History of the NWA Missouri Heavyweight Championship
By Josh Ray
This is the first in a series of features on championships in the MWR coverage area, where MWR looks at the history, importance, and the future of the wrestling belts that help shape the Midwest independent wrestling scene.
The National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) has been around since 1948, but the Missouri Heavyweight Championship has been around in some way, shape, or form since 1899. Records are spotty, but George Baptiste is in the books as the first Missouri Champion, winning in 1899. There are no details as to whom he defeated for the title or whom defeated him.
The next Missouri Champion doesn’t appear in the record books until 1921. Jake Reed defeated Lloyd Carter sometime that year, but again the records are so poor for that time period that no other information is known.
In 1933, some 12 years later, Fred Peterson entered the scene and began claiming that he was the Missouri Champion. He continued to make this claim until March of 1934, which happens to be around the same time that Billy Wolf is listed as champion. Records are unclear as to whom he defeated for the title, but Fred Peterson could be a good guess.
1937 brings more clarity to the title, as Lou Thesz defeated Warren Bockwinkel for the title on June 18th in Kansas City, MO. The clarity wouldn’t last long, however, as the title did a disappearing act until October 17, 1947 in St. Joseph, MO. Over ten years after Lou Thesz won the title, Ron Etchison defeated Sonny Myers for the title. There is no more information on how Thesz parted with the belt.
Less than a month later on November 7, 1947, Sonny Myers won a rematch with Etchison and became the Missouri State Champion. Before 1947 was over with, though, the title would be vacated and would remain that way until 1950.
As the National Wrestling Alliance began tying the smaller regional promotions together, the Missouri title was reestablished. Unfortunately, records are still in bad shape from 1950 to 1955. Tommy O’Toole defeated Sonny Myers in a tournament final on March 10, 1950, and from then until it was vacated in 1955 Bob Orton Sr. and Ron Etchison would win the title. Once again, there are no records as to whom either of them defeated.
The title stayed vacated from 1955 until 1972, when the title became a secondary singles championship for the NWA’s Central States Wrestling and St. Louis Wrestling Club. On September 16, 1972 in St. Louis, MO, the title gained legitimacy when Midwest wrestling legend Harley Race defeated Korean wrestling star Pak Song in a tournament final for the championship. In the years to come, Race would become the area’s most dominant champion and a true wrestling legend.
The title was held up after the ending of a Harley Race and Johnny Valentine match on December 16, 1972 in St. Louis, MO. A rematch was scheduled a month later, and on January 19, 1973, Valentine defeated Race for the title. The remainder of 1973 saw Terry Funk, Gene Kiniski, and Harley Race with the title.
St. Louis, MO continued to be the location for each and every Missouri Heavyweight Championship title change through February 1986 when Jim Crockett and Jim Crockett Promotions bought the St. Louis Wrestling Club. Later in the year Crockett also purchased Central States Wrestling as the NWA attempted to compete with Vince McMahon Jr. and his World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
Fittingly, the last Missouri Heavyweight Champion of that era was Harley Race. He won the title by defeating Jerry Blackwell on August 2, 1985. From Harley Race’s 1973 reign (his second) to his final reign in 1985, he would hold the title four other times. This left him with a total of seven reigns as Missouri Champ and made him the wrestler with the most reigns as champion. Others that held the title in this time period include Dory Funk Jr., Jack Brisco, Dick Slater, Ted DiBiase Sr., Dick Murdoch, Dick the Bruiser, Kevin Von Erich, Ken Patera, Kerry Von Erich, David Von Erich, and “Nature Boy” Ric Flair.
The list of Missouri Heavyweight Champions reads like a who’s who of NWA wrestlers of the era, but a new era began in 2002. Gary Jackson entered the record books as the first Missouri Heavyweight Champ of the new era by defeating Steve Stone in St. Robert, MO on July 27, 2002. The title’s tumultuous nature returned, but unlike the early 20th Century, records were kept in good standing.
Jackson was stripped of the title on June 3, 2003 due to his inability to frequently defend it, and Shane Somers stepped into the forefront as perennial Missouri Heavyweight Champion. He would win the title a total of three times in less than a year, winning it twice in one night (June 17, 2003) after Missouri State Athletic Commissioner Karl Lauer stripped him of the belt for using an illegal chokehold. He won the belt again later that night by pinning John Epperson in a tag match.
The Missouri Heavyweight Championship has changed hands in a state other than Missouri twice in its entire history, once in 2003 and once in 2005. On October 10, 2003, Ricky Murdock defeated Shane Somers in Parkersburg, WV at the NWA 55th Anniversary Show. The title was vacated a year later and then on December 7, 2005 in Lawrence, KS, Abyss defeated Tyler Cook for it.
A year later, the title was vacated once again. After a less than respectable run, the Missouri Heavyweight Championship gained a savior who goes by the name “Dingo”. Dingo won the title on January 19, 2007 in St. Joseph, MO by defeating Kraig Keesaman, Mark Sterling, and Jeremy Wyatt in a four-way scramble. As of this writing Dingo is still the champion, having held the title for over a year and a half. He’s defeated some of the top wrestlers in the Midwest, including Jeremy Wyatt, Mark Sterling, and Michael Strider. Under the NWA CSW: Missouri banner, Dingo is doing his part to bring the title back to the Harley Race standard of the 70s and 80s.
Only time will tell what the future holds for the NWA Missouri Heavyweight Championship. If the current champion and the promotion sanctioning the matches are any indication, the title will have a bright future. The title is only as strong as the promotion, champion, and his challengers, though, so here’s to a competitive future for the NWA Missouri Heavyweight Championship!
For a complete listing of NWA Missouri Heavyweight Champions, go to the Wikipedia Page at: