo, the top promoter in the AWA If these three men would sit down and agree that wrestling had to have one champion, then they would have the power to make it happen.

   We agree with Vince McMahon that the combined champion would have to spend more time in the WWWF territory than in other parts of the United States because the largest portion of the population of our country is concentrated in that group's northeastern territory. But, fourteen days out of every month is too much. Certainly Mr. McMahon cannot expect to have the champion headline every one of his monthly Madison Square Garden shows as the WWWF title holder now does.

   Mr. Muchnick told us, as St. Louis promoter, he would be willing to give up several of his championship dates a year in order to have one champion. But wrestling can only have a genuine champion, if every promoter in all three alliances agrees to make that concession.

   That would mean, if wrestling had one champion, Wally Karbo, the powerful AWA promoter in Minneapolis who is also associated with the AWA promotions in Chicago, Milwaukee, Winnipeg, and Denver, would no longer have Verne Gagne living in his back yard, ready to call on as often as he does. Certainly Gagne doesn't headline as great a percentage of the AWA shows as Morales does for the WWWF, but whatever the case is-and this goes for every area in the country-if wrestling wants a genuine heavyweight title holder every promoter will have to reduce the number of dates that he had the champion booked to defend his title each year.

   The question that may come up in the promoter's mind is this: Why, when I am setting attendance records right now, with my title matches, should I cut down the number of times I can present the champion to my fans? After all, the aim of every good wrestling promoter should be to give the fans of his area the very best wrestling in the world, and what could be better than giving them the World's Champion?

   The answer may be open to debate, but here is what we propose. With a disputed title holder, Vince McMahon can fill Madison Square garden any time. With a genuine universally recognized champion he might fill Yankee Stadium. With a disputed title holder Bob Luce can sell out the International Amphitheater any time. With a genuine champion he can certainly anticipate filling one of Chicago's ballparks. With a disputed title holder Aileen Eaton can sell out her Olympic, but what potential would a genuine title holder have in one of the larger stadiums in Los Angeles?

   Maybe our answer isn't right. Certainly Wrestling Monthly and I as Editor can't claim to know everything about professional wrestling. Certainly those promoters with years more experience in the sport than I have know a lot more about some aspects of the sport.

   We could try to please everyone by saying that all three claimants to the World's Heavyweight championship have valid claims, but that would be the easy way out. Somehow we feel that the world's title should mean something more than it does to professional wrestling today. We have visions of crowds like professional football is drawing for title bouts. We have visions of closed circuit matches, with separate "live" undercards in all the major wrestling arenas when there is an important match. Maybe we are dreaming, but that's our opinion. What's yours?

The Case for the National Wrestling Alliance

The Case for the American Wrestling Association

The Case for the World Wide Wrestling Federation

Article provided by Mike Rodgers