Non-Wrestlers‎ > ‎Promoters‎ > ‎

Mike LeBell (1930-2009)


Real Name - Michael Lebell

Lifespan - 7/1/1930 - 11/24/2009


Occupational Background - n/a


Mentor(s) - Cal Eaton, Jules Strongbow


Promotional Background - Los Angeles(`5?-`82)


Peak Years - `67-`74


Place in HistoryPro-wrestling territories always saw their highs and lows, but Los Angeles stands out in a unique way.  One of the first hotbeds on the West Coast, the growing population and proximity to Hollywood in the early days of television made it the perfect spot for growth.  In 1961, Los Angeles was one of the premier pro-wrestling cities in North America with its WWA World Heavyweight Championship widely recognized and it holding its own with the AWA and WWWF as great promotions outside of the NWA structure.  In 1971, Los Angeles was positioning itself to draw one of the biggest crowds, one of the biggest gates and the blowoff to one of the hottest feuds of the era.  In 1981, the company was on its absolute last legs, relying almost entirely on talent going-to and coming-from Japan, a regular stream of green rookies and its Hispanic audience due to their Spanish language broadcasts and visits from Mexican luchadors.  Over that twenty year period, Mike LeBell went from the heir-apparent to the absentee owner.  The story of Mike LeBell begins with his mother, Aileen, who married boxing and wrestling promoter Cal Eaton in 1948.  Her oldest son Mike slowly took control of promoting the family’s pro-wrestling operations learning from his stepfather and Jules Strongbow.  LeBell enjoyed many advantages that allowed him to be unique successfully.  He inherited an established promotion that was well-connected to the local media and he was surrounded by smart veterans and they attracted top talent.  Southern California was a desirable location in many respects for pro-wrestlers - the wrestlers could spend their days at the gym or on the beach and make their short trips to the matches at night.  Like the Northeast it included many populous markets so it was “easy” to draw consistently.  However, LeBell was not a well-liked promoter and was not as invested in pro-wrestling as many of his peers across the country.  It was his business and he was interested in turning a profit above all else.  As a result, Mike LeBell became notorious for being short-sighted and averse to risk and probably missed many opportunities as a result.  The Spanish International Network (SIN) picked them up and aired them across the country, so they had impressive exposure, but never truly capitalized this reality.  Many have theorized that LeBell let the operation deteriorate because he was using it as a tax write-off.  LeBell was the first regional promoter to go into business with the ambitious Vince McMahon, but he, like others, ended up cast aside once the WWF was established in the market and no longer needed him.  LeBell largely vanished and was not involved with the sport, reunions or otherwise.  Curiously, his notable half-brother, “Judo” Gene LeBell became a beloved figure in the martial arts world and he appears often and is a revered legend.

Comments