NWA Member: John J. Doyle (until January 1954)
Admitted to Organization: November 26, 1949 (Doyle)
Los Angeles Office: 6061 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles (Doyle)
Corporation Name: John J. Doyle Booking Agency
NWA Member: Cal Eaton
Admitted to Organization:
Los Angeles Office: Olympic Auditorium (18th & Grand) (Eaton)
Corporation Name: California Wrestling Office
Phone Number: Prospect 5171 (1955)
Eaton and Mike Hirsch of the Ocean Park Arena in Santa Monica bought into Johnny
Doyle’s booking agency, which, prior to January 1950, was a rival of Hugh Nichols’s
operations in Hollywood and San Diego. The Doyle-Nichols situation was resolved
peacefully, but as one conflict was ending, another was sparking up. Years earlier, Doyle
and "Musty" Musgrave bought the booking "territory" from Nick Lutze, but now Lutze was
back in action, aligning promoters, and setting up his own scheme against Doyle and
Nichols. Lutze defended his actions by saying that Doyle was overusing his powers
against promoters and wreslters in Los Angeles, and was there to help the people without
a voice in the business. He claimed that he was using "men Doyle would not use - Dan
O'Mahoney, Ed Lewis, Sammy Stein, Elmer Estep, and others."
Doyle and Nichols immediately protested any idea of welcoming Lutze as a member into
Eaton was initially denied membership in the NWA because he wasn't a booker, but that
fact changed once he bought into Doyle's operation, although he wasn't known for
booking matches himself.
It was widely known that booking agents wielded a tremendous amount of power in the
wrestling world. "Toots" Mondt for years demonstrated his rule by controlling talent.
Doyle was no different in Los Angeles. He was known as the power-that-be, and in April
1951, Pasadena Arena promoter Morrie Cohan said there was an "unlawful conspiracy"
with Doyle at the helm. The word "monopoly" was also used when describing the control
of the local syndicate with NWA ties. The California Athletic Commission heard Cohan's
charges and planned an investigation, including a hearing on May 15.
Eaton reportedly claimed to have a certain amount of power in getting wrestlers approved
by "friendly" doctors for their California State Athletic Commission physical screenings.
When The Great Togo was banned from wrestling for his high blood pressure, Eaton told
Hugh Nichols (heard by Al Billings) that Togo would've passed if he'd gone to the doctor
Eaton told him to see. Eaton and Nichols also got Dr. John A. Fahey barred from doing
pre-match physicals at the Hollywood Legion Stadium, likely for being too stringent in his
check-ups (if that was possible).
A "Doctor Davis," according to Billings' interview with the Department of Justice, was on
hand the afternoon wrestler Terry McGinnis died of a heart attack after appearing on a
Wrestling Workouts show (Sunday, March 30, 1952) at the Ocean Park Arena. Davis
passed McGinnis prior to his match. It is not known if Davis was one of the "friendly"
doctors that Eaton and Nichols were using.
Billings wanted to take up a collection from the wrestlers for McGinnis' family, but was told
not to by Nichols because the booker/promoter wanted to stage a benefit. However, no
benefit was ever staged. "Billings suspected that they never held a benefit because they
did not wish to publicize the fact that a wrestler had died," according to Billings' interview
Doyle, on March 11, 1953, moved his booking agency office from the Olympic Auditorium
to the Hollywood Legion Stadium, but denied it had anything to do with a personal rift with
Olympic promoter Cal Eaton. He claimed it was for convenience purposes, but it certainly
had to do with issues with Eaton. The Los Angeles Times reported that the transfer would
have no effect on the caliber of wrestling at the Olympic, but that's eventually what
happened as the Doyle-Nichols vs. Eaton feud blossomed.
The conflict heated up when Nichols' San Diego operations were moved from Tuesday to
Wednesday nights, the same night of Eaton's Olympic program. That meant that Nichols'
television from San Diego would be featured at the same time Eaton's live show was taking
place, hurting the latter's operations. But the fact that Nichols and Doyle were the booking
agents in Southern California left Eaton with little recourse. Eaton was in no position to
argue, really, and had to consider one of many options - none of them all too favorable.
One of the ideas was hiring another booking agent, who could apply for membership in
the NWA, and possibly regain footing that way. An Initial rumor was that Fred Kohler was
going to step in to help Eaton, but Eaton ended up bringing in Dr. Karl Sarpolis, who in
August 1953, was staying at the Rosslyn Hotel in Los Angeles. Sarpolis was interested in
the job, and asked Muchnick for an application for membership in the Alliance. On August
12, 1953, Muchnick sent a letter to Sarpolis with an application, telling him for either him or
Eaton to fill it out. Muchnick stated that he'd turn it over to the membership committee to
review, if returned immediately, at the upcoming annual convention.
Muchnick was a longtime friend of Sarpolis, and that meant a lot to Muchnick. However,
Eaton's tact in dealing with the St. Louis promoter was considered less than desirable.
Muchnick did express his "sympathy" to Eaton in his efforts to remain afloat in this
wrestling war. Eaton then wired Muchnick on August 25, 1953, asking "admission to the
National Wrestling Alliance," and inquired whether or not the telegram would "serve as
formal application or must I have your form."
That same day, Muchnick generated a letter response, explaining that a membership
application had been mailed to Sarpolis on the 12th. He asked Eaton, interestingly, what
the controversy in Los Angeles was all about. Muchnick said that he'd talked to several
individuals about the situation, but "I am still in the dark as to the reasons for the split-ups
between you people." He added that he'd heard that Eaton spent some time in Chicago
with NWA Vice President Fred Kohler to discuss matters, but hadn't stopped in St. Louis to
talk with him. "You could have, at least, given me the courtesy of dropping in to see me,"
Prior to selling out of the local office, Doyle was in the midst of other considerations. One
of them being that he'd retain a financial percentage, but become more of a silent
partner. Pinkie George explained in a "confidential" letter to NWA President Sam
Muchnick from late 1953 that Doyle's salary would go to Sandor Szabo, who would "handle
the bookings." Pinkie wrote: "This of course stripes( sic) him also from any authority to
bring in men or any other function which of course is a point that didn't come out in the
discussion, but it quite evident to me. I'm surveing (sic) the situation step by step. I am
convinced thsi cuorse was the only one that Hugh and Eaton could take."
This would not end up being the case. On January 22, 1954, Doyle sent a letter to
Muchnick announcing that he was "selling out my interest in the National Wrestling Office
at 6061 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, to Hugh Nichols, Cal Eaton and Mike Hirsch."
Also, he was "no longer qualified" to be a member in the NWA. Apart of the contract
signed, Doyle was not going to participate in the booking of wrestlers in Southern
California, Phoenix or Las Vegas until October 1, 1955. Doyle was going to participate in
the business in "a different territory." A document to that effect was signed by Doyle,
Nichols, Eaton, and Hirsch.
After Doyle broke free from the Southern California combine, Muchnick and Lou Thesz
were close to a deal that would've given them a partnership in Los Angeles. On February
10, 1954, Muchnick wrote a letter to Thesz in Hollywood, going over the points of the
proposed transaction. The facts were that Hugh Nichols, Cal Eaton and Mike Hirsch
wanted to sell 20% of their organization to them for $20,000. From that, Jules Strongbow
would take 10% for $10,000 and Muchnick and Thesz would be responsible for $5,000
apiece. Muchnick, however, wanted a 25% split of the Los Angeles territory, which would
amount to 12 1/2% to Strongbow and 12 1/2% to Muchnick and Thesz.
Well thought out in his analysis of the purchase, as expected, Muchnick laid out his
thoughts on the actual financial breakdown. He explained that he wouldn't use his title of
NWA President to further their cause, and that Thesz should use his wife's name on all
A short time later, on February 22, 1954, Muchnick wrote a letter to Strongbow in
Sepulveda, California, saying, "I am very happy that our deal is about to be
consummated. I am sure that, as our partner, you will be looking out for our end at all
times." Muchnick indicated that once the contracts were mailed to them, he and Thesz
would sign them and send the "necessary checks." He finished by saying that "we will do
everything in our power to make our deal a success."
Cyril Moss, a lawyer representing the California Wrestling Office, contacted Muchnick on
June 15, 1954 about the company's ownership of a contract for wrestler Mr. Moto (Charles
Iwamoto). Moto, according to the letter, "has made no accounting nor observed the
contract." This contract had moved over from the Doyle-affiliated agency when Doyle sold
out in January, and was originally signed on March 1, 1951. Moss explained that the
"same situation exists as to Baron Leone," and wanted to know if the NWA could do
anything regarding it.
Doyle returned to Los Angeles with a vengeance. Considering going into real estate with
his brother, Doyle was drawn back to professional wrestling. By late 1954, he was getting
things ramped up again, and notified Chicago promoter Fred Kohler (letter dated
December 1, 1954) that "every promoter in Southern California" was contacting him with a
"desire to book with me." He named San Bernardino, Visalia, Long Beach, Pasadena,
Bakersfield, South Gate Arena, and Valley Garden Arena as being potentially allied with
him. He continued by saying, "this leaves the syndicate with the Hollywood Legion, which
is drawing $100 a show, San Diego, which averages about $800 and Ocean Park, which
also averages around $800." The Olympic Auditorium, he noted, was closed for repairs.
Admitting he was surprised by the "resentment" toward Eaton, Nichols and Hirsch, Doyle
claimed he was ready to book the Pan Pacific Auditorium and/or the Shrine Auditorium in
Los Angeles for big shows. He also was working to settle a TV agreement with KHJ-TV.
Apparently, Sam Menacker was working with Doyle, and the two planned to travel to
Chicago together to discuss plans with Kohler.
Doyle's return to the territory launched another wrestling war. By May 1955, Doyle,
however, was finding it tough to build his stable of wrestlers. He believed wrestlers were
afraid to work for his independent operation due to the threat of blacklisting by the NWA.
It was not only affecting him, but independent promoters Morrie Cohen of Pasadena and
Frank Pasquale at the South Gate Arena. Doyle sent a letter to Muchnick, telling him that
Cohen and Pasquale were nearly bankrupt because of the NWA pressure on wrestlers,
and that the recent withdrawing of Mr. Moto for a Pasquale card had serious hurt his
business. Doyle also appealed to Muchnick to allow "unemployed rejected wrestlers" to
work for his friends, and expressed his knowledge of the NWA code and "usual
punishment applied to men wrestling for promoters not booked by a member" of the
Muchnick quickly responded to the letter, claiming that Doyle should know that "no
wrestlers are barred, whether they wrestle for NWA members, or any other promoter." He
was also surprised that Doyle was back in the business despite the contract stating that
he'd remain out of the Southern California scene until October 1, 1955. The NWA
President stated that Doyle once suggested that the organization should bar wrestlers by
using a red card system, and that "almost everyone laughed" at the idea. Muchnick told
Doyle that it was "funny" that while he was a member of the Alliance, he wanted to
"exercise super-control of wrestlers and promoters," and now that he was an independent,
he was talking about "how a terrible body the NWA is." Muchnick didn't understand why
Doyle sold out in the first place.
"Until I received your letter of May 31," Muchnick wrote, "I had very high regard for you."
In early August 1955, reportedly, Eaton ventured to Washington, D.C. with intentions of
magically ending the Department of Justice's investigation into the NWA. Then, during the
annual convention in September, he told the membership that he'd settled matters and
that the organization had nothing to fear. It is not clear who Eaton met with during his stay
in Washington or what effect it had on the investigation - and the resulting Consent
Decree in 1956. It is possible that Eaton's connection had a major influence on the case,
however, it is just as possible that he made absolutely no bearing on what transpired. But
for a moment at the 1955 convention, he looked like the man who had the power to halt
Muchnick notified the Alliance membership on November 16, 1956 that Eaton had failed to
pay his membership dues, and was not answering his correspondence. Because of that,
Eaton was officially dropped from the organization.
On October 2, 1961, Muchnick received an application for NWA membership from Jules
Strongbow in Los Angeles. He passed the information onto the organization president,
Fred Kohler for consideration. A little more than two weeks later, on October 20, Lee
Loevinger of the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, wrote the lawyer of the Eatons
and Strongbow, Miles J. Rubin. The letter noted that last August, Stanley Disney "of this
office met with Aileen Eaton, Jules Strongbow and yourself [Rubin] concerning a complaint
against the National Wrestling Alliance." Loevinger explained that they hadn't heard
anything else from them even though it was requested that Eaton and Strongbow provide
the "pertinent facts" regarding their complaint.
Research by Tim Hornbaker
January 6, 2011
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