This is one of the most controversial matches of the 1950s, and is a hot topic among followers of
wrestling history. The question of whether or not it was a work or a shoot remains. Some people
buy that it was all legit, while others are adamant that it wasn't. It's hard to prove anything one way
or another. Even if Gorgeous George and Don Eagle were still alive today, we'd still probably get
two different tales. We can only dig up all the facts we can and provide educated commentary.
The story around what was happening in the ring in Chicago on May 26, 1950 is vitally important to
understanding this situation because just looking at the facts on paper, it seems like a total work.
But there is some other information that must be considered.
By May 1950, Fred Kohler was a jaded and suspicious man. Although he'd been the top promoter
in Chicago for many years, his territory was being infringed upon by rival promoter Leonard
Schwartz, who was running an independent outfit out of the Rainbo Arena. Schwartz, however, had
made connections to some major heavy hitters in the business to include "Toots" Mondt, Ray
Fabiani, Al Haft, and Paul Bowser. The latter two were members of the National Wrestling Alliance,
of which Kohler was one of the founders.
Kohler protested the help of Bowser and Haft to the Schwartz promotion. He griped up and down
the NWA ladder and was holding a serious grudge.
Because Schwartz had TV in Chicago and a national outlet on ABC network, his operation was
seen as a hot commodity, and Haft wanted his wrestlers displayed week in and week out at the
Rainbo. He didn't seem to care much about the pleas of Kohler, but because was business, and
the NWA union had laws that were meant to be broken.
For some time, Kohler had promoted Indian wrestler "Chief" Don Eagle pretty significantly, making
him a major star in Chicago. In his July 1955 interview with the Department of Justice, Kohler
explained that he "made $20,000 or $30,000 for Don Eagle by featuring him over TV." According to
the DOJ report of the interview, Kohler "said that he had made a lot of money for himself at the
same time, but that he could have made this money with any other wrestler. He said that Don
Eagle and his father, War Eagle, were extremely hard to handle."
"The Eagles insisted on a vacation and time to go finish and hunting, for special privileges and for
a lot of things he, Kohler, hated to give them. He said that at last Don Eagle walked out on a match
which he had agreed verbally to make. Kohler said that this cost him $3,000 or $4,000."
The Kohler interview continued: "He said that he did have a match lined up between Gorgeous
George and Don Eagle confirmed by a contract in writing. Kohler said that the night of the match,
he told Gorgeous George to get in there and win if he could."
The interviewer asked Kohler if "this was the match of the notorious Chicago 'short count.'"
According to the interview, "Kohler smiled and said and said that there had been no short count;
that he had invited the Illinois Athletic Commission to see the film and they had timed the count and
that Gorgeous George had really had Don Eagle down for three seconds. This victory of
Gorgeous George over Don Eagle hurt his value tremendously as a drawing card. Kohler said
parenthetically, 'They hurt me, so when I gave them Don Eagle back, he wasn't worth anything to
Okay, you take that for what its worth. But this wasn't Kohler talking to one of his friends or B.S.'ing
at a wrestling convention, putting himself over. Kohler was talking to Stanley Disney of the
Department of Justice, who was in charge of putting together the case against the NWA and filing
possible criminal charges. I think his comments must be considered as being very close to the
Now you have to look at it from Don Eagle's perspective. Don Eagle lost a match, so what, right?
Well, at this point in Eagle's career, he wasn't losing often. His last straight loss, according to my
records, was in November 1949 to NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Lou Thesz. He wasn't
putting over just anybody. He was big in Columbus and Boston, and promoters had huge plans for
How do we know that? Because three days before the Gorgeous George match in Chicago, Eagle
beat Frank Sexton in Cleveland (May 23, 1950) and captured the American Wrestling Association
World Heavyweight championship. Sexton had been the AWA champion for over four years and
even defended the title in Europe, giving the AWA Title tremendous credibility. So, do we really
expect to believe that Paul Bowser and Al Haft, the guys who'd put so much time and money into
building the AWA Title up, wanted their newly crowned champion defeated only three days into his
Gorgeous George, while a famous guy, wasn't on tap to be promoted as the new champion with
prior build-up in Boston and Columbus (AWA Territory) like Eagle had. Any suspicion that Bowser
and Haft wanted Eagle to lose must be immediately discarded from this conversation.
As well as the thought that Don Eagle was in on it. Eagle was a volatile guy and he was defeated,
went after referee Earl Mollohan, striking him. Gorgeous George was said to have left the building
in a hurry, all to avoid a possible altercation with the "Chief." Eagle reportedly was being set-up for
a June 21 match against Lou Thesz at Wrigley Field, a bout that was also altered by the May 26
finish. As Kohler had told the DOJ investigator, Eagle's push suffered because of the loss.
Gorgeous George himself wasn't promoted heavily as a new title claimant and it was all pretty
humdrum. On July 27, 1950, George lost two-straight falls (second fall by countout) to Thesz in
Chicago. Only 7,600 fans attended the Wrigley Field offering. This was the end of his "AWA" title
So if Don Eagle, Gorgeous George, Paul Bowser, and Al Haft didn't really benefit from this "work,"
who did? Fred Kohler is the last man standing. The man with a grudge. It was a little present for
his peers who were playing both sides of the fence.
All Kohler had to do was talk to Gorgeous George and referee Earl Mollohan before the match, and
see to it that his plan was inacted. Then George, during a pinfall attempt in which Eagle thought he
was going to kick out of, muscled up and kept Eagle down for that third count. Knowing his role,
Mollohan was right there to count it. Does this seem possible?
According to the Kohler interview, "This Gorgeous George-Don Eagle episode made Haft, Schwartz
and Bowser hate Kohler, and this animosity has not yet disappeared."
This wasn't about the "AWA" Title either, simply because Kohler didn't want it. Neither did
Gorgeous George for that matter. This double-cross was about getting back at Bowser and Haft by
damaging Eagle's reputation. People seem to believe that the main agenda behind this double-
cross what that championship, and it's a false assumption.
The match wasn't billed as being for the AWA championship, a belt wasn't presented to the winner,
and Gorgeous George didn't get much millage as new "champion" following the match. No one in
Chicago cared about the "AWA" title. In fact, if it was ever mentioned anywhere in publicity reports,
people had to wonder what it was.
There may be other opinions on this story, and I'll keep this topic open for further discussion.
Here is the full card:
Chicago, Illinois: Friday, May 26, 1950
(International Amphitheater) … Gorgeous George b. Don Eagle and captured the AWA World
Heavyweight Title (2/3) (referee: Earl Mollohan) (A double-cross between Kohler, Mollohan and
George against Eagle) (After the match, Eagle punched Mollohan and then chased him to the
dressing room) (George earned a match with Lou Thesz) … Verne Gagne b. Jim Spencer … Bill
Longson b. Farmer Don Marlin … Cyclone Anaya and Walter Palmer b. Benito Gardini and Al
Williams … (promoter: Fred Kohler) … (5,226 fans) … (gate: $11,728)
Note: The Illinois State Athletic Commission suspended Don Eagle for 30-days for punching
referee Earl Mollohan on May 26, 1950.
By Tim Hornbaker
|Don Eagle vs. Gorgeous George, Chicago, 1950