Championship Wrestling from Florida
HeadquartersTampa, Florida
Founder(s)"Cowboy" Clarence P. Luttrall
Owner(s)Eddie Graham
Hiro Matsuda
Duke Keomuka

Championship Wrestling from Florida (CWF) was the corporate and brand name of the Tampa, Florida wrestling office[1] existing from 1961, when Eddie Graham first bought into the promotion, until 1987, when it closed down. It is also referred to as Florida Championship Wrestling. When Mike Graham tried a return to promoting, the rights to the name had been acquired by an outside party, forcing him to use another name, Florida Championship Wrestling.



Promoter Eddie Graham

The original owner and promoter was "Cowboy" Clarence Preston Luttrall, a former journeyman heel wrestler who once fought a widely publicized boxing match, resulting from a wrestling angle, with a forty-something Jack Dempsey. It worked but Cowboy took a severe beating. Cowboy opened the office in 1949, and Eddie Graham bought into the promotion in 1961, then took over completely in 1971, because of health reasons with Cowboy.[2]

The office was a member of the National Wrestling Alliance during the entire CWF era, Eddie Graham serving two terms as NWA president, and loosely aligned before that, with other 'world' champions sometimes defending their titles. CWF became a staple in many Southern households in the 1970s and 1980s, with Dusty Rhodes arguably its most noted headliner,[2] his babyface turn beginning May 14, 1974 against former partner Pak Song.[3] The promotion competed against other syndicated shows on Saturday night like The Lawrence Welk Show and Solid Gold for years.

Notable stars

Johnny Valentine with the NWA Florida Heavyweight Championship

The promotion thrived with stars such as NWA champions Lou Thesz and Gene Kiniski, Graham, Bobby Shane, Robert Lee Schoenberger, Don Curtis, Sam Steamboat, The Magnificent Muraco (Don Muraco), the Great Malenko (Larry Simon), Johnny Valentine, Hiro Matsuda, Bob Orton Sr. and later Bob Orton Jr., Joe Scarpa (later known as Chief Jay Strongbow), Wahoo McDaniel, the Funks (Terry and Dory Jr.), the Briscos (Jack and Jerry), Buddy Colt (Ron Read), Dusty Rhodes, Blackjack Mulligan, Bruiser Brody, Kendall Windham, Barry Windham, Mike Rotunda, Lex Lugar, Rick Rood (later Rick Rude), Harley Race, André the Giant, Jim Duggan, Butch Reed, Rick Steiner, The Freebirds, Cactus Jack, Scott Hall, Terry Allen (later more famous as Magnum T. A.), Percy Pringle (later more famous as Paul Bearer), Luna Vachon, Jimmy Garvin, Adrian Street, Héctor Guerrero, Chavo Guerrero Sr., Oliver Humperdink, One Man Gang, J. J. Dillon, Gary Hart (wrestler), Bob Roop, Mark Lewin, Dutch Mantel, Mike Graham (Eddie's son), The Sheepherders, Kevin Sullivan – whose cult-like Army of Darkness[2] got tremendous heat from the fans – and, in the words of the promotion's legendary commentator and a star in his own right Gordon Solie, 'a host of others'. Solie's deadpan interviewing style often buoyed the outlandish behavior and actions of Sullivan and his minions, bringing a legitimacy to the on-air segments no matter what depths Sullivan would descend to.[4]

Dusty Rhodes became a top star in the territory

Dusty Rhodes stands out among the noted performers because of the number of rivalries he had on air through most of CWF's broadcasting history. Well known heels, newcomers and babyfaces who turned heel during their tenure with CWF often sought out Rhodes to make their names in the territory. His rivals over the years included Superstar Billy Graham, Ray Stevens, Ernie Ladd, Ivan Koloff, Ox Baker, Ron Bass, Kamala, Abdullah the Butcher, Ric Flair, his old Texas Outlaws partner Dick Murdoch and of course, Kevin Sullivan.

Mike Moore served as a ring announcer.[5]

After Eddie Graham's suicide

When Eddie Graham committed suicide in January 1985, due to a combination of personal and business problems, responsibility for the office went to Hiro Matsuda and Duke Keomuka, both of whom bought in during the 1960s. The other remaining owners were Mike Graham, Eddie's brother Skip Gossett, Dusty Rhodes and Buddy Colt. The promotion continued losing money and merged with Jim Crockett Promotions in February 1987.[6] Most of the stars had gone to Jim Crockett Promotions or the WWF by that point. CWF continued operating as a JCP subsidiary until its last card on November 11, 1987, in Robarts Arena in Sarasota; in the main event, NWA Western States Heritage champion Barry Windham battled Dory Funk Jr. to a 20-minute time-limit draw.[7]

Professional Wrestling Federation

Mike Graham attempted to revive the territory after the death of his father

In late 1988 during the acquisition of Jim Crockett Promotions the duo of Mike Graham and Steve Keirn were attempting to revive the dormant CWF territory. Once Dusty departed from WCW they reached out to him, and ultimately partnered to launch the new Professional Wrestling Federation in February 1989.[8] Rhodes had larger visions for the fledgling regional territory, which included a name change from FCW to the non-regional PWF. The new startup promotion featured a raft of current and future stars, including Terry Funk, Dick Slater, Bam Bam Bigelow, Al Perez, The Nasty Boys, Scott Hall, Dustin Rhodes, Mike Awesome, Dallas Page and The Big Steel Man (who would become Tugboat in the WWF).

Dusty Rhodes made his debut for the company on March 4, 1989 at an event in Titusville, FL when he teamed with Steve Keirn to defeat the duo of The Big Steel Man and Dick Slaytor. A week later at the PWF Homecoming event in Tampa, FL he pinned Big Steel Man to become the first PWF Heavyweight Champion.[9] Later that spring as the PWF began to grow Rhodes received a surprise backstage visit from Bobby Heenan, who inquired on the state of the company's business. Shortly thereafter Vince McMahon reached out to Rhodes and made an offer to acquire the PWF as a developmental territory and to bring Rhodes into the WWF. He refused, as his desire was to grow the territory into a national brand that could compete with WCW and the WWF. However the Professional Wrestling Federation's backers did not have a desire to fund the company at a level necessary to enhance the territory further. In May he decided to part ways with the PWF and join the World Wrestling Federation as a wrestler.[10]

Before departing, Rhodes was defeated by The Big Steel Man on May 13, 1989 for the PWF title at an event in Sarasota, FL. His final match with the company was on May 20, where he wrestled Steel Man at an event in Fort Lauderdale.[9] The promotion closed shortly after holding its last show June 29, 1991, in Nassau, Bahamas, which saw Tyree Pride beat Steve Keirn for the PWF Florida Championship.[11]

Television programs and tape library

The building once known as the Tampa Sportatorium in 2020

CWF filmed and later taped its weekly TV wrestling show at the famed Sportatorium at 106 N. Albany in Tampa, Fla., which was in reality a small television studio with seating for a live audience of about 100 people (1/40th of the seating capacity of its Dallas counterpart), with the wrestling office and gym in the same building. Arena footage was always also used, and full arena show broadcasts began in the early '80s. CWF Spin-off shows were Championship Wrestling Superstars, Global Wrestling, North Florida Championship Wrestling, United States Class Wrestling, American Championship Wrestling and Southern Professional Wrestling.

In 1960, Gordon Solie became the lead announcer for CWF's Saturday morning television shows, a spot he would occupy for the next quarter-century.[12] In 1980, he hired singer Barbara Clary, who was bilingual to conduct interviews in both English and Spanish.[13][14] Solie was joined on commentary by Buddy Colt during the program's final years.[15]

On March 2, 2006, the CWF library was purchased by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) for the DVD on Dusty Rhodes.

In 2007, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) revived the promotion as a developmental territory under the name Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW).[16] In 2012, the promotion began operating under the NXT banner, dropping references to FCW. On June 28, 2013, the WWE formally shuttered the Florida Championship Wrestling Arena, moving all equipment and personnel to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando.


See also




  1. ^ "WrestlingTerritories.png". Freakin' Awesome Network Forums :: Freakin' Awesome Wrestling Forum :: (w)Rest of Wrestling. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Varsallone, Jim (June 2, 2017). "Honoring Cowboy Luttrall, Eddie Graham at CWF Fanfest". Miami Herald.
  3. ^ Pope, Kristian (2005). Tuff Stuff Professional Wrestling Field Guide: Legend and Lore. Krause Publications. p. 417. ISBN 0896892670.
  4. ^ Napolitano, George (2011). Hot Shots and High Spots: George Napolitano's Amazing Pictorial History of Wrestling's Greatest Stars. Toronto: ECW Press. ISBN 9781770900646.
  5. ^ Scheiber, Dave (September 23, 2007). "MINORS' QUIET MVP READY TO HANG SPIKES: As president, Mike Moore helped modernize the minor leagues and make them profitable". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved February 4, 2022.
  6. ^ N.W.A. Championship Wrestling from Florida
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ Campbell, Jason. "About FCW / PWF".
  9. ^ a b Campbell, Jason. "1989".
  10. ^ "Dusty Rhodes – History of Wrestling". January 20, 2021. Archived from the original on November 13, 2021. Retrieved November 13, 2021.
  11. ^ Campbell, Jason. "1991".
  12. ^ Incorporated, Florida Media (2004). Gordon Solie ... Something Left Behind. Florida Media, Inc. ISBN 978-0-9763062-1-4.
  13. ^ Russo, Vic (August 4, 2000). "The Voice is Silent". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 22 November 2023.
  14. ^ "Goodbye Gordon Solie". Retrieved 22 November 2023.
  15. ^ "Trivia Winner". July 14, 1994. Retrieved 22 November 2023.
  16. ^ "Florida Championship Wrestling unveils new arena in Tampa, Fla". World Wrestling Entertainment. 2008-07-07. Retrieved 2008-07-08.