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Tribute:
Sam Muchnick,
Championship Promoter
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By Mark Nulty
Photo courtesy of Mitch Hartsey of NWA Midwest Wrestling

Fans and promoters around the world understood the importance of St. Louis wrestling and the importance of the NWA World heavyweight champion defending on a St. Louis card.

Sam Muchnick promoted St. Louis into a Mecca of professional wrestling.

Here are the World heavyweight championship title changes he promoted:

Nov. 9, 1956 Lou Thesz defeats Whipper Billy Watson
Jan. 9, 1959 Pat O'Connor defeats Dick Hutton
Nov. 7, 1966 Gene Kiniski defeats Lou Thesz

Making the Missouri title mean something

Maybe the best testament of Muchnick's eye for talent was the way he handled his regional belt, the Missouri State heavyweight championship.

Harley Race after winning the belt from Dick the BruiserOne of Sam Muchnick's greatest strengths was making a championship mean something.

Perhaps no other promoter had a better eye for a wrestler that could carry a championship belt than Sam Muchnick.

As National Wrestling Alliance President, Muchnick was great at providing member promoters a strong champion that would draw money.

Muchnick demanded athleticism and credibility from his wrestlers, especially his champions.

Muchnick brought the same values to his regional championship, the Missouri State heavyweight championship. Because so many wrestlers that held the Missouri title would go on to either win the world championship or be leading contenders, magazines often referred to it as "The stepping stone to the World title." At one point, it was considered the most important regional championship in wrestling.

A total of 17 wrestlers held the Missouri State heavyweight championship from 1972 through 1985. Eight  would hold major versions of the World heavyweight championship. Here are the World championship credentials of wrestlers that wore the title:

Harley Race

former and future NWA World heavyweight champion

Terry Funk

future NWA World heavyweight champion

Gene Kiniski

former NWA and AWA World heavyweight champion

Dory Funk Jr.

former NWA World heavyweight champion

Jack Brisco

former two-time NWA World heavyweight champion

Bob Backlund

future WWF World heavyweight champion

Kerry Von Erich

future NWA World heavyweight champion

Ric Flair

former and future NWA World heavyweight champion

Several of the other 10 Missouri State heavyweight champions would go on to become leading contenders for World titles. They would also hold versions of the World tag-team championship and the two other major regional singles titles, the NWA United States heavyweight championship and the WWF Intercontinental heavyweight championship:

Johnny Valentine United States heavyweight champion
Dick Slater United States heavyweight champion
Ted DiBiase WWF World tag-team champion
Dick Murdoch WWF World heavyweight champion
Dick the Bruiser AWA World tag-team champion
Ken Patera AWA World tag-team champion
WWF Intercontinental champion
Crusher Jerry Blackwell AWA World tag-team champion

Mark Nulty is a professional journalist that has been in the professional wrestling industry since the mid-80s as an announcer, referee and promoter.

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1998 Wrestling Classics: Frank Dusek, Mark Nulty
1998 Design: Jan Herod
Created: October 1998