Wrestling at the Chase
Wrestling at the Chase (May 23, 1959–September 10, 1983) was a professional wrestling television series of local and national historical importance in the field of television wrestling. The show was recorded in St. Louis, Missouri, on KPLR-TV, Channel 11. It was promoted by the St. Louis Wrestling Club, which was a member of the National Wrestling Alliance.
The show was the brainchild of Sam Muchnick, president of the St. Louis Wrestling Club, and Harold Koplar, who owned KPLR and the old Chase Park Plaza Hotel. The two were together on an airplane in 1958 and wondered how they could put wrestling into St. Louis-area homes. A few episodes under that name were filmed elsewhere locally. The WWF also filmed some episodes at the Chase.
The original series began on May 23, 1959 and ran until September 10, 1983. KPLR-TV, Channel 11 produced and televised the matches, which were held at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis' Central West End and televised at 10:00 A.M.; conveniently, the KPLR studios were in an adjacent, connecting building.
Initially, the matches were broadcast live on Saturday nights and repeated on Sunday mornings. This production method was later replaced by a live-to-tape system, meaning that while the performances were recorded for later broadcast, they were shot entirely in one take as if airing live, so that no allowances were made for unforeseen or unscripted developments or events.
The show produced approximately 1,100 episodes over its 24 years. On a few occasions, for matches that would attract larger crowds, the show would be recorded in the Kiel Auditorium or the St. Louis Arena.
Although the St. Louis Wrestling Club began by recording one show at a time, in the early 1970s they began recording three shows at a time on Sunday mornings. Admission to the recordings was free, and the room in which the matches took place seated 900 fans.
Joe Garagiola was the initial play-by-play commentator. When he left in 1963, Don Cunningham took his place. The following year, Cunningham died, and was replaced with George Abel. He was joined in 1972 by Larry Matysik, who at the time, was also a part-time police officer in Belleville, Illinois. Ring announcers included John Curley, Eddie Gromacki and Joe Garagiola's brother Mickey Garagiola.
The show featured many of the most famous wrestlers in the NWA. Participants included Ric Flair, Harley Race, "Cowboy" Bob Orton, Dick the Bruiser, Bruiser Brody, Gene Kiniski, Lou Thesz, Dory Funk, Jr. and Ted DiBiase.
WWF tapings held at the Chase
KPLR ended its relationship with the St. Louis Wrestling Club in September 1983 and ended that version of Wrestling at the Chase. The station made a deal by which the WWF would produce its wrestling related programming. On December 27, 1983 and January 16, 1984, the WWF held TV tapings at the Chase Park Hotel which were turned into several episodes of Wrestling at the Chase which began airing in 1984. The first of these shows featured the first WWF appearance of Gene Okerlund and the first Hulk Hogan WWF match after his departure from the AWA.
In February 1984, tapings for Wrestling at the Chase shifted to Kiel Auditorium. The WWF returned to the Chase Park Hotel for a final taping on September 28, 1984. The last airing of the program with original local content was on October 21, 1984. After a shift to syndicated WWF material, the program was cancelled in 1985.
Wrestling at the Chase was consistently one of the highest rated television shows in St. Louis. Among St. Louis-based shows, it was third behind the local news and St. Louis Cardinals baseball games. The show often had over 100,000 viewers per episode. It is considered one of the pro wrestling industry's most historic programs.
As of 2009, 12 volumes of the program have been released for sale. In 2005, Larry Matysik's book, Wrestling at the Chase: The Inside Story of Sam Muchnick and the Legends of Professional Wrestling was published by ECW Press.
- Hornbaker, Tim (2006). National Wrestling Alliance: The Untold Story of the Monopoly That Strangled Pro Wrestling. ECW Press. p. 55. ISBN 1-55022-741-6.
- Matysik, Larry (2005). Wrestling at the Chase: The Inside Story of Sam Muchnick and the Legends of Professional Wrestling. ECW Press. p. 152. ISBN 1-55022-684-3.
- Sonderman, Steve. "May 23" (PDF). STLmedia.net. Retrieved 2009-01-26.
- Matysik, Larry (2005). Wrestling at the Chase: The Inside Story of Sam Muchnick and the Legends of Professional Wrestling. ECW Press. p. 153. ISBN 1-55022-684-3.
- "Wrestling History". Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Archived from the original on October 24, 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-26.
- "Classic St Louis Wrestling Volumes 1-12". St. Louis Wrestling from the Chase. Retrieved 2009-01-27.
- "Book Catalogue: Wrestling at the Chase". ECW Press. Retrieved 2009-01-26.