Former Wrestler/Promoter and one-time Greensboro resident Johnny Powers gone at age 79

He used to promote IWA matches at the Piedmont Sport Arena on Norwalk Street, just off of West Wendover Avenue, and he resided at the Carolina Circle Apartments…

Johnny Powers was a professional wrestling promoter, who lived in Greensboro, N.C., back in the 1970’s and he had the likes of The Mighty Igor, The Masked Superstar/Bill Eadie, Bulldog Brower, Mil Mascaras, and others performing/wrestling for him in the IWA/International Wrestling Alliance…He even had Tex McKenzie on commentary….

Johnny Powers would promote matches at that Piedmont Sports Arena on Norwalk Street, and he even ran a few IWA matches in the old Winston-Salem Coliseum…He had a son, while here in Greensboro, named Kirk Powers, who attended Western Guilford High School…

Johnny Powers was a part of our Greensboro community…

Powers passed away at the end of 2022….Johnny Powers gone at age 79…..

RIP:Johnny Powers

As documented by Slam, National Wrestling Federation co-founder and legendary promoter Johnny Powers passed away peacefully in his Smithville, Ontario home on December 30, 2022.

Born Dennis Waters on March 23, 1943, Powers began training at the age of 15 and had his first professional match at 17 while studying geology at McMaster University. After dropping out at age 20, he spent most of the 1960s and 1970s battling the likes of WWWF Heavyweight Champion Bruno Sammartino, NWA Champion Lou Thesz, and NJPW’s Antonio Inoki, as well as the stars of the Buffalo territory such as The Sheik, “The Big Cat” Ernie Ladd, and Abdullah the Butcher.

While competing, he also learned how to be a promoter and television producer from international star Pedro Martinez. Together, they founded the NWF, where Powers was billed as “the star of stars.” Their TV show “Championship Wrestling With Johnny Powers” was syndicated around the world in Mexico, Japan, and on the Armed Forces Television Network along with their library that included most of the key territories in America at that time. Martinez and Powers’ reach eventually expanded to 27 more countries to show over 300 hours of televised wrestling that was produced, promoted, and even commentated on by Powers. Effectively, they created the world’s first and largest international professional wrestling television distribution network long before the WWE Network or IWTV.

After finding success in and out of the ring, Powers hung up his boots in 1982 and largely kept his distance from the wrestling industry. In 2003, he was inducted into the Canadian Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.

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Professional wrestling career
Dennis Waters was born in Hamilton, Ontario. At 15, he started training under the tutelage of Canadian light heavyweight wrestling champion Jack Wentworth. Powers had his first professional match in 1960 in Detroit at age 17 while attending McMaster University in Hamilton. He left university and became a professional wrestler, formally turning professional at age 20 in Detroit as Lord Anthony Lansdowne.

Powers wrestled Larry Chene many times, who then mentored Powers. Powers dyed his hair blond and wrestled as Johnny Powers, the Golden Adonis, in the Northeast United States and Canada in 1964. Powers wrestled six times for the WWWF Heavyweight Championship against Bruno Sammartino in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Powers turned heel and was managed by Bobby Davis. He fought Whipper Billy Watson many times across Canada and was main event for two years in Canada’s Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. Powers fought NWA World Champions Lou Thesz outdoors in Hamilton ballpark and St Louis Kiel Auditorium and Gene Kiniski in Toronto ballpark and the Hamilton Forum. Powers dominated Cleveland Ohio with great battles against Johnny Valentine, The Sheik, Ernie Ladd and Abdullah the Butcher. In 1973, Powers wrestled Ladd in a match, during which wrestler Ox Baker turned on Ladd to side with Powers.[2] As a result, angry fans stormed the ring—an incident known as “The Cleveland Riot” and one of the most dangerous riots in professional wrestling history.

Powers was tutored as a wrestling promoter and television producer by international old school wrestler, booker and classic promoter Pedro Martínez. Martinez coached and mentored Powers for 20 years from the age of 22 in the art of creative event marketing of pro wrestling. Martínez and Powers founded National Sports TV on an existing “Wrestling from Buffalo Auditorium” library of black and white films. This library had been funded by one of pro wrestling first big money sponsors, Dow beer.

Powers co-founded the National Wrestling Federation and sold it three years later in 1973 to New Japan Pro-Wrestling. He was the NWF World Heavyweight Champion and was the star of “Championship Wrestling with Johnny Powers”. He was NWF North American Champion seven times and NWF world champion three times (same title).

Powers sold television wrestling shows and films to Japan, Mexico, the Armed Forces Network and eventually to 27 countries creating the first and largest international professional wrestling television distribution network. Martinez and Powers owned the largest professional wrestling library in the world at that time with acquisition of most of the other key US wrestling territories television libraries. Powers also, as executive producer and on-air commentator, promoted and produced over 300 new hours of televised wrestling.

Powers held the first barbed wire top rope wrapped match and paid a record athletic commission fine. After watching a Barnum and Bailey circus, he produced and promoted the only three rings at a time Cleveland Stadium Super Card with 50 global stars. Powers was defeated by Antonio Inoki for the NWF World Heavyweight Championship December 10, 1973, in Tokyo. Powers, a seven time North American Open champion, defended his title in the New Japan promotion.

Powers and Pat Patterson fought as NWF North American Tag Team Champions in California and Japan. In the Los Angeles title match, Joe Louis was referee.

Powers with Pedro Martínez acquired control of the International Wrestling Association (IWA) in 1975 and Powers later bought out the Martinez interest for 100% ownership in 1976.

Powers retired from wrestling in 1982. He was honored in Yokohama, Japan, before a sellout crowd on September 30, 1991, that was televised nationally, as one of 18 greatest fighters to have appeared in Japanese rings, along with Karl Gotch and Muhammad Ali. He was inducted into the Canadian Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2003.

2 thoughts on “Former Wrestler/Promoter and one-time Greensboro resident Johnny Powers gone at age 79

  1. My memory of Johnny was his Allgood Siding commercials that aired during the IWA wrestling tv show.

  2. Yes, Allgood Siding was a big deal back in those days….Make the down payment and 30 days as good as cash….

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