Editor’s note: This is the third in a four-part series about the late Johnny Powers.
Johnny Powers was an experienced booker and promoter, but admitted he made a few mistakes when he went to Carolina after talks of wrestling retirement emerged.
“After Cleveland in 1975, I retired from the business,” Powers said in a 2013 interview. I was brought in to creatively pivot away from ticket sales and revenue streams.”
Meanwhile, his old partner Pedro Martinez had started a venture known as IWA (International Wrestling Association), the first true national wrestling organization, with TV sports entrepreneur Eddie Einhorn.
“He was a rich man who was a fan of wrestling,” Powers said of Einhorn. “He had no intelligence about the business. Pedro hung out with him. At that time he sold it to the Radio Corinthians for a good sum.”
Martinez had only been working with the Chicago businessman for a few months when he called Powers and asked for help.
“Pete, I’m not in the wrestling business. I’m doing fine,” Powers explained to Martinez. “I’m going to get a reasonable stake in a small public company. I’m not in the wrestling business, I’m in the sports promotion business.”
But Martinez told Powers that the new group had no underlying territory. For the most part, they got along well, but they were doing shows that amounted to “rebel gatherings” across the country, he said.
In other words, Powers said they had no basic business.
“You can have one or two or three good towns within one territory, as McMahon had in New York, Boston, or Philadelphia. Better to have a spot show to secure a seven-night reservation, avoid problems, and amortize local costs,” said Powers.
Martinez knew his only chance of success was to convince Powers to come out of retirement and take over creative and booking duties.
“Nobody understands what I’m talking about. You do it. I built it and trained you how to do it,” he told Powers.
“As a favor to Pedro, I didn’t want to go back into business, but I agreed,” Powers said.
Powers flew in from New Jersey, rented a car and drove to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he already had a TV show.
“I booked myself into some radio promotions, pulled out a map and found some stuff, found a town like Mount Airy around it, booked a building. Within about four to six weeks. In the meantime, we have launched infrastructure with territories in at least three states: North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.”
power to the rescue
Johnny Powers, who died on December 30 at the age of 79, was a born promoter.
“I knew what to look for. So it was dormant. It was dead. “It was me going to places like Rochester and paying $400 a week for 13 weeks. I’ve been there before.”
IWA, with the highest production value, outperformed large-scale promotions in many aspects. The company provided a deposit to attract top names and placed its tapings in television markets around the country. Sophisticated production innovations such as freeze frame and slow motion replay were utilized.
The territory began to build slowly, with Winston-Salem as its main town.
Then, suddenly, Powers receives a call from Martinez, informing him that Einhorn has canceled all TV shows.
“We’re off the air as of this weekend,” Martinez told Powers.
According to Martinez, Vince McMahon Sr. called the owner of Corinthian Broadcasting to tell him that the “prize guy,” who had just paid a lot of money to buy the college’s basketball network, could do legal things like professional wrestling. business.
Einhorn smacked right in the middle of McMahon territory and had a strong TV presence at WOR in New York. The IWA was seen as a propaganda campaign for “outlaws” operating outside the jurisdiction of the NWA and WWF.
“No promoter helped each other. It’s a myth. If there was any cooperation, it was of a selfish nature,” Powers said.
“He[McMahon Sr.]was worried about Einhorn going to a ballpark in New Jersey and winning $108,000. That’s not shabby in ’75. McMahon was worried. He said I was still a regional promoter.”
In fact, Powers attempted to buy territory from McMahon and Toots Mond in the late 1960s.
“I was cocky enough to want to try it,” said Powers. “Pedro Martínez once owned part of the Toots Mont estate. Why couldn’t I get his understanding and buy McMahon?”
Einhorn lost an estimated $500,000 and the promotion virtually collapsed in October 1975.
Unable to enter major arenas such as Madison Square Garden and Nassau Coliseum, the sports moguls have given up on it.
Powers, meanwhile, had already moved his family to Carolina and had abandoned his position and stock portfolio.
But he wasn’t ready to quit.
“I’m here to help you. I don’t want to do this,” he told Martinez.
Powers asked for hours. He called Winston his Salem, Raleigh, Lynchburg and Charleston stations. He asked the station manager to keep Saturday’s IWA wrestling slots open.
“I put together a TV show. We had a show that weekend,” he said. He renamed the TV show and left. ”
Powers was accustomed to three-state territories from the Buffalo and Cleveland campaigns, so he strengthened the Carolina and Virginia territorial templates.
“I knew the formula and the set-up very well. I always believed that if I could get in a car and drive somewhere, I could make an impact on TV stations, media and arenas. became.”
Some talent remains. Some went to the opposition.
“They stole the Mongols and they stole Igor in the end. (Mil) Mascaras went it alone. But I kept (Bulldog) Brower, (Ernie) Rudd and a lot of guys,” Powers said. .
“I already knew the Brower-Powers program worked, so I used it as the main seed for the Territorial Angle. After running it for about a year, Winston-Salem cashed me in. I understand.
This was a devastating blow to Powers and his plans to strengthen his company’s presence.
“It was our biggest town and it was on the verge of selling out,” he said. It’s the same Crockett once had. Then we went to court, and I lost. I probably never thought I would win.
The battle that ensued over the arena of Crockett’s territory ended in a costly legal battle.
Powers liked the challenge, so he bought the territory from Martinez.
“But when we lost Winston Salem,” said Powers.
Powers alleged that two North Carolina promoters — Jim Crockett of Charlotte and Joe Marnick of Raleigh — illegally controlled the booking of wrestling shows in several rural towns.
The lawsuit sought $1.5 million in damages as a result of allegedly lost business due to a lease agreement with a promoter. Cities named in the lawsuit are Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Raleigh, Fayetteville, and North Carolina. Greenville, South Carolina.Richmond, Virginia
The lawsuit alleged that the IWA was barred from those cities due to illegal leases and protection agreements that gave Crockett and Marnick a monopoly on public arenas suitable for wrestling. Leasing allegedly violated state and federal law.
The City of Winston-Salem was named as a defendant after a decision by the mayor’s and aldermen’s committee to give Crockett a lease for 12 events a year at the Coliseum.
“That didn’t mean the other buildings didn’t give you locks,” said Powers. Sometimes the door is only half open and this product is perfectly appropriate at the right time to step under it. It’s not a good product.”
It took more than two years for the lawsuit to be resolved. In 1978, a federal jury ruled that Crockett had not imposed a hanging sentence on the Charlotte and Winston-Salem auditoriums for his events.
In the lawsuit, Powers charged that Crockett’s lease of a wrestling venue in Charlotte and Winston Salem violated antitrust laws, but a jury found no violations.
“The jury’s decision establishes Jim Crockett Promotions, a wrestling event illegally operated in Charlotte. It shows that the Crockett family was operating legally,” said Crockett. lawyer said after the verdict.
Next week: Johnny Powers saw it written on the IWA wall.
Contact Mike Mooneyham (firstname.lastname@example.org) or follow him on Twitter (@ByMikeMooneyham) and Facebook (Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham). His latest book, Final Bell, is available at https://evepostbooks.com and Amazon.com.
Do you know …
Born Colby Lopez in Buffalo, Iowa in 1986 and graduating from Davenport West High in 2004, Seth Rollins was an early practitioner of backyard wrestling.
Rollins started training with a friend when he was 14 and set up trampoline-style rings. He then made his first official match under his ring name Gixx at a local independent promotion a few years later.
on this day…
17 years ago today (January 29, 2006): Rey Mysterio, the second entrant to the WWE Royal Rumble in Miami, set a record of 62 minutes and 12 seconds, beating Randy Orton to win the world title. won the title. That record still stands today.
Mysterio ranked second and became the second man to win the Rumble. The only other person to have done that is Vince his McMahon in 1999.