Don Owen (March 16 1912 –
August 1 2002) was an American professional
wrestling promoter. For several decades,
he owned and operated the highly successful Pacific Northwest Wrestling
(PNW) under his parent company, Don Owen Sports,
which was based out of Portland, Oregon.
Oregon to boxing/wrestling promoter
Herb Owen, Don and his brother Elton began working in the family
business in the mid 1920s, selling popcorn
and drinks to the audience.
Early on, Don and Elton even
stepped into the ring on occasion to box or wrestle. In time, Don
moved more and more into the promoting side, eventually taking over
completely after his father died in 1951. His career as a promoter
spanned over 60 years throughout the heyday of territorial
. Owen was a founding member of the National Wrestling
Under management of Don Owen Sports, Pacific Northwest Wrestling
became one of the leaders of the National Wrestling Alliance
chief reason being Don Owen's reputation as the best payoff
promoter in the wrestling business. Owen was known for dealing
fairly with all his wrestlers, paying them exactly what he promised
and never trying to stiff them, a mentality not shared with the
vast majority of his fellow promoters. Because of this, every major
star in the 1960s and '70s
wished to wrestle
in the Northwest. Among those who wrestled and/or got their start
under Don Owen's management are Stan
, Dizzy Hogan
, Curt Hennig
, Mad Dog
, Nick Bockwinkel
, Roddy Piper
, Omar Atlas
, Shag Thomas
, Lonnie "Moondog" Mayne
, and George Wagner (in the
years before he attained international fame as Gorgeous George
Don Owen negotiated a deal with pioneering Portland TV station
KPTV to become the very first wrestling show seen on TV
in the city. Portland
(later known as Big Time Wrestling
continued as a weekly program until the show ended production in
December 1991, possibly setting a record as the longest lasting
wrestling show in the history of American television.
In 1968, Owen bought and renovated a bowling alley
which eventually became the
Portland Sports Arena and the new home of PNW. The company held
strong throughout the 1970s despite competition from "outlaw
promotions," and in 1976, Dutch Savage bought into Don Owen Sports
and began promoting PNW cards in the state of Washington.
By the 1980s, professional wrestling had seen a revival
on behalf of Vince McMahon
's World Wrestling Federation
(WWF). However, McMahon had accomplished this by successfully
driving the old wrestling "territories" like PNW out of existence.
That same decade, the formation of World Championship Wrestling
(WCW), WWF's future chief competitor, would also contribute to the
disintegration of territorial wrestling.
Finally, in July 1992, facing increasing health problems from age,
overwhelming competition from WWF and WCW, and unrelenting problems
from an overzealous Oregon State Athletic Commission, Don Owen was
forced to shut down PNW's operations. He sold the entire company,
minus the Sports Arena, to promoter Sandy
. The Portland Sports Arena was sold to a local church.
Owen then lived out a quiet retirement until his death in
Don Owen is regarded as one of the most honest and beloved
wrestling promoters of the 20th century. His professionalism was
outstanding among territorial wrestling promoters and helped give
PNW an intimate, "mom and pop
quality. Owen remained one of the most recognizable figures of
Oregon years after his retirement and was fondly remembered by
wrestling stars he helped push
in their early careers.
One particular star, Roddy Piper
returned to Oregon on February 18, 1995, presenting Owen with a
life time achievement plaque.
Owen was married with two sons, Barry and Mark. Mark is married
with two children. Barry worked for his father's wrestling
promotion from a young age and took over uncle Elton's duties after
his retirement in 1982.