Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Gulf Coast Wrestling

Charlie Platt with Bob Armstrong on the set of "Gulf Coast Wrestling"

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

As I've done several times in the past on this blog, I have strayed outside the confines of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling to explore the look and feel of other studio locations for pro-wrestling from the territory days, as well as the sound and style of the broadcasters that brought us that wrestling.

When I moved to work and live in Alabama in early 1982, the local wrestling program I discovered on TV out of Montgomery and Birmingham, AL was "Southeastern Championship Wrestling" hosted by Charlie Platt and Ric Stewart. The funny thing about this program was that it had the same name and opening theme music and video sequence as the "Southeastern Championship Wrestling" show I grew up watching out of Knoxville, TN. That show was promoted by Ron Fuller and hosted by Les Thatcher, someone very familiar to me from the Mid-Atlantic area.

What I didn't know then was that in the late 1970s, Fuller had bought the territory based out of Mobile, AL promoted by Lee Fields known as "Gulf Coast Wrestling" and for several years the Knoxville show aired in the Alabama territory, too. Around 1980, Ron Fuller sold his interests in the Knoxville territory and moved his television tapings out of Knoxville down to WTVY-TV channel 4 in Dothan, AL which had been the home of Gulf Coast TV for many years.

The TV show was taped each Saturday morning and then sent out to TV markets throughout the territory which spanned from the panhandle of Florida up through roughly 2/3 the state of Alabama, just past Birmingham.

The studio setup in Dothan was much like the studio setup in Knoxville with a couple of bleachers on two sides of the ring, and a desk where the hosts sat and introduced the show and also did interviews with the wrestlers. The back-drop behind the desk of the Southeast show was the same as it had been in the 1970s in the Knoxville studio. But I had never known what the back-drop looked like for the Gulf Coast show.

But recently I came across a video on YouTube of wrestling from Georgia in 1980 where a taped interview with Bob Armstrong had been sent in as he prepared to return for a special match or two in the the territory. It was a great surprise to see the friendly face and hear the familiar voice of Charlie Platt introducing "Bullet" Bob against a back-drop I had never seen before. A closer look and I could make out the bottom half of the words "Gulf Coast" above the word "Wrestling" behind Armstrong and Platt.

I thought it was a very cool looking studio back-drop and it made me wish that during my time in Alabama that the show had still been called "Gulf Coast Wrestling." 

So this is our small glimpse across Charlie Platt's broadcast desk back in the Gulf Coast days of the Alabama/Pensacola territory. 

For a closer look at that territory in the Gulf Coast days, see Mike Norris's excellent series of articles on Kayfabe Memories or check out some of the relevant podcasts produced by Karl Stern on the premium side of the Wrestling Observer website.