Thursday, November 16, 2017

No Antenna? You're Missing A Lot. Especially Wrestling.

Ray Reeve Hosts Professional Wrestling in the Early 1960s
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Mark Eastridge Collection
This vintage newspaper ad is a real sign-of-the-times from January 1960 when it appeared in the Rocky Mount, NC newspaper.

Rocky Mount is about 70 miles from Raleigh and this ad is suggesting to Rocky Mount residents that if you don't have an aerial antenna on your roof (as opposed to just "rabbit ears" attached to the TV set in your house), you're missing out on some great television shows from WRAL channel 5 in Raleigh.

Keep in mind, this is in 1960. Television is still in its infancy. WRAL TV has only been on the air for a little over three years. Many homes didn't even have television set yet. It is estimated that only 85% of households in the U.S. had TV in 1960.*

There clearly was an education effort going on by WRAL in an effort to increase its viewership and therefore its advertising base, letting folks in rural areas know that if you didn't have a roof-top antenna, you were really missing out. It's a sure bet the television antenna manufactures trade group supported the effort as well.

The ad touts three programs that cross all age demographics and viewing periods on Saturday: "Howdy Doody" for the kids (and Mom, too, apparently) at 10 AM, live professional wrestling at 5:30 PM, and a horror movie late at night.

"Top professional athletes in exciting contests.
Grunt-by-groan description by Ray Reeve."
Championship Wrestling 5:30 PM

Ray Reeve, the "Dean of Sportscasters" was a legendary voice in broadcasting, the very first sports director and sports anchor for WRAL channel 5, as well as a popular voice on WRAL AM and FM radio. He was the play-by-play voice of ACC basketball on the Tobacco Sports Network on radio in the late 1940s and 1950s, and more notably the voice for NC State Wolfpack basketball.

Carroll Hall Collection
A role not often listed on his resume or in his many biographies was that he was the first voice of professional wrestling on WRAL when live pro wrestling first launched and became hugely popular on the station in late 1959.

Reeve later turned over his wrestling duties to WRAL sports and news personalities Nick Pond and Bob Caudle. Pond became the voice of wrestling in Raleigh, and Caudle the voice of wrestling for the rest of the Carolinas and Virginia that would later be known as the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling area. By 1973, all of the various television wrestling tapings for Jim Crockett Promotions (which included WBTV-3 in Charlotte and WGHP-8 in High Point) were consolidated to WRAL in Raleigh, and Bob Caudle became the singular host for the flagship program until the late 1980s when the Crockett family business was sold to the Ted Turner broadcasting empire in Atlanta.

Ray Reeve was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1967.

For more wrestling history of the Mid-Atlantic area, visit the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.