Fame And Fortune Arrived For Mat Promoter

Detroit Free Press – April 26, 1936
By Lewis H. Walters

Adam Weissmuller sat in his walnut-paneled office at Arena Gardens Saturday afternoon, looking over offers of thousands of dollars for the services of Ali Baba, the Turk who won the heavyweight wrestling championship of the world from Dick Shikat, of Germany, on the Olympia mat Friday night.

Weissmuller has the exclusive contract for the Turk’s services for the next five years and that’s why the wrestling world is looking to him. The phone was ringing. Calls were coming in from promoters in New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia. They wanted Ali Baba.

There was an offer from Col. John Reed Kilpatrick to bring Ali Baba into Madison Square Garden on May 5. There was an offer from the Ridgewood Grove in Brooklyn. The promoter there offered $18m,000 if Ali Baba would wrestle one match to open the new Dyckman Oval. Billy Johnson, promoter of the St. Nicholas Palace at New York, offered Adam $25,000 if he would bring the Turk in for three matches in defense of his title.

Money, money, money – they all offered money to Adam and the Turk. And what a contrast the scene offered to that of six years ago when the quiet little German began promoting wrestling at the Arena Gardens because his career as one of the leading welterweights of the world had been halted by an illness that threatened his eyesight.

It was tough going then, but Adam pulled through. He won his own loyal group of fans by going on with a wrestling show every Monday night, through hailstorms and blizzards, holidays and depression days. A $500 house was a big one at first as Adam put on his little fellows. He never touched the heavyweights then but his wrestlers, from light heavies down to welters, won fans by their furious action. Things picked up.

Step by step, Adam moved up the wrestling and financial ladder. He was winning his fight against blindness and his fight for fortune at the same time. The quiet little German didn’t fight with critics of wrestling. He didn’t challenge to duels those ho said the boys were just hippodroming; he just demanded that the wrestlers give the fans action and the boys responded. They gave the action and the fans gave the dollars.

“They seem to like it, don’t they?” Adam would say as he pointed out the queue of ticket buyers to some scoffers at wrestling.

Things began coming Adam’s way three years ago when he built up some big drawing cards like Lord Lansdowne Finnegan, who brought in several houses around the $4,500 mark. Shortly after that he made a big move toward success by joining forces with Al Haft, Columbus promoter who directed promotions through a big section of the Middle West.

Adam was promoting wrestling all over Michigan by that time with weekly shows in Lansing, Saginaw, Pontiac, Flint, Windsor and many smaller towns. With Haft in the picture, a very strong partnership was formed which allowed an interchange of talent and kept fresh faces before the wrestling fans. An army of wrestlers looked and still looks to Adam for support.

And say, with all this wild bidding going on, what city will be the first to see the new champion in action? Well, the answer may surprise New York, but it seems that the fans of Lansing will be first. Flint will be second and Pontiac third, for Ali Baba is booked in those cities for bouts on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday of this week, respectively.

“After those battles, the Turk will start his big campaign,” declared Weissmuller. “Who is he going to wrestle? He’ll wrestle anyone.”

The New York promoters can pick Ali Baba’s foes, Weissmuller asserted, and campaign in the East although Weissmuller tentatively has arranged for a show at Olympia May 11.

Ali Baba and Weissmuller are very gracious in their plans for the future. Shikat can have a chance to win his title back when he recovers from his injury, Weissmuller declares. But in the meantime Ali Baba is willing to give another former champion a break. He would like to wrestle Danno O’Mahoney in Olympia May 11.

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