By Steve Slagle
Pat O`Connor was one of the absolute best wrestlers on the planet (as well as one of the most famous and popular) during the 1940's, 1950's, and through the 1960's. His time in the ring actually lasted until the mid-1970's, marking a career spanning some 30 years! Throughout his career, the athletic New Zealander was a loved hero known worldwide for his skill and sportsmanship, not to mention being renowned as a multi-time World Champion and regional titleholder. Always the consummate champion, O`Connor -- with his friendly New Zealander accent -- was known as a true professional, both in and out of the ring. His reputation proceeded him, and through his worldwide travels, he established himself as unquestionably one of pro wrestling's biggest attractions during his day...
won one of his first championships, the Florida Heavyweight title, in 1944.
He also won the prestigous AWA/IWA (Montreal) World Heavyweight title twice
-- both by defeating his longtime nemesis Killer Kowalski, once in 1954
and again in 1955. Among other titles O`Connor won throughout his illustrious
career were two Central States Heavyweight championships in 1962 and 1963,
two Missouri Heavyweight titles in 1962 and 1967, and the A.W.A. World
Tag Team title on November 11, 1967 in Chicago with partner Wilber Snyder.
However, O`Connor will forever be remembered for one title reign in particular...
On January 9, 1959 Pat O`Connor defeated Dick Hutton in St. Louis, MO.
to win the N.W.A. World Heavyweight title...and forever go down in history
as a World Champion.
O`Connor was one of the most beloved (at the time) NWA champion in years,
and as a result of his popularity, he held the sports' most important and
coveted title -- the N.W.A. World Championship -- for 2 1/2 years. The
hard-working O`Connor defended his World title 5 nights a week against
the very best wrestlers of his era...men like Killer Kowalski, Buddy Rogers,
Dick Hutton, Bob Geigel, Dick The Bruiser, Dory Funk Sr., Lou Thesz, and
many, many others.
May of 1960, O`Connor was named the inaugural A.W.A. World Heavyweight
Champion...thus making him the first (and only) simultaneous N.W.A.- A.W.A.
World Champion. O`Connor, who was recovering from an injury at the time,
was given 90 days to defend the title against the #1 contender Verne Gagne.
O`Connor did not face Gagne within the allotted 90 day period and was stripped
of the A.W.A. World title on August 16, 1960.
N.W.A. World title reign continued on for another year, though, during
which time O`Connor continued to defend his N.W.A. championship nightly
against the sport's best...until he was defeated by "Nature Boy" Buddy
Rogers on June 30, 1961 in Chicago in front of over 30,000 spectators.
It would be the last time Pat O`Connor would ever wear the World Heavyweight
continued on with much success for the next 10 years, but as the 1970's
rolled in, the aging O`Connor began to "lose" more frequently. He always
put up a good fight against the younger and stronger competition he wrestled
throughout the Midwest during the 1970's, fighting bravely -- but often
losing more than winning -- against up-and-comers like Bobby Jaggers (pictured),
Crusher Blackwell, and other Central States performers. Eventually he became
a part-time lower-card wrestler, referee, and booking assistant in the
Central States and Missouri promotions until his retirement.
the surface, it might appear to be a sad way to end a great career. But
when you dig a little deeper, you realize that O`Connor loved wrestling,
and saw the twilight of his career as an opportunity to pass on some of
his wealth of knowledge to the younger wrestlers, to build them up in the
fans' eyes by losing to them, as well as a way to continue to be involved
in the sport he loved so much. The man gave everything he had to pro wrestling,
even after the spotlight was no longer on him personally. Pat O`Connor
died on August 15, 1990 at the age of 66. The sport will forever remember
him as a great sportsman, teacher, and champion. The Ring Chronicle is
proud to induct Golden Age great Pat O`Connor in to T.R.C.'s Hall of Fame...