The National Wrestling Alliance was the ruling force during
the territorial days of professional wrestling.  It was formed
in 1948 as a regional talent sharing operation and quickly
morphed in a syndicate that spanned the United States.  
The group initially had good intentions of streamlining rules
and champions, but their greed for power translated into
violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act.  In 1956, the
Federal Government forced the NWA to change its By-Laws
and actions in a move that nearly destroyed the Alliance.  
NWA President
Sam Muchnick was the key figure in not only
helping the union grow to its dominant position, but keeping
it together during a tough time for the business.  He was
considered the backbone of the organization.

Wrestling promoters throughout history have found ways to collaborate with each other to
make their individual businesses run more effectively.  Trading talent was a major factor in
these types of agreements, but a general lack of trust in their peers led most of these
partnerships to disaster.  The famed "Trust" (1933-1936) was probably the most successful
cartel, while the National Wrestling Association was fashioned by bureaucrats.  By 1940, St.
Louis promoter
Tom Packs maneuvered his way to become the top "private" promoter in
charge the latter organization, and controlled that strain of the World Heavyweight Title.  
His friendship with the Association's hierarchy and connections to the Missouri Athletic
Commission were two important reasons why Packs rose to the rank of wrestling "czar."

Packs's domination was not pleasing to a number of independent-minded promoters, and
maybe not so surprisingly, two versions of the "National Wrestling Alliance" grew out of that
fact.  The first one arrived on the Central States scene in January 1941 when brothers
Sandow and Max Baumann launched their promotional entity from Wichita.  The two
products of Rochester had been involved in wrestling for decades, most notably with
Sandow's management of
Ed "Strangler" Lewis, and were well known critics of Packs.  With
a tough shooter in former Olympian
Roy Dunn and affiliated promoters in Topeka, Great
Bend, Salina, and parts of Oklahoma and Nebraska, the duo's "Alliance" had enough
credibility to make decent money.  Their efforts were successful on their independent
stage, but failed to muster any national headlines - especially with major wrestlers avoiding
their circuit.

By 1943, Sandow and Baumann had moved their championship to
Ede Ebner, a Hungarian
grappler using the guise "Ede Virag." Virag went to Iowa and Nebraska points during the
summer and the simple words "National Wrestling Alliance" were impressed on both fans
and promoters.  One wise businessman was extraordinarily struck by that promotional
Pinkie George of Des Moines.  George, following service during the war, decided to
utilize that phrase for his own promotion locally, and booked former National Wrestling
Association champion
Ray Steele as the "National Wrestling Alliance" champion for his
clubs in Iowa.  Virag went back to his stomping grounds in Kansas as the Alliance
titleholder, while Steele dropped his championship to Midwest Wrestling Association
Dave Levin, who, in turn, lost both titles to Lee Wykoff.  Finally, on August 16,
Orville Brown beat Wykoff in Kansas City to become duel champion - the MWA king
in Kansas City and the NWA titleholder in Iowa.

The title situation, really, was secondary to the deals going on behind-the-scenes and the
partnerships being solidified.  Brown, who booked Kansas City for promoter George
Simpson, became good friends with
Pinkie George, and both men were on good terms with
Minneapolis veteran Tony Stecher.  Max Clayton of Omaha was the fourth wheel of their
tight knit group, and between their four cities, talented moved back and forth regularly.  
Three of the four cities featured a local heavyweight champion, and only George used the
name "National Wrestling Alliance." It wasn't until 1948 that the quartet united to use that
standard phrase.

To make it clear, George, Stecher, Brown and Clayton were wrestling "bookers," individuals
who sent wrestlers to specific towns for appearances.  For their services, they would
receive a percentage of any shows they provided workers for.  Bookers, not promoters,
was what the expanded form of the National Wrestling Alliance consisted of.  At the same
time, bookers could, and usually did, act as promoters.  For example, Stecher booked to
cities throughout Minnesota and into parts of the Dakotas and Manitoba.  He was also the
promoter on record in Minneapolis.  Brown booked to cities throughout Kansas and parts of
Western Missouri.  He did not hold a promoter's license, but worked closely with Kansas
City promoter George Simpson.  
Joe "Toots" Mondt was another guy who rarely held a
promoter's license.  The National Wrestling Alliance was made up of interlocking booking

A private organization being run with an imaginative list of rules was quite attractive to
bookers across the nation and by the end of the 1940s, nearly every big-time wrestling
businessman was affiliated with the group.  That included
Paul Bowser, Fred Kohler, and
Johnny Doyle.  Their annual conventions were full of crude discussion, angry disputes, and
thorough planning on how they could further close off their cartel from outsiders.  Talk of
blackballing wrestlers who worked for non-members was repeatedly brought up and
considerations were given to choke out any rival promoter running in the territory of an
affiliate.  Not only were these debates going on, but actions were being taken on a daily

The St. Louis office received numerous applications by aspiring bookers and/or promoters
looking for relief, and hoping to join the elite clique.  More than 90% were denied as
members had expanded to all points, claiming cities as their own, and refusing to give up
their prized land.

The nefarious actions were stunning, but the wrestling business, in a whole, benefited from
the growth of the National Wrestling Alliance.  Wrestling had been a disorganized sport for
years and individual promoters seemed to relish in having local champions available on a
week-by-week basis.  The NWA targeted the different championship claims, hoping to
narrow the field down to a singular titleholder.  This movement gave the recognized champ
respect and built a great deal of credibility.  Fans responded.

It was the hard work of local bookers and promoters that helped reenergize the business
during the early 1950s.  While some cities like St. Louis and Los Angeles had successful
runs during the 1940s, a majority of towns were faltering.  Using television exposure to their
advantage, NWA members saw a terrific upswing in attendance, only heightening their
annual revenue and eventually drawing more attention from Government officials.  With so
much money floating around, there was enough to line certain pockets, but other officials
were determined to make changes within wrestling.

Verne Gagne, Ray Gunkel, Don Beitleman, Mike DiBiase, and Dick Hutton were among the
fine collegiate grapplers to go pro during the late 1940s and early 1950s, adding very
credible athletes to a sport known for it's characters.  NWA leaders advised their
associates to utilize the talented crop of grapplers, pushing their amateur achievements,
and enthusiasts were thrilled.  Lou Thesz was still the industry's hardest working man and
delivering in all territories, and members saw no reason to make a change at the
heavyweight level.

The Department of Justice investigation was going to define the NWA's role in the business
for years to come, if there was any organization left.  It was all going to be left in the hands
of a few Government attorneys and ultimately a Federal Judge.  Sam Muchnick and others
worked their magic behind-the-scenes, and in 1956, a decision was rendered that was to
silence their monopolistic activities.  The NWA was not forced to disband.

There were other problems within the organization and some individuals previously
affiliated with the group were finding a host of reasons to distance themselves from the
NWA.  A decline in popularity didn't help, neither did a bold decision in 1957 that backfired.  
Sonny Myers exposed the Central States leg of the NWA monopoly and sued
Pinkie George.  They had many opportunities to mend their differences, but a
lengthy legal battle was in the cards.  Myers, a well traveled and accomplished journeyman,
claimed he lost money while blacklisted and was prepared to tell all to a jury of his peers in
Federal Court.  The Alliance, also named in the suit as a defendant, sent reinforcements to
Iowa to defend it's reputation, but the negative press could do nothing but hurt the

The downward spiral continued to sink the organization and Captiol Wrestling exposed
weaknesses in the system with their lopsided booking of heavyweight champion "Nature
Buddy Rogers.  Aggravating an already tender situation, Capitol used Rogers
extensively throughout their territory and the favoritism compelled many die hard members
to act outside the By-Laws to get their local needs met.  Lou Thesz received the nod in
early 1963 and that decision, coupled with Muchnick returning to the helm, helped give the
NWA a new momentum that was drawing bookers into the union rather than turning them

In an August 19, 1955 letter to the Justice Department, Muchnick told the official, "if you
look through the membership rolls of the Alliance, I am sure you will find that a majority of
the members are not Oxford scholars."

Research by Tim Hornbaker
May 3, 2011

The Reasons for Having a "National Wrestling Alliance"

National Wrestling Alliance Documents

National Wrestling Alliance Territories

National Wrestling Alliance Annual Conventions

National Wrestling Alliance Special Meetings

National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Title

National Wrestling Alliance By-Laws

National Wrestling Alliance Monopoly

National Wrestling Alliance Blacklist

NWA Ends Monopoly with Consent Decree

National Wrestling Alliance Finances

National Wrestling Alliance Bulletins

Wrestling Films and Kinescopes

National Wrestling Alliance & Women's Wrestling

National Wrestling Alliance & Ed "Strangler" Lewis

Sam Muchnick's Speech to the NWA from 1953

National Wrestling Alliance Legal Problems

Major Events in NWA History:

The St. Louis Wrestling War

DuMont TV Wrestling Show from Chicago (1949-'55)

World Champion Orville Brown in Auto Accident

NWA Creating Unified World Heavyweight Champion

Don Eagle vs. Gorgeous George in 1950

NWA Expansion to Japan

Lou Thesz vs. "Baron" Michele Leone in 1952

Danny McShain Double-Crossed In the Ring

NWA Dallas Wrestling War 1953-'54

NWA - Verne Gagne United States Title Controversy from 1953

Mildred Burke vs. June Byers in 1954

Lou Thesz vs. Leo Nomellini in 1955

Lou Thesz vs. Edouard Carpentier in 1957

Barnett and Doyle Fight for Membership

Buddy Rogers vs. Bobo Brazil in 1962

World Champion Buddy Rogers Attacked in 1962

NWA Champion Buddy Rogers Fractures Ankle in 1962

Antone Leone's Crusade Against the NWA

Lou Thesz vs. Verne Gagne History
National Wrestling Alliance History
NWA luminary Sam Muchnick