NWA Member: Joe Gunther
Admitted to Organization: September 1950
New Orleans Office: 43 Stilt Street
Phone Number: Fairview 3001 (1955)
Residence: Carrollton section of New Orleans
Joe "Bullet" Gunther was a successful booking agent, and held a strong circuit in Louisiana and
Alabama during the 1940s and '50s utilizing popular wrestlers and excellent press connections.
He was known as a "genial" guy, and was very charitable.
For a period of time, Gunther ran his booking office from Birmingham, Alabama, according to the
June 1953 edition of NWA Official Wrestling. His headquarters returned to New Orleans, where
he was the matchmaker for promoter Mrs. Ernestine Murtagh. Ernestine and her husband Jim
had been promoting wrestling in New Orleans since the summer of 1947, and through Gunther,
featured primarily non-heavyweight grapplers. Gunther, for a time, had controlling interests in
wrestling in Louisiana, and at times featured heavyweight superstars Lou Thesz and Antonino
Gunther told the NWA Official Wrestling magazine (June 1953) and writer Harold Buckley, who
doubled as the local press agent: "Manda (his wife) and I have taken permanent residence in
New Orleans and in addition to local activities, there are cities like Shreveport, Lafayette and
others where I will present weekly matches." In that same article, Buckley wrote that "[Lou] Thesz
told his writer Bullet Joe does a better job of matchmaking than some of the so-called topflight mat
The February 17, 1957 edition of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that a new deal had
been arranged by Ernestine Murtagh, Gunther, and Atlanta booking agent, Paul Jones. It was
said that the local duo "lined up with the powerful National Wrestling Alliance," and planned to
bring in top heavyweight headliners at Madison Square Garden. Gunther was no longer an
official NWA member, and going to rely on talent from Atlanta. Their first combined effort was
going to be staged on Thursday, February 28, 1957, and Jones was coming to town to see the
initial program. In advertising, there was a headline: "New Talent Grappling Programs." Harold
Buckley was the press agent for the new group.
As of March 26, 1960, the Indianapolis television wrestling program of Jim Barnett and Johnny
Doyle was being fed into New Orleans on Saturdays at 5:00 p.m. on WDSU-TV (channel 6). Sam
Menacker provided commentary. The show was called "Big Time Wrestling."
On Monday, August 8, 1960, former promoter Jim Murtagh passed away in New Orleans at the
age of 61. He was survived by his wife, Ernestine, two brothers, and a sister. Murtagh was a
native of Algiers and was a railroad man and employee at city hall. When he became sick, he
passed his wrestling license to his wife.
In June 1963, Gunther was booking New Orleans for Lambert Brown, and promising to bring back
Dick the Bruiser and Bob Ellis. The two wrestlers, in 1962, drew the largest all-time Louisiana
Research by Tim Hornbaker, J Michael Kenyon
May 13, 2011
|New Orleans Booking Office