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Tri-State Wrestling 1966 - Title Histories

This post will look at the championships that were active in the territory in 1966, and attempt to put together a list of title changes.

Before we begin, it's very important to understand that putting together a singular, complete, accurate title history for most any territory is virtually impossible. Sometimes they ran angles where a title would be held up due to a disputed finish in one town, and it was only acknowledged in that town. Same goes for quickie title switches that may be specific to one town. Furthermore, I've noticed sometimes the newspaper "goes into business for themselves" when writing out the results. If a challenger wins a title match by dq, the paper might just go ahead and assume that the winner is the new champ, when that usually isn't the case. And sometimes titles changed hands in different towns on the loop, i.e. Wrestler X will defeat Wrestler Y to win the title on Monday, then on Tuesday Wrestler Y will come out with the belt announced as champion, but lose again to Wrestler X who then "wins" the title. Most title histories will use the earliest date of these title switches. And sometimes different people will interpret the wording/phrasing of newspaper results differently. So if the title histories I list below don't quite match up with one you see elsewhere, it doesn't mean either one is "wrong".

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We'll start with the World's Junior Heavyweight title. While this was a World title recognized by the NWA, at this point in time it was the primary singles title in the territory. There appear to have been a handful of defenses outside the territory during the year, one in Denver and a couple in East Texas. But the majority of title defenses happened here. The champion at the beginning on 1966 was Danny Hodge ... except in Little Rock. Hodge defended the title there against Lorenzo Parente on November 24th, 1965 and Parente won the match "on a disqualification as Hodge lay helplessly tied up in the ring ropes". The newspaper then slightly clarifies that confusing result, saying Hodge was "counted out as he lay tangled in the ring ropes." The title was announced as being held up by the State Athletic Commission pending a ruling by the NWA. On December 7th, Parente was billed as champion in Little Rock and defended the title against Hodge, with Hodge winning by disqualification. On December 14th, the two were rematched, with the paper saying both men laid claim to the title. This match had no decision. On December 28th, Hodge beat Joe McCarthy in a match with no rules and no referee (which generally means the ref was stationed outside the ring and would only enter to count pinfalls). It is unclear if this was a title match, and no mention was made of Hodge being champion (or of NOT being champion). Finally, on January 4th, 1966, Hodge faced Parente in a match with the ring surrounded by a steel fence, with the paper stating this match is how the "rightful champion" would be crowned. Hodge won that match, so as of January 4th he was recognized as champion throughout the territory. It should also be noted that between November 24th and January 4th, Hodge defended the title in most of the other towns in the territory, while Parente was not listed as champion anywhere else.

On January 7th in Oklahoma City, Parente defeated Hodge in a title match, with the paper saying Parente won the title. I don't believe this to be the case; it seems like they were going to do something similar to what they did in Little Rock back in November.

On January 14th, Parente defeated Hodge again in Oklahoma City. This is recognized as a title change, and may not have been planned until the day of the match. Earlier that morning (or perhaps later the night before; I'm not sure of the time), Hodge was injured in a car accident. During the match, Hodge collapsed (I'm not sure if this was part of the match or legit) and couldn't continue. Parente was awarded the match by default and given the championship. The following week, matches with Parente were not billed as title matches, though many of the newspapers acknowledged the title change. Hodge was still advertised as defending the title on January 17th in Shreveport and January 18th in Monroe LA. After the 18th, Hodge was out of action for over a month. Parente's first advertised title match took place on January 24th in Tulsa.

On February 11th in Oklahoma City, Joe McCarthy defeated Parente to win the title. The following week, Parente was advertised for several title defenses in newspaper ads, but McCarthy replaced him in those matches to defend the title.

On May 3rd in Little Rock, Hodge beat McCarthy to regain the title. The newspaper said this was the first time the title changed hands in Little Rock.

Assassin #1 (I believe this was Tom Renesto; Tom was teaming with Jody Hamilton as The Assassins and most sources list Renesto as #1 and Hamilton as #2 at this time) won the belt from Danny Hodge on ... well, I'm not sure. Here's what we know: The Assassins had left the territory earlier in the year, and #1's first night back appears to be November 4th. On November 9th, the Springfield MO paper says #1 beat Hodge to win the title "this past Saturday night", which would have been the 5th. On November 10th, the Wichita Falls TX paper says #1 won the title "Tuesday in Oklahoma City". There was no show in OKC that Tuesday (which would have been the 8th). On November 28th, the Shreveport LA paper says #1 won the title "two weeks ago". On December 20th, the Little Rock paper says #1 won the title "several weeks ago on TV". Since it was a televised match, it likely aired in different markets at different times, so each town might list the change as occurring when it aired in their market, as opposed to when the match was actually taped.

Hodge regained the title from Assassin #1 on December 19th in Tulsa. And on December 20th in Little Rock. And on December 21st in Springfield. And on December 22nd in Wichita Falls. In Springfield and Little Rock, Hodge's wins were by disqualification but the paper still said it was a title change. In Wichita Falls, the newspaper ad for the match says the disqualification rule was waived. That means if the champion is disqualified he would lose the title. So it's possible that stip was in effect in the other towns as well, and Hodge winning by DQ would still be a title win.

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Next we'll look at the U.S. Tag Team titles. At the beginning of 1966, the titles were vacant; the previous champs Jack & Jim Dalton had left the territory in the fall. A tournament was held to crown new champions, and like the Hodge-Assassin #1 title change that happened in several towns on the loop, this tournament repeated itself in different cities. The tournament generally took place over three weeks, with Hodge & Tiny (Grizzly) Smith winning a first round match and the Assassins facing Great (Hiro) Matsuda & Krusher (Stan) Kowalski in the other first round match with no winner. Those two teams would be rematched the following week, again with no winner. This led to a tournament final involving three teams. Two teams would start out facing each other in a regular tag match, the losers of the fall would leave the ring and would be replaced by the third team, and so on until one team won three falls. The Assassins won the match and the vacant titles. This scenario played out in five cities, with the "finals" in Oklahoma City on May 6th, Tulsa on May 9th, Little Rock on the 10th, Springfield on the 11th and Wichita Falls on the 12th.

The Assassins left the territory in late May, but the titles were not held up. Later in the year, it was announced that The Assassins would be returning, and tag team matches that were taking place would help establish top contenders for the titles. They returned in November (with Assassin #1 coming in a week before #2).

On December 7th in Springfield MO, Jack Brisco & Eddie Sullivan beat The Assassins by disqualification, with the paper saying that Brisco & Sullivan won the titles. The following week in Springfield, the teams were rematched, with the paper now saying the title was "disputed" after the previous week's finish. The Assassins won the rematch, with the paper saying they "regained" the titles. It should be noted that The Assassins defended the title at least twice in other towns in between these two matches, so if the title were indeed disputed or held up, it seems to be an angle only for Springfield.

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A third title was in play in the territory, but it was only acknowledged in Joplin MO. Jack Brisco was billed as the Missouri State champion on December 4th, 1965 and again on January 15th, 1966. Lorenzo Parente beat Brisco on the 15th to win the title. This was the night after he beat Hodge for the World's Junior Heavyweight title. While Parente wrestled in singles matches several times in Joplin during the spring, they are not listed as title defenses. On April 23rd, he did defend the title against Ramon Torres. I don't have results for this match, but some sources list this as a title change. The promotion did not run Joplin during the summer months, and by the time they started running again in late September, Torres had left the territory. Brisco was once again billed as champion on September 17th, but I have no information as to how that came about. There are no title defenses the rest of the year, but in January 1967 Brisco is still billed as champion, though it is now called the Missouri State Junior Heavyweight title.

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There were a few other nationally recognized titles defended in the territory during the year. The NWA World Heavyweight title, though, was not one of them. Gene Kiniski defeated Lou Thesz to win the title in January, but Kiniski did not come here at all during the year. Thesz had defended the title against Danny Hodge on December 10th, 1965 in Oklahoma City.

The Fabulous Moolah defended the World Women's title on three known occasions here during the year. On October 13th in Wichita Falls, she faced Betty Bouche. On 10/15 in Joplin she faced Judy Grable. On 10/20 in Wichita Falls she faced Donna Christantello. I don't have results for any of these matches, but assume that Moolah didn't lose the title in any of them.

On January 28th, Bob Geigel and Pat O'Connor, who were not regulars in the territory, were booked against one another in Joplin. The match was billed as being for O'Connor's U.S. Heavyweight title, and the result of the match is unknown.

When the promotion ran a few shows in New Orleans in August and September, they brought in Dory Dixon and Tiger Conway Sr. Dixon was billed as defending the U.S. Negro championship against Conway on September 7th and again on the 22nd. I have no results for either of these matches.

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