Ted Thye had a long, successful career in professional wrestling, initially as a grappler,
and later as a promoter.
The Seattle State Athletic Commission investigated professional wrestling in March 1931
and Thye's business activities and the legitimacy of the business were hot topics. On
March 27, the Seattle Post Inquirer reported (3/28/31) that Gus Larson spoke with a
commission member and explained that he used to work for Thye. Larson said that he
had some insider information that wrestling in the area was not on the square. The
commission member invited Larson to appear later. However, during the hearing, a
phone call came in to Thye from Larson, and Thye had reportedly told him not to speak
to anyone until he spoke to him first. At the time, however, the commission members had
no idea who Thye was talking to, but Thye admitted that it was, in fact, Larson when
pressed on the issue.
Larson was then unavailable to be reached by the commission for comment, ironically.
Thye told the commission that his Coast Athletic Club took 25 percent of the earnings for
wrestlers who appeared for it, which had been said by "Musty" Musgrave previously. Plus
that wrestling in the area was under the "control" of Billy Sandow and Ed "Strangler"
Lewis. There were charges that matches were fixed and Thye denied that he'd
participated in any such situations. Thye was said to have tried to "get Bill beth to lay
down in his match with Koloff, but that Beth would not go on because he was not to
wrestle in a main event."
One of Thye's main accusers was a referee named Abe Kubey. On April 1, 1931, the
commission determined that the charges against Thye hadn't been proven in any shape
Around November 1954, Thye was organizing a tour of Japan, which was going directly in
the face of his old ring rival, Al Karasick of Honolulu. Karasick believed he held a
monopoly over all American-style professional wrestling in Japan, and did as far as the
National Wrestling Alliance was concerned. Thye's partner on the deal with the eternally
young Jim Londos. Londos talked with several wrestlers, trying to get some names to join
him, but Alliance booking agents ended up discouraging any wrestlers from participating
in the non-NWA sanctioned tour. Karasick sent letters to major newspapers in Tokyo
running Thye and Londos down, and even told NWA President Sam Muchnick that he'd
consider running operations in Australia against Thye as a measure of retaliation for
Thye going into Japan. Karasick had previously respected Thye's territorial boundaries,
but this was changing everything.
"I feel that They (sic) [Thye] is trying to get India, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan
under his wing...a Dictator," Karasick told Muchnick in a letter dated November 9, 1954.
In March 1955, Thye was in contact with Department of Justice officials in Los Angeles,
who were investigating the NWA.
On May 16, 1955, George Derr, Assistant Chief of the General Litigation Section,
Antitrust Division, Department of Justice interviewed U.S. Senator Edward J. Thye, Ted's
brother about matters pertaining to the wrestling situation. Thye, however, was looking at
the bigger picture, and wanted to shed all sports of criminal activities. He inquired about
the investigation into boxing, and Derr explained "our victory in the Supreme Court in the
International Boxing Club case has established our jurisdiction over the sport in some
situations, and that we were going ahead with our plans to try the case unless a
satisfactory settlement can be reached."
Edward Thye explained that he wrestled when he was younger and that his brother Ted
had "been a wrestling promoter since the time he gave up professional wrestling." He
said that Ted went "to Australia each spring and stays throughout the summer for the
purpose of promoting and managing wrestling events." Also, Ted's "work was so highly
regarded by the Australians that he was taken into the concerns handling these matters,"
and his "participation in these Australian enterprises has increased to the point where
apparently he has the controlling interest."
Ted Thye "refuses to promote or manage in the United States because he will have no
part of the Alliance," according to Derr's written memorandum. "The Alliance allegedly
requires a wrestler to 'take a fall,' or to lose, when it so dictates. Any wrestling promoter
who fails to sponsor on this basis is blacklisted. A more serious effect, according to the
Senator, is that 'many fine young men' who might like to wrestle for his brother would also
be blacklisted because they appeared under his sponsorship. His brother does not wish
to subject them to this penalty."
Edward Thye explained that "his brother has no difficulty in obtaining men to wrestle in
Australia. There are many competent professionals available in Australia, New Zealand,
India, Turkey, Pakistan, Japan, and Canada." Ted didn't want to use American wrestlers
for fear they'd be blacklisted. Edward stated that "his brother had trained two Olympic
teams and was competent to discuss every aspect of the sport," so he wanted
investigators to interview him. He also advised them to speak to George Barton, the
sports editor of the Minneapolis Tribune.
Thye said: "If the operators of professional boxing and wrestling are not enlightened
enough to put 'their own houses in order,' perhaps the Government would have to do it."
Ted Thye was interviewed by Stanley Disney on June 9, 1955 in Portland and Disney
wrote a summary of the meeting on June 14, 1955, and sent it to James M. McGrath.
Thye provided background about his time in wrestling, stating that he was first an
amateur in 1913 and turned pro in 1916. His career as an active grappler lasted until
1936. On the promoting side, he began around 1912, and "about twenty years ago," he
formed the Western Athletic Club, Inc. in a partnership with Virgil F. Hamlin. Most of the
time, Hamlin would remain in the U.S. and promote while Thye was traveling overseas.
"At present, most of the WAC wrestling promoters are located in Australia."
In the 1940s, the Western Athletic Club booked matches in Seattle, Spokane, Vancouver,
Victoria, Tacoma, Portland, sometimes in Calgary, and many smaller towns in Oregon
and Washington. Among the promoters he supplied talent to were Bob Murray (Seattle)
and Thomas "Hat" Freeman (Spokane). Around 1947, both Murray and Freeman broke
from the WAC to work with Great Falls (MT) booking agent Jerry Meeker, and Thye also
lost his interests in Tacoma.
Thye "said that he heard about the NWA," according to the DOJ report, "but didn't do
much about it. He said he had always been friendly with Hugh Nichols, against whom he
had wrestled, and Johnny Doyle, who was the son of the editor of the Post Intelligence."
Thye had been invited to the 1949 convention in St. Louis, in fact, Lou Thesz told Sam
Muchnick that he wanted Thye to be present. He told the DOJ investigator that he
helped broker the peace accord between Doyle and Nichols in 1950, but that Al Karasick
took the credit for it.
With regards to Meeker, Thye provided a letter (2/1/50) from Muchnick in which Muchnick
told him [Thye] that he had been invited to join them at an NWA meeting, but that he
chose not to do so. "Jerry Meeker came here," Muchnick wrote. "He expressed his
willingness to come into the Alliance. He expressed his willingness to cooperate with
you. How then can you expect cooperate (sic) from promoters in the Alliance when you
are in opposition to a man who is in the Alliance? It doesn't make sense."
Muchnick added again that Meeker "took the time and the trouble to come here for the
meeting and you didn't," thus, if Thesz or Brown were available for dates, Meeker would
get them over Thye.
Thye refused to compromise with Meeker because he didn't want "anyone running his
business, and in early 1950, both Muchnick and Tony Stecher pushed for cooperation in
the Pacific Northwest. Thye was even invited to another NWA meeting in February with
the intentions of working matters out. On May 12, 1950, Muchnick sent Thye a letter
explaining how to join the Alliance, and provided a copy of a letter he also sent to
Meeker, "stating in part that the Alliance wants Thye and Meeker 'to get together on a
co-operative basis' and to work in harmony. The letter explained that everyone feels the
fight between Meeker and Thye is harmful and embarrassing."
Thye followed through and sent the $150 initiation payment to join the NWA, but
Muchnick returned it, telling him on June 17, 1950 "that no new members were to be
admitted until the September meeting of the NWA in Dallas." Muchnick also wanted it to
be clear whether Thye or C.L. "Stevie" or "Mac" McPherson should apply for
membership. Also, Don Owen was mentioned as possibly joining the organization as well.
For a time, McPherson worked for Thye and then went off to promote in Bellingham,
Washington. "Thye said that the NWA member in Washington (Murray) later put on a
show in opposition to McPherson in Bellingham and bankrupted McPherson, as a result
of which McPherson committed suicide." Incidentally, McPherson was denied NWA
membership because he was a promoter, and not a booker.
The issue of Thye becoming a member in the NWA came up again after Jerry Meeker's
expansive operations ceased out of Montana. Through part of 1950 and into '51, there
was discussion, through letters, of him joining up and at one point, Thye submitted his
initiation fee of $150 to do so. In the end, however, he withdrew his application - one
story has it because Sam Muchnick refused to send him a copy of the By-Laws, and Don
Owen of Eugene became a member representing Oregon's wrestling interests. When
Bob Murray joined, the Pacific Northwest was completely blanketed by the NWA, and
Thye was a confirmed independent. Thye told the DOJ that he was "squeezed" out of all
arenas in Oregon and Washington by the two NWA operators.
Thye discussed the fact that he agreed to promote a benefit for Alcoholics Anonymous
on May 17, 1955 in Portland and that Owen purposely advertised a Lou Thesz
championship bout on June 8 several weeks early to hurt the attendance of his program.
Thye originally asked Owen for help with the benefit, but the latter refused, and then
asked Hugh Nichols of Hollywood for talent. Nichols claimed his office was unable to
supply workers because they were short handed. Thye knew that his show would "fail to
make any money," and it didn't. He planned for a second show later in May and lined up
Don Kindred and Eric Pedersen, workers who wrestled for Owen.
Thye promised both men $200 and wanted them to personally go with him to the local
wrestling commission "to explain that they were working with him for charity for only the
one night, so that their licenses would not be cancelled." Neither showed up and the
show was cancelled. According to Thye, Owen gave Pedersen $200 and sent him out of
town rather than have him work the show.
On August 7, 1957, Thye sent a letter to Commissioner William Bowes at Portland City
Hall and explained that his license had been rejected. He wrote: "To my knowledge, we
received no letter, only learned through the press reports of the commission's action
suspending our license after thirty years of operation. We have made no further appeal
to the commission to renew our license."
He continued: "It is very obvious to any business man that with one promoter [Don Owen]
permitted to promote two acts weekly in Portland as well as such performances in various
cities throughout our state this is a one man trust or monopoly. I shall not agree to use
any of my money to compete with such a monopoly."
Muchnick, on March 26, 1958, wrote to Thye and told him that while he was in
Washington, he walked over to the Senate Building, but Ted's brother was out. Muchnick
wanted to say hello to him. He also noted that "there is a terrific shortage" of wrestling
talent. "We are all having difficulty."
Muchnick said that he didn't know what was going on in the Northwest, but that "all the
NWA members speak kindly of you. They would do anything to help, if they possibly
Thye wrote a letter to the Portland City Boxing and Wrestling Commission Chairman Ben
Harris on April 29, 1958 and mentioned that the latter had agreed previously to license
the Western Athletic Club "provided it agreed to hold regular wrestling exhibitions on
Harris responded in late May, reaffirming the commission's intention to license Thye if he
wanted to run shows on Wednesdays. However, this wasn't going to stop the ball that
was already rolling in regard to the Department of Justice inquiry into a monopoly in
Oregon and Washington, held by Owen. The DOJ had requested that the FBI interview
Thye about his claims, and steps were being taken to make that a reality. Concessions
by the commission or Owen, at this point, were not going to change these facts.
The interview of Thye occurred on June 4, 1958 by FBI Special Agent Julius H. Rice in
Portland. Thye "prefaced his remarks by stating that he had been a lifelong advocate of
clean wrestling and that he desired to maintain an impartial status even though he might
be considered the complainant in this matter," according to Rice's interview report, dated
June 11, 1958.
He provided a brief history, stating that he'd been involved with sports since 1912 and
wrestled from 1914 to 1933 as a professional. Around 1929, the Western Athletic Club
was incorporated "and practically ceased operations in Oregon during 1950 because of
the fact it became impossible to obtain competent wrestling talent that would make it
financially possible to continue. Mr. Thye now operates as an individual under name of
Ted Thye and is associated with the Stadium Limited of Australia with headquarters for
the Stadium Limited at Sydney, Australia."
After all of Thye's complaints were laid out, with supporting "evidence," the DOJ Antitrust
Division chose not to follow up on the matter, believing it was a local situation - not
something that was relevant to the entire National Wrestling Alliance or the 1956 case.
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|Ted Thye Wrestling History
Legends of Pro Wrestling