New Zealander is a former NWA World Heavyweight Champion and legend of the mat
sport. Recent additions of the sport’s fan club may remember a 1990 National Wrestling
Alliance Tournament in his name at the annual Starrcade Event. But true followers trace
Pat O’Connor back to his preliminary days building his win record during the early 1950s.
O’Connor was born on August 22, 1928. He went to Massey University in Wellington, New
Zealand where he played rugby and track in addition to wrestling.
During World War II, O’Connor served in the Royal Air Force for his native country.
He competed in the Pan-American Games and the British Empire Games between 1948-
50. Promoters from the U.S. saw O’Connor in the amateur ranks and brought him to
North America. His first matches were in St. Paul and Minneapolis, under Tony Stecher’s
O’Connor made his pro debut and lived in the Twin Cities. Later in the 1950s, O’
Connor moved to Chicago. He won via disqualification over Karl Von Schoeber on July
28, 1953 in Denver in the third fall of an even match. Pat made a return trip to Denver
that proved not to be just a regular circuit stop. O’Connor beat Reggie Lisowski in two-of-
three-falls to capture the Rocky Mountain Heavyweight Title on February 16, 1954. He
planned to return at-least once a month to defend his title. O’Connor faced Rudy Kay on
April 5th in Denver and beat him. He also beat Jim Henry on September 7, 1954 in
Denver to retain his Rocky Mountain Title.
After more then six months on top of the local scene in Colorado, O’Connor was given
his first chance at a more important crown, the United States Heavyweight Title, which was
being held by Verne Gagne. The event was billed as Mike London’s most important
promotion in Denver and was months in the making. The two met at the Auditorium Arena
on October 19, 1954. Gagne beat O’Connor via decision before 7,018 fans. O’Connor
won the World Tag Team Title with Roy McClarity as his partner on December 7, 1954 in
Denver’s Auditorium Arena. 3,502 watched the popular duo defeat Reggie Lisowski and
Pat was a double-champion, with the Rocky Mountain singles strap and co-holding the
World Tag Title. O’Connor’s streak didn’t falter, in fact, he was fast becoming the most
wanted man in the nation. London brought him back in for a rematch with Gagne and it
was O’Connor’s chance to hold a third time in a several month span. The match was held
on January 18, 1955 at the Arena. O’Connor won the first, but lost the second when he
suffered a knee injury. He was forced to forfeit the rest of the match and the referee
declared the match a no contest rather then award Gagne a victory by default. O’Connor
beat Danny Plechas in three-falls on March 8th in Denver and retained his regional title.
With two past matches against Verne Gagne on his belt, O’Connor was matched up
against the NWA World Champion, Lou Thesz in Denver on April 5th. He held his own,
holding the champion to a 1-1, 60-minute, time-limit draw. Many perceived Pat to be the
next NWA Champion. O’Connor would never lose the Rocky Mountain Title. He beat
Mike Paidousis by pinfall on February 8, 1957 in St. Louis. On the 1st of March, O’
Connor teamed with Edouard Carpentier against Buddy Rogers and Fritz Von Erich. The
wrestlers, promoters and fans watched Carpentier get pinned by Von Erich in the first fall
and then O’Connor get beaten by Von Erich in the second. The two fan favorites were
O’Connor made wrestling history when he beat NWA World Champion Dick Hutton in
St. Louis on Friday, January 9, 1959 at the Kiel Auditorium. O’Connor won a one-fall
match and captured the most important wrestling championship in the world. 4,896
watched Pat beat Hutton for the title in 15:03. He used a spinning leglock to wear the
defending champion down before taking the victory. In Amarillo on April 30, 1959, O’
Connor successfully defended his title against Sonny Myers, a man who had ousted Bill
Longson and others in a special tournament a week earlier. The match went three falls,
with O’Connor winning the first with a reverse double back drop and Myers had the
second. He beat Longson in a title match on May 7th in Amarillo with two-of-three-falls
after the referee had disqualified the challenger in the third fall. Pat faced Myers for a
second time on June 11th in Amarillo and won in two-straight falls after the referee,
Tommy Phelps felt Myers had landed a low blow in the second.
In 1960, promoters out of Minnesota gave O’Connor ninety-days to wrestle Verne
Gagne for the NWA World Title. When the match was not signed, the newly formed
American Wrestling Association awarded Gagne the World Title. O’Connor and Gagne
had history in the ring, but no one could secure a title match. Politics played a part.
During a title defense in Amarillo on March 24, 1960, O’Connor was declared the winner,
but the match had plenty of controversy. His opponent was Gene LaBelle, who had taken
the first fall with a sleeperhold. The champion was choked in the second and won via
disqualification. The third ended when LaBelle tossed him over the top rope, thus
securing a second disqualification win for the champion. Not really the way O’Connor
wanted to win, but nevertheless, he remained the NWA World Champ.
O’Connor beat Ripper Leone in Amarillo by disqualification in the third fall of an even
bout on October 27th. Leone had captured the initial bout but O’Connor forced Leone to
submit to a spinning toehold in the second. The disqualification came when Ripper left
the ring to attack Bobby Christy, who was sitting ringside. On the 5th of January, 1961, O’
Connor beat Nikita Mulkovich, recent holder of both the International Heavyweight and
North American Heavyweight Championships, in two-of-three-falls. Mulkovich pinned O’
Connor in the first fall, but the champion returned to win the second and third falls.
The “Match of the Century” was billed by Chicago Promoters in June 1961. O’Connor
was going to travel to the “Windy City” and give the number one contender a title match
at Comiskey Park in front of what was expected to be a huge outdoor crowd. Estimators
were right. 38,000 fans were in attendance that night to see the June 30th event. Pat O’
Connor wrestled Buddy Rogers in a scientific contest. The champ lost the initial fall, but
rebounded to take the second. In the finale, Rogers pinned O’Connor to capture the
NWA World Title.
Despite the loss, Pat was still at the top of the heap and many thoughts he would
come sincerely close if not regain the NWA Title. He beat Art Nielsen in Denver on July
19, 1961 in front of 4,500 fans. The time of match was 16:50. Also in Denver, O’Connor
teamed with Bob Ellis against Dick the Bruiser and Killer Kowalski before nearly 4,500
fans at the Coliseum on August 10th. O’Connor and Ellis won the Texas Death Match
with seven of ten falls.
Later in the month on August 24th, O’Connor was named the United States
Heavyweight Champion by members of the National Wrestling Alliance. He used a
reverse spinning leglock to top Duke Keomuka on May 4, 1962 at the Kiel Auditorium in
11:22. Pat gave Hans Schmidt a shot at the title on May 18th in St. Louis. He won by
disqualification in 10:30. A second opportunity was given to Schmidt on June 1st at the
same pad. In 18:21, O’Connor beat Schmidt by submission to retain his U.S. Title. He
lost the U.S. Title during the summer. He drew with Bob Ellis in 45-minutes, tied 1-1, on
October 5, 1962 in St. Louis. O’Connor joined Bob Geigel in the Kansas City Promotions,
but continued to wrestle throughout the country. He used a reverse back body drop to
pin Dick the Bruiser in St. Louis at the Auditorium on November 19, 1965. The end came
in 9:54. Gene Kiniski pinned O’Connor in 21:30 at the same location.
O’Connor went to Chicago and captured the AWA World Tag Team Title on November
10, 1967 with Wilbur Snyder. The duo beat Harley Race and Chris Markoff. They held
the title for almost two-months. In Chicago on December 2nd, they were beaten by Mr.
Moto and Mitsu Arakawa. In the main event of a St. Louis card on January 14, 1972, O’
Connor beat Blackjack Lanza in 14:40. On March 17, 1972 in St. Louis, O’Connor and
Dick the Bruiser drew with Bill Watts and Blackjack Lanza in 30-minutes. He teamed with
“Cowboy” Bob Ellis in St. Louis on September 22, 1972 and drew with Bill Miller and Hans
Schmidt. On January 27, 1978, O’Connor and Jack Brisco beat Lord Alfred Hayes and
Blackjack Lanza in St. Louis.
O’Connor wrestled in his last match during Sam Muchnick’s Retirement Show on
January 1, 1982. He moved to St. Louis in 1983 and continued to promote with Bob
Geigel until 1987, when the business was sold to Jim Crockett Jr.
Mr. O’Connor died of cancer on Thursday, August 16, 1990 at Jewish Hospital in St.
Louis. He was 65 years old. The National Wrestling Alliance and World Championship
Wrestling sponsored a special Pat O’Connor Memorial Invitational Tag Team Tournament
on December 16, 1990 at the Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis. Rick and Scott Steiner won the
-A two-time AWA/ IWA World Heavyweight Champion (Montreal)
-NWA Rocky Mountain Heavyweight Title (1954) defeated Reggie Lisowski
-NWA World Heavyweight Title (1959-’61) defeated Dick Hutton
-AWA World Heavyweight Title (1960) awarded
-NWA United States Heavyweight Title (1962) awarded
-A two-time NWA Missouri Heavyweight Champion
-A multiple-time NWA Central States Heavyweight Champion
-Co-holder of the WWA World Tag Team Title (1968) w/ Wilbur Snyder
-Co-holder of the AWA World Tag Team Title
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|Pat O'Connor Wrestling History
Legends of Pro Wrestling