Bill Longson vs Whipper Billy Watson (lost footage of professional wrestling match; 1947)

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Longsonvswatson1.jpg

Whipper Billy Watson.

Status: Lost

On 21st February 1947, professional wrestler Bill Longson fought Whipper Billy Watson at the Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis, with Longson's National Wrestling Association (NWA) World Heavyweight Championship on the line. Watson defeated Longson to claim the belt, ending Longson's four year reign. The match also made television history, as it became the first televised instance of a professional wrestling world heavyweight championship changing hands.

Background[edit | edit source]

Heading into the match, Longson was in his second run as NWA World Heavyweight Champion, after defeating Bobby Managoff for the belt on 19th February 1943. By the time the Watson encounter occurred, Longson had held the belt for 1,463 days, the second longest reign with the belt behind Jim Londos' 1,847 day run. Meanwhile, Watson had become more popular and influential within the Toronto and St. Louis territories, including winning Maple Leaf Wrestling's British Empire Heavyweight Championship on multiple occasions. With the influence of Maple Leaf Wrestling promoter Frank Tunney and with greater connections to St. Louis promoter Tom Packs being established, it was decided that Watson should defeat Longson for the World Heavyweight Championship.[1]

The match occurred at the Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis, in front of over 8,500 in attendance. Watson was most certainly the babyface in this encounter, as Longson was a hated champion notorious for his brutality. This led to his downfall however, as after punching referee Charley Schwartz in frustration, Longson was disqualified at the 18:36 mark. Under the rules back then, it led to Watson becoming champion, thus ending Longson's reign.[2]

Watson's sole reign as champion lasted 63 days, before he was defeated by Lou Thesz in front of over 10,000 fans on 25th April that same year. Longson would defeat Thesz in Houston, Texas on 21st November 1947 in his final reign, before dropping it to Thesz on 20th July 1948 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The belt would be unified with the National Wrestling Alliance's version of the World Championship on 27th November 1949.[3]

Television Significance[edit | edit source]

Aside from producing professional wrestling history, the Longson-Watson match also proved significant from a television perspective. According to the 7th March 1947 issue of Sports Pointers, which provided arena programs for wrestling in St. Louis, the match featured the first televised instance of a world championship changing hands. The issue states that KSD-TV cameras were present to capture the match, and broadcasted on KSD-TV 5 (now KSDK 5), which was St. Louis' first television station. Harold Grahams was the television commentator, having previously commentated on various sports events on KSD-TV 5.

The issue also states this was the first time wrestling was televised in St. Louis, with fans across the city watching the title change live. The broadcast was deemed a success, with many wrestling fans in the area delighted that Longson had finally been dethroned after 87 successful defences. Due to the limitations of television distribution at the time, the match could not be viewed in Watson's hometown of Toronto.[4]

Availability[edit | edit source]

Like all early television programs, the Longson-Watson match was televised live and was unlikely to have been directly recorded. Although there were means of achieving this following the Second World War, recording seldom occurred until video tape was perfected in the late-1950s.[5] Thus, footage of the match is most likely permanently missing. The match's television significance was almost forgotten to time, until the 7th March 1947 issue of Sports Pointers among other St. Louis programs were preserved and documented through Koji Miyamoto and Scott Teal of Crowbar Press.[6]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Image[edit | edit source]

Video[edit | edit source]

Episode 199 of Jim Cornette's Drive-Thru, which discusses the Longson-Watson match and its television significance.


See Also[edit | edit source]

Professional Wrestling Media[edit | edit source]

Early Sports Television Media[edit | edit source]

Early BBC Sports Television[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. National Wrestling Alliance: The Untold Story of the Monopoly That Strangled Pro Wrestling detailing the prelude to the match. Retrieved 21st Dec '21
  2. Legacy of Wrestling detailing how Watson won the championship. Retrieved 21st Dec '21
  3. Wrestling-Titles detailing the history of the National Wrestling Association's World Championship. Retrieved 21st Dec '21
  4. 7th March 1947 issue of Sports Pointers detailing the match and its television significance. Retrieved 21st Dec '21
  5. Web Archive article discussing how most early television is missing due to lack of directly recording television. Retrieved 21st Dec '21
  6. Crowbar Press detailing the preservation of many St. Louis wrestling programs, including the 7th March 1947 issue of Sports Pointers. Retrieved 21st Dec '21