A detailed explanation of the Department of Justice's investigation into the National Wrestling
Alliance is featured in the book: National Wrestling Alliance: The Untold Story of the Monopoly that
Strangled Pro Wrestling.
On June 22-23, 1955, Sam Muchnick was interviewed at length in his St. Louis office by Stanley E.
Disney of the Department of Justice, and it was explained that the NWA was going to be prosecuted
either civilly or criminally, or perhaps both. Disney laid out how he felt the members of the Alliance
had acted inappropriately, and he recapped what he said in a June 29, 1955 report to his boss,
James M. McGrath of the Los Angeles office. He wrote: "First, I said that many wrestlers were
afraid to wrestle for opposition because they were afraid they would be black-listed by the NWA
members. I said further that many wrestlers were afraid of offending any NWA member for fear of
being black-listed, and that as a result, many NWA members had taken unfair advantage of the
"Mr. Muchnick denied that there had been any concerted black-listing of wrestlers. He admitted,
however, that he had heard stories of black-listing; he said he believed he had received a list of
wrestlers fighting in opposition to [Johnny] Doyle but he wasn't sure. He affirmed, however, that
many wrestlers were afraid of being black-listed and said he agreed that some NWA members
undoubtedly had misused the power given them, by reason of this wide-spread belief among
wrestlers, to treat wrestlers unfairly.
"Second, I pointed out that many of the members of the NWA who are bookers also are promoters,
and that there had been instances where such members in their booking had gien an unfair
advantage to the shows they were promoting; and that they had even driven promoters out of
business who had competed with their own promotions. Mr. Muchnick admitted immediately that
some bookers had favored their own promotions; he said tha the himself promoted in St. Louis, and
that he was now being sued by a promoter in East St. Louis on just that charge; namely, that in
booking shows into East St. Louis, he had favored his own shows in St. Louis.
"Mr. [Harry] Soffer, his attorney, spoke up and said the best way of treating it would seem to be
'divorcement.' (Comment: I was quite surprised that the NWA's own attorney would suggest the
possibility of divorcing the booking from the promoting.) I answered that I was leading up to this
and that in my own opinion, the only way of obtaining relief would be in divorcement on this point.
"Third, I said that the NWA members had an agreement not to sent talent into each other's territory,
thereby giving each local member a monopoly. I said he knew this was bad, that it was ridiculous
Ed Contos and Ray Fabiana (sic), promoters, for Maryland and Eastern Pennsylvania respectively,
had to get their booker, Toots Mondt, barred as a booker in Maryland and Pennsylvania in order to
be permitted to obtain talent from other bookers. Mr. Muchnick agreed that this was so. He said
there had been many instances where the NWA had acted as an arbitrator trying to prevent a
wrestling war. He said he could see, however, that certain members had abused their local
position. I told him it might be necessary to order a dissolution of the NWA and he indicated that he
would be willing to see the Alliance dissolved if that were absolutely necessary.
"He asked what would be the result if the Alliance dissolved without awaiting action by the Division.
I answered that the members of the Alliance could still be reached by legal action and that we
undoubtedly would take steps to enjoin them from continuing any of the practices discussed above.
"I said that there were numerous other objectionable features; namely, that I understood the
members had agreed Billy Wolfe should have a monopoly on women wrestling; that Harry light
should have a monopoly on midgets; but that these I considered somewhat minor matters
particularly as I had spent no great amount of energy in studying the evidence on those points.
"Mr. Muchnick was particularly interested in preventing a case, if possible, which would bring out the
fact that nearly all matches are fixed. I told him that I didn't know whether there were any antitrust
implications involved in the members of the Alliance agreeing that Lou Thesz should be considered
champion. I said, however, that if we found the NWA was using the black list or other means to
force wrestlers to accept Lou Thesz as champion, then this might become an important phase of
the proof under the first evil discussed. This seemed to disturb Mr. Muchnick. The wrestling
bookers are extremely anxious to keep out of court the fact that their matches are primarily
"exhibitions," and this desire, in my opinion, will make them eager to settle the case.
"I told Mr. Muchnick that if there were a criminal case, the NWA would undoubtedly be a defendant
and he would probably be a defendant as its president. He said that the NWA treasury had only
$5,000 at present, which would soon be down to $3,000, and he wanted to know whether as
president he would be personally liable for any fine assessed against the NWA itself. I told him that
he would be personally liable only for the fine assessed against him personally as president. I said,
however, that if the NWA were indicted, we would undoubtedly insist upon a maximum fine against
it, and that it would be up to the members to contribute to make up the maximum.
"In my opinion, Soffer is a reasonable fellow who believes his clients have been violating the law
and wants to make the easiest settlement possible.
"I am firmly convinced that Muchnick would like a settlement and believe that most members of the
NWA would like a settlement. I believe that if the Division considers this a possible precedent for
settling the boxing case, a very tough decree can be worked out with the NWA. I believe in this
decree, we could insist on divorcement of bookers from promotions; insist on dissolution of the
NWA, and insist upon an injunction against black-listing. We might even consider insisting upon a
requirement that all bookers for a reasonable time agree to furnish talent to all comers upon a
"guarantee" basis. In other words, we could require that Malcewicz in San Francisco, for instance,
agree to furnish talent to promoers in Southern California if they are willing to make the same
guarantee payment to the wrestlers that promoters in Northern California make. A provision similar
to this would be beneficial to many promoters in the East and would eliminate tacit understanding
among bookers not to compete.
"There are numerous minor agreements also illegal, such as an agreement that no booker will book
the heavyweight champion for a show charging less than an admission of $1. This, of course,
constitutes a kind of horizonatl price-fixing, but the seriousness of this is not immediately apparent.
"The did not question the fact that interstate commerce was involved."
Disney concluded his memorandum by writing: "I shall, in a later memorandum, set forth my opinion
as to whether there should be a criminal case."
This document, as well as the others related to this case, are all in the public record held in the
Following the meeting, Muchnick sent out a "special bulletin" to the NWA membership on June 23,
1955 informing all members that the "Anti Trust Division of the Department of Justice, under the
direction of the Los Angeles office, is investigating" the NWA and the professional wrestling
business. He said that on June 14, he went to Washington to talk about the matter, telling officials
that the files of the NWA were available to be looked at. Muchnick said that an investigator had
been to his office "this week." He wanted to discuss more about the dire situation at the annual
convention in St. Louis in September, and hoped that the investigation wouldn't lead to the end of
the Alliance. At the bottom of the bulletin, he wrote that the Department of Justice wasn't "out to
hurt wrestling." He believed that the NWA had done plenty to help the business "and promoters
everywhere," and that "some men apparently have deviated from the true principles of the
Alliance," and that was the reason behind the Government's inquest.
On July 3, 1955, Muchnick wrote to Stanley Disney of the Department of Justice, Antitrust Division,
and talked about the National Wrestling Alliance. He wrote: "I cannot help but come to the
unescapable conclusions that the National Wrestling Alliance has been the greatest force for good
in wrestling since its origin in 1948. If ever anything was monopolized by groups, it was previous to
However, former member Johnny Doyle was telling the DOJ something else entirely. Doyle said the
NWA was formed for the following purposes:
1. To obtain a nation-wide booking monopoly of wrestling talent;
2. To guarantee each NWA Member a local monopoly of booking wrestling talent in his own
3. To assist each NWA Member in obtaining control, in some cases a monopoly, over the
promotion of wrestling matches in his territory;
4. To obtain a monopoly over the wrestling talent in the United States
These allegations were backed up by Benny Ginsberg, who worked for Muchnick at the time the
NWA was founded, according to the DOJ records.
The NWA had obtained a monopoly of wrestling talent in the United States by:
1. Placing nearly all name wrestlers, including champions, under contract
2. By developing into name-wrestlers only wrestlers under contract
3. By blacklisting and threatening to blacklist wrestlers who antagonize any NWA member
4. By threatening wrestlers that their licenses will be cancelled by the State Commission if they
don't cooperate and by having the license of non-cooperative wrestlers cancelled.
In his August 1, 1955 bulletin to the membership, Muchnick indicated his hope that the Alliance
would be "vindicated of any wrong doing." He wrote "those of you who did not" heed his advice
against throwing their weight around against wrestlers and used "the name of the Alliance as
weapon," were "probably the cause of the investigation."
Muchnick claimed that less than 3 percent of all wrestlers were under contract to NWA Members
and that the organization had always treated grapplers as "free agents."
An internal Department of Justice document dated August 25, 1955 recommended criminal
prosecution against the members of the National Wrestling Alliance. It stated that the investigator
felt "the members of the NWA knew full well that their activities were illegal."
"It is my opinion a criminal prosecution should be brought against the NWA, its President, Sam
Muchnick, and various Members," the report stated.
In the years following the Department of Justice investigation and signing of the Consent Judgment,
NWA membership dropped from 36 to 26 members, with further declines going into the early 1960s.
Robert A. Bicks, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice Antitrust Division,
wrote to Muchnick on March 10, 1960, and responded to a series of territorial wars presently
occurring. Bobby Bruns, and the St. Joseph outfit, was running in Des Moines, and Pinkie George,
who formerly ran Iowa for the NWA, was in San Antonio operating in opposition to Frank Brown.
Bicks was pleased with this information, indicating that the "destruction of such territorial divisions
is, as you have observed, one of the prime aims of the Judgment. That the accomplishment of this
purpose may hurt some of the so-called established promoters by permitting others to come into
their so-called territories and compete with them is a debatable question. Most monopolists feel
hurt when they first encounter competition, but many discover to their surprise that competition only
spurs them on to greater achievements and in any event, the public receives the benefits of
competition to which it is entitled."
Bicks added: "While there is some indication that competition among bookers and promoters is
beginning in a small way to enter the industry, there is no assurance whatsoever that anything like
free and open competition as yet exists and under those circumstances, it is futile to entertain any
idea of modifying the Judgment."
Research by Tim Hornbaker
December 17, 2010
|National Wrestling Alliance Monopoly