Thursday, March 19, 2015

Wrestling Section on WRAL History Website

One of the most popular and long-lasting programs in WRAL-TV history was Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. The matches were recorded every Wednesday night in WRAL’s Studio A and were televised on Channel 5 on Saturdays.

WRAL-TV was the main studio home for the wrestling productions that were syndicated throughout the region by Jim Crockett Promotions. Raleigh promoter Joe Murnick coordinated the Raleigh events and is also remembered as the ring announcer for many of the WRAL matches in the 1970s.

The weekly influx of wrestlers and their entourages made for interesting times at WRAL-TV. Colorful personalities like Wahoo McDaniel, Black Jack Mulligan and Ric Flair made WRAL home every Wednesday afternoon–recording promos, playing cards, wandering the halls and occasionally getting into shouting matches that brought a carnival atmosphere to the station. By and large the wrestlers were a genial group, but when the matches got underway in front of hundreds of screaming fans in Studio A – it was all business.

WRAL on-air personalities became some of the most popular play-by-play hosts for the matches. North Carolina Hall-of-Fame sportscaster Ray Reeve was first to call the matches, followed by Nick Pond and the legendary Bob Caudle—who gained his greatest fame as the voice of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. Weatherman Bob DeBardelaben even got in on the action, putting his voice on the famous announcement that always preceded commercial breaks: “Let’s take time for this commercial message about the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling events coming up in your area.”

The first known wrestling program at WRAL-TV was recorded on January 31, 1959. The matches ran continuously for more than two decades before coming to an end July 29, 1981.

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The WRAL / CBC history website made significant use of the Mid-Atlantic Gateway's Studio Wrestling section as a reference for this article, and included many historical artifacts collected by the Gateway on their website as well.