Al Haft was a legendary Columbus, Ohio Promoter from the late 1910’s until the 1960s and
one-time manager of John Pesek. He began the Midwest Wrestling Alliance and was one of
the first to enter the NWA in 1948. Haft originally began promoting in 1919. His earliest
fame came when he met Pesek in the late 1920s. The two quickly became partners. In
1929, Haft sent Pesek to Australia for an important tour and John came out on top.
Upon his return to the States, there was little doubt that John Pesek was one of the top men
to beat and certainly deserved a World Title shot. The NBA attempted to establish a series
of matches to determine a champion under their banner. At the time, in 1930, Gus
Sonnenberg had been recognized as the title-holder and he was one of the four men
selected by NBA President, Stanley M. Isaacs to participate in the tournament. Pesek, Jim
Londos and Dick Shikat were the remaining three.
Only Pesek and Londos posted forfeits to accept the proposition and the match was
scheduled for March 12, 1930, Pesek vs. Londos for the NBA World Heavyweight Title. Haft
made it publicly known that Londos would never wrestle Pesek in Columbus simply because
the bout was not taking place in St. Louis or Philadelphia, Londos’ turf. The 12th came and
went, and there was no match. The NBA scheduled it again for the 2nd of April. On March
20th, officials out of Ravenna, Nebraska announced that Pesek had suffered a fractured
collar bone while riding a horse. There was no way he could wrestle. The NBA’s answer was
to suspend all heavyweight wrestling in their territories until they were able to clear the
Later in the year, Jim Londos beat Dick Shikat to become the NBA/ NWA World Champion.
Pesek had been ousted from contention. In early 1931, Haft established the Midwest
Wrestling Association and scheduled a match between Pesek and Joe Stecher to determine
an initial champion. The match was backed by the Ohio State Athletic Commission. Pesek
beat Stecher and the former “uncrowned champion” had become a claimant. Haft’s working
relationship with Missouri and Kansas expanded Pesek’s ability to gain support. He found
Roy Shire on Muscle Beach, California and brought him to Columbus, Ohio for his pro
wrestling debut in the late 1940s.
Several promoters from the Midwest, including George Simpson, a partner from the MWA,
gathered in Waterloo in July 1948 to organize the National Wrestling Alliance. The Alliance
would be a group of wrestling officers sharing talent and recognizing a single World
Champion. Instead of just remaining in the Midwest, the Alliance was going to be worldwide,
from Mexico to Columbus to Japan. Haft did not attend the meeting, although the MWA
World Champion, Orville Brown had. He was on hand to defend his championship against
Otto Kuss. Brown was also named the initial NWA World Champion, as the MWA merged
with the Alliance. Using this mind frame, the Alliance had been originally built upon the
history of the Midwest Wrestling Association. Orville had represented years of champions
going back to John Pesek and Everette Marshall. The matches and history had all been
dropped into the newly formed Alliance. Even with Haft and Simpson’s presence among the
top promoters allowed a sense of history and smarts on the business.
In September 1948, Haft was elected the NWA’s Vice President and Paul L. George was
named President during a gathering in Minneapolis. Brown made normal stops in
Columbus. In late November 1949, after Brown had suffered permanent injuries in an
automobile wreck, the promoters of the Alliance met in St. Louis to recognize Lou Thesz as
the undisputed World Champion. George and Haft were also re-elected to their original
positions. The Alliance was growing.
Other Notes and Research:
Al Haft was a wrestler and an amateur coach, and brought his interest in the fundamentals of
the sport into the professional promotional world. That meant that he was always scouting
for new athletic talent. Haft coaxed many people into the business and spent hours as a
primary trainer. For athletes looking to break into the business, Haft in Columbus was a
good place to start.
On July 21, 1955, a well known Ohio State University football player named Hubert Bobo
dropped out of school and indicated that he wanted to become a pro wrestler under the
tutelage of Haft. Bobo reportedly made arrangements with Haft to begin training, and was
passing up an offer from the Toronto Argonauts to play pro football.
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|Al Haft Wrestling History