Championship Wrestling from Florida (CWF) was the corporate and brand name of the Tampa, Florida wrestling office existing from 1961, when Eddie Graham first bought into the promotion, until 1987, when it closed down. It is also commonly (but incorrectly) 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.
The original owner and promoter was "Cowboy" Clarence P. Luttrell, 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 was worked but Cowboy took a severe beating. Cowboy opened the office in 1949, and Eddie Graham bought into the promotion in 1961 and took over completely in 1971, some say forcing Cowboy out.
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.
The promotion thrived with stars such as NWA champions Lou Thesz
and Gene Kiniski
, Graham, Don Curtis
, Sam Steamboat
, the Great Malenko
(Larry Simon), Johnny Valentine
, Hiro Matsuda
, Bob Orton Sr.
and later Jr.
, Joe Scarpa
(later Chief Jay Strongbow), Wahoo McDaniel
, the Funks (Terry
and Dory, Jr.
), the Briscos (Jack
), Buddy Colt
(Ron Read), Dusty Rhodes
, Barry Windham
, Mike Rotunda
, Mike Graham
(Eddie's son), Kevin Sullivan
- whose cult-like Army of Darkness
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'.
Life after Eddie Graham's suicide
When Eddie Graham committed suicide on Super Bowl Sunday
in January 1985, due to a combination of personal and business reverses, responsibility for the office went to Hiro Matsuda
and Duke Keomuka
, both of whom bought in 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 of 1987. Most of the stars had gone to Jim Crockett Promotions
or the WWF by that point.
Television programs and tape library
CWF filmed and later taped its weekly TV wrestling show at the famed Sportatorium at 106 N. Albany in Tampa, FL - really 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
On March 2, 2006, it was announced that the CWF library was purchased by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) for the DVD on Dusty Rhodes.
Howard Brody started NWA Florida
in 1990 and he booked for it until 2002.
In 2003, Kevin Rhodes started Championship Wrestling from Florida as a member of the NWA. He occasionally has some legends of the 1980s wrestling appear in his promotion.
In 2007, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), revived the promotion as a developmental territory under the name, Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW).
Former FCW and CWF stars