To read about the rise of Jim Barnett and Johnny Doyle and the creation of their national
syndicate, click here.
With an established foothold in many large towns and drawing tremendous business, the
next logical step for Barnett and Doyle was the join the National Wrestling Alliance. After
all, they were already working with many NWA bookers, and it was a natural fit. Also, they
both individually had experience with the mechanisms of the organization, in different
ways. Doyle had served as a member from around 1949 to 1954, and Barnett had been
Fred Kohler's right arm through the latter's trials and tribulations in the Alliance from
around 1949 to at least 1956.
The signing of the Consent Degree at the end of the Department of Justice's
investigation opened the door for many in people to possibly join the NWA, and the rules
of the "old boy's club" were destroyed. Barnett and Doyle, by 1960-'61, had burned
several important bridges - including with Kohler in Chicago and Al Haft in Columbus.
Many NWA members were angry that the Barnett-Doyle troupe had run against them in
their territories, which the old guard believed were protected by the unwritten rules of the
business and formerly protected by the NWA By-Laws. The Government dismissed the
idea of protected territories, and Barnett and Doyle were freely enterprises, and doing a
great job exploiting vacancies to make money, which had been left open by rival
Places like Detroit and Denver were ripe if promoted the right way with the right kind of
Sam Muchnick approved the applications of Barnett and Doyle without NWA approval
based on the fact that they met all qualifications. But going into the 1961 annual
convention, that topic was going to be one of the most heated of all. Before the meetings
began, NWA President Frank Tunney was called upon to select a membership committee
to review the applications of Barnett and Doyle, as well as Danny McShain. Tunney
selected Morris Sigel to serve as the chairman, and added Jim Crockett, Al Haft, Leroy
McGuirk, Don Owen, Roy Welch, and Salvador Lutteroth Jr.
During the August 26 session, the Barnett-Doyle application was brought to the surface,
and a determination was made. According to NWA Bulletin #1 (9/8/61), Muchnick was
said to have accepted the applications of the two men, "and not acted upon by a legally
appointed membership committee and voted upon by the entire membership." Thus, it
was decided that Barnett and Doyle had to submit their applications again. Barnett and
Doyle did that, and threatened to "take the necessary action against the Alliance" if not
Muchnick explained in the bulletin that it was out of his hands, and in the hands of the
new NWA President, Fred Kohler. Some members of the NWA were displeased with the
way Muchnick had performed in admitting Barnett and Doyle without the proper vote. It
was admitted that some members even voted against Barnett and Doyle because of
Muchnick's actions, not because they felt the duo were unqualified.
One of the individuals to step up and have nothing but good words to say about Barnett
was Cowboy Luttrall of Tampa, whose letter to Muchnick was printed in NWA Bulletin #1.
Luttrall wrote that he'd been working with Barnett for 6-7 years "and have always found
him to be a man of his word, and cannot understand why the National Wrestling Alliance
should refuse a man like him membership in our organization." He felt there were "just two
or three of our members" responsible for blocking Barnett from being accepted, and
Luttrall said he'd resign if the NWA was going to operate in this fashion.
Kohler named a new membership committee made up of Mike London, Don Owen, Morris
Sigel, Vincent McMahon, Jim Crockett, Harry Light and Joe "Toots" Mondt.
On September 28, 1961, Sam Muchnick wrote a letter to Lee Loevinger, Assistant
Attorney General of the Antitrust Division in Washington, D.C., and addressed the
Barnett-Doyle situation. He explained that he told the members of the NWA at the recent
convention in Toronto that he felt Barnett and Doyle should be allowed into the
organization. However, the outgoing president, Tunney, reportedly had not selected a
Membership Committee, thus, a decision couldn't be made. A committee was then
named, and on August 26, it was found that Muchnick had overstepped his bounds by
approving the applications of the two bookers. Since that was the case, the NWA
decided that Barnett and Doyle would have to submit their applications again.
The acceptance of members into the NWA only occurred at the annual conventions,
meaning that Barnett and Doyle would have to wait until the 1962 gathering for their
applications to be decided upon. That was the standard order of operations, but
because there was new pressure with the Justice Department looking on, the new
president Kohler appointed a new membership committee to review the updated
applications. As of September 28, Kohler claimed that he hadn't heard from all members
of the committee, but once he did, he'd poll the entire membership to see whether or not
Doyle and Barnett would be approved.
Loevinger responded to Muchnick on October 19, 1961, telling him that Kohler met with
representatives of his department. Kohler told the officials that Barnett and Doyle didn't
qualify for membership in the NWA, but "did not present documentary evidence to show
that their applications were false." Loevinger wrote that Barnett and Doyle could appeal
to the entire membership if they are turned down by the membership committee, and
wanted to be informed if they were accepted into the organization.
Muchnick went ahead and polled the membership against the wishes of Kohler. Kohler
also disapproved Muchnick publishing Luttrall's letter in favor of Barnett's approval. In
the next letter from Muchnick to Loevinger, Muchnick explained that 10 members had
voted yes to admit Barnett and Doyle, while one voted to withhold admittance until the
next annual convention. Those members voting in favor were Morris Sigel, Al Haft,
Cowboy Luttrall, Roy Welch, Jim Crockett, Don Owen, Leroy McGuirk, Karl Sarpolis,
Frank Tunney, and Muchnick. Salvador Lutteroth voted to uphold admittance. Among
those not having vote were Kohler, Eddie Quinn, Vince McMahon, Harry Light, Mike
London, and "Toots" Mondt. Four of those individuals were members of the membership
Muchnick told Loevinger in his letter of October 11, 1961 that there was a bias among
the membership committee set up by Kohler. McMahon and Mondt were Kohler's
partners in Chicago and Pittsburgh. London was partners with Kohler in Denver and
Light was affiliated with Kohler, McMahon and Mondt in Detroit. The latter was running
an oppositional promotion to Barnett and Doyle. Altogether, these five men (Kohler,
McMahon, Mondt, London and Light) had an agenda in blocking Barnett and Doyle from
being members of the Alliance.
Loevinger mailed a note to Kohler on October 20, 1961, telling him that if the
membership committee wasn't prepared to announce that Barnett and Doyle did not meet
the qualifications of the organization, "I believe the judgment requires admission" of both
Ironically, Al Haft had been one of the men who voted to approve Barnett and Doyle's
membership via telegram, but then felt the wrath of the latter duo when they invaded
Columbus and ran opposition. Without a doubt, Haft's vote would've been different had it
occurred in 1962.
Muchnick, in a letter to Leroy McGuirk on November 6, 1961, stated that the NWA vote to
admit Barnett and Doyle was 11 to 1 in favor.
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|Barnett & Doyle Fight For Membership in the NWA