Friday, November 17, 2017

"Carolina Wrestling" - New information on Jim Crockett's earliest TV Wrestling

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Originally published on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway 10/22/17

Carroll Hall, who publishes the "All-Star Championship Wrestling" website, has unearthed information on what most surely was Jim Crockett's earliest foray into televised wrestling.

In May of 1956, WFBC Channel 4 in Greenville, SC announced they would begin airing live wrestling matches in the studios of WFBC beginning on June 2, 1956. The show was called, appropriately enough, "Carolina Wrestling."

Here is the text of the announcement that appeared in the Greenville Times.

Channel 4 Will Have Wrestling Ring in Studio

Wrestling in the studios of WFBC-TV on Rutherford Street will be presented "live" by Channel 4 each Saturday afternoon from 4:30 to 5:30, the television station announced yesterday.

A 20 x 20 regulation ring will be set up in the spacious studios and name wrestlers will appear regularly. First performance will be next Saturday afternoon.

The wrestlers who have been scheduled to appear at various times include Mr. Moto, Kinji Shiduya, Gene Becker, Jack Whitzig, Don Arnold, Don Eagle, and Cheif War Eagle, Lea, Chick and Leo Garabaldi, Carl Von Hess, Dick Steinborn, and Angelo Martinelli. There will also be girl and midget wrestlers.

Commentator for the events will be Claude Freeman.
According to Hall's research of newspaper archival TV listings from that time period, the show ran for just over three months, with it's last appearance on the TV schedule being Saturday, September 8, 1956.

Demand for the free tickets to the studio show grew so quickly that on at least one occasion, WFBC moved the show to the famous Textile Hall in Greenville, site of many Jim Crockett wrestling events in the 1950s and 1960s. The move was reported in the Greenville Times to accommodate the huge demand for tickets to the live broadcasts.

To put this show in historical perspective of the times, WFBC Channel 4 had only been on the air for two and a half years at this point, first broadcasting on December 31, 1953. Jim Crockett would not put wrestling on WBTV in his home city of Charlotte until January of 1958. So the June 1956 "Carolina Wrestling" show was bound to be the first ever affiliated with Jim Crockett Promotions.

The show proved to be quite popular, both in ratings and in interest for tickets, which begs the question why it was relatively short-lived. As reported on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway, wrestling would return to the studios of WFBC in Greenville in 1960 with hosts including Bob Poole, Bill Krieger and Billy Powell.

We will be updating the WFBC page on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway archive site to reflect this information soon.

For Carroll Hall's first post on this information visit:
"Carolina Wrestling" on WFBC 4 in Greenville, SC"