The longtime National Wrestling Alliance lawyer was Harry N. Soffer of St. Louis.
Harry N. Soffer
Attorney at Law
1301 International Office Building
722 Chestnut Street
St. Louis 1, Missouri
Sam Muchnick, in an August 12, 1955 letter to the Justice Department, explained how
Soffer came to be the attorney for the NWA. It came about in 1953, after nearly five
years of a carefree monopolistic agenda for the organization, that the bubble was burst
and members had to figure out how to combat charges of antitrust violations. Muchnick
explained that Leonard Schwartz made the suggestion that the Alliance hire a lawyer to
"sit in on some meetings for advice," according to the letter. "It was then decided to get a
St. Louis attorney and inasmuch as Harry N. Soffer had done some legal work for me it
was agreed that we should get him to handle our legal work." Soffer was instrumental in
framing a professional set of By-Laws for the NWA.
One of the longest legal battles involved wrestler Sonny Myers and NWA Founder Paul
"Pinkie" George, and this case is covered in great length in the book: National Wrestling
Alliance: The Untold Story of the Monopoly that Strangled Pro Wrestling. Incidentally,
while being the founder of the Alliance, Pinkie George was both lauded and criticized by
his peers in interesting, sometimes roundabout ways.
The following letter is very telling. Muchnick took the time to report a number of pointed
items about George to the Department of Justice. This occurred on February 29, 1960
when he sent a letter to Robert A. Bicks, the Acting Assistant Attorney General of the
Muchnick wrote: Sonny Myers "told many members of the NWA, both privately and
publicly, that he had nothing against the Alliance but he did against Pinkie George."
This was regarding the lengthy court case battle in Iowa in which Myers sued George and
the NWA. Muchnick seems to indicate here that it wasn't so much against the NWA, and
more against George. However, on October 7, 1954, Myers wrote a letter to George
telling him that it was Muchnick who was not using him in St. Louis because of their feud
and that "I would like very much to be your friend."
Muchnick wrote to Bicks: "To my knowledge, there has been no wrestling in Des Moines
for several years, due to poor business conditions. However, recently it came to my
attention that Robert Bruns, who books for St. Louis, St. Joseph, and Kansas City,
Missouri, and surrounding towns, booked a show for some promoter in Des Moines. I
received the following note from Mr. George today, from San Antonio, to which was
attached a clipping of a show Bob Bruns in Des Moines. Here is what Mr. George said:
'Sam, it looks like when one resigns from the Alliance, the organization goes in and takes
over from the local promoter. My son promotes in Des Moines, and your man Bruns puts
in a show in opposition Tuesday night. Do you fellows want to monopolize the whole
Then Muchnick gave his commentary to Bicks: "It seems to me like the Pot calling the
Kettle black. I can truthfully say I had no knowledge of Bruns booking a show in Des
Moines, but if he did, what is wrong with that. That was the purpose of the Consent
Decree. Apparently, George still thinks he 'owns' Iowa. The irony of above regarding
George is that he has been running in San Antonio, Texas in opposition to an
established promoter there, yet as president of the NWA, booked the champion
O'Connor for George at least 3 times. George had no qualms of being opposition to
Brown, did he? And you must remember that the very original by-laws of the NWA were
drawn up by Mr. George and the only time the NWA has been sued is because of Mr.
Muchnick and the others agreed with whatever By-Laws George reportedly drew up in
1948, up until the Government called them on it in 1956. All during that time, it was
apparently fine, but now that Muchnick had the ear of the Department of Justice, he was
squeaky clean - and it was George who was operating along the formerly acceptable
lines. The territorial boundaries were still in existence, of course, but not mentioned
publicly. But when someone dared to mention "territory" ownership in writing, and if that
same guy was feuding with others in the NWA, that was cause to report it to the DOJ.
That was absolutely the case here.
Myers and Muchnick made amends, Myers' alleged blacklisting by the entire NWA was
swept under the carpet (aside from the court case that lingered until 1964) and everyone
focused their anger and animosity on Pinkie George. He was the odd man out, the little
man who everyone could point at and condemn. "Yeah, Pinkie wrote the illegal by-laws
and was the cause of all our problems," but yeah, the entire NWA believed in the illegal
principles of the organization until they were forced to change by the U.S. Government.
No one mentioned ANY problems with the illegal recognition of territories until then.
In a letter to Orville Brown dated June 17, 1954, Muchnick himself made the following
reference about the territories: "You know, one of the very fine things of the Alliance is
that we respect each other's territory." This was in regards to a city that he believed was
part of his territory that was being encroached upon. Muchnick, prior to the Government
crackdown of NWA practices, firmly believed in territory ownership and protection.
We can only speculation on the reasons for the severe anti-George venom, but let's
Sam Muchnick vs. Pinkie George = George founded the NWA, Muchnick was the father
who cared for the NWA and saw it grow from its Midwest roots into an international
organization. George actually had the gall to comment that Muchnick was being paid to
be the NWA President, while he did it for free. Muchnick was close to the Kansas City-St.
Joseph group (including Bobby Bruns and Pat O'Connor, who Muchnick liked immensely),
while George was at war with them. George was one of the few people who criticized
Muchnick openly. Pinkie George, as a result of his lonely position against the NWA and
these powerful figures, was sued, harassed and threatened. All of these factors helped
destroy his wrestling promotion in Des Moines.
Sonny Myers and the St. Joseph/KC Group vs. Pinkie George = The bottom line is that
the St. Joseph/ Kansas City group (Gust Karras, Myers, Bruns, Simpson, Geigel,
O'Connor) wanted the Iowa territory. It was as simple as that. To run shows in Iowa with
George in charge, they had to pay him a booking fee. Well, Karras wanted to stage his
programs at Iowa annual festivals without making payment to George.
Muchnick did play both sides of the fence, as demonstrated in 1963 when he teamed with
Jim Barnett to help bankroll Pinkie in a new promotion in Kansas City, Missouri. This was
not something the St. Joseph guys wanted, and they offered to trade half of Kansas City,
Kansas for half of Kansas City, Missouri. On August 29, 1963, Pinkie wrote a letter to
Jack Pfefer, telling him that it appeared that he was done there as well. "Out now in the
cold completely, Des Moines and everything has been taken away from me after 30 years
in the business."
On September 30, 1976, a case involving the National Wrestling Alliance was filed in the
Clerk's Office for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia,
Atlanta Division. It was Civil Action C76-1625A. James M. Wilson was the plaintiff against
the National Wrestling Alliance, Paul Jones, Tom Renesto, James Barnett, Fred Ward,
Eddie Graham a/k/a Edward Gossit, Georgia Championship Wrestling, Inc. f/k/a
Mid-South Sports Inc. and Mid-South Sports, Inc. f/k/a ABC Booking, Inc. These
documents are part of the public record held by the National Archives.
According to the case documents, Wilson was a "resident of Atlanta, Georgia," and a
"professional athlete." It also stated: "He is a former All American football player from the
University of Georgia and a duly elected member of the University of Georgia Sports Hall
of Fame. Plaintiff was engaged as a player in professional football having been
employed by the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons, all of
which are members of the National Football League. For the past eight (8) years, plaintiff
has been gainfully employed as a professional wrestler and has enaged in no other
professional athletic endeavor save that of wrestling.
"Prior to November, 1973, plaintiff regularly and gainfully participated in professional
wrestling exhibitions promoted by defendant Georgia Championship Wrestling, Inc. and
sanctioned by the defendant National Wrestling Alliance. On or about the latter part of
August and first of September, 1974, plaintiff was instrumental in organizing and forming
the International Wrestling League, Ltd., an undertaking intended to promote wrestling
exhibitions in direct competition with the National Wrestling Alliance sanctioned exhibitions
promoted by Georgia Championship Wrestling, Inc.
"From in or about November, 1973, the exact date being presently unknown to plaintiff,
and continuing until the present, defendants have engaged in a combination, conspiracy
and/or understanding among themselves and with others in unreasonable restraint of
interstate trade and commerce in the staging, booking and promotion of professional
wrestling exhibitions, all in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act.
"The aforesaid combination and/or conspiracy consists of a continuing agreement,
understanding and concert of action among the defendants and others to divide and
allocate the market for such wrestling exhibitions and to engage in a commercial boycott
against, and in a concerted refusal to deal with, certain professional wrestlers, including
"In effectuation of the aforesaid combition or conspiracy, defendants committed the
following acts, among others:
"Concertedly refused to deal with plaintiff and refused to permit plaintiff to participate in
exhibitions sanctioned by NWA;
"Willfully and maliciously entered a scheme to deprive plaintiff of his livelihood as a
professional wrestler by utilizing their superior economic position to destroy the
effectiveness of plaintiff's International Wrestling League, Ltd. as a competitor, thereby
precluding plaintiff from competing in various communities with defendant as a promoter
of professional wrestling exhibition;
"Agreed to circulate, and actually circulated, plaintiff's name to other co-conspirators with
the intent and effect of inducing and coercing them to refuse to permit plaintiff to
participate in wrestling exhibitions staged, booked or promoted by them."
The Damage to the Plaintiff was: "As a direct and proximate result of the aforesaid illegal
acts and other conduct of the defendants, the plaintiff has suffered and in the future will
suffer, severe economic harm and damage to his business and livelihood as a
professional wrestler. The precise amount of such damage thus sustained by plaintiff is
not presently known to plaintiff, but plaintiff believes it is to be in excess of $1,000,000."
Relief Requested: "That the defendants be ordered to pay plaintiff [Wilson], for the
violations of the Constitution and the laws of the State of Georgia, damages in the sum of
$1,000,000 and punitive damages in the sum of $1,000,000 to preclude the defendants
from again engaging in such willful, malicious and tortuous conduct."
The NWA's response was made by its attorneys Tench C. Coxe and Carl E. Sanders of
Troutman, Sanders, Lockerman & Ashmore, 1400 Candler Building, Atlanta, Georgia.
The NWA denied the allegations and wanted a Judgment to dismiss the complaint.
Responses for defendants Jones, Renesto, Barnett, Ward, and GCW followed suit. In
Graham's response, it was stated that "This Court lacks jurisdiction over the person of
Defendant Eddie Graham."
The legal wrangling really heated up from there. In February 1977, the Defendants
requested to see documents pertaining to Wilson's claims, including income tax returns
from 1968-'76, bank records, pay stubs from his time as an employee, officer, director or
agent of the International Wrestling League, Ltd, and "any copies of letters, certificates or
other documents evidencing your [Wilson] alleged election to the University of Georgia
Sports Hall of Fame." Plus, they wanted "any copies of letters, certificates or other
documents evidencing that you [Wilson] were a former All American football player from
the University of Georgia," proof that he was "engaged as a player in professional
football and employed by the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta
Falcons," and a lot more. The defendants wanted evidence proving the allegations to
include correspondence, communications, memoranda, documents, and whatever else
In the case file for Civil Action No. C76-1625A, there is an affidavit stating that James M.
Wilson appeared before an officer duly authorized by law to administer oaths, and Wilson
stated: "That I am the same James M. Wilson named in the above-captioned lawsuit.
That I am financially unable to incur the expenses necessary for the costs of pre-trial
discovery procedure in the above-captioned case. That I am fully satisfied with the
efforts of my attorneys Edwin M. Saginar and Sherwyn E. Syna and hereby acknowledge
that I owe them $2,300.00 for their services to-date as a non-refundable retainer towards
a contingency fee previous agreed upon."
Wilson released Saginar and Syna as his attorneys of record and requested "that this
Honorable Court grant me sufficient time to obtain other legal counsel." Wilson signed it
on March 4, 1977. In another piece of correspondence in the record, Saginar wished
Wilson best of luck in pursuing his case.
Wilson, in a document filed with the Clerk on March 25, 1977, explained that he needed
more time to find counsel "because of the complexity and scope" of the case. He
apparently only had 30 days to do so, and requested from the court that he have 90
United States District Judge Richard C. Freeman gave Wilson 45-days from May 5, 1977
to provide the "name (s) of local counsel retained to represent him." On June 17, 1977, a
letter was received by the Clerk from Wilson, who was requesting for an extension to find
legal counsel. He explained that he had a law firm interested in representing him, but
additional time was necessary to find cases of a similar nature. Another 15 days was
granted on June 23, 1977, and it was noted that Wilson has been trying to obtain a
lawyer since March 7.
C. Samuel Rael of Atlanta was entered as Wilson's attorney of record on July 21, 1977.
On September 21, 1977, "the parties hereto having reached a settlement of the issues
raised by the complaint herein, it is ordered and adjudged that the complaint be
dismissed with prejudice, with costs to be paid by Plaintiff." The document was filed with
the Clerk, signed by U.S. District Judge Harold L. Murphy, and signed by both Wilson and
Tench C. Coxe, attorney for the defendants.
"For good and valuable consideration, James M. Wilson, hereby releases National
Wrestling Alliance, Paul Jones, Tom Renesto, James Barnett, Fred Ward, Eddie Graham
a/k/a Edward Gossit, Georgia Championship Wrestling, Inc., f/k/a Mid-South Sports, Inc.,
and Mid-South Sports, Inc., f/k/a ABC Booking, Inc., from any and all liability alleged in
Civil Action File No. C76-1625A, United States District court for the Northern District of
Georgia, Atlanta Division, or which exists or may exist otherwise in favor of said James M.
Wilson against any of them, jointly or severally; and National Wrestling Alliance, Paul
Jones, Tom Renesto, James Barnett, Fred Ward, Eddie Graham a/k/a Edward Gossit,
Georgia Championship Wrestling, Inc., f/k/a Mid-South Sports, Inc., and Mid-South
Sports, Inc., f/k/a ABC Booking, Inc., jointly and severally, release James M. Wilson from
any and all liability which exists or may exist in favor of any of them against said James M.
Wilson." It was signed by Wilson and Coxe on September 16, 1977.
The case was dismissed with prejudice.
However, this legal case was not completely finished, much to the chagrin of some of the
In February 1979, two new attorneys for Wilson, Frank J. Klosik and Michael L. Wetzel
asked the Court to "vacate and set aside the Judgment entered in this action by the
Honorable Harold L. Murphy, Judge, United States District Court, on or about September
The documents stated: "Before Plaintiff responded to Defendants' discovery
proceedings, Defendant Barnett contacted Wilson personally about dismissing his suit.
Barnett represented that he was speaking for himself as well as in behalf of all the
Defendants. Barnett allegedly told Wilson that the former would guarantee that the latter
would become a wrestling promoter in South Georgia, working out of the Valdosta area.
In addition, Defendant, Barnett promised that Plaintiff Wilson would be used as a "public
relations man" and a wrestler earning "top draw" in the Atlanta area. Because of financial
difficulties, and in reliance upon Defendant Barnett's representations, Plaintiff Wilson
agreed to Barnett's offer and signed a stipulation of dismissal with prejudice.
"Just prior to the signing of the dismissal, Defendant, Barnett stated that he could not put
Plaintiff on a wrestling circuit under (sic) after January, 1978. In or about January, 1978,
Plaintiff Wilson contacted Defendant Barnett. Plaintiff was thereupon referred to one
Ollie (sic) Anderson who at that time was handling wrestling promotions in and around
Atlanta. Plaintiff was told by Barnett to speak to Anderson about getting on the Atlanta
"Plaintiff thereafter spoke to the said Anderson and was told by Anderson that the
wrestling card was filled for at least one year. Plaintiff then called Defendant, Barnett and
demanded that Defendant make good on the promise he made to the Plaintiff prior to the
signing of the dismissal. At that time Defendant, Barnett refused Plaintiff's request and
stated 'sue me.'"
As part of Wilson's affidavit in the court documents file, Wilson stated that Barnett told
him he'd have a weekly newspaper column concerning wrestling and which would contain
interviews with wrestling personalities." Plus that Wilson would be a "top draw in the
Atlanta area; particularly at the Omni."
U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy, on May 30, 1979, denied the plaintiff's motion to
vacate the judgment, citing the fact that the motion was made more than one year after
the judgment. Judge Murphy wrote: "If the plaintiff wishes to recover for broken promises
he must do so in a separate action based on the alleged breach."
Research by Tim Hornbaker
January 4, 2011
|National Wrestling Alliance Legal Problems