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Bill Watts (born May 5, 1939) is a former Americanmarker professional wrestler and promoter. Watts was famous under his "Cowboy" gimmick in his wrestling career, and then as a tough, no-nonsense promoter in the Mid-South area of the United States, which grew to become the UWF.

In 1992, he was the Executive Vice President of World Championship Wrestling but after clashes with management over a number of issues as well as feeling pressure from Hank Aaron over a racially sensitive piece of correspondence, he resigned. He was subsequently replaced by Ole Anderson who was then succeeded by Eric Bischoff.


Wrestling career

As a professional wrestler, he famously feuded with WWWF Champion Bruno Sammartino, but was unable to win away the belt. In the 1960s, he wrestled in many areas, such as San Franciscomarker, Chicagomarker, St. Louismarker, and even Japanmarker, for All Japan Pro Wrestling. During these periods, Watts challenged for both the National Wrestling Alliance and American Wrestling Association versions of the World Title.

Booking career

Universal Wrestling Federation

Bill Watts is perhaps even more famous for being a pioneering promoter in the Mid-South area of the USA, with his base of operation being in the Shreveport, Louisiana area. His promotion was known as the Mid South Wrestling. He is often credited with creating the current and popular "episodic" style of TV wrestling, building solid creative storylines week-on-week, with an emphasis on solid in-ring action with dependable wrestlers like Steve Williams, The Junkyard Dog, Ted DiBiase and Jim Duggan. He's an outspoken critic on breaking kayfabe and "smart" wrestling fans. A Watts-run promotion always had face and heel wrestlers dress in different locker rooms and to have faces and heels not meet publicly. He has also been known to revamp his booking plans in order to protect the business from such fans. When a newspaper mentioned a wrestling event being the last one Jake "The Snake" Roberts would wrestle in Watts' territory and talked about the tradition of a wrestler jobbing in his last match to put his opponent over and to expect the finish to be in that fashion, Watts changed it so Roberts actually won the match and got put over on his way out of the territory.

After losing over half a million dollars, Watts sold the UWF to NWA Mid-Atlantic's Jim Crockett Promotions, who kept a lot of their stars, such as Sting. Instead of having UWF a separate organization, Crockett sent his mid-card wrestlers to the UWF and had them quickly win their titles. Eventually, the UWF folded, and Crockett would be bought out by Ted Turner in 1988. In April 1989, after firing George Scott, WCW offered Bill Watts the chance to book, but he declined the offer and WCW instead decided to go with a booking committee, which included Ric Flair, Kevin Sullivan, Eddie Gilbert, Jim Ross, and Jim Herd.

World Championship Wrestling

Watts became a Vice President of Turner Entertainment and was put in charge of World Championship Wrestling (succeeding Kip Frey) in 1992. He took a lot of his old-school values with him, such as banning moves from the top rope (due to its overuse at the time, but abolished it that fall), and the aforementioned babyfaces and heels separation. His tenure was not long, nor were his ideas overly embraced. According to his biography, Controversy Creates Ca$h, Eric Bischoff (who worked under Watts at the time) felt Watts would intimidate anyone he was talking to and was only interested in taking the WCW product back to 1970s standards, with poorly lit arenas and house shows in remote rural towns. He introduced his son, Erik Watts, to WCW around this time, who many felt was not ready for national wrestling.

Bill was fired from his position in 1993, after comments from an interview about Lester Maddox, a restaurant owner who was told he had to serve black people and he chose to close down his business instead. Watts felt the guy stood up for what he believed in and acted accordingly. He also made several other controversial statements in the newsletter pertaining to race and sexual orientation. The issue arose when he got hired by WCW but he had explained the situation to them and it was not a problem. A year later the article was brought to the attention of all-time Home Run King Hank Aaron, who himself was a vice president in the Turner organization with the Atlanta Braves by announcer Mark Madden, then a wrestling journalist who takes credit for Watts getting fired.

Watts stated that he got sick of getting backstabbed, especially by Bill Shaw. It was also impossible to fire anyone who was worthless in the front office, such as Shaw or the accountants. He finally decided that he didn’t need the job and quit. He disputes that he was fired for remarks that were construed as racist. He had already resigned by the time that Aaron had gotten the letter and, when Bill Shaw asked him about the letter, Watts called him a "chickenshit" and told him they’d already been over it before he’d ever got hired and that he was leaving. Bob Dhue then confirmed to Shaw that Watts had already quit beforehand.

As a promoter, he often championed and pushed African-American wrestlers as his top stars—first Junkyard Dog in Mid-South Wrestling, as well as "Big Cat" Ernie Ladd, who he later inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, and Ron Simmons in WCW—in order to appeal to the African-American fan base. Under Watts' reign as WCW chief, Ron Simmons became the first African-American to hold a widely recognized World Wrestling Heavyweight Championship. Mick Foley referred to Watts' history of "creating a black babyface and building the company around him," while talking about his match with Simmons. He was replaced by Ole Anderson.

World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment

Bill later went on to a position of booking power in the World Wrestling Federation, his tenure there was short, as Watts stated in later interviews that he was only up there on a three-month contract and had no interest in staying long-term. On April 4, 2009, Watts was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a part of the Class of 2009.

Political allegiance

Bill Watts is a Republican, and in an ROH shoot interview with Jim Cornette, he criticised Bill Clinton and the Democrats numerous times. He also said, "In the United States Constitution, it says all men are equal, but some men are more talented than others, and worth more".


Cowboy Bill Watts served as co-host of a sports talk radio show on The Sports Animalmarker in Tulsa, Oklahomamarker until late 2008. He is a longtime resident of Bixbymarker, a Tulsa suburb.


In March 2006, Watts released his autobiography The Cowboy and the Cross: The Bill Watts Story: Rebellion, Wrestling and Redemption through ECW Press. The book chronicles his upbringing, his career as first a wrestler then a promoter along with events in his personal life. The book also details his becoming a born-again Christian.

In wrestling

Championships and accomplishments

*Other honoree (2001)



External links

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