NWA Member:  Bob Murray

Admitted to Organization:  September 1950
Seattle Office:  2230 7th Avenue
Phone Number:  Main 0077 (1955)

NWA Member:  
"Whipper" Billy Watson

Admitted to Organization:  September 1955
Seattle Office:  2230 7th Avenue
Phone Number:  Main 0077 (1955)

Ted Thye, in his interview with the Department of Justice on June 9, 1955, explained that
his Western Athletic Club had been in partnership with Bob Murray in Seattle "on a 50-50
basis for about five years."  However, Murray broke away from Thye and began to deal
with Jerry Meeker, who ran a booking office out of
Great Falls, Montana.  Thye explained
that "Murray had the license to operate in Seattle, and when he joined Meeker, the WAC
was out." Shortly thereafter, "Hat" Freeman in Spokane also broke away from Thye.  
According to the DOJ memorandum dated June 14, 1955, Thye produced a letter
(9/13/47) from Freeman, stating that "if Thye can't furnish talent, they [will] 'use Meeker's
boys for awhile.'" That's what Freeman did, joining Murray in using talent from Meeker.  In
1948-'49, Meeker was loosely affiliated with the new
National Wrestling Alliance, then
obtained formal membership.

For a number of months, Murray was talking about getting out of the business.  
Doyle of Southern California, who was in-between jobs, was notified about the prospects
of entering the Pacific Northwest and buying out Murray by Ted Thye.  Doyle, in a letter
to Fred Kohler in January 1955, wrote that Thye "wants me to send someone in, or, come
in myself, to take over the Northwest.  Bob Murray, the promoter in Seattle, and a
member of the NWA, is anxious to have someone come in and take over." Reportedly,
Murray was going walk away for a "very small percentage."

It was said that Sam Menacker offered Murray $30,000 for the territory, but Menacker
hadn't heard anything as of June 1955.  But he did hear that the territory was sold, but
didn't know to who.

During his interview with the Department of Justice on June 9, 1955, Thye explained that
Bob Murray was "something of a 'lush,'" and got "terribly drunk at the last NWA meeting
and insulted some of the wives present, and believes that as a result several NWA
members set out to get Murray.  Thye said he knows Murray was trying to sell out, and
submitted several letters which he received from Sam Menacker indicating that Menacker
was trying to buy Murray out.  Thye sid he had heard, however, that Stu Hart (
member, Western Canada) had bought Murray out."

However, that was incorrect.  Wrestler
"Whipper" Billy Watson of Toronto bought the
Seattle booking office and installed Ken Kenneth as his local promoter.  The deal may
have been finalized around June 1955 and included a tighter-knit level of sharing
between the local franchise and Calgary.  A stream of well known grapplers came into the
territory to include Gorgeous George, Lou Thesz, "Strangler" Bob Wagner, The Scott
Brothers, Tex McKenzie, veteran Leo Numa Anderson, and Sky-Hi Lee.  Kenneth, in
addition to promoting, appeared on many shows as a wrestler - and, interestingly, it
doesn't appear that Watson made any showings as a grappler in his own territory.  
Besides Watson, others like Frank Tunney and/or Stu Hart might have actually owned a
piece of Seattle during this time-frame.

This line of thinking coincides with an FBI interview of Ted Thye from June 1958 when
Thye said:  "[Don] Owen bought the Seattle promotion, owned by Stewart E. Hart,
formerly of
Calgary, Canada and Frank Tunney, formerly of Toronto, Ontario, about one
and a half years ago, for which Jack Routledge is presently the matchmaker for Don
Owen and Seattle.  Routledge is reported to return from Honolulu to take this job and is
believed his expenses were paid by Owen as Routledge at that time did not have
sufficient finances.  Routledge is described as a former newspaper publicity man and
wrestling promoter.  He is allegedly controlled by Owen."

On May 24, 1956, the Seattle Daily Times reported that the Trianon Ballroom, which had
been the primary location for wrestling, had been sold and would no longer feature the
sport.  It was the largest privately owned ballroom in the northwest, at 3rd Avenue and
Wall Street, and was being changed into a dance studio.  All operations there would
cease by June 1.  A "Farewell to the Trianon" party was going to be held on Saturday
evening.  The newspaper stated that the facility had been a financial failure for the past
few years.  Wrestling was going to be shifted to the Eagles Auditorium.

The Watson-Kenneth era in Seattle remained in place until around September 1956
when the city was taken over by Tex Hager of Spokane.  The timing of the sale was
literally weeks before the hammer came down on the NWA by the Government, forcing all
members to autograph the infamous Consent Decree.  This was likely Watson's way to
keep his hands clean of any legal entanglements - or perhaps his way to bail on a
lackluster booking endeavor.  There is no evidence showing what his motivation was.

It is also not firmly known if Hager only bought Watson out and remained in partnership
with Hart and Tunney, but it is possible.  Wrestling in Seattle definitely changed with
Hager's controlling interest as he booked the "popular junior heavyweights" at the Eagles'
Auditorium on a weekly basis.  Many of the larger grapplers that had been normally
featured were out and guys like Kurt Von Poppenheim, Red Bastien, Ed Francis, and
Buddy Knox were headlining shows.  Publicity and articles showing match results in the
Seattle Daily Times also changed.

In 1960, professional wrestling in Washington State drew 55,719 fans for 120 shows and
the total gate receipts added up to $76,698.31.

Research by Tim Hornbaker
January 22, 2011
Seattle Booking Office