As Vince McMahon rode roughshod over the old territories during the eighties as he made the WWF the global sensation it is today, he unsurprisingly made a number of enemies along the way, even when he went into business with a promoter. In this piece we look at one of those business relationships, one that some believe inspired the creation of SummerSlam.
Paul Boesch was pro wrestler and an announcer but he was most famous for being a truly successful promoter in the Houston, Texas territory from the 1960’s to the late 1980’s. Boesch had a profitable territory mainly because Boesch believed in honesty and integrity while dealing with both his wrestlers and his fan base. Boesch loved to promote the top stars, mainly world champions to his territory. Houston wrestling became a hotbed for professional wrestling for many years.
Boesch had working agreements with top promotions such as the NWA, Jim Crockett Promotions, Mid South/UWF and World Class Championship Wrestling. All the big stars of his era, wanted to wrestle in Boesch’s territory because Boesch had a profitable product. When the 1980’s rolled in, things began to change for Boesch and Houston wrestling.
In 1981, NWA world champion Harley Race no showed an event in Houston despite being heavily promoted. Boesch was so upset, he decided to back out of his NWA membership and promote solo. Boesch would go on to work with other territories mainly Bill Watts Mid South territory later to become the Universal Wrestling Federation aka UWF.
His relationship with Bill Watts would also turn sour as Watts would sell his UWF promotion to Jim Crockett Jr. without informing him of the sale. Boesch was a promoter who liked to book cards months in advance and when the UWF was sold, Boesch had to change cards without advance warning. The other issue was with Crockett himself. Jim Crockett decided to no longer book shows in Boesch’s territory, so Boesch was without a steady flow of new talent to help gates for his show’s at the old Sam Houston Coliseum.
It was at that point, in 1987, that Paul Boesch made a deal that shocked many old school Houston Wrestling fans. Boesch decided to go into business with Vince McMahon and his nationally expanding World Wrestling Federation. We have in the past discussed “Black Saturday” where the WWF bought time on Ted Turner’s super station WTBS. This in many ways, was similar to that disastrous experiment with almost the same results but with a lot less fanfare.
On April 11th, 1987 when fans tuned into KHTV channel 39 expecting to see the UWF, they were instead informed by Boesch that he was now promoting for the WWF. On that show, Boesch “put over” the tremendous success of Wrestlemania III and announced a huge WWF card coming to the Sam Houston Coliseum on May 15th of that year. For many old school Houston wrestling fans, it was culture shock to see and hear Boesch glowingly talk about the WWF’s product.
The new partnership between Houston Wrestling and the WWF would not last long at all. It only lasted for about 4 months to be exact. The reasons according to Boesch himself was that card on May 15th at the Sam Houston Coliseum. Of all the matches promoted for that night, the WWF substituted 8 wrestlers with different wrestlers. A big no no to Boesch who believed in giving fans what he promised them.
Many believed that the WWF intentionally did the substitutions for that card to undermine Boesch. Vince McMahon really didn’t want a partnership with Boesch, all he ever wanted was his territory in Houston. To dissolve the agreement he had with McMahon and the WWF, Boesch made the announcement that he was retiring as a promoter. So on August 28th, 1987, the WWF held a Paul Boesch retirement show in Houston, Texas.
The show was a sellout and was a tremendous success with matches advertised actually taking place and a huge retirement ceremony for Boesch. Many were in attendance included Ernie Ladd, Sputnik Monroe, Stu Hart and Verne Gagne. The show was such a financial success for the WWF, it is believed that it gave McMahon the idea to continue to run a “Super Show” around the same time every year. Hence, SummerSlam was believed to have been conceived that night.
It wouldn’t take long for Paul Boesch to swerve everyone and announce that he was returning to pro wrestling and made a deal with Vince McMahon’s adversary Jim Crockett Jr. In 1988, Boesch and Crockett began a short term business relationship where Crockett’s stars would wrestle in Houston including a big United States title tournament. Boesch would also have an on air role as member of the NWA board of directors.
This relationship didn’t last long either as Jim Crockett sold his promotion to Ted Turner and in 1989, Boesch passed away from a heart attack.