August 15, 1894 is the birth date of Mr. Anthanasios Pakiotis. Born in Greece, later immigrating to America, he was not known as Tom Packs until nearly thirty years later when he started arguably the most profitable years of his promoting career.
Later in his life newspapers in America would state that Pakiotis was a natural born businessman. It's said that he'd run or at least had a share in businesses prior to getting into wrestling. After moving to America in 1907 his family and he remained on the East Coast for the first few years where it's said Pakiotis first started to run businesses as a young man just about in his 20s. Eventually the family settled in Chicago, Illinois. It was in that city that Pakiotis really established himself as a man to respect and he built up a network of associates there.
When that story is taken into consideration, the story of how he got into the wrestling business is somewhat bizarre. It goes that he and another man, who would go on to be a wrestler, were both working in a restaurant in Chicago; Pakiotis a dishwasher. While Jim Londos was in the city he heard of the two men and as he was always looking out for Greek comrades to align with, tried to convince them both to get into professional wrestling.
As a result of the conversation he had with the still rising star that day Packs would soon after pack his bags and leave the areas that held the two famous Gotch-Hackenschmidt matches. By mid-1923 he was in St. Louis, Missouri. The former promoter there, another Greek going by the name John Contos, had recently shut his doors on holding shares there claiming there was no money to be made and the city all but dead. Undeterred Packs started up his own promotion anyway, and, well, as they say the rest is history.
For those who may not know that history I'll go over it for you fairly briefly.
Tom Packs would work out a way to book matches and build feuds with the help of the connections he had built up over his formative years. These included people associated with newspapers who he could use to hype his events and highlight the feuds between wrestlers. Having Londos as a friend certainly did not hinder his standing within the wrestling world either.
Relatively quickly the fruits of his labor were showing from as early as 1924. Fruit that just seemed to continued ripen, never going out of season. Until his retirement St. Louis remained a pretty consistent draw for professional wrestling. Even during World War II Packs was packing houses with fans eager to see that night's show with their favorite wrestler's squaring off against each other.
The rebuilding of a borderline baron city was not his only accomplishment in the business though. Although trusts had previously existed in wrestling, they normally exploded for reasons revolving around money and egos usually. Packs would try and mend the broken fences in an attempt to bring the big fish back together selling a united front as a way to reach the goal of stabilizing wrestling. Ultimate he was not successful. Had it been ten or fifteen years later maybe it would have. As we all know the "National" efforts of "Wrestling" promoters to form an "Alliance" worked incredibly well at the tail end of the 1940s.
Not only did he try to work with promoters, two future "superstars" benefited greatly from Packs being in charge. Packs was instrumental in attaching rockets to the careers of both Lou Thesz and "Wild" Bill Longson really helping them to be perceived as top draw athletes. Plus he provided the right platform and the right ideas for them to do so and do so they did. That's not to say he didn't help others who attained success, it is just that those two names stick out in particular. Yet neither of them are his greatest legacy to wrestling, nor is the area he made into a goldmine.
That distinction falls to Sam Muchnick. As a young man Muchnick was a protege to Packs and would be tutored in the ways of the wrestling world. Learning everything he could from Packs including media relations, public imaging, booking, running a business, and how to build respect and trust with the targeted audience. Unfortunately their business relationship would not last. Following a dispute over money Muchnick, funnily enough with a little encouragement from Jim Londos, left Packs and started up his own promotion to oppose his former mentor.
Before enlisting in the military for World War One Muchnick ran shows around the St. Louis area, but Packs had so many friends in the right places it was hard for the younger promoter to really make any headway. By the time he returned from the war Packs had shifted a lot of the power to Lou Thesz and would fairly soon after relinquish all control and investment to the wrestler on the verge of becoming a truly major star. Thesz would ultimately work out a deal and join forces with Sam Muchnick around a year after the formation of the National Wrestling Alliance.
It's safe to say that Packs' failed idea for a wrestling trust and the philosophy that went with it had to have influenced Muchnick when he took over the role of President for the National Wrestling Alliance and remained in that position for the best part of twenty years. The knowledge he bestowed on Muchnick, the way he popped and sustained attendances in St. Louis, and the many stars he helped build all contributed to one heck of a legacy within the wrestling industry by the time he retired in June 1948.
A couple of years before his retirement Packs started up his own circus company. It was successful enough and he continued running it right up until the time of his passing on October 22, 1964. With over forty years successfully promoting live entertainment shows by the time of his death, Tom Packs built himself a legacy as a great promoter outside of the realms of wrestling too.
By Jimmy Wheeler
As unique content strictly for the Professional Wrestling Historical Society