Leroy McGuirk

Leroy McGuirk

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Real Name - Leroy Michael McGuirk
Lifespan - 12/13/10 - 9/9/88
5'?" 164 lbs. - Tulsa, OK
Aliases - none
Athletic background - Wrestling (Oklahoma A&M - NCAA Championships in `31 & `32)
Professional background - Southwest(`32-`33), Ohio(`33), Southwest(`33-`??), Tulsa/Tri-State(`4?-`82)
Peak Years - 1940s

Place in History - Leroy McGuirk is often remembered as a blind Oklahoma promoter who Bill Watts took over for and created arguably the best regional promotion of the day. Before all of that though, McGuirk was a man of great accomplishments in several realms of wrestling. First, he was an accomplished amateur, which in the first half of the twentieth century carried a lot of weight in the professional ranks. Second, he was a dominant light heavyweight and then junior heavyweight champion. Third, he was a successful promoter whose Tri-State promotion was built on homegrown all-time greats Danny Hodge, Jack Brisco and the man who helped him take it to the next level - Bill Watts. It must first be noted that throughout his youth, Leroy McGuirk was blind in one eye and overcame that obstacle to become a national wrestling champion in high school. Oklahoma A&M was a legendary amateur wrestling factory and McGuirk was of that grain. Here, he was surrounded by a powerhouse team that included NCAA Heavyweight champion Earl McCready, who even broke McGuirk's leg during a workout. Regardless of the injury, McGuirk took second place at 160 in the AAU Nationals that season. He continued with an 1931 NCAA Championship at 155 and another second place at 174 and won a regional AAU Championship as a heavyweight! McGuirk was an Olympic hopeful, but lost in the finals of the 1932 trials. He followed McCready into the professional ranks and was quickly pushed to the top of his weight class, winning the most widely recognized light heavyweight title in 1934. Afterward, he set his sites on the world junior heavyweight championship and he won that in 1939. McGuirk was the perenneal titleholder in the 1940s, until he lost the sight in his other eye due to a car accident (sometimes a bar fight is cited, but that is widely dismissed). This was 1950 and McGuirk still had plenty to give, so Tulsa promoter Sam Avery brought him on to learn the craft of promoting a regional wrestling company. It was not long before McGuirk was in charge of the territory, which became known as the "Tri-States" (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and eventually Mississippi). He expanded the region, which was a tough area due to the population spread, but recruited some excellent athletes that kept business good in the 1960s. McGuirk's golden boy was Danny Hodge, who held the NWA's junior heavyweight title, which McGuirk largely controlled. By the mid-1970s the Tri-States promotion needed a shot of ingenuity to rejuvenate it. It came in the form of former area star, Bill Watts, who came back in, bought into the company and took over booking much of it. Tri-State Wrestling grew quickly with Watts at the helm. He and McGuirk soon found themselves at odds over the company's direction, so Watts left and took Tri-States' Southern half (the half with more big money potential) with him in 1979. Leroy McGuirk's territory quickly deteriorated. George Scott was brought in to book and he is often blamed for the company's decline in quality, their market was smaller and their growth was limited, McGuirk lost his long-standing control of the NWA junior heavyweight champion and Watts was soon breathing down his former boss's neck. McGuirk, now in his 70s and the pro-wrestling business on the edge of changing forever, sold his market to Bill Watts and spent his final days on the sidelines. Leroy McGuirk has one of pro-wrestling's most intriguing stories. He was a top flight amateur who was too small to become a top flight pro, but he found a niche and turned it into a key spot. When he was blind, he found another spot for himself and transformed it over time. When he was in control of a limited promotion, he established the stars and secured the talent to turn his territory into something special. The perserverence of Leroy McGuirk is admirable and he did far more in pro-wrestling as an undersized one-eyed wrestler and later an ornery, blind promoter than most people who have entered the business.

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