Around July 19, 1908, World Heavyweight wrestling champion Frank Gotch appeared in a
Galveston, TX court to address a charge by H. Bernua that Gotch had broken his ribs in a
wrestling match the Friday before. The case was dismissed.
During the 1920s, Morris and Julius Sigel promoted both boxing and wrestling in cities
throughout southeastern Texas. Around 1927, Julius took his operations into Louisiana
and Northeastern Texas, leaving the south for Morris to prosper. His Houston promotion
became the most stable, big market wrestling business between the 1930s and the ’60s
anywhere in the United States. He brought all of the big names to town and gave his fans a
mix of top talent and creative booking. He incorporated different styles of matches including
tag team and battle royals into the frey to spice things up.
In November 1933, six of the biggest promoters in the United States formed the famous
“Trust,” a talent and profit sharing agreement. Within two years, the number of World
Champions traveling the countryside had diminished slightly, and Irish fan favorite Danno O’
Mahoney was wearing the most respected championship. By February of 1936, O’Mahoney
was well into his run as titleholder, and it was clear that the belt was soon going to be
passed to a wrestler with a little more potential at the box office. Unfortunately for the
promoters behind O’Mahoney, a series of individuals with grudges against the champion
and the way things were being run were plotting behind-the-scenes to derail the champion
before he could successfully pass the title to another “Trust” controlled grappler.
Before controversy arose at Madison Square Garden, O’Mahoney was caught up in a web
in Texas. The situation arose during a tour in early February 1936 and he was not going to
leave the state with the same regard as he had going in. O’Mahoney was booked to defend
his championship against Leo “Whiskers” Savage in Houston on February 7 at the City
Auditorium. At the 21:42 mark, the champion heaved Savage to the arena floor with a back
body drop, knocking him out. O’Mahoney was given the match. Immediately, Fred E.
Nichols, the Texas Boxing and Wrestling Commissioner, called for a court of inquiry to
review the situation and Danno’s purse was held. O’Mahoney testified before Nichols and
said what he had done was an accident. Nichols finally agreed and ordered the purse to be
handed over to the champ.
Before the meeting was adjourned, a rematch between O’Mahoney and Savage was signed
for May. That night, the World Titleholder had a match in Galveston against Juan
Humberto. Prior to the bell, O’Mahoney left the building, and basically ran out on his
scheduled bout. His controversial move forced John Galiano, a Texas Boxing and Wrestling
Inspector, to declare the World Championship vacant in Texas. Galiano’s decision await a
final proclaimation by Nichols, which was made on Sunday. Both O’Mahoney and his
manager Jack McGrath were suspended in Texas until they defended their actions with an
In February 1938, Jerry Schultz announced that he was going to revive pro wrestling in
Galveston. He was associated with Houston promoter Morris Sigel and going to receive top
wrestlers for his presentations. Ralph Hammond won the first promoter to bring wrestling to
Galveston after it was legalized, and it received "better than average success." After
Hammond came Dave Schlesinger, who promoted 21 shows before ending his operations.
Schultz briefly promoted until April 1937, but felt he was better equipped point to stage high
quality programs. This was reported by the Galveston Daily News (2/10/1938).
The Galveston News (11/6/1946) reported that promoter Jerry Schultz was leaving the
business because he wanted to devote time to his dude ranch near Austin. This was
leaving the promotion open for Porter "Tex" Bodine to take over. Bodine was a former
college wrestling and boxing coach and made his wrestling debut locally "some months
The Galveston News (11/14/1946) stated that Bodine, who had made an announcement the
week earlier that he was taking over the local wrestling promotion from Jerry Schultz, said
that he had to quit the wrestling profession because of his employment with a steamship
company. He was not going to have time to promote wrestling. Schultz seemingly returned
to the helm of the city's wrestling's operations.
On Sunday, September 21, 1947, the Galveston News reported that Paul Bersch was taking
over the city's wrestling promotion at the City Auditorium. Bersch was "long associated with
wrestling in Texas." Schultz reportedly ended his business in May 1947.
In 1948, Sigel also received help from a veteran wrestler and friend, Paul Boesch. Born in
Brooklyn on October 2, 1912, Paul Max Boesch suffered the loss of his father at a young
age. His mother Pelia remarried a man named John Birkholz and the two settled in Nassau
County, New York. Paul played basketball for Long Beach High School, showing a natural
athletic ability. He worked as a lifeguard as a teenager, reportedly saving 500 lives.
Recruited into the professional wrestling business by a talented eye Jack Pfefer, Paul fit the
mold for Jack’s usual finds, given that he was New York City promoter Jack Curley’s
international talent scout. Reportedly found on the sands of Long Beach, New York,
Boesch was Jewish, providing a diversity that Pfefer longed for. Having bronze coloring and
extremely fit, Boesch was trained in local New York City gyms and made his pro debut
against Benny Ginsberg on October 25, 1932. The match occurred at the New York
Coliseum in the Bronx, and Ginsberg won in 18:37.
Paul was a regular on northeastern wrestling shows, winning more than he lost, but never
getting through to the upper echelon. He wrestled at Madison Square Garden and at the
71st Regiment Armory for Curley, providing fans with a consistent fan favorite, and his quick
dropkick ended many matches. Boesch ventured to Houston to work for Sigel, making his
local debut on Friday, January 16, 1942 at the City Auditorium and was billed as the Jewish
Champion. It took him only 53-seconds to put away the Belgium Champion Louis
Reynheer. Needless to say, he was a success. Along the lines of Paul Jones before him,
Boesch became a sensation in Houston.
He soon joined the United States Army and graduated from both the Non-Commissioned
Officer and Officer’s Candidate Schools. Paul then served with G Company, 121st Infantry
Regiment, 8th Division in Europe, earning two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars, two Purple
Hearts and the Croix de Guerre Award from the French government. Boesch wrote a book,
Road to Huertgen: Forrest in Hell (1962) (Gulf Publishing Company) (254 pgs.), based on
his war experiences.
After his discharge, he returned to the wrestling ring and the Texas circuit, where he
wrestled and often worked as a referee. In October 1947, he suffered severe injuries in an
automobile accident near San Antonio, and ceased wrestling full-time for the most part.
Sigel became a mentor to Boesch, and Paul worked as a radio, and later a television
announcer in Houston.
Through the 1940s and into the ’50s, there was wrestling being staged in nearly every city
with a population of over 10,000 including Amarillo, Waco, Corpus Christi, Galveston,
Abilene, Wichita Falls, Lubbock, Beaumont, and Nacogdoches.
In 1960, professional wrestling in Texas drew 764,628 for 835 shows and a total gate
receipt of $875,787.54.
In Corpus Christi on Wednesday, June 19, 1968, Barton P. "Barney" Myers died at the age
of 78. Myers, originally from Salisbury, Missouri, owned and promoted all types of events at
the Town Hall Sports Arena from 1938 to '60. For several years, he was affiliated with the
promotion in St. Louis. In 1960, he sold the local Corpus Christi operation (and arena) to
Cowboy Clements. He retired to Mountain Home, Arkansas.
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|Eastern Texas Wrestling Territory