Tom Packs Wrestling Biography

By Tim Hornbaker

A knowledgeable wrestling fan today can very quickly rattle off a short list of cities known
for their professional wrestling heritage.  New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, of
course, are easily recognized for their grappling legacy.  Atlanta, Montreal, Toronto, and
Philadelphia all can boast terrific wrestling matches going back to the late 19th Century.  
One city in particular stands out.  That is the city under the Arch, St. Louis.

For a combined 60 years, promoters Tom Packs and Sam Muchnick were rewarded for
their dedication and commitment by a tremendously loyal fan base in St. Louis.  
Compared to other wrestling markets during that same time-frame, their amazing
accomplishments stand far above average as far as drawing enthusiastic audiences were
concerned, particularly during World War II.  Packs was the one big-time North American
promoter to retain a strong following for his operations between 1941 and 1945, and as
St. Louis outshined promotions in Los Angeles and New York, he assumed wrestling czar
status over the likes of “Toots” Mondt, Ray Fabiani, Tony Stecher, and Fred Kohler.

The reliability of Packs and Muchnick in their presentation of thrilling entertainment was
the glue behind wrestling’s success in St. Louis.  Audiences were captivated by the
science and mayhem of Joe Stecher, Ed “Strangler” Lewis, Jim Londos, Lou Thesz, the
Duseks, and “Wild” Bill Longson, and rewarded the promoters with regular sellouts and a
silent promise to return in two weeks to see the next show.  As a gift to their devoted fans,
Packs and Muchnick gave them something that no other promoter in history could ever
boast:  15 World Heavyweight Title changes in the city limits between 1925 and 1966.  
And these weren’t localized championships that changed whenever the wind blew or a
new star entered the territory.  These were nationally recognized title switches.

Wrestling’s popularity in St. Louis wasn’t a naturally established thing prior to 1923.  In
fact, since the early part of the 20th century, Kansas City was more well known for its
wrestling extravaganzas.  Twice in 1906, the American championship changed hands in
Kansas City, including the all-important Frank Gotch-Fred Beell rematch on December
17, 1906 before 8,000 fans.  Kansas City also witnessed shocking upset in January 1925
when Ed “Strangler” Lewis was dethroned by grid star Wayne Munn.  Promoters W.D.
Scoville and Gabe Kaufman kept the spotlight of big-time pro wrestling in the Central
States on their town, and away from the faltering Omaha and St. Louis.

Prior to early 1920s, St. Louis saw a handful of significant matches.  For example, former
World Greco-Roman wrestling champion William Muldoon beat collar and elbow great
James Hiram McLaughlin in December 1884.  Tom Jenkins grabbed two-of-three-falls
from Ernest Roeber in April 1901, winning a special mixed style contest.  In their routine
travels, both Gotch and Dr. B.F. Roller stopped in the city, demonstrating their aptitude to
enthusiasts, and lightweight stars Al Wasem and Max Luttbeg were regularly was featured
before hometown crowds.  Additionally, St. Louis was the home of pioneering Greco-
Roman wrestler George Baptiste, the mentor of future physical culture guru Bernarr

Stability first came to the marketplace through the promotion of John Contos, a youthful
and motivated entrepreneur from Greece.  During the 1910s, Contos boxed for a short
time while in the San Francisco area, and made friends with Jim Londos, an amateur
working out at the famed Olympic Athletic Club.  One account has Contos actually starting
Londos on the professional wrestling path, and guiding his early years on the mat.  By
1922, Contos was in St. Louis at the Coliseum featuring Londos, Ed “Strangler” Lewis,
Stanislaus Zbyszko, and Joe Stecher, the biggest names in the industry.  He even
attempted to lure boxing legend Jack Dempsey into a mixed match with any of his leading

Notably, Londos was looking for other Greeks to possibly join him in wrestling, forming a
minor syndicate of countrymen who could aid and assist each other in the diverse sport.  
The book Fall Guys says that while Londos was in Chicago, he reportedly met
Anthanasios Pakiotis and Nicholas Londes, two employees of a restaurant, and
convinced them both to enter the wrestling business.  Londes, it is believed, took that
name in reference to Londos, and became a wrestler, occasionally billed as Jim’s
cousin.   He later opened up shop as a promoter in Detroit, and became one of the more
well respected men in boxing during the 1940s and ’50s.  Pakiotis, however, jumped from
dishwasher to promoter, migrated to St. Louis, and took the helm of the local promotion
from Contos.

Indicating the bond these Greek sportsmen had, Pakiotis claimed family ties to Contos,
like Londes did to Londos.  Contos’s legitimate brother, Edward, also followed him into the
promotional business.  After John left St. Louis during the summer of 1923, he spent time
in Memphis, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Syracuse before landing in Arizona at the top of the
Phoenix operations.  Many wrestlers wore the “Contos” designation and claimed Greek
ancestry, whether it was true or not, and the Contos-Londos-Londes connection
remained tight for many decades.  

Londos’s ability to recruit allies was simply amazing.  Another of his products was Ray
Fabiani, who was encouraged to leave his flourishing concert violin career behind for
matdom.  Fabiani made a tremendous wealth promoting matches in Philadelphia, Los
Angeles, Houston, Chicago, and New York City.

Pakiotis adopted the Americanized name “Thomas Packs,” and made his home in St.
Louis.  It was a perfect match, it seemed, and the relationship between promoter and his
audience blossomed right from the beginning.  He was born on August 15, 1894 in
Poulithra, Arcadia, Greece.  According to a June 1925 article in an unidentified St. Louis
newspaper, “Packs gained no small amount of fame as a long distance runner in his
childhood days and at the immature age of 11, the local promoter came to America,
arriving in New York City.  Whereas, running was his most likeable sport in the old
country, Packs hurriedly took to wrestling and swimming, after joining the YMCA in New
York.  He remained in the ‘Big City’ for seven years, and ultimately become a member of
the Greek Athletic Club of that city, which fostered amateur boxing, wrestling, swimming
and other lines of sport.”

The 1925 St. Louis piece on Packs said that he became a promoter by 21 years of age in
Norfolk, Virginia.  He was already an accomplished entrepreneur by that time, having run
a company in Pennsylvania, and when he settled in Chicago, he immediately began
booking grapplers and “opened up another business.  He joined all the leading societies
of Chicago and made thousands of friends.” When the St. Louis opportunity presented
itself, Packs left the “Windy City,” and his keen promotional mind developed quickly as he
adapted to his new surroundings.

It is important to note that St. Louis was at a very low point in terms of support for
wrestling.  Contos had been forced to actually cancel his last two shows due to a lack of
interest before leaving town, and even his March 21, 1923 effort with Zbyszko and
Londos on the bill drew a “very small crowd.” Despite these facts, Packs displayed his
enthusiasm for the sport around every turn.  He leaned on close friends for assistance
during his first year and proved to be a natural.  Perhaps he was even naïve in some
regards, and he didn’t have to wait long for the real money Londos promised, came
pouring in.

Although recognized for his inexperience, Packs was not afraid to mix it up with any of the
hard-nosed veterans, and confronted Billy Sandow behind-the-scenes in 1924.  Sandow
was ruling most of the wrestling landscape as manager of heavyweight champion Ed
Lewis.  He was also in a perfect place to exacerbate a potential war with New York
promoter Jack Curley and the Stecher Brothers, Joe and Tony.  Shifting many of the top
tier heavyweight contests from the northeast to Central States locales, Sandow held as
much power as any one man could, and seemed to enjoy elbowing his peers in their
haste to land big-time bouts.

Newcomer Packs didn’t have any reason to fight with anyone, and could ignore the
different rivalries to just focus on business – at least for the time being.  On January 22,
1924, he landed one of the most sought matches in the sport, Joe Stecher vs. Stanislaus
Zbyszko, and gained interest from throughout the Midwest.  A staggering 10,000 fans
turned out at the St. Louis Coliseum and witnessed Stecher’s victory with the second and
third falls.  On the undercard, Renato Gardini beat Jim Londos in 41:05.  Two weeks later,
Gardini challenged Lewis for the championship and the program drew only 4,000 fans to
the Coliseum on a night a snowstorm hit the area.

Londos received two title shots against Lewis in 1924 for Packs.  His April 1 bout with the
“Strangler” ended when Lewis kicked him in the face during the third fall, which reportedly
caused a blood tumor at the base of his brain, and below his left ear.  Lewis and his
manager claimed the legit kick was an accident, while others thought the referee, Lewis
and Sandow’s pal Sam Avey, should have disqualified the champion.

The second Londos-Lewis bout took place on June 12 at the St. Louis University Stadium,
bringing in a gate of $14,410 for Packs.  This time, the champion beat Londos squarely
with the second fall in 40:37 and then the third in 10:24.  Jim opened up the match with a
victory in 24:57.

The first of many outsiders attempting to oust Packs from St. Louis came in the form of
Gus Tiefenthaler.  Tiefenthaler launched his new promotion on May 7, 1924 at the
Battery A Open Air Arena with trustbuster Marin Plestina and his controversial manager
Joe Marsh.  After beating Mike Howard in straight falls before 1,200 fans, Plestina issued
a challenge to Ed Lewis, and similar to his many earlier challenges, it again fell on deaf

Plestina received a lot of press, and eventually it was too much for Packs to ignore.  
Finally, the promoter offered him a match with Gardini, who was an Olympic wrestler for
Italy and not to be taken lightly if tested in a shoot.  If Plestina won the match, he’d be
awarded a main event contest on one of Packs’s shows.  Plestina refused, and
negotiations with Londos scheduled a private wrestling match that did nothing but agitate
Packs.  Once Londos backed out of a date with Stecher on July 9, Packs obtained an
injunction to prevent him from competing with Plestina.  Finally, Packs got both Londos
and Plestina in one of his rings on July 30 at the University Stadium, and the Greek won a
90-minute handicap match when his opponent failed to secure even one of the two falls
he needed within the time-limit.

With egos growing at days passed, the animosity among the top layer of wrestlers,
promoters, and managers who dictated the course of the sport heightened, and as a
result, Packs severed his ties to the Sandow group.  It was a huge story in the wrestling
world, and Packs proved that he was no pushover.  This incident started a lifelong love-
hate relationship between Packs and Sandow that made them a grand fortune during the
good times, and drew the bitterest of hatred during the bad.

Lines in the sand were drawn, and wrestlers found some semblance of loyalty to the
promoters they felt could make them the best deal financially.  At the same time, the
heavyweight championship needed to be protected by the men who had custody of it, and
Lewis and Sandow were not going to give up the title to a wrestler who they couldn’t
benefit from.  The sport had transitioned full circle to a time in which the World Champion
would be decided in a board room rather than on the mat.  In 1924, the politicking behind
the championship was more prevalent than at any time in history.  Titles had changed
hands in worked matches before that, but Lewis and Sandow’s control of the heavyweight
belt was much more organized than at any time prior.

While Packs, the Stechers, and Jack Curley looked for way to fight the system, Lewis and
Sandow conjured an method to spark interest in their clique by passing the heavyweight
title to a newcomer named Wayne Munn.  Munn was a talented football player, and
although he had failed to make headway as a boxer, his managers thought he’d fare far
better as a wrestler in a well controlled, and non-hostile environment.  Well, needless to
say, there were many hostilities in the wrestling world at that time, and once Munn was
“made” champion, there was a “X” on his back that marked him.  A plan formed by Curley’
s New York regime courted a friend on the opposing side, and on April 15, 1925 in
Philadelphia, Stanislaus Zbyszko double-crossed Munn in the ring, and took whatever
claim he had to the World Title.

Zbyszko was well compensated for his efforts, and Joe Stecher waited for the title to be
passed.  The build up in St. Louis was brilliant, but not without a word from the opposing
side, who were fuming at the turn of events, and still billing Lewis as a claimant.  On May
6 at the St. Louis University Field, Packs introduced the new titleholder to the crowd, and
Zbyszko proceeded to beat Dick Daviscourt in two-straight falls.  Prior to the main event,
Joe’s brother Tony issued a challenge to the winner, and put up $10,000 to bind a match.

St. Louis area newspapers followed Packs’s attempts to sign a title bout between Zbyszko
and Stecher from his scheduled meeting with the champion along with Tony Stecher on
May 7 at the Hotel Statler, which Stanislaus blew off, to his subsequent train ride to
Chicago late that night.  Packs later followed Zbyszko from Chicago to Springfield,
Massachusetts and back, reportedly trying everything possible to sign the deal, and most
likely just watching the back of his hired gun.  On May 12, Packs received final
confirmation from Zbyszko for a $50,000 deal that bound a match against Stecher on May
30.  Incidentally, May 30 was the date of the Lewis-Munn rematch in Michigan City,

Tiefenthaler, the local representative of the Lewis gang, promoted his own brand to the
St. Louis audience on May 21 at Stars’ Park.  There, John Pesek ousted John Evko in two-
straight falls, Richard Shikat defeated Tom Draak and Pat McGill wrestled Mike Romano
to a draw.  Before the start of the main event, the announcer proclaimed that Pesek
would throw both Stecher and Zbyszko in the same night or forfeit $5,000, only to receive
some heckling from the crowd.  To prepare for the important match, Stecher trained at
the Red Ball Gymnasium with George Tragos, Gus Eisel, Henry Costa and Dan Koloff,
while Zbyszko worked out with Joe Novesky and Frank Judson at Billiken Stadium.  Packs
made accommodations for 18,000 people the St. Louis University Field, and more than
15,000 attended the May 30 program.  Stecher beat Zbyszko in two-straight falls (1:26:
18, 39:22), and captured the main line of the World Heavyweight Title.

With less than three years in the business, Packs was already one of the most important
promoters in the country, and his friendship with the Stechers, Curley, and Londos gave
him tremendous leverage.  He’d also proved St. Louis to be as big or a better
moneymaker as Kansas City and Chicago, and even compared to New York and Omaha
in their heyday.  The momentum had carried him into a very small room of wrestling
leaders who were ruling pro wrestling, and the advantage that Sandow and Lewis were
exploiting was greatly diminished.

By the end of 1925, Lewis’s famed “policeman” John Pesek jumped to the Packs-Curley
syndicate, and the move was indicative of the shifting of power.  Stecher’s run as
champion was highly successful in St. Louis, and after going over Londos on February
10, 1926 before 12,000 at the Coliseum, “Scissors” Joe was booked against Pesek in a
battle between native Nebraskans.  In the month leading up to the April 29 show, Packs
ventured to Omaha to discuss the current state of grappling with the other members of
his troupe, and among those in attendance were Curley, the Stechers, Lou Daro (Los
Angeles), Tom Law (Wichita), Ray Fabiani (Philadelphia), Joe Coffey (Chicago), and
Gene Melady (Omaha).  Two other leading supporter of Stecher as titleholder was John
Contos, who by that time had settled in Atlanta, and Frank Schuler of San Francisco.

On April 29, 1926, Stecher and Pesek locked horns at St. Louis’s new Coliseum and
among the nearly 8,000 fans in attendance were dignitaries from the city’s political and
social elite.  Fans were not disappointed by the spectacle, and the St. Louis Globe
Democrat called it a “great struggle” for “five hours of strenuous” warfare, with Stecher
winning when Pesek was unable to continue after 40 minutes of the third fall.  The paper
noted that the match had national significance and the audience was “riveted” by the

The Lewis syndicate was not completely without viable cities and crafty promoters.  In St.
Louis, Chicago, and Los Angeles, Sandow had working agreements with individuals
running opposition to established promoters Packs, Coffey, and Daro – run by Gus
Tiefenthaler, Paddy Harmon, and John DePalma, respectively.  Two of their more valued
partners were Gabe Kaufman in Kansas City and Sam Avey in Tulsa, and Julius Sigel
offered a hamlet in Houston.  Paul Bowser was their most powerful ally at the time, and
running things out of Boston.  His animosity toward Curley and the Stechers was well

However, Sandow and Lewis were lacking serious title threats to keep fan interest.  Joe
Malcewicz was about as good as it got, especially after he took a tainted win from Stecher
in Boston in March 1926.  Others like Munn, Mike Romano, Pat McGill, Ned McGuire, and
Jim Clinstock were not measuring up with the array of superstars in the Packs-Curley
clan, which had Pesek, Londos, Gardini, Rudy Dusek, Ad Santel, Frank Judson, Dick
Daviscourt, and Stanislaus Zbyszko.  More noteworthy competitors were on the other side
of the fence, and that was, obviously, where the money was to be made.  By the end of
1926, Sandow and Lewis were considering ending the hostilities.

Peace wasn’t going to be an easy thing for professional wrestling.  Tom Packs was
actually the conduit between the warring factions, but some anger was not going to
disappear at all, especially in the case of Jack Curley.  He was going to make sure his
venom continued to be felt by his enemies.  Instead of allowing personal vendettas to get
the best of him, Packs negotiated directly with Billy Sandow and became the first major
promoter from the opposite side to break down the walls.  He knew that there was plenty
of money to be made from the availability of Lewis back in St. Louis, and the “Strangler’s”
three year banishment from Tom’s promotion ceased.

“I had not spoken to either the former champion [Lewis] or his shrewd manager, Billy
Sandow, since both were barred from wrestling under my promotion in St. Louis three
years back,” Packs told the St. Louis Daily Globe Democrat on March 27, 1927.  He
indicated that he met with Sandow in Kansas City, saying he “was utterly surprised at my
visit.  I enjoyed the hospitality of his home for several hours, a nice dinner, and then
asked him if he would care to bring Lewis to St. Louis to meet an opponent I would pick.”

Packs chose their old policeman, John Pesek.  Sandow and Lewis agreed, and a match
was set for April 7 at the Coliseum.  The newspaper said that the wrestling community was
shocked by Packs’s ability to sign the bout, and that St. Louis was “rapidly becoming
known as one of the biggest wrestling centers in the United States.”  In fact, at the time, a
strong argument can be made that St. Louis number one as far as wrestling went
anywhere in the world.  Now with Packs able to work with Lewis, the match possibilities
were endless.

An estimated 9,000 fans saw Lewis beat Pesek in two-of-three-falls on April 7 and the
paper highlighted the “Strangler’s” 42 pound weight advantage.  Some expected Londos
to be pit against Lewis next, leading to the Stecher contest, but it never came about.  
Londos wouldn’t wrestle Lewis again until 1934 despite much hullabaloo through the
years.  Packs worked his magic, and slowly edged around the sharp corners and lifted
whatever roadblocks laid in the pathway, setting up the biggest match in wrestling at the
time, Lewis vs. Joe Stecher.

The Stecher Brothers were more willing to listen to the propositions of Packs and
Sandow.  Joe’s motivations can be summed up by researcher Steve Yohe in his
November 2003 article The Stecher/Lewis Matches And The Superiority of Ed Lewis:  “By
late 1927, Stecher, who was once again worn out, and thinking he had enough money,
was doing interviews talking about leaving wrestling and retiring to his farm forever.”

That was music the ears of power-hungry Sandow, and Packs, who wanted the match for
his constituents in St. Louis.  The specifics were worked out and on December 19, the
Associated Press announced that Stecher was going to wrestle Lewis on February 20,
1928.  On that occasion, over 7,500 fans saw Lewis go over in a dramatic two-of-three-
falls, and claim to be the undisputed titleholder.  Packs hosted a contingent of promoters
from across the nation and, with brilliant hype, took in a gate better than $60,000.  For his
efforts, Stecher received 50 per cent of the box office take, while Lewis received 30.

Packs allowing the needs of the marketplace to take its proper course without being
swayed by a personal grudge gave way to a very important historical wrestling match.  
Researcher Steve Yohe called it “not just a title change,” but a “power change,” and
certainly the dawning of a new era in professional grappling.

Sandow and Lewis sold the championship to Paul Bowser in early 1929, and a profound
excitement rocked the industry when colorful football player Gus Sonnenberg captured
the title on January 4, 1929.  Within days, Packs was in talks to bring the new superstar to
his realm and match the grappler against any one of the four top wrestlers featured on
his January 11 Coliseum program.  Those wrestlers included shooters “Toots” Mondt,
John Pesek, Dick Shikat, and Jim Browning.  Sonnenberg’s managers turned down the
proposition by telegram, forcing Packs to cancel his January 24 program.  Still wanting
the new titleholder to appear, Packs agreed to allow Sonnenberg to wrestle a “secondary
contender,” and would book the match as an “exhibition” to display his wrestling skill.

On January 29, 1929, 7,000 fans turned out at the St. Louis Coliseum to see Sonnenberg
wrestle Frank Jorgenson, an unknown Swedish grappler, and their contest lasted a quick
3:55.  By May, Sonnenberg’s shine had worn off, and a new syndicate ready to take a
different path without having to deal with Bowser’s champion was born.  Led by Jack
Curley, the group urged the New York and Pennsylvania Athletic Commissions to have
Sonnenberg’s recognition withdrawn due to his unwillingness to combat serious
contenders.  Packs joined the faction and featured the likes of Londos, Mondt, Shikat, Jim
McMillen, Ray Steele, and Kola Kwariani.

Packs bid on the Londos-Shikat match to decide a new champion, but Philadelphia was
chosen to host the affair.  On August 23, 1929, Shikat went over Londos for the title.  
Around that same time, Packs received the first wrestling license to promote by the newly
established Missouri Athletic Commission.  In the years that followed, his promotion was
on the receiving end of both positive and negative directives from the commission, mostly
depending on his relationship to specific members.  Most of the time, the commission
chairman followed his lead when it came to wrestling angles and recognition of titleholders.

Londos succeeded Shikat as champion of the Curley-Packs tribe on June 6, 1930 and
campaigned across North America, becoming wrestling’s greatest active draw.  Against
Ray Steele, Hans Kampfer, Everette Marshall, Dick Shikat, and Gus Sonnenberg, he drew
audiences in excess of 10,000 for Packs in St. Louis.  Packs enjoyed a terrific boom
period during the early part of the 1930s, and displayed his keen sensibility for
matchmaking by building popular main events with wrestlers such as Rudy Dusek, Pat O’
Shocker, Karl Pojello, George Zaharias, Gino Garibaldi, and Jim McMillen.

Additionally, in January 1931, Packs was smart enough to set up a 17 city circuit for
Londos and some of the major wrestlers to travel, using St. Louis as the headquarters for
the wheel.  He earned a booking fee for arranging talent in Atlanta, Chattanooga,
Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis, Little Rock, Alexandria, Shreveport, New Orleans,
Beaumont, Houston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Wichita, Evansville, and
Chicago.  According to an Associated Press report, the wrestlers could “cover the circuit
in as little as a month and a half, appearing as often as three times a week.” It was an
extremely perceptive move that bolstered Londos’s fame.

Packs’s promotional alliance clashed nationally with Paul Bowser’s forces, and he
personally faced an invasion in 1932 when William Berberich and M.A. McEvers, local
representatives of the Boston troupe, entered St. Louis.  The new promotion fired up the
Battery A Arena on August 10, 1932 with Roland Kirschmeyer and Earl McCready
headlining.  With standard publicity, the outsiders were averaging less than 1,500 a show,
and when Packs opened up what was said to be his 11th season on September 7, he
drew an audience of about 6,000 to see Steele beat McMillen.  The market was stretched
thin, and there were some down moments for Packs’s operations in 1932-’33.  It
rebounded with Londos and Everette Marshall on top, and their two matches in early
1933 drew 15,429 and 9,931 on January 18 and March 15, respectively.

On May 10, 1933, Packs drew his lowest crowd in years with Joe Stecher-George
Zaharias (2,947), and two weeks later, Stecher-Londos only brought in 4,452.  As the
year dragged on, the hostilities across the wrestling landscape contracted to a painful
apex, then cooled as the leaders of the industry met at a New York hotel in November.  
Their discussion was to end their rivalries for the sake of business, and create a talent
and profit sharing system that would reinvigorate wrestling’s popularity.  Packs affixed his
signature to the 10-year agreement, and the “Trust” took the sport’s controls with a new

Before the end of 1933, St. Louis experienced the upside of the accord when “Strangler”
Lewis wrestled Ray Steele in what was built up as a shoot rematch between rival sides.  
The two athletes battled in an infamous wild match in New York the year before, and their
second bout held a lot of consequence throughout the wrestling world.  Lewis had
previously been wrestling for the Eddie Byrne promotion at the St. Louis Coliseum, even
conquering Mayes McLain on December 13.  A week later at the Arena, 9,288 fans saw
Steele beat Lewis in a worked affair at the 36:38 mark, and Packs ended the year on a
high note.

The fresh match-ups and talent in St. Louis boosted attendance, and Packs benefited
early on from the relationship with Bowser, who sent AWA champion Ed Don George, Gus
Sonnenberg, and Joe Malcewicz.  Sonnenberg and Londos drew a stunning 15,666 on
February 2, 1934, and in April and May, the Greek champion had two successful matches
with Dick Shikat.  Orville Brown, who would later dominate the headlines throughout the
Central States, began to make waves in St. Louis during this same time-frame, drawing
with Ray Steele and Jim McMillen, and going over Karl Sarpolis, George Zaharias, and
Laverne Baxter.  Football great and wrestling newcomer Bronko Nagurski also received a
small push.

Packs was the beneficiary of two Londos-Lewis matches in 1935, and both shows drew
over 10,000.  Londos was still at the top of his game, but the “Trust” wanted to unify the
different strands of the heavyweight title, and Bowser’s green performer Danno O’
Mahoney was propped up as the undisputed titleholder with wins over Londos and
George in Boston.  O’Mahoney was spotlighted in St. Louis and did well against Zaharias,
Steele, and Sonnenberg, while the mammoth Man Mountain Dean drew attention for his
size and surprising agility.  On November 19, 1935, Packs staged a mixed match between
Steele and boxer King Levinsky, and after 35 seconds, the former was victorious, proving,
in what the Associated Press called “the first major mixed battle in ring history,” that a
wrestler could topple a pugilist.  Packs scored a huge success with an estimated 12,000
in the building.

Grapplers of all different sizes and name reputations were given the opportunity to shine
in St. Louis, and a sound system of booking, which avoided burning certain wrestlers out
or leaving fans angry with horrible main event finishes, paid incredible dividends.  Packs’s
talent agreement with Bowser was solid, and their partnership survived the destruction of
the “Trust” when O’Mahoney was double-crossed in a New York ring by Shikat in March
1936.  But like the rest of the country, professional wrestling took a serious hit in St.
Louis, and crowds dwindled.

Packs found common ground with Billy Sandow, the ex-pilot of “Strangler” Lewis and the
current manager of Everette Marshall.  Marshall was fresh off an off-shoot title victory
over Ali Baba in Columbus, and on February 10, 1937, he drew the largest St. Louis
wrestling attendance in more than a year, when 8,500 saw him beat Ali Baba by
disqualification.  On April 15, 1937, the Marshall-Baba rematch lured the first five figure
crowd since November 1935 with 12,687 at the Arena.  Needless to say, the Packs-
Sandow pact was doing great business, and the outstanding booking was bringing people
back to wrestling.

Around this same time, Packs was pushing a homegrown talent by the name of Lou
Thesz.  Thesz started as a mid-card performer, but earned a steady and increasing fame
as a straight-laced fan favorite.  His size and quickness easily stood out, and while Packs
had no idea just how far Thesz would go in the business, he was comfortable enough with
a solid push into semi-final contests, and finally a main event on May 12, 1937 versus
Marshall.  Their program didn’t draw as expected, and Thesz hovered around the top of
the card into the early part of the winter.  Thesz’s run culminated in a world championship
victory on December 29, 1937 when he defeated Marshall at the Auditorium before 7,500.

Fans of Thesz who expected a long reign with many great St. Louis appearances as
titleholder would soon be very disappointed.  Packs and Bowser had a new plan in motion
that was going to make Thesz an interim champion, and the angle had serious
consequences for the territory.  Before their scheme could completely develop, Thesz
demonstrated to his handlers that he could draw as a titleholder, bringing in more than
9,000 to the Auditorium against Danno O’Mahoney on January 12, 1938.  It was an
indication that the audience was embracing their local hero.

John Wray, sports editor of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, in his January 22, 1938 column
noted that Thesz recently went to Boston “in a preliminary role, while his recent victim
Danno O’Mahoney, wrestled in the main event against Yvon Robert, billed in Boston as
‘champion.’ Can’t you imagine Jack Dempsey, just after knocking out Jess Willard,
appearing in a preliminary on a card in which another fighter was being billed as
champion?” He went on to say “We await with interest the announcement that the
‘champion’ of Boston and the ‘champion’ of St. Louis meet for the world championship in
Boston, the winner of that bout to be thrown for keeps here in St. Louis by Everett

In his January 26 column, hours before Thesz wrestled Marshall in a rematch, Wray
forecast that the latter would be “champion of the Midwest Association before midnight,”
but admitted that “predictions fail in this field.” The two grapplers brought 12,262 fans to
the Arena, and Wray’s prophesy failed to come to fruition - Thesz retained.  During the
match, Thesz deliberately smashed the official, but referee Lou Spandle chose not to
disqualify him, and the Missouri Athletic Commission backed the decision.  Also, when the
final pinfall was being counted, Thesz’s father Martin was actually IN the ring with the two
competitors and the referee.  After the match, Robert Morrison of the Post Dispatch wrote
“if a person wanted to be technical, of course, Everett Marshall again should be a world
heavyweight wrestling title claimant,” and said that Spandle didn’t want to be technical,
thus, Thesz was still titleholder.

It was said in St. Louis that Thesz was going to wrestle Yvon Robert in a double-title
match on February 11 in Boston.  However, Packs, in press reports on January 27, 1938,
announced that the American Wrestling Association, Bowser’s outfit in New England, was
stripping Robert of the title.  The organization was, in turn, going to recognize Thesz as
heavyweight champion.  This information was also printed in Boston newspapers on
January 25.  Although Robert’s credibility was called into question because he was said to
be refusing a match with Thesz, the Quebec grappler would not have to job away his title
claim.  Instead, Bowser pit his new star “Crusher” Steve Casey against Thesz on
February 11.

The Packs-Bowser plan was to move Everette Marshall’s championship to Thesz and then
quickly to Steve Casey, an individual their syndicate had high hopes for.  Thesz, for his
willingness to drop a bout to Casey, would receive a guaranteed $12,500 or 37 ½ per
cent of the gate, of course, to be split with Packs.  Casey would get $6,500 or 12 ½ per
cent.  An estimated 13,000 fans saw Casey go over with two-of-three-falls, and win the
support of the AWA, plus the coveted “Ed Lewis belt.”

Casey charged into St. Louis on February 23, 1938, and only drew 5,881 against Rudy
Dusek.  In excess of 10,000 saw him toss Marshall on March 9, and the promoter’s ploy to
get the Irishman over in St. Louis was working.  The Casey-Thesz rematch on April 6
brought 11,344 to the Auditorium.

In early 1938, Wray mentioned how divided the sport was.  He explained that Packs and
Bowser were the leaders of one of the major groups, while “Toots” Mondt and Tony
Stecher were in charge of another.  In his February 27 column, he said that “local interest
in the situation developed last week when it was learned that [Jim] Londos was
contemplating entering St. Louis as a competitor of Tom Packs, with whom he once was
as Damon and Pythias.  Londos or the promoters behind him, wanted to put the Nagurski
circus through its paces in this city.  With Packs in the middle and controlling the
Coliseum wrestling also (so the grapevine has it) rival promoters will think twice before
carrying the war into Africa.  They’ll perhaps recall what happened to previous attempts to
invade the domain of Packs.  At least three promoters quit, wishing they hadn’t.”

Packs’s friendship to Londos was well known.  In fact, it was Packs who announced to the
Associated Press that Londos was retiring from grappling in early July 1935, although that
information was quickly disputed.  On March 25, 1936, Londos wrestled Daniel Boone
Savage at the Arena in front of 7,100 in St. Louis, and Packs brought him back to town on
December 15, 1937.  This was only weeks before Wray’s article reporting that the Greek
superstar was possibly plotting to run opposition to Packs.  What occurred in that short
time-frame to destroy a 15-year association is still speculated by historians.

Even beyond that, what happened actually pushed Londos to the syndicate of his arch-
enemy in the wrestling industry?  Londos was in an independent frame of mind, wanting a
boost back to the top tier of heavyweights without having to commit mind, body and soul
to a blood-sucking manager.  It seems obvious that he wanted to retain his ties to St.
Louis, after all, he’d made the city his home for years, staying at the Maryland Hotel, the
same location that Packs ran his operations from.  Perhaps he also wanted to buy into
the territory, and run the circuit he made famous earlier in the decade.

But Packs had sour news for his old crony.  He was going in a new direction, one that didn’
t have a place for Londos.  Packs was running with a different crowd, with different
objectives than Londos, and Bowser and Sandow certainly didn’t want him in the mix
diverting attention from their own superstars.  So any plans to once again build the
promotion around him were gone.  It is not out of the question to speculate that some sort
of loud argument occurred on or around December 15, 1937 that sliced the Packs-
Londos friendship in half.  From there, the two men went their own ways, never to fully
mend their grievances – at least where business was concerned.

Shortly thereafter, Londos pulled the unthinkable.  He came to an agreement with the
“Toots” Mondt-Tony Stecher-Ray Fabiani syndicate.  Mondt was Londos’s seemingly
least favorite booker in the country, and a man who was behind the infamous 1933
double-cross in Chicago.  There was no love lost, but with Mondt publicly putting Londos
over his champion Bronko Nagurski, and likely promising Londos a run again at the top,
the deal was made.

The National Wrestling Association, which was brought to attention of St. Louis audiences
earlier in the decade when Londos wore the designation of heavyweight titleholder, made
a controversial announcement during their annual meeting on September 14, 1938 in
Montreal.  After an 8-6 vote, members declared Everette Marshall champion after a
persuasive speech by the wrestler’s manager Sandow.  On October 19, 1938, Marshall
returned to St. Louis as king, and his championship seemed to take the spotlight from
whatever claims Casey had.  There was already a synergy between NWA President Col.
Harry Landry, Sandow, and Packs, and with talent still coming down from New England,
the St. Louis promoter was pacified for the time being.

Attendance fluctuated, and Packs soon wanted to move the NWA title to Thesz.  For an
undisclosed amount of money, he bought the sponsorship of the Association and attained
the consent of Marshall and Sandow to put Thesz back over, the second time in a local
ring.  On February 23, 1939, Thesz pinned Marshall in 57 minutes of wrestling to capture
the title.  12,100 fans paid $19,021 to see the show.  Several days before, Wray wrote in
his column that he believed St. Louis to be the “the wrestling capital of the country.” He
said that wrestling was down in Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Chicago, and that
Camden turned out better crowds than in Philadelphia.  “St. Louis, right now, is not much
shakes in baseball.  Our football is minor league; our fight game is just so so; but
wrestling still is keeping our banners to the fore!”

Wray was absolutely right.  Wrestling was destitute in so many major markets, but Packs
was finding his way through the fog with creative scenarios and an endless list of top
names.  This demonstration of his ability to keep wrestling alive was not an isolated thing,
and proven over and over throughout his tenure.

By the summer of 1939, Packs had come to terms with “Toots” Mondt and Tony Stecher
with their focus on the NWA heavyweight championship.  Bronko Nagurski went over
Thesz for the title on June 23 in Houston, and appeared before a paltry 2,600 fans in St.
Louis on September 20.  Despite workers like the Duseks, Cliff Gustafson, Ruffy
Silverstein, Thesz, Marshall, and O’Mahoney, audience numbers were again down in St.
Louis, dropping to 2,250 on December 28.  When Ray Steele beat Nagurski for the NWA
title on March 7, 1940, more than 8,500 were in the house.

Trying to drum up attention, Packs issued a challenge to ex-boxing champion Jack
Dempsey, who had previously battled wrestlers Cowboy Luttrall and Bull Curry, in August
1940 on behalf of Steele for a “straight boxing or mixed boxing-wrestling match.” Packs
explained to the Associated Press that “if Dempsey still thinks he carries a wallop in his
fists, why doesn’t he come here and meet Ray Steele?  Ray has posted a $1000 forfeit to
meet Dempsey with six-ounce gloves and is willing to box him on one month’s notice.  Ray
also will meet him in a mixed match – and guarantees to pin him quicker than he did King
Levinsky.” Dempsey passed on the idea.

As a promoter of boxing, Packs was constantly looking to bring big name fighters to his
town, and tried for years to land bouts with such names as Joe Louis and Max Baer.  In
March 1930, he promoted an important junior lightweight contest between Benny Bass
and Eddie Shea, and tried to outdo several big time New York promoters by promoting a
contest with Max Schmelling and Mickey Walker, but eventually lost the rights.  On April 8,
1941, Packs staged the Louis-Tony Musto fight and the former won by TKO in the 9th
round.  It was claimed that more than 17,000 paid $52,000 to witness the affair, both
records for boxing in St. Louis.  Packs also promoted the likes of Ken Overlin and Archie

One of Packs’s most significant gifts to professional wrestling was the tutelage he gave
former newspaperman Sam Muchnick.  Forced to make a career decision after the
merger of the St. Louis Times and the St. Louis Star, Sam passed up a number of other
job offers to join the wrestling operations of Packs in August 1932.  Muchnick worked as a
PR man, writing up articles for local newspapers that hyped up shows, and befriended
many wrestlers.  Learning an exceptional amount from Packs, Muchnick gained the
confidence of his boss, becoming a referee, manager, and matchmaker.  He gained a
deep knowledge of all facets of the promotional business, and some people considered
Muchnick to be the brains behind Packs’s entire company.

The Louis-Musto fight in April 1941 drove a deep wedge between Packs and his most
important assistant.  According to one side of the story, a fight manager involved in the
affair wanted Muchnick to be paid 10 per cent of the gate for his amazing work, which
amounted to more than $1,000.  Instead, Packs gave him only $200.  This was a defining
moment in their relationship, and in September, Muchnick broke off from Packs and
began work on establishing his own St. Louis promotion.  Legend has it that it was
Londos who convinced Sam to leave Packs.

Hoping that his connections on the Missouri Athletic Commission would block Muchnick
from receiving a promoter’s license, Packs was disappointed when Sam’s persistence
eventually won out.  However, Muchnick was soon called into the military, and served in
the war, leaving Packs alone again to dominate the wrestling scene.  When Muchnick
returned in late 1945, he adopted many techniques also used by Packs.

Packs continued to control the National Wrestling Association World Title, and saw it pass
from Steele back to Nagurski in March 1941, then to Sandor Szabo on June 5, 1941 at
the Auditorium in St. Louis.  In October, “Wild” Bill Longson of Salt Lake City came into
town, and received a steady push.  After a defeat of Everette Marshall on January 7,
1942, he became the top contender to Szabo’s title.  On February 19, 1942, more than
7,400 saw Longson capture the NWA World Title in two-of-three-falls.  Packs had found
his next major superstar.

For the next five years, Longson was the man that everything in Packs’s promotion
revolved around, and through that, retained a strong popularity during the war years, an
achievement that no other wrestling promoter could boast.  In New York, for example,
wrestling remained out of its main venue, Madison Square Garden, because it was having
a tough time filling the smaller clubs.  Chicago was no better.  Los Angeles had it’s
moments, but paled in comparison to the numbers Packs was constantly putting up with
the popular heel Longson on the bill.  Szabo, The Swedish Angel, Ernie Dusek, Billy
Watson, Yvon Robert, Gino Garibaldi, Dave Levin, George Koverly, Warren Bockwinkel,
Paul Boesch, Bobby Bruns, and Buddy Rogers each wrestled Longson, and the NWA
champion pushed his challengers back before sizable, and always enthusiastic audiences.

The constant booking of Longson never burned out the territory, and Packs was pulling
the strings perfectly.  Longson’s run in St. Louis can match-up with the most successful
stretches for any wrestler in history, and that includes Londos’s New York
accomplishments during the early 1930s.  A reported 573,671 turned out to see his first
58 St. Louis appearances, just an astonishing fact.  Packs earned a bundle off his star,
and booked him throughout North America.  A strong relationship was formed between
Packs and Montreal and Toronto promoters, who were Eddie Quinn and Frank Tunney,
respectively.  There was no other comparable troupe in professional wrestling at the time.

On December 5, 1945, the Packs-Muchnick war rekindled when the latter opened up at
the Kiel Auditorium.  Using talent from a variety of sources, Muchnick improved his
attendance, but still lagged well below Packs.  Their feud gave the audience an expansive
array of wrestling performances, and there was very rarely a dull moment.  In January
1947, Muchnick drew 3,104 on January 2 and 6,476 on January 17 with wrestlers
Gorgeous George, Frankie Talaber, Ray Steele, and John Pesek.  Packs, on January 10
and January 23, brought in 10,944 and 15,180.  In his shows, he featured Longson, Felix
Miquet, Lou Thesz, Ernie Dusek, and Billy Watson.

Muchnick told the Post Dispatch on May 30, 1948, “Well, I finally did it.  After three years
of battling, this is the first year I have finished out of the red.  In fact, this season I have
made a very comfortable living.  I lost money my first two seasons.  But my attendances
during most of the year were well in the black.  I’ve slowly been forging ahead and feel I
now have acquired a permanency.  Nobody else in 20 years has been able to blast Packs’
s defenses.” Sports editor John Wray didn’t believe the rumor that Packs was leaving
wrestling.  Little did he know was that poor investments had caught up with Packs, and he
was prepared to liquidate his grappling business to concentrate on other projects.

After 25 years in wrestling, and making St. Louis into a lucrative operation that would
continue to thrive well after his departure, Packs retired without much fanfare.  His June 4,
1948 program at the Kiel was his final, selling his interests in the World Title and offices at
280-284 at the Arcade Building (812 Olive) to Thesz, Longson, Tunney, and Quinn.  

A year later, Muchnick and the Thesz outfit formed a partnership, ending the St. Louis
conflict.  The different factions pooled their interests as part of the National Wrestling
Alliance, and took the industry in direction that had never been broached in history.  
Muchnick, however, followed a blueprint of promotions and politicking in St. Louis that was
initially established by Packs, of course, using his own talents to unify various bookers as
part of the NWA.

To simply define Packs’s accomplishments, he took a town that was struggling in just
about every way possible, and transformed it into the nucleus of the entire sport.  St.
Louis retained that title for decades and decades, leaving an impression on a city, and
even internationally, that when professional wrestling was being staged, it was first class
all the way.  Packs was a professional promoter, excellent at networking, and was keen on
talent sharing deals that furnished his town with the best wrestlers available.  Just look at
Longson’s run.  With so many grapplers tied down by military commitments, Packs found
the right guys to continuously draw spectacular crowds.  Even if a wrestler didn’t have the
name recognition, there was enough of the right kind of promotions to build the event into
a success.

There was a certain standard that had to be met for Packs’s promotional efforts, and that
was the key to his everlasting popularity.  Muchnick retained that high criteria and kept
business thriving.  The foundations were laid during a time in which Packs haggled with
some of the greatest names in wrestling history – the likes of Billy Sandow, Ed Lewis, the
Stechers, and Jim Londos.  He saw how a perfect program came together from inception
to the moment he was counting his box office take, and evolved through the years,
implementing new ideas to spice up the entertainment.

Most importantly, Muchnick inherited the respect for the audience that Packs had, and did
his best to give his customers what they were paying for – and more, and the enjoying the
grappling spectacle certainly passed through generations of families in the area.

A not so shocking fact: Packs remained a promoter after he left wrestling, until his death
16 years later.  During the mid-to-late 1930s, he began working as a commander for a
traveling Shrine Circus.  His enterprises developed and expanded coast-to-coast.  It later
was known as the “world famous” Tom Packs Circus, and was his focus after leaving
wrestling.  He incorporated a mixture of talented performers, incredible animals, and
entertaining acts, and the extravaganza also featured movie and TV stars.  Notably, his
show was in Havana, Cuba when Fidel Castro took the helm, and continued to operate
after Packs’s death.  Packs also donated percentages of many of his events to charity,
displaying his generosity and willingness to give back to the community.

He drew the ire of many promoters in the 1940s for his czar-like attitude and reluctance to
assist many of his struggling peers in the Midwest and Central States.  In letters found in
the Pfefer Collection at the University of Notre Dame, there mentions of a “Dishwasher
from St. Louis” by certain promoters, meaning Packs, and often their correspondence
exhibited their hatred for him.  In some ways, the formation of the National Wrestling
Alliance was done in spite of Packs’s monopoly over what was considered “big-time”

Intelligent and outgoing, Packs made many acquaintances in the sports world.  One
extraordinary friend was George Zaharias, a wrestler and an all-around charismatic guy.  
In December 1938, Packs hosted Zaharias’s wedding to legendary women’s golfer
Mildred “Babe” Didrikson at his Kirkwood, Missouri home, and served as his best man.  
Packs’s wife Thelma was the matron of honor, while an estimated 30 others, including Leo
Durocher, were in attendance.

Packs passed away of a heart attack on October 22, 1964 en route to a local hospital. In
his Post Dispatch obituary, Packs was called a “genius at promotion” by W.J. McGoogan,
and looking at his stellar career, one would have to agree.  The conversion St. Louis
underwent on his watch was landmark.  From 1939 to ’48, he had a controlling say in
where the National Wrestling Association heavyweight championship went, and created
national superstars.  He gave Londos and Longson tremendous platforms to showcase
their talents, and Packs’s persuaded, arguably, the greatest wrestling promoter in history,
Sam Muchnick, to leave the newspaper business join the sport in the first place.  Over
Tom Packs’s career, his influence was felt in a multitude of different ways, and across the
wrestling landscape for decades.

By Tim Hornbaker
Author of the book National Wrestling Alliance: The Untold Story of the Monopoly that
Strangled Pro Wrestling.  Visit for more information.

Contributions by Steve Yohe, Don Luce, Mark Hewitt, J. Michael Kenyon, Scott Teal, Jim
Melby, Fred Hornby, Ross Schneider

Here are some of Tom Packs’s better drawing affairs in St. Louis:

Date:            Match:                                      Crowd:                        Venue:

9-30-31        Londos vs. Kampfer                 22,000
4-12-46        Longson vs. Rogers                 17,621                                Arena
11-25-31      Londos vs. Kampfer                 16,610
2-2-34          Londos vs. Sonnenberg          15,666 ($17,339)                Arena
1-18-33        Londos vs. Marshall                15,429 ($19,629)                Arena
1-23-47        Longson vs. Thesz                  15,180
5-30-25        Stecher vs. S. Zbyszko            15,000+                        University Stadium
1-31-35        Londos vs. Lewis                     14,921                                Arena
11-7-35        O’Mahoney vs. Sonnenberg    14,321                                Arena
1-26-45        Longson vs. Talun                   13,879
2-23-45        Longson vs. Talun                   13,807
5-5-44          Longson vs. Watson                13,471
4-8-42          Longson vs. Lewis                   12,986
2-25-44        Longson vs. Szabo                  12,886
4-21-44        Longson vs. Watson                12,801
4-15-37        Baba vs. Marshall                    12,687                                Arena
4-16-43        Longson vs. Holbrook              12,321
1-26-38        Thesz vs. Marshall                   12,262                                Arena
3-21-47        Thesz vs. Watson                    12,255                                Arena
2-23-39        Thesz vs. Marshall                   12,100                                Arena
1-18-46        Longson vs. Koverly                12,077
9-6-46          Longson vs. Managoff             12,068
2-10-26        Stecher vs. Londos                 12,000                                Coliseum
11-19-35      Levinsky vs. Steele                 12,000                                Arena
4-11-34        Londos vs. Shikat                   11,727 ($13,445)                Arena
2-11-44        Longson vs. Bockwinkel         11,470
3-6-35          Londos vs. Lewis                   11,438                                Arena
3-10-44        Longson vs. S. Angel             11,388
1-14-44        Longson vs. Koverly               11,363
4-6-38          Thesz vs. Casey                     11,344                                Auditorium
5-29-46        Longson vs. Rogers               11,295                                Arena
8-23-46        Longson vs. Villmer                11,269
4-2-43          Longson vs. Managoff            11,264
3-24-44        Longson vs. Szabo                 11,119
9-20-46        Thesz vs. Rogers                   11,085
4-6-45          Longson vs. Wagner              10,994
2-1-46          Longson vs. E. Dusek            10,981
2-15-46        Longson vs. Boesch               10,969
1-10-47        Longson vs. Miquet                10,944
1-12-45        Longson vs. Koverly               10,941
3-23-45        Longson vs. Wagner               10,907
2-27-48        Carnera vs. Koverly                10,895
6-15-45        Longson vs. Hill                      10,893
4-11-47        Longson in Handicap              10,870
3-1-46          Longson vs. Robert                10,709
1-28-44        Swedish Angel in Handicap     10,636
9-22-44        Longson vs. Saunooke           10,630
2-20-31        Londos vs. Steele                   10,567 ($19,774)                Coliseum
11-1-46        Thesz vs. Managoff                10,564
8-20-43        Longson vs. E. Dusek             10,561
4-25-47        Thesz vs. Watson                   10,462
12-10-43      Longson vs. Holbrook             10,366
11-12-43      Longson vs. S. Angel              10,329
8-5-43          Longson vs. S. Angel              10,205
7-23-43        Longson vs. Bockwinkel         10,197
3-9-38          Casey vs. Marshall                 10,173                                Auditorium
5-16-34        Londos vs. Shikat                   10,138 ($10,737)                Arena
1-30-48        Longson vs. Managoff            10,138
1-4-46          Longson vs. Villmer                10,109
1-27-41        Steele vs. Thesz                     10,082                                Arena
10-18-46      Longson vs. Managoff            10,051
4-30-43        Longson vs. McGuirk              10,004
1-22-24        Stecher vs. S. Zbyszko           10,000                                Coliseum
3-15-33        Londos vs. Marshall                9,931 ($11,372)                Arena
2-20-41        Thesz vs. Steele                     9,832                                Auditorium
11-21-47      Longson vs. Thesz                 9,802
3-5-42          Longson vs. Steele                 9,667
6-19-41        Nagurski vs. Szabo                 9,326                                
9-2-43          Longson vs. McGuirk              9,296
12-20-33      Lewis vs. Steele                      9,288 ($9,357)                        Arena
3-5-43          Longson vs. Managoff            9,287
10-15-43      Longson vs. E. Dusek             9,249
1-29-36        O’Mahoney vs. Lewis              9,170                                Arena
2-19-43        Longson vs. Managoff            9,117
6-17-37        Baba vs. Marshall                   9,113                                Auditorium
1-12-38        Thesz vs. O’Mahoney             9,091                                Auditorium
1-10-41        Nagurski vs. Steele                 9,054                                Auditorium
1-25-27        Londos vs. Pesek                   9,000                                New Coliseum
4-7-27          Lewis vs. Pesek                      9,000                                New Coliseum
12-3-41        Thesz vs. Steele                     8,957
4-7-25          Stecher vs. Vadalfi                 8,734                                Coliseum
3-20-42        Longson vs. Szabo                 8,668
3-7-40          Nagurski vs. Steele                8,588                                Auditorium
2-4-31          Roebuck vs. Steele                8,477                                Coliseum
3-15-34        Lewis vs. Shikat                     8,219 ($7,995)                        Arena
11-26-37      Marshall vs. O’Mahoney        8,022                                Arena
3-12-24        Londos/Gardini vs. Stecher   8,000                                Coliseum
2-5-25          Stecher vs. Daviscourt          8,000                                Coliseum
4-29-26        Stecher vs. Pesek                 8,000 ($28,000)                New Coliseum
2-20-28        Lewis vs. Stecher                  8,000 ($60,000)                New Coliseum
11-23-32      Londos vs. Kampfer              8,000                                Arena
6-12-24        Lewis vs. Londos                *Gate:  $14,410                University Stadium

Attendance figures are from newspaper and magazine articles, and the excellent
reference book The History of Professional Wrestling (Issue #6) – St. Louis, Missouri
(1930-1959) by Crowbar Press and researchers Scott Teal, J. Michael Kenyon, Don
Luce, Jim Melby, and Steve Yohe.  It should be noted that attendances were often inflated
by the promoter for newspaper reports, and that was a trick not limited to St. Louis – it
happened everywhere.
* means that the Attendance was Unknown

Miscellaneous Notes:

1.  Tom Packs’s year of birth is disputed.  The Social Security Death Index says he was
born on August 15, 1894.  An article in an unknown St. Louis newspaper from June 2,
1925 by John J. Sheridan claimed that Packs was born in August of 1893.

2.  “Thomas N. Packs Sports Enterprises, Inc.” was the name of his company.  A variety of
sources have indicated that his middle name was “Napoleon,” while others have said it
was “Nicholas.”

3.  The fact that Packs was not his real last name was casually mentioned in by
newspapermen throughout the years.  United Press Staff Correspondent Henry
McLemore called him “Napoleon Pakiotis” in his January 8, 1935 column, which ran in
papers across the United States.

4.  It has been said that Packs first arrived in the United States in 1904 and 1907.

5.  The 1925 article by John Sheridan, of which Packs seems to have contributed to,
offers an explanation to his early days in the industry.  It, however, distinctly differs from
other reports (In Fall Guys and even his obituary) that said he was in the restaurant
business – maybe even a struggling dishwasher – when he was convinced to enter
wrestling.  It doesn’t appear that Packs had any clout in the grappling field while in
Chicago, and while he may have made a few connections (promoter Ed White and John
Contos possibly being two), the declaration that he was a successful booker of any kind
may be a tad exaggerated.

6.  The 15 World Heavyweight Title Changes in St. Louis between 1925 and 1966 are:

1.        Stecher b. Zbyszko – 1925 (Packs)
2.        Lewis b. Stecher – 1928 (Packs)
3.        Thesz b. Marshall – 1937 (Packs)
4.        Thesz b. Marshall – 1939 (Packs)
5.        Steele b. Nagurski – 1940 (Packs)
6.        Szabo b. Nagurski – 1941 (Packs)
7.        Longson b. Szabo – 1942 (Packs)
8.        Longson b. Managoff – 1943 (Packs)
9.        Watson b. Longson – 1947 (Packs)
10.      Thesz b. Watson – 1947 (Packs)
11.      Longson b. Thesz – 1947 (Packs)
12.      National Wrestling Alliance crowned Thesz champion – 1948 (Muchnick)
13.      Thesz b. Watson – 1956 (Muchnick)
14.      O’Connor b. Hutton – 1959 (Muchnick)
15.      Kiniski b. Thesz – 1966 (Muchnick)

7.  On the legal side of things, Packs was sued by a longtime St. Louis referee Harry
Sharpe in December 1933 for $25,000, claiming he was injured during a program on
February 17, 1930.  The jury couldn’t reach an agreement in that case.  In December
1935, he was one of six promoters named in a $1,000,000 lawsuit by Everette Marshall.  
Marshall claimed there was a monopoly in wrestling, but by the next year, the Colorado
athlete was one of the biggest names in St. Louis for Packs.  Packs was also mentioned
repeatedly during the fight for Dick Shikat’s contract in a Columbus Federal Court in April
1936.  His matchmaker Sam Muchnick testified during the trial.

8.  Tom Packs was not found in the United States Federal Census in 1910, 1920, or
1930, nor was information on his arrival in the country found in the Ellis Island or Ancestry
immigration records.  It is likely his records are in these databases, but listed under badly
mangled spellings.  His brother John Pakiotis is found in the 1920 Census, living in
Brooklyn.  He was born around 1890 and came to the United States in 1914.  Pakiotis was
also found in the Ancestry New York Passenger Lists, having arrived in the U.S. in 1905
and 1914 from Poulithra, Greece.

9.  Packs married Thelma Hoeber in Crittenden County, Arkansas on December 3, 1933.  
Thelma, the daughter of Claude and Theresa Hoeber, was born on March 15, 1910 and
died in December 1976.  She was a former model, while her father was a farmer in St.
Louis County.

10.  Among the wrestlers that Packs can be credited for breaking into the business was
Gino Garibaldi.  Garibaldi was a coal miner in Du Quoin, Illinois before joining an athletic
club in St. Louis, training under George Tragos and Lloyd Carter.  Although born Sam
Curcuru, he worked under the name “Vito Rinoldi” prior to adopting the Garibaldi name.  
Gino gained great fame as a wrestler all across North America, even winning a claim to
the world title in Montreal on two occasions.  His legit brothers Charles “Chick,” Ralph,
and Tony also wrestled professionally.
A young Tom Packs, the longtime
wrestling powerbroker.