Cowboy Bill Watts was a former football player. The atheletic department was impressed by his skills on the field. They would become even more with his skills on the mat. He had been undefeated as a wrestler during his senior year of high school.
It was at Oklahoma that Bill encountered the three most influential men that were to help shape the course of his career. These were Leroy Mcguirk,Danny Hodge and Dale Lewis.
These men were among the top wrestling names in Oklahoma history. All had laid claim to the prestigious N.C.A.A. championship title while in college. Mcguirk and Hodge had gone on to become professional wrestlers and world champions in the junior division. Lewis became a pro, but didn't get championship status.
They all urged bill to become a full-time pro wrestler after college, but Bill had a mind of his own. His interest were diversified. He split himself up by taking part in both of his favorite sports, those of wrestling and football. In 1961 he signed a contract with the Houston Oilers of the American Football League and helped them win championship of that circuit. Then he later moved to the Minnesota Vikings
Bill Watts left football over a dispute. The Vikings demanded that he give his wrestling engagements during the off-season period. He refused to sign a contract with this clause appended to it. He gave up football.
Under the promotional banner of Leroy Mcguirk, Bill launched himself into the professional arena. Scarcely after a year after he turned pro he had the Texas State Championship in his possession. Anyone that knows Texas wrestling knows that Cowboy Bill Watts had to meet some of the toughest competition in the world to gain that title.
He followed that up with a triumphant inavasion of the East Coast. Bruno Sammartino who reigned supreme as the W.W.W.F. World's Heavyweight Champion during those years was quick to recognize the potential of Watts and chose him as his partner.
For this Watts was at first grateful because Sammartino was the greatest of them all on the East Coast and this meant top bookings for Bill. Soon Bill realized that it also meant that he would never get a shot at Bruno's heavyweight title.
Watts continued to press for a title match, but promoters would not sign the match because he was Bruno's tag team partner. Finally, the resentment that built up was to great and Watts tore into Bruno during a tag match.
The two men had since become bitter enemies and the challenge of a match between them was readily accepted by both. Madison Square Garden was the site of the confrontation. Crowds swelled outside the building as hundreds had to be turned away. It was to see who would walk off with the much-coveted World Wide Wrestling Federation Title and belt that they had aggregated.
Bruno won a disputed decision and also managed to hold onto his title by technicalities in several rematches but he never won a clear-cut decision over Watts.
Several further attempts were made by Watts to dethrone the ruling monarch of the division. Neither had won a decisive victories during these meeetings but Sammartino retained his title. Watts was informed that any further attempts at taking on Bruno would be only possible in the distant future. Bill Watts would have to go to the back of the line of contenders.
But Watts was not one to go to the back of anything. He knew he was a top contender. He got an offer to go to San Francisco and wrestle on the tough northern circuit of Roy Shires. In just a few weeks Cowboy Bill Watts has captured the Pacific Coast U.S. championship from Ray Stevens. Watts beat everyone in the region and Stevens in several rematches.
From California Bill caught the attention of promoters in Japan who are always on the lookout for American talent. In early 1967 he travelled to the Asian nation where he wrestled many of the top men in that country. Japaneese fans still remember Watts and their national hero Shohei Baba.
Then late 1967 Cowboy Bill invaded the upper Midwest. He was soon wrestling regular in such cities as Chicago, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Davenport and Omaha. As a result Bill was appearing on A.W.A. cards simultaneous as on N.W.A. cards. Wherever he went sucess was not far behind. He Very soon became the major threat to both AWA champ Verne Gagne and NWA champ Gene Kiniski at that time.
He met both champs in a series of matches that were never conclusive in their outcome. The winning pinfall was forever evading him although experts in the wrestling circuit gave him the edge in style and skill. It was believed that he was in full control of the matches and probably should have been declared champ of both divisions. This however was not to be as a pinfall is the only criterion by which a title can be won or lost.
So Watts who had come so close to claiming victory over all three of the wrestling divisions found himself with no prospects. He returned home to Oklahoma to ponder his fate.
To force the champions to meet him in a once and for all decision fight, he decided to win the North American Championship. This was considered by many the leading regional title in proffessional wrestling. This he did in short order. The North American Title was held at that time by the The Spoiler. The challenge went out and victory was soon in the hands of the man who most deserved it.
As Champ, Watts had to defend his title against some of the greats in
wrestling. Among his victims were Waldo Von Eric, Boris Malenko, Dusty
Rhodes, Ox Baker and others.
Story by Andy Baker.(wrestling Revue 75)