by Stephen Von Slagle
American Wrestling Association/Paul Bowser Promotions (a.k.a. “Boston”)
Paul Bowser (1922-1960)
STATES & PRIMARY CITIES:
AWA New England Heavyweight title (1933-1934)
AWA World Heavyweight title (1929-1952)
AWA Eastern Heavyweight title (1952-1960)
AWA Wartime Duration title (1944-1945)
When a 26 year-old Paul Bowser promoted his first card in 1912, he had no way of knowing that the world of professional wrestling would soon be entering perhaps the most tumultuous phase of its existence, fraught with bitter promotional wars, frequent in-ring doublecrosses, phantom World title victories, and bitter rivalries both personal and professional. Paul Bowser would also have had no idea that he would be right in the middle of much of the chaos. When he moved to Boston in 1922 and began running in opposition to the city’s well-established promoter, George Tuohey, a young and ambitious Bowser made quick work of the longtime matchmaker and, within one year, replaced him as Boston’s top promoter, a position he would maintain for nearly four decades. At the age of 36, Bowser, who was also an accomplished wrestler, defeated Joe Turner to win the World Middleweight championship on January 3, 1922, at a show he’d promoted at the Boston Opera House. By the following year, he was retired from the ring and focusing solely on his promotional endeavors.
While Boston had been a major location for professional wrestling under Tuohey’s watch, Paul Browser took it to another level of popularity, establishing the city as one of the premier wrestling locations in the entire country and the site of dozens of legendary World title matches. Meanwhile, his American Wrestling Association World Heavyweight championship, created in 1929, was an extremely important title and a direct offshoot of the original World championship. Although he was a member of the National Wrestling Alliance beginning in 1949, Bowser was highly independent and his AWA title was, for several years, given special clearance by the NWA to be recognized as a “world” championship. Bowser also personally handled the careers of several talented matmen, developing them into titleholders. Among his many promotional protégés are legendary World Heavyweight champions such as Gus Sonnenberg, Danno O’Mahoney, Steve “Crusher” Casey, Jim Browning and Frank Sexton. As a promoter, Bowser was as ruthless as any of his professional adversaries (men like New York-based Jack Curley, and later, Toots Mondt and Ray Fabiani) and he was directly involved in several World championship double-crosses, including the infamous “Original Montreal Screwjob” which saw Henri Deglane steal the World championship from Ed “Strangler” Lewis in 1931.
Although Bowser did loan his men out to other promoters and, eventually, had lieutenants in the booking offices of Montreal and Los Angeles, the Boston “territory” was essentially one city, Boston, Massachusetts. In addition to holding many successful cards at the Boston Opera House, Paul Bowser is the promoter who originally brought professional wrestling to the Boston Garden, which, of course, remains an important venue for WWE to this day.
In 1952, following 20 years of promoting Boston’s prestigious AWA World title, Bowser acquiesced to the NWA and began referring to his AWA World title as the Eastern Heavyweight Championship. Paul Bowser presented what would turn out to be his final card on July 15, 1960 at the Boston Garden. A few days earlier, he suffered a heart attack and on July 17, 1960, two days after the Boston Garden show, Bowser died at the age of 74. In his absence, other promoters presented wrestling in the city, men such as Tony Santos and Abe Ford, before Vince McMahon, Sr. made Boston part of his World Wide Wrestling Federation territory.