Roy Shire
C. C. Colton
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Promoter Roy Shire Wrestling Programs 1971-1978 San Francisco Cow Palace & Sacramento Memorial Auditorium

1971
1971 03-03 Memorial Auditorium front.jpg


1971
1971 03-03 Memorial Auditorium rear.jpg


1971
1971 03-17 Memorial Auditorium front.jpg


1971
1971 03-17 Memorial Auditorium rear.jpg


1971
1971 03-31 Memorial Auditorium front.jpg


1971
1971 03-31 Memorial Auditorium rear.jpg


1971
1971 04-14 Memorial Auditorium front.jpg


1971
1971 04-14 Memorial Auditorium rear.jpg


1971
1971 04-28 Memorial Auditorium front.jpg


1971
1971 04-28 Memorial Auditorium rear.jpg


1971
1971 05-08 Cow Palace front.jpg


1971
1971 05-08 Cow Palace rear.jpg


1971
1971 05-12 Memorial Auditorium front.jpg


1971
1971 05-12 Memorial Auditorium rear.jpg


1971
1971 05-26 Memorial Auditorium front.jpg


1971
1971 05-26 Memorial Auditorium rear.jpg


1971
1971 06-05 Cow Palace front.jpg


1971
1971 06-05 Cow Palace rear.jpg


1971
1971 06-19 Cow Palace front.jpg


1971
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1971
1971 07-10 Cow Palace front.jpg


1971
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1971
1971 07-31 Cow Palace front.jpg


1971
1971 07-31 Cow Palace rear.jpg


1971
1971 08-11 Memorial Auditorium front.jpg


1971
1971 08-11 Memorial Auditorium rear.jpg


1971
1971 08-14 Cow Palace front.jpg


1971
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1971
1971 09-22 Memorial Auditorium front.jpg


1971
1971 09-22 Memorial Auditorium rear.jpg


1971
1971 10- 27 Memorial Auditorium front.jpg


1971
1971 10- 27 Memorial Auditorium rear.jpg


1971
1971 11- Cow Palace front.jpg


1971
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1971
1971 11-06 Cow Palace front.jpg


1971
1971 11-06 Cow Palace rear.jpg


1971
1971 12-04 Cow Palace front.jpg


1971
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1971
1971 12-26 Cow Palace front.jpg


1971
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1972
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1972
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1972
1972 02-12 Cow Palace front.jpg


1972
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1972
1972 03-04 Cow Palace front.jpg


1972
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1972
1972 03-18 Cow Palace front.jpg


1972
1972 03-18 Cow Palace rear.jpg


1972
1972 06-03 Cow Palace front.jpg


1972
1972 06-03 Cow Palace rear.jpg


1972
1972 11- Memorial Auditorium front.jpg


1972
1972 11- Memorial Auditorium rear.jpg


1972
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1972
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1972
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1972
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1972
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1972
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1972
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1972
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1972
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1972
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1972
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1972
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1973
1973 01-27 Cow Palace front.jpg


1973
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1973
1973 03- Cow Palace front.jpg


1973
1973 03- Cow Palace rear.jpg


1973
1973 03-06 Stockton front.jpg


1973
1973 03-06 Stockton rear.jpg


1973
1973 03-09 Cow Palace front.jpg


1973
1973 03-09 Cow Palace rear.jpg


1973
1973 03-21 Memorial Auditorium front.jpg


1973
1973 03-21 Memorial Auditorium rear.jpg


1973
1973 04-07 Cow Palace front.jpg


1973
1973 04-07 Cow Palace rear.jpg


1973
1973 06-09 Cow Palace front.jpg


1973
1973 06-09 Cow Palace rear.jpg


1973
1973 07-28 Cow Palace front.jpg


1973
1973 07-28 Cow Palace rear.jpg


1973
1973 09-22 Memorial Auditorium front.jpg


1973
1973 09-22 Memorial Auditorium rear.jpg


1973
1973 10-13 Memorial Auditorium front.jpg


1973
1973 10-13 Memorial Auditorium rear.jpg


1974
1974 01-23 Memorial Auditorium front.jpg


1974
1974 01-23 Memorial Auditorium rear.jpg


1974
1974 03-09 Cow Palace front.jpg


1974
1974 03-09 Cow Palace rear.jpg


1974
1974 05-18 Cow Palace front.jpg


1974
1974 05-18 Cow Palace rear.jpg


1975
1975 01- front.jpg


1975
1975 01- rear.jpg


1975
1975 01-08 Memorial Auditorium front.jpg


1975
1975 01-08 Memorial Auditorium rear.jpg


1975
1975 04- front.jpg


1975
1975 04- rear.jpg


1975
1975 12-06 Cow Palace front.jpg


1975
1975 12-06 Cow Palace rear.jpg


1976
1976 03-24 Memorial Auditorium front.jpg


1976
1976 03-24 Memorial Auditorium rear.jpg


1976
1976 11- front.jpg


1976
1976 11- rear.jpg


1977
1977 09-17 Cow Palace front.jpg


1977
1977 09-17 Cow Palace rear.jpg


1978
1978 02- Cow Palace front.jpg


1978
1978 02- Cow Palace rear.jpg


unknown
unknown date Cow Palace 1 front.jpg


unknown
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unknown
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unknown
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unknown
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unknown
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unknown
unknown date Cow Palace 4 front.jpg


unknown
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unknown
unknown date Memorial Auditorium 1 front.jpg


unknown
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unknown
unknown date Memorial Auditorium 2 front.jpg


unknown
unknown date Memorial Auditorium 2 rear.jpg



Promoter Roy Shire Wrestling Programs 1971-1978 San Francisco Cow Palace & Sacramento Memorial Auditorium

9/7

 

Representative Roy Shire Cards, 1971-1977

1971-03-03
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1971-03-17
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1971-03-31
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1971-04-14
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1971-04-28
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1971-05-08
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1971-05-12
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1971-05-26
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1971-06-05
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1971-06-19
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1971-07-10
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1971-07-31
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1971-08-11
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1971-08-14
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1971-09-22
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1971-10
1971-10.jpg


1971-10-27
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1971-11-06
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1971-12-04
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1971-12-26
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1972-01
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1972-02-12
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1972-03-04
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1972-03-18
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1972-06-03
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1973-01-27
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1973-03
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1973-03-06
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1973-03-09
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1973-03-21
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1973-04-07
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1973-06-09
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1973-07-28
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1974-03-09
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1974-05-18
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1975-01-08
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1975-12-06
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1976-03-24
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1977-09-17
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Representative Roy Shire Cards, 1971-1977

1

Wrestler Artists
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN HONEST PROFESSIONAL MATCH. FORMER WRESTLER TAKES DOWN SPORT

(Sacramento Bee, April 24, 1984)

By Bill Conlin

HE WEARS $600 alligator boots, and he runs Hereford cattle on 1,100 Sonoma County acres near Sebastapol. Long ago, he ceased to be a mere millionaire, having attained multi-status through diversified real estate, which includes property in Fair Oaks and apartments in South Sacramento. The 57-year-old tycoon is Roy Shire, who spent 11 years as a wrestler and 22 years as a promoter-booking agent with territory that included Sacramento, San Francisco's Cow Palace, Fresno, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Honolulu, Anchorage, Samoa and the Fiji Islands.

Shire, with an AB in business administration from Northwestern University, is matter-of-fact about his financial success. He blandly says, There isn't a guy in the United States with a wrestling territory who isn't a millionaire.

He tells of rassling riches with the same forthrightness that he discusses the game's phony aspects.

There is no such thing as an honest professional match, he sets forth. There's not one for real. You hear people say that in the old days Strangler Lewis and Jimmy Londos were on the square. Bullbleep! Before the old-timers walked in the ring, they knew who was to win.

SHIRE HAS TURNED his back against the racket that made him rich, and he tells why.

I was back-stabbed by a couple guys I thought were my friends. They didn't keep their word to me. I defended wrestling for 33 years, but why should I defend guys who sold me out?

Two of them are promoting in California. One is Vern Gagne of Minneapolis, who uses Leo Nomellini as his front man. The other is Vince McMahon Sr., of Connecticut, whose son is promoting in Los Angeles and San Diego with Mike LaBell as his front.

These two are in California now, and if I can stomp on 'em I will. They stomped on me.

Two more reasons entered into Shire's retirement. He suffered a heart attack in 1980, and his last promotion was a battle royal at the Cow Palace in January 1981. It drew $64,000, he said. I went out with a bang.

Finally, related Shire, A wrestling promoter is very vulnerable to television. Once they cancel you, you're done unless you can find another station. Sometimes you can't. I was always vulnerable in Sacramento because Jack Matranga at Channel 40 thought we tarnished his image. I thought, on the contrary, we helped put over the station in its early days.

THESE DAYS performers needn't know how to wrestle, said Shire, but they require two attributes, which he describes as a great body and being good on the stick. The latter means the ability to go on a TV mike and smoke up a forthcoming match.

Yeah, it's all acting, he said, and most of the boys are intelligent fellows, half of them college graduates. But they don't make the money people think they do. I used to tell people they took down $200,000 to $250,000 a year, but I was lying. The few that do, you can count on one hand. Most of the preliminary guys are in a $20,000 to $30,000 bracket. The top main-eventers go to $50,000 if they keep busy, and a few make $100,000.

A lot of the boys are getting tangled up on drugs, but it's mostly popping pills and marijuana. There's no wide use of cocaine. It's too expensive.

I used to tell my people if they wanted to pop pills, go ahead and pop 'em. But if I catch you, you're gone the next day. How'd it look for myself and the game if you get arrested and draw headlines? Still, I admit there was temptation. These guys are on the road every night, tired, and they want a lift. Sometimes it's sex or drugs. Sometimes it's booze.

SHIRE WAS RELUCTANT to single out gay wrestlers, although conceding they were in small minority and one had starred in Sacramento.

A curious case, and taking advantage of public gullibility, was Gorgeous George, who was a straight but capitalized on his charade.

I knew him well and wrestled him a dozen times, said Shire. His real name was George Wagner. He [Gorgeous George] made millions but died a pauper in Southern California. His wife divorced him and he lost on a turkey ranch. But his weaknesses were gambling and the bottle. He'd go to Las Vegas and blow $20,000 or $30,000 each trip.

Shire ran his territory with what he describes as an iron hand. Nobody bleeped with my territory, he said, and I made my own rules. I had my own U.S. championship, which I gave first to Ray Stevens, who was the best card I ever had. Then when he wore out I gave the title to Paul DeMarco.

Another innovation by Shire involved separate cars for heels (wrestling's term for villains) and baby faces (the good guys). They used to get together, four or five in one car, heroes and villains, said Shire. I made 'em split up. So when they came up from San Francisco to Sacramento, they all weren't in the same car. It didn't look right.

TOMORROW: Controlling the referee.

(See column on right)
Midget Wrestlers
From the Gordon Solie Collection
used with written permission

This interesting colage is from Roy Shire's early days in wrestling as "The Professor." Its origin is unknown. If you can identify the artist or place of publication of this drawing please contact us.

We highly recommend the book
Gordon Solie...Something Left Behind by Pamela and Robert Allyn (Pamela is Gordon Solie's daughter).

The authors have included so much more than we expected from reading the early reviews. They have artistically woven together prose, philosophy, poetry and photography, making it very difficult to put the book down, and with every purusal one discovers a new and rich insight.
Something Left Behind will stand as a timeless tribute to the breath and depth of Gordon Solie's talent and character and is an enriching companion to Master of the Ring.
Announcer Hank Renner
WRESTLING PROMOTER SAYS HE RIGGED MEMORIAL MATCHES



(Sacramento Bee, April 25, 1984)

By Bill Conlin

IN THE BIZARRE world of wrestling, every match is rigged, as veteran promoter Roy Shire now is willing to admit. Shire, 57, who controlled the professional game for 20 years from Fresno to the Oregon line, will go further. He says he framed all his matches, including those in Sacramento's Memorial Auditorium, with the connivance of the state's referees.

All the referees knew what went on, said Shire. True, they got their licenses from the California Athletic Commission, but I assigned them.

Let's take Sacramento. I had four referees on call, and I alternated them so they'd all make equal money.

Before the show, I'd go over each match with the two wrestlers and the referee. We'd frame the finish, and the referee would be told the bout would end with a backbreaker hold or maybe a Boston crab.

I'd tell the referee exactly how the falls would go, and how much time would be involved. If the referee didn't do his job and contribute to the show, he'd get a week off. And then if he couldn't do the finishes right, I wouldn't want him around at all.

Hank Renner, my announcer, also was wise to the fixes. And, of course, the studio guys at Channel 40 were aware. They had to be when they'd see fellows, who were supposed to be feuding, leave arm in arm. I was the guilty one. I'd build feuds on TV. I loved feuds. There's money in 'em.

SHIRE ADMITS to another wrestling enthusiasm, and this one involves blood. You give the customers enough blood, he says, and you'll draw nothing but money. Some wrestlers fill a small balloon with blood and hide it in their mouth. When they're hit, they let it smear their face and swallow the balloon. On head injuries, a lot of fans think we're smuggling catsup into the ring. But it's real blood. Know how we get it? It's a fragment of razor blade which you can hide in your trunks, or put in your mouth, or put under some tape on your finger.

It's all done with a blade. We call it a Gillette job. A small nick on the forehead will bleed up a storm, and the scratch will heal in a couple of days.

Shire likes to tell of one Memorial Auditorium match when he had lots of blood plus a referee's connivance.

I had Rocky Johnson going against Paul DeMarco, and DeMarco was pounding at Rocky's bleeding cut, which looked worse than it actually was. Then Rocky revived himself and carried the bout to DeMarco. Finally, the referee stepped in, looked at Rocky's cut and said it was too bad to continue, making DeMarco the winner. Then the riot started.

Next week I advertised a rematch with a new rule: no stopping for blood. I turned 'em away. In California we wrote our own rules, and no-stopping-for-blood was just one of the angles we used.

SHIRE'S COPOUT on wrestling chicanery stems from a feud with Vern Gagne of Minnesota and Vince McMahon Sr., of Connecticut, who have moved into California promotion with front men at San Francisco (Leo Nomellini) and Los Angeles (Mike LaBell). They dumped on me, says Shire of his former associates, and now it's my turn to dump on them.

He delights in another Memorial Auditorium episode when Red Bastien was matched for the "championship" against Vern Stevens. Alas, Bastien had been lifting weights in the afternoon, strained his back and could barely walk.

I told Bastien he had to go on, said Shire. There was no way I was going to tell the fans they could have their money back, which is a state rule if the main event falls apart.

So we propped up Bastien and more or less carried him into the ring. At least we got him up on the apron. Then while Hank Renner is announcing the match is for the U.S. title, Stevens leaps across the ring and attacks Bastien from behind. Red goes down and is hurting, but you learn to take a little pain in this business.

The bell rings, and Red comes out limping, which is natural and not a put-on. The ref stops the bout, we call an ambulance, and stretcher Red out of the ring. I had Bastien lie in the hospital for three or four days, and that was expensive, but I had another sellout in the rematch. That sure beat giving half the fans their money back.

THERE WAS a sequel to the Stevens-Bastien postponement. Roy Tennison, then in the Athletic Commission office, went on television and said Bastien had not been hurt.

I said Tennison was a damn liar, declares Shire. He hated wrestling with a passion and was always trying to hurt our business. Yes, I said 'damn.'

Tennison threatened to sue a San Francisco TV station if they used the tape on which I called him a liar. The station backed off, but the tape was used over Channel 40 in Sacramento.

Is dishonesty constant in wrestling? I promoted for 22 years, replies Shire, and I never put on a shooting match. There's never been one promoted.

(To shoot is to level, compete for real.)

Wrestling has a language of its own. Worker is a showman capable of top billing. A good bump is throwing an opponent into the air. Good guys are baby faces, the villains are heels. And, of course, the scenario of any bout builds to the climax or "finish."

One of the best finishes I ever saw, said Shire, with obvious respect for melodrama, was a worker who first slashed himself, then staggered, looked at his own blood, worked himself into a frenzy and fainted dead away. It was a socko finish. I didn't have the guts to use it here, but the people in Texas bought it and came back the next week for the rematch.

I don't subscribe to the theory that a sucker is born every minute. There's one born every second.
Promoter Roy Shire
Wrestler & Promoter Roy Shire Gallery of Photos
Sacramento Wrestling
Wrestler & Promoter Roy Shire

On finishing every main event: "Bring 'em [the fans] just short of a riot, then back 'em off."

"
There's money in our pockets."
Cauliflower Alley Club
Wrestler "Professor" Roy Shire

"The public buys it. I could never understand how the public could be so damned stupid."

"I don't subscribe to the theory that a sucker is born every minute. There's one born every second."
British Wrestlers
Wrestling Promoter
"Professor" Roy Shire

"It's got to be logical. It's got to make sense."
Wrestler Jack Laskin
Wrestler & Promoter "Professor" Roy Shire with singer Tony Martin

"Nobody f ***** with my territory and I made my own rules."

"These two [Verne Gagne and Vince McMahon, Sr.] are in California now, and if I can stomp on 'em I will. They stomped on me."

"They dumped on me, and now it's my turn to dump on them."
Wrestler Gorgeous George
Wrestling Promoter Roy Shire

"I used to tell my people if they wanted to pop pills, go ahead and pop 'em.
But if I catch you, you're gone the next day. How'd it look for myself and the game if you get arrested and draw headlines?"
Wrestler's Autographs
Wrestler & Promoter Roy Shire

"There isn't a guy in the United States with a wrestling territory who isn't a millionaire."

"I just ran out."

"I went out with a bang."
Roller Derby History
Wrestler & Promoter Roy Shire

"I loved feuds. There's money in 'em."

"You give the customers enough blood
and you'll draw nothing but money."

"Tell me that's not for real!"
Wrestling History Calendar
"I was always vulnerable in Sacramento because Jack
Matranga at Channel 40 thought we tarnished his image. I thought, on the contrary, we helped put over the station in its early days."

"[In Sacramento] I had four referees on call, and I alternated them so they'd all make equal money....If the referee didn't do his job and contribute to the show, he'd get a week off. And then if he couldn't do the finishes right, I wouldn't want him around at all."

Hank Renner, my announcer, also was wise to the fixes. And, of course, the studio guys at Channel 40 were aware. They had to be when they'd see fellows, who were supposed to be feuding, leave arm in arm.
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Below is a photo gallery of wrestling programs printed and sold under the auspices of famed NWA promoter Roy Shire (real name Roy Shropshire) between 1971 and 1978.

Also other pictures, articles and newspaper ads.

Fans were eager to purchase these programs at the San Francisco Cow Palace and the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, as well as the smaller venues of Stockton, Modesto, Richmond, Pleasanton, Reno and Antioch.
Below is the text of the infamous L.A. Times article in which Roy Shire exposed some of the deceptive elements ("broke kayfabe") of the pro wrestling show after his lucrative twenty year promotional run in the 1960s and 70s:

CONFESSIONS OF A PRO WRESTLING BOOKER

Professor Says He Just Got Tired of Making a Fool Out of the Public

Richard Hoffer, Times Staff Writer


Sometime in the late 1970s, Roy Shire burned out. Suddenly one of the best bookers on the West Coast couldn't think of a single finish for his wrestlers, even bad finishes for bad wrestlers. In 20 years of promoting, he'd worked all his angles, exhausted every gimmick, overused every gotta-be-a- rematch flourish. Even if the public was stupid, of which he was sure after his years in the business, he had finally grown tired trying to fool it. So when Bob Roop, one of his stars that year, came to him with an angle, Shire was ready. "Roop, he wrestled on the Olympic team once, not only a 'shooter' but a good worker," Shire says. "So he has this idea. Bring this guy from Florida that he knows out to San Francisco's Cow Palace. Build him up. The gimmick is this: Let Roop take the title, get a feud going, make people think they couldn't stand each other. Story'd be Roop hurt this guy in Florida and he's chased him here."

Well, in pro wrestling, this is not considered a real fresh angle. A feud? Couldn't stand each other? It had come to this? But as we said, he was tired choreographing all this nonsense. "I just ran out," he says. So Shire let it ride and allowed the boys to work their own angle. "Roop finally announces he'll wrestle the babyface, whose name is Kevin Sullivan," Shire says, "but only on the condition it's not for the title. If he beats him, then he'll put the title up. Been done a thousand times. OK. Now here's the part I wasn't so sure about. Kevin's been talking about his poor old dad on TV during his buildup, how he's doing it all for dad, that kind of thing. Flies him all the way in from Boston for his match with Roop. And there he is, this old gray-headed guy, I'd say about 57, sitting at ringside, cheering his son, proud and everything.”

"Kevin beats Roop, big upset. Then the father gets into the ring to raise Kevin's hand. Well, Roop comes up behind Kevin and hits him a good one and knocks him out of the ring and then, this was hard for me to believe , he does a knee break on the old guy." Shire pauses here, still awed by the memory. "Then it really got wild. I had to send all the guys in to chase Roop, and he runs. Meanwhile they're carrying the old guy out, and the word spread through the Cow Palace -- you never have to announce anything, the word just spreads -- that he's been taken to the hospital."

All in all, one of the most satisfyingly spectacular evenings in pro wrestling, ever. "We put a cast on the old guy's shoulder the next day and got some pictures taken," Shire says. "Billed the rematch for a month, packed the Cow Palace to the gills. We brought it back five times. Course, Roop and Kevin were the best of friends." What follows is the colorful confession of a con man, a guy who made a pretty good living fooling people although the work, as we've just seen, wasn't always that hard. Roy Shire, known to you as Professor Shire in the 50s when he strutted into rings wearing a gown and mortarboard, wrestling those poor little babyfaces in all the big territories, has also been both a booker and promoter on the West Coast. What he hasn't seen in pro wrestling hasn't happened.

Until Shire, a stocky man of 59 whose trademark bleached-blond hair has turned a natural white, came along with a chip on his shoulder, mad at the game, there haven't been a lot of promoters willing to describe their tricks. Oh, we knew the game wasn't exactly on the up and up ("'Up and up' Are you kidding? Even when it was supposed to be real 40 years ago it wasn't on the up and up!"). We knew the wrestlers weren't real, mortal enemies, that they weren't in as much pain a they appeared to be, that some of the holds were more theatrical than athletic, that the blood wasn't real, that -- "Hold on," says Shire, off and running, "the blood, a least, is real." Real? "We'd all have little razor blades wrapped in adhesive tape, except for a little corner. We'd get thrown into a ring post, say, we'd fumble around and blade ourselves. Just a nick really, but if you stuck it in your forehead right, you could get a lot of blood. Didn't hurt at all. Really."

When Shire was wrestling in the Texas territories there was a big call for blood. "They love blood in Texas," he says, "One week, I had to blade myself every night, just worked across my forehead, left to right.I used to tell people I had 487 stitches. I didn't. I had 70, but most of those were from when a fan hit me with chair." Shire says there's hardly a wrestler alive who doesn't carry his own blade, hidden in his trunks, in a wrapped finger, anywhere. "I used to hide mine in my mouth," he says, "but one night I almost swallowed it.You can get hurt in wrestling, you know. But only by accident." Besides blood, there is not much that is real in pro wrestling, you will not be shocked to hear. The holds are real, true. But their effects are so exaggerated that, nobody really bothers to insist that anything like wrestling is going on in there.

Some pro wrestlers, like Shire, really were wrestlers, "shooters" in the trade. Shire was a big school and AAU champion in the 1940s. It's nice to be able to wrestle, but it's hardly a qualification. "Nowadays you just have to be good with the stick (microphone) -- and be able to take the bumps," he says with some disdain for the new breed.

Shire's introduction to the game was probably the traditional one in his day. He walked into Al Haft's office back in Columbus and applied. Haft told him to strip down. Shire, who lifted weights, revealed an impressive physique. Haft wondered whether he could wrestle, so sent him upstairs to the gym for some live tussling punches.He was a real wrestler, all right. But not yet a big-time wrestler. So he spent 2½ hours every day learning to perform fly off drop kicks and assorted other basics, the kind of self-defense stuff that doesn't work as well in a dark alleys as it does before the camera. These are important skills in pro wrestling, but not moneymaking skills.

Haft had Shire wrestling in the prelims, making about $175 a week in 1950, a nice living but a long way from top billing or financial security. After about nine months, Haft sensed potential. Noticing that Shire always seemed to be reading this same textbook on "psycho-semantics," Haft hit on an angle. "How'd you like to make some real money, Roy?" Haft asked, somewhat unnecessarily. "What I'll do is make you a professor, get you a gown and a mortarboard. What's more, you're not a 'babyface' (good guy) anymore, you're a heel (you guessed it, bad guy). And I'll make you the junior-heavyweight champion."

So Shire learned to strut. "You ever strut? It's not easy." Got his mortarboard and gown and made his debut in Dayton. "I didn't think I was ready," he says. "And I was begging guys to take my place. They were laughing at me. So there I am, my first main event, and on TV, and I'm strutting into the ring. I'm trying to make people hate me and they're laughing like hell. I was so embarrassed I could hardly wrestle."

Not too embarrassed to collect his $1,000 a week paycheck, though. And this was in 1951. He became a popular attraction during wrestling's heyday, when TV was so starved for programming it put the game on in prime time. His cockiness was infuriating. He always made his opponent look better than him, but he always got his hand raised. However, it was about this time that Shire discovered that the only person to really hold the upper hand was the promoter. Shortly after Shire "won" his championship, Haft approached him with the news that, from now on, they would be splitting Shire's pay after the first $500. If Shire didn't like it, his belt was gone. It was extortion of the highest, yet most routine, order. "Well," sighs Shire, with no apparent malice, "he did give me the break."

Shire had about 10 more productive years on the circuit, moving from territory to territory as he exhausted both the promoter's and public's tolerance of his villainy. This was amazing, as he could be very difficult to get along with. He says he once tried to defect from Haft's stable but found himself blackballed across the U.S. They managed a compromise. And he nearly got himself kicked out of the Texas territory where he tried--this is about the worst thing a pro wrestler can do--to actually wrestle.

What happened there was that Baron Leone (Shire snorts, "He was no baron"), the world junior heavyweight champion came to the state to "go over" the state champion, Shire. The Baron would have to win, of course. But Shire should look decent in the loss, for the pride of the territory. "I have to put him over, which I don't mind," he says, "But the Baron says, 'I beat him in two falls.' He don't even want to let me have one fall. I say this isn't very good. I'm the Texas champion and I don't even get one fall? That hurts the whole territory."

The Baron took the first fall as planned, then went for the second, as planned. Shire was mad, though. "I've decided you're going through," he told the Baron. Shire wasn't going for it. "Now the Baron gets mad, but he don't know a hammerlock from a padlock. He tried to kick me but I bar-armed him and almost broke his arm." Texas' pride was saved, but Shire was nearly kicked out of the territory for one of the few recorded instances of real wrestling.

But Shire's time was coming to a close. He was tired, lonely and hurting. A missed drop-kick resulted in torn knee ligaments. As Texas champion, he couldn't very well take time off for surgery--what would that mean to the territory? So, he shot himself up with novocaine to continue competing. "If it started to wear off during a match," he remembers, "I'd let the other guy beat on it so a limp would look realistic." Later, the whole knee had to be reconstructed. A knife, stuck so firmly in his backside by an irate fan, that doctors had to cut it out, also persuaded him that this was not a gentleman's game. The future, as Haft had seen a long time ago, was in the promoting, not the wrestling,

You may have seen pro wrestling and acquired an appreciation for the participants' theatrics. The bombast is not easily learned. Nor is the dramatic ability. Let Sir John Gielgud play The Assassin for awhile. It may be his audience is not, uh, real tough, but then his shooting script may have some holes in it, too. Yet these guys perform. As somebody said, as a wrestler was being hauled out of a ring on a stretcher, the winner savaging the helpless corpse all the way, "Tell me that's not for real." It's a kind of genius, Buster Keaton style. The winner's long shinny up the pole where the bag of money is hanging, the loser slowly coming to, recognizing the desperate situation. And rising, amazingly, to pull his opponent back down.

And what of the cage matches, in which four tag-team wrestlers are put in a pen and the last to crawl out must leave town. Must leave town! Imagine the last guy's sad plight as his teammate--his teammate!--is crawling out, leaving this crippled hulk behind. "I'm hurt! This isn't a matter of leaving town! I need help.'' Who wouldn't go back. Whereupon he who was formerly the last guy, beats the new last guy into a bloody submission. It's exactly like real life!

Still, the real genius belongs to the booker, the man who decides not just who wins, but how. This is the man who plots the feuds, who develops the story lines, who builds the house. Who keeps pro wrestling going, in other words. The personnas are fairly easy to develop. And the ring action isn't that hard to choreograph. A good worker knows how to control the crowd, when to take his high spot, to cut meat (punch), and when to relax a little, to lean some. The wrestlers call it heat and they know when to turn it up and down.”

"The really hard part, the toughest part is figuring the finish," Shire says. "The problem is figuring what can I do that the fans will buy that will get another rematch. Say your heel is the champion, wrestling a babyface. Last fall. Your champion goes into his finishing hold and slams the baby face into the ring post. He blades himself, gets some heat up. Takes the 20-count then comes back to beat the heel, your champion. Thing is, in my territory, the ref is allowed to stop a fight on cuts. He had stopped the fight. Everybody thinks the baby face has won, but here comes the ref to announce he stopped the bout because the baby face was cut too badly to continue. Almost have a riot."

Shire goes on: "The thing to do in this case is to bring them back for the rematch, bill it: 'No stopping for blood.'''

Other finishes: Fight on the floor to a draw, run out the time limit, then come back without a time limit. "The public buys it," Shire says. "I could never understand how the public could be so damned stupid."

Then there are the injury finishes, as many of them as there are pages in "Gray's Anatomy." As a wrestler, Shire used to leave the ring in a coma pretty regularly. He read a medical text and got all the symptoms down.

"It was easy. You lie still, then act like you're coming out of it, then go a little nuts, but not quite," he says. "Depends how bad a concussion you want to have, but you might want to swallow your tongue. In fact, I was doing that once when I noticed somebody reaching down my throat with a safety pin; he was trying to get my tongue." Whoever that man is, he should get the Nobel Prize for curing concussions. Incredibly, Shire came to.

As a booker, Shire sent lots of guys to the hospital with head injuries, but "Not all the time, you don't want a pattern developing in your territory." As part of the scam, which of course would lead to a rematch, the wrestler would have to stay in the hospital at least a little while, the longer the better, for publicity purposes. Shire remembers that one of his wrestlers decided, he didn't want to spend time in the hospital, didn't want a concussion after all, and tried to come to in the ring. Shire leaped in and, in as violent terms as he could articulate, made his wrestler understand the importance of a relapse. "There's money in our pockets," he tried to explain.

Some men were gifted in this regard, others not. In Shire's circle, there was a Memphis booker who was regarded as incompetent. "He was a nice guy, but we thought of him as kind of an idiot. He had this wrestler that was real, uh, effeminate. See if you think they'd buy this in California. Effeminate wrestler puts his finishing hold on the guy, who blades himself. Effeminate wrestler sees the blood and faints. The Southern crowds always were the easiest." But there are heroes in this small and unusual circle. The booker in Montreal is Shire's hero. "See if you like this one. Babyface pins the heel, who happens to be the champ. Well, this is amazing. The referee counts one, two and then, this was even more amazing, fell over clutching his heart. Had to take him out to the hospital, of course. Sold it out the next time."

Coming soon! More action photos, publicity shots, posters, newspaper ads, clips, results and stories about Roy Shire and his hugely successful NWA wrestling promotion of the 1960's and 70's.

Also personal reminiscences from those who worked within the promotion and at the TV studios.
*note*
Most of the programs on your right, dated 1971-1974, are shown here through the generous, written permission of the photographer Mr. Viktor Berry, Attorney at Law, who holds the copyright on the images.

If you copy his pictures or text without his written permission, there will be serious legal repercussions.

Simply stated: DON'T DO IT!
Roy Shire & Louie Miller Wrestling Ad
Sacramento Union Newspaper
Sacramento Memorial Auditorium
Tuesday, January 30, 1962
Roy Shire & Louie Miller Wrestling Ad
Sacramento Union Newspaper
Sacramento Memorial Auditorium
Wednesday, January 17, 1962
Bottom row, left to right:
Kinji Shibuya, Lou Witson, Joe Blanchard, Pepper Gomez, Wilbur Snyder, Nick Bockwinkle, TV announcer Ken Lynn.

Back row, left to right:
Roy Shire, Guy Brunetti, Angelo Poffo, Bronko Lubich, Ray Stevens, Pedro Godoy [or Danny Miller?], Mitsu Arakawa, Joe Tangaro (aka Brunetti), unidentified (in sunglasses), Cowboy Bob Ellis, Balk Estes, unidentified referee [Moon Mullins?]
The photo below was taken in Indianapolis shortly before Roy Shire moved to the San Francisco area to run opposition to the Joe Malciewicz territory. He brought many of the wrestlers pictured below with him.

The picture appears here courtesy of Robert Allyn and Pamela Solie Allyn, authors of
Gordon Solie...Something Left Behind, a must read for Golden Age wrestling enthusiasts.
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