Seattle has always been a unique area in the world of professional wrestling. Being the most populous city in the Pacific Northwest, one would assume it always had its' own office, but in reality, that wasn't the case. Most of the time, talent came from two different offices -- Portland, Oregon, located 180 miles to the south, and Vancouver, British Columbia, located 130 miles to the north. The following is a brief recap of Seattle wrestling promoters who booked talent from Portland or Vancouver, or had their own offices in Seattle.
Tex started wrestling in 1927 when Medford, Oregon promoter Sailor Jack Woods graduated Tex from his gym school to the ring. Tex, born near Odessa, Texas in Borden County, ended up working for Al Karasik in Honolulu in 1945. The same year, he wore a mask and worked as "The Cloud" in the Hollywood (CA) circuit. He took a month off to appear as an extra in a movie called "Canyon Passage", which was being filmed in Diamond Lake, Oregon. From there, he worked as promoter, wrestler, referee, and photographer for matches in the Seattle area.
In 1948, Tex arranged the first television wrestling show in Seattle with well-known TV announcer Bill O'Mara. Televised wrestling made it so popular in the area that a whole troupe of promoters emerged, all running the area at the same time. Along with Tex Porter was Tex Hager, Nat Freeman, Jack LaRue, Abe Kubey, Bob Murray, and a few others, including John Buff, who ran athletic carnival shows. Don Owen booked many of the boys from Portland into Seattle, while Cliff Parker (later Rod Fenton, Sandor Kovacs, and Gene Kiniski) sent talent from Vancouver.
Harry started out at the University of Oregon, first as the varsity wrestling champ, and later as the wrestling coach for the school. During World War II, he was a superintendent of heavy construction for the Henry J. Kaiser Company. Always in top physical condition, he participated in both prize fighting and professional wrestling. He joined up with the Owen family in Oregon, was a full-time referee, and ran most of the spot shows for the Owen Office. In 1957, he was able to contract with CBS Television in the Northwest to air a weekly wrestling show taped in Seattle that would be seen through all of Washington state and parts of Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, and parts of British Columbia. Even with all the "clout", he still elected to book his talent out of the Portland office, but since he was running shows five nights a week, Portland had to double their staff and had sixteen boys on the payroll, instead of the usual eight. His television show was, perhaps, the best live show of its kind ever produced and earned extremely high ratings during its ten years on the air. In 1967, management of the network changed and the show was dropped. A year later, Harry retired.
Dean went to work for Harry Elliott in 1959 as a publicist. By 1963, he was refereeing and running spot shows. When Harry retired in 1968, Dean continued to run spots shows and refereed for Sandor Kovacs and Gene Kiniski out of British Columbia. That ended in 1969, the year Silverstone was able to arrange for a "network" of television stations to carry a weekly show taped in Yakima (WA). It was broadcast in every market in the Northwest -- Spokane, Seattle, Tacoma, Bellingham, Wenatchee, Lewiston (ID), and Pendleton (OR).
The uniqueness about the new promotion was that, for the first time since the '40s, the office was in Seattle. One or two boys were signed from the Oregon office, and one or two from Vancouver, but for very specific reasons, the rest of the talent came from the Mobile (AL) office. "Wrestling fans were tired of seeing the same crew over and over again," Dean said. "I wanted to bring in new faces that had never been there. I knew Lee Fields ran shows precisely as I wanted to run them (holds, programs, and believable things), so I flew to Panama City and booked eight boys to open Seattle. Only one of them, Arman Hussein, had ever been in Seattle before."
The combination of new faces and talent worked. The fans responded in record-breaking numbers and the TV show became a huge hit. In Yakima, where the show was taped, it earned 95% market ratings ... every 9 TV sets out of ten were watching the show during the hour it was on (Saturday at 6:00 p.m. and Sunday at 11:00 p.m.). Then the Seattle office closed, Dutch Savage ran shows there for the Oregon office, and it did quite well. But when Sandor Kovacs sold his interest to Al Tomko (Elroy Hirsch), the crowds began to fade. When the WWF entered the cable market, Seattle, like most of the other large cities in the U.S., went dark for good.
The largest crowd to ever witness a wrestling match in Seattle was in 1966 when Lou Thesz beat Gene Kiniski. Close to 15,500 fans filled the Coliseum. Close behind with some 14,000 in attendance was a series of seven bouts that Kiniski had with Don Leo Jonathan. The attendance figures are not known for modern day shows promoted by the WWF, although newspaper pictures covering the event showed a capacity house.
Whatever happened to them? Tex Porter lives in Seattle, while Harry Elliott resides in Portland. Both attend Dean and Ruth Silverstone's annual reunion each summer in Seattle. Just to hear their stories is reason enough to attend the reunion ... but what they say will be another story in a later issue of "Whatever Happened to ...?"