While they may never have crowned a world champion in their short existence, Wild West Wrestling (WWW) burned brightly for a while in Texas in the mid 80s. Today, Brian goes back in time today with his look at Ken Mantell’s promotion.
In 1986, Bill Watts was trying to go national with his Universal Wrestling Federation. (UWF) In doing so, he pulled the playbook of the WWF and Vince McMahon by poaching talent from surrounding territories in the southwest. He mainly took from his old ally World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW). He took guys like the Freebirds, Iceman King Parsons and his biggest score…longtime WCCW booker Ken Mantell.
Ken Mantell saw a bigger opportunity with the ambitious Bill Watts and the UWF. So Mantell up and quit WCCW to book for the UWF causing bad feelings between him and Fritz Von Erich. As it turned out, the UWF was hemorrhaging money and wound up selling off its assets to Jim Crockett Promotions. With Jim Crockett Jr, the new owner of the UWF, he let go several talents to trim the fat and cut costs. One of those cut loose was indeed Ken Mantell.
Out of work with the UWF and having burned bridges with WCCW…Mantell made the decision to start his own wrestling promotion to rival WCCW and take control of the Texas territory. In 1987, his rival promotion was known as Wild West Wrestling aka WWW. To fill out his roster, Mantell hired all of the talent that the UWF no longer wanted including former students of the UWF’s wrestling school and frustrated WCCW talents.
His biggest acquisition however…was longtime WCCW favorite Bill Mercer as his play by play man. To go head to head with his former employer, Ken Mantell needed a memorable wrestling venue like the Dallas Sportatorium. Mantell chose the self proclaimed world’s largest Honkytonk…restaurant/nightclub Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth.
According to former Wild West Wrestling star the late Dewey ‘Missing Link’ Robertson…..Wild West was doing pretty well in the Dallas/Fort Worth market…beating WCCW in attendance and profits. While not blowing away the competition…Wild West Wrestling was apparently at least a viable threat to WCCW.
The constant poaching of talent from places like the UWF and Wild West…along with continuing tragedies like the deaths of his son David and top star Gino Hernandez…Fritz was burned out. He made the decision take a step back and retire. Fritz put World Class Championship Wrestling up for sale. Seeing an even bigger opportunity…Ken Mantell bought into WCCW with a 40 % share…the remaining and ultimately controlling 60% share went to his sons Kevin and Kerry Von Erich. The brothers received 30% each….the only caveat to the deal with Mantell was he couldn’t allow certain former WCCW wrestlers who burned bridges back into the promotion…ie Fabulous Lance (Formerly known as Lance Von Erich)
With Mantell now co owning WCCW and still in control of its rival Wild West Wrestling…Mantell used the more established WCCW as the A show while using WWW as the B show….much like Raw and Smackdown of today. Eventually, with business not doing as well…Mantell cut costs by merging both talent pools of WCCW and WWW into one promotion.
In the end…..Wild West Wrestling never crowned a heavyweight champion in its short existence…only tag team champions and it would disappear from fans memories.