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A Tale of Two Photos

In 1950 Louisville wrestling promoter Francis McDonogh signed an agreement with WHAS TV to broadcast live professional wrestling in Louisville from the Columbia Gym on Fourth Street. McDonogh had been offered television a few years earlier, but he was reluctant to sign on fearing (as many promoters did) that television would cut into the live audience.

TV did not hurt the live crowds in Louisville any more than it had elsewhere in the country. Not only did TV bring more fans to the live events, wrestling proved to be the catalyst for many in the Louisville area to purchase their first television.

The two photos below were taken when McDonogh signed the deal with WHAS TV. The first photo appeared in the February 12, 1950 edition of the Courier-Journal when the TV deal was announced.

The photo below came from the personal collection of Dr. Gary McDonogh, Francis’s son. Same location, same faces. A fun “behind the scenes” look at this solemn and seminal moment in Louisville sports history.

WHAS carried live wrestling from the Columbia Gym sponsored by Fehr’s Beer for an hour every Tuesday night for more than three years, ending the run in the fall of 1953. Sadly no tape exists of this show because WHAS did not tape anything until just a few years later.

Read the full story of the Allen Athletic Club and the WHAS TV run in Louisville’s Greatest Show, now in print on Amazon.com.

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On Sale Tomorrow!

Louisville’s Greatest show is a labor of love that is truly four years in the making. When I started digging deep into Louisville’s rich wrestling history for Bluegrass Brawlers, I had no trouble finding stories about the OVW and Memphis years, but it was the “golden age” from 1935-1957 that fascinated me most. While I barely scratched the surface when I wrote Bluegrass Brawlers, Louisville’s Greatest Show will give you a year by year account of the Allen Athletic Club – the wrestlers, the shows, and the city that hosted them both.

In addition to the year by year account of the promotion and owners Heywood Allen and Francis S. McDonogh, Louisville’s Greatest Show also features more than twenty profiles of local and national wrestling stars, including:

Indiana University wrestling coach Billy Thom

Lord Patrick Lansdowne

Blacksmith Pedigo

Hall of Fame Hydroplane racer Wild Bill Cantrell

Kid Scotty Williams

Hans Schnabel

Kentucky Athletic Commissioner Johnson S. Mattingly

The legendary Wild Bill Longson

“Cousin Alviry” Elvira Snodgrass

Fred Blassie, before he was “classy”

Promoter’s wife Betty McDonogh

Chicago Bears star Fred Davis

Sgt. Buck Moore of the Louisville Police

Colonel Stu Gibson

WHAS sports director Jimmy Finegan

Ed “Strangler” Lewis

Mel Meiners

“The Black Panther” Jim Mitchell

Louisville police detective and ref Ellis Joseph

Ring announcer George Lewis

Wee Willie Davis

Louisville’s Greatest Show is the story of a city that loved wrestling and the men and women who made wrestling a Tuesday night tradition. The book is filled with never-before-published photos and stories you won’t find anywhere else.

Louisville’s Greatest Show will be available on Amazon.com and other online retailers this weekend!

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No More Rasslin’ on WHAS: 1953

A few months ago I posted a story here about how WHAS began broadcasting live wrestling from the Columbia Gym in Louisville. The show went on the air in the spring of 1950 and was abruptly canceled in September of 1953. Turns out there was a reason for the show’s sudden disappearance.

The weekly wrestling program presented by the Allen Athletic Club was the highest rated show in the Louisville television market, much to the delight of sponsor Fehr’s Brewery and much to the dismay of the so-called defenders of good taste. Those who longed to see the show yanked from the air got their wish thanks to an on-air interview not with a wrestler, but with a fan.

WHAS sports director Jimmy Finegan, who called the action during the weekly program, would interview fans about the action in between bouts. One week, a fan who was upset over the actions of a negligent referee became a little too colorful with his language, and as it turns out… that was that.

The Allen Athletic Club had a brief run on WAVE-TV a few years later when they ran on Friday nights, but it only lasted a few months. One of the aforementioned defenders of good taste wrote a scathing article for the Courier-Journal in 1961, celebrating the demise of professional wrestling on the local air waves so many years before. Little did he know that Memphis would come to town nine years later, making live and televised wrestling bigger than ever in the River City.

Incidentally, Fehr’s Beer is poised to make a comeback in the Louisville area just a few weeks from now. A recent post on their Facebook page promised that the first batch of Fehr’s XL, made from the original recipe, will be available shortly after Thanksgiving.

You can read the original story about wrestling on WHAS by clicking here.