Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Truckin' Tom Miller

Tom Miller
We are collecting information on Tom Miller for a future article on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway. Tom was probably best known in wrestling circles as the ring announcer for Jim Crockett Promotions in Greensboro, NC, in the late 1970s through early 1990s, and was seen on many of the TV shows and pay-per-views that Crockett Promotions produced during those years.

But we remember Tom more fondly for his work as a color commentator on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling with Bob Caudle in the summer of 1976 and co-host of Wide World Wrestling in 1978. Miller co-hosted Wide World (with George Scott) in between the 3-year stint of Ed Capral that preceded him and the 4-year stint of Rich Landrum that followed him (when the show's name was changed to World Wide Wrestling.)

Tom was a local radio host for many years in North carolina and Virginia, including a stint as overnight host on WBT-AM radio out of Charlotte from 1973-1975 where he hosted a country music program aimed at truckers, where he got the nickname "Truckin' Tom Miller." Ole Anderson often referred to Tom as "Truckin' Tom" on the Mid-Atlantic broadcasts he appeared on in 1976.

Tom passed away in 1993 at the very young age of 52. He was last involved with wrestling doing the voice overs running down the towns for the local WCW wrestling events. Those appeared on the WTBS broadcasts of WCW Saturday Night, WCW Main Event, and the WCW Power Hour.

If you have any information on Tom Miller you would like to share, or know how we might contact someone in his family for information on this article, please contact us at the Mid-Atlantic Gateway using the email link on the main page of the website.

I will posting some audio of Tom Miller doing wrestling commentary for Crockett Promotions in the future as well.

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Addendum: Our list of Tom Miller related articles grows. You can find all articles related to Tom by clicking the "Tom Miller" link on the right side of this page or by clicking here:

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Photograph of Tom Miller from the BT Memories website. 
Thanks to Carroll Hall for his assistance with biographical information used in this post.

Tom Miller Radio Work
1968-1973 : WGBG Greensboro. 
1973-1975 : WBT Charlotte
1975-1977 : WGBG (dates approximate)
1977 - : WAKG Danville VA (dates approximate)

Any help with this information will be appreciated!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Interviewing Wrestlers? Hold mike and pray!

Jerry Bledsoe at the Greensboro Daily News wrote this wonderful article in 1976 about his visit to the studios of WRAL-TV in Raleigh for a taping of "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling."

The first half of the article provides a nice look inside the wrestling broadcast with perennial host Bob Caudle and new co-host at that time, Tom Miller. Miller replaced regular co-host David Crockett during the summer of 1976 while Crockett attended to other responsibilities with the Crockett family's minor league baseball franchise in Charlotte, the Charlotte O's.

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Interviewing Wrestlers? Hold Mike and Pray!
Article originally published May 30, 1976 in the Greensboro Daily News
by Jerry Bledsoe

Boy, Madman Angelo Mosca is really mad. He is up there in the glare of the bright studio lights, clinging defiantly to his heavy championship belt, raving like a lunatic at the camera.

“They have turned me into an animal!!” he is screaming. “They have created a monster and I will annihilate anybody in my way!!”

Actually, it looks more as if they have turned him into a fountain, for with every word, Angelo Mosca is thoroughly showering Bob Caudle, the announcer, who stands, unflinchingly, holding the microphone for this tirade. Poor Bob. There is nothing he can do but pray that this ends before he drowns.

It is Wednesday night in the Channel 5 studios in Raleigh, and another hour of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling is being preserved on videotape. Within days, it will be seen by millions of people on many TV stations up and down the East Coast.

The action in the ring has not yet begun, but beyond the lights, in the bleachers along the wall the fans are already screaming and stomping their feet. They do not like Angelo Mosca and they are not hesitating to let him know.

Tom Miller is the lucky one here. He might have been getting the drenching that Angelo Mosca is now directing toward poor Bob Caudle. Tom is the other announcer on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. He is the “color” man, as the term is known in the trade. He is there to throw in sideline remarks and off-beat information. He is new at it. This is only his third broadcast and he is not yet comfortable with it. That is why he was able to escape this drenching.

Just before air time, the producers had told Tom Miller that they wanted him to start doing the stand-up interviews with the wrestlers between matches.

It has unsettled him. He wasn’t ready for it, he said. Not yet. He asked for mercy.

There was nothing to it, they had assured him. The wrestlers would do all the talking. Besides, hardly anybody would see it. Most of the stations cut out the interviews to put in commercials.

It hadn’t convinced him.

“Give me one more week,” he had pleaded with a puppy dog look. “Really, I need to psyche myself up for it.”

Okay, they had said. One more week.

Now Tom Miller is sitting at the announcer’s table watching Angelo Mosca screaming wetly at Bob Caudle, and Tom is realizing what a blessing he has received.

“He really gave you a bath, Bob,” Tom says, as Caudle sits down mopping his face with a handkerchief. “He was literally frothing at the mouth.”

Ric and Blackjack stir ‘em up.

Up in the ring, Ric Flair and Blackjack Mulligan have been strutting back and forth, antagonizing the crowd and what a despicable pair they are. That Ric “Nature Boy” Flair really thinks that he is something with his bleached blond tresses and his multi-colored boots. Oh, the arrogance of him.

“Has there ever been anybody like me?” he yells at the announcers’ table. “Have you ever seen anybody in the whole world like me?”

“Not recently,” says Caudle, shaking his head.

And that Blackjack. He is a brooding, sinister devil if ever there was one.

It is clear that Randy Colley and Pete Sanchez, who have to go up against this pair in the first match, do not have a chance. And that proves to be exactly the case.

Colley and Sanchez are decent men who go by the rules, but that Flair and Mulligan pull every dirty trick in the book and sometimes it looks as if that referee is just plain blind.

Virtue triumphs in the second match though, when Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones, a black man who wears a jewel-bedecked crown and has red lips all over his black trunks, gets all wound up and turns his famous head-butt on Joe Turner. The crowd is ecstatic.

It is in the third match that Tom Miller begins unwittingly to get himself into trouble. This match pits Gene and Ole Anderson against Tony Atlas and Greg Peterson. The Andersons have been wrestling for a long time and they are not known for their kind and gentlemanly ways. Here lately, though, they have been so vicious that they make Ric Flair and Blackjack Mulligan, the dirty dogs, look like Sunday school boys.

The reason for this is that they have recently lost their tag-team championship to Tim Woods and Dino Bravo, who are very popular with the fans. Woods and Bravo have had to pay dearly for their victory, however. Why, Tim Woods, who is as nice a fellow as anybody could ever hope to meet, has had to take to wearing a white mask just to hide the nasty gashes that the Andersons have inflicted on his head. The Andersons are not adverse to smashing an opponent’s head into the ring post or tossing him head first out of the ring on to the concrete floor, for that matter.

“I may not find myself in favor with Gene and Ole Anderson for saying this,” Tom is saying as the Andersons go after Atlas and Peterson, “but they’re almost like a pair of sharks. When they smell blood in the water, they go for the weakest part.”

He keeps making little remarks like this all through the match. He is even so bold as to suggest to the TV audience that the Andersons do not always abide by the rules.

The Andersons, meanwhile, are pouring it on to the hapless Atlas and Peterson. It is really bad. At one point near the end, Ole is holding Peterson upside down over his head and he looks as if he is contemplating using him as a plow to furrow a few acres.

Instead, he slams poor Peterson to the canvas, climbs on to the top of the ropes and takes a swan dive onto him.

“Oh, my heavens!” cries Tom Miller as the ref frantically motions for the bell to be rung.

But he has done it now, Tom Miller has. Ole Anderson has heard these little remarks that Miller has been making about him and his brother, and he doesn’t like it one bit. He is roaring when he comes over to the announcers’ table for his post match interview before the camera.

He pushes aside Bob Caudle, who is waiting with microphone in hand to interview him.

“I want him up here,” he is saying, gesturing violently toward Miller. “He’s the one who’s been saying all these things. Who is he – Tim Woods’s cousin?”

Tom Miller, who is still sitting behind the announcers’ table, has not been expecting this. He seems not to know what to do. He stands and swallows hard. Caudle is motioning for him to come out into the lights, and he does so reluctantly, timidly accepting the microphone from Caudle, who says, “Tom, if you need me, just call me,” as he steps quickly away, leaving Miller to the raving, furious Ole Anderson.

“Look,” Miller says quickly, “I’m not a professional wrestler, so don’t go slugging me.”

It is the only thing he gets to say because Anderson continues screaming into the microphone until the floor director starts making frantic speed-up motions and the red light on the camera flicks off.

Bob Caudle is grinning broadly as Tom Miller, somewhat shakily, puts the microphone back into its stand.

“See, Tom?” he says. “They ain’t nothing to it.

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The second half of this article tells an unusual story regarding an incident that allegedly took place at the end of that TV taping. Perhaps Mr. Bledsoe embellished things a little bit, a dramatic license allowed since after all it is pro wrestling he's discussing. Perhaps it was during one of those interview segments that most markets didn't see. David Chappell at the Mid-Atlantic Gateway has an audio recording of this very program and while Ole Anderson was indeed fond of commenting about "Truckin' Tom" Miller, we haven't found anything that quite matches the description here.

All that said, we love seeing this article, and appreciate Jerry Bledsoe's observations about our favorite TV program. Coverage like this of wrestling was rare in those days. Not clear whether Jerry was a fan or not, but he certainly painted a colorful picture of what he saw in the studios of WRAL. We love it. (Edit: We later learn that Jerry was more a fan of Tom Miller than he ever was of wrestling. But that's OK, too.)

Thanks to Carroll Hall at "Vintage TV & Wrestling Nostalgia" and the "All Star Championship Wrestling" blog for finding this article all these years later and sending it to us, and we are proud to include the full text of the article here. Thanks also to Peggy Lathan for her transcription of the article.

Jerry Bledsoe is the author of the 1988 best selling non-fiction novel "Bitter Blood."

WFBC TV Newspaper Ads in 1976

Back in 1976, Jim Crockett Promotions ran ads in the Greenville News for Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling which aired every Saturday at 1:00 PM on Greenville station WFBC channel 4 (for the Greenville / Spartanburg / Asheville market.)

These little ads included a different wrestler's photo each week as well as the names of some of the other wrestlers who would be appearing on TV that week.  The ads also included a reminder to see wrestling LIVE each Monday night at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium. 

Ads featured photos of Wahoo McDaniel, Ole Anderson, Paul Jones, Johnny Weaver, Rufus R. Jones, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Masked Superstar, and Tim Woods.

The Vintage TV & Wrestling Nostalgia blog recently posted similar 1976 ads for "Wide World Wrestling" on WGHP channel 8 in the Greensboro / Winston-Salem / High Point market. That post reminded me we had these great clippings from Greenville SC on the mid-Atlantic Gateway. Check out those High Point ads and this great nostalgia blog here.

Pro Wrestling Included in Harville Sports Ad

Ad courtesy Carroll Hall at Vintage TV & Wrestling Nostalgia

Here is another great ad featuring one of wrestling's great announcers and a rare inclusion of wrestling with the other sports.

This 1971 add for Charlie Harville's "Eyewitness Sports" segment on WGHP channel 8 in High Point NC, features art work of Charlie plus art representations of several major sports . . . . including professional wrestling! This was very rare for wrestling to be included, but Charlie was a major advocate for wrestling and as a respected sports broadcaster and journalist was able to have wrestling included in many of the ads as well as included in his news/sports broadcasts.

Special thanks to Carroll Hall at the Vintage TV & Wrestling Nostalgia blog (as well as All-Star Championship Wrestling) for sending us this clipping.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

"Mid-Atlantic" Wrestling on WGHP 1972

Clipping courtesy Carroll Hall at the All-Star Championship Wrestling blog.

The name of the wrestling show that was taped at and aired on WGHP-8 in High Point NC from 1964-1974 was "Championship Wrestling". But in 1972, Jim Crockett began changing the brand name associated with his wrestling to "Mid-Atlantic" Wrestling, a process that would be completed by the end of 1973.

Toward the end of the run of "Championship Wrestling" on channel 8, host Charlie Harville began referring to the program as "Mid-Atlantic Wrestling" on air, and the name began to pop up in ads for the TV show in the newspapers. One of those early ads using that name is seen above, from the September 17, 1972 edition of the Greensboro paper.

This was not long after the slow change began. The earliest reference we've ever found by the promotion to "Mid-Atlantic" wrestling is from March 28, 1972 in an add for a wrestling event in Raleigh, NC. (See that ad here.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Charlie Harville & Buddy Rogers 1962

Carroll Hall recently posted this very cool newspaper ad from 1962 on his All Star Championship Wrestling blog. It features WFMY-2 sports anchor Charlie Harville and NWA Champion Buddy Rogers on the 11:15 "Sports Final" in Greensboro NC. Harville would later become the host of Jim Crockett's "Championship Wrestling" on WGHP-8 in High Point NC in 1964. Both stations were (and still are) part of the same Greensboro / Winston-Salem / High Point TV market.

It was unusual in the 1960s or 1970s for wrestling to get mainstream sports media attention, even on a local level.

Hall wrote on his blog: "Charlie Harville interviewed NWA World Heavyweight Champion Buddy Rogers two nights before Buddy defended the belt against Billy Darnell in the Greensboro Coliseum.The match took place on April 5,1962."
Original post

Here are the newspaper articles and ads for that match and card in Greensboro, courtesy the collection of Mark Eastridge on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

1976 Weather Promo has 5 Wrestling Connections

WRAL produced a series of satirical promotional spots in early 1976 to announce Bob DeBardelaben as the primary weather host on WRAL newscasts, replacing Bob Caudle who was moving into other responsibilities at WRAL working for Jesse Helms (and continuing his hosting duties of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, of course.)

Brian Rogers recently discovered a compilation of those promotional clips on You Tube. I pulled them off YouTube and edited them down to one single storyline clip and re-posted them.

The immediate interest was of course that Bob Caudle was featured, and there was also a cameo by Blackjack Mulligan in the wrestling ring at WRAL. It was cool that the video featured these two direct wrestling connections, and also a third, since it was the voice of Bob Debardelaben you heard at each of the two breaks for the local wrestling promotional spots during "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" and "Wide World Wrestling":

"Let's take time for this commercial message about the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling events coming up in your area."

A day or so after posting the video clip, Carroll Hall (who publishes the excellent "All Star Championship Wrestling" blog) pointed out to me that there was a fourth wrestling connection in the video I had failed to notice: sportscaster Nick Pond. Pond was host of the Raleigh-only wrestling broadcast "Championship Wrestling" on WRAL throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. 

After writing up that information and watching the video yet again, I suddenly noticed what I thought was the familiar face of Raleigh area promoter Joe Murnick in one short scene where the president of the station is seen at his desk. Mr. Murnick is seen sitting on the couch behind him. I asked Elliot Murnick and he confirmed it was indeed his father. (Elliot also confirmed that the "president" in the video is indeed longtime President and CEO of Capitol broadcasting Jim Goodmon.)

That makes a total of five people in this short video that had direct connections to Mid-Atlantic Wrestling at WRAL-TV:

Bob Caudle
Bob hosted the syndicated "All Star Wrestling" in the 1960s that later became "Mid-Atlantic Wrestling" in the 1970s and 1980s. He did weather, sports, and news at various times throughout his WRAL career, and worked for Jesse Helms at the station as well. He is seen here receiving the keys to the "executive washroom" after being promoted at WRAL.

Bob DeBardelaben
"The Biggest Name in Weather", DeBardelaben succeeded Bob Caudle as the primary weather host (known then as 'weathermen') in 1976. The promotional spots featured here served to announce and promote that. DeBardelaben is the main star of the vignettes.

Nick Pond
Nick Pond hosted the Raleigh-only broadcast of "Championship Wrestling" (taped simultaneously alongside Caudle's "All Star Wrestling") throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. He was the main sports anchor for WRAL at the time of these promotional spots, and is seen in the video joining others in welcoming DeBardelaben to the team.

Joe Murnick
Murnick was the local promoter for Jim Crockett Promotions in Raleigh (as well as other towns in eastern NC and Virginia.) He ran his own events promotion company as well, staging concerts and other events in addition to wrestling almost every Tuesday night at the Dorton Arena or the Raleigh Civic Center. He is seen here in one scene (at the :59 second mark) sitting on a couch behind the president of the station, Jim Goodmon.

Blackjack Mulligan
One of the main event wrestlers for Jim Crockett and Joe Murnick during this time period, Mulligan was chasing the United States wrestling championship held by Paul Jones. (He would win the title for the first time on March 13 in Greensboro.) He has a cameo role here answering the question "Will Bob (DeBardelaben) quit?" Mully leans through the ropes of the wrestling ring in the TV studio and says "He better not!"

Learn more about Studio Wrestling at WRAL-5 in Raleigh on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

- Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Thanks to Brian Rogers, Carroll Hall, and Elliot Murnick.
Link to original unedited WRAL promos: WRAL-TV: "As The Weather Turns" Promos (1976)