The Central States Region has always been one of the major territories in American
wrestling. From the early 1900s until present day, wrestling continues to be a viable
product to the faithful fans of Iowa, Kansas and Missouri. World Champions from every era
has made a point to visit the region, including the major wrestling markets of St. Louis,
Kansas City, Wichita and Des Moines. It was the promoters who learned very quickly that
wrestling was valuable in the heart of the Midwest. From Tom Packs to Sam Muchnick, the
top promoters in the history of wrestling have been in the Central States.
On May 23, 1899 in Kansas City, Evan "Strangler" Lewis beat Bert Scheller with
three-straight falls. The stranglehold had been barred.
William D. Scoville of Kansas City, in January 1907, announced that the Missouri Athletic
Club had offered a $10,000 purse for a Frank Gotch-George Hackenschmidt match for
April 1907. Later in the month, C.C. Cochran, the manager of Hackenschmidt, agreed to
Scoville's offer. Another offer was made by Scoville and, once again, it was accepted by
Charles Cochran of London in July 1907. Hackenschmidt agreed to wrestle Gotch in
February 1908 at Kansas City. However, Gotch hadn't yet accepted - and wouldn't for a
match in Kansas City. The match was held in 1908 at Chicago instead.
In early May 1913, Scoville resigned as matchmaker and part owner of the Missouri Athletic
Club and took over the management of the new National Athletic Club. The latter
organization planned to stage boxing, wrestling, and other types of entertainment.
Kansas City promoter W.D. Scoville was trying to schedule a match between Joe Stecher
and Young [Wladek] Zbyszko for the Convention Hall, possibly in December 1915. Zbyszko
was now in New York making a name for himself.
Kansas City Journal sportswriter Ed W. Cochrane predicted that if they were to ever meet,
Frank Gotch would beat Joe Stecher in the ring. This was mentioned in the Lincoln Daily
The Missouri Athletic Commission sponsored an elimination tournament in early 1930 to
determine a challenger to World Heavyweight Champion Gus Sonnenberg, and promoter
Gabe Kaufman booked Sonnenberg on March 31 in Kansas City to face "one of several
wrestlers who have shown well," according to the Associated Press. His opponent was
going to be either Ed Lewis, Marin Plestina, Henri DeGlane or Dan Koloff. Koloff, a man
Sonnenberg had wrestled many times before, was chosen as his opponent, and the
champion beat him in two-of-three-falls.
The Associated Press announced on March 15, 1930 that promoter Kaufman had
arranged for Sonnenberg to wrestle in Kansas City on March 31. His opponent was going
to be one of his usual ring rivals from the Bowser stockpile. This came after Sonnenberg
wanted to post the match because he was planning to go to Australia.
The Kansas City Star reported on March 26, 1932 that John Pesek had posted a $1,000
forfeit check with the Missouri Athletic Commission for a match with Ed "Strangler" Lewis.
Promoter Kaufman wanted Pesek to meet Lewis on April 11. Missouri Athletic Commission
Chairman Chester L. Brewer had already agreed to enforce an order that said that Lewis
had to meet Pesek in Missouri prior to April 25. With that, the commission reinstated Lewis
during a Columbia meeting on February 22 after the "Strangler" had been suspended for
refusing to fulfill a contractual obligation against Pesek. Kaufman predicted that Pesek
versus Lewis would draw a record gate.
Kansas City promoter John Hatfield suffered a fractured jaw in a car accident on November
27, 1932. Hatfield, 48 years old, lived at 1347 Brown Avenue in Kansas City.
A Topeka promoter, in February 1933, announced his plans to hold shows at the
Washburn College football stadium (Moore Bowl) during the summer.
On Monday, March 15, 1937, Everette Marshall beat Lee Wykoff in Kansas City, winning a
tough match by disqualification. In the bout, Marshall "suffered a brain concussion, 18
broken ribs, sprained ankle, pierced lung, and a kidney injury," according to the Associated
Press report. On March 17, Missouri Athletic Commission chairman Garrett L. Smalley
announced that the organization would officially recognize Marshall as the World
The first version of the National Wrestling Alliance was formed on Saturday, January 4,
1941 in Kansas City. At the initial meeting of organizers and promoters, issues were raised
pertaining to championship recognition, rules and regulations. The NWA had deciced that
Ray Steele, generally recognized as the World Champion, was not doing what he could to
wrestle all challengers and specifically shunning what the NWA believed to be the top
athletes in the game. The Wichita Athletic Club and Norris Stauffer was a lead member of
the new NWA.
Later in the month, the National Wrestling Alliance Championship Committee named Roy
Dunn of Gate, Oklahoma the top contender to the World Heavyweight Title. The NWA
recognized the fact that Ray Steele was the World Champion, but stated that Steele had
until February 9th to sign a match against Dunn. Steele was heavily backed by the
National Wrestling Association.
The National Wrestling Alliance was also working on the ground-rules for their governing of
matches. Much of the legal binding and contractural laws would be agreed upon by NWA
members in the early weeks of February 1941.
An impressive Rube Wright was making headlines in Wichita during the month of January
1941 with victories of Everette Marshall on January 1st and January 20th. Wright was
billed as the Pacific Coast Champion. It was stated that Wright also had a victory over Lee
Wyckoff, an important regional figure.
According to the Kansas City Star (7/3/41), Sandor Szabo was given "some sort" of
wrestling championship by the Missouri State Athletic Commission. There was a rumor
circulating that Szabo had been defeated by Steve Savage in Kansas City and Szabo wrote
to the newspaper to deny that ever happened. The writer, however, quoted promoter
George Simpson saying that Savage did beat Szabo in Kansas City. The newspaper
claimed that it might have been a different Szabo - not Sandor. "Lou Szabo of Tacoma"
was in Kansas City in 1937.
On Tuesday, October 26, 1943, the Wichita Eagle reported that Lou Spandle was currently
in England. Spandle was well known throughout the Central States as a referee. He wrote
a letter to the newspaper, and explained that he'd been all over Great Britain. He wanted a
"nice sirloin steak" for Christmas.
On September 20, 1956 at the Memorial Hall, George Simpson was starting his 28th
season as a matchmaker for the Wyandotte American Legion Post. He was reportedly
doing all the booking at this time, having broke from Orville Brown, and featuring "new"
heavyweights like Roy Shire, Roger Mackay, Chief Kit Fox, and Sonny Myers. The
Shire-Fox-Mackay group were known independents during this time-frame, being booked
by Johnny Doyle in Los Angeles, Denver, and Salt Lake City. Advertising specifically noted
that "new heavyweight talent" was in the territory for Simpson.
A downtown Kansas City hotel (Kansas Citian Hotel) caught fire on Sunday, April 10, 1966,
and wrestlers Bob Brown and Paul Vachon were instrumental in helping about 100
residents evaculate, according to the Associated Press (4/11/66, Columbia Missourian).
No injuries were sustained.
Former wrestler in the Central States, Edward O. "Ned" Locher died on April 26, 1960 in
Glendale, California. Locher was 63. He was survived by his wife Lucille and his
On October 5, 1967, a $27,500 damage suit was filed in Wyandotte County District Court
against wrestler Jack Donovan, who a couple claimed left the ring during a match and
attacked them on September 28. David Antill and his wife were both reportedly injured by
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|Kansas City Wrestling History