welcome to

the World Champions

a podcast about professional wrestling his­tory narrated by myself, J Onwuka. Join me for a tale of bally­hoo, hoopla & slobber­knockers as I make an in-depth explor­ation of this amazing modern art. Look for a new episode every week!

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#15 Red Letters

Check out the latest World Champions Podcast
and hear about the nitty-gritty backroom fracas that wracked the National Wrestling Alliance throughout the 50s. Even though they had a very successful run in the ring with Lou Thesz as their champion, behind the scenes the NWA was set upon almost immediately by lawsuits, disgruntled opponents, and the United States government. Promotional ‘wars’ erupted in the Pacific Northwest, in Texas, and in southern California, all of them challenging the Alliance’s dominance. The NWA did survive these trials but not without a lot of heartache and a lot of loss. The question really is: how much did the NWA manage to save despite this all-around attack?

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#14 Two Panthers

On this episode of the World Champions Podcast hear about the other side of the social divide and explore professional wrestling’s history with racism. Europeans and their descendants almost exclusively made the early history of wrestling but, to a large degree, it was because they forced non-white people out of consideration. Early black grapplers like Viro Small showed that black people had the ability, but racial prejudices held them back. Hispanics, Asians, and American Indians also struggled under the racial ideas that prevailed in pre-war America. Not only did two such stars earn the nickname “Black Panther” — Jim Mitchell, a black man, and Enrique Torres, Hispanic — but one would become renowned for his exceptional skill and toughness, the sleeper legend Luther Lindsay.

The artwork on the episode image is from a Parkhurst wrestling card (#83) depicting Luther Lindsay.

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#13 Fair Play

On this episode of World Champions Podcast I’ll take a look into the life of the one and only Mildred ‘Cyclone’ Burke, a woman who not only defined what a woman wrestling champion should be but upped the ante for every male champion out there. She wasn’t the first, though: women like the strongwoman Minerva, Cora Livingston, and Barbara Ware preceded her in breaking social taboos and grappling. Burke was the first one to make a real living at it and become a true star, and in her wake came many other top wrestlers like Nell Stewart, Babs Wingo, and Mae Young. Still, the choking hand of paternalism always hovered, and for Burke it was made manifest in a horn-rimmed hustler named Billy Wolfe.

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#12 Mundo del Deporte

On this week’s World Champions Podcast head around the world and see how this amazing art had developed into the 1950s. As has been brought out in earlier episodes, the primary development of professional wrestling has occurred in the United States. That doesn’t mean it all happened there. From our neighbors Canada to our linguistically more distant cousins in Mexico, all of North America has a history with professional wrestling. Through the magic of steam engines, radio waves, and television, grappling stars and styles from the States spread over to Europe and to Asia. One thing that has been apparent from the earliest days is that physicality transcends language and everybody, no matter how lowborn they appear or how highborn they think they are, reacts to the sight of someone giving it their all to win.

If you have a dollar or two to spare, please consider donating to the WCP. Every little bit helps with site fees, research materials, etc. Thanks!

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#11 The Mat Game

A golden age of wrestling on TV is the subject of this week’s World Champions Podcast: when a coast-to-coast program made new stars and local stations made promoters a small mint. Not everyone was on board with the new medium, though, and even those who embraced it found themselves neck-deep in hot water. Under Fred Kohler, Chicago would rise to become the premier wrestling city in America, and nobody was quite comfortable with that development.

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#10 The Last Gunslinger

On this episode of the World Champions Podcast take a look at the incredible career and achievements of the man who would forever epitomize the role of world heavyweight champion, Lou Thesz. So great that he never needed a tagline, never needed a costume, needed nothing but his own skills. By being who he was and where he was Thesz changed what pro wrestling was and allowed it to evolve from a sport into a smartly-worked and engaging art.

If you have a dollar or two to spare (or a Euro, pound, etc) please consider donating to the podcast (http://paypal.me/jefeonwuka). I’m hitting hard against site fees right now and I’m not sure how I’ll be situated for the entirety of March. If you’re enjoying the podcast I only need a few dollars to make it for the next month but I’m not in a good position right now. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Remember to join the World Champions Mailcast! I’ve been slacking a bit with it but if things go right I’ll have more stuff to offer people and more posts to make, so get on board!

The cover picture’s original artwork is by Vaughn Bass (who’s signed the work) and slightly edited by myself; I found it via Google Image Search and it was the best color image to use. I claim no rights on the image and I’m not expecting profit to be made from its use (though I am asking for donations for the podcast). If the owner of the image would like it replaced I am certainly willing to comply.

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#9 Alliance

In this episode, perhaps the most influential organization in pro wrestling history–the National Wrestling Alliance–finally comes together. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum. St Louis kingpin Tom Packs and his control of pro wrestling did a lot to spur this on, alienating fellow promoters to the point where banding together seemed their best recourse. Small-time Iowa promoter Pinkie George would be the soul of this young organization, but its brain was a young newspaperman who took on the daunting task of breaking into St Louis: Sam Muchnick.

Remember to sign up for the World Champions Mailcast for more updates! Donations would be greatly appreciated to help keep things going without a hiccup into March.

Thanks for listening!

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#8 King of St Louis

On this episode of the World Champions Podcast, find out just how deeply affected professional wrestling was by World War II. Not only reeling from the after-effects of Shikat’s double-cross and Jack Pfefer’s blabbing, wrestling had a much depleted base of stars to work with. Though old stars like John Pesek and Ed “Strangler” Lewis made mild returns, the stage was set for a crop of new ring heroes like “The Blonde Bear” Everett Marshall and perhaps the top wrestler during the war, “Wild” Bill Longson.

Remember to join the World Champions Mailcast for more history discussion as well as news & updates on the podcast!

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#7 Riot Squad

On episode #7 of the World Champions Podcast come take a look at the variety of talents that began to emerge in the 1930s. As pro wrestling struggled to find its audience it came up with a lot of outlandish concepts, from brawling all around the ring with the Dirty Duseks or Ted “King Kong” Cox to the staid, courtly style of Lord Patrick Lansdowne Finnegan. All the while, top stars like Jim Londos continued their run in the main events, battling over an increasingly frayed world title.

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#6 Golden Years

Join the World Champions Podcast as wrestling starts to kick into a higher gear. New concepts or ‘gimmicks’ entered the sport: flashy new moves, crazy match situations, outlandish characters. Yet all of this came about because of the sport’s promotional decline. Backroom battles over control of the title and, worse, the legitimacy of wrestling itself threatened to totally destroy pro wrestling in this era. How’d it get so bad? Listen in to find out!

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#5 Gold Dust

On this episode of the World Champions Podcast, the hidden side of Joe Stecher and Ed “Strangler” Lewis’s battles come to the fore. Jack Curley, boxing impresario Tex Rickard, the dastardly Billy Sandow and others battle for control of professional wrestling and its world heavyweight championship. Pro wrestling continues to grow in style and sophistication as its big matches go from small Midwestern towns to the big lights of New York City and Madison Square Garden.

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#4 The Scissors King

In this episode of the World Champions Podcast, journey back to the days after Frank Gotch had left professional wrestling without a shining light. It was up to a totally new star to rise to the fore and keep audiences engaged. Joe Stecher and his amazing ‘trick legs’ caught the nation’s attention, the first man after Gotch himself to do that. Ed ‘Strangler’ Lewis and other luminaries also enter the scene, ready to prove their mettle.

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#3 Gotch & Hackenschmidt

This week on The World Champions, two legends of the pro wrestling ring are set to do battle with the greatest prize of them all on the line: the world heavyweight champions. For the first time in history there will be no credible dispute. But with two such diametrically opposed personalities as Frank Gotch and Georg Hackenschmidt there was no way things would go quite smoothly.

Remember to sign up for the World Champions Mailcast for news and updates about WCP!

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#2 The Professionals

In the second episode of the World Champions Podcast, join a discussion about the developing world of pro wrestling in the 1880s and 90s, a time when national styles were changing, when wrestlers began to adopt gimmicks, and when “The Solid Man” William Muldoon ruled the roost.

Remember to join the World Champions Mailcast for news and updates!

Photograph of Martin “Farmer” Burns hanging without damage from a noose.

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