Wednesday, May 09, 2007 St. Joseph News-Press Former wrestler, sheriff dies at 83
The imposing figure took pride in being a tough guy.
Sonny Myers, a burly local wrestler and former Buchanan County sheriff, died Monday at age 83. Mr. Myers led a diversified life as a carnival brawler, title wrestler, traveling amusement show owner, car dealer, and Wal-Mart greeter.
The lifelong St. Joseph resident started on the killing floor of Swift's packinghouse. One day in 1943, St. Joseph wrestling promoter Gust Karras approached the 6 foot, 2 inch strapping man at the YMCA and proposed a wrestling career. Throughout the next 40 years he became known for moves like the headlock, drop-kick, and his trademark clincher move - the sleeper hold.
"Everybody wanted to see him put the sleeper hold on guys," former News-Press sports editor Bill Scott said. "He came up behind and grabbed 'em. I don't know if he actually put them to sleep, but the crowd thought so."
Mr. Myers became tag-team heros with wrestler Larry Hamilton on Friday and Saturday nights.
Any kid growing up in St. Joseph in the 1950s and 1960s remembers Mr. Myers as a childhood hero, said Pat Conway. The 59-year-old's favorite memory was Mr. Myers matched against the bleached blond bad guy "Rip Hawk."
"He'd get on his knees and cry, and the crowd would be screaming, but the good guy (Mr. Myers) would not hit him," Mr. Conway said.
Wrestler Harley Race climbed through the ropes of the squared circle and grappled with Mr. Myers more than a few times.
"Sonny was probably the best of the best when it came to the clean side of wrestling," Mr. Race said.
Bob Slater, News-Press managing editor at the time, remembers the two-term Buchanan County sheriff's unforgettable handshake and imposing presence. During his two terms in the 1970s, Mr. Myers followed his own rules, which sometimes landed him in hot water with politicians, he said.
One Saturday night, he busted into long-tolerated illegal cockfighting in southern Buchanan County and arrested 35 people.
"The magistrate court was overflowing Monday morning," Mr. Slater said. "Sonny was not one of the good ole boys."
He would later train young wrestlers, including World Wrestling legend Hulk Hogan, wife Elaine Myers said. He died Monday following a two-month illness - an old man unbeaten by life, she says.
"He didn't realize his own strength, even to the end," Mrs. Myers said. "He died a gentle giant." +
Crimson Mask I
People have forgotten that Harold 'Sonny' Myers was one of the major stars of the late '40s and early '50s, a pre-'48 National Wrestling Alliance champion, one of the more frequent contenders post-'48, and as a promotor was one of the first to rebel against the NWA (although he ended up back in the fold). He's better remembered now as the NWA Special Troubleshooter referee, at which he was very effective.
We put this up a few months ago, but I think people will enjoy reading it again. It puts Sonny's battle into context (although I'm sure Tim's book adds much more than these two judicial opinions).
When pro wrestler Harold Myers sued P.L. (Pinkie) George and the National Wrestling Alliance, alleging that he had been effectively blackballed by the NWA, he thought he'd have his day in court.
But justice for a professional wrestler was apparently difficult to obtain in the 1950s, as the trial judge made a mokery of professional wrestling from the bench and, in the process, compromised the integrity of the judicial system. The jury, no doubt prejudiced by the judge's remarks, decided the case in favor of the defendants and Myers appealed. What follows is the opinion from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals that grants Myers a retrial.