Sports

Wrestler Bob Geigel was at the heart of the Kansas City wrestling scene

By TOM SMITH

Bob Geigel
Bob Geigel

Professional wrestling fans who watched matches on television or in person at Memorial Hall or Municipal Auditorium in the sport’s heydey knew the name Bob Geigel.

After wrestling for a time as a villain who was often booed by the fans, Geigel became one of the area’s most popular performers. Fans flocked to see him do battle with rival Bulldog Bob Brown, who had been a tag-team partner ealry in their careers, and other wrestlers the fans disliked.

“He was as tough as tough got,” former wrestler Harley Race said.

Race was emotional while speaking those words Friday, one day after the death of Geigel.

Geigel passed away Thursday at the age of 90. Reports on websites that cover today’s professional wrestling indicated that Geigel had suffered a broken hip earlier this year and had been battling Alzheimer’s disease.

After a stint in the Navy, Geigel got into athletics while attending the University of Iowa, where he played football and wrestled. He finished third in the 191-pound weight class at the 1948 NCAA wrestling championships.

Geigel got started in professional wrestling in Texas during the 1950s, and he became promoter of the matches in Kansas City in 1963. His business partners included Race — who eventually became world champion, as recognized by the National Wrestling Alliance, on several occasions — as well as previous world champion Pat O’Connor. Geigel served three times as president of the NWA, which sanctioned matches in Kansas City and many other areas in the United States as well as several other countries.

Geigel retired from wrestling on a regular basis in 1976 but occasionally returned to the ring after that.

Geigel’s group also became involved in promoting wrestling in St. Louis before giving up the business in 1988 because of the expansion of the organization now known as World Wrestling Entertainment.

After retiring from wrestling, Geigel worked in security at The Woodlands racetrack in Kansas City, Kan. Geigel loved it when fans would come up and talk wrestling with him as well as former wrestlers Brown, Rufus R. Jones and Mike George, who all worked at the track.

Fans who didn’t otherwise know could have gotten the idea that Geigel was a wrestler by the strength of his handshake or the bumps on his shaved head left from a few chair shots and other spills during matches.

“Bob was one of the nicest guys who has ever been in professional wrestling,” Race said. “He was a super all-around good guy.”

| Tom Smith, tomsmith@kcstar.com

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