"The Championship Puzzle"
Wrestling Monthly, October, 1971
by Norman H. Kietzer, editor, Wrestling Monthly
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
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
The Case for the American Wrestling
The Case for the World Wide