Lou Thesz Ring Record & Appearance Listings
A detailed history of Lou Thesz is featured in the book: National Wrestling Alliance: The
Untold Story of the Monopoly that Strangled Pro Wrestling.
Lou Thesz was the one professional wrestler who gave the National Wrestling Alliance
credibility during its growing years, adding to the organization's credibility, and strengthening
its resolve to survive difficult situations. Particularly with so many other regional "world"
champions in the late 1940s and early '50s, the ability of Thesz as a legitimate wrestler
allowed him to confront adversaries through a worked, or "scripted," exhibition or a real shoot
match (a real contest). His reputation as a skilled grappler eliminated the potential
challenges of rouge champions, and gave the NWA a major boost.
But more importantly, Lou Thesz was a legendary professional wrestler, perhaps the greatest
single figure in the sport's history.
Through years of success and achievements, Thesz proved to be the backbone of
professional wrestling between 1937 and the 2002. He was a perinnial champion and
emissary for the sport he loved. He held versions of the World Championship at 21 years of
age and at 62. He was a talented shooter and hooker, traveled over 16-million miles across
the world and participated in upwards of 8-10,000 matches.
The story of Lou Thesz’s rise to the top of the wrestling ladder begins on March 16, 1907,
when the Carpathia arrived in New York City from Carnaro, Triest, Austria. On board was an
18 year old shoe worker named Martin Thesz. Martin was a hardworking youngster of
Hungarian and German descent, who had engaged in the sport of wrestling in his native
land. Martin, after settling in St. Louis, married Austrian born Katherine Schultz and had two
daughters. The family moved to Michigan’s Upper Penninsula and Menominee County, not
too far from the childhood home of Gus Sonnenberg . They settled in Holmes and an
Austrian Community, where Martin worked on a farm.
On April 24, 1916, a third child was born, a son named Louis, and a third daughter was born
a year later. During the 1920s, Martin and Katherine moved their children back to St. Louis,
where the latter opened up a shoe repair shop. Wrestling on both sides of the Mississippi
River was booming, and it was hard to ignore as all local newspapers reported on athletes
such as Jim Londos, Joe Stecher and Ed “Strangler” Lewis. It was hard for young Lou to
ignore the spectacle and the athleticism of professional wrestlers.
Ben Epstein of the Arkansas Gazette (Little Rock) on May 24, 1939 wrote: "They're billing
Louis Thesz, heavyweight rassler, as the greatest since the immortal Frank Gotch. Whoa
Muchnick, in a March 11, 1950 letter to Pinkie George, reminded the NWA President that they
had previously discussed only booking the heavyweight champion into "major towns."
It may be shocking for some fans to learn that Lou Thesz wasn't always the proud babyface
with scores of adoring fans during his NWA championship runs. In Houston in 1950, for
instance, Thesz was actually known as a heel more than as a fan favorite, even working the
heel side of things against Buddy Rogers at one point. The Houston Post (9/2/50) made
reference to the fact that during Thesz's match against the monster heel George Bollas,
stating "for once in his reign as champion [he] was popular with the crowd." Needless to say,
the audience wanted to see Thesz pummel Bollas, and that was what he did - and he was
rewarded for it with a "tremendous hand from the crowd."
In a letter to Wally Karbo in Minneapolis on February 25, 1953, Muchnick wrote: "Lou does
not want to wrestle more than four times a week and I can't blame him."
On August 25, 1953, Muchnick told Fred Kohler that Thesz "has been complaining right along
about wrestling on Saturdays, and when he does wrestle on a Saturday, he wants the
following Monday off." Muchnick said that Thesz had wrestled 190 times since the 1952
convention in Santa Monica.
In 1955, a problem between Thesz and Muchnick arose. It is not clear whether or not it was
due to the schedule Muchnick was creating for Thesz or the pay one or the other was
receiving, but a rift started.
Ed Lewis stopped traveling with Thesz on January 1, 1956.
On November 13, 1956, Thesz wrote a letter to Muchnick, telling him how "happy" he was to
have "regained the championship." He explained that "it was always my dream to have held
the title five distinct times as my old friend the 'Strangler' did." Among the other things he
mentioned in this important missive was the fact that the champion wrestled for 15% gross
after taxes of each appearance, and 11% went to the wrestler, and the remaining 4% went to
the NWA to take care of Ed Lewis and the President's office. He also wanted a "humane"
schedule with a five day work week, and working two weeks with one week off. The main point
was that he wanted the Alliance (the NWA President, who was Muchnick) to book him again
now that he was the titleholder. "The NWA has made it possible for me to draw the large
gates I have drawn," Thesz wrote in his letter, which was reprinted in NWA Bulletin #3 dated
November 16, 1956, "mainly because they cleared up the heavyweight championship
situation through elimination."
It was also brought up that Ed Lewis maybe travel with him again, which Muchnick liked.
Muchnick responded via letter to Thesz, agreeing to commence booking him.
On March 26, 1958, Muchnick wrote a letter to Ted Thye in Portland and said: "Thesz is
booking himself through Jules Strongbow. I haven't heard from him since he returned to
California, therefore, I don't know just what his plans are for the future."
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|Lou Thesz Wrestling History