by Stephen Von Slagle
World Wrestling Association/Championship Wrestling of Indiana, Inc. (a.k.a. “Indianapolis”)
William Afflis (1964-1985)
Wilbur Snyder (1964-1983)
STATES & PRIMARY CITIES:
Indiana (Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Terra Haute, Hammond, Lafayette, Muncie, Elkhart, Gary, Evansville, South Bend)
Illinois (Chicago, Champaign, Peoria, Kankakee)
Michigan (Detroit, Dearborn)
World Wrestling Association World Heavyweight title (1964-1989)
American Wrestling Association World Heavyweight title (1965-1976)
World Wrestling Association World Tag Team title (1964-1989)
American Wrestling Association World Tag Team title (1965-1976)
Although the Indiana territory was originally owned and successfully operated by promotional mastermind James E. Barnett, it wasn’t generally considered a major region for pro wrestling until William “Dick the Bruiser” Afflis and Wilbur Snyder purchased the territory from Barnett in 1964 and created the World Wrestling Association. With The Bruiser and Snyder headlining, plus a talented roster of grapplers filling out the WWA cards, the new promotion got off to a very solid start. Then, just a year later, Afflis, Snyder and Verne Gagne purchased Chicago kingpin Fred Kohler’s promotional rights for the lucrative Windy City, marking a true watershed for both the WWA and AWA. The two groups successfully promoted Chicago together for the next decade, drawing crowds in the tens of thousands for several mega-events at Comiskey Park and Soldier Field, in addition to their regular monthly shows at the 10,000 seat Chicago Amphitheater. Although it was relatively small geographically speaking, with a roster of talent that included the likes of Bruiser and Snyder on top and a revolving cast of characters such as The Crusher, Bobby Heenan, The Blackjacks, Ernie Ladd, “Cowboy” Bob Ellis, Baron Von Raschke, Ox Baker, Red Bastien, Harley Race, King Kong Brody, Bobo Brazil, Ivan Koloff and countless other top names, the WWA quickly became one of the country’s more successful territories, known to the fans for its wild action and to the wrestlers for its short driving trips.
As the decade of the Seventies rolled in, the World Wrestling Alliance was doing quite well and with the business thriving, a decision was made to expand the territory. Knowing full well that they would be starting a promotional war with the area’s established NWA promotion, Afflis and Snyder began running shows in Detroit, directly in opposition to Edward “The Sheik” Farhat’s “Big Time Wrestling” group. The business decision was a controversial one that caused many problems with otherwise sympathetic promoters and the NWA’s hierarchy, resulting in Afflis & Snyder losing their good standing with the National Wrestling Alliance for several years. Although the WWA held their shows at the less desirable Olympia Stadium while The Sheik’s cards took place at Cobo Arena, for a time, both promotion’s were doing strong business in the Motor City. But, with reinforcements regularly being sent in by his NWA brethren, as well as a steadily declining economy in Detroit at that time, The Sheik eventually gained an upper hand in the fierce promotional battle and by 1974, the WWA withdrew from the city. Knowing what was best for business, the two sides then formed a working agreement and the subsequent Bruiser vs. Sheik bloodbaths drew numerous sold-out crowds in the arenas of both promotions for the better part of two years.
In 1983, Wilbur Snyder sold his interest in the company to Afflis and retired from the wrestling business, leaving the Midwest behind for sunny Florida. By 1985, the Bruiser decided to follow his former partner’s lead and retired from the ring after more than thirty years as a professional wrestler. Meanwhile, the World Wrestling Association continued on and Afflis remained as its owner/operator until 1989. However, the world of wrestling was going through drastic changes during the mid-Eighties and by the end of the decade, the days of the WWA selling-out the Market Square Arena were but a distant memory. Instead of regularly drawing 15,000 fans to their shows at the promotion’s main venue, the WWA was lucky to have 1,500. Additionally, with larger companies such as the WWF, Mid Atlantic, the AWA and World Class each striving to attract and maintain a roster of the best wrestlers in the country, the lack of available top talent became a serious issue for smaller groups such as Bruiser’s WWA. After several consecutive years of losing money on the 25 year-old promotion, Afflis finally made the decision to shut down the WWA in the Summer of 1989.