Monday, June 29, 2015

Television Wrestling History: WRAL-5 Raleigh, NC

WRAL TV in Raleigh is the studio location most closely associated with Jim Crockett Promotions and Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. Studio A at WRAL was the site of weekly TV tapings for over three decades. By 1974, all of the remaining regional taping locations (WFBC, WGHP, WBTV) had ceased, and all Crockett TV taping was consolidated into this location.

At that point, two versions of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling were taped, one hosted by long time Raleigh announcer Bob Caudle, the other hosted briefly by Sam Menacker and then regularly by Les Thatcher. The Thatcher-hosted "B" show replaced WGHP's Championship Wrestling in markets where it was also syndicated at the time. (Example: Asheville's WLOS-TV).  On October 8, 1975, a new program called Wide World Wrestling, hosted by long time Atlanta wrestling announcer Ed Capral, replaced the Thatcher version of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. Thatcher would continue to do the local promo spots to be inserted in the local broadcast of each show. (Thatcher also produced and hosted the Southeastern Championship Wrestling program for Ron Fuller in Knoxville, TN. during this period.) Capral left the promotion in late 1977 and was replaced by Tom Miller and George Scott. On the weekend of October 7, 1978, Rich Landrum became the permanent host of the show, which was renamed World Wide Wrestling.

Bob Caudle's main co-host was David Crockett through the WRAL period. Tom Miller filled in during the summer of 1976 when David Crockett was tending to another family business with sister Frances Crockett, the Charlotte O's minor league baseball franchise. Big Bill Ward, who hosted Championship Wrestling for Crockett Promotions in Charlotte on WBTV from the late 1950s through early 1970s, briefly co-hosted with Bob Caudle on the 2nd Mid-Atlantic show after TV tapings had been consolidated to Raleigh. Lord Alfred Hayes had a brief stint as co-host in 1980.  Landrum's regular co-host on World Wide Wrestling would eventually be Johnny Weaver.

Prior to this consolidation, in the 1960s and early 1970s, WRAL was actually the site of one show only, a one-hour taping with simultaneous "dual" audio tracks being recorded. As they taped the matches, they had two broadcasters calling the action separately. Nick Pond, a WRAL sportscaster, hosted the show that would be seen in the Raleigh market (with co-host Joe Murnick much of that time, who was also the local Raleigh promoter), while at the same time one desk over, Bob Caudle called the action for a tape that was sent out to other markets in the Mid-Atlantic area that didn't have their own local TV tapings. Both Pond and Caudle also did sports and weather for WRAL television. Elliot Murnick replaced Pond on the Raleigh broadcast around 1972-1973. For most of this time, the Raleigh show was called Championship Wrestling and the syndicated show was called All-Star Wrestling. When all of the other studio locations ceased taping by 1974, Caudle became the sole host of what was now titled Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling which was now sent to all of Crockett's TV  markets including the home base of Raleigh.

Wrestling first debuted on WRAL on January 31, 1959 at 5:00 PM. The show at the time was titled Championship Wrestling. In the earliest days of wrestling on WRAL, the legendary broadcaster Ray Reeve called the wrestling action before turning over the duties to Pond, who was Reeve's assistant early in his career at WRAL. Reeve was the long time radio voice of the North Carolina State Wolfpack and was the first broadcaster inducted to the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. (On a side note, Charlie Harville, the long time host of wrestling taped at WGHP in High Point NC in the 60s and 70s, was the 2nd broadcaster inducted into NC Sports Hall of Fame.) 

But the voice most associated with WRAL wrestling will forever be the one and only Bob Caudle, a long time employee and on-air personality at WRAL, who continued to do TV for the Crocketts when they moved production to WPCQ in Charlotte and then took the production out to the arenas. Caudle is still loved by wrestling fans today, recently receiving a standing ovation at a wrestling legends show in Spartanburg SC. He was an inaugural inductee into the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Hall of Heroes in August of 2007. Fans still call for his trademark show closer, "We'll see you next week fans, and until then, so long for now."

  - Dick Bourne

Call Letters: WRAL
Channel Number: 5
Network Affiliate:
ABC  (Originally NBC, now CBS)
Began Taping Wrestling:
Late 1950s
Earliest known broadcast: January 31, 1959
Ceased Taping Wrestling: July 29, 1981 (Final Taping)
Play-by-play Hosts:
Raleigh telecast (1960s - approximately 1972): Ray Reeve, Nick Pond, Elliot Murnick
Syndicated telecast: Bob Caudle, Les Thatcher, Sam Menacker (briefly)

Ed Capral, Tom Miller, George Scott, Russ Debuq, Rich Landrum
David Crockett, Tom Miller, Joe Murnick (Raleigh version only) Short term: Lord Alfred Hayes, Big Bill Ward. (There were brief runs by several others including Sandy Scott, Roddy Piper, and Sir Oliver Humperdink)
Johnny Weaver, George Scott, Tom Miller (There were brief appearances by several others.)
Ring Announcers:
Joe Murnick, Carl Murnick, Elliott Murnick, David Crockett, Jim Crockett
Local Promos:
Bob Caudle, David Crockett, Rich Landrum, Ed Capral, Les Thatcher, Bill Connell, a couple others yet identified.
The famous commercial bump "Let's take time for this commercial message about the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling events coming up in your area..." was voiced by WRAL weatherman Bob Debardelaben.
Taping night: Wednesday nights
Show titles: Championship Wrestling, All Star Wrestling, Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, Wide World Wrestling, World Wide Wrestling