By Tim Hornbaker
One wrestler under contract wanted to open his own Houston franchise outside of the limits of Morris
Sigel’s enterprises, his name was Sterling Blake Davis, better known to the wrestling community as
colorful performer “Dizzy Davis.” Born on November 8, 1914 in Houston, Sterling was the product of a
broken home before he was five years old. Living in her mother’s rooming house, recently divorced
Bonnie Mae Davis met her future husband Roy Martin, and the two married. Sterling was a troubled
youth, attended Allen Academy in Bryan and later Texas A&M. Having engaged in many
neighborhood fights, he became a wrestler on a semi-professional circuit around Houston in his early
20s. During World War II, “Dizzy” became a headliner for Sigel and was known as a technical
grappler, but participated in many violent and bloody matches.
The “dandy” gimmick Davis used developed through the years and became a prototype for the
performance of Gorgeous George Wagner, a Houston friend. Sterling wore extravagant robes and
easily stood out against the harsh backdrop of smoke filled arenas across the country. On April 18,
1949, with financial backing of $30,000 and a rental contract for the Olympiad, a new structure being
built in Houston, Davis applied for a promoter’s license to Texas State Labor Commissioner M.B.
Morgan. Sigel was livid, immediately drumming up the attention of the Wrestler’s Association of
Texas, and called on his lawyer Russell A. Bonham, who was the former vice president of the Gulf
Athletic Club, to attend the hearing that would determine the fate of Dizzy’s application in the hearing
room of the Highway Commission in Austin on June 30, 1949.
Sterling admitted during the hearing that his formula for promotion would be 50 per cent of the net
going to the wrestling talent after taxes. He was adamant that he wasn’t interested in a booking office
like that of Sigel, and that he would not take a percentage of any money for sending wrestlers he
used to friendly promoters in other cities. Even during heavy examination by Wrestling Association
representative Aubrey Roberts that twisted words and tried to catch Davis off guard, Sterling held his
own, freely admitting that he had discussed plans to work with other promoters, among them were Karl
Sarpolis and Ed McLemore of Dallas. Sarpolis, despite owning 1/3 of Sigel’s booking agency and a
percentage the Dallas office, was willing to hear what Davis had to say, even offering up a Friday
night slot at the Sportatorium if things went well first in Houston. “Dizzy” had also been in contact with
potential partners in the new configuration in both Fort Worth and San Antonio.
The 50 per cent to wrestlers was an attractive lure, and Davis wanted to take care of the “boys” first
and foremost. He knew what it was like to scrape by with paycheck amounts conjured up on the ever
changing mindsets of promoters, and felt that a set system would work fairly. National Wrestling
Association World Champion Lou Thesz, an old friend of Sterling, was dealing with the expansion of
the Alliance. When Sigel jumped aboard, Thesz considered the prospects of a promotional war in
Houston, with him on the side of Davis, but everything was still at the preliminary level. By the time of
the court case was filed by Davis, Lou had made a deal with Sam Muchnick to join the Alliance.
A scathing report on wrestling in Texas was published by Nat Terence in his weekly Houstonian
newspaper, informing the public to the controversies surrounding Sigel’s wrestling business. When
asked by Roberts during the hearing if he knew Terence of if he had contributed to the article, Davis
said no. While there was a denial of mass mailings of the paper, someone had sent copies to every
member of the Texas State Legislature, to the Governor, and to influential oil tycoon Glenn McCarthy,
who, with his brother Bill, happened to be a good friend of Davis. Early in the Austin confab it was
asked if the McCarthy’s were financially backing Sterling’s Houston promotional efforts and again,
Davis replied negatively. Davis pulled political strings of his own, having Glenn send a personalized
letter to Texas Governor Beauford Jester regarding his application to promote.
On page 67 of the official transcript of the Austin hearing on June 30, 1949, Sterling gives his
thoughts on Sigel’s power:
Aubrey Roberts: Did you ever make a statement to anyone that the commissioner was on the
payroll of Mr. Sigel? I believe he is the man at Houston?
Sterling Davis: No
Roberts: Did you ever hear any other person mke that statement to you?
Roberts: Would you mind revealing the name to the commissioner?
Davis: Well, it’s just rumored about.
Roberts: Rumored about. Who was one of those rumor carriers?
Davis: Brought up in this way: you’re silly, you can’t get your license to start with. I said,
why, and he said, can’t be done in Texas.
Roberts: Who told you that?
Davis: Generally understood. I could never name one person.
Commissioner Morgan: You mean it is generally understood that’s the condition in Texas?
Davis: Yes, sir
Roberts: You believe that?
Davis: No, sir
Davis’s lawyer Seymour Lieberman: That’s why we’ve tried so hard to get the license. Otherwise,
Mr. Davis would have given up long time ago if he believed
that was the situation
Roberts: Who told you?
Davis: I could never say one person; everybody just understands that.
Roberts: In other words, been discussed?
Davis: For instance we’ll say the Murdock boys. They say, as soon as you get your
license, we will start to work but we don’t think you are going to get it.
Roberts: And the Murdock boys told you, you couldn’t get your license because Mr. Morgan
was on the payroll of Morris Sigel?
Roberts: Well, ‘kinda’ furnishing him things?
Davis: What they said, when you get your license, we will go to work but it is doubtfull in
their minds I’ll get it.
Davis: Doubtful in the minds of everybody in the United States.
Roberts: You contacted all of the people?
Davis: All of them connected with my business that I know.
Roberts: You didn’t make the statement then this was a machine gun article if you didn’t get
the license, you were going to turn the atomic bomb loose on this commissioner?
Davis: No, sir
One of the more startling revealations during the Austin proceedings was the criminal history of the
person applying for a position as promoter. Roberts opened the door for testimony with questions
regarding Davis’s 1936 stay in Los Angeles. Lieberman immediately jumped in to rebut the growing
trail of words that were assassinating the character of his client.
Lieberman: Your honor, at this time we wish to call to the court’s attention that some 14 years
ago, 13 years ago, when Sterling Davis was 18 or 19 years old, he got into several difficulties one
place or another. He had the occasion at one time to hit a house police officer when he was a kid. He
is 34 years old now. And consequently he had been picked up numerous times in Houston. In other
words, when some crime or something might have been perpertrated, why, Sterling would be picked
up. Never put in jail and never convicted.
And that is why in our application it was asked whether or not he was ever convicted and he, under
oath, testifies he never was convicted. And since that time which is 14 years ago, he has never had a
blemish on his name, and we have character witnesses here who have known him over a long period
of time to show that during this 14 year period of time, he has never had a blemish.
He has conducted himself like a true American citizen. He has indulged not only in the wrestling
business, but engaged in other types of businesses and has been successful in them and today
stands in the esteem of some of the highest citizens in Houston.
And we leave it open to opposing council to show – we know that they can get up here and go into the
numerous time he was picked up when he was 18 or 19 years old. Unless they can show conviction, I
don’t think it should be brought of record, I think this court should limit to whether picked up for this or
that, unless show conviction on it, unless they can show that during this last 13 or 14 years he has
indulged in any of those phases that some of our best citizens indulged in when they were just
Roberts: We’re not going into that. Just going into a few things. I wouldn’t mind telling you
ahead of time. I’ll ask you this question, if it should be proved Mr. Davis was
involved in a serious offense in Los Angeles…
Lieberman: If he was convicted, if there was a conviction…
Roberts: That’s right, if convicted.
Lieberman: I mean, under our application we say he wasn’t.
Roberts: If he was, you’ll ask the commissioner to deny the application?
Lieberman: No, I won’t, because that would go back to what year it was. As a matter of fact,
Mr. Davis thought several months ago that he had been convicted in
Houston. Upon checking the records very thoroughly we find no conviction.
Roberts: I’m not talking about Houston.
Lieberman: He tells me never served any time in jail in California. Tells me… is that true?
Davis: I have never been convicted in my life, California or elsewhere.
Roberts: Never been convicted. You receive a suspended sentence in the courts of Los
Roberts: You didn’t plead guilty?
Davis: No, sir
Roberts: That is your statement?
Davis: Yes, sir
Roberts: You were picked up there seven times, were you, Mr. Davis?
Davis: No, sir
Roberts: How many times?
Davis: One time
Roberts: One time. All right, sir. Now, you’re under oath, aren’t you?
Evidence proved that Davis was wrong in his assertions, and that he had been involved with criminal
investigations 18 times between March 1933 and April 1936, including the back breaker, a February
1935 felony burglary charge of a store that ended in a guilty plea. The Criminal District Court of
Harris County ordered “Dizzy” to spend five years in the state penitentiary, and then suspended the
sentence. When asked about the specific case, Sterling said “I don’t remember” three different times.
Sterling Davis was right, the application to promote at the Olympiad was denied by the Labor
Commissioner Morgan on July 2, 1949. Things were about to go from bad to worse for the
entrepreneaur. Within the next week, both his neon sign business and his home suffered tremenous
damage two separate fires. A coincidence, not likely. What was “Dizzy” going to do? He failed to get
a license, hadn’t proved that Sigel was pulling the strings of the commission, and had busted a can of
worms wide open that may have led to an unproven, but speculated arson of his property. Davis, 18
days after his rejection by the Labor Commission, had his lawyer Seymour Lieberman of Ladin and
Lieberman, file a civil suit against Morris Sigel personally in U.S. (Federal) District Court for the
Southern District of Texas in Houston, Civil Action No. 5119. The petition cited infractions of the
Texas and Sherman Anti-Trust Acts with use of exclusive contracts.
A claim was made that Sigel told Ed “Strangler” Lewis to get in contact with Hollywood booker Johnny
Doyle and to tell him not to support the promotional efforts of Davis in Houston. That included
sending Gorgeous George, whom Sterling offered one fourth of his business to. Davis also stated
that Sigel had called Tulsa promoter Sam Avey and “requested said Avey not to use or permit this
Plaintiff either to wrestle in the Oklahoma circuit or to be allowed any wrestlers to operate and perform
for this Plaintiff should he secure a permit to operate as such promoter.”
Part (e) of the violations alleged in the July 20 submission to the courts stated:
“That Defendant Morris P. Sigel, upon information and belief and Plaintiff so charges, exercises a
baneful influence over and upon the Commissioner of Labor Statistics, M.B. Morgan, as best
expressed in a letter dated April 29, 1949, addressed to Plaintiff herein which, in part, reads as follows:
‘We might at times lay down a rule or regulation or exercise arbitrary power under the authority we
believe that we have if, in our opinion, it is to the best interests of the boxing and wrestling profession,
which could conceivably be interpreted to be outside of our legal authority or that we might be
accused of showing partiality by upholding and following a policy adopted by the department which
might be considered by some to be arbitrary and against some particular person or member of the
“That said excpert from the mentioned letter was written and executed by the said M.B. Morgan in
which said public official of the State of Texas advised Plaintiff herein that he (Commissioner of Labor
Statistics) would not believe it advisable for another promoter in addition to Defendant Sigel, to
promote wrestling matches here in Houston, but that said Commissioner of Labor Statistics would take
Plaintiff’s application for a wrestling license under consideration.
“That a purported hearing was held in the office of the Commissioner of Labor Statistics subsequent
to Plaintiff’s application for a promoter’s license at which time and place Defendant Sigel through his
duly authorized representatives, bitterly and vehemently contested the application of this Plaintiff; in
substance, stating to said Commissioner that this Defendant had long ago secured the exclusive right
to use all of the arenas in Houston, Texas, and elsewhere, for the purpose of holding and staging
wrestling contests and exhibitions and that no one was permitted, under any circumstances, to exhibit
and stage any such exhibition at the only public places available in Houston, Texas, at any time when
such public places were not in use by this Defendant.
“That said hearing was a farce from the beginning to end in that the hearing was dominated and
controlled by Defendant’s representatives and authorized agents, and, as a result this Plaintiff was
denied his application for a wrestling promoter’s license, without any valid and legal reason for so
Davis was suing for $99,000, kindly rounded up to $100,000 in the court papers, and $10,000 for his
lawyers. The attornies for Sigel reponded with a motion for a summary judgment, hoping that the
District Judge would toss the entire case into the wind. Sigel’s team pointed out the fact that the
Labor Commission had the right to refuse a permit to promote, especially when the person applying
had “questionable character” and that Davis had committed perjury in his testimony. “This was of
itself a crime and the crime of purgery that he could have been and should have been prosecuted for”
was in all caps, highlighted in the defense document.
In regard to the claim that Sigel held an unlawful monopoly violating anti-trust laws, the defense
responded with: “While said Act (Title 126 of the Revised Civil Statutes of Texas, Artiles 7426 to 7447
– ‘Trusts – Conspiracies against Trade’) condemns certain contracts made in violation of the
provisions thereof; and our Texas courts have held that contracts made by parties in violation of such
Act are void and unenforceable, nevertheless said Act contains no provision for an individual, such as
the Plaintiff herein, to recover any damages from another individual, such as the Defendant herein,
even if the facts should reveal that the Defendant violated any of the provisions of our Texas Act
(especially where there is no allegation of any contractural relationship between the Plaintiff and the
Defendant in such a suit).”
Sigel denied any violations of the Texas provisions, or any wrongdoing. The defense claimed that the
entire case had been built around the disappointment of Davis’s not receiving a license to promote.
Of course, “Dizzy’s attornies had a reply of their own, further stating that Sigel had called his friends to
effectively blackball him from either wrestling or from attaining talent in the case that he received a
license anywhere in the United States. On September 9, 1949, a Federal Judge dismissed the case
because of lack of jurisdiction. Davis and his lawyers filed with the United States Circuit Court of
Appeals (Fifth Circuit) ten days later.
The battle of words went back and forth until Judge Kennedy dismissed the appeal at the cost of
Davis on May 29, 1950. Later that year, Sterling found work as a wrestler for NWA member Ed Don
George in upstate New York. Davis toured through Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Southern
California for Alliance affiliates. In 1951, the hatchet was buried and he returned to Houston as a
regular headliner for Sigel. Outside of the ring, “Dizzy” attained a degree in psychology and worked in
many capacities, from a personal consulting psychologist for the Texan Employment Service to
running a Houston clinic treating nervous diseases. He was married three times, took to designing
women’s clothes, and, in 1953, reportedly was the Mayor of Almeda, Texas. In March 1959, he lost in
three rounds in a special boxing match to veteran fighter Archie Moore at Odessa, Texas, but was in
no real condition to fight.
In 1974, “Dizzy’s” son Sterling Blake Davis Jr. was arrested on drug charges and serving time in a
Mexican jail at Piedras Negras across the Rio Grande River from Eagle Pass, Texas. Desperate to
see his son free, Sterling hired a marine veteran of the Vietnam War turned mercenary to break his
child out of the jail by whatever means necessary. On March 1, 1976, Don Fielden and two others
freed 14 American prisoners with an elaborate plan concocted with Davis’s help. Sterling Junior was
included, but jailed upon returning to the U.S. for a parole violation. The story of the breakout made
national news and Sterling was charged with conspiracy to export an illegal weapon, a sawed off
shotgun used by Fielden in the incursion. He was found guilty in October 1976 and sentenced to five
years in prison. “Dizzy” passed away on December 19, 1983 in Rockwall County, Texas.
Other Historical Notes:
On November 20, 1949, Davis wrote a letter to Sam Muchnick in St. Louis, telling him that he was
going to be in St. Louis in a few days. He was traveling en route to Chicago with his wife and kids to
visit his wife's parents, and asked Muchnick to reserve him a room. He also said that he wanted to
present his case to the National Wrestling Alliance regarding what was happening in Houston, seeing
that Davis was promoting at the Olympiad in opposition to Morris Sigel, an NWA member. He wrote he
"would appreciate a silent vote or written one, so the members will not feel embarassed (sic), should
they decide to vote favorably for my organization. As you know, intimidation is a powerful weapon."
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|Sterling "Dizzy" Davis Biography
Legends of Pro Wrestling