Tri-State Wrestling 1966 - Ranking the Towns

This week I will look at all the various weekly towns McGuirk ran in 1966 and attempt to "rank" them. Are there A towns and B towns, or is it more nuanced than that?


First, an update on my trip to Little Rock last week. I was primarily looking for clippings from Hot Springs. They do not appear to have run the town at all in 1966, but from 1967 to 1975 they did run weekly for a short period of time early in the year. This coincided with horse racing season, culminating in the Arkansas Derby held annually in April. They ran between 6 and 10 weeks a year during racing season. In 1967 they also ran weekly in the fall, but I believe that in '68 and beyond it was just run in the beginning of the year. I also got some clippings from Pine Bluff, some of which are cards that I haven't seen listed anywhere else and some of which were cards where the only info we had were Midnight Express matches, which likely came from Jim Cornette's Midnight Express book.

While I was hoping to find some clippings from Hot Springs in 1966, the fact that I didn't means that I don't need to recalculate the SPOT ratings I did previously for the year. Since I'm a bit of a perfectionist, every time we find a new town I would want to re-crunch the numbers. I did an experiment with Florida results where I calculated the SPOT ratings using most but not all of the weekly towns we have, and then re-ran them with all of the towns we have. There were no major changes, but some of the numbers did change slightly so it's worth using the largest data set as possible to calculate things.

Now it's time to calculate some new numbers. Since we have established that McGuirk was running at least 2 shows per night and likely 3 shows on many nights, what can we do to compare the different towns? What would be the best way to rank them in order of "importance"? Most of us have heard of "A towns" and "B towns", but it's probably not as simple as that.

Before I look at the ways we can calculate this, let's talk about how the promoters/bookers likely did business. On any given night, they've got 2 or 3 (or maybe even more) buildings of various sizes, and their goal generally is to sell as many tickets as possible in each building. How did they determine which venues to run on which nights? Some of it probably had to do with venue availability/cost on different nights of the week, some of it had to do with geography, and I'd be willing to bet that some of it had to do with mixing and matching things up so that the total available number of available seats on a given night was close to equal. In theory, the towns with the largest venues should have the strongest lineups. At the same time, you do need to shuffle the lineups somewhat. If Danny Hodge is your biggest draw, you can't just have him in the larger building every Tuesday night; you need to mix it up and let fans in the smaller building get to see him periodically as well.

So the first step is to come up with a way to rank these towns. There are numerous ways to do it, but as with my SPOT calculations, we are looking for the simplest way to do it that will yield meaningful results. To do a ton of extra work/calculations for only a small fine-tuning of the results is a waste of resources. So I am going to use "strength of main event" as my criteria. For every show in a town, we will look at the average yearly SPOT rating for the advertised main event participants (so if it's a singles bout, it's the average of the ratings of two wrestlers; for a tag team match, it would be the average of all four participants). Doing it this way has its flaws, as some wrestlers saw their SPOT ratings vary over the year. We previously discussed Mike Clancy as having a period of time where he was clearly de-emphasized and pushed down the cards. But again, we're just looking for a ballpark number that we can use to compare the different towns, and I think we can get what we're looking for by using the SPOT ratings for the year as a whole.

Looking at all of the weekly towns we have data for (not including New Orleans which was only run four times), here they are ranked by "strength of main event":
.860 Oklahoma City, OK
.859 Tulsa, OK
.856 Little Rock, AR
.829 Springfield, MO
.828 Wichita Falls, TX
.810 Joplin, MO
.769 Shreveport, LA
.760 Fort Smith, AR
.757 Monroe, LA
.731 Longview, TX

At first glance, two things jump out:
1) The results are pretty much what I expected going in, based on my familiarity with the lineups as well as my understanding of the territory at the time. The "southern end" of the territory was less important in 1966, as is evidenced by the Louisiana towns being towards the bottom of the list and the Oklahoma and Missouri towns being towards the top.
2) Instead of A towns and B towns, there are probably three groupings; let's call them A plus towns, A minus towns, and B towns. OKC, Tulsa and Little Rock are the A+ towns; Springfield, Wichita Falls and Joplin are the A- towns; Shreveport, Fort Smith, Monroe and Longview are the B towns.

Now that we have these numbers, we can compare and contrast them over time. I think it's fair to say that the southern end of the territory grows in importance over the years, especially once they expand into southern Louisiana and Mississippi. Short of having complete and accurate attendance data, will we be able to use these "strength of main event" rankings over time as evidence of the southern end being more important? In theory, they would start getting the stronger lineups as they're drawing better (though technically that might be a reversal of cause and effect, and they actually start drawing better hence they get stronger lineups).

Another way of looking at the towns and the relative strength of their cards is by looking at the main eventers in the territory. In theory, Danny Hodge and the Assassins should be in the A+ towns more than the B towns, but I fully would expect to see them in the B towns some of the time. The below chart looks at the wrestlers considered to be Main Eventers in 1966 (based on their SPOT ratings), and tracks how many times they were advertised for the main event in each town. Note that it only includes the towns that were run weekly throughout the entire year; Joplin (not run in the summer) and Longview (didn't start running until November) are not included.


 


Oklahoma City


Tulsa


Little Rock


Springfield


Wichita Falls


Shreveport


Fort Smith


Monroe


Danny Hodge


26


26


26


21


26


11


15


16


Assassin #1


23


26


27


26


22


6


 


1


Great Matsuda


4


3


3


3


3


 


 


 


Assassin #2


22


24


25


24


20


6


 


1


Tiny Smith


13


12


12


12


11


11


4


9


Medic I


8


7


5


5


6


9


9


11


Medic II


7


6


4


5


6


9


9


11


Chris Tolos


10


9


10


 


7


1


10


 


Big Boy Brown


6


6


6


5


5


3


 


 


Joe McCarthy


7


5


6


6


4


3


7


5


Battleship Johnson


7


8


4


6


3


10


7


6


The wrestlers are listed in descending order of their SPOT rating, and the towns are ordered by their "strength of main event" rating from left to right. Looking at this table, you can see the highest-ranked wrestlers, Danny Hodge and the Assassins for example, in main events much more often in the A+ and A- towns. As you move further down the list, the lower-ranked main eventers are wrestling fairly evenly across all the towns. If we were to look at wrestlers even further down the SPOT ratings (not listed here) like Tor Kamata, Jack Brisco and Lorenzo Parente, you would see them main eventing in the B towns more often than in the A+ and A- towns. As I hypothesized earlier in this post, the promotion split the crews up night after night in such a way that the top draws are wrestling in the A towns (i.e. larger towns/venues) more often but still occasionally go to the smaller towns.

Now that we've looked at towns, next week we will look at feuds. What are the most frequently occurring matches, and are there any discernible patterns or other info we can glean by looking at match stipulations and/or when these matches occur in different towns?

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