Tuesday, July 6, 2021

"Championship Wrestling" debuts in Charlotte on WBTV Channel 3 (1958)

  

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

There was history in the making in this January 1958 Charlotte News article. Promoter Jim Crockett had finally arranged for televised wrestling in his home base of Charlotte, NC on the heels of successful national wrestling programs during the decade of the 1950s in such places as Chicago, Los Angeles, and in Texas.

The program would air live from the studios of WBTV channel 3 on Saturday afternoons and would be hosted by the station's sportscaster Bill Ward. The announcement was made by WBTV production manager Bob Rierson.

Crockett's first foray into televised wrestling was actually nineteen months earlier, on WFBC channel 4 in Greenville, SC, but for only about three short months. Perhaps this was a pilot program. Once wrestling made it's debut in Charlotte in January of 1958, it wasn't long before several other TV stations in Crockett's territory also began airing wrestling in partnership with the Charlotte promoter, including WRAL-5 in Raleigh, NC,  a return to WFBC in Greenville and the debut on WDBJ-7 in Roanoke, VA, both in 1960, and WGHP-8 in High Point (Greensboro market) in 1964. 

Crockett's wrestling debut on channel 3 was not without its challenges, however, having nothing to do with wrestling, but rather with ACC basketball. The results gave WBTV producer Gene Burke fits that January Saturday afternoon. We'll review that neat bit of history as well in a future post.

Mid-Atlantic Gateway Studio Wrestling Index

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Voice of WFBC Wrestling (and Greenville Ring Announcer) Billy Powell with Ric Flair

 

GREENVILLE NEWS

"Nature Boy" Ric Flair puts the badmouth on U.S. Champion Jimmy Snuka (just out of frame) before Flair's challenge to regain the title at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium in Greenville, SC, October 29, 1979. 

Standing to Flair's right is the legendary voice of Greenville wrestling Billy Powell, who was the ring announcer in Greenville for decades. He was the voice of the special one-minute localized promos that aired twice during the hour-long Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling program that aired at 1 PM every Saturday afternoon on WFBC channel 4 (later WYFF). His voice played over the graohic you see at left. Powell was also well known on the radio for various commercials and promotions in the Greenville/Spartanburg market on WFBC radio.

Jimmy Snuka was managed at thetime by the legendary Buddy Rogers, who donned the trunks and wrestled earlier that night with partner Big John Studd.

Behind Flair is NWA referee Tommy Young.

More photos from this night can be seen (and purchased) on the Greenville News website.

Monday, April 12, 2021

"Greenville is My Town" - 1978 Article in The Tiger mentions WFBC's Billy Powell

Ring announcer Billy Powell (R) with
Greenville promoter Paul Winkhaus

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Back in November of 1978, the student newspaper at Clemson University called "The Tiger" ran an article on Mid-Atlantic Wrestling in the area. The two page spread included discussion of the current popularity of pro wrestling (including an interview with Ric Flair), the skeptics (including the Clemson collegiate wrestling coach), and the fans. 

A large photo was included of Ric Flair battling Blackjack Mulligan at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium, less than an hour away from the Clemson campus in Greenville SC. With some examination of the Monday cards that took place in the weeks prior to this article's publication, I've determined that the photo is from their Texas Death Match in Greenville, the main event of the October 23, 1978 card at the Auditorium.

Of particular interest to me, though, was a brief discussion of Greenville ring announcer Billy Powell, an institution in Greenville, and whose involvement in Greenville wrestling went all the way back to 1960 and the early television tapings of pro wrestling that took place at the WFBC TV studios in Greenville.

Here is a transcript of the portion of the article that dealt with Billy Powell:

A big part of Monday night wrestling is played by the ring announcer. In Greenville, the announcer is Billy Powell, a well known personality who has gained most of his popularity through the Monday night matches.

"You bet your hat I'm a wrestling fan," Powell said. He has been announcing the matches in Greenville since 1960. "We originally did the TV wrestling here, but the program was moved to Raleigh a few years back," the outgoing Powell stated. 

Wrestling in Greenville used to be held in Textile Hall, and that is where Crockett Promotions sanctioned some of their first matches. Crockett operates from its Charlotte base under the sponsorship of the National Wrestling Association (sic). "If the matches are not sanctioned, the NWA will have nothing to do with you," Powell stated.

Concerning the wrestlers as people, Powell said, "They're all nice guys. Did you see Gene Anderson in the ring tonight as he fixed my mic cord? In the ring he is a bad dude, but outside he is just a teddy bear," Powell finished.

Asked if he would ever leave the area, Powell said, "No, because Greenville is my town."

 

Greenville fans who only watched on TV and never attended a Monday night Memorial Auditorium wrestling event were still intimately familiar with Billy Powell. Twice each Saturday during the one-hour broadcast of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling on local NBC affiliate WFBC-TV channel 4 (later WYFF), Powell did exclusive 1-minute narrated promos for the card upcoming that Monday. They featured only his voice and a still artistic depiction of two wrestlers in battle. They always began the same way - - "Hello everybody, this is Billy Powell, inviting you to joins this Monday Night at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium..." These promotional segments aired twice during each show in addition to the local promotional interviews with the wrestlers taped at WRAL in Raleigh. In that way, Billy Powell's voice was as much a part of the Greenville experience of watching wrestling every week as host Bob Caudle or any of the wrestlers. 

Not only would Powell run down the matches for upcoming card, he would also briefly touch on what happened the previous Monday night, too, tying everything together. He was the man Greenville wrestling fans trusted and was a warm and familiar voice each and every week.  

For more on Billy Powell, visit the Billy Powell page on the archived Mid-Atlantic Gateway site, and check all of his related posts on this blog. You can also learn about the history of TV wrestling in Greenville on the WFBC-4 page of our guide to the studio locations for wrestling in the Mid-Atlantic area.

And you can also read the full article on wrestling in Greenville from the Nov. 3, 1978 edition of "The Tiger", which includes an interview with a young Ric Flair, archived here. It's on pages 12 and 13 of the paper, within the downloadable pdf.

 


Audio: Holiday Greetings from Billy Powell during the beginning of one of his local promos. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

Got to Have Lovin': New Theme Music and Set for Mid-Atlantic Wrestling (1979)


There were lots of great music themes over the years for Jim Crockett Promotions TV shows, but likely the most remembered is the 1979-1986 theme for Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. 

The music was an edit from a 1978 European disco hit titled "Got to Have Loving" by French writer/arranger Don Ray (real name Raymond Donnez.) It was the only single from Ray's solo album "The Garden of Love." 

The new theme debuted on the February 10, 1979 episode of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling (taped February 7 at WRAL studios in Raleigh.) It played across the same familiar "four square" opening that had debuted back in 1977. 

Here is the opening as it played out each week in your living room:



The complete Don Ray track can be found on YouTube (along with the complete album, too.)


That February show also debuted the familiar set that would be used on the Mid-Atlantic tapings through the remaining years at WRAL and then moved and used in modified formation at the smaller WPCQ studio in Charlotte. It was discarded all together when production moved out to the arenas in July 1983.


The set included a new standing-desk for hosts Bob Caudle and David Crockett, with a gorgeous textured background that included the new moniker "Mid-Atlantic Championship Sports" in raised block letters and a map that included two more states (West Virginia, Georgia) than the previous map and logo used on the 1974-1979 set.

Another big change going forward that began with this show was that introductions for matches would no longer be conducted from inside the ring, but instead by Bob Caudle as he would turn in front of a blue-screen NWA logo. That blue screen allowed a chroma key effect to be used, showing the wrestlers in the ring during their introduction. This set up would be used for the duration of the studio shows, and I've always thought it was a big mistake to make that change. The fans in the studio audience never reacted to Caudle's introductions like they had done over the years for Joe Murnick (or the Murnick boys) because Bob couldn't be easily heard by the fans. Most of the time it made for very flat reactions to the introductions. 

The winds of change were blowing with new music, a new set, and a new method for ring introductions, making the taping on February 7, 1979 one for the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling television history books.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Ed Capral Signs Off Wide World Wrestling

INCLUDES RARE VINTAGE AUDIO
Legendary wrestling announcer Ed Capral hosted Wide World Wrestling, a brand new program for Jim Crockett Promotions, from 1975-1978.

Capral was the longtime host for pro wrestling in Atlanta on channel 11 until the Atlanta wrestling wars of the mid-1970s, when he jumped ship to the upstart All South Wrestling promotion run by Ann Gunkle, the widow of the late Ray Gunkle, an amateur and pro wrestler who was a major star in the southeast. All South lost the war to the stalwart NWA wrestling promotion and Capral found himself without an announcing job.

Jim Crockett hired him to host their brand new program, and Capral brought his classic old-school announcing style to TV stations across Mid-Atlantic area.

Ed Capral with NWA World Champion Harley Race on the set of
Wide World Wrestling.


We present here a vintage audio clip from of Ed signing off an episode of Wide World Wrestling in 1977 and previewing the matches that would be seen on the show the following week. That line-up, by the way, was loaded with talent including a young Tully Blanchard going up against NWA World Champion Harley Race.

For the record, here is match list Capral announced:

  • Harley Race vs. Tully Blanchard
  • Ric Flair & Greg Valentine vs. Roberto Soto & Jimmy Garvin
  • Dick Murdoch vs. Danny Miller
  • Ricky Steamboat & Paul Jones vs. Scott Irwin & Ricky Ferrara
  • Wahoo McDaniel vs. Charlie Fulton

And of course the familiar barter announcement and the classic Wide World Wrestling theme music plays along, one of my favorite TV wrestling themes of all time. (More on that music here.)

Enjoy this little audio blast from the past!

 

ED CAPRAL SIGNS OFF WIDE WORLD WRESTLING

 

 

Audio is courtesy of the collection of Gary Wray. 

 

 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Charlie Harville spotlight in Greensboro Newspaper (1962)


Thanks to Mark Eastridge who passed this along to us. This was a notice about time changes of WFMY channel 2 (Greensboro) news and sports reports in February of 1962. 

A few years before Harville became so closely associated with professional wrestling in the area with his move to WGHP, he had some major wrestling mements, including interviewing NWA World Heavyweight Champion "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers on his WFMY "Sports Final" show, the program mentioned in the newspaper piece above.

Harville would move to WGHP channel 8 in October of 1963 as sports director of the new station in High Point, NC (same Greensboro market), and would begin hosting Championship Wrestling in February of 1964. The program was a production of WGHP and was  syndicated to a few other TV markets in the Mid-Atlantic area as well before the consolidation of Crockett TV production and distribution to WRAL in Raleigh in 1974.

"Harville was as much an icon as the wrestlers for those of us growing up in the Greensboro/Winston Salem/High Point area in the sixties & seventies," Mark said in his email. 

Harville's show on WGHP promoted live events in that market, including the main towns of Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Lexington, plus other spots shows in the area.  

For more on Charlie Harville's rich legacy in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, check out Wayne Brower's lengthy piece on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway: Charlie Harville: Remembering His Remarkable Journey.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Jay "Dude" Walker Appears on Starrcade 83

WWE Network Screen Grab

We're looking for more information on this fellow appearing with Bob Caudle and Gordon Solie on the Starrcade '83 closed-circuit extravaganza from Thanksgiving night 1983.

His working name on FM radio was Dude Walker. He was a drive-time DJ for G105 FM (WDCG), a top-40 radio powerhouse out of the Raleigh-Durham area in 1983.

Between early matches during the Starrcade '83 closed-circuit telecast, Bob introduced Dude to the audience and asked him what he thought about Ric Flair. Dude said he believed Flair would take the title from Harley Race that night since Flair was in his home area, and indicated that everyone at G105 was behind the Nature Boy.

Dude also briefly hosted some of the local promo interviews for Jim Crockett Promotions that were taped at the makeshift garage studio on Briarbend Drive in Charlotte in the fall of 1983 and through at least mid-1984. But that short stint makes him part of the historical roster of announcers in the Crockett studio era. (Edit: In some 1984 promo segments, wrestlers referred to him as Jay. So possibly his name was Jay Walker.)


We googled Dude Walker and came across several radio personalities with that name, which apparently must have been a thing in radio. Who knew? But none of them were our guy.

If you have any information on Jay/Dude Walker, we'd love to know more about him. You can contact us via the Contact Page on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.



Some interesting tidbits about G105 FM and why there may have been a tie-in with Jim Crockett Promotions during Starrcade '83: 

They have had several formats over the decades including country and rock, but became a top-40 station in 1981 and became a 100,000 watt powerhouse in 1982 when they began transmitting on the WRDU-TV tower in Chatham County. 

They were one of the first stations in their market to operate a dual-city license with their primary market being Raleigh-Durham, but also with a special signal going into the Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem market. During this era of the first Starrcade, they were one of the most powerful and popular radio stations in central NC and the Piedmont. 

This may have been why they partnered with JCP to promote the first Starrcade, given their reach and popularity across the immediate area around Greensboro.

They are still around, a top-40 iHeart radio station based out of Raleigh and licensed out of Durham, NC.

If you have any information on Jay/Dude Walker, we'd love to know more about him. You can contact us via the Contact Page on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

Thanks to those who have provided additional information, including Joe DiGiacomo.

An edited version of this article was also posted on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway on January 13, 2021.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Bob Caudle and Jim Goodmon at WRAL

 

Weathercaster, newsman, and Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling host Bob Caudle and Capitol Broadcasting Corporation President Jim Goodmon taking part in a humorous 1976 promo campaign when Bob DeBardelaben took over for Caudle as Weatherman. (From the CBC History website.)

More on that campaign that also featured Blackjack Mulligan, Joe Murnick, and 1960s-early 1970s wrestling host Nick Pond can be found here:

1976 Weather Promo Has 5 Wrestling Connections