The Kansas City Chiefs are going to the Super Bowl, and Steve Cook takes a look at the city’s Top 5 pro wrestlers!
Super Bowl LIV will mark the first time in fifty years that the Kansas City Chiefs will play for the NFL Championship. While KC has a proud football history & fans dedicated as any in the sport, it often gets overlooked in favor of cities with more successful teams over the years.
I feel there’s a parallel between Kansas City’s relationship with football and its relationship with pro wrestling. While Kansas City was home to one of the longest-running territories and has been a frequent stop on the WWE schedule for decades, it isn’t held in the same regard as other great wrestling markets like New York City, Chicago, or even St. Louis.
Today, we try to amend that by looking back at the Top 5 Kansas City Wrestlers. For the purposes of this list, we’re considering wrestlers originally or billed from the Kansas City area and wrestlers that spent a majority of their active career in the area.
5. “Bulldog” Bob Brown
Brown, the Winnipeg-born grappler that reminded a lot of people of Gene Kiniski, was a 19-time Central States Champion during his lengthy stay as the Kansas City territory’s booker during the 1970s & 80s. KC wrestling viewers saw a lot of people come and go. The Bulldog was one of the very few constants. He might not have been the top guy anywhere else, so it was a good thing he found the one spot he could be.
4. King Corbin
There’s a lot of debate these days on whether or not Baron Corbin is a main event talent. Let’s be honest: only one man’s opinion on who should be a main eventer in WWE counts. Vince McMahon likes Corbin so much that the 2019 King of the Ring winner has been a focal point of WWE programming for the last two years. Some people won’t like it, and some people will like it because they accept whatever Vince tells them to accept.
Baron, to his credit, has learned from the best. His new status as King and a barbecue chef on social media is quite reminiscent of somebody appearing later in this column.
3. Orville Brown
The National Wrestling Alliance has always done a fine job honoring its past. They help keep the names of the likes of Lou Thesz, Pat O’Connor & Jack Brisco alive. However, there is one important name they’ve overlooked over the years. No matter who’s ran the NWA, they’ve tended to overlook the man that was the very first NWA Champion, who passed the torch to Thesz.
Brown was an immediate phenom. Not long into his career he was holding his own with the likes of Jim Londos & Ed “Strangler” Lewis. He became the standard bearer for the Midwest Wrestling Alliance, which became the direct predecessor of the National Wrestling Alliance after other promoters from across the country joined the group. Brown held the NWA title for the first year & a half of its existence until an automobile accident forced him into retirement. Brown would continue in the business, creating the promotion that set up shop in Kansas City & the surrounding area from the late 1940s until the late 1980s.
2. Bob Orton Sr. & Jr.
We all know that the third generation Orton hails from St. Louis. His father & grandfather were from a place a little further west on the map. Orton Sr. attained fame all across the Midwest, holding the NWA Central States title two times, the AWA Midwest title two times, and numerous tag team championships with different partners. He also did well in Florida, and had multiple stints with Vince McMahon Sr’s Capitol Wrestling Corporation & WWWF.
The Ace, Cowboy Bob Orton Jr. started out in Florida with his father and immediately demonstrated an aptitude for the sport. Orton wound up wrestling in every territory under the sun and would be most known for his time alongside “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in the WWF. Orton was Piper’s backup during his run on top against Hulk Hogan in the lead-up to WrestleMania I. Bob Jr’s career was hampered by a broken left forearm he suffered against Jimmy Snuka in Madison Square Garden…the darn thing took years to heal!
1. Harley Race
You can’t think of Kansas City without thinking of Handsome Harley. Race put Kansas City on the wrestling map. He didn’t spend as much time there during his career as Bob Brown, Bob Giegel or Sonny Adams did. That’s because he was busy representing Kansas City by defending the NWA World Heavyweight Championship across the globe.
Years after he retired, Harley still hosted wrestlers at his home for barbecues whenever the major feds came through town. He ran his school & helped train future stars. Race ate, slept and breathed pro wrestling. A finer representative for Kansas City to the sport, there will never be.