History of the Missouri State Championship

Written by Roger Deem

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When it comes to any sport, geography often plays an important part in determining for
whom one roots.  Although not 100% true, one is nevertheless likely to become a devotee
of the baseball team, football squad or basketball franchise headquartered closest to
one's home.  In my case, same held true for wrestling championships.

In my particular corner of the Midwest, I was able to pull in A.W.A. programs, All Star
Wrestling broadcasts out of Kansas City and, of course, Wrestling at the Chase.  As the
nearest, St. Louis became my favorite and the Missouri State Championship the one I
followed with the most interest.  By and large, the various titleholders over the years
were among the present and future giants of the business.

Following is how I remember the history of that honored championship.

Sam Muchnick had been promoting bouts using Kansas City's Central States belt but
decided to fashion his own championship, one over which he would have complete
control.

In the program for February 18, 1972, the first possibility of creating a Missouri State
Championship was floated.  The March 17 publication stated the tournament was set with
the likely starting date of March 18 (the program was mailed to subscribers on March
11). 

Larry Matysik provided the following results from all the inaugural tournament matches.  
One conclusion is obvious--Sam was not the man doing the booking!  The alleged
tournament brackets were comprehensible on week one but then the match order
became a confusing mess.  In the end, though one can hardly draw a line between start
to finish,  we did end up with an outstanding champion.

The tournament bouts were all staged on broadcasts of Championship Wrestling.  The
program name changed back to its original title  - Wrestling at the Chase - on August 5,
1972, as tapings moved to the Chase-Park Plaza Hotel's Khorassan Room.  Following are
the Missouri State Championship Tournament results:

March 18, 1972:
. Jerry Brisco beat Bennie Ramirez

. Johnny Valentine beat Von Raschke.  The two went through 15 minutes and Valentine
won by decision.

. "Cowboy" Bill Watts beat The Viking

March 25, 1972:
. Pak-Son beat Frankie Guerrero

April 1, 1972:
. Pak-Son beat Steve Bolus

April 15, 1972:
. Harley Race beat Jerry Brisco by disqualification when Jerry's brother, Jack, interfered
in the match.

April 22, 1972:
. Race beat Terry Martin

April 29, 1972:
. Race beat Pat O'Connor.  As time expired, neither had proven dominant so the match
continued an extra five minutes until the referee was able to name Race the winner. 

May 13, 1972:
. Race beat Tom Demarco.

May 20, 1972:
. Valentine withdrew from the tournament in order to prepare for his upcoming N.W.A.
title go with Dory Funk, Jr.

The Missouri title belt, crafted by wrestler and master strap maker Reggie Parks, made
its first appearance during this broadcast.

At this time, St. Louis did not host cards in July so television tapings were suspended for
the summer without a champion being crowned.  Muchnick was furious this process had
become such a debacle and took matters into his own hands that fall.

September 16, 1972:
. Harley Race beat Pak-Son with his suplex slam in 8:18 to become the first Missouri State
Champion.  Officially, Watts did not show up for the finals and was disqualified.   Actually,
he was not getting on well with Muchnick by this time and was never even contacted to
return.


The title history continues:

December 6, 1972 Title declared vacant
Wrestling at the Chase hosted the brawl between Race and Johnny Valentine which
ended in a double disqualification.  Muchnick ruled the title vacant pending a rematch.

January 19, 1973 Johnny Valentine beat Race
After splitting the first two falls, Race collided with the referee and was knocked to the
floor.  As he crawled back into the ring, Valentine met him with one of his brainbuster
elbow drops to the back of Race's head.  Valentine covered him to take match and the
championship as 10,750 fans screamed their approval.

February 10, 1973 Terry Funk beat Valentine
After two shots with a chair on Valentine's leg and a spinning toehold, Funk captured the
regional prize.  This was one of the few times in his career Valentine ever conceded the
deciding fall of a match.

March 16, 1973 Gene Kiniski beat Funk
Giant Gene (subbing for Johnny Valentine) ended the three-fall match by catching the
charging Funk in the jaw with a knee and covering him for the win.  Hospitalized with
heart problems, Valentine called Muchnick at 11:30 p.m. the day before the match.   Kiniski
hit the road 15 minutes later from Vancouver and was in St. Louis by 7:30 a.m.

October 13, 1973 Harley Race beat Kiniski
This bout was televised and was best-of-three falls.  Kiniski took the opener with his
backbreaker and Race evened the bout with his suplex slam.  The action heated up in the
final fall and Kiniski went for the kill with a giant swing.  But he made himself dizzy in the
process.  He then launched a giant splash at Race but Harley lifted his knees and caught
Gene in the stomach.  Race covered him to win the title for the second time.

May 24, 1974 Dory Funk, Jr. beat Race
This bout was staged 365 days after Race had beaten Funk for the N.W.A. title in Kansas
City.  Funk won the first fall with his spinning toehold in 16:02.  Race evened the bout with
his suplex slam in 5:52    In the final stanza, Race knocked Funk to the apron and then
tried to bring him back over the top rope for a body slam.  He lost his balance and was
pinned by Funk at 6:36.

February 21, 1975 Harley Race beat Funk, Jr.
 A strange bout where the favorite finishing holds did not surface.  Funk won the first fall
by stopping Harley with an arm twist(!) in 14:10.  Race won the second fall with a jackknife
and rolling cradle (what everyone else under the sun called a sunset flip) in 7:20.   Race
won the title for the third time with an atomic drop at 6:02.

April 23, 1976 Bob Backlund beat Race
After winning a non-title bout by disqualification on March 26, Backlund wrapped up the
one-fall rematch with a reverse rolling cradle in 12:06, eliciting one of the loudest roars
ever heard at Kiel.  This ended what would prove to be the longest reign of any Missouri
Champion at one year and 62 days.

November 26, 1976 Jack Brisco beat Backlund
Seeds of discord were sewn between the two in a tag match the previous October 22.  A
real surprise here as Brisco played the heel during the title bout, right down to pulling
hair behind the referee's back.  The finish came when a Backlund big splash over the
ropes went awry and Brisco covered for the pin and championship in 16:41.

August 12, 1977 Dick Slater beat Brisco
In the history of bad ideas, this was a doozy.  They imported Slater, giving him a title shot
on his debut (something Sam Muchnick almost never did)  Slater won the bout over a
rather lackluster Brisco with a shoulder breaker in 9:45.  Jack was awesome in their
return go on October 28 but still wound up on the losing end. 

Slater came to town only twice after that and was from all accounts uncooperative with
the booking process.  They flew him in specially to do one TV taping the following
February to drop the strap.  He then no-showed at the two following Kiel cards and was
never asked to work St. Louis again.

February 12, 1978 Ted DiBiase beat Slater
With Slater flown in specifically to pass the strap, they had to make sure he dropped the
title that day.  Thus, DiBiase got an unexpected boost.  DiBiase caught Slater with a rolling
cradle to capture the title in 15:30.

In a move I considered a mistake, the program for February 17 gave us too much
information.  It stated DiBiase had been a last-minute substitution for Dick Murdoch, who
had missed flight connections.  When Murdoch captured the belt a short time later, the
situation was too obvious.

February 26, 1978 Dick Murdoch beat DiBiase
Another televised contest saw Murdoch winning his first Missouri Championship,
flattening Ted with his brainbuster hold (a version of the suplex slam) on the concrete
floor and then rolling him into the ring and scoring the pinfall.  

July 14, 1978 Dick "The Bruiser" beat Murdoch
This was quite a surprise, as Bruiser was always "Mr. Disqualification" in title contests. 
The match was short with Murdoch losing to the atomic drop and stomach claw in only
9:10.  Bruiser completely dominated the bout.  Murdoch would later claim Muchnick
switched conditions from 2/3 falls to one fall without telling him.

March 17, 1979 Dick Murdoch beat "The Bruiser"
Again a televised contest, Murdoch used chicanery to retake the Missouri laurels.  He put
Bruiser down with a body press and instead of kicking out, Bruiser put his leg on the
bottom rope.  The referee counted to three and Murdoch quickly yanked Bruiser's leg off
the strand.  The TV audience was about ready to make hamburger out of Murdoch so he
was quickly ushered out of the studio.

May 18, 1979 Dick "The Bruiser" beat Murdoch
The seesaw tipped the other way as Bruiser recaptured the title inside a chain-link
fence.  Special Referee Pat O'Connor kept trying to pull Murdoch off the fence to keep him
from escaping (winning the match by escaping to the floor was never part of Muchnick's
fence matches).  Murdoch kept smacking O'Connor and knocking him down.  Finally Pat
reared back and flattened Murdoch with a haymaker.  Bruiser covered him for the win in
15:45

July 13, 1979 Dick Murdoch beat "The Bruiser"
And yet again the title bounced back to Murdoch, making this his third reign as the
regional king.  Bruiser's atomic drop claimed the first fall in 4:21.  After delivering two
piledrivers on the arena floor, Murdoch rolled Bruiser back into the ring and grabbed the
second stanza in 4:10 with a flying elbow drop.  Referee  Joe Tangaro stopped the bout
and awarded Murdoch the championship when a shoulder injury kept Bruiser from
answering the bell for the final fall.

November 23, 1979 Kevin Von Erich beat Murdoch
Murdoch should have learned to avoid matches where Pat O'Connor was serving as the
special referee.  Pat was on the job again and Dick lost the match and crown to Von Erich,
who took the victory in 21:10 with the Iron Claw hold made famous by his father. 

Kevin did get himself temporarily in hot water with the powers that be after returning
home to Texas with the Missouri belt packed in his suitcase! 

April 25, 1980 Ken Patera beat Von Erich
In his third Kiel appearance, it took 19:41 for Patera to wring a concession and the
Missouri Title from Von Erich with his patented swinging neckbreaker and full nelson.

November 21, 1980 Ted DiBiase beat Patera
How sweet!  After holding the title (as nothing but a go-between) for two weeks in 1978,
DiBiase recaptured the Missouri belt on his own merits.  Patera locked DiBiase in his full
nelson.  Ted kicked off the ropes dropping both men's shoulders to the canvas.   The
referee started counting both men down but DiBiase lifted his shoulder at two.

October 2, 1981 Jack Brisco beat DiBiase
Who was expecting this?  Brisco returned to town after a long absence and slipped by
DiBiase with an inside cradle before 18,055 fans at The Checkerdome.  Larry Matysik told
me Jack was getting aggravated about seemingly never getting a win here so they gave
him a Texas "Death Match" victory against Patera and then the championship nod over
DiBiase. 

October 23, 1981 Ken Patera beat Brisco
Patera topped Brisco three weeks later by winning the title for the second time.   Patera
pushed through Brisco's reverse rolling cradle and won the deciding fall of the bout with
a standing cradle. 

January 1, 1982 Dick "The Bruiser" beat Patera
On Sam Muchnick's final night as promoter, Bruiser won the buckle for the third time as
he defeated Patera before a howling sellout crowd of 19,819 at The Checkerdome.  The
finish began as Patera tried to whack Bruiser with a chair but missed.  The chair bounced
off the ropes and clocked Ken in the skull.  Bruiser then covered for the victory and the
title, his third time as Missouri ruler.

September 17, 1982 Harley Race beat "The Bruiser"
We knew it was coming, but it was hard to imagine Bruiser losing a no-disqualification
fence match.  The finish saw Bruiser diving onto Race from the top rope and Harley rolling
Dick into a cradle.

January 21, 1983 Kerry Von Erich beat Race
Frankly, I thought this was garbage--a real sign of the absence of Sam Muchnick and of
things to come.  Race had lost via DQ to Von Erich on the January 1 card so this match was
made with the stipulation that if Harley were disqualified again the title would change
hands.  A leap from the top rope by Race brought about that sordid conclusion.

That winter, Kerry made a tour of Japan and took the Missouri strap along.  I saw one
report he even defended it against a former sumo practitioner named Takashi Ishikawa
(I hope the oriental wrestling fans knew more about the State of Missouri than I do about
Japanese geography.)  When Kerry returned to St. Louis, one of the belt's side plates was
missing.

April 15, 1983 "Crusher" Blackwell beat Von Erich
Blackwell won the best-of-three falls title go by rolling Von Erich into a cradle as Kerry
attempted to bodyslam the 471-pound behemoth.   Total time of the contest was 17:53.

May 13, 1983 Harley Race beat Blackwell
Race began his fifth reign as state ruler when he cradled Blackwell (what a concept!) in
the third and deciding fall of their contest.

June 10, 1983 Harley Race wins N.W.A. title, relinquishes Missouri crown
The reigning Missouri State Champion Race won two out of three falls to take the N.W.A.
crown from Flair.  Harley won the first fall in 11:12 with his suplex slam.   Flair grabbed the
second stanza with his figure four leglock in 10:08.  The finish saw Flair apply a reverse
suplex but both men's shoulders ended up on the mat.  Race lifted one shoulder at the
count of two for the victory to capture that prestigious title for a then-record seventh
time.

In accordance with the long-established rule ordained years before by Sam Muchnick,
Race was required to relinquish the Missouri strap.

It was at this point I ended my involvement with and interest in the St. Louis Wrestling
Club (Kerry's DQ title grab was just about the last straw!)  My departure went pretty
much unnoticed and the tale of the Missouri State Championship went on.   The data
which follows recounts the tale of the Missouri strap's final years and was culled in
large part from Scott Teal's The History of Professional Wrestling:  St. Louis, Missouri
(1960-1985).  Some critical information was also contributed by Jim Fossell, the man who
replaced Larry Matysik as the St. Louis program writer in 1983. 

Many sources have disagreed about match specifics in the post-Muchnick era. 
Following are definitive results which have been confirmed by articles and results
columns published after each mat bill in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the now-defunct
St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

For the only time in its history, the Missouri State Title was offered as the prize to the
winner of a one-night tournament held at Kiel Auditorium before a crowd on 6,282 fans.

July 15, 1983    Ric Flair wins tournament to decide the new Missouri Champion.

FIRST ROUND:

Ric Flair beat "Bulldog" Bob Brown in 11:03 with a small package.
Dick "The Bruiser" beat Bobby Duncum in 4:16 with an atomic drop.
"Crusher" Jerry Blackwell beat Buzz Tyler in 11:15 with a giant splash.
Bruce "Butch" Reed beat Von Raschke in 9:40 with a rolling cradle.
"Black Jack" Lanza beat Jerry Ho in 6:41 with a piledriver.
David Von Erich beat Tonga John in 4:07 with a reverse cradle.*
Jesse "The Body" Ventura beat Emil Vachon in 4:07 with a backbreaker.
"Cowboy" Bob Orton  beat Manny Fernandes in 11:42 with a reverse suplex.
Dewey Robertson beat George Wells via decision after a 15-minute draw.**
Hulk Hogan beat Korskia Korchenko in 2:22 with a giant legdrop.***

* Almost all accounts of this tournament, including Teal's, do not list this match in the
results.  The July 19, 1983, edition of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported a Round One
win by Von Erich over John with the finish and the time of the fall.

** Robertson won the bout but Wells continued to Round Two.  It is possible Dewey was
injured.  It is also possible this was a swerve that allowed Robertson to receive the
victory but gave Wells the opportunity to advance.  Sam would NEVER have booked that
finish!

*** There were reports Korchenko did not appear and a grappler named Howard Jacobs
took his place.  One record even had Hogan defeating Jacobs before the tournament
started and then topping Korchenko in the first round.  The Globe-Democrat article
indicated the bout took place as announced.

ROUND TWO:

Von Erich beat Orton by decision after the 15-minute time limit expired.
Reed beat Ventura with a rolling cradle in 7:32.
Lanza beat Bruiser who was disqualified in 7:12 for tossing Jack over the top rope.
Flair beat Wells with a body press in 7:17 after George missed a flying body block.
Hogan vs. Blackwell were both counted out of the ring, both eliminated

ROUND THREE:

Von Erich beat Lanza with the Iron Claw in 7:14.
Flair beat Reed with a small package in 12:00.

FINAL MATCH:

Flair won the first fall in 12:08 with his figure four leglock.
Von Erich took the second fall with the Iron Claw in 2:08.
Flair pinned Von Erich in 6:08 with a reverse cradle to win the Missouri Title.

September 16, 1983 David Von Erich beat Flair
Revenge from July:  Flair's figure four leglock took the first fall in 22:04 but David used his
Iron Claw to take both the second fall in 11:16 and the third fall and championship in
10:32.

January 6, 1984 Harley Race beat Von Erich
After battling to a double disqualification on the December 9, 1983, card, Race captured
the strap a month later by scoring a pinfall on David in 16:01.  How sad that one month
later David died at age 27 while on a tour of the Orient. 

Some records indicate Race, defending the Missouri State Championship, defeated
Blackwell via disqualification in Kansas City's Memorial Hall  on August 11, 1984.

November 16, 1984 "Crusher" Jerry Blackwell beat Race
Blackwell scored a controversial pinfall over Race in 9:46 by using the ropes for extra
leverage. 

August 2, 1985 Harley Race beat Blackwell
How fitting this first and seven-time Missouri State Champion was to be the last.   Though
the belt was never again risked in St. Louis, Race did defend the Missouri Title at a few of
Bob Geigel's 1985 spot shows, including at least two in Illinois.

The Missouri State Championship was retired when the St. Louis Wrestling Club was
purchased in part by Jim Crockett in February of 1986.  Crockett promoted bouts with his
own championships.

For years I wondered what happened to the Missouri strap.  That question was answered
when Pat O'Connor passed away.  I was told his widow gave a red velvet bag to Harry
White and the belt was inside.  Harry eventually sold it to a collector in Japan, a man who
had gone to college in Carbondale, Illinois, and very likely would have been intimately
familiar with the Missouri Championship. 

Records found on wrestling-titles.com indicate there were earlier incarnations of a
Missouri Championship outside St. Louis.  Billy Wolf was involved in a title match around
1934.  Ronnie Etchison beat Sonny Myers for a title of this name in St. Joseph October 17,
1947.  Myers was also a loser in a similar encounter against Tommy O'Toole on March 10,
1950.  Bob Orton came into the title picture in February of 1954 and Etchison again in
January, 1955.

Some independent operations have tried to reactivate the title.  One such organization is
the N. W. A. Midwest. which included in the lineage of its "Missouri Champions" all the
titleholders from Sam Muchnick's promotion.  Other than "borrowing" history, this
appears to be the only way in which the two straps are related.  This championship was
established (or re-activated--if you buy their story) during a contest held in St. Robert,
Missouri, on July 27, 2002, between Gary Jackson and Derrick Stone.  The most recent
change of this belt came on October 10, 2003, in Parkersburg, WV, before a whopping
crowd of 300 people.  Ricky Murdoch beat Shane Sommers to win the NWA Missouri Title.
Why the Missouri belt was defended in West Virginia is a mystery to me.   Then again,
Kerry took it to Japan so what do I know?

Other Missouri Championships might have existed or may someday be created.  I could
purchase a belt from the W.W.E. catalog, scratch the words "Missouri State
Championship" onto its face and start defending the title in the parking lot at the local
McDonald's.  That would not make me an heir apparent to the St. Louis/Sam Muchnick
roster of Missouri titleists.  It's just doesn't quack like a duck, folks!

These Johnny-Come Latelies are all the palest of imitations.  Sam Muchnick built his
"promoter's title" into an unmatched piece of wrestling history.  He understood that title
changes lose their significance when they occur all the time and always wind up being
televised.  Only four times did the Missouri belt switch on Wrestling at the Chase and at
least one of those was broadcast by necessity (to get the belt off Dick Slater as rapidly as
possible).

Professional wrestling has seen the establishment of championships for  cities, counties,
states, areas, regions, nations, continents, multi-continents and planet-wide (what--no
galactic titleholders???)  For myself, and for thousands who remember with fondness the
"good old days" of wrestling, Sam Muchnick's Missouri State Championship will always
be regarded, to use a phrase coined by Larry Matysik, as the plum of regional prizes.

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by Mitch Hartsey

The Missouri title. How important was this championship? Take a look at the title history. Names like Harley Race, Gene Kiniski, Terry Funk, Dory Funk Jr, Jack Brisco, Ric Flair, Bob Backlund, Kerry Von Erich all former World Champions are also former Missouri title holders. Only the cream of the wrestling crop held this coveted trophy from 1972 until 1985 with very little exception. Some of the toughest men to ever step into the squared circle(Johnny Valentine, Dick the Bruiser, Dick Slater, and Dick Murdoch). To some of the most popular(David Von Erich, Kevin Von Erich, and Ted Dibiase). And most hated(Ken Patera and Jerry Blackwell).

The belt was created back in the Spring of 1971 by the 'King of Belts' Mr. Reggie Parks, who himself was a star here in the Midwest in the 60s and 70s. ''Bobby Bruns and Gust Karras sent me to St Louis right around the time Sam was looking to hold a tournament for the Missouri title. Of course they needed a belt, so he asked me to create one. The only thing he told me was that it needed to have the state of Missouri in the center. A few weeks later, I presented it to him at the Kiel''. When asked about the artwork for the belt, Reggie laughed, ''the woman at the engraving company came up with it. I was wrestling so much back then, I didn't have time to sit down and draw it out''.

The title tournament was really confusing. Pat O'Connor was booking by that point and really didn't have an idea of what he wanted done. For the entire story about the tournament, you'll have to read Larry's book.

Harley Race was the first (defeating Pak Son), and last (defeating Jerry Blackwell), Missouri champion, holding the belt a record 7 times. Dick the Bruiser and Dick Murdoch each held the belt 3 times. Jack Brisco, Ted DiBiase, Ken Patera, and Jerry Blackwell each held the title twice.

Dave Millican, Reggie's partner, did a tremendous job recreating the belt in '05.  If you want a title belt, a REAL title belt, whether it be an original design or a perfect copy of one of your favorites, contact Reggie Parks or Dave Millican.

After looking at the list of former title holders, and seeing just a few of the title matches, it's not hard to see why the NWA Missouri state championship was one of the most, if not THE most, important regional championships in wrestling history.

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