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WRESTLING COLUMNS

The Nostalgia Pop #7

August 2004 - by Brad Dykens

Promoting the Promoters


Vince McMahon Sr. & Jr.: The McMahons are undoubtedly the "cream of the crop" as far as Wrestling Promoters go. Vince Sr. got started in the Northeast with his partner Toots Mondt with a promotion called Capitol Wrestling. Vince Sr. eventually broke off from the NWA in 1963 and formed the World Wide Wrestling Federation; following in the footsteps of the AWA, which broke off in 1960. The New York territory was known as the place to be for American wrestlers, and it was the place to make the most money. Booking Madison Square Garden in a city like New York was beneficial to everyone involved! Of course Vince Sr. sold the WWF to his son, Vince Jr, who took the company to new heights and eventually put just about everyone else out of business. Despite that, Vince Jr. has done a lot for wrestling and single handedly brought it into the homes of a huge percentage of fans around the world. After many accusations of steroid abuses and exposes', the Mcmahons renamed their organization - from WWF, World Wrestling Federation to WWE - World Wide Entertainment, (WWE).

Angelo Poffo: Angelo Poffo is most famous for being the father of two of the most famous wrestlers of all time; Randy "Macho Man" Savage and "Leaping" Lanny Poffo! Together, the Poffos made the Lexington, Kentucky territory a very fun place to work. The promotion was called International Championship Wrestling and its top stars were Randy Poffo/Savage and Lanny Poffo, along with a great supporting cast including Ron Garvin, Crusher Bloomfield (One Man Gang), Bob Orton Jr., Rip Rogers, Pez Whatley and many many more..

Angelo Savoldi: Angelo Savoldi promoted shows in the Northeast under the International Championship Wrestling banner between 1985 and 1990. He also pushed his son, Joe Savoldi, as well as stars like Austin Idol, Tony Atlas, Tony Rumble, Vic Steamboat, Tonga Kid, Ivan Putski, Kevin Sullivan, Mark Lewin and the New York Rockers (Al Perez & Joe Savoldi)..

Antonio Inoki: Antonio Inoki (born February 20, 1943) was born in Japan and immigrated to Brazil, but was brought back to Japan by the legendary Rikidozan. Antonio Inoki went on to legendary status in the country of Japan after Rikidozan's JWA (Japan Wrestling Association) folded, and Inoki went into business for himself with a promotion called New Japan Pro Wrestling and went head-to-head with Giant Baba's All Japan Pro Wrestling. Inoki is an icon in Japan, and did many things to further the sport. He had a famous wrestler vs boxer match against Mohammad Ali on June 25, 1976. After he retired from the ring he stuck to the promotional side of business, and encouraged a more stiff style of wrestling. Inoki now promotes both organized wrestling and shoot wrestling, often on the same show!

Bill Watts: Bill Watts was one of the most demanding promoters but he was also very respected because he paid his workers very well. Anybody who had the opportunity to work in the Mid-South territory definitely earned every penny because they drove great distance from city to city. Mid-South Wrestling later transformed into the UWF (Universal Wrestling Federation) when it grew to nationwide syndication. Jim Ross was a business partner in the UWF. The UWF was bought out by WCW in April of 1987 and Watts eventually became a part of the WCW office, as high as being President for a period of time during its rise in popularity.

Bob Geigel: Bob Geigel purchased the Central States promotion from Orville Brown & George Simpson. Harley Race & Pat O'Connor eventually became partners in the company. Harley Race was the top performer in the territory. Other stars to come through the area were Bulldog Bob Brown, Rufus R. Jones, Ted DiBiase, Dick Murdoch, Dusty Rhodes, The Oates Brothers and many more. Jim Crockett bought the territory out in 1986, but Geigel bought it back a few months later and it folded for good in 1988. There is a funny story that gets around about Bob Geigel being ridiculed for booking NWA Champion Ric Flair in the parking lot of a car dealership. This, however, is no indication about the kind of promoter that he obviously was.

Buddy Welch & Lee Fields: Lee Fields purchased the Gulf Coast promotion from his cousin Buddy Fuller (Real name Buddy Welch) in December of 1959. Rocky McGuire acted as the "figurehead" promoter when Lee Fields was an active wrestler on the roster. The GC stars included "Cowboy" Bob Kelly, Mario Galento, Dick Dunn, Ken Lucas, Don Fargo, Don Carson and many more. Of course if you came into the area, and your name was Welch, Fuller or Fields, then there was a pretty good chance that you'd be pushed to the stars. The Gulf Coast territory was sold to Ron Fuller's Southeastern Championship Wrestling group from Knoxville, Tennessee.

Carlos Colon: Carlos Colon formed Puerto Rico's World Wrestling Council in 1973 with the backing of Gorilla Monsoon and Victor Jovica. The WWC became one of the most bloody and violent promotions in the world. Hardcore legends such as Colon himself, Abdullah the Butcher, Kareem Mohammad, Bruiser Brody, Stan Hansen, Mr Pogo and others all left puddles of blood all around the territory. The WWC also played host to many future stars such as Ric Flair, Harley Race, Ronnie Garvin, Terry Funk, Kendo Nagasaki, TNT (Savio Vega), Scott Hall, Ron Bass, Eddie Gilbert and others; The list reads like a who's who of wrestling. Carlos Colon's WWC is one of the longest running promotions on the world, which speaks volumes about how successful he was as a promoter.


Photo Left: Carlos Colon with Los Angeles promoter Mike Labelle.

Dave McKigney: The Canadian Wildman (born in 1932) is certainly one of the most colourful promoters of all time. He took his All-Star Wrestling promotion all over Southern Ontario and Newfoundland (in the summer). McKigney was most remembered for wrestling Terrible Ted (The Wrestling Bear) on many occasions as a special added attraction on wrestling shows. In an extremely tragic accident, McKigney accidentally left the bear cage door open, and the bear entered the house, up the stairs and mauled his wife, Lynn Orser, to death! The Ontario Humane Society confiscated all of McKigney's bears. Dave McKigney's daughter, Rachel Dubois, also became a wrestler. On July 5, 1988, Dave McKigney died in a car accident along with Adrian Adonis & Pat Kelly on the Trans Canada Highway in Newfoundland.

David McLaine: David McLaine brought us some of the most entertaining "Womans" wrestling ever seen in North America. He was the brains behind the original GLOW promotion, and later the POWW, and even later the WOW Women of Wrestling. While his ventures may not have been long-lasting, he should at least be credited with attempting to give us a unique product.

Dick The Bruiser: Richard Afflis was an early NFL football star before suffering a crushed esophagus, thus he turned pro wrestling legend -- that also explains his trademark rough gravelly voice. Dick The Bruiser is a legend in the Midwest, and dominated his opponents for years. Dick the Bruiser was the original beer guzzling, cigar smoking, tough guy in the wrestling industry. The Bruiser often teamed up with the equally popular Crusher Lisowski and engaged in many bloody feuds including the Vachon Brothers. In the 1970s, Dick became the owner/operator of the World Wrestling Association out of Indianapolis. The Bruiser is credited with giving Bobby Heenan the name "Weasel". Dick the Bruiser also formed a tag team with Bruno Sammartino, known as Annihilation Inc. On November 10, 1991, Dick Afflis died of a heart attack after completing his daily morning workout at the age of 62.

Don Owen: Don Owen was the promoter in the Portland territory and was known by many of the wrestlers as the most generous boss on the circuit, and that translated into a high level of loyalty for the company. The Portland territory was a hotbed of action with such mega stars as Roddy Piper, Rick Martel, Buddy Rose, Ed Wiskowski, Billy Jack Haynes, Rip Oliver, Art & Jesse Barr, Dutch Savage, Eric Embry and a ton of others.

The Duseks: The Dusek Riot Squad (Rudy, Emil, Ernie, & Joe) promoted shows in the Omaha, Nebraska territory. Ernie Dusek was severely injured in a car accident, and was replaced by a "cousin", Charlie Santen, who went by Wally Dusek. Wally Dusek went on to become a road agent for Jim Crockett's Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in the Carolinas. Frank Dusek (son of Wally Dusek) is most famous as the tv commentator and figurehead matchmaker for World Class Championship Wrestling on ESPN.

Ed "The Sheik" Farhat: Edward Farhat (born June 7, 1929 in Syria) made a ton of money promoting shows in the Detroit area. As a wrestler, The Sheik was one of the first wrestlers to adopt a "Hardcore" style in the ring. The Sheik was famous in Detroit, Japan & Toronto but also internationally known. Buddy Rogers defeated The Sheik in a best 2/3 falls match at the Cincinnati Gardens on August 18, 1961. In early 2003, Farhat fell very ill and passed away on January 18. at around 3:15 AM in a Michigan hospital, he was 79..

Eddie Graham: Eddie Graham (born in 1929) was one of the best promoters to ever put on wrestling shows. Having a successful background as a wrestler, prepared him to be a great boss; he was the master of creating angles and coming up with innovating finishes for his matches. Eddie Graham ruled the Florida territory in so many ways. Along with his Golden Graham "family", consisting of Jerry, Luke & Bill Graham there was always a huge influence by a Graham at every event. One of the negative aspects of the way Graham did business was that he was a notoriously poor payoff guy. Dispite this, there is no doubting the fact that the Florida wrestling circuit was set on fire by Graham's influence. On January 20, 1985, Eddie Graham was found dead in his home, the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. In 1993, Eddie Graham was inducted into the WCW Hall of Fame, presented to his son Mike Graham.

Emile Dupree: Emile Dupree brought some of the World's greatest wrestlers into the Maritimes (Eastern Canada) and toured all over the place with stars like Leo Burke, Bob Brown, The Great Malumba, The Beast, Paul Pellar, Stephen Petitpas and many others. Grand Prix Wrestling was a staple in the area and had some great action on every show they put on. Emile Dupree's son Rene is currently wrestling in the WWE using a "French" gimmick.

Frank Tunney: Frank Tunney was the longtime promoter for wrestling in Toronto, and had a strong working relationship with Vince McMahon Sr. Frank Tunney regularly held sellout shows at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto with Whipper Billy Watson and Yvon Robert as headliners. Frank Tunney was the President of the National Wrestling Alliance for 1960-61. On March 25, 1979, Frank Tunney promoted a match between Bob Backlund (WWWF Champion) and Nick Bockwinkel (AWA Champion) in Toronto. Frank Tunney continued to promote wrestling matches up until his death in 1983, when his nephew Jack Tunney took over the office. The WWF held a Frank Tunney Memorial Tag Team Tournament on March 1987.

Fritz von Erich: Fritz von Erich (born in 1931) was a former collegiate football star at Southern Methodist University and played professionally with the Dallas Texans. Fritz then got into professional wrestling and adopted a "Nazi" heel gimmick. Fritz is most famous for being the father of quite possibly the most talented set of wrestling siblings ever. Fritz' sons, Kevin, David, Kerry, Mike & Chris helped Fritz put on shows in the Dallas/Ft Worth for years and turned the promotion into the hottest territory in the industry. It all surrounded the feud between the von Erich Brothers and a team known as the Fabulous Freebirds (Michael Hayes, Buddy Jack Roberts & Terry Gordy). Tragedy struck the von Erich family, however, and 5 of the 6 sons passed away long before their time. Fritz von Erich found dead at his home in Lake Dallas on September 19, 1997.

The Funks: Dory Funk Sr. was the hard-nosed Amarillo promoter until his death in 1973, when his sons, Dory Jr & Terry, took over the promotion. The Funks had tremendous influence over the National Wrestling Alliance as well as the NWA World Heavyweight championship. Both Dory Jr. & Terry held the NWA World championship largely due to the persuasion of their father, who was a member of the NWA Board of Directors. That's not to say they both didn't deserve their reigns on top, because they were both two of the greatest and most technical wrestlers of all time. The Amarillo territory enjoyed moderate success, but was never a hotbed of action, mostly because the Funks split their efforts around other places on the wrestling map.

Gene & Mike LeBell: Gene & Mike LeBell, along with Jules Strongbow and Cal Eaton promoted shows in Los Angeles under the name World Wrestling Association. Just like New York, it was a great place to do business; running shows at the Olympic Auditorium on a regular basis. The WWA's biggest stars were Fled Blassie, John Tolos, Black Gordman, Great Goliath, Victor Rivera, The Destroyer, Pedro Morales, Chavo Guerrero and Mil Mascaras. The promotion often catered to the high percentage of Latino fans in the area.

Giant Baba: Shohei "Giant" Baba (born on January 23, 1938) was a professional baseball pitcher for the Yomiuri Giants before getting into wrestling after suffering an injury. Baba made the transition to wrestling and received his training from the legendary Rikidozan and debuted in 1960. Giant Baba was another of Rikidozan's protégés who branched out on his own when the Japan Wrestling Association closed its doors. Baba went out and founded All-Japan Pro Wrestling in 1970, and competed with Antonio Inoki's New Japan Pro Wrestling promotion. A promotional war, which has lasted many decades and still goes on today, long after Baba's death, and Inoki's diminished involvement. Giant Baba died on February 1, 1999 in Tokyo as a result of Cancer at the age of 61. Motoko Baba (Shohei's wife) took control of the company in June of 2000, but a few years later she transferred all her stock in All Japan Pro Wrestling over to Keiji Muto (aka The Great Muta).

Jerry Jarrett: Jerry Jarrett is known these days for being the brains behind the TNA promotion. But Jerry Jarrett's history in the wrestling industry goes way back to being a mid-card wrestler before putting on a suit and handling things on the promotional side. Jerry Jarrett headed up Mid-Southern Wrestling in Memphis, CWA (also in Memphis), the United States Wrestling Association in Tennessee with Jerry Lawler, and even held ownership of World Class Championship Wrestling in Dallas. In the mid-90s, Jerry Jarrett worked for the WWF in a backstage capacity. Jerry Jarrett wasn't really heard from until 2002 when he started NWA: Total Nonstop Action in Nashville, Tennessee, a company which will eventually be taken over by his son, Jeff Jarrett.

Jim Crockett Sr. & Jr.: Jim Crockett Sr. was the promoter of the extremely successful Mid Atlantic territory out of Charlotte, North Carolina between 1935 and 1973, when Jim Crockett Jr took over the company. The Mid Atlantic area was a breeding ground for some of the biggest stars in the business; Johnny Valentine, Ric Flair, Blackjack Mulligan, The Brisco Brothers, The Anderson, Greg Valentine, Paul Jones, Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat, Rip Hawk, Swede Hansen, Johnny Weaver, George Becker... to name a few! In 1986, Mid-Atlantic was getting so big that it was renamed to Jim Crockett Promotions and promoted shows under the NWA Banner. In 1988, Jim Crockett Promotions was purchased by Ted Turner and renamed to World Championship Wrestling.

Joe Blanchard: Joe Blanchard is the father of the great Tully Blanchard, and ran Southwest Championship Wrestling out of San Antonio, Texas between 1978-1982. Some of the top Southwest wrestlers included Tully, Scott Casey, Bob Sweetan, The Sheepherders, Gino Hernandez, Bobby Jaggers, Eric Embry, Adrian Adonis, Captain Redneck, Al Perez, Manny Fernandez and the list goes on and on. Southwest Championship Wrestling eventually evolved into Texas All-Star Wrestling and then into USA All-Star Wrestling.

Leroy McGuirk: Leroy McGuirk was a truly unique promoter. He was legally blind. Imagine running a show that you'd never be able to watch clearly. Leroy McGuirk promoted in Oklahoma under the Tri-State Wrestling banner and was responsible for giving Jack Brisco his start. McGuirk also regularly booked Danny Hodge, The Spoiler, Killer Karl Kox, Bill Watts, Grizzly Smith, The Assassins, The Kentuckians, The Bass Brothers and tons more. Leroy is also the father of the former female ring announcer Mike McGuirk in the WWF.

Paul Beosch: Paul Beosch (born on October 2, 1912) took over the Houston territory from Morris Sigel in the late 1960s. He became one of the more influential promoters in the country. Beosch often worked closely with Southwest, World Class, Mid-South/UWF, and the World Wrestling Federation. Beosch reigned as promoter until 1987, when he retired, bitter over not being told of the UWF sale to Crockett. Paul Beosch invented mud wrestling -- for a match with Gus Sonnenberg & Harnam Singh (in Seattle). The WWE hosted the Paul Beosch Retirement Show in Houston before a sellout 12,000 fans on August 28, 1987. Paul Beosch passed away on March 7, 1989 at the age of 76 in Sugarland, TX after suffering a heart attack.

Rikidozan: Known as the father of Japanese Wrestling, Rikidozan (born on November 14, 1924 in Korea) was probably the "Thesz" of Japan. Rikidozan's JWA (Japan Wrestling Association) started things off, and eventually two of Rikidozan's protégés would break off and form their own promotions; Inoki with New Japan, and Baba with All Japan.

Ron Fuller: Ron Fuller's popularity among his workers is pretty much split 50/50 with some hating him, and some loving him. Fuller started out promoting in Knoxville in the mid-70s, then bought the Gulf Coast territory from his cousin Lee Fields in 1977. Ron Fuller had the most success later on with the South Eastern promotion, which later changed its name to Continental Championship Wrestling. There's no discounting his success in the territory that he promoted in. The Southeastern territory wasn't a huge market, yet he managed to sell out arenas in Dothan, Alabama on a regular basis, consistently bringing in an average of 3,000 fans per show during the promotions 8 year history. Fuller was also a successful performer in the ring, as the leader of the original Stud Stable, which included his brother Robert Fuller.

Roy Shire: Roy Shire promoted in the San Francisco territory and had the opportunity to book some great stars like Pepper Gomez, Pedro Morales, Ray Stevens, Pat Patterson, Mr Saito, Mr Fuji, Rocky Johnson, Haystacks Calhoun and so on. Among workers, Roy Shire is known as one of the nicest in the country and very enjoyable to work with.

Sam Muchnick: Sam Muchnick learned the business from Tom Packs in the 30s and 40s and eventually had a partnership with Lou Thesz. Sam Muchnick helped keep the NWA together for years, and acted as President between 1963 and 1975. Sam Muchnicks was also the promoter in the St. Louis territory for around 30 years until 1982 when the promotion folded. He was a great payoff man, and was known for booking his wrestlers while keeping the future in mind. Wrestlers received slow and deserved pushes with a long term "plan" for their character. The St Louis promotion was made "credible" when Muchnick outlawed blading, referee abuse, no masks or gimmick, no fighting outside of the ring, and consistent clean finishes; He treated his audience with RESPECT. In addition to that part of Muchnick's responsibilities as NWA President were to book the NWA World champion.

Stu Hart: Stu Hart (born on May 3, 1915) created his own legend, and it will go on forever, through the family he brought into the world. Stu Hart had dreams of winning an Olympic medal in amateur wrestling, but wasn't able to participate due to World War II. Stu Hart, did however, play football for the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League. Stu would begin wrestling professionally in the 1940s before opening up his own promotion in Edmonton in 1948, and later moving it to Calgary in the late 1950s. Stu would then begin building his legacy, along with his wife, bringing 12 children into the world, 8 boys (who would become wrestlers), and 4 girls (who would marry wrestlers).

The most famous of the litter were Bret & Owen Hart, who had very successful stints in the WWF. Stu surrounded himself with the industry; Wrestlers always visited the famous Hart Mansion when they came into town. For the Hart kids, waking up and finding Andre The Giant at their breakfast table, was nothing unusual. Stu Hart trained a lot of the top stars in the basement of his house, appropriately named The Dungeon, including all of his sons, Davey Boy Smith, Jim Neidhart, Chris Jericho, Lance Storm, Test, Christian, Edge and hundreds more. Several of Stu's grandkids are now breaking into the business; Teddy Hart (son of Georgia Hart), Harry Smith (son of Diana Hart) and Nattie Neidhart (daughter of Ellie) are the most notable. Unfortunately, Stu Hart passed away on October 16, 2003 from complications of diabetes and pneumonia at the age of 88. A few days later, Chris Benoit defeated A-Train on WWE PPV with the Sharpshooter as a tribute to Stu Hart, and thus expressing the true fondness that the entire wrestling world had for such a great and influential man.

Toots Mondt: Toots Mondt (born in 1886) make his wrestling debut in Greeley, Colorado on 1902 at the age of 16 in a carnival-wrestling match. That pretty much sums up Toots' mentality. Toots Mondt recognized that the industry needed to change. Up until 1919, wrestling matches were slow-moving exhibitions mainly confined to the mat and lasting on an average 60 minutes. Crowds no longer found this to be suitable entertainment and attendance began to dwindle. Wrestling matches slowly and eventually became pre-determined, but Toots was not finished there, he would continue to revolutionize the product and style of wrestling wherever he went. When Toots' efforts carried over to New York, he enlisted the services of Jess McMahon (Vince's granddad). Toots eventually became business partners with Vince McMahon Sr. and created Capital Sports, a territorial member of the NWA until 1963, when they broke away and renamed the company the World Wide Wrestling Federation. In 1965, Toots Mondt stepped down as Promoter at Madison Square Garden and Vince McMahon Sr took over. Toots Mondt did a lot more than revolutionize the face of wrestling, the most important thing, is that Toots Mondt had a vision. He passed away in 1976.

Verne Gagne: Verne Gagne (born May 10, 1923) was one of the most demanding promoters on the planet. His aggressive "shoot" style made it mandatory to make his product look as real as possible. Verne was a very successful amateur wrestler in the late 40s, winning the NCAA title in both 1948 and 1949, and was a member of the United States Olympic team in 1848. Verne got into professional wrestling at the encouragement of Minneapolis wrestling promoter Tony Stecher, and quickly became a force to be reckoned with. By 1960, he had won the AWA World Heavyweight title. Verne Gagne took an increasing interest in the management of the AWA, and eventually became the sole shareholder of the company. By the 80s, the AWA was seen all over the country on ESPN, and was running neck-and-neck with Vince McMahon's WWF. Vince, however, proved too powerful, as he raided Verne's roster and the AWA started to disintegrate. Verne Gagne was also responsible for training a lot of the biggest names in wrestling such as Ric Flair, Bob Backlund, Jim Brunzell, Ken Patera, Ricky Steamboat, Buddy Rose, Ole Anderson and countless others.


jared levsey wrote:
You are forgetting one of the most revolutionary promoters ever paul heymen.Ecw changed the business forever with its extreme hardcore style.without ecw you would not have seen a mick foley falling 20 feet off the hell in a cell or any of the unforgettable extreme moments wwe has delivered in years past.when you talk about promoters paul heymen belongs at the time,screw his business decisions this man is a wrestling genius.wwf changed its name after world wildlife fund sued them by the way
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