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 - Greg Mosorjak

This month I am featuring in my article an interview I did with former TV commentator and ring announcer for the NWF, Ron Martinez.  Ron is the son of NWF promoter Pedro Martinez, so no one has as much knowledge about the scene in Buffalo as Ron.  Ron went on to be part of Eddie Einhorn’s IWA and currently runs PM video, a great source of tapes from the kayfabe era. 

Ron started in the wrestling business when he was 11 or 12 years old, first he began selling programs and by the time he was 16 he was doing the ring announcing for his fathers promotion in Buffalo. 

I asked Ron about the business end of wrestling.  Why did Pedro break away from the NWA?  Ron said, “In the 1960’s the NWA took 10% of the gate - 8% went to the NWA champ, and 2% went to the NWA.  Pedro figured why pay that and he would have his own champs.  The first belt they had was the North American Title, it was the old US Belt used in Chicago.”

I asked about some of his father’s business partners and who and why he had involved.  Ron said that Johnny Powers was the first guy to come along.  By the late 1960’s Pedro was getting old and Powers wanted to buy him out.  Johnny put down a pretty healthy down payment.  In the contract if Powers missed 2 consecutive payments it went back to Pedro.  Johnny brought in Ed Gillet, Wes Hutchins, The Beast, and Moose Cholak, to help him but couldn’t make the payments and the company went back to Pedro.  Pedro wanted to keep Johnny Powers around so he made him a 50/50 partner instead of just taking it back.  They taped TV on Thursday nights in Parma at WUAB, channel 43.  They ran Cleveland on Thursdays, then Buffalo and did TV on Saturdays in Akron.  They ran Utica on Mondays, and filled in the other days with Rochester, Elmira, Binghamton, occasionally Albany or spot towns.  Business was good; Ron said they would do $4000 gates in Utica and with ticket prices at that time, that wasn’t bad. 

In 1971 Pedro bought out Geto Mongol in Pittsburgh.  Ron’s mom didn’t like Johnny Powers and was pressuring Pedro to sever ties with him.  She thought Powers was abrasive and disrespectful; he would put his feet on her coffee table when he came to the house.   Pedro got Jerry Jacobs who owned Sports Services, the largest supplier of concessions at sports venues, to buyout Johnny Powers, Johnny kept Cleveland, Pedro owned Buffalo and Akron.  Jerry Jacobs bought out the Montreal Territory owned by the Rougeau Family.  They traded talent at first but by 1973 he gave back Montreal to the Rougeaus and washed his hands of Pittsburgh.  The Sheik was involved for a time and paid Pedro a fee to have his talent work the territory.  The Sheik eventually just took over Buffalo as part of his Detroit territory.  Ron said the downfall of the Buffalo territory was when Pedro made Johnny Valentine the booker.  This was known as a hotshot territory, Johnny went for straight wrestling but the fans didn’t care for his style of wrestling.  I asked him what caused the end of the NWF?  Pedro and Ron both lost interest.

I asked Ron what were some of the angles he helped come up with.  His favorite was turning Hans Schmidt baby.  Hans was a big old stiff worker who got great heat.  Waldo von Erich was the top heel and they formed a tag team.  He has Waldo turn on Hans Schmidt and their feud lit up the territory.  Ron said they did $29,000 gate at the old Buffalo Auditorium.  Then Hans Schmidt helped ignite the Von Erich vs. Ernie Ladd feud that would draw over $50,000 in business. 

When I asked him about the most famous incident/angle in NWF history, the Ox Baker riot in Cleveland, Ron wasn’t there.  Powers ran Cleveland so the Martinez’s would be there.  He did say that they wouldn’t use wooden chairs, instead had plastic chairs that hooked together.  They ended up destroying like 300-400 of them. 

They next most famous event in Cleveland was the Super Bowl of Wrestling.  Again this was a Johnny Powers venture that Ron wasn’t there for.  Ron said ”It was a Johnny Powers idea.  Duquesne beer, gave him a $50,000 promotional advance for the Duke Beer Super Bowl of Wrestling, Johnny wanted his nose fixed, so the angle had Johnny Valentine break his nose."  This set up the big grudge rematch in the Super Bowl of Wrestling.   While the Super Bowl was anything but “Super” (see a previous article) Johnny did well and went on to open a string of health clubs. 

I asked Ron to tell me about some of the big names from Buffalo Wrestling and the NWF.  More...

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