By Tim Hornbaker
Resting on the banks of the Mississippi River,
and under the famous Arch, St. Louis, the
Gateway to the West, has been a wrestling
center for decades. The city has seen
champions all of shapes and sizes,
competition on all levels, from high school to
professional, and has seen promoters vie for
the profitable territory. The fans have
benefited from these battles, and have never
done without. St. Louis saw champions
Lou Thesz and Bill Longson on a regular
basis and had promoters Tom Packs and
Sam Muchnick organize wrestling shows with
unbelievable skill, providing the eager local
audience with a consistent stream of fine
athletes and only the best matches possible.
One of the earliest major wrestling talents
from St. Louis was George Baptiste. Baptiste
was born around 1865 to Greek parents, and
wrestled as an amateur into his early twenties,
even winning a tournament in 1889. He turned
professional, and standing 5’6’’ and weighing
155 lbs, it was normal for him to take on opponents of greater stature. Extremely strong,
Baptiste scored many victories on the mat, and performed stunts with weights, including
raising 300 pounds from the ground with his neck, and lifting 500 pounds with one hand,
eight inches off the floor. Baptiste competed in both the Graeco-Roman and in the catch-
as-catch-can styles, but excelled in the former. During his career, he held a claim to the
Missouri State and World Middleweight Titles.
Baptiste dropped matches to Dan McLeod and Farmer Burns, and had a key role in training
fellow St. Louis wrestler Bernarr MacFadden (Bernard Adolphus McFadden). He traveled
and trained with Max Luttbeg through the Midwest in 1896 and in 1899, his two week
marriage to Nellis Kyle ended with the latter yearning to return to her hometown of Milford,
Connecticut. Upon retirement from grappling, George maintained a training center outside
of St. Louis, where both boxers and wrestlers worked out. He was also a businessman and
returned often to referee matches into the 1920s.
A wrestling tournament was planned for St. Louis at Sportsmen's Park on June 8-10, 1883
and it was managed by B.D.M. Eaton. $500, and a gold medal, was going to go to the
Greco-Roman winner and $250 for second prize. In the Lancashire catch-as-catch-can
style, $150 for first and $100 for second.
On the afternoon of Sunday, December 14, 1884 in St. Louis, William Muldoon beat J.H.
McLaughlin in a mixed match for a $500 side bet. Muldoon won the second (catch-as-catch-
can), the fourth (side hold), and fifth (Greco-Roman). McLaughlin took the first fall (collar-
and-elbow) and the third (back hold).
In the January 31, 1899 edition of the Brooklyn Eagle, there was a challenge printed from
St. Louis wrestler Max Luttbeg. He was willing to meet any middleweight or lightweight in
any style except collar and elbow, and he'd weigh about 132 pounds. He'd even wrestle
Ernest Roeber, claiming that Roeber was a "fakir," and would "not meet him." Luttbeg was a
former amateur champion.
St. Louis wrestler Albert Balz committed suicide on November 10, 1912 at 28 years of age.
Balz claimed the 160-pound championship of New York state and was working toward a
World Light Heavyweight Title match. A newspaper report in the Minneapolis Morning
Tribune stated that Balz carried a diary in his pocket which "tells of unrequitted love for a
girl whom he mentions as 'J'."
On March 10, 1922 in Joplin, Missouri, wrestler "Strong Boy" Price of El Dorado, Kansas
beat boxer "Smiler" Adams in a mixed match. Both were middleweights. The match ended
in the sixth round when Price gained a pinfall.
The Missouri State Athletic Commission was established in 1929. Longtime referee Harry
Sharpe provided key elements to the writing of a firm wrestling code that would regulate
professional grappling in the state and Tom Packs was issued promoter's license number
one. The new laws went into effect in August.
On April 27, 1931, 15,000 fans turned out for a wrestling-boxing show at the St. Louis Arena
promoted by Tom Packs, who estimated the gate at $35,000. Missouri Governor Henry S.
Caulfield was in attendance. Profits were to go to the "citizens' committee on relief and
On December 31, 1932, William Levy announced the suspensions of Billy Sandow and
Everette Marshall. It didn't affect his upcoming St. Louis match because it was signed
before the suspension.
William Schwabe was said to be the president and matchmaker of the "Midwest Wrestling
Association" in December 1933.
The famed Kiel Auditorium, with a cost of $6 million, opened in 1934 with a capacity of 9,300.
In an odd situation, Ed "Strangler" Lewis requested to be recognized as the World
Heavyweight champion based on his "questionable match" with Jim Londos in St. Louis on
Thursday, January 31, 1935. The Missouri Athletic Commission denied his request.
On Tuesday, November 19, 1935, Ray Steele beat boxer King Levinsky in just 35 seconds
of the first round of a mixed match. The estimated 12,000 fans in attendance were
disappointed to say the least at the quickness of the finish. Levinsky claimed after the
match that he was robbed, claiming that his shoulder was off the mat. The Associated
Press reported that Steele was the "first world mixed bout heavyweight champion."
Read the extensive Tom Packs Biography.
Read about the Mississippi Valley Sports Club in St. Louis
Dick Shikat, the man who double-cross the "Trust's" heralded champion Danno O'Mahoney,
was suspended by the Missouri State Athletic Commission on March 23, 1936. The
reasoning was an alleged breach of contract with Joe Alvarez of Boston, one of Paul
Bowser's henchmen who claimed to have a solid contract with Shikat. It was also stated that
Shikat refused to meet Ed "Strangler" Lewis on April 3.
Tom Packs was an avid fisherman and often went to Robertsville, Missouri on short
On February 8, 1947, KSD-TV became the first television station in St. Louis.
Sam Muchnick ran his wrestling organization under the guise of "Sam Muchnick Sports
Attractions," and the partnership was owned 2/3 by Muchnick and 1/3 by Leo Ward. This
organization "operates as a promoter, the same as does the Mississippi Valley Sports Club,"
according to Muchnick's July 1955 interview with Stanley Disney of the Department of
Justice Antitrust Division.
During the conflict with Lou Thesz over the territory, Muchnick claimed to have offered to
close out his booking office, and work for Thesz for $15,000 annually, as a publicity man.
Thesz refused and promised to run Muchnick out of business within a year.
After the end of the Muchnick-Thesz war in St. Louis, both Sam Muchnick Sports Attractions
and Mississippi Valley Sports Club owned "St. Louis Wrestling Enterprises," which "operates
as a booker" for matches throughout the territory.
Charles W. Pian was involved in professional sports for decades in Missouri, and had a
heavy hand in the wrestling game. In 1932, he was initially named Deputy Missouri State
Athletic Commmissioner. To say Pian was heavily involved in the community is an
understatement. He was involved with the St. Louis Consistory #320, The Shriners Moolah
Temple, Naphtali Lodge #25-A.F. and A.M., Scottish Rite Club, Alhambra Grotto, Veterans
of Foreign Wars, Veterans of World War I of the U.S.A., Jewish War Veterans of the United
States of America, forty-two year member of the American Legion, twenty-five year Gold
Menorah Member of the B'Nai B'rith and the Elks Club No.9, Chairman of the Selective
Service System, member of the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce, member of the Ozark
Association A.A.U, 6th Ward Regular Democratic Organization, and the State Club
Democratic of Missouri.
Following Packs' retirement from the wrestling business, he focused on his Ainad Temple
Shrine Circus. Among his special features were Siamese elephants, Aida - the "Star in the
Moon," Torrence the Viennese Sky King, La Tosca, and others.
Longtime St. Louis referee Babe Martin was a catcher for the Boston Red Sox and the St.
Louis Browns. Another referee, Joe Schoenberger, obtained a wrestling license to officiate
in Missouri in January 1959 (worked first match on January 9, 1959 - bout between Sunni
War Cloud and Bob "Legs" Langevin). He was a former Army physical education instructor
out of Belleville, Illinois, where he lettered in three sports (baseball, basketball and track) at
Belleville High School. He was also a trainer at Harry Cook's famous Business Men's
Gymnasium in St. Louis for 12 years. Schoenberger was the father of three daughters and
sold insurance outside of the grappling business.
If a trivia question comes up, asking who was the longtime piano comic in the lounge at the
Claridge Hotel in St. Louis, and a well known wrestling fan? The answer would be Davey
"The Nose" Bold.
In early 1959, Muchnick was working to promote the high-profile boxing match between Don
Jordan and Virgil Akins in St. Louis at the Arena on March 6. Around February 10, a
tornado hit St. Louis and damaged the Arena.
Wrestler Otto "Whitey" Brexler died in June 1973 at Salem, Dent County, Missouri. He was
born in St. Louis on March 20, 1898 (1899) and his real name was Otto George Brexler. He
was known as the "fireman wrestling champion" in 1936. He worked as a fireman for Engine
Company No. 11.
Longtime amateur wrestler Mileo Occhi was also a talented pro - and later a referee in St.
Louis. Occhi was born on October 16, 1905. He won the Ozark AAU 165-pound title seven
years in a row.
Tom Packs Sport Enterprises, Inc
Incorporated: September 9, 1930
Incorporators: Tom Packs, Aristotle G. Jannopoulo (lawyer) , Leo Balkin (matchmaker)
Address: 407 Bank of Commerce Building, St. Louis, Missouri (Jannopoulo's address)
President: Tom Packs
Secretary: Leon Balkin
Shares: Packs held 98, Jannopoulo held 1, Balkin held 1
Forfeiture of Charter: January 1, 1932
Application for Rescinding Forfeiture: February 29, 1932 (filed)
Mississippi Valley Sports Club
Incorporated: December 28, 1948
Address: 812 Olive - 280 Arcade Building, St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis Wrestling Enterprises
Incorporated: January 18, 1951
Address: 486 Arcade Building, St. Louis, Missouri
Brown-George Wrestling, Inc.
Heart of America Sports Attractions, Inc.
Incorporated: November 26, 1963
Address: 910 Pennsylvania St., Suite 305, Kansas City, Missouri
Registered Agent: Robert F. Geigel
Last Annual Report Filed: December 23, 1988
St. Louis Wrestling Club, Inc.
Incorporated: June 27, 1972
Domestic Profit Company
Final Registered Agent: Joseph T. Porter, St. Louis, Missouri (12/1986)
NWA All Star Wrestling, Inc.
Incorporated: October 17, 1986
Domestic Profit Company
Address: 910 Pennsylvania Street, Suite 305, Kansas City, Missouri
Registered Agent: Robert F. Geigel
Last Annual Report Filed: August 3, 1989
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|St. Louis & Entire Missouri Wrestling Territory