With Tom Jenkins from Cleveland and Charles Wittmer from Cincinnati, professional wrestling in
Ohio during the last part of the 19th Century was very popular and exciting.
On Tuesday, June 11, 1901 at the Central Armory in Cleveland, American champion Tom
Jenkins beat Tom Sharkey, fulfilling terms of the match by winning two falls within an hour.
Around 8,000 fans were in attendance.
In Cleveland on February 11, 1903, Dan McLeod beat Tom Sharkey with three-straight falls.
McLeod said he could win three falls within 60:00, and was successful.
During the 1910s, Paul Bowser ran a wrestling school in Newark, Ohio.
The Charleston Daily Mail (4/14/34, Charleston, WV) reported that World Welterweight
Champion Jack Reynolds called promoter Cliff Binckley, telling him that he was going to have to
cancel his scheduled match next Monday at Springfield, Ohio against Everett "Silent" Rattan of
Kansas City. The decision was made on account that Reynolds had been indicted for second
degree murder in Cincinnati, and the wrestling champion was cancelling all of his appearances.
On March 9, 1950, the Mansfield News Journal (Mansfield, OH) stated that "last week" Mansfield
wrestling promoter Clete Kauffman received a letter from a "fan," who was Tom Gannon of
Australia. Gannon inquired about Kauffman's tour of Australia and his matches against Clarence
Eklund and others. Gannon wrote, "as there is no way that we in Australia can keep in touch with
what is happening in wrestling overseas. I should very much like to get in touch with someone
who shares my interest in wrestling and would care to correspond on the subject." The
newspaper printed Gannon's address as "60A Osborne Rd., Manly, N.S.W., Australia." Gannon
was a premier wrestling historian and left a tremendous legacy behind.
Jack Ganson is an often overlooked historical figure and was very important in professional
wrestling in the State of Ohio. He promoted a number of towns, including Cleveland and
Youngstown, up until his death in 1957. Two years earlier, on September 6, 1955, he wrote a
letter to NWA President Sam Muchnick, explaining that he'd received a copy of a letter written by
Struthers, Ohio promoter Bob Scott, which had been forwarded to him by his "associate" in
Columbus, Al Haft. Scott's letter (dated August 16, 1955) was also originally sent to Muchnick,
complaining about a situation there in Struthers, and was asking for the NWA to step in and
resolve the problem. Scott explained that he and his father, John R. Scott, opened up a
wrestling promotion at the Struthers High School Fieldhouse in 1952, booking wrestlers from Haft
"through Jack Ganson on a 60%-40% basis, it being understood by all concerned that the 10%
over-ride was going to Jack Ganson."
During the summer of 1954, Scott explained that his father became sick, and a new promotional
arrangement with Ganson was made which gave Scott 10% of the profits and Ganson paid all the
bills. This deal continued for approximately six shows, and then when a steel strike hit
Youngstown in early 1955, Ganson wanted to scale back their operations to once a month.
Ganson provided Lou Thesz "and several other big names for a few shows, but then we got the
same old faces for another three shows," and Ganson was "claiming that no big names were
In March 1955, Scott received a note from Ganson saying that he wanted to back out of
Struthers for time-being, however, he'd heard rumors that a new wrestling operation was opening
a mile and a half away at the Boardman Arena. He called Ganson wondering if Ganson was in
on the Boardman Arena promotion, and was told that he talked to them, but hadn't made a deal.
Scott said that Ganson told him that he was being honest when he suggested they temporarily
close up shop in Struthers "based solely on conditions beyond his control."
Scott then noted that Ganson was indeed behind the Boardman Arena promotion "with the same
big names and new faces that I told him could draw in Struthers, but which he said he could not
get." Ganson brought in Verne Gagne, Don Leo Jonathan, and Gorgeous George, among others.
He'd been edged out of the business and his letter was a formal protest "and for submission to
the Grievance Committee or other such Committees which may have jurisdiction in such matters."
Scott wrote: "If the Alliance was set up to protect the interests of all who are engaged in wrestling
- the bookers, the promoters and the wrestlers - I maintain that Ganson is encroaching on my
established territory and that I am entitled to some form of relief, otherwise I feel that the Alliance
serves no earthly benefit to the promoter and was set up to protect their members only, to the
detriment of the promoter and the wrestlers."
This letter was in the public record at the National Archives outside Washington, D.C. Scott
indicated that his father, John R. Scott died on January 14, 1955. The business they operated
was J.R. Scott Enterprises with an address of 650 Fifth Street in Struthers, Ohio.
Ganson replied to Scott's accusations, providing a great deal of new information on the matter.
He opened up by offering a historical background on his promotion in Youngstown, telling
Muchnick that he launched his business there in the fall of 1945 at the Ravenwood Auditorium.
Since he was living in Cleveland, he was unable to devote the necessary time to run the
Youngstown promotion, so he made a deal with Jim DeNiro to run things locally. DeNiro would
serve as the promoter and matchmaker in a deal that guaranteed him all expenses paid.
Ganson said he put up $1,500 with the local Commission in charge of wrestling as a bond and
another $1,000 to a bank for promotional expenses "on terms 50% to pay wrestlers from the net
house and the other 50% split with DeNiro on 50-50 basis." Ganson said that they were "very
successful there for 2 years," but that in 1947, the venue was sold to a bus company for a
In a Youngstown suburb, Wickcliffe, he promoted for two years from 1948 to '50. Then in 1951,
he partnered up with three others to fix up "an old ice house in downtown" Youngstown, providing
for 5,000 fans, and for a year was successful - but after that it was sold to a drug company,
leaving them without a building to stage wrestling. There was some talk of Ganson operating at
the exclusive Stambaugh Auditorium, which had been reserved for musicals and operas.
Ganson told Muchnick that because the building was "so restricted, I was not very happy in
promoting wrestling shows there. So in the meantime, I was looking around in Youngstown or
suburbs to make a change."
Ganson added: "From 1945 up to Nov. 19, 1952, Jim DeNiro was acting as my
promoter-matchmaker for wrestling in Youngstown area on original terms. In the spring of 1952,
DeNiro had a stroke and was laid up in bed for 3 months in serious condition. Later when his
health improved, his doctors advised him to quit promotion of wrestling because it was too
strenuous for his heart."
During this period, a new high school was built in Struthers that would have a large auditorium
suitable for pro wrestling as well as a sporting arena in Boardman, another suburb of Youngtown.
Ganson said he contacted representatives from both entities about the promotion of wrestling.
He was called by Baltimore promoter John Contos in 1952. Contos wanted him to work with his
brother-in-law, John Scott, in a wrestling venture in Struthers, but Ganson explained that he
hestitated because of loyalty to DeNiro. However, DeNiro couldn't get a license to promote in
Struthers or Boardman because he wasn't a resident.
Finally, during the fall of 1952, Ganson worked out a deal with Scott and also continued to pay
DeNiro's interest until the latter moved to Florida around May 1953. For a time, Struthers ran
alternate weeks with the Boardman Arena in a deal Ganson said was made to "keep peace and
tranquility in that territory." After Boardman closed up to pro wrestling, Ganson and Scott held
shows until April 9, 1954 when they ceased for the summer.
"During the summer of 1954 - the month of August," Ganson wrote, "I was stricken with cancer,
and was operated Sept. 1. While I was in the hospital, around the middle of September, Scott
came to see me, and discussed with me the opening date for Struthers, which was October 23,
1954. I told Scott until I get well, you get in touch with Frank Talaber in Columbus, and he will
arrange the bouts for you. We never discussed any new terms or new deals to start the season,
assuming we work as in the past."
Following the October 23 show, Ganson's wife reportedly "approached Bob Scott for settlement
of the show," and "received a cold shoulder from him. He did not want to show her any
statements or make a settlement with her." She later called Haft, who "told her that as far as he is
concerned, the Youngstown territory, including Boardman and Struthers, still is going to be run
as Jack Ganson has been running."
Amazingly, there were still difficulties, but they worked things out temporarily in Struthers from
December 2, 1954 until February 11, 1955, running four shows in total. After that, however, the
Ganson-Scott promotion ceased for good. He then shifted over to the Boardman Arena with the
thought that if Scott wanted to resume promoting, Ganson would give him the same agreement
he had with his father and provide for shows in Struthers. Ganson made sure to tell Muchnick
that the Youngstown territory "does not belong to no one, but to me." Scott quit there in
November 1954, he explained, "therefore he has no more right to claim that he is a promoter
The great diplomat that he was, Muchnick responded to Bob Scott on August 30, 1955, telling
him that the NWA has no jurisdiction over Al Haft "as to what he does in his own territory, nor do
we have jurisdiction over Jack Ganson." He would, however, like to see all promoters get along.
Akron promoter Walter Moore dropped his affiliation with the Al Haft Columbus booking office and
beginning on November 15, 1958, obtained talent from Pedro Martinez in Buffalo. This allowed
him an entirely new class of wrestlers for his promotion. Moore remains affiliated with Martinez
until June 1962 when he seems to work into the Chicago to Detroit to Cleveland to Pittsburgh run
of wrestlers going between Vincent J. McMahon and Fred Kohler. NWA World Champion Buddy
Rogers was the major star of this circuit. Haft in Columbus was also tied into this group.
Incidentally, Martinez was not pleased by losing Akron and tried to get back into the city with Mike
Gallagher as his local promoter. The local commission denied the request.
A fondly remembered wrestling television program in Columbus was "Lex's Live Wrestling," which
ran on Saturdays in the late 1950s and early '60s. It featured Buddy Rogers as a fan favorite,
the hated Fritz Von Goering, Buddy Austin, Johnny Bared, Magnificent Maurice, and many others
- promoted by Al Haft with his son Al Jr. as the ring announcer. Lex was Joseph Alexander "Lex"
Mayers, the owner of a Columbus Chevrolet dealership, and the fiery commentator for the
wrestling program. Mayers was an Ohio State product and veteran of World War II. He retired to
West Palm Beach in 1977 and passed away at the age of 64 on October 15, 1991.
Longtime Akron promoter Walter J. Moore, on Thursday, August 28, 1975, won $300,000 in Ohio
Lottery's Buckeye 300 game. He'd been a wrestling promoter for 33 years. The Associated
Press noted that Moore had bought "10 regular lottery tickets every week and two Lucky Buck
tickets." He was 69 years of age.
During the early morning hours of Thursday, April 22, 1976, wrestler Joseph "The Bruiser"
Bernard (Bernard J. Prudhomme) was involved in a fatal car accident in Mercer County, Ohio. A
passenger in the truck he was driving, Steven Beresford of Toledo was killed. Bernard had
performed at a wrestling show in St. Marys with Beresford as his manager on Wednesday night.
The accident occurred on U.S. 33, east of U.S. 127. Prudhomme was 42 years of age.
Legendary wrestler "Tarzan" Paul Orth passed away in Bowling Green, Ohio on September 30,
1986 at the age of 79. He was a longtime resident of Toledo.
Research by Tim Hornbaker, Don Luce
|Ohio Wrestling Territory