NWA Member: Rod Fenton
Admitted to Organization: September 1954
Tucson Office: Box 2529
Phone Number: 6-2814 (1955)
In February 1954, Sam Muchnick wrote a letter to Morris Sigel of Houston telling him that John
Contos and Jim Londos had sold the Phoenix territory to Rod Fenton. Muchnick wrote,
"Fenton promises to be a good boy. We shall see. He wants to join the Alliance and I told him
I will send him an application if he sends me a letter. However, the application cannot be
acted upon until the next meeting."
The February 9, 1954 edition of the Tucson Daily Citizen reported that there was an
announcement the night before out of Phoenix that Fenton and Herman Ray had purchased
the Madison Square Garden Arena. Ray was the owner of the Tucson Sports Center. In
Phoenix, Pierre LaBelle was going to be the local promoter for Fenton as they were longtime
friends. Fenton was going to live and operate his booking agency out of Tucson. LaBelle
had been previously staging shows in Arizona and New Mexico. Fenton was said to have
ocnnections from El Paso to Phoenix and was working with Sam Menacker in El Paso and with
Monte LaDue in Mesa.
Fenton and Ray were taking the wrestling license from Jim Londos for a reported $175,000.
Londos had been the principal stockholder in the Phoenix Madison Square Garden building
and in Arizona Athletic Association, Inc. Londos and John Contos had been associated with
the company since 1944.
1956 was a trying year for the National Wrestling Alliance and its members. With the
Government investigation coming to a head, guys like Joe Malcewicz, "Whipper" Billy Watson
and even Fenton in Tucson were considering their options with regard to their futures with the
organization. Watson decided it was best to get out of the booking business, and sold out of
Seattle completely. Malcewicz would refuse to sign the Consent Decree for several months
before eventually doing so. Fenton didn't pay his membership fees, according to Sam
Muchnick's NWA Bulletin #3 dated November 16, 1956. He also had "not answered any
communications," leaving the NWA no other choice but to drop him from the organization.
On March 31, 1956, a promotional deal was made that was going to send wrestlers from the
Tucson booking office into Yuma. Ex-wrestler Gil Knutson was going to move his family to
Yuma to run the operations. Knutson brokered the arrangement with night club operator Joe
Hunts, who was going to build a large sports venue on 4th Avenue. The arena was going to
be done by the end of July. Knutson and Rod Fenton had a long friendship going back to
their time in Canada together.
The Tucson Daily Citizen reported on August 7, 1957 that Fenton had sold out of the Tucson
wrestling promotion and at the local Sports Center, ending a seven year run. D.W. Bartlett
and Dr. Karl Sarpolis were the new owners. Bartlett was a Texas District Judge from Waco.
The paper stated that details were still forthcoming, but apparently Fenton was going to be
gone by the following Tuesday. Fenton was going remain active in Phoenix, Mesa and Yuma,
and was going to keep his home in Tucson, where he was going to spend time with his wife
Jackie and two daughters.
Representing Bartlett and Sarpolis as a local promoter in Tucson was Paavo Ketonen, a
former grappler himself. Ketonen had been working under Fenton for the past 15 months.
Sarpolis was an NWA member in Amarillo.
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|Tucson Booking Office