FAQ: Behind the Scenes

I've always been under the impression that Fritz Von Erich ran things in both Fort Worth and Dallas, but your results section lists Elizabeth Moore as Fort Worth promoter from 1964 to 1987. Who was she?

Elizabeth McElyea Moore (October 15, 1923 - February 7, 2017) was the daughter of Russell G. McElyea, concessionaire and owner of Amusement Enterprises, which was headquartered at the North Side Coliseum beginning in 1943. McElyea rented the Coliseum from the city of Fort Worth, and leased it for everything from conventions to sporting events. Elizabeth's husband was Ken Moore Sr., whose company, Ken Moore Enterprises, promoted Monday night wrestling shows at the Coliseum from 1945 until his death on September 22, 1960.

We have McElyea listed as a possible co-promoter from 1956-58 because the Moores were out of town for extended periods during that time, and it's not clear who ran the wrestling promotion while they were away. The reason for their absences: McElyea had promoted several performances by Elvis at the North Side Coliseum during his early Sun Records period, but once Elvis skyrocketed to fame in early 1956, he and Colonel Tom Parker are said to have demanded far more money than the already agreed-upon $500 for each of four future shows. Elvis went ahead with the first gig on April 20th, but after he no-showed the next scheduled performance, McElyea filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit. (The entertaining story of how Elvis was served with a summons at his October 11th Cotton Bowl gig can be found here.) The suit was settled out of court the day after the Cotton Bowl show, and -- perhaps as part of whatever agreement was reached (the details were never disclosed) -- Ken Moore Sr. was hired shortly afterward as head of security for Presley.

Ken, and sometimes Elizabeth, accompanied Elvis on all his tours from November 1956 until his 1958 Army induction, and was also with him during the filming of King Creole. Ken rejoined Elvis after his discharge in 1960, but died only a few months later.

Articles in issues of Sports News and The Rassler from September 1960 to May 1964 credit McElyea as promoter; we don't know the extent of Ms. Moore's involvement during that period, but after McElyea's passing on May 22, 1964, the programs began to refer to "Mrs. Kenneth Moore" as the person in charge. Elizabeth kept the Fort Worth promotion going until the Jerry Jarrett buyout in the late 1980s, when the weekly cards at the Will Rogers Complex were discontinued. Ken Moore Enterprises subsequently shifted its focus to non-wrestling business ventures, and was ultimately sold in 2007.

While Fritz did control the Texas booking office after Ed McLemore's death in 1969, he considered Elizabeth Moore to be a capable and trusted partner. Because she maintained a low profile, most fans know little or nothing about her to this day, although she helped to make Fort Worth a strong wrestling town for many years. Hopefully, with the publication of this info at WCM, Ms. Moore will begin to receive the recognition and credit she rightly deserves.

Why did WCCW withdraw from the National Wrestling Alliance?  I've always thought that was the worst possible move they could have made.

In his 2009 autobiography, My Life in Wrestling...with a Little Help from My Friends, Gary Hart revealed that this was a move made in anger by Fritz Von Erich.  Frustrated by the refusal of NWA president Jim Crockett Jr. to give Kerry Von Erich any further runs as World champion after his one brief reign in May 1984, Fritz, intent on proving that his promotion could survive without the NWA, elected to terminate WCCW's affiliation with the Alliance and go independent.

However, if you take into account the changes that were taking place in the pro wrestling industry in the mid-'80s, it becomes clear that WCCW, for all practical purposes, was already doomed even before this decision was made.  The problem was that the destruction of the old territorial system was well underway as Vince McMahon's WWF, in its push to go national beginning in mid-1983, had already been weakening many of the NWA-affiliated promotions by luring away a number of their biggest stars.  In an attempt to compete on a national level with McMahon, NWA president Jim Crockett Jr. (who had previously been running regional shows under the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling banner) bought out several of those groups, including the Georgia, Florida and Central States territories as well as Bill Watts' Universal Wrestling Federation, and unified them, using "The NWA" as a brand name.  At the same time, Crockett was allowing fewer and fewer title defenses in the handful of remaining NWA territories not under his direct control, including World Class.

In any event, it's not clear how much longer WCCW's relationship with the NWA could have continued; Crockett's group was so spectacularly mismanaged during its attempt to go national (Ric Flair's autobiography To Be the Man, and The Death of WCW by R.D. Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez, both go into this in considerable detail) that the company ran itself out of money less than three years after World Class broke away from the NWA.  Jim Crockett Promotions was sold in late 1988 to Turner Broadcasting, where it morphed into the even more spectacularly mismanaged WCW.  (Crockett, after a final ill-fated attempt to promote as an NWA affiliate at the Sportatorium in 1994-95, left the wrestling business altogether and, at last report, was selling real estate in Dallas.)

Kevin Von Erich, Bill Mercer and others have commented on their unsuccessful attempts to persuade Fritz to go national himself  in the mid-'80s; apparently believing that his sons' popularity would be enough to carry WCCW and counter any threat from the WWF juggernaut, Fritz reportedly stated that Dallas was "all my boys will ever need."  Other World Class alumni, however (including, most notably, Missy Hyatt), have expressed the opinion that limited finances and a lack of roster depth would have made such an expansion impractical.

(A fascinating historical footnote comes from Steve Harms, Big Time Wrestling referee/commentator in the late '70s and early '80s, in a post at the Kayfabe Memories forum.  Steve reveals that withdrawal from the NWA may have been part of the plan even before the syndicated WCCW series was launched:  "I left the Dallas office in 1982....prior to that Kathy White, Fritz's secretary, asked me to bring my referee shirt with me to a booking meeting.  Her purpose was to remove the old NWA patch.  She didn't give me much explanation other than things were going to change a bit.  This was quite a bit of time before the official split.  I was aware of what was going to happen and was asked to be part of it.  At the same time I had a great TV job offer in Detroit.....and that's the direction I went.  The WCCW became quite the promotion after I left.") 

Who did the booking for WCCW?

Previously in this space, there was major confusion with regard to this question.  However, we now have the more-or-less complete answer, thanks largely to the late Gary Hart, his autobiography, and his comments on a couple of shoot interview DVDs. Some additional details reported by Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer Newsletter have also been filled in.

At the time Ed McLemore and Fritz Von Erich established Southwest Sports Inc. in 1966, the promotion was being booked by Danny "Bulldog" Plechas.  in 1972, Bronko Lubich, who was transitioning from wrestler to manager, took over the position. (Lubich, after a brief babyface turn in spring 1973, settled into his familiar role as referee.)  

Lubich was succeeded in 1974 by Red Bastien, whose career as an active wrestler was then beginning to wind down. Bastien left the promotion in July 1976, at which time Fritz named Gary Hart as his replacement.

Gary still had the book when Big Time Wrestling became World Class in spring 1982.  As is revealed in The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling (and confirmed by Michael Hayes), Hart resigned in anger shortly after the legendary 1982 Christmas Star Wars show, which drew $250,000, after discovering that his share of the gate was a mere $3,500 -- far lower than the guaranteed percentage he had been receiving for years:

I'm sitting in my office, I'm looking at the check...I'm saying, "This cannot be right. This CANNOT be right. We're in big buildings -- who helped get you there? Who built your talent? Who ran your business?"  And he [Fritz Von Erich] says to me, "I think you're too big for your britches."

So I said, "You can take this job and stick it up your ass."

Hayes states in the documentary that the Freebirds were ready to quit in solidarity with Hart upon hearing of his resignation, but that Gary convinced them to stick around.  Talk about altering the course of wrestling history in unimaginable ways!

Hart's replacement as booker was Ken Mantell, who has been credited with much of the success WCCW enjoyed during its peak period of 1983-85, although much of what followed during that period was arguably based on groundwork laid by Hart before his departure.  Mantell was reportedly assisted by Hayes during much of the original Von Erichs-Freebirds storyline, then by Hart, who returned after the 'Birds departed in late summer of '84.  Mantell left World Class in late May/early June of '86.  

In Heroes of World Class, David Manning states that he took over the book from Mantell just before Kerry Von Erich's tragic motorcycle accident in June, and that he was assisted by Bruiser Brody.  (No other account we've seen has Brody in that position in mid-'86, but Gary Hart, in RF Video's World Class Reunion DVD release, does confirm Manning's very brief stint as booker.) 

In August, Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer reported that George Scott had been hired to take over the position...but he, too, was soon out of the picture.  According to Hart, as told in the biography Brody: The Triumph and Tragedy of Wrestling's Rebel by Larry Matysik and Bruiser's widow Barbara Goodish, Scott apparently saw Gary as a threat to his position and attempted to force him out of the promotion by booking Abdullah the Butcher to lose to Brody in a cage at the 1986 Christmas Star Wars show at Reunion Arena -- but without telling anyone involved that it would be a loser-leaves-Texas bout.  The maneuver backfired when Brody, a longtime close friend of Hart's, caught on to it and doublecrossed Scott by secretly agreeing to do a rare clean job to Abby; Scott was gone shortly thereafter and was replaced by Brody, who resolved the obvious problem by bringing himself back under a mask as Red River Jack.

(By the way, it's interesting to note that in Emerson Murray's biography of Brody, Gary's recollection of the Christmas night cage match is entirely different.  In this version of the story, the bout takes place at Will Rogers Coliseum -- although no Christmas Star Wars card was ever held there -- after Hart had taken over the book from Brody and Scott was already long gone.  Hart is quoted as saying that Brody and Abdullah, who of course were both notorious for refusing to lose, came to him with the idea for the bout and were still unable to decide on a finish at match time.  Gary says he threatened never to use either man in Texas again if one of them didn't do the job, after which Brody apparently decided while the match was in progress to put Abby over.)

Depending on the source, Brody either resigned as booker (supposedly in protest over the poor handling of the announcement of Mike Von Erich's death, according to Dave Meltzer, although Bruiser did continue to wrestle for WCCW), or was relieved of the position; in any case, Gary Hart once again took over at some point (again, the exact time is uncertain) during that period. 

When Ken Mantell became co-owner of WCCW in November 1987, he took over the position once again, with Michael Hayes becoming his assistant booker upon his arrival in February '88. Reportedly, Mantell and Hayes also received some assistance from Bill Irwin and Eric Embry. These four, plus Skandor Akbar, became a full-fledged booking committee sometime in May. This did not last long, however, as the committee idea was ditched within weeks when attendance, which had been steadily dwindling, failed to improve. At that point, Embry became the new booker, with Akbar as his assistant.

Eric was still in charge of booking at the time of the formal name change to USWA in August '89.

Is there really a "World Class curse"?

Yes, we know the question was raised in Heroes of World Class. And, as everyone knows, many of WCCW's performers, including a number of its biggest stars, are no longer with us. All of that being said, the answer is a firm NO -- there is no such thing as a "World Class curse".  It is, in fact, very easy to prove:

(1) Although there are now well over 50 deceased World Class alumni, note that only three of the workers on the list were actually working for WCCW at the time they passed away:  David and Mike Von Erich, and Gino Hernandez.  All the rest had either moved on to other promotions or died after WCCW folded. Which brings us to point number two:

(2) If one is going to count deceased former members of a promotion's roster as victims of a curse, then one might as well argue that there's also a curse associated with WWE, ECW, WCW, or any of the old territorial promotions.  (Many of the same names would also appear on lists of the dead for those groups, of course.)

We trust that you can see not only how silly the whole idea of a "curse" is, but also how such talk trivializes a very real, very troubling and, now, all too common problem in the pro wrestling industry.

Why did Jerry Jarrett pull the USWA out of Dallas? Was it because of a dispute with the Von Erichs? The cancellation of
Championship Sports? Low attendance?

All of the above. We now have a fairly detailed picture of the turmoil that beset the Dallas end of USWA in late summer 1990, thanks to a short-lived newsletter from the period which has recently come to our attention: Texas Roundup, which was written and published anonymously in 1990-91 by Larry Dwyer (aka former WCCW referee Larry Hayes). Issue #2's report on the Championship Sports taping of August 18, 1990 includes the following news:
These Saturday morning TV tapings have aired Saturday nights on KTVT-Channel 11 at 10:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m. for years. Within a week or three the contract will run out and Channel 11 will not renew it for assorted reasons. In no particular order, some of the reasons are: constant abuse of the women; cursing not being bleeped out; dismal TV ratings (low advertising income); Jarrett being too arrogant to deal with. WWF will get 1 hour of their time, but the other hour will have local programming.
Near the end of the issue, Dwyer reported:
Hot Rumor Dept.: Jarrett will close up shop and head back to Memphis when TV expires. Chris Adams and Kevin Von Erich will then attempt their own group.
Kevin, of course, elected to promote the briefly-revived WCCW by himself, although Adams did appear on several of the group's cards. Unfortunately, WWE's contract with Channel 11 stipulated that no competing promotions -- including Kevin's -- could advertise on the station. Dwyer reported in Texas Roundup issue #6 that Channel 11 was, however, considering a TV slot for Kevin's group (which would presumably have been a return to a more "family-friendly" approach) but would not commit to it and would not have launched it before December, stating that "they book shows quarterly so that's the earliest possible start time." Sadly, of course, the promotion would not survive past November.

Issue #3 would reveal exactly why Jarrett was preparing to exit in its report on the 8/31/90 USWA Challenge taping at the Sportatorium:
The highlight of the evening was not in the ring tonight, but the dressing room. Posted about every 10 feet around the locker room was a five page injunction notice filed by Kevin and Kerry Adkisson (Von Erich) vs. Jerry Jarrett and Max Andrews (TV producer and syndicator). It basically stated that the Von Erichs had not been receiving their percentage of the group's profits for quite awhile (Kevin and Kerry own 20% each, Jarrett 50%, and referee Bronko Lubich the remaining 10%).There were lawyers and plainclothes detectives everywhere. Some were stationed at the front door counting customers, while others were keeping tabs on the souvenir booth and concession stands. Originally the show tonight wasn't even going to go on, but both parties came to a verbal agreement until the court date 9/12/90.
Obviously, Jarrett had informed Kevin and Kerry that they were no longer receiving their dividend payments because the company was operating at a loss. Videos of matches from the period seem to support the claim, as the seats at the Sportatorium were shown to be mostly empty. At any rate, it's clear that Jarrett had, by then, decided to throw in the towel in Dallas. He would sell his percentage of the company back to Kevin and Kerry and -- at least temporarily -- retreat back to Memphis shortly thereafter.

In 1989-90, the Sportatorium ring had a "Renegades Rampage" logo affixed to the mat.  What was that all about?

The Renegades Rampage (sponsored by Renegades -- a brand of chewing tobacco, for the uninitiated) was a points-based TV singles tournament that took place over several months.  What made this a bit bizarre, at least as far as USWA Dallas was concerned, was the fact that the tournament had taken place in 1988, and was held in Memphis, not Dallas (it was won by a young Scott Steiner).  Apparently, the contract for this multi-year sponsorship deal called for the logo to be displayed on all of Jerry Jarrett's wrestling telecasts, which would have included those in Dallas after the late-1988 takeover. 

For the wrestlers, however, the in-ring advertisement added a needless element of danger.  In the words of former referee James Beard, posting on the Kayfabe Memories board:  "One thing I hated about that logo was it was slicker'n owl poop, especially after a few guys had sweated all over it.  It's a wonder more guys didn't bust their ass because of that thing."

I've read that Fritz Von Erich's former secretary was murdered. Is this true, and if so, was the killer ever caught?

Yes to both questions. Although the details of the killing are inaccurate, the story appears in chapter 49 of Gary Hart's autobiography My Life in Wrestling...with a Little Help from My Friends.  The body of 79-year-old Kathleen (Kathy) White (who began as Ed McLemore's secretary, then continued working in the same capacity for Fritz after McLemore's death in 1969) was found in the trunk of her car in the garage of her Irving home on February 25, 2002.  She had been strangled, and had an electrical cord wrapped around her neck and a plastic bag over her head. Her dog was also killed, and was discovered hanging by another electrical cord in Ms. White's shower.

The case was still unsolved at the time Hart's book was published, but in January 2010 police were finally able to track down the killer, Michael Nadeau, at a homeless shelter in El Paso (Nadeau had a lengthy criminal record; the DNA found under Ms. White's fingernails during her autopsy was confirmed as his). The motive was robbery; Nadeau pleaded guilty to the crime in October 2011 in exchange for a life sentence. He will not be eligible for parole until 2041.

In a chillingly ironic statement, Nadeau was quoted as telling investigators during his confession: “I thought I would just hit her, but instead I put my arm around her like the wrestlers do to put her to sleep.”