St. Louis #11 Page #2

 Local TV set up feuds and blow off matches at house shows.  Kayfabe was in place and enforced. We finally received cable at my house in 1982. From cable, I was exposed to Georgia Championship Wrestling on WTBS (great stuff!!!), the WWF on USA Network – Backlund, Snuka, Grand Wizard. Later I could see World Class Championship Wrestling and Southwest Championship Wrestling via cable and syndication. I was beginning to “smarten up” – to see the same wrestlers in different regions, thanks to cable. Even though the St. Louis promotion had lost Sam, things seemed to be going fine for the consortium that succeeded him. The consortium consisted of Harley Race, Verne Gagne, Pat O’Connor, and Bob Geigel. This group had purchased Sam’s share of the St. Louis office in late 1981, with the transfer of power effective with Sam’s retirement on January 1, 1982, Crowds were still up at the Kiel, and ratings were high for the local Wrestling at the Chase TV show. Everything was basically at it had always been, invisible to the mark in the cheap seats at the Kiel. This was the calm before the storm in both St. Louis and the NWA.

June 1983

During June 1983, Harley Race defeated Ric Flair in St. Louis for his (Race’s) last NWA Title reign. This was important for a few reasons: Business was still good (good crowd on hand for this match), Race owned part of the St. Louis office, and, depending on who you read or believe, this title change was part of the changing of the guard in the NWA. During this time, there was fear in the rest of the NWA that Jim Crockett in the Mid-Atlantic region was out to “control” the belt and the schedule and booking of the champion (which would happen later anyway). Also during this time, Fritz Von Erich (Jack Adkisson) in Dallas was campaigning long and hard for his son David Von Erich, to get a title reign. The hard feelings and friction with Fritz resulted in the eventual brief 1984 title reign of Kerry Von Erich  and the eventual defection of World Class from the NWA. Race did not really want this title reign due to the heavy travel and match commitments involved, but accepted it to keep the peace in the NWA. He later dropped the belt to Flair at the first StarrCade inside the steel cage later in 1983, and many of the feuds and fears among NWA member promoters re-emerged. At this point, the NWA alliance of promoters working for the common good was beginning to crack. The difference was that in the past, Sam Muchnick was there to keep the peace and to keep the other promoters in line. He was that well-respected and could hold the coalition together, as he had since the 1950s.

But, to be fair, could Sam have held together the NWA coalition in 1983 and beyond? Sam did not have to deal with cable TV, or the oncoming encroachment of the WWF. Also, the rules were changing. Promoters were not so willing to work together for the common good. How would Sam have dealt with PPV? I can honestly tell you that even in 1983, in St. Louis, crowds were still up, TV ratings strong, and kayfabe still existed. The product was essentially the same as the day Sam retired. Larry Matysik eventually left the new ownership group to start his own outlaw promotion. The storm was definitely coming.

January 1984

Hulk Hogan defeats the Iron Sheik for the WWF Title. Vince McMahon, Jr. starts the move to expand nationwide. One of his first targets: St. Louis. The WWF begins running house shows at the Kiel Auditorium. The WWF takes over the long-time TV spot on Sunday mornings at 11:00 on Channel 11 – the “Wrestling at the Chase” NWA St. Louis timeslot. The storm is here. Attendance begins to drop off at Kiel Auditorium shows. One by one, member promotions are closing down and/or leaving the NWA: Houston, Dallas (Fritz Von Erich leaves the NWA), and Georgia (Jim Crockett buys GCW). NWA member promotions that survive struggle against WWF expansion and WWF talent raids. (Note: anybody remember “King” Harley Race later on in the WWF?)

August 2, 1985

Harley Race defeats Crusher Jerry Blackwell for in the last ever Missouri Title match. This marks the end of one of the most important regional belts in the NWA, held by the likes of Flair, the Funks, Jack Brisco, Harley Race, Dick Murdoch, Bob Backlund and more (see past article on the Missouri Title). By this time crowds are declining as Hulkamania is running wild with the nationwide expansion of the WWF. On a personal note, at this time I am in college/in the Army, so I am not attending cards or paying attention as I was in the past. Also at this time,  the consortium that succeeded Sam Muchnick was feeling the heat, especially Harley Race:

Earlier in his career, Race had become involved in the promotional side of wrestling, owning part of the Kansas City territory along with Bob Geigel and Pat O’Connor and buying into the St. Louis promotion with Geigel, O’Connor and Sam Muchnick.  After Muchnick retired, Verne Gagne joined the St. Louis ownership.  Race described St. Louis as the “crown jewel” of the NWA, so it is no surprise that when Vince McMahon set out to conquer the wrestling world, the first shots of the war were fired in St. Louis.  As this was going on, Race had reached a point in his career where he wanted to be less involved as an active wrestler, and more involved as a promoter.   When the St. Louis NWA group decided to cut their losses, Race personally lost upwards of $500,000.  Eventually the Kansas City promotion was sold to Jim Crockett.   So, instead of decreasing his in-ring activity, Race found himself still relying on it to make his living.”  (credit:

September 20, 1985

Ric Flair defeats Harley Race in the main event of the final St. Louis Wrestling Club (SLWC) card held at the Kiel Auditorium. A final card would be held on January 1, 1986 at the St. Louis Arena, in keeping with Sam’s tradition of a big New Year’s night card at the Arena. Could it have only been four years since a sold out Arena said good-bye to Sam? Now the SLWC would fold, and Bob Geigel’s All Star Wrestling out of Kansas City would run shows in the Kiel in 1986 and 1987. At some point in 1986, Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) would buy out Bob Geigel in Kansas City so effectively JCP was promotion Kansas City and St. Louis. Not that it mattered much by this point anyway. Eventually WCW would run St. Louis occasionally, to give the town a taste of its past NWA glories. The last WCW card would be held at the Kiel in March 1991 (Flair d. Sting) before the Kiel met the wrecking ball.

Closing Thoughts

Like many other famous territories, the St. Louis NWA promotion died for a number of reasons, among them: cable TV, WWF expansion, and greed amongst NWA member promotions. Was Sam Muchnick a visionary who saw what was coming in a few years, or just the luckiest businessman in St. Louis?

ü       Sam (in retrospect) got out at the right time – business was strong, there was no WWF competition and the NWA was strong when he sold out to Race, Geigel, O’Connor, and Gagne.

ü       The disintegration of the NWA was still a few years away.

ü       Vince Sr. was still at the helm of the WWF and respected the territorial boundaries.

ü       Jim Crockett Promotions had not yet bought up what Vince Jr. could not kill.

ü       The buyers of Sam’s shares suffered a great deal financially when the WWF onslaught arrived in 1984 and beyond.

As mentioned in the opening, this was a somewhat sad and difficult chapter to write. The inner workings of the SLWC (especially as times got tough in 1984-1986) are not well-documented and publicized. The information here was pieced together from a number of website and postings on the St. Louis board of Kayfabe Memories. What I could not get in black and white, I extrapolated by connecting the dots. I welcome discussions and opinions on the St. Louis board.


Non NWA Talent in St. Louis (AWA, WWA, and WWF) 

Back to St. Louis Main